The Joy of Installing Screen Protectors

Years ago, a good friend of mine coined a phrase which he used to describe those seemingly simple tasks which end up being tedious and aggravating assaults on our patience and emotional well-being; not to mention causing some of us to spew forth language which would likely make a Bosun’s Mate blush.

His phrase was, “That was about as easy as putting contact lenses on a wildcat!

I’ve been out of town for a couple of days.  When I arrived back at home this afternoon, I discovered that the protective screen covers that I had ordered for my Nexus 7 tablet computer had arrived in the mail.

Great!”  I thought to myself.  I’d been wanting to get one installed before I inadvertently scratched the screen on my new toy.

A couple of minutes reading the instructions had me believing that this installation was going to be a breeze.  Yeah, right.

Before continuing with this this tale of woe, I need to point out to those who don’t know me, that I’m a bit of a detail freak.  I tend to like things to be “just so.”  In others word, “Perfect.”

wpid-IMG_20121230_140902.jpgWell, I carefully cleaned the screen on my Nexus, used the enclosed lint-free cloth to remove any residual dust particles, went over the entire surface of the screen with the special dust removal tape, then peeled back the film on the screen protector by two inches, and very carefully rolled it on to the Nexus’ screen.

I was rewarded with air bubbles.  Everywhere!

Not to worry.  I used the enclosed scraper to gently push the bubbles to the edge of the film where they were released.  That worked like a top for all but about five bubbles which simply didn’t want to be moved.  Carefully examining these, I discovered that a small speck could be seen in the center of each of them.

Dust!  How could that be?  I’d been so careful.
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My attempts to peel back the film in order to remove the specks using the lint-free cloth and the special dust removal tape proved to be somewhat problematic.  Not only did I not capture all of the dust specks, but I managed to put a deep crease into the film, rendering it useless.

Not to worry, there were three sheets in the package I ordered.

After repeating steps 1 through 5 with my second screen protector, I was met with somewhat more success; only two speck contaminated bubbles this time!

Being incredibly gentle as I peeled the protector back this time, I was able to remove the offending specks and return the protective film to the screen without further disastrous consequences.  And I still have one unused and undestroyed screen protector left in the pack for future use!

Whew!”  I thought to myself.  “That was about as easy as putting contact lenses on a wildcat!

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Life on the Back Side of the Power Curve

I have a clear recollection that when I was a young man, I’m talking about when I was in my twenties, the year 2012 held a very special significance for me.

No, it wasn’t due to the Mayan calendar grinding to its endpoint and purportedly bringing doom and gloom upon us.  When I was in my twenties, only a few cultural anthropologists were even aware that the Mayans had a calendar.
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No, the significance that 2012 held for me was due to that year being a benchmark of sorts for me.  It was the year in which I would become sixty years old.

Now as anyone who either is, or has been, twenty will tell you; sixty is very much older by comparison.  Just do the math.  At the age of twenty, the average Joe has only lived a third, or perhaps just a quarter of their lives.  They’re just getting warmed up, so to speak.  They likely feel like they haven’t even hit their stride yet.
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By way of comparison, let the age of forty catch up with you and the statistics suddenly seem to be working against you.

Without any warning at all, you find that for all intents and purposes, you’re about halfway through the Big Show.  Intermission has already come and gone, so to speak.

This state of mind is what a good friend of mine always referred to as being on the “back side of the power curve.

As I contemplated the philosophical construct of life’s “power curve”, I came to understand that it is the chronological equivalent of the geographical continental divide.  Depending on which direction you’re heading, it’s all up hill for a while until you, perhaps without realizing it, crest the top and find that everything is going downhill!

I also recognized that there are multiple power curves which any of us can suddenly find ourselves on the “backside of.”

For example, athletes can wake up one morning and cruelly find themselves on the backside of their sporting-life power curves while still only in their mid-twenties.   By the same token, a fifty year old trundling along on a generic corporate career path can unexpectedly find himself being displaced by some young, fire-in-the-belly type just out of college.
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So all those years ago, my twenty year old self peered into the dim, somewhat out of focus future and wondered what it was going to be like to wake up in 2012; to suddenly find himself sixty years old and having lived about eighty percent of his life.

Fast forwarding to the present, if my sixty year old self could have had the opportunity to speak with my twenty year old self, I would have told him, “Get over it.  Life is great!

What my younger self had failed to grasp was that in those intervening years, our  perception, understanding, and acceptance of life and all that it entails would change significantly.   I would explain to my twenty year old self that during our years between the ages of twenty and sixty, we were going to continue to grow and mature in terms of our awareness, understanding, and acceptance of all things related to life and mortality.

In a week or so, I’m going to turn sixty-one.  The reality of having now lived a significant percentage of my life doesn’t even register on my radar anymore.

To a large extent this is due to my faith, but also because life itself has done a really good job of preparing me to be able to roll with the punches that we all encounter here on the backside of the power curve.

Remembering

At around 2:00 a.m. the night before last, my wife’s father passed away.  He was 87 years old.

It was not unexpected.  He had been battling cancer for many months and the final outcome was understood. Nonetheless his passing leaves a void in the lives of his wife, his daughters, and his son-in-law.

Like many others who have lost close friends and family, I’ve found myself today pausing to reflect on my father-in-law’s life.

He grew up during the Depression in little more than a crossroads on the South Carolina coast just north of Charleston.  “Hard scrabble” was the term that I most often heard him use to describe his childhood.  The only heat in his house provided by the kitchen stove, the only light by kerosene lanterns.  

Remembering the many vivid stories that he told of those times, it’s easy for me to close my eyes and envision him as a deeply tanned, barefoot boy with tousled hair spending idle summer days exploring nearby beaches or, with rifle in hand, stalking deer in the scrub pines bordering the tidal marshes.  Coming home in the gathering gloom one evening, he had a particularly exciting confrontation with an irritable rattle snake which he could hear, but not see as he approached his front porch.

As a young man, he attended The Citadel, South Carolina’s military academy, for a year before dropping out in order to enlist to be a Naval aviator during World War II.

Flight school completed, he was preparing to fly in support of the imminent invasion of Japan when the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki made his participation unnecessary.

After mustering out of the service, he graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in Industrial Engineering, blazing a trail to be followed two generations later by my two sons who also graduated from Tech. I had once considered attending Georgia Tech, but wisely recognized that I had neither the financial, nor the intellectual assets required.

I came to my future father-in-law’s attention several years later, drawn by an intense interest which I had developed in his eldest daughter.  

I will never forget the night on which I planned to ask for his consent to marry her.  She and I came into the den where he was sitting in front of the TV.  After my future spouse informed her father that we’d like to speak with him, he said, “Well, you better make it fast because Midway comes on in 10 minutes.”   That was enough for me.  My confidence shot, the asking for consent business was put off until another day!

It’s safe to say that I’ll always carry many fond memories of my father-in-law with me; rounds of golf (or a game closely resembling it) played with him and one of my brothers-in-law, his keen interest in mixing the perfect cocktail including one of his own creation dubbed a Grass Cutter (which could have easily exterminated an entire lawn if applied properly), and his willingness to apply his engineering background in the repair of anything and everything regardless of the availability of the necessary parts or tools.

Those who knew him will never forget him. Those who didn’t, missed an enjoyable and memorable experience.

A New Way to Blog

I have a new toy.  I bought myself a Nexus 7 tablet computer.

This was either a late Christmas present or an early birthday gift. Either one complies with all of the accepted norms of gifting protocol.
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One of my primary motivations in purchasing the Nexus 7 was a desire to be able to compose posts for my blog more easily when I am away from home and my beloved MacBook Pro.

Up until now in those situations, my blogging tool of necessity has been my iPhone and the iWriter app.  Now, by comparison, I’m walking in high technological cotton.

You might ask yourself what is a self-respecting Apple user doing with an Android based Nexus tablet computer rather than an iPad?  Truth be known, as a committed Kindle reader, I was actually closer to buying a Kindle Fire than I ever was to purchasing an iPad.

I read and watched countless reviews of all of the popular tablets, the combined weight of which convinced me that the Nexus was the one that most closely met all of my requirements.

I can safely say that 72 hours in, I am completely convinced that I made the correct choice.

This thing is as tough nails and as smooth as silk.

There’s Never a Good Time for a Spasm

It was 1:43 a.m.  I know because as I was jolted into an unwanted state of wakefulness, the first thing I observed were the red numerals glowing insistently from my alarm clock.  I lay there for a few seconds wondering what had happened, when that which had first caused me to awaken, convulsed me second time.  A hiccup!

In all of my many years, I can’t remember ever having a case of the hiccups in the middle of the night, but I did last night and it was a world class case of them I might add.
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My normal procedure for treating the hiccups is to wait for one to strike, then to quickly take a deep breath and hold it while focusing all of my mental powers on not allowing my diaphragm to move.  It’s as if I were pearl diving while attempting a Vulcan mind meld.

Truth be known, I’m not sure I could voluntarily make my diaphragm move on a good day, so why do I think I can keep it from moving involuntarily?  Beats me too, but it seems to work more often than not.

While I was laying there in the dark attempting self-asphyxiation, I was struck by how little I knew about hiccups and decided then and there to learn more; but to do so no earlier than the next day.

Somewhere back in my grade school days, I had learned that hiccups, or hiccoughs if you prefer the more eloquent European spelling, are simply involuntary spasms of the diaphragm, the membrane which keeps your lungs separated from the rest of the equipment in your body cavity.  Medically speaking, a hiccup is a myoclonic jerk.  Trust me, I’ve known a few of those in my day and I’d rank a good case of hiccups right up there with the worst of them.

In full blown medical jargon, hiccups are known as Synchronous Diaphragmatic Flutters or SDFs.

The next time you’re stricken, go up to someone you know and say, “I’m having a synchronous diaphragmatic flutter! Can you help me?” and see what kind of response you receive.  It might be interesting, but be careful of whom and where you ask for such aid.
brainfreeze
It came as no surprise to me that medical science really doesn’t know what causes hiccups.  Neither do they know the cause of the brain freeze that you get when you eat ice cream or a slushie too quickly. You’d think that after hundreds of years of poking and probing around inside of cadavers, as well as real live people, they could come up with a few answers.

One proposition is that hiccups are one of those evolutionary left-overs or remnants which are no longer required to allow our bodies to function normally, but which nature has left by the biological roadside in order to stump future generations of doctors and scientists.
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It is suggested that hiccuping is akin to the manner in which amphibians, tadpoles and salamanders for example, gulp air in order to push it across their gills thus allowing them to breathe.  Having observed some of my relatives in the act of hiccuping, I must admit that there may be something to that hypothesis.

In any event, I was able to quell my nocturnal bout of synchronous diaphragmatic flutters and after completing my research am a better man for it.

Live long and prosper!

I’m Beginning to Feel a Tinge of March Madness!

empty stadiums
Yes, I’m fully aware that the NFL playoffs have yet to begin and it’s painfully obvious that college football is dominating the cable sport’s channels with one meaningless bowl game after another being played in half empty stadiums.

Regardless, about this time of year, my heart and soul begin to feel the inexorable tug of college hoops.  I’m more than ready to trade the oblate spheroid pigskin in on one of those round leather balls.  (I’m old school and still remember leather basketballs.)

Most of the games between the collegiate basketball powerhouses and their own versions of Sister Mary’s School for the Chronically Uncoordinated have, thankfully, already been played.  We’re at that point in the season where we’re starting to have match-ups that are well worth watching and which will have a real impact on who’s going to be playing in March and who’s going to be watching the tournament on CBS Sports just like the rest of us.

wirelessI had the good fortune of growing up in Atlantic Coast Conference country during the years when the ACC was building itself into the predominant college basketball conference.

Back in the mid-60’s, I spent countless Tuesday and Thursday nights glued to an old table top AM radio listening to static filled broadcasts of Duke, North Carolina, North Carolina State games while I was supposedly finishing my homework.

As a result, I’ve been a college hoops junkie ever since.
krzyzewskiville
Many years before tent cities like Duke’s Krzyzewskiville started appearing on college campuses, I was camping out in front of N.C. State’s Reynolds Coliseum for as long as three days at a stretch in order to obtain student tickets for games between my beloved Wolfpack and conference foes such as the Terrapins, Gamecocks, and Tar Heels.  That may have had something to do with my not becoming an electrical engineer as was originally planned, but I digress.

In recent years, the ACC’s basketball fortunes seem to have been on the decline just as the Big Ten’s have risen; but at least it’s not the Big East!  Nonetheless, I’m looking forward to watching the ebb and flow of the action on the hardwood during January and February ultimately leading up to the selection of the “Final 65” in March!
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Thank you,
Dr. Naismith!

What Would Christmas Be Without A Tangerine?

tangerines
Is there one thing, a single item, that is inexorably linked in your mind with Christmas?

There is in mine. Each year during the first or second week of December, I find myself beginning to think about tangerines and navel oranges.

The root cause of this culinary anomaly can be attributed to my grandfather. He was a man of tradition, as well as a great lover of the Christmas season and all that it entailed.

Looking back on my youth, I think he was always at his happiest during the weeks leading up to Christmas and especially on Christmas day itself. I’m confident that he enjoyed playing with our presents as much as my brother and I did.
Santa
Granddad thoroughly delighted in everything associated with Christmas from playing Santa Claus, to hiding presents, to surprising his two grandsons with that one gift that each of them most yearned for, and to ensuring that every Christmas our kitchen was stocked with a large box of fresh Florida tangerines and navel oranges.

There was never any fanfare or explanation as to why the citrus turned up each Christmas, it just happened; and with clockwork regularity.

I suppose my grandfather must have been a closet tangerine/navel orange junkie who just wanted to make sure that he had a ready supply available in the event that he was overcome with the urge to ingest a little vitamin C.

Whatever the explanation, to this day I associate Christmas with those two fruits and can’t imagine a Christmas without them.
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Over the years, my personal preference has shifted to navel oranges, mainly due to their lack of seeds and the ease with which they can be eaten. I suppose that I’m a bit of a neat-freak. But let me stumble across a tangerine and immediately I think of Santa Claus, Christmas trees, and manger scenes; as well as my grandfather.

If you don’t mind, I think I’ll run downstairs and peel myself an orange right now! I could use an additional dose of that ol’ time Christmas spirit! This one’s for you Granddad!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Remembering the Reason for the Season

rockwell-christmas
This Christmas promises to be the most unique that I have probably ever experienced.  A number of unrelated circumstances have chosen to come together to make that a very real likelihood.  Perhaps, this scenario was what the Mayan calendar and all of the other prognosticators were attempting to predict, rather than the full-blown end of the world as we know it.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve typically been on vacation for the last two weeks of December which enabled me to spend the Christmas and New Year’s holidays in close proximity with my family; enjoying every minute of it I might add. That run apparently will come to an end over the next few days.
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In no particular order, here are the reasons that I will not be experiencing a classic Currier & Ives Christmas this year.

I’ve recently taken a new job.  Coming after a far too-long period of under-employment, this is generally very welcomed news.  But the reality is that as a new employee, I have no vacation to speak of, thereby making it necessary for me to be at work on both Christmas Eve, as well as the rest of the week beginning the day after Christmas.

Both of my sons have finally graduated from college and have moved out of state.  Very far out of state unfortunately.  The distances involved and their work schedules are also conspiring against the traditional family gathering this holiday season.

My wife is out of state at her parent’s house, where I normally would have been spending the next few days.  She’s there not only to celebrate Christmas with her parents and sisters, but also to help provide care for a seriously ill family member. Clearly she is exactly where she needs to be.

The bottom line is that I’m minding the store back at the family homestead and will probably be celebrating Christmas Day alone.

I guess that it would be possible for me to be a bit down-in-the-mouth over this situation, but I really don’t find myself in that state of mind.  First of all, I’m very thankful for the new job and I’m enjoying working there.  I’m very proud of both of my sons, their accomplishments during their college years, and their efforts at beginning their working careers.  Likewise, I’m very pleased that my spouse will be able to spend Christmas with her family and provide care and support during a trying time for them all.
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I will occupy my time enjoying the day off, being thankful for all that I have, and remembering that the reason we celebrate Christmas day is that it marks the birth of Jesus Christ.  At the end of the day, all the rest of the holiday hoopla is nothing more than wrapping paper and eggnog by comparison.

Best wishes to you for a very Merry Christmas, wherever you happen to find yourself this holiday season!

It’s High Time for Overtime

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The first real job that I ever held was working for McDonald’s during the summer before I began high school.  My memory is admittedly a bit rusty, but as I recall, I was paid the princely sum of $1.10 per hour for my labors at making milk shakes and taking orders from customers at the walk-up windows.  This was before McDonald’s provided a place for its patrons to sit and eat.  When, half way through the summer, the manager gave me a $0.05 per hour raise; I thought I had really arrived!

This job, and various summer jobs like it, were my only opportunities to ever receive overtime pay for my work.  Immediately after completing college, I entered the work force in a management position which excluded me from being paid at a rate of “time and a half” for the hours I put in.
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Every position I held for the next 34 years was categorized as Exempt by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) which meant, among other things, that employers didn’t have to compensate me for overtime.  I will quickly add that the FLSA didn’t preclude my working over eight hours in a day or forty hours in a week, it just implied that I was already being adequately compensated for any hours worked above and beyond.

Anyway, fast forward 34 years.  In late 2007, I found myself in a state of unexpected and unwanted early retirement; this generation’s version of the gold watch which many of our fathers and grandfathers received at the end of their working careers.

For the next five years, I took just about any (and every) job I could find.  If you’ve been keeping up with current events, you will recall that the employment landscape during that period was roughly equivalent to the Gobi Desert, a cold, empty, and forbidding place.

The jobs that I found ranged from window washer, to carpet tile remover, to courier, to elementary school art work framer.   Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately depending on one’s perspective, none of these jobs required that I work overtime; that is over eight hours in a day or forty hours in one week.  It will also come as no surprise that none of these positions were very well compensated.  They simply provided enough in wages to allow for the occasional cup of tea, or in my case the occasional glass of sweet iced tea.  You might say that a cup of tea isn’t really my cup of tea, as the saying goes.

Fortunately, my sojourn across the employment desert ended about a month ago.  I now have a job which provides me with full time employment, very nice working conditions, and the eligibility to receive overtime pay.  My old nemesis, the FLSA, now recognizes me as Nonexempt.  Hallelujah!
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I worked this past Saturday, after already putting in a full week of eight-hour days.  You guessed it, Saturday’s hours were classified as “more than forty hours in a work week“. Overtime!  The Mother Lode!

I think I’ll go have myself a big glass of sweet iced tea.

Simple Fare for a Friday Evening

As I was driving home from work this evening, it suddenly dawned on me that I was going to be on my own for dinner. My spouse is visiting her family this weekend and my work schedule kept me from joining her, so I found myself in the position of having to come up with something appropriate to fill the gullet.

I recalled that some of the homemade chili which I had whipped up earlier in the week was still in the refrigerator awaiting ingestion, but somehow that just didn’t appeal. Everything else that I could think of was still in a rock-hard frozen state and I wasn’t really warming up to the alternative of having to thaw something out. Pun intended.
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My culinary quandary was short-lived as I rapidly came to the conclusion that this was going to be “Sub Night in the Big City!”

My current Sub sandwich of choice is the “Vito” which can only be obtained from your friendly neighborhood Jimmy John’s, home of the world’s greatest gourmet sandwiches since 1983. Or so their slogan states.

The Vito, in my humble opinion, is handcrafted with the perfect blend of genoa salami, provolone, capicola, onion, lettuce, and tomato; which is then topped off with a tasty Italian vinaigrette. Special thanks to the Jimmy John’s web site for that rundown on the ingredients.
Chips
When ordering a sub sandwich, I always go for the combo. This, as every fast food aficionado knows, includes chips and a drink which together provide a harmonious balance to one’s meal.

Jimmy John’s chips are simply outstanding. They are the kettle style of chips which provide your mouth and teeth with a real workout of munchy goodness; as long as one avoids breaking a tooth in the process. As far as I’m concerned, the only chips worth eating are the BBQ variety. Enough said.
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After arriving home with my combo meal in hand, I remembered that there as an alternative beverage in the `fridge which actually would pair much better with my Vito than the Cherry Coke I had initially opted for.

My youngest son recently moved out of state. While in the process of moving, he had failed to take along a bottle of St. Bernadus Belgian Abbey Ale which he had purchased shortly before his departure.

His loss, as the saying goes, was to prove to be my gain!

I’m sure that St. Bernadus would agree that his delightful brew is the perfect malt beverage to enjoy along with a Jimmy John’s Vito.

I’m also quite confident that the good Saint would have recognized a father’s obligation to purge the refrigerator of rogue bottles of malt beverages from time to time! For reasons of maintaining a sanitary environment within the refrigerator, if nothing else!

Cheers!