Story 1Dec2022: Welcome to Advent Calendars

The snowstorm and snowmageddon did not happen this Thursday morning. It was a letdown as that would have been an excellent way to start December, but I did not miss the messy commute. We also have the Nike Emergency contact system to keep us informed. It did not send out a message last night, so I know it was unlikely we would be facing snow.

My rushed morning includes exercises to stretch my lower back and help me be more flexible. So I was on the floor this morning trying that out. Afterward, I read my emails, texts, and messages for work and from my personal accounts. I got showered and dressed after a breakfast of a bagel-like bread product with cream cheese and a banana with liberal coffee.

Another case of coffee was delivered today, liberal equal exchange coffee. I sent Barb, Susie’s sister, some for Christmas–not much more expensive than sending some myself.

I arrived at work before 8 and then embarked on a voyage in Zoom of hours of status meetings. I asked some questions here and there, and unfortunately, I just made the meetings longer without helping much. But I have been told that folks like my questions, so I carry on.

I slipped out after the meetings and headed off to see Susie at the hummingbird house. I had no meetings left in the early afternoon; I would not have to rush off. Traffic for a Thursday was lighter than I expected. The thought of snow had apparently driven people to work from home and stay off the roads. The road electronic status sign threatened an $880 fine for not having chains–Beaverton Finest was ready to enforce the law. I put the socks in the cargo area, the only traction devices allowed on my SUV XC60 Volvo 2018. It is against the law to travel without traction devices, at least in a vehicle in light snow. If the state announces a snow emergency, the Volvo must wear socks; they cost $220 to cover all four wheels.

Without wearing socks, I arrived safely at the hummingbird house in Air Volvo (that is, none on the Volvo). Susie was in her chair and festive with a Christmas sweatshirt keeping her warm. We got her Micky and Mini Mouse advent calendar and opened the first door, a chocolate star. I broke off a tiny piece and let her eat that. Susie complained that her tummy hurt–Jennifer told me Susie ate her oatmeal, fried potatoes, and Ensure. Susie was full!

On my iPhone, we called Susie’s mother, Leta, on FaceTime and had a lovely chat. Leta was starting to decorate the inside of her house with Christmas stuff. I stayed for forty-five minutes and then left with a kiss. Susie was happy I was able to stay longer.

I headed to Bethany, not far, for lunch and then my Physical Therapy appointment. I went to the Bethany Public House, sat in the bar, and connected to Nike’s network. I had lunch, choosing their cowboy chili and a diet coke (beer is for after work and weekends) while watching the second half of the World Cup games. Japan pulled off an impossible task, I thought, of beating Spain. Germany won its game but failed to make the knock-out 16. It was a good lunch, and I followed along at work and answered some questions.

Off to PT. I had a new guy, Michael, and also Leo. They worked me over and are working on making me more flexible. They recommended a go-slow plan as I had trouble with pain after the exercises, and some of their stretching of my back was uncomfortable. I did ride their bike for five minutes. I had more pain later, so I decided to go slow and not do any more exercises today. It is not supposed to hurt.

I drove home from Bethany without incident or the need for socks (but I have them). I reconnected with Nike and followed along for a while. I rested a few times to bring the pain, which got worse an hour after the exercises (sneaky pain is what Michael called that).

I made a ham and cheese sandwich with a pickle and coleslaw leftover from Popeyes (I got the large amount as it is not more expensive than their small size). I then worked on my Dungeons and Dragons adventure, finishing the start-up text and working on encounters. I am improving the text, making it a bit harder, and using all those tricks I used before.

The way to write good encounters for Dungeons and Dragons and role-playing games is to break the rules–not what you would do in a board game! In this case, I have created my own version of creatures, and some are actually puzzles for the players to work out–nothing standard. Just how do you get rid of this horror is their challenge. Some don’t go away easily. Next, I create great adventurers by using themes, usually three themes. They guide the way I assemble the monsters, traps, and treasures to be found. The players typically work out a few of these patterns and enjoy decoding what is happening.

Previously, I wrote an adventure that broke the rules by having the whole adventure be a dream and that characters could not die, but when they would have, they started over at the start with all their equipment. This was an advantage–it created strange dynamics. I could use overpowered traps and monsters, and they would get multiple tries (deaths) to find the best way to beat the trap or monster.

I decided at 8ish to head to Wildwood to write the blog. I wanted a beer and some social interaction after all the writing. So I had a dark beer and wrote this blog. I also put out the recycling and trash. My back hurt. Yes, time to go slow.

Thanks for reading.

For Advent, I will pick out a song as an Advent Calendar:

Christine McVie, the singer and songwriter, passed away–so it seems fitting to give her the first slot. Happy Holidays!

Story 30Nov2022

The morning started with waking just before my alarm and falling deeply asleep. I was then shocked to awake only ten minutes later. No way to start a morning! I then did my stretching exercises and discovered I would need to do them on the floor. It is a learning process.

I had cottage cheese and the rest of 1/2 can of peaches for breakfast with some liberal coffee. Then, I read my email and some work stuff before showering and dressing. It is a work-from-office day, so it is a rush to be ready in time to be in the office for the 8AM meetings. But I managed it and was back in the office for my first meeting.

I helped with a few ideas today and a few crises of the moment. The Zoom meetings were still frustrating, but things were moving and making the meetings more useful. It is always strange to be in the office in Zoom meetings.

I headed to see Susie and arrived at the hummingbird house around 11AM. Susie was in her recliner and looked a bit tired. We called her mother, Leta, and chatted for a while. Susie is starting today on her iron supplements to see if we can improve her labs. Susie’s immediate risks are weight loss, low iron, and low red blood cell counts. I sat with her for a while and held her hand. But, it is a work day, so I could only stay for a short time. I left Susie, looking sad, with a kiss. Another hard day.

On the way back to the office, I grab a burger king whopper with terrible onion rings. The drive-through was flooded–a drain was likely full of leaves, and there were six inches or more of water in the driveway. So I went in and got my burger to-go. The BK team was singing 80s rock and Christmas songs–not something I expected. I took my burger with me and sat in Air Volvo, eating and listening, as usual, to Oregon Public Radio news shows.

I returned to the office and helped with some ideas for a performance fix. I left after 4PM and headed to Old Town Beaverton. The traffic had not gotten bad yet, and I was soon parked at First United Methodist Church in Beaverton. I walked to the Ava Roasteria to get my walking done for my back exercises. There I ordered a sandwich–they wanted to know which one. I asked them to make their favorite. I answered the other questions with suggestions that they pick the bread and all of that to match how they like it. The Turkey and cheddar sandwich was terrific. I did walk it back to get more walking and ate the sandwich in my car.

I bumped into Venky at Ava while waiting for my food and coffee, who I last saw at Ernest’s Hillsboro Python meetings before the pandemic. It was great to see him, and he is still finding work for folks. He offered to find me some good work if I ever wanted to give up the shoe company! Not every day do I get a job offer; I demurred. Venky and I both agree that we miss Ernest’s group and hope we can return to those exciting meetings.

Aside: I am working on my Dungeons and Dragons adventure now. But I plan to do some exciting Python work in late December. Maybe I will have to start a meet-up at First United Methodist Church with me ordering Pizza and bringing water next year. Python again in 2023! Thinking of you Ernest!

Choir practice and band rehearsal are today (Wednesday), so I brought the Architects of the West Kingdoms board game. Zophia quickly learned the game and was playing well. I won the first game, but Zophia and I played fast, and there was plenty of time to play again, and Zophia beat me in the second game. She had never played the game before, but she really enjoyed the game. It is my favorite type of board game, with very simple turns and complex strategies, some multidimensional.

We put Architects away after two games and started on Azul, and we both won a game. We play cutthroat and use the blank board, which is more challenging. We love to play this against each other.

I gave a wrapped present similar in size to my copy of Azul for Christmas to Zophia. The card says it may be open before Christmas.

I then flew Air Volvo home. We are under a storm watch, so I put the traction devices (Volvo socks!) into the cargo area with another first aid kit (I usually carry two). I am ready for Thursday with snow.


Story 29Nov2022: Tuesday

I started watching the light snow this Tuesday while writing the blog at about 7:30AM. The snow was just a half-melted flake here and there. I wrote at a relaxed speed as I had the day off as it was impossible to mix new physical therapy, work, and seeing Susie on the same day. My appointment was at 10:15 in Bethany, about 30 minutes or less away.

I had cottage cheese and 1/2 a can of peaches (in their own juices) for breakfast with liberal coffee.

I had not seen these folks before, Therapeutic Associates, Bethany office for Physical Therapy. Today was my assessment and determination of goals, and to plan six more sessions, as needed. It took two hours!

They decided that I was having trouble feeling the floor, and my left lower back was stiff, causing many issues. To get better, I need to be more flexible. I suspect some folks at Nike always knew I was inflexible and too stiff, but they did not mean it literally–the irony makes me smile.

I will enjoy two sessions a week and already have exercises as homework. I am also advised to walk or ride the bike (Susie’s) for five or more minutes daily. My next session is on Thursday. I will have to work on this in a while, working and seeing Susie every day.

We scheduled all the sessions through December. I then found lunch at Bethany Public House and watched the must-win USA vs. Iran match. The USA squeaked by the Iranian team that was energized by the substitutions. I ate the chili and then had a mango cobbler once the game was over. The USA had so many saves we all panicked when there were nine minutes of added time. The USA just made it.

After that, I headed out, knowing they made an excellent chili for the next lunch after PT. I drove over to the hummingbird house to see Susie. Susie was in bed resting. I sat in her wheelchair while she stayed in bed, and we talked about Christmas gifts for folks. I told her all my plans, and she thought them good and agreed to send out some more fruit cake. Susie wanted some fruit cake, so I ordered one sent to the Volvo Cave. Next, we called Susie’s mother, Leta, and they chatted on my iPhone via FaceTime. I held the phone for Susie so they could see each other.

Susie was sad when a few hours later, I said I should go; Susie looked exhausted and was resisting sleeping. She told me she missed me and was sad to see me go. It was a hard day. I kissed her goodbye.

I returned to the house, not really remembering the drive as I was sad.

I rested a bit and put the board game Architects of the West Kingdom in Air Volvo. I removed Concordia. Evan wanted to return to Architects, and I think Zophia will like it on Wednesday. Next, I spoke to my neighbor; Chris was on his roof fixing his lights–the water was shorting them and setting off a breaker. On Sunday morning, we will discuss how I want my lights, and he will put them up for me. Excellent!

Aside: The police visited him and asked him to not use the illegal fireworks as the folks in the area were calling the police, reporting gunfire. The shells are pretty loud, and I first thought it was a gun until I heard the other sounds of fireworks.

I headed to the Lucky Labrador Bar in Portland off of Hawthorn. I was in terrible traffic for thirty minutes, and the trip took the usual 45 minutes. I parked on the streets not far from another bar and walked there. The place was busy, and folks were playing games and chatting. There are no screens to watch sporting events, but the WIFI is fast. It reminded me of pre-Covid-19 days. There is better ventilation than I remember and more light.

Aside: I stopped and got gas for Air Volvo tonight. It was $4.79 at the usual places. The price continues to fall.

I met Evan there, and we played a game of Architects of the West Kingdom. We both had to remember how to play, but it was all remembered soon. I also ordered a BLT and a beer. Evan had dinner too. We played between bites. I was hungry as I had a busy day; the bartender recommended the BLT–it was terrific.

The board game is a worker placement and resources management game. This game takes my favorite systems of simple turns and complicated strategy to the max. For example, on some turns, I would get one stick of wood. I would then place another worker in the forest and get two sticks. And, the next turn, I would get another three sticks, and I had a lot of wood. But now, what to do with that? Invest it in the cathedral? Exchange it for honor? Now collected stone or other items to build a building later? All interesting options. I like this game, and I have all the add-ons and bling, so there are many options.

Evan was behind by about two buildings when he ended the game by building the last building. I had been lucky to have plans for some medium-scoring buildings that are easier to build. This is a strong luck factor in the game, but the new add-ons have tamped down the impact of luck on the game. Still, I think I scored well due mainly to chance. Also, we did not use the new features of monuments or prestige. Next time!

I headed back after chatting with Evan for a bit. I needed to write the blog, so I was home by 9PM. I then wrote the blog. The wind picked up, and I had to go outside again and close the gate. I don’t like the sound of the door opening and closing in the wind. The power blinked, but my UPS kept everything running. The wind is loud tonight.

Thanks for reading.


Story 28Nov2022: Monday

Monday is not usually so crazy, and then I decided to watch the old movie Willow as Disney+ is starting a new series. I am writing the blog on Tuesday morning as I have the day off. I have a Physical Therapy appointment today and could not imagine mixing that with work and seeing Susie, so I took the day off from work.

Going backward, I finished Willow after 11PM and went to bed. I woke at 4ish and had some trouble sleeping, but I slept into 7ish and feel OK this morning.

Before watching the show, I was in Portland. Mariah texted me she had changed her mind and would meet me at Von Ebert’s in Portland. I was at Wildwood having a dark beer and did not see the text until 6:15ish. I paid my bill, having only finished 3/4 of a small glass of a dark beer (thinking it wrong to chug it and then take Air Volvo), so I left it unfinished.

I reached Von Ebert’s in Portland’s Pearl District in light traffic and parked on the road next to the bar. I brought Mariah a Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company catalog; I had ordered an extra one for her. It is the ultimate in heirloom gardening annual book–I love flipping through it, and this year’s catalog is an inch thick!

We had some beer and smoked chicken wings, mine with a mild sauce. Mariah recommends the Korean-style sauce. The wings were better today. We chatted about work and various topics. As a new homeowner, Mariah is learning why we joke about having your paycheck directly deposited to Home Depot. Luckily, she has a cousin in Portland, a fix-it gal, who has been helping Mariah experience all the fixes. Mariah is proud that she replaced a doorknob without knowing how until she did it.

Before this, I was at Wildwood and ordered Cyber Monday stuff online from AdaFruit with another 22% and 15% discounts. The sale seems to be going well, as AdaFruit stock in certain microcontrollers is exhausted, but I was able to order some things I could use and picked up the cool stuff on Black Friday.

Aside: I love to program in microPython that AdaFruit developed for their boards. The board, Adafruit Feather M0 Express, is cheap and tiny but can control many devices. It has a built-in plug for a lithium ion polymer battery and recharging circuit.

I saw Jim V, now retired for almost 10 years, at Wildwood. He used to be one of my directors at Nike IT. I could not believe how many years have gone by now. It seems not that long ago that I first met Jim V in Laakdal, Belgium, where he worked on the shoe company’s warehouse software.

Aside: It is snowing here in Reedville on Tuesday morning. It will last for just a bit as it is warming up.

Before getting a beer, seeing friends, ordering stuff, and then rushing off, I was at the house. I had some meetings today, working from home, that frustrated me, and I stopped for a bit to recenter myself. Work was just going to meetings that were a bit disjointed (yes, I went back and deleted what I wrote). Folks obviously still had their heads in the holidays and not at work (additional unhelpful comments removed). I do not usually comment on work here, but I do comment on how things affect me.

My neighbor, apparently with some leftover fireworks and nothing better to do, started launching mortars into the sky. It was wet, so there was no risk of fire. I stopped by, chatted for a few minutes, and he moved the stuff out of the street so I could drive to Wildwood, thinking I needed a beer, and Mariah had canceled (only to un-cancel later) dinner in Portland.

As I pulled out, a motorcycle speeded down our street. I just stopped to let it do its thing. It was being followed by an SUV. Yes, Washington County Sheriff Patrol had noticed the fireworks. And as it was not a holiday and nobody else was doing fireworks. Thus they quickly tracked the illegal fireworks. I drove by as a uniformed guy with a flashlight was lighting up the box of fireworks.

Before this, I managed to see Susie today at the hummingbird house. It took me three tries to remember all the items, and last time I had to go back for my phone. I, too, was having issues getting organized today! The traffic was light; I headed out at about 11AM. The weather was damp, but the skies were showing some blue and some sunlight, and it did not seem that cold.

Susie was happy to see me, and I handed over the remains of the cinnamon rolls I had made the previous night. I also brought Susie’s Christmas Peanuts set that played music, danced, and lit up. It plays short Peanuts-styled versions of Christmas music. Jennifer, the live-in nursing aide, will find a place for it. I also gave Jennifer my turkey baster, shaped like a turkey–they did not have one at the hummingbird house.

I opened a package from Barb, Susie’s sister, hand-warming mittens you put in the microwave to heat. Susie’s hands are always cold and Barb, who visited just a week ago, wanted to help Susie stay comfortable. Thanks, Barb!

It was only a short visit, as I was working on Monday, but we connected with Leta, Susie’s mother, on FaceTime, and she and Susie chatted for a while. I sat with Susie for a while, but my time was soon over. I left with a kiss and returned without incident to the Volvo Cave with a stopover for some chicken from popeyes.

I ate the chicken while watching videos on YouTube. My fav naval history channel has a new presentation on the legendary Greek Fire, the historical records of its use, and lighting off some test batches from possible recipes. If you are interested, I would suggest the video here.

Before this, I sat through more Zoom meetings, which helped us refocus on work. I was up at 7ish and had two cinnamon rolls and a banana with liberal coffee.

Aside: snow is slowly turning to rain on Tuesday morning.

Thanks for reading.


Story 27Nov2022: Sunday

The morning started with me waking after a whole night’s sleep. Something hard to come by of late. I started writing the blog at about 7ish and finished writing a long blog, as Saturdays are always busy. It always seems that I try to fit a whole weekend into one single day. I managed to finish at about 9ish and then shower and all of that. I had a yogurt and a banana with liberal coffee. I even slipped in a few minutes in the morning of working on my Dungeons and Dragons adventure, which is starting to fit together with the story encounters I wrote.

Air Volvo was buried in leaves. The garage is stuffed, so Air Volvo lives outdoors and ages a bit from that. My gutters are stuffed too. Only one tree has let go, more like a leaf explosion. The other tree is usually two weeks later. My lawn service appreciates that the trees don’t bury me all at once, but the extended leaf clearing crushes them every Oct-Nov. I remember clearing the leaves for Halloween for trick-or-treating before, so that gives you an idea of how much time the season has changed: three weeks.

Once I cleared the windshield, I could take Air Volvo to see Susie at the hummingbird house. Trees everywhere are letting go now, and the sidewalks are lost in a pile of browns, yellows, and reds. I reached Susie, and Anessa, the weekend nursing aide, got Susie ready. I did the lift to put Susie in the car, and Susie turned into a pile of noodles in my lift of Susie, and I had to adjust her in her seat. I was ready for noodles the second time after church.

We arrived at church, and I unloaded Susie with no issues from Air Volvo. Everyone was happy to see us, and there were more folks there, as is usual, after Thanksgiving and before Christmas. We had found Williams Sonoma Chili Lime Tequila Brittle at the mall and brought some for Dondrea. She loved it.

Aside: It is only available in stores!

Pastor Ken Wytsma’s sermon covered Matthew’s chapter six famous section on the evil of wealth. The pastor suggested that it is not so much wealth as letting the pursuit of advancement, money, and power that can separate someone from the things he/she/they needs to focus on. Too often, religious leaders and people concentrate on chasing wealth and losing what matters most. There is a reason why money is mentioned so often in the New Testament.

We called Leta after most of the coffee hour had broken up after church. Leta was happy to see Susie at church, and I showed Leta, using the iPhone, all the familiar decorations. Leta has been to First United Methodist Church in Beaverton for a few Christmases and recognized the usual setup.

Soon, Susie was tired, so I took her back by Air Volvo and got her safely loaded and unloaded. Anessa was happy to see Susie back and safe. I left with a kiss while Anessa and Susie worked out if lunch would be before or after a nap.

I returned home and had leftovers (somewhere Glenda is smiling when reading this) reheated in the glassware I received from Glenda and Gene. My reheated porkchop, green bean casserole, and mac and cheese were excellent. I ate some of this while chatting with Joan G on our after-church Zoom meeting, a leftover from the Covid-19 days. It was just us, and we chatted for a while.

After that, I wrote some more of my Dungeons and Dragons adventure and worked on a special figure I made for the adventure. I have more to make if I can get the 3D printers working (growl). After that, I rested a bit and read some more Mind MGMT comics, which are pretty good. I have a new board game by the same artist that uses the same name. It is a hidden movement game where you try to capture the agent player by using clues to their location. I have the game Fury of Dracula, which operates some of the same mechanics and is a favorite.

I headed out to BJ’s Brewhouse for a salad and a beer. I wrote a little and ordered some gifts for a recovering friend–something unusual (are you not surprised) and handmade on Esty. I hope the items some intact and soon. I love shopping there as they have so many cool things, but you must be aware of travel and manufacturing times as some items take months to get.

I got home and started on some cinnamon rolls, but the dough is not rising so far. So, while waiting, I wrote this blog and cleaned up.