Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Oh Lord I Feel Like I'm Dying!

With apologies to the Allman Brothers. I've been starting back walking. With all of the stuff happening my last year of teaching I let my walking lapse, resulting in a nice pot belly. One of my goals after retirement was to lose weight and get back into shape. Whew! I had forgotten how rough it is to walk for extended periods of time. I started at about 3 miles and today made it to 4 1/2 miles. I would like to slowly get into shape and back to the 6-7 miles I used to walk. It is great exercise but you have to be careful in the summer to pick your times wisely so you don't overheat. I just finished my 4 1/2 miles and am cooling off and resting my aching feet. It will probably take several weeks to get back into shape.

In the meantime I have been going through a few thousand photographs and picking the best ones. I intend to submit them to a number of stock photo services. This should give me a couple of thousand dollars extra per year to supplement my lousy pension.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

How Not To Mow 2 Acres

It's been about 10 years since I mowed these 2 acres we live on. The land is basically flat with tough pasture grass and pines with large roots exposed in places. I did the weed eating and then did the main cutting with a 19.5 horsepower Craftsman mower. It's not fancy but it does get the job done quickly. Anyway, I was near the end of mowing when I heard a horrible clanging sound and the mower quit. Checking under the mower I found that I had bent one of the blades on a tree root. I had to get another set of blades and put them on. The moral of this story is to raise the mowing height when working around large roots and other exposed items on the surface. After the blade change I checked the belts and did a test cutting. All went well. By the end of the summer I will have saved enough money not hiring our former lawn guy to pay for the mower as well as the gass for this season. I think they call this 'sweat equity'.

On a similar note I have been doing what I can to economize. Finances here are going to be tight as most of my years of investments are in the toilet until the market rises again. I will get about 40% of my teaching salary and will supplement it with interest off of investments. For the next year or so the investments won't be much help so it is time to watch my pennies. I have been looking closer at coupons for grocery shopping and avoiding extravagant purchases. I also need in the next week to start switching invested funds to CDs and other stable sources. The problem right now is that the typical CD is now paying around 2% interest. Hopefully that wlll improve. Until the market improves I am pretty much holding on to my stock funds and bonds and just transferring money from bonds as they mature to other sources.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Transition to Retirement

One thing I've quickly found out is that when you have been teaching for as long as I taught it is very difficult to wind down. Your brain and body are telling you that you must be doing something! Relaxing is going to take some practice.

I have decided to not have any further mention of the St. Johns County school system except to respond to news reports. Getting into a pissing match with individuals won't improve the schools here so why bother? I would like to say that my last year at Bartram Trail we earned another "A" on the FCAT test that Florida has as a mandatory test. What does this mean to me personally? About half of my lawn equipment will now be paid for! Other than that, not much.

I am sitting here with our little tiger Sam, who we nicknamed 'Sam the Man' because of his feisty nature. Here is a photo of Sam one of the few times he has been relaxed.

Monday, June 22, 2009

It Takes a Thief

I got my camera out of the top drawer to download photos. When I came back to put up the camera old guy Beau was raiding the drawer for any goodies. When he didn't find anything he wanted Beau spread out in the drawer for a nap. Luckily I still had the camera in hand so I took these sequential shots. Boy, does Beau like drawers! This is perhaps the 10th time he has raided a drawer here!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The joys of yard work

In my last post I mentioned I was not the great outdoorsman and today I proved it. We were dragging pieces of a fallen tree to our wood pile when my foot was caught in a vine and down I went, the tree limb skewering my arm. This is what it looked like after I cleaned it up and added an antibacterial ointment. I finished the job before cleaning it so there was blood on the clothes. They were treated with an anti-stain liquid and thrown in the wash. It's memorable to me as being my first yardwork wound after retirement.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Henry David Thoreau With Lawn Tools (not!)

It's been a long time since I've done any major yard work. My teaching duties just took up too much of my time and energy to allow for taking care of the 2 acres we live on. Therefore it was with some excitement and a little trepidation that I signed for the implements of destruction commonly called lawn tools that we ordered recently. The lawn tractor did not want to start at first but with a little coaxing and swearing the engine finally kicked over with a huge belch of white smoke. Once the initial theatrics were over it ran great. I drove it up into the shed and then unpacked the weed eater and chain saw. Yesterday afternoon was spent mostly going over all of the booklets. We have a medium sized tree that fell a month ago so I decided to slice it into manageable pieces that could be tossed onto the brush pile in back. I ran through the startup procedures with the chain saw and cranked it. And cranked it. And cranked it. I cranked until my shoulder was sore. It finally started up and I proudly took it over to the fallen tree. Unfortunately I forgot about the safety switch on it and when I released the throttle momentarily it died. I proceeded to flood it and pulled on the starting handle for about 30 minutes until I was gasping for breath. By this time the mosquitoes had found me so I called it a day and put the chainsaw away. Last night I went back to the manual and discovered a couple of things I was doing wrong. This morning I tried to start it again and after about 20 pulls it started up. This time I did not let it stall and cut the tree up in about 15 minutes. Though covered with wood chips I did keep my body parts intact. This outdoors stuff isn't as easy as the guy on the PBS home show makes it look! I'm sure that with experience I will get better at it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Appreciate What You Have

We all take what we have for granted, including me at times. The other day the wife and I were cleaning about 15 years of junk out of the utility shed. Since I have more time on my hands I am going to save money by doing my own yard work now. In the past we have hired it done because we simply did not have the time to devote to 2 acres. While I was teaching I put everything I had into the job and was always completely exhausted each evening and weekends. We bought a new riding mower, weed eater, and chain saw to put in the shed. It will pay for itself in about a year so the long term savings will be substantial.

This morning I looked out the window and saw a young couple in a small truck stop next to the trash we had put out from the shed. They spent around an hour going through every box and bag looking for usable items. They took a couple of old plastic tarps, a rusty vice, two old broken weed eaters, a car battery charger I had replaced with a much better model years ago, boxes of old electrical components, a hand sprayer, a rusted grinder, and other odds and ends. When they were finished going through the garbage they put the remaining stuff neatly back into bags and then into the trash cans.

Where I saw a large pile of junk I should have disposed of years ago this couple saw treasures. From their appearance they seemed to be rather poor. This couple was beaming as they took our trash and loaded bags of it into the back of their truck. They acted as if they had just won the lottery. What could they possibly do with this stuff? a couple of items might be cleaned up and fetch a few dollars at a yard sale. Items like the tarps might come in handy for covering outdoor belongings. The point they drove home to me was that they really seemed to appreciate getting the junk I wanted to get rid of. We are certainly not wealthy as we live in a mobile home and lead a simple life but in their eyes we must have seemed like millionaires.
This couple was so young they looked as if they were just starting out together so they probably did not have much in the way of material goods. It really made me kick myself for taking things for granted that they only dreamed of having at this point in their lives together. In the future I will make every effort to value the few things we have here. Others have so much less.

Another death

It seems like every year I taught I lost at least one student. Yesterday a former Anatomy student passed away in an auto accident. He was trying to avoid a dead animal in the road, overcorrected, lost control of his vehicle, and hit a tree. He was not driving recklessly or drinking. Emergency maneuvers are more difficult for young drivers due to inexperience. Since many schools have eliminated driver ed courses due to budget cuts the students have even less training. We lose good kids every year this way and it is so sad.

Learning to relax

I am still in "teacher mode" where I feel like I should be doing something every moment. It's going to take awhile to retrain myself and give myself permission to relax. 30 years of living in a high stress environment is a lot to overcome.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Lots of work and a little more teacher stuff

We spent the morning cleaning 15 years of junk out of the utility shed. It's being cleaned in preparation for mowing stuff. I have been paying someone to keep the 2 acres of yard trimmed but with what I pay him in one year I can get all of equipment I need and do it myself now that I have the time and energy. This afternoon we purchased a riding mower, chain saw, and weed eater. Yee hah!

I know I promised to end the teaching posts but something came up that I just have to blog about. This past Sunday the local paper posted a list of all school retirees. It even had several interviews with the teachers. Guess who was the only person not listed? Yep, you got it in one guess. I emailed the Human Resource person in charge of retirees about it. She wrote me back apologizing, saying she would send me an invitation to the retirement dinner I did not get and a listing of my jobs in the county. It would have been nice to have actually attended the dinner and had the information published in the paper. It crossed my mind that the superintendent of schools has been pretty pissed off about remarks I've made in the past on my teaching blog about things happening at the school that he seemed to feel reflected badly upon him. He even had his hired law firm threaten me with legal action if I did not remove a funny video I posted concerning the pitiful ESIS grading program we were forced to use after the school system spent a huge amount of money for this program that would not even correctly average grades at times. The supposed reason for the threat was that I allegedly used a proprietary photo of their sacred ESIS program in my video parody. Would you say that he was looking for absolutely anything to use in retaliation against me for my posts telling the truth? Surely he has a better character than that so it must have just been a coincidence. Would he also be so petty as to have my name removed from the published retirement list or am I just imagining things? Hmmm... no one else I am aware of was left off of the list, so why was I the only one? I'm sure it was just an honest error. Aren't you certain as well? Of course you are. Isn't educational politics an interesting sport? Now that I am not affiliated with the school system any longer I will have more freedom to post an occasional tidbit to keep the educational system honest. I talk regularly to a number of teachers so I'm sure I will be hearing all sorts of interesting things during the upcoming school year and I will be more than happy to verify them and then pass them along on this blog as time permits. I know how much the "powers that be" at the St. Johns County, Florida school system value the truth so I look at this as a public service on their behalf, though it will certainly not be the main focus of this blog.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Boy Have Computers Changed!

My earliest memory of computers was when I accompanied my dad to the TVA Widow's Creek steam plant in 1962 one weekend. Dad was called in to work on a crashed computer there and he thought I would be interested in seeing a power plant in operation. I distinctly remember the huge drum memory that held about as much information as a good programmable calculator today. When he was finished he showed me around the control room and I marveled at the "typewriters" that spewed out writing on long rolls of paper without anyone typing. While he worked I flipped through some magazines there and saw an ad for the first desktop computer I had ever seen. The price of this new computer was $10,000 and it had 16K memory. At that time I told dad that some day they would have computers for the home that will be much faster than this one and will be relatively inexpensive so anyone could purchase one. Dad laughed and told me I was probably right. Now I am sitting here typing on a computer that is several magnitudes faster than the one I saw in the ad and has 3.4 GB memory! It's funny how the future sometimes unfolded the way I imagined it.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

An Ending and a Beginning

As promised I have retired (pun intended) my teaching blog and now will travel down new paths. Here is the first new item. His name is Sam. Yesterday I saw an email by a coworker telling how her neighbor who works at a restaurant found a kitten eating in the restaurant's dumpster. I contacted her and said that we would take the cat. Today I picked up the supposedly female cat whom I had named Samantha and found out it was a "he". Samantha became Sam and I took him to our vet for a checkup, tests, and parasite treatment since he had grown up outside. Sam is 1.4 pounds and around 5 weeks old. He had a horrible case of fleas which were treated along with a preventative dose of medicine to kill intestinal parasites. Other than that the vet said he was in great health. Sam is isolated in a room at home now and there are four cats peeking at him under the door. He is a feisty little guy who loves to play. After dealing with him awhile the vet just shook his head and told me that I was going to really have my hands full with this alpha cat in training. He has already learned how to play with a ball today and is napping some and exploring the room. I know I am crazy to accept cat #9 but he may have wound up at the pound otherwise so I have few regrets about it so far. Sam is adorable with his huge ears and frantic playing.