Tuesday, June 30, 2015

It rattled

Sculpture is generally something you see, some of it moves, this one you can hear.  I heard it before I entered the room.  The tiny wires in globe, are easily moved, moved by the slightest vibration, or by the breeze of someone walking by, even by changes in temperature in the room, or moved by sunshine shining on one side. When the elements of the sculpture move, they rattle against one another. Some might call it musical, but I have better rhythm.  For me it was more of a pleasant rattle, a rattle in waves.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Health Update

Good News! I am sitting up and moving about without the brace.  The X-rays show that everything is healing as expected, the neurosurgeon described it as a "text-book-case."  He was very pleased that I had followed his directions to be careful and keep the brace on.  It showed in that the healing was as expected.

Now I have to admit sitting up without the brace feels weird.  There are new sensations in my back and ribs.  The muscles in my back have not held me upright without assistance in 7 weeks, it will take a few days for them to strengthen, and 22-cm of them were cut apart to the spine, and put back together.  That will take a little time to develop a new normal.  But I am free of the brace.  I can take a shower without the brace. I have not tried, but soon I will be flexible enough to touch parts of my body I have not been able to touch in weeks (get-yer-mind-out-of-the-gutter - I have been able to touch that) farther back behind me has required assistive devices for basic hygiene - I will regain the functionality of a three year old in the bathroom.      

I am cleared to travel, and drive.  I can return to work next Monday.

The only remaining concern, is monitoring the section of the tumor left behind.  I have an MRI scheduled for September 14th, and will meet with the tumor doc again that afternoon.  The tumor will require monitoring for a couple of years.  It won't spread, but it could start growing, if it does, there are non-invasive therapies available to treat it.

No illusions, I am not 100%, I may never be.  But I have come a long way in 7 weeks.  In many ways I am better then I have been anytime this year.

You Never Know

May 4th I went to the office with a full agenda, trying to keep all of the projects moving forward, with plans to leave on May 6th for 12 days of travel, two conferences, in two states, and a visit with family.  The phone rang and it was a doctors' office, saying I really need to find the nearest emergency room and check myself in.  I scrambled around and did my best to cover the projects for a few days.  Based on advice from the doctor, I cancelled the trip, I have never canceled a business trip, let alone dropped out of speaking on two or was it three panels at the last minute.  I had no idea how long I would be away, I have never been out sick for more then a week.  Well  you never know, it has been 7 weeks so far.  I expect it will be at least another week.  Two months away from the office.  

For several years I had a consulting contract with AARP, the last supervisor on that project wanted us to work in teams of two, she called it her Mack Truck policy.  If one of the two team members was run over by a Mack truck, the show would go on.  The last year or so budget pressures forced her to have us work solo.  I have always been a soloist.  I generally work alone - independent - self starter, are phrases in past evaluations.   Well working that way really caught up with me this time.  It has been a major struggle to turn some projects over to others, one project was a vague concept, mostly in my mind, funded at just over $5,000 a month for four months, that no one really knew what we were going to do for the money.  They trusted me to do good work, and gave us the money.  Another major project, was immensely complex, a collaboration with multiple entities, and involving several people who were under-qualified for the task. I had become pretty good at working with the incompetence, it is hard to delegate that without saying that you are working with idiots.  I will be more careful in the future to document the projects, you never know when you leave the office, when and if you will return, and yet the show must go on.  

Sunday, June 28, 2015

What Ever Happened To?

What ever happened to the promise of supersonic or hyper-sonic travel? I remember the debate in the late 1960's early 1970's about SST, supersonic transport.  Developing super fast airliners proved to be super expensive.  The British and French jointly funding a project, and Concord was developed and flew for a couple of decades. American manufactures asked  Congress for help with development cost, the companies went as far as building a mock-up complete with sample manufacturing materials, and were turned down.  The US companies scrapped the idea, in part out of fears that they could never be competitive with the European efforts that were being subsidized by government.  The American mock-up ended up cut into pieces in a hanger in Kissimmee Florida, failing as a tourist attraction.

Concord was an operational success and regularly sold all of the seats.  It was expensive to operate, but the lure of 2 hours from London to New York was enough to fill the seats.  Between trans-Atlantic flights Concord frequently flew excursion flights, out over the Atlantic to go supersonic for a few hundred dollars, thrilling passengers who could say that they had flown on the worlds fastest airliner. When ECPOT opened, AirFrance and British Airways flew two Concords into Orlando filled with VIPs to celebrate the opening of the World Showcase, and attempted a simultaneous landing on parallel runways (the timing was off by a few seconds) I saw them from the ground about 10 miles north of the airport, lined up on final approach - the only time I ever saw Concord on the wing.

The Russians built a supersonic airliner, it looked enough like the Concord for people to question theft of the design, but the engineering was not the same and it proved unreliable and was withdrawn from service long before expected.

Concord never earned back the cost of development, in large part because only a handful of planes were built.  If they had built a-couple-hundred of them, the project would have been considered a financial success.  Because of the low numbers, the accounting is complicated, each plane earned more then it's cost of operation on almost every flight, but never enough to recover the entire cost of development amortized over just a dozen or so aircraft.

Fuel consumption was much higher per seat then slower aircraft, maintenance was expensive, but people were willing to pay a premium for the seats.  There was some environmental concerns about Concord, but never really enough study to understand the science.  There were not that many planes, flying that many hours, and there were much bigger environmental concerns.

In the end, airlines are more interested in hauling bigger numbers of people, to do that the cost has to be lower, and slower will be always be cheaper, until the commitment is made to research and development of bigger and faster.  Concord only held about 100 people, if it held 200 or 300, the cost per seat would have been lower and the market much broader.  Sooner or later, when we grow beyond building the next variation of the 737, we will move into the supersonic or hyper-sonic age.  I hope I am still traveling when that age arrives.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Partners in the Journey of Life

Grand Central Station, New York, New York 

We are pleased to announce our engagement! 

We have shared our lives for over 22 years, as a committed monogamous couple.  About 22 year's ago I asked Jay to marry me, something that was not legally possible at that time, this year with the changes in the law happening rapidly we started talking about it seriously.  We are in a unique situation, my legal residence is Virginia, a marriage state, and I work in the District of Columbia, Jay's legal residence is Kentucky, where he works, a state that refused to recognize same sex marriage until Thursday.  We own homes in both states, file tax returns in both states.  Getting married before Thursday's Supreme Court ruling would have left us in a nearly irreconcilable legal quandary of being married in the eyes of the Feds, and Virginia, but not Kentucky.

There are real risks with not being married. If one of us dies without being married, the survivor is not entitled to Federal and state protections on retirement accounts, pensions, and income tax issues.  We own the home in Kentucky jointly, but if Jay dies before we are married, I would owe capital gains tax on half of the profit from it (it is worth twice what we paid for it 20 years ago.)  I have not lived in the home for the past six years and would not be eligible for preferred tax treatment, when we marry, I will be (a married couple can have two primary residences.)  You don't want to hear about the Kentucky inheritance tax that I would owe if Jay does before we marry, but you could buy a nice new Mercedes with the extra tax I would owe. During my recent hospital stays, health care providers didn't know what to do with Jay.  Most commonly I was asked, "you are single so there won't be anyone there when you go home."  Legally I am single and that is what I checked on the form, there was no space to fit Jay in, despite the fact that we have taken care of one another for 22 years.  I was asked this when he was there in the room.  He was not the default person to make health care decisions for me during the 30+ hours that I was unconscious or drugged to an extent that I couldn't make or communicate health care decisions. Without the health care power of attorney that I signed in pre-op the evening before, the health care providers would need to call my 88 and 89 year old parents first.  Not exactly who I want to make decisions, not someone who was available to hold my hand in ICU when I needed it most.

So we set off on planning a marriage.  We have a circle of friends and family that need to be invited.  We want to keep it small and simple, but we want to welcome those who have loved and supported us through the years.  We have not set a date, the current front runner is mid fall. It is unlikely to happen before the summer is over, unless we just go to the court house and make it as quick and simple as possible, that would leave a lot of people out.  I will keep you informed.  This should be fun.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Finding Parking

Driving can be frustrating; idiot drivers, slow drivers, fast drivers, distracted drivers, the other drivers on the road can be very frustrating.  If everyone drove like I do, life would be easier.  I learned to drive in Michigan, drivers-education through the public schools complete with driving with an instructor on the roads and expressways.  Then I moved away, nearly 20 years later I drove back to Michigan for the first time.  I recall heading up a "freeway" driving the speed limit and being passed like I was standing still and thinking out loud, "where did these idiots learn how to drive" and it dawned on me, the same place I did.

As much fun as the roads can be, parking can also be a challenge.  Finding a space, and getting the car into it.  According to the standards used by parking designers, over the past 40 years the average car in the US has gotten smaller.  The condo is working with a designer on updating landscaping and parking areas, and one of the first suggestions was re-striping the parking areas, we could squeeze in an addition 50 parking spaces.  What they failed to look at is the average size of the car, driven by my geriatric neighbors.  SUVs are the domain of young and middle age drivers, but as we pass 60, we tend to buy bigger and bigger cars. Now the average Cadillac of today might be smaller then the average Cadillac of of 40 years ago, but the average Cadillac, or Buick, does not fit in a modern parking space.  Now I drive a small car, but if I am wedged in between two boats, I can barely open the doors wide enough to get in and out.

I have a temporary "handicap" parking placard while I rebuild the strength and stamina in my legs.  Ah!  I can find in close in spaces and the spaces are wider.  I can get the doors open and get in and out of the car with ease.  I hope that I continue to make progress and when the parking permit expires, I will move back to general parking, but I will miss the special parking.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Health Update

Thanks to my friends and fans for suggesting a topic.  This picture was taken 4-5 weeks ago, the beard has a much nicer trim today.  I need a haircut.

I continue to make progress.  I have been doing physical therapy three times a week.  The regime is brutal, and when I get use to it, they add a new and frequently difficult task.  I was complaining this afternoon that my knees have been hurting the past day or so, and the therapist pointed out how far I have come in the past three weeks.  Three weeks ago I was using a walker, today I am using a cane, and about 1/3 of the time, no cane to walk.  I can walk for 45 minutes at a stretch.  One day last week I climbed 10 flights of stairs, I am slow, but I made it up and back down.  I couldn't do that for the past few months.  I am moving better then I have since late last year.  Despite feeling like they are locked in vices at times, my knees are much stronger, then I stand up or sit down the work is entirely in my legs and not me pulling or pushing with my arms.  That being said, there is still a significant amount of sensory loss in my feet.  My feet get very tight and my I have some swelling later in the day in my feet.  There is some improvement in sensation in my feet.  Every indication is that this will be slow and and at times somewhat painful progress.   I can work with what I have and odds are it will get better, but my feet and legs may never be back 100% to normal.

I am doing more and more around the house.  I am doing some cooking, I have enough bend back in my knees to load the dishwasher.  I can't lift anything over 10 pounds, so Jay get to do the heavy stuff.  Because of the brace, I need help drying after a shower.  Thankfully we have a tiny walk in shower in the second bath in the condo.  

I have doctors appointments on Monday for x-rays and to see the lead neurosurgeon.  Assuming that the x-rays show that the titanium is becoming best friends with the bone and muscle in my spine, I expect that I will receive directions on phasing out the body brace, This $2,400 custom made torture device goes from my shoulders to my hips and I have to wear it unless I am laying down.  It is tight and restrictive - that is what it is meant to be.  I have built up my ability to wear it, I can be comfortable for 5-6 hours, then I have to lay down and take it off, at least take the top half of it off (I call that half shell.)  Sleeping has become a bit of a challenge, I can sleep on my left side for 2-3 hours, then my shoulder hurts, it is harder to sleep on my right side because of nerve damage around the bottom of my ribs on that side (permanent.)  An hour or two on my right side.  Sleeping on my back can be difficult, as the spinal fusion creates a pressure spot, and the ribs that are missing ends are healing and starting to bother me.  I sleep for 5-6 hours at night, then nap 2-3 times during the day. If I am allowed to sit up without the brace, sleeping will be easier, as sitting up in bed relieves the rib discomfort.  Some nights I put the brace back on, prop myself up on pillows and sleep for another hour or two.

I have defied the doctor on one issue, I started driving a few days ago.  It feels good.  The brace is a little constricting, I don't think I will attempt parallel parking just yet, but it feels great to be back driving.

I can't return to work until the doctor approves,  I am hoping for the week after the 4th of July.  My paid medical leave is approved through the first three weeks of July, I really need to be back before then.

I will update next week, after I see Dr. W.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Under the Wilson Bridge

We refer to this as the Troll park, what lives under the bridge?  In this case, a park under the massive Wilson Bridge that carries 495-95 across the Potomac at Alexandria.  The original design created huge paved parking lots directly under the bridge, by the time it the bridge was finished the idea of allowing parking of hundreds of vehicles under a major highway bridge was seen as a major security risk.  Some of the lots have been converted to basketball courts, and other hard surface facilities,  the rest is closed to parking, (parking was created parallel to the bridge in the north side. The nice smooth paved area is popular with bikes, skateboards, rollerblades and others.

The drawbridge section is near the Virginia shore, the entrance for the bridge keepers tower is out of this parking lot, look carefully and you can find the entrance and access catwalks for the bridge tending staff.  Along the river there is access for small boats that can be carried to the water, and two fishing areas.  The area connects to the Mt Vernon trail, actually signals a gap in the trail as it goes through Old Town Alexandria.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Traveling and traveling exhibits

I like museums.  Now, I am not one to linger for hours in a museum, I can "do" the Louvre and have a late lunch across the street (I had snails) and have seen all that I want to see.  But I do enjoy great museums, the building, the collections, the way things are presented.  One my great disappointments in living in Lexington, Kentucky, was that Lexington does not have a museum. There is a small gallery at the University (with NO PARKING.) The nearest museums are in Louisville and Cincinnati (Cincy has a real good art museum.)  I will travel to see a museum, looking at museums is always a part of my travel planning.  One of the great attractions of living in the Washington DC area was the world class collection of museums,  the vast majority of them open to the public without charge.

Then there are traveling exhibits.  The sculpture above was on loan to the National Gallery.  DC attracts a lot of traveling exhibits, but so do smaller town museums. A couple of decades ago we went to Memphis to see a traveling exhibit of Titanic artifacts.  I own a fragment of coal recovered from the Titanic wreck site.  

Monday, June 22, 2015

Look Up

The floor, ahead, to the right, to the left; the last place I think to look is up.  Sometimes above the is the best view.  There was a fashion in public architecture 100 years ago of creating spectacular skylights in public spaces. Theses floor the room with natural light.  Skylights also require maintenance, most of them have been covered over or removed of the century.  This one is in Union Station in Chicago.  It shows signs of age, the glass does not match, some panels need to be replaced, but it does fill the space with light.  Images like this remind me that if I have not looked up, I have not really seen a space.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Father's Day 2015

My father was born in Rochester, Michigan in November of 1927.  The house he was born in is long gone, torn down when expressways were being built in the 1960's in the then thriving and growing Detroit metropolitan area.  A few year's later in the depths of the depression, his family moved to a house in Clawson, a near in suburb of Detroit, eventually buying the house. He went to the public schools there.  He was struggling in High School, World War II had started and my grandmother had gone to work in an office.  He was selling honey and produce at the Eastern Market a couple of days a week, and his father made a remark, that if he wasn't going to work harder in school, he should take the market full time (my grandmother had done if for a decade before she went to work in an office.)  He did, and hence dropped out of High School.  He went on to work in machine shops while partnering with his father in keeping bees. He was drafted near the end of World War II, went to basic training near New Orleans, and was stationed in New Jersey and New York for about a year.  He was discharged after about 19 months of successfully defending New York in WWII. Shortly after he returned from the army, he was out roller skating one evening and a friend asked him if he could give a girl a ride back into town, the friend's car wouldn't start and she needed to get home.  He did and that is how he met my mother.  They were marred after a few months, 67 years later they are still married.  They built a small house in Royal Oak and had my two older brothers.  Sometime in the mid 1950's he was between machine shop jobs, had bought more bees and moved out to my grandfather's farm.  They built a small house on the farm and had two more kids, my sister and lastly myself. Shortly after that he quit smoking and learned to fly.  The bees developed into a nice business, that supported two families in reasonable comfort. Being a child of the depression, they didn't believe in debt, lived modestly.  Shortly after I finished High School, my father completed a GED.  He is actually a very bright man, who would have had a different path in life with more education.  They have had a good life, but it would have been different if he had recognized his abilities and pursued more education.  In the early 1980's they sold the bees and the farm and moved to east central Florida, near the space center.  They called it retirement, but in their mid 50's they were to young to not do anything and not well prepared for retirement.  Within a couple of years they both went back to work.  My father working in purchasing in a cruise missile plant for several years.  They retired for a second time in their mid 60's.

I learned from him a love of travel, flying and exploring.  An ease of traveling the back roads and looking off the beaten path.  An appreciation for quiet.  How to be careful with money, a general avoidance of debt.  He has pretty much been there for me.  He actively avoids open conflict, but has a sarcastic streak that runs deep and can cut hard (I inherited that.)

He is growing frail, having trouble walking, has started falling.  He has been devoted to caring for my mother, being a caregiver has taken a toll on him.

All I can say is Happy Fathers Day.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Harbor Tours

I love boats, big boats, little boats, ships and barges, if it floats I enjoy it.  Well there is one exception, I am not terribly fond of sail boats, when I want to go someplace I want to go and not be at the mercy of the winds on how to get there.  When I travel I enjoy harbor tours, ferry-boats and other ways of getting out on the water and seeing the place from a different point of view.  This was taken someplace on a harbor tour in Norfolk, Virginia.  Someday, maybe I will own a boat.  I only had one Aunt and Uncle, when I was growing up they lived on a lake about 40 miles away and they had a couple of boats, a classic early 1960's power boat - complete with fins, and a row boat.  I always enjoyed visiting them in the summer and taking a ride on the lake.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Oh Yes, No Fears, No Regrets

Ruth Glacier, Mt. McKinley, Alaska

The Ruth Glacier on the side of Mt McKinley is in the bottom of a gorge, the "flightseeing" planes fly up a steep canyon with the glacier at the bottom.  You look out the sides and there are sheer rock faces soaring above the wings on both sides.  At the top of the canyon, the planes turn around, at one point you look out through the front and you can see the spinning propeller and a sheer rock face dead ahead. The sides of the gorge are too steep and the altitudes to high to try to fly up and over the top. So yes, it is a time for no fears, after you have experiences it you will have no regrets. It is a thrilling ride, not for the faint of heart, a time for trust in the pilot and the plane.  
So when you have the opportunity, go and do.  Life can be filled with woulda, coulda and shouda moments, we regret most what we didn't do, but regret is a wasteful emotion.  The best way to avoid wasting your life thinking about what you might have done is to live with no fears and no regrets, go and do and have fun.  

Thursday, June 18, 2015

No GEICO Gecko In Sight

GEICO has been running a TV commercial where the annoying little Gecko is dropped off by helicopter on the deck on the battleship Missouri.  The ship in on permanent display in downtown Norfolk Virginia.  There is a nice, if small museum, and the battleship to explore.  It is interesting and worth the visit.  No Geckos in sight the day we were there, I probably would have chased the little reptile over the side if I had seen him, especially if the Gecko had that annoying accent.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Cafeteria View

Where was I when I took this picture?  This is look east, the Newseum is on the north side of the street, with the Canadian Embassy just past that. The National Gallery is on the south side of he street, the Capital is ahead.  Interesting location.  My initial thought was an upper level of one of the museums, but this is not the right angle.  This was taken from a location that is difficult to get to, increasingly difficult, it is taken from the balcony of the cafeteria in the Federal Trace Commission building.

Security in Federal buildings is tight, this one has gotten tighter of the the years I have been in DC.  You need to be on the list, invited by staff who work in the building.  Then you have to show ID, and clear a security screen that makes airport security look sloppy.  Then you get a visitor sticker, then you have to wait for a staff member to escort you into the building.  I was there for a full day program a couple of years ago, and to avoid having to have 40 visitors clear security a second time, they received permission for us to have lunch in the staff cafeteria, on the top floor, with this million dollar view.  

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Beyond the end of the road

Business travel takes me to where I am needed.  Often this is nice places, world class cities, exotic locations, places of great beauty, but not always.   There is a significant part of the United States that is rural, very rural, beyond the end of the road rural.

I understand this part of the country, the house I was raised in is about 70 miles north of Detroit, far out in rural America. How far is it, the house is still over a mile from the nearest paved road.  My Grandfather purchased the farm, in large part because it was isolated.  He was keeping bees, in the near in suburbs of Detroit, and the neighbors were getting a bit difficult.  He had purchased a closed neighborhood school to store equipment and extract honey (the process of separating honey and beeswax) and the city of Royal Oak had served him with an  order to stop and move out of the school.  A friend suggested this isolated farm, he sold the school building, bought the farm, and a decade later my parents chucked life in the city and built a tiny house on the farm.  I was born while they lived there, spent a significant part of my growing up out there, in high school my mother and I ran the extracting plant on the farm in the summers.

The picture above in the country services complex in Hazard Kentucky.  A real place, the addressed stumped Ms. Garmin, it is beyond the end of the road.  The audience was hungry for the information we had to share, information that has made a difference in the lives of older adults living beyond the end of the road in rural America.  Hazard is not high on the list of places you might want to do, but it was a place that needed me.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Mute Monday

Honolulu, Hawaii

DC Metro

Over Delaware


Sushi , Huntington Beach, CA

Phoenix, AZ

Just pictures this morning, I can't think of anything profound to say.  

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Will it become an Icon?

When you think of major world cities you sometimes think of the iconic buildings in them. London has the Pickle, and now the Shard (I have not seen it,) San Francisco as the Trans America Building, better known as the Pyramid, Chicago has the Sears Tower, and the John Hancock Building.  New York has the Empire State Building, and had the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center before that fateful day in 2001.  Now it has the "Freedom Tower."

Will this new building stand out from the crowd and become an icon of New York City?  I question if it will for a few reasons.  It is large, but not strikingly so, the exterior finish blends in with the surroundings - rather then stand out, and the the name is political not iconic.  I think this building will simply blend in as a large building in a city of huge buildings.  New York has others, the Chrysler building was built to rival the Empire State Building, and yet I have never noticed it in New York City, it blends in, it is not a symbol of the city.  Chicago has several other significant buildings, sorry Donald, but the new Trump Tower, even with his name on the side in what look like block high letters, is not a recognized symbol of Chicago.  And so I suspect the Freedom Tower will soon be another huge building in lower Manhattan.  Until we start seeing tourists buying images of the building wrapped in a giant Ape.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Tall Ships

A reproduction of the ship the Lafayette sailed to north America to let the revolutionaries know that France would support them in the war for independence from England  is touring the east coast.  It was in Old Town Alexandria for a couple of days.  It is an amazing ship, the scale of it is hard to convey in images.  Is crossed the Atlantic in 38 days on this voyage.

From Alexandria, it is headed to Baltimore and I believe from there to Philadelphia and onto New York.  If you get a chance, go see it.  

Friday, June 12, 2015

Health Update

It is hard to believe I have been home from the hospitals for two weeks yesterday.  I have been tracking my activity levels.  Two weeks ago I struggled to walk with the walker for three or four laps of the hallway in the condo building, coming back in exhausted and sweating.  I built day by day, growing bored with the hallways after a few days and venturing outside.  Yesterday we went into Old Town Alexandria to see a visiting tall ship, and I walked for about 40 minutes in 85 degree temperatures.  A couple of hours later I had another hour of physical therapy - the new PT service is challenging me and helping me expand my limits.

I have to be honest, the therapy hurts.  I am moving muscles have not been active in months as my mobility had declined, I am bearing weight on body parts that have not held me up for a long time, I was up on my hands and knees for the first time in over a year yesterday, and stretching body parts that are stiff and painful.  Each day, I am more able to do things.  Yesterday I used a cane or two, most of the time, leaving the walker to the side.  When I finished therapy, I folded the walker and used the cane to go to the car, and to walk back to the condo when we returned home.  My how far I have come in two weeks, and I still have a long way to go. Me knees and feet need the most work.  My knees are stiff, but getting stronger each day.  My feet are very stiff, at the end of yesterday's PT session the therapist worked my feet, it was very painful, I was expecting to hear the sound of something breaking, but I stuck it out, this morning I have more feeling in the my feet then I have had in months. Progress takes work, and work is sometimes painful.

I am very grateful for the messages of support from friends and fellow bloggers.  I have had wonderful comments, email exchanges, text message exchanges, cards, gifts and phone calls.  In the darkest days of the hospital stay a couple of people got phone calls from me in the shadow of pain-meds - thank you for allowing me to ramble.  A couple of people have offered advice on dealing with the emotional stress of all of this, THANK YOU, you were far more help then all of the medical providers who were more interested in my blood pressure and pain level, then the state of my psyche, even when it was obvious that my emotions were being barely concealed.

Night Moves

I tend to be a daylight person. I seldom venture out after dark.  I really should move about at night more often when I travel.  Places take on a different look in the dark.  Night time sight seeing in Washington DC can be a very pleasant experience.  Unless there is a major event in the downtown arena, mid to late evening can bring the lightest traffic of the day, making driving in the city a tolerable experience.  Time to start the music, for night moves.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Grand Early Memories

I have been to the Grand Canyon four times.  The first two times in the mid 1960's when I was only 5 or 6 years old.  Some of my earliest identifiable memories are visiting the Grand Canyon, it leaves and impression on you.  I remember looking over the edge, holding tight to my parents, the Bright Angle Lodge, eating the dining room (I have been told NASA Astronauts where in the dinning room, they were studying geology in anticipation of going to the moon.)

I have been back twice as an adult, in the mid 1980's and again in 2010. I only have a handful of images from the last visit, the one's taken with my phone.  I had a few hundred digital images - lost in a hard drive failure - with the most recent backup about 8 months out of date.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

America's Cup Racing

Two year's ago the America's Cup was contested in San Francisco.  It was a wonderful venue.  Access and viewing were ideal.  I was in San Francisco to speak at a conference and had a couple of opportunities to watch the boats run.  It is truly amazing.  A lot of the venue was open to the public, only a small area was limited to those willing and able to pay.

The boats are very high tech, sailors of 100 years ago, would be baffled by the carbon fiber masterpieces of engineering.  The boats are amazingly fast and agile.  This was a wonderful opportunity to see them in action.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Rails to Trails

There are a lot fewer active railroad lines in the United States then there were at the peak of rail roads in America.  There is a huge push across the country to convert the abandoned rail road right of ways into trails.  This one is on a trail that runs from Cumberland, Maryland to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The first 15 miles of it from Cumberland to Frostburg Maryland is very steep, rising over 1,500 feet in about 10 miles, but the rest of the trail is low grade, less then 3%, very easily rideable.  Railroad lines make excellent trails, in part because for the most part the rail roads changed elevations very gradually, making them easy to hike or ride a bike on.

The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad runs from Cumberland to Frostburg.  The ride is wonderful, passing through a couple of tunnels and around a great horseshoe bend.  For a small fee you can load your bike on the train up the mountain side.  The ride back down is mostly a coast, very easy and very fun.  Try it, you will enjoy it.  I look forward to being back on the bike in a few months.  I need to go ride this again.

The C&O trail from DC, ends at Frostberg (though there are some gaps that require riding on busy streets) making it possible to ride from DC to Pittsburgh.  I have ridden a couple of segments of the ride.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Sculpture Garden National Gallery of Art

The National Gallery of Art is a government museum, a gift from Andrew Mellon, interestingly enough it is not a part of the Smithsonian. It is an independent museum. It is free of charge like nearly all DC museums.  Across the side street is the sculpture garden and fountain.  In the winter the fountain is converted to an ice skating rink.  The Greek revival building in the background is the National Archives.

This is a great area for an evening stroll, it is down hill from Gallery Place, or Navy Memorial in the metro lines.  Gallery place, is named for the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, a wonderful space that also contains a museum of contemporary American Art.  It is an amazing space, it served a hospital during the Civil War and among other things Walt Whitman volunteered there reading to the patients and writing letters for them.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

The Smithsonian has the National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall in downtown DC, but their collection of historic aircraft is much-much to large for that space, and getting something huge into downtown DC is impossible.  A few year's ago they opened a second aircraft museum at Dulles Airport, I know that is half way to West Virginia from DC, but it is an absolutely amazing museum.  Parking is about $20, but the museum, like all Smithsonian Museums, is free.  If you love aircraft, it is worth the trip. In 3-4 years, when the Metro opens to Dulles, you will be able to take the train out and a shuttle bus from the airport to the museum.

The picture above features an SR-71 Blackbird in the foreground, and yes that is a flown Space-Shuttle in the back.  On display are hundreds of military, civilian and private aircraft.  There is a Concord, the Boeing 707 prototype, the Enola Gay.  It is hard to perceive the scale and size of the space, until you stop and think about the size of the aircraft parked quite comfortably in the space.

(This is the first new travel post created since I was hospitalized in May, I am so glad I learned how to create ahead and schedule. It is wonderful to be back feeling well enough to create new travel posts.  Because of the trouble I was having walking, I had started crossing travel ideas off the list as things I would never do. I back adding to the list, the doctors assure me I will be fit to travel by August - there is a Zeppelin flight in my future and I am confident I am going to be well enough to take the trip.)

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Progress Report

Healing continues, I am in the brace for another three weeks, to allow the titanium, muscles and bone to get to know one another in my spine. Hopefully X-rays on the 29th will show progress and the brace can come off.

I am so happy to report that I am experiencing changes in sensation in my feet. I have described the feeling on the bottom of my feet as feeling like stepping in tar on the beach, or mud dried on the bottom of your feet, or like walking on bubble wrap.  Well, it is far from total, but I am starting to feel the carpet in parts of the bottom of my feet.  More so on the left, then the right (the nerve compromise was greater on my right then my left.) This makes it easier to walk, and even more important improves my balance.  I worked with a physical therapist twice this week.  She was testing my balance and working me through exercises to improve my balance.  She noticed a marked improvement in balance between Wednesday and Friday.  I can tell you why, I have more feeling in the bottom of my feet. It is amazing how much your toes have to do with standing up and moving.

The change in sensation in my feet was complicated.  I wouldn't describe it as numbness, if you touched my feet, for the most part I could feel it, but it felt strange - tingling - and odd. The first thing to come back was being able to tell what direction my toes were being bent, that happened in the hospital over the first 10 days after the surgery.  The doctors tell me that sensation may return over a period of months or even years.  I'll take it any way and any time I can.  It may never return to normal, but just this little change increases what I can do.

Canaveral Locks

Port Canaveral has developed as a major cruise port over the past 20 years.  I can remember when the first boat arrived there in the early 1980's offering day trips (gambling trips) during the week, and a weekend excursions to the Bahamas, my first cruise.  Not exactly the Love Boat, the Seaesacpe was a converted car ferry.  It had a major fire in part one day, and didn't return to service out of the port.  As I recall it was returned to service is Europe and later part of a fatal accident.

The Port is a short distance from the inter-coastal waterway.  There are locks between the river and the port.  Access to the locks is on the south side of the port, go west past the marina buildings and take a left.  The road to the locks goes under the bridge that runs to the north side of the harbor.  The locks are used mostly by pleasure craft.  There are a great place to see dolphin and the occasional exotic birds.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Put the Top Down

A couple of times when I have been traveling in a warm climate I have splurged and rented a convertible.  It is fun to put the top down and let what is left of my hair blow in the wind.  Sometimes it is the best thing to do.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

George Washington Masonic Memorial

I don't buy into the conspiracy theories that the Masons are part of a secret plot to rule the world, no more the KofC, or Rastafarian's.  George Washington was a mason, as many men of his era were, it was the social club for networking for fine young Englishmen of his day.

The George Washington Masonic Memorial is in Alexandria, Virginia.  It  is easy to get to located just up the hill from the King Street Metro station and the Amtrak station.  There is also parking adjacent to the building.  The grand hall on the ground floor is free and open to the public and among other things contains this grand statue.  The building has a tall pyramidal shaped top.  For a modest fee they offer a guided tour of the museum and up through the tower.  Each level represents a different aspect of Mason sects.  At the top there is a fin outside walk around observation platform.

A significant part of the collection centers around George Washington.  The clock that the doctor stopped, when Washington died is in the museum.  

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Floating Fish Market

DC has a lot of surprises, not least of which if the floating fish market.  At the end of L'Enfant Plaza, down on the Potomac River is a series of permanently moored but floating barges that contain an incredible floating fish market.  There is a wide variety of fresh fish and shellfish available.  The supply comes from far and wide, with an emphasis on freshness.  Several vendors steam to order to take it home and fix it your way (or call and bring it out to condo and I will cook it.)

It is a little challenging to get to.  The nearest Metro station is Smithsonian, about a mile away, down hill going to the market and uphill going back.  You can also get there by car, parking is available but can be quite crowded.  It is a great location to ride a bike to and from.  Take a lock, the crowds can get tight and they are not very accommodating to bikes along the vendor rail.  

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Watch your Step

More Florida natives, resting in the sun one cool November afternoon.  If you get off the beaten path in Florida, and I do recommend doing so, there is so much more the outlet shopping and the world of worlds to see in Florida, you do want to watch your step.  Some of the natives can be grumps if disturbed from a nap - who wouldn't be?  

Monday, June 01, 2015

Progress Report!

I have been home for four days and I am doing well.  I saw the neurosurgeon who removed the tumor this morning.  Lots of good news, the pathology reports confirm that the tumor was a non-cancerous Schwannoma. (Google if you want to know more.) There was about 5% left behind, stuck to the bottom of my right lung.  The plan for that is to watch and wait.  Most often between the surgery, cutting off most of the blood flow and an immune system response, this tumor type does not regrow.  If it does it is in the lung cavity and not in the spine.  It would be treatable with radiation if needed.  I will be back in an MRI machine 2-3 times a year for a couple of years. This was the best case scenario on the pathology report, I am thrilled and relieved.

My next appointment is in four weeks.  That means I am wearing the brace for another four weeks, at least. I doctor asked me not to drive until the brace comes off.  I am off work at least through the end of June.  (I have great colleagues who have picked up all of my projects, I am able to follow along but I am not suppose to work.)  It is testing my ability to delegate - a skill I have needed to work on.

I am working with a home health agency trying to set up home-based physical therapy.  That has been slower then I wanted.  I am hoping for them to start Tuesday.

I have been moving a bit more each day.  My knees and feet are stiff and sore, the doctor said to push, but listen to my body.  If it hurts, do a little less the next day. My knees are stronger, lifting more of the load when I sit and stand. Today I was out for five hours, five hours with shoes on (the longest since May 12th.)  While we were out I ordered new eyeglasses, stopped at the pastry shop and picked up a couple of items at the grocery store. This involved getting in and out of the car four times, and walking on a variety of surfaces and terrains.   A good challenge.  By the time we returned home, I was ready for a nap.

There is still a lot loss or changes in sensation in my feet, this will take the longest to return to the extent that it does return.  I will keep working on this.

I really appreciate all of the help and encouragement from all of my friends.

Wilmington Delaware

I have been to Delaware a few times.  An nice small state, you can ride a train from one end of it to the other in little over an hour.  This is in downtown Wilmington, not far from the legal headquarters of millions of corporations, in office towers and banks. 

It is kind of an interesting little city.  A surprising center of finance and corporate regulation.  It has a nice classic railway station.