Book Talk / The Book Nook & Java Shop

I had fun last night.

I was invited to do a talk about my books at the Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague, Michigan.  If you aren’t familiar with the Book Nook, it’s a great bookstore with lots of books, a coffee station, a bar, comfortable seating, and even a stage for authors, folk singers, and other performers.

I was very pleased to have been invited.  I’ve heard wonderful things about the Book Nook, and it gave me a chance to meet Bryan, the store owner.

Last night I had a chance to talk about my writing and my books.  It was a fun reminder of how I got started on this path of writing.  But you know what really thrilled me?  It was seeing how many people actually stopped by to see me.  I even met people I’d never met before except through email.  That has to be one of the most interesting things about writing: you get to meet people you’d never have met otherwise.  And I love it.

One of my good friends took pictures of me when it was my turn to talk.  (Thanks, Liz & Wes.)  You made me look good!

 

That’s a big relief!

For those of you following the saga of my broken leg, I have an update for you.

medical-errors-cartoonIt has been 15 months since I broke my leg.

It happened on the first day of our vacation in Rome.  I have tried not to be critical of the healthcare I received in Italy, but, honestly, there were a few problems.  And, contrary to what some of you have suggested, my biggest problem was NOT a lack of internet access.  However, I won’t bore you with that.

The break was fixed with a rod inserted inside my tibia and held in place with two sets of screws.  Unfortunately, the screws were not positioned properly and for six months, the edges of the broken bone were held too far apart by the rod to heal.

The solution?  Remove one set of screws, so the bone edges could come closer together.  We did that in April 2013.  In the recovery room, I asked my doc if I needed to take any special precautions.  “No.  Use it.  Abuse it.  No problems,” he said.

It didn’t work out that way.

The rod was too long and the gap between my broken bone was still too great to allow the bone edges to come together.  Further, with the screws gone, the bone was no longer held in place.  I could no longer walk without crutches.

second-opinion-cartoonThis produced an interesting problem.  With every step, my weight went into the rod, which was bolted to the upper part of my leg.  Since the bone edges still weren’t touching, the rod ground it’s way down through the inside of my tibia.  In June, when looking at the x-rays, I noticed the rod was about to break through into my ankle joint.

The solution?  I changed doctors.

I spoke with several physicans about what to do when we have a non-union after so much time.  Most of them suggested the entire operation be redone.  This time, they would take out the rod, use a ‘scratcher’ inside my leg bone to make it bleed, and then put in a bigger rod.  I really didn’t want to do that again.

ist2_4605577-cartoon-doctorMy new doctor suggested that instead of redoing everything, we might try removing the last set of screws (the one that holds the rod tight to leg bone above the break.  He said the tibia in that region is softer than the ankle, and the rod will be able to move up toward the knee instead of down into the ankle.  I agreed and in July, we removed the last of the screws.

In October we did more x-rays.  To my relief, the rod was no longer moving downward.  To my disappointment, the bone edges, although now in good proximity to each other, were not showing signs of bone growth.  Admittedly, until July, the bones were never close enough to have done much.  However, in three months, we should have seen something.  To make things worse, I actually have a ‘butterfly fracture’ which involves more separation of the bones and is much harder to heal.

1787890-71808-set-of-different-radiation-signs-over-whiteWe agreed to give it another three months.  During that time, I asked for a ‘bone stimulator’.  This device uses electrical pulses and magnetic fields to wake up your body and get it to start generating bone matter.  (I’m glad I don’t plan on fathering any more children.)  My doc wrote the prescription and my insurance paid for it.

In the last three months, I used it every day.  I have also been walking on Marge’s new treadmill to further stimulate the bone growth.

Today was the big day.  Would the x-rays show that my bones were finally healing?  Or was it time to admit failure and schedule the surgery?

The answer is:  bone growth demonstrated.  No surgery needed.  Keep doing what you’re doing, he said.  Come back in 4 months.  Stay away from doctors in the meanwhile.

Mission AccomplishedOkay, okay.  Don’t give me a hard time for saying, “Mission Accomplished.”  I know it ain’t.  But it feels like I just passed a big hurdle and from now on, it’s much smaller steps.

Big Day.

Big Relief.

For those of you who have put up with me (and still have a few more months of having to do so), I thank you…

 

Valentine’s Day Operation

Well, on Valentine’s Day, I went back under the knife.

screwsMy surgeon decided to remove two of the three screws that are holding my leg together.  Apparently, they were not holding it quite right, so the edges of the broken tibia were too far apart to heal properly.

Apparently, the operation didn’t go as smoothly as they would have liked because my doctor didn’t have the right attachment for them.  If you look closely, you will see they require an allen wrench to remove, but I guess American surgeons don’t buy their surgery components at Ace Hardware.  It’s a good thing I was unconscious at the time.  I don’t think anyone wants to hear their doctor saying *&%#@#$% in the middle of your operation.

They gave me the two screws as a souvenir (or consolation prize?).

My son-in-law, Ryan, pointed out these are self-tapping screws, typically used on sheet metal.  But apparently, in Italy, they use them on bones too.

I made a mistake posting news of my operation on Facebook.  So, almost any joke you want to make around me on the subject of loose screws is going to have to be a repeat.  I even got into the action by saying:

  • Steve:  They took out 2/3 of them.  That means I only have one screw left in me.  Marge says it better be a really good one.
  • Marge:  I don’t know why he is saving that last screw….not getting any younger here!

 

The Short List

I love to travel.  I have two travel buddies (Jeff and Marge), and I have taken vacations with each of them for many years.  Jeff likes to travel to third-world countries, stay in the local hotels, ride the local buses, and mingle with the locals.  And he tolerates reasonably well my need to visit any and all ancient ruins in the area.  Marge likes to travel also, but she has much higher standards for the places she stays and how she gets around.  Between the two of them, I get to see everything from the soft underbelly to the upper crust.  Great trips.

What is on my short list of travel destinations?

  • Australia.  I haven’t met an Australian I didn’t like.  They are a fun-loving bunch, and I want to see them up close.  And they have an amazing country.  Great Barrier Reef, Ayers Rock, Sydney, Melbourne, and more are on the short list.  We will also make sure we include a zoo so we can see some of those cool marsupials.
  • Japan.  I really want to see Tokyo and Kyoto and some other places.  We will probably do a tour package so we can see everything on one tour.  Then, if we like it enough, we can go back for more.
  • Egypt.  Jeff and I have been there, but Marge hasn’t (and she doesn’t let me forget it).  So Cairo and the pyramids for Marge and the Upper Kingdom for me.  We are looking into river cruises.  I am a tad concerned about the unrest in Egypt, but day excursions from the river boat seem like pretty low risk.
  • Northern Greece.  I have been to awesome places in Greece (Athens, Sparta, Delos, Delphi, Olympia, etc.), but never got to Northern Greece.  Up there, I want to see the land of Alexander the Great.  I have seen so many of his landmarks, I want to see where it all started.
  • Sweden, Norway, Finland, Netherlands.  We meet nice people from these countries on our travels all the time.  I have never been there, and they seem like places you should see at least once before you die.

There are lots of other places to see.  Sometimes it is just a single place that interests me.  For example:

  • Machu Picchu, Peru.  The ruins there are very interesting.  I also feel like I need to see more things south of the Equator.
  • Crete.  I have been there a couple times, but didn’t get to see the cave where legend says Zeus was born.  I would love to visit it.
  • Troy.  I didn’t get to see the ancient site of Troy when we were in Turkey.  The roads were impassable because of snowfall, and I couldn’t find anyone who would take us there.
  • Moscow.  If for no other reason than being the capital of the “Evil Empire” that threatened us with nuclear annihilation.  I don’t know how much traveling around Russia I want to do, but I could be persuaded to explore deeper.
  • Alaska.  Although I hate the cold weather, I have heard wonderful things about Alaskan cruises for many years.  The scenery is supposed to be amazing.  This might be a trip I take with dad, who seems more interested in this one than either Marge or Jeff.

Yes, I know there are amazing places right here in the good old USA.  One thing about foreign travel is most of the places I go are not handicap-accessible.  So I figure I better get to see all these places while I have the ability and the energy to do so.  If/when I slow down and have problems with travel, there will still be lots of places here that I can see.

 

25 Things About Me

Several years ago, I was asked to describe “25 Things About Me” in an email and send it to a group of friends who had shared their lists with me.  I was delighted to read what my friends had written about themselves.  I felt like I got to know them better.  I never found the time to do my own list, but now I do.  So with apologies for being so late to respond, this is my list.  If you like this, I hope you will take the time to share your own list of “25 Things About Me” with me.

1.  I was born in Portland, Maine but grew up in Muskegon, Michigan.  My father worked for the paper mill and was transferred to Muskegon when I was 5.

2.  In high school, I wrestled in the 145 pound weight class.  I probably should have been at 165, but my friend Jim Krizan had that spot and the guy in the 154 slot (Bunny Lytle) was too tough for me to beat.  So I lost the weight necessary to get down to 145.  I remember during one of my extreme diets, I was so hungry I swallowed my toothpaste.

3.  My interest in computers started in 1980 when I signed up for a Radio Shack class.  I bought my first Apple computer that year.  I don’t have any idea how many computers I have owned since, but I am sure it has been over 25.  We have 6 now (plus two iPads and an iPhone).

4.  Investing has been a serious hobby for me for a long time.  After I retired, I realized there was no more income coming in.  That is when it became serious.  I have written many computer programs to help me buy and sell stocks every day.

5.  Technology has always fascinated me.  And, yes, back in high school, I was one of the kids with the pocket protector and a slide rule poking out of his pocket.  Of course, my dad is an engineer, so I come by it honestly.

6.  I had the first motor bike in my high school.  It was a little Honda 50, and I loved it.  It caught on and soon all my friends had them:  Jeff, Dewey, Dick, Jim, John, and more.  And, the fact that they were serious “chick magnets” added no less to their appeal.

7.  The four BEST pieces of technology I own:  my computer, my iPhone/iPad, my Garmin GPS, and my TIVO.  Nothing else even comes close.

8.  My favorite books are swords and sorcery.  I do read the occasional thrillers, adventure stories, murder mysteries, and horror books.  And before I retired, I made sure every 3rd book was what I called a “good-for-me” book (typically a book on management, marketing, sales, corporate culture, quality assurance systems, etc.).

9.  Marge and I will celebrate our 42nd anniversary this year (2012).  I remember my grandparents and then my parents celebrating their 50th.  It looks like one of those is in our future too!

10.  I have collected sand/dirt from places I visit.  Some of the places:  Stonehenge, Roman Colosseum, the Sphinx, the Great Wall, the Taj Mahal, etc.  My favorite places to collect the dirt are ancient and mysterious places.  I have a psychic friend who says she can “sense” all kinds of things from the sand/dirt in my little jars.  I was very impressed with her demonstration.

11.  My friend Jeff introduced me to some serious traveling.  Since then, we have visited places I had only dreamed of:  India, Nepal, Egypt, Greece, Thailand, Hong Kong, Turkey, Singapore, Brazil, and more.  Thanks, Jeff!

12.  Water is very important to me.  One of the hard things about living in Flint was the lack of water.  Our retirement condo is between Lake Michigan and Muskegon Lake, and I get to see the water every day.

13.  Marge and I have been looking for a place to spend more time in the winter.  So far we have checked San Diego, Venice Beach, Santa Monica, Tampa, Marco Island, Naples, and Miami.  We plan to explore the area north of Miami next.  I think we are getting closer to what we want.

14.  I loved every job I ever had.  I have no idea why.  Different people, different duties, different places.  I’ve been a paperboy, a typist, a dishwasher, a janitor, a window washer, a sheet metal helper, a truck driver, a waiter, a shipping and receiving clerk, a gas station attendant, a machine shop worker, and more.

15.  I usually go to bed around 12:30-1:30 am and get up around 8:45 am.  I am not now and never have been a morning person.

16.  After graduating from college, I got my “dream job” as a counselor, helping people.  The first few months were a terrifying time when I realized 1) college hadn’t prepared me for counseling, and 2) as a 22-year old kid, I wasn’t sure I had anything I could offer someone with real adult problems.  Fortunately, I had great co-workers, and they helped me grow into the job.

17.  I am a vitamin junkie.  I take a handful of pills every day.  Mostly they are nootropics, which are supposed to enhance my memory and mental functioning, and anti-oxidants which slow the aging process.  If I don’t live forever, I am going to be so disappointed.

18.  I used to build rockets when I was a kid.  With very few exceptions, they all exploded.  My mom used to refer to them as “sticks of dynamite with fins glued on.”

19.  Worst car buying decision I ever made:  1970 Barracuda.  I bought it because I thought the turn signals were cool.  Paid the asking price for it.  Never even took it for a test drive.  Best car buying decision I ever made:  1973 Matador.  I researched Consumer Reports, compared lots of cars, carefully examined features, took test drives, and even negotiated a much better price.

20.  Deep inside, I still think of myself as a kid.  It is only that damn mirror and the occasional ache and pain that keeps threatening my Peter Pan delusion.

21.  I really like retirement.  But I hate how little I seem to accomplish.  If I work at it, though, I am sure I can get over it.

22.  My only recurring dream is a flying dream.  Whenever I have one, I am happy for days.

23.  I don’t like spicy foods.  I will just have my taco chips plain, thank you.

24.  I became a Psych major mostly because I didn’t want to work as hard as the math and science majors.  I sometimes wonder how things might be different if I had been willing to study harder in college.  I’m sure I would have ended up in some sort of management position, regardless of where I had started out.

25.  Whenever I feel the need to get organized, I stop by the library for the day.  I have always associated libraries with studying and being in one eliminates the distractions and keeps me focused.

Whew.  That’s 25.  Thank you for indulging me.

Now, will you share some of yours with me?

 

National Rocket Competition Comes to Muskegon

Hello, Everyone.

I have talked with a number of you about attending this event.  If you haven’t figured it out, I am excited about it, which is the reason I wrote the postings on Rocket Building and have been dusting off some of my old Estes rockets (these are store-bought and they almost always work).

I hope everyone is able to attend.  All the information I have at the moment is posted below.  I will put more on here as I learn more and/or find things we need to know.

Hope to see everyone there!

Steve

WHAT:   The Muskegon Michigan Area Rocket Club (M.M.A.R.) will host the National Rocketry Contest here at the Wastewater facility. This is a week long event that goes from Saturday, July 28th through Friday, August 3rd.  They said the “sport launchings” will begin on Saturday and go throughout the week.  The “competition launchings” will be Monday through Friday.  The competition flight hours will be from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm.  There will be rocketeers from across the country. This is a great opportunity for families to see some exciting rocketry.   I was also told Mr. Estes (of Estes Model Rocket company fame) will be attending.  For full details on this event, visit the National Association of Rocketry Annual Meet Website:  http://www.naram.org/    The National Association of Rocketry’s main website is:  http://www.nar.org

OUTING:   I am organizing a group outing for everyone interested in attending this event.  I talked with the President of the local club, and he suggested Wednesday, August 1st would be a really good day because, among other things, they are holding the G-Force Egg Launches.  The winners have to demonstrate the egg they launched was not broken either on the way up or the way down.

WHO IS INVITED:  Everyone is invited!  If you didn’t get an email from me, please excuse the oversight.  You are invited anyway!  Please fill out a comment form below to tell us you are coming and any other details you want to add.  Hope to see you there!

WHEN:  Wednesday, August 1st beginning at 10 AM.  The events end for the day at 4 PM.  My recommendation is to rendezvous at the entrance at 10:00 AM.  They expect around 150 contestants plus visitors and other club members, so it shouldn’t be a big crowd.

COORDINATION:   I will be out of town from July 24-31, but I have access to email and cell phone.  We can also communicate with the postings below to let everyone know who is coming and any special arrangements.

ADMISSION:    Admission is free to anyone who wants to watch.  If you want to launch rockets while you are there, there is a $25 charge (and you have to bring your own rocket).

WHAT TO BRING:  Come as you are!  If you have a rocket, bring it.  I have some Estes rockets I built a few years ago that I plan to bring.  Vendors will be on hand for motors. Experienced rocketeers will be available to assist with launching. The club provides launch equipment.  I am going to bring a couple foldable chairs and a cooler with some pop and some muchies and stuff.

WHERE:  The event is held at the Muskegon Wastewater Facility

DIRECTIONS:   From Muskegon intersection of US 31 and M-46 (Apple Avenue) go east 6.9 miles to Maple Island Road and turn left (north) to go 2.2 miles to entrance of the Wastewater Facility road. Turn right (east) and go 2 miles to the launch site entrance on the right. The club MMAR sign will be there.  GSP site coordinates:  N43 degrees 15′ 44.4″,  W 86 degrees 0159″ 4′

 

Feeling Bored

For the last 2 months, I have gone back to “discretionary trading” (not using computerized programs to trade).  I found (to my disappointment) that I have done better in the last couple months than in almost any other two-month period in the last 4-5 years.  I knew I could do the discretionary trading, but I really wanted the computer trading to be better.  But for me (so far), my discretionary trading is better than my computer trading.

This leaves me sitting in my chair, feeling somewhat bored, thinking there has to be something I can do to stay busy.  (That feeling of having a nice short vacation has obviously passed.)  I can feel the growing need to keep my mind busy again.  This has produced some new projects:

    • I have been helping the condo association with some technology projects like setting up an advocacy website and enhancing a request system we had created for managing owner requests.  We are also going to do a re-organization for the main condo website to make it easier to use.
    • I went down to the Chamber of Commerce to talk with the head of SCORE (Service Corp of Retired Executives).  I have been thinking of this for a while.  They basically serve as advisors to people who want help with their businesses and/or business plans.  I turned in my application.  We will see.
    • This summer, I definitely want to spend more time on my deck.  Reading, listening to music, or just zoning-out.  It doesn’t matter.  When you are in Muskegon in the Summer, there isn’t much reason to go anywhere else.  When I spend time on the deck, things seems to slow down, and I have time to enjoy it more.
    • More traveling is something also on the short list.  This year, we have already been to Disney World and Universal Studios, and a great tour of China.  This summer, Dad and I are going to spend a week in Maine pigging out on lobster.  This fall, we booked a cruise from Rome to Istanbul with Jeff & Peg.
    • I have even been thinking about starting up my exercise program (again).  I guess I really am bored.  🙂

 

Market Prediction 6/22/12

So what is the market prediction between now and the rest of the year?

The market seems to be suffering lately from lots of bad news.  Some of it our own economic data and plenty of overseas news (esp., Europe) as well.  I don’t see this changing significantly in the near future.

However, it is a presidential election year.  The first way to view it is from incumbancy:

    • When incumbants win, the market tends to go up in a fairly stable way throughout the year.
    • When incumbants lose, the market tends to have a nasty drop beginning around September but a nice bounce after the election.

The second way of viewing this is from the perspective of the party.  In this case, we see:

    • Regardless of whether you have a newly elected Republican or a re-elected Democrat, the market tends to perform very well during the election year.

So, consider this mix:  a weak economy, vulnerability to bad news, the historical tendency to have a weak-flat summer, and the likelihood of economic uncertainty and consumer sentiment being depressed by the election media.  At a minimum, it is a high-risk trading environment.

It would seem reasonable to stay conservative at least until toward the end of August.  Because utilities tend to do well during these periods, I plan to stay with them.  I am also going to hedge my positions by adding some treasury notes and a hedge fund; these are primarily in case we have a really big drop.  It won’t protect me completely, but they will soften the blow.

By early-August, I will start re-evaluating my positioning.  I will either reduce my market exposure significantly or I may just get more hedges to neutralize any downward drop during September-October.

By election day (plus or minus a couple weeks), I plan to be fully invested in bullish securities for the remainder of the year.

It is helpful to articulate an overall plan and strategy.  That way, I have something I can use to measure market activity and my performance.

And, of course, if anything changes, so will I.