Thursday, April 29, 2010

SketchUp 1

My head hasn't exploded yet, though not for lack of Mike's trying. I am very fortunate to Chuck for giving me a head start on some of this. I think I will lose that head start tomorrow, but that is okay. I am exhausted.

Tuesday was a meeting with a rehab/vocational counselor, yesterday had me driving and then staying a little late at a pub, partially because I was so wired. Today was intense but very good. Somewhere along the way I also wrenched my back, so I am adding pain to the mix.

But a picture of one of the reasons I love Massachusetts, we are almost 25 cents a gallon more in Rochester.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Kentucky Derby

I head out for the SketchUp course tomorrow. Hopefully we will be done and I can be someplace by the time they Run for the Roses. Right now a couple of horses look good, and I am hoping I have internet service where I am staying. Last year I missed completely, but so did most every one else. Well, Craig hit it, but on a throwaway bet.

But for your reading enjoyment, the good doctor, Hunter S. Thompson:

Sunday, April 25, 2010

SketchUp Course

Wednesday I leave for the Berkshires to take BMike's course on SketchUp for Timber Framers. I am excited and nervous at the same time with this awful feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop. I have been feeling stronger lately, which the weather has been helping. There are a few yardening projects getting done and they look good. The bike is going well, though I am not getting a lot better or stronger on it. The canal still bothers me going east, I don't go up hills a lot faster and I still have problems shifting in the right direction. A Wonderdog hasn't been getting his longest walks either.

The trip out to the Heartwood School for the course will be the longest I have driven alone though I will break it up with a stop at my Mothers. I have three days of intensive learning ahead too. But I can do this, or I can remain static and not do anything. I am choosing to challenge myself.

As I seem to get physically stronger, I notice how much my speech is labored. Its a funny thing because people are noticing it getting labored. Which makes me think it is improving also, but slowly. I am still trying to relearn that foreign language, American English, the one I have spoken for a few years.

When I drove all the time for work I always wanted to get some foreign language tapes and learn in the car. Now would be the time to do it, but I don't really drive. I don't like using the MP3 player on the bike, but I could learn to yell at a Wonderdog in Italian or maybe Chinese. It has some possibility.

Maria has claimed that I will make strides and then plateau. Of course she is still reading that book on the healing brain so I don't know. It does seem that way. In the fall I was full of piss and vinegar, but I was really just reaching a position to learn what I had lost. I fought all winter to prove I was okay and kept getting slapped down. Now that I have accepted what the stroke has done to me I can see improvement. But it remains slow.

The other shoe that could drop is a few nights of not sleeping. Nothing throws me off more. I never slept more than 5 hours a night before the stroke, now if I don't get 7 or 8 I am worthless. I guess we learn.

Before I forget and sign off, I have to mention that Ann and I played tennis Saturday morning. Ann is the comptroller at Flower City and I think this will be our 5th year of hitting balls around. Okay, she is just a little older, has a rebuilt back and still smokes, but she can still run me around the court. We are well matched, making each other run. Most time we volley, but the year we actually played she beat me fair and square. Sure, I was smoking and drinking a lot. We played a solid half hour and both were wiped out. Pathetic? yes, but we did it.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Books and Bikes

I am sitting in my office, I rode down this morning to get out of Maria's hair. She does her indexing out of the house and I am sentenced to being there, not always comfortably. Next week I meet with a vocational counselor and I will tell her how much I want to work. I wish. But a lot of days when Maria has deadlines I feel very much in the way. Fortunately it was a nice sunny morning.
Yesterday's bike ride ended up being another milestone, 12 miles and up the hill, well a couple of hills. And down one very un-natural hill, the ramp to the canal trail at Whitney Road. This beautiful piece of engineering has two minor flaws. The turning radius at the center is too tight if you are going down (at least for 50 year old men who have had strokes) and there is no curb cut to the road on top, just a fairly narrow sidewalk. There is one maybe half a mile down the road, but since the sidewalk is used by pedestrians, if anyone is walking it gets awkward. I have a thing about sidewalks and curbs anyways.

On another topic, next week is BMike's SketchUp course, so I have been reading about timber frames and SketchUp. I have also just started Green Metropolis by David Owen. Owen is a staff writer for the New Yorker. So far, if nothing else, he writes well and seem to know what he is talking about.
Today also found me down at Farmer Erin's farm, helping with planting cabbages and kale. The star of the planting was a 7 year old named Aidan who was quite interested though he really didn't like vegetables. And full of boundless energy. It was fun to see as someone else struggled to stand up each time he bent down to plant.

Monday, April 19, 2010


I'll keep it brief today and just mention Maria and I are celebrating our anniversary. Some pictures of that wonderful day two years ago at the Granger House. Oh, and thanks to that handsome fellow who married us.

Yes, I am still in love even if we drive each other crazy and haven't had the smoothest two years. I'd do it again Maria...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


How I am feeling at the moment... Being another sunny and warmer day, I went and helped Farmer Erin at Mud Creek today. We picked rocks and put them in bags which will hold down the row covers to keep out the bugs and keep in the heat. Much more technical than when I was growing, I merely put the rocks on the row cover. Before doing this I of course had to do a few miles on the bike and after had to walk a Wonderdog. If I am not building some stamina, just shoot me now.

My bride asked me if they were rocks on the ground, and I replied they were jumping rocks. But they didn't move too quickly, even with my help. Picking rocks is a perfect exercise, you bend over on roughly till soil and then toss the rocks in piles. So my arms, back and legs are all screaming now, but it feels good. I still can only put about two hours in and I think the heat is as bad as the exercise. Until I get used to it I have always had problems with heat. Maybe that's why I live in Upstate New York.

A couple of things of mention. Tomorrow is my bride's birthday, a monumentus day. She reaches the half century mark and now we can both join AARP. I am taking her to see a screening of Crimson, White and Indigo, a film of a Grateful Dead show from July 7, 1989. The best part is there will be a book signing with Peter Conners, author of Growing Up Dead. It should be a lot of fun. I finally married my Deadhead, it just took us a while to find each other.

I also have to mention a shop I found, Flour City Pasta. I can't vouch for the pasta yet, I haven't cooked it yet, but Jon let me smell some and it is heavenly. I grabbed a bag of Rasta Pasta which may become a salad tomorrow, and a basil fettuccine. It is organic and Jon makes it in his little shop on the Canal in Turk Hill Park. If you are on Facebook you can look him up.

It is also new book time, though it may take a few days. My head is still swimming from Whole Earth Manifesto. There is some information overload here and it may take some time to sort out. For now its Fishing Bamboo by John Gierach. John writes stories about fishing that relate to every aspect of life and always leaves you with a smile. Maybe a nice change. But there is a copy of Green Metropolis waiting on the shelf too.

And if you see Maria tomorrow, wish her a happy birthday!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


If you read this or have happened upon it, you may note I spend a lot of time talking about my biking. For a guy recovering from a stroke it may seem strange when there are so many other topics like heart health or brain traumas. But the bike has become both a physical and mental challenge. I have had a bike most of my life with a couple of exceptions, notably when my children were young.

I bought my latest bike the year before the stroke. I put on quite a few miles despite smoking and drinking quite a bit. I upset Maria a little, disappearing weekend mornings with no intention of riding far, but finding myself just going and not wanting to come back. It wasn't that I didn't want to come back, it just felt good and I would lose track of time and then find myself miles from home.

A cycling blog I read from time to time is Fat Cyclist. Fatty recently described riding a road bike as the closest thing to flying you can do on the ground. Okay, I am taking that out of context a little since he was also saying how sick of wearing tights he was, but the idea was there. While my bike is a cross of road bike and hybrid, I agree with him. It just feels good.

Another blog, BikesnobNYC, answered a reader's comment asking him to endorse bike commuting as green. The Snob (I can now say Eben), retorted that it had nothing to do with green, he enjoyed riding a bike. There is something stimulating about being on a bike and riding on the road makes it better. I have no desire to do battle with a garbage truck, tractor trailer or SUV, but want them to realize I have a place there too.

Since the stroke I have felt particularly fatigued, and while walking has helped there doesn't seem to be any cumulative gain. I could walk a mile or two then comfortably and while I may be able to walk further now I don't. Adding mileage, speed and hills seem to be making me stronger. At least they make me more tired, but in a good way. I have mentioned the trouble with curbs and canals on my right side and balance issues. I can feel these start to improve. It is starting to feel like flying again.

Maria talks about her daughter feeling the need to go faster higher on horses and now skis. I caught the same bug years ago. Life has tempered it a little but it never goes away. When I get comfortable on a bike it does it for me. I am getting there. I just wish it could help me talk better and work. Maybe someday it will.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Highland Lilacs

Maria, Ziggy the Wonderdog and I took a walk through Highland Park today having heard the lilacs were blooming already. It was a bit of an exaggeration, there were a few starting, but lots of other plants were in full bloom taking advantage of the early spring. Daffodils, Azalea and magnolia were pretty spectacular with a little color on a few lilacs. I don't know if they will wait for the Lilac Festival in early May, but a few later plants will.

It has been an early spring with the first March in recorded history without a snowfall in Monroe County. It did snow Friday, sort of and I don't know the criterion. It didn't accumulate. It is interesting reading Stewart Brand now talking about climate change and how it could be fixed. It seems terribly real at times and I am sure it is. But just a few years ago they moved the Lilac Festival back a week because of a few cold springs not producing lilacs in time.

The park has always fascinated me. Each year I have discovered a little more there or realized what something was. I will have to post something about it's history sometime, maybe at lilac time or maybe when Further plays this summer. Two years ago we saw Phil Lesh there for a magical concert. I can understand why he is coming back.

A quick note on the cycling progress, only 5 1/2 miles today but a lot more hill. Maybe my chicken legs will get stronger. My lungs haven't been filled with smoke for a year, I walk more and sleep more, just this damn stroke holding me back. Maybe not holding me back as much...

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Ten Miles!!!

I did it finally and have little to show for it but a sore butt which you aren't seeing unless your name is Maria, and it's questionable if she's interested. I was a little iffy this morning but wanted to head to the office to water the plants. Riding to the office is maneuvering on a couple of Fairport's busier roads, but I like it to keep my head in shape. Although they weren't out today, there is nothing like sharing the road with one garbage truck after another. A twenty pound bike with a 160 pound man on it versus a garbage truck...or for that matter any vehicle.

After the plants were watered I got on the canal trail and headed east toward Macedon. At some point the High View Landfill started looming in the horizon, just the other side of the railroad tracks. My route would take me around it. I went through a funky little community vaguely known as Wayneport, nestled in between the tracks and canal. As always I wished I had my camera, but now know where the others in my VESID orientation were from. Well, some of them.

I got on the road and hit wind and terrain changes and can say hills and wind suck, but they make the ride more interesting. And for every up there is a down and all that happy horseshit. Coming around the dump I had an interesting experience. Four deer ran out of the dump and across in front of me. I have hit enough deer with cars to have a healthy respect, but these actually stopped and looked at me before dashing into the woods. For a second I wondered if they would run into me on a bike like they have so many times in a car. It is a very different perspective, but very cool to realize they were watching me. I wonder what they think of bicyclists.

Skunks, particularly dead skunks take on a different meaning too, they seem to be more fragrant, even more so than when walking. Maybe you are breathing harder. The dump stinks too, no matter what Waste Management says. You just have to be in the right down wind location. In all it was a good ride. I did walk up the hill and had to go around the circle a couple of times to get over 10 miles, but it was a nice accomplishment for a 50 year old man less than a year after his stroke. If I can sit on the bike seat I will see how far I get tomorrow. If I can't, I deserve a day off. And Maria just handed me a coupon for RVE (Bike Shop) to look for a new seat.


It's been a while since I posted. For the last couple of weeks I haven't felt right and haven't felt at all rested. Before the stroke I usually existed on four or five hours of sleep, which may have contributed, and now I don't feel right with less than seven or eight continuous hours. It has been a big change but I need it. And if I don't get it things go right to hell. Any combination of things have been causing this, from the days getting longer and the weather being warmer. But my sleep has suffered and I get miserable.

Maria becomes the unfortunate target. It is hard, this isn't exactly what she bargained for. Neither of us did, but I am sadly stuck with my situation. The lack of sleep has me trying to nap unsuccessfully, exhausted by little thing and wiped out by big things. And frustrated by all the little things that were just natural before.

So this week brought a few big things and some interesting results. A visit in February to a physical rehabilitation neurologist recommended a vocational retraining program called VESID. I have mixed feelings on this but I have been game. I don't really want to flip burgers or change the fryer oil, but I do want to reenter the workforce. I am also not sure I can or want to do what I did. Because of the physical fatigue I can't just put my tool belt back on. I have joke that if anyone want to pay me 60 or so thousand to work for 4 hours a day they are more than welcome to. But they aren't sending many offers.

So Thursday I found myself at VESID orientation and sadly I could just think of Arlo Guthrie and "Alice's Restaurant" sitting in jail with the "mother rapers and the father rapers". There is a section on the application about rehab, and it isn't physical therapy. I still want to see where it goes, and since the woman who was "High of VESID" said it could pay for college if there is an end goal in sight I may ask to apply to law or med school. Why not go for it.

I came back pretty depressed, so got on the bike and headed out for a good long ride. Little did I know the weather was about to change. I got on the canal trail and headed for Pittsford hoping to get further than I had before and get some mileage in. A little over 5 miles out I decided to turn around and head back, the wind was picking up and the sky was getting a little darker. At some point on the ride back I stopped to flick bees off my clothes, they were taking advantage of me for a ride. In Fairport village I have to walk though a small tunnel under Route 250 and the thunder started, the wind picked up and it was suddenly dark and much cooler. I toyed with continuing but decided to wait out the rain under a shelter next to the Box Factory.

Then I noticed the front tire was flat too. I don't have a repair kit yet, it is coming, but thankfully the bike shop was around the corner. More thankfully Mulconnery's Irish Pub was across from the shelter. When the rain subsided some I headed in for a pint and something to eat. I called Maria to come and join me and she was just getting home but came down. Fed, I got the bike to the bike shop and went home to put something warmer on, and then crash. I had clocked 8 miles, not that much, but the furthest I have been since the stroke.

Friday brought a doctors appointment. When I don't sleep, my blood pressure also goes right up despite the medication. I have also felt dizzy at time and have had a ringing in my ears. I guess I live in constant fear of another stroke, even though I am in very different shape now. I don't think the fear will ever go.

Of course the blood pressure reading which were pre-stroke levels had returned to nice and normal. But there were the other issues. Maria came and stated that I was more congested than usual and we got into a discussion about my allergies, breathing problems and what speech therapy I had been given. This is only a shot, but I am trying some allergy medications to see if they clear some things up and help me sleep. This was my first spring in 30 or more years without smoking and with a myriad of other breathing problems.

Sadly I am still at the stage where each time something is fixed or eliminated two other things they masked show up. Hopefully that will change soon. Until then I'll try the allergy medication. I would actually like to smoke again, but we won't go there. Then I would suffer gunshot wounds.

A sunny, cool day out and time to be out there.

Monday, April 5, 2010

One Year Tobacco Free!

Even though my first reward was a stroke, I am kind of celebrating this one. On April 4, 2009 I had my last cigarette. Yes there are a lot of pluses but I also miss it. I maintain it helped cause the stroke, my wife disagrees. Probably neither of us are right.

Regardless, it is a done deal, at least for a year and probably longer, I do like being in much better shape even with the new set of problems. Eleven weeks later I had the stroke. I hope the anniversary doesn't bring anything else. But I am happy with the accomplishment and don't really want to go back. So wish me luck on another year.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

TAP continued

More images

Trenton Assembly Park

Nestled along the Cinncinatus Creek and off State Route 28 is this old Methodist summer camp. I googled it but wasn't able to find much except it's listing as an Oneida County park and a few real estate listings. Taking advantage of a couple days at my Mom's and with the water on the West Canada running really high, (the warm weather has apparently caused a run on electricity) I drove down in today to see what was left of the park.

Surprisingly it is very vibrant, clean and just as charming as it was 50 years ago. Okay, I only remember it 40 years ago. We grew up with a curious cross of Catholic Unitarian sensibility, the Unitarians having founded Barneveld and it being a dominant community force when my father was growing up here. I have heard the Methodist camp was mentioned as sort of a holy rolling sort of tent commune in a couple turn of the century books, but have to trust shaky sources on that.

I have also seen another south of Rochester, close to Hammondsport, but it is not nearly as elaborate. Though some of the houses look a little worse for wear, bear in mind that it is April, there still should be snow on the ground and the road is a seasonal road. One friend does live there year round but I believe he has another entrance.

I won't venture a date when these were built, some are probably quite old. The Octagon is beautiful, much smaller than the octagon house my Uncle grew up in in the village. A couple of others are just plain cute and you want to live there. There is a cobblestone pool that is filled by the creek, various courts for sports and the ubiquitous playground equipment from the early 60s. It is a step back into time and a charmed place.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

1957 Spaghetti Harvest

Some things just get better with age.... Happy April Fools!!!

Holy Thursday

And the beginning of trout season and I haven't posted much of anything this week. So any of you reading this on a regular basis, I apologize or maybe you welcomed the break. I have been completely wiped out this week, more so than usual. Of course I have been pushing myself a little, and trying to do some things. I don't seem to be sleeping as well either. Any combination is catching up with me.

The energy, or lack there of, seem to go in fits and starts. In the fall, still convinced that I could just walk away from this I tortured myself for not having the energy to get a consulting business going. What was wrong with me? I still can't grasp every way the stroke affected me but I am learning.

Yesterday I spent the afternoon with Chuck, an architect I worked at the Timber Framers, getting his take on Google SketchUp. We went over a lot and I picked up a lot of pointers. In the end I couldn't speak and was wiped out. When I got home Maria asked me where we drank lunch, I apparently looked so bad. Sadly the coffee and scones contained no alcohol. And drafting in SketchUp is heady stuff, but not that good.

I am somewhat recovered today, but still tired. The sun is out so I raked the garden, getting ready to plant peas. We will spend some of the weekend at my Mom's and then back for Easter dinner. Maybe some fishing out there too.