The thing about insurance….

Suzanne got a new iPhone the other day (and I inherited the old one; this is the second hand-me-down I’ve gotten, the first being a bizarre Windows phone that only marginally qualified as a “Smart phone”; I got her “old” iPhone 5c which does seem pretty smart in comparison). It’s bright and shiny and does all kinds of wonderful things, including making phone calls. Funny how the phone feature of most “phones” these days is not really one of the selling points (I almost typed “celling points” but decided that pun might just be too much); apps and texts and tweets and the fact that your phone can talk back to you (Siri, where did Ernestine go? Did she get fired?) without having to make a call to someone are the things that seem to attract most buyers these days (and what ever happened to the days when the phone company gave you a phone, albeit not one you could carry around in your pocket, for the privilege of gouging you on long-distance calls?).

Not too long ago, you walked into the phone store and plunked down a fifty bucks and walked out with a device that looked and mostly acted like the communicators on Star Trek, and that was pretty much their only function: to communicate. Now, you walk into the store and plunk down $600 to buy one; or even better, “lease” a Smart phone for $25 a month, with the right to get a new one every six months, since that seems to be the time-frame in which your phone becomes oboleted (I’ve decided to start making verbs out of nouns like GWB used to do; ah, how I miss that moron; he somehow looks almost intelligent, or at least benign, compared to the current crop of wackos running for President on the GOP side of the political spectrum) by Apple or Samsung.

In addition to the purchase price, we learned this time that you can get insurance for your phone, in case you drop it or lose it or it gets eaten by a bear while you are on vacation in Yellowstone Park (which, by the way, I understand has great reception; the park, not the bear). For only $8 a month, all of those mishaps, and many more, are covered. However, there is a deductible of $150, so over the course of your two-year lease you get to pay $192 plus $150 if something happens to the phone. That’s 57% of the price of the phone.

Hmmm.

So for comparison, let’s say you lease a $30,000 car for two years. The monthly insurance cost would be $400 and your deductible would be $7,500. Now, I suppose if you have two teenage sons, you might be paying $400 a month, but would you even let them drive your $30,000 car? An accident would wind up costing you $17,100 for the two years you had that car. Somehow seems like a lot to me.

Well, Suzanne declined the insurance for her bright, shiny new iPhone and vowed to herself never to drop or lose it, but it looks like we will have to cancel our trip to Yellowstone next summer. Wonder what there is to do in Topeka? Hope there aren’t any bears there.

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Manhattan Meanderings #1

The dogs and I have been in Manhattan for a month now (Suzanne came over in April) and we are beginning to settle into a routine. Well, to be honest, I’m beginning to settle into their routine.

I’ve been getting up at 6:00 a.m. and going to the recreation center at K-State. Suzanne and I signed up a few days ago and so far, I’ve made it over to stretch and walk three times. Since I don’t have a parking permit for any of the campus lots, I have to make sure that I leave the rec-center before 7:00 or risk getting a ticket. There are a few parking meters and parking is free before 7:00 a.m. and after 4:00 p.m., so those are my target hours. Before I leave the house, I turn on the coffee pot so Suzanne will have hot coffee when she gets up. When I get back, I let the dogs out for a couple of minutes, which begins their day. I usually get to have a cup of coffee before they are ready for breakfast. After they eat, they are ready for a nap for a few minutes and I get to sit and check the news on HLN and finish my coffee. By this time, Suzanne is ready for work and the dogs are ready for their morning constitutional. They’ve figured out a few routes they like to walk. We live about two blocks from Cico Park, so we go up that way sometimes or walk a block over to Claflin, one of the main east/west roads. There are sidewalks along both sides of Claflin, so that keeps everyone relatively clean and dry. We’ll see who shovels their sidewalks come winter, but for now, it’s a pleasant walk. We occasionally venture onto some of the side streets, but our walks are usually less than a mile or so; Harry can’t make it much more than that these days, but he’s game for the adventure.

When we get back to the house, I give Harry his Shen Calming capsules. Harry is almost 14 years old, so he’s lost a lot of his hearing and some of his eyesight. When he thinks that he is alone, he gets a little anxious, so the capsules help to calm his nerves. In the evening, he gets Hindquarter Weakness capsules to help with his back end. Our vet in Leawood, Dr. Sally Barchman, has been practicing holistic animal medicine for a couple of years now and Harry has been getting Chinese herbs and acupuncture to help with the weakness he developed. Now that we are in Manhattan, we will continue with the herbs, but I’m not sure we’ll find an acupuncturist. I’m taking Harry for a visit to the K-State Vet School next week, so we’ll see what they may recommend.

Harry’s herbs come in powder form. I tried sprinkling them on his food for a while, but they are rather bitter and he finally decided he’d had enough of that, so I bought a “capsule machine,” a little plastic gizmo I use to fill gelatin capsules with the herbs. I can fill 24 capsules at a time. He gets nine Weakness capsules at night and nine Calming capsules in the morning, all with peanut butter to make them go down easily. So, we run through a lot of peanut butter and I fill a lot of capsules.

PillsAfter the dogs’ breakfast and a walk, I attend to things that need to be done after our move. We have a contract on our house and close on the 20th. I have one more trip to make back to Leawood to gather up the last couple of pieces of artwork and garden tools, and to dig up and divide some heirloom irises that I’ve been moving from place to place. I have four that I got from my grandfather’s garden in Monett. He was a champion iris-grower, which seems improbable for an engineer on the Frisco Railroad, but it was his hobby and he was good at it. I also have an iris from our friends in Columbia, Lynda and Dan Dunham, and one from Suzanne’s mom’s old house in South Holland, Illinois. Our friends Dave and Amy and Buck and Sherri have agreed to “foster” my iris until such time as we buy a house here in Manhattan, probably next summer.

D3C_4968 DSC_6089 DSC_6093 DSC_6094 DSC_7633D3C_4944

Last week, Suzanne and I got a tour of the K-State Vet School. Our other vet in Leawood, Dr. Vern Otte, is a graduate of K-State, so we decided to check out the school here. We had a good experience with the vet school and hospital in Columbia, at Mizzou, when one of our dogs, Maggie, had to have some surgery. Harry and I will be meeting Dr. Nelson next week and seeing what she might recommend for Harry.

Before I moved, Suzanne sent me a link to a place on the K-State campus called the Sensory Analysis Center. It’s a unit that does product research on all kinds of things. You can sign up and participate in product testing, for which you get a small stipend. Depending on your interests, you might get to test foods, beverages, cosmetics, fabrics, packaging, paints, health care, personal care products or fragrances. I participated in a preference test related to dog food a couple of weeks ago . I’m not supposed to reveal the details of the test, but I felt really full after it was over. I’m doing another one tomorrow; I hope the samples are smaller.

Getting to know a new place takes some time. It helps to have had several geography classes in the past; I’m good at reading maps and once I figure out which way is north, I’m hardly ever lost. Discovering the major east/west, north/south streets helps, too. North/south streets in Manhattan are numbered, up to 17th Street; after that, they have names. East/west streets are all named. So far, I haven’t found any “rhyme or reason” to the naming. There are a couple of neighborhoods that seem to have a bit of a theme, one in which the streets are named for states (Virginia, Indiana, Illinois, Montana and Utah) and one neighborhood with street names of Ivy League schools (Princeton, Dartmouth, and Harvard), and for some reason Amherst, but it seems pretty random. We live on Cherokee Circle, but across the street, Givens, that our cul-de-sac is off is another cul-de-sac called Sioux Circle. Why not Cherokee or Sioux for both of them? There’s a Chippewa Circle in our neighborhood, but also a Bigfoot Street. Odd.

One of my goals over the next year is to eat at all the non-chain restaurants in Manhattan, or at least most of them. We are doing pretty well so far, but it’s easy just to grab something at Panera or Dairy Queen or Olive Garden rather than putting in the effort to seek out the local joints. More on our culinary cruising (as well as success/failure in finding a doctor, dentist, barber, the Goodwill store) in a later Meanderings.

From the Little Apple, the #1 Most Livable College Town in America (according to livability.com)…

Would you like a walker with that bagel?

Like most Baby Boomers, I don’t feel old. I mean, I’m only 67; old doesn’t start until around 90, right?

Every now and then, though, I get hints. I don’t mean having trouble getting up off the sofa or unaccountably falling asleep in the middle of the afternoon and then having trouble getting up off the sofa. No, the hints usually come from an encounter I have with someone much, much younger.

Like today. I had stopped at Panera to get some bagels. I’ve been wanting a bagel for the last few days and since I was out, I decided to stop by and… buy. Panera is one of my favorite retail establishments. For a couple of years after I retired, I went to the Panera near our house almost every morning for a pastry and an unlimited cup of coffee. I’d sit and read, or work on my cookbook (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1495304442). And surprisingly, over those two years, I managed to gain ten pounds. I can’t imaging how it happened, exactly; bear claws and cherry pastries and cinnamon rolls don’t weigh much and coffee certainly doesn’t. Well, after I finished my cookbook (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1495304442), I decided I’d start my mornings doing something different and I began going to the Jewish Community Center, where we had a membership, four, sometime five, sometimes six times a week. Over the past year, I’ve not only lost those ten pounds I had gained, but lost a few more. I discovered that some of the pants in my closet had not actually shrunk, as I was pretty sure they had done (there is scientific research that suggests that the atmosphere in closets contributes to shrinkage of clothing fibers; really, you can look it up). The combination of not going to Panera ever morning and our preparations for moving to Manhattan have cut my calories and my writing, but over all, it’s been a good trade-off.

But, I digress.

This is not about gaining weight or about my cookbook (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1495304442); it’s about aging.

As I said, now and then an encounter provides a renewed glimpse of reality. The young lady who cheerfully asked if she could help me and if I had a Panera card, had a name-tag that said “The Beatles.” In addition to their name, like Mary or Tom or Rolando, every Panera associate puts a word or phrase on their tag that indicates something they are really interested in. I think it’s meant to be a conversation-starter or way to connect with the customer, though I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone but me ask about why they like photography or “my kids” or Jesus. Well, as I said Jessica’s (not her real name, wink, wink) tag said the Beatles, so I asked “What’s your favorite Beatles song?”

“Blackbird,” she answered without hesitation.

“Ah, that’s a good one,” I said. “Why do you like ‘Blackbird’?”

“My grandmother used to sing it to me all the time,” Jessica replied.

GRANDMOTHER. Not mother. GRANDMOTHER. Jessica’s GRANDMOTHER grew up listening to the Beatles. Jessica got her love of the Beatles from her GRANDMOTHER! I grew up listening to the Beatles (all those 45s and LPs are stored in boxes awaiting our next move). Jessica’s GRANDMOTHER and I are probably about the same age!

So, there it was, in the middle of Panera, the reminder that I’m not 21, or 35, or even 45. I’m not old, but I’m not chronologically young either. I guess this is what middle-age feels like. Fortunately, I’m not sitting on the sofa writing this, but I do feel a nap coming on.

Musical Treasures

Moving is one of those times in life when you get to rediscover the stuff you haven’t looked at since the last time you moved, or the time before that, or the time before that. Amongst the boxes of things that are assigned to the trash or Goodwill, there are treasures you’ve forgotten about, perhaps even things you didn’t know you had.

One of the tasks I’ve been undertaking the last couple of days has been transferring my record albums (yes, I still have vinyl, lots of it) from the deteriorating cartons they’ve been in since at least 1989 to new heavy-duty boxes. When last these were packed, records came off the shelves helter-skelter so that jazz, classical and rock ‘n roll were all mixed up. This seemed the perfect opportunity to sort things out.

Albums

So, I found some gems that I thought I’d share with you, my unsuspecting readers.

Beatle Babies

Yes, I’ve got one of those highly-offensive Beatles albums. It’s not in great shape, but I’ll part with it for the right price. This was one of the albums that had the re-shot cover pasted over the one that causes such a stir. In today’s environment, it wouldn’t cause a blink of an eye.

Beatles

The first American Beatles issue. They (and we) were so young and innocent. Well, we were; they were pretty salty after having played Hamburg and all those Liverpool pubs. Brian Epstein cleaned them up and the rest is…. well, you know.

Beethoven

I divided my albums into boxes of classical, jazz and rock. There were four classical and three each of jazz and rock. Here’s one of the gems of the classical collection. Absolutely wonderful music.

Blue

Gershwin is one of my favorites. I have at least two dozen vinyl albums and perhaps that many CDs. This is one of the first ones I ever bought. No one has ever played George better than Oscar Levant. This is a great, great recording.

BP

Here’s an early super-group-type album with Al Kooper, Tommy Flanders, Steve Katz, and Danny Kalb. Not necessarily “blues” as we have come to understand that term. “Violets of Dawn” is an especially interesting piece. Lots of improvisation, which was unusual among rock groups at the time.

BST

Al Kooper went on, with Steve Katz, to form Blood, Sweat and Tears. This is the only BST album I have, or like. Never got into the David Clayton Thomas conglomeration. Al Kooper left after this album and formed a new super-group with Mike Bloomfield and Harvey Brooks. Their album, Super Session, is a marvel.

Byrds

The first Byrds album, purported to have only had Jim (later Roger) McGuinn playing on the recording; session musicians played most of the other parts. Not even Snopes knows for sure.

Cyrkle

“Henceforth, you shall be known as The Cyrkle,” so spake Brian Epstein. And thus it was that three squares from Pennsylvania got to hang around with the Beatles. Their first single, “Red Rubber Ball,” was written by Paul Simon. As an old bass player, I marvel at the bass line on their second song, “Turn Down Day.” It is beastly hard to play. Tom Dawes never shows up on a list of the best rock bassists, but he definitely rank right up there as far as I’m concerned.

Don

This was the companion to “Bubble Gum” music: ice cream music. OK, what do “Louie, Louie,” Iggy Pop and Don and the Goodtimes have in common? Don Gallucci was the keyboardist for The Kingsmen, who recorded “Louie, Louie,” and was later the record producer for Iggy Pop and the Stooges. Small world.

Electric Flag

Another super-group with Mike Bloomfield, Harvey Brooks, Nick Gravenites, and Buddy Miles. Their first recording was the soundtrack for “The Trip,” an account of a psychedelic experience of Peter Fonda. The movie was written by Jack Nicholson and directed by Roger Corman,

ISB

The Incredible String Band was a folk/rock/avant garde trio/duo/quartet from Wales. They played at Woodstock, performing between Canned Heat and Creedance Clearwater Revival. The sophisticated, but mostly stoned, audience didn’t know what to make of them and their set was not included in the film. ISB’s music is strange and wonderful and worth a listen.

JA

Jefferson Airplane. What else needs to be said (but why was Grace Slick smiling?)

Jimi

Jimi!

Joni

Joni!

Libby

Libby Titus was a wonderful singer who never got the due she deserved. What do Paul Simon, Carly Simon, Phil Ramone, and Robby Robertson have in common? All wrote songs for Libby Titus. What do Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt and Donald Fagen have in common? All recorded songs by Libby Titus (and Fagen married her). Throw in Burt Bachrach and Dr. John and you’ve got lots more to recommend her work.

Lily

A little-known collaboration between Woody Allen and John Sebastian and the Spoonful. Pretty much what you’d expect.

Michael

No monkeying around on this album!

Moby

If you want to hear some straight-head rock and roll, take a listen to this album, especially  “Hey, Grandma,” “Omaha,” “8:05,” and “Naked, If I Want To.”

Music Man

As an old trombone player, this is the ultimate musical!

Music1

OK, are you playing music for your plants?

Music2

Well, be careful what you play!

Prunes

Maybe some classic rock would be OK. Remember the Prunes?

Rick

Ricky became Rick, but when he did, no one knew his name or his music, except Mr. Hughes hid in Dylan’s shoes. Or something like that. Saw him at the Uptown Theater in Kansas City 1985 shortly before his death that December. He was a great performer and an under-rated musician.

Rutles

Sort of a tribute band, only way, way better. Monty Python meets the Beatles.

Shankar

When the Beatles said to listen to Ravi Shankar, we listened to Ravi Shankar. I still do.

Shankar2

Somehow, I ended up with my pal, Dennis’ album. Someday, I’ll get a chance to return it.

Stone Ponys

Linda! Nothing else needs to be said. Except: “Different Drum” ranks in the top five of my favorite songs. No monkeying around with that list, either.

Tchai

No better fireworks than the canons on “1812 Overture.” One of the earliest albums I purchased. Bought it at Moss Supermarket in Monett, MO, scene of later watermelon massacres.

Traffic

Can you say psychedelic? Can you spell psychedelic?

US

If you can spell psychedelic, you probably have this album.

But I’ll be you don’t have this one.

WCPAEB

Yardbirds

Finally, saw these guys, less Paul Samwell-Smith, plus Jimmy Page in Springfield, MO in 1966. The Buckinghams opened for them. Never liked Led Zepplin, but Jimmy Page playing his guitar with a cello bow was a trip.

Take my money, please

I had a couple of interesting on-line chats with my credit card company this morning (I won’t reveal their name, but their initials are Amex). Earlier in the month, I added a new bank account from which my monthly payments should be drawn and I tried to pay my bill. A few days later, I got an email saying that the request to the bank for payment had been rejected. I called to clear up the issue and discovered that two things had happened: (1) the account number I gave them did not include all 12 digits, only the seven that I regularly use anytime I make a deposit or a withdrawal or pay a bill from another company; the unnamed credit card company needed all 12 to complete the transaction; and, (b) I foolishly tried to pay the entire bill rather than just the outstanding amount. Apparently, I somehow tried to violate a money-laundering provision of some obscure banking act.

So, after a couple of chats with Jayson (who sounded exactly like Nicolas Cage), I thought I had gotten everything cleared up. I went back and entered all 12 digits of my account number and authorized a payment of only the outstanding balance, not the charges pending.

I got an email back saying that my payment had been accepted and all was right with the world. Until yesterday, when I got a letter from the company saying that my original payment had been rejected and to immediately send them a check. Then today, I got another letter saying that the subsequent payment, which I know was deducted from my account, was rejected by the bank and that I should immediately send them a check.

I went to my account and had an on-line chat first with Scarlett and then with Michael, who both assured me that my account was in good standing, I had a zero balance owed and that the letters were just routine notifications to “assist me” in the management of my account (they certainly didn’t sound like “assistance”; cue Don Carleone’s voice: “Let me help you make a decision about an offer you can’t refuse.”)

The curious thing about all this is that for some reason, the credit card company has stopped accepting my payments for purchases that have not been billed. Occasionally, I make a big-ticket purchase (say $50 or so; that’s big-ticket for me) so I can get the extended warranty the company offers, but I like to pay that off right away. I used to be able to go on-line any time of the month and make a payment, but now I can’t do that. For some reason, they don’t want my money except when they say so. What an odd way to do business.

My billing cycle ends tomorrow, so I can make a payment then, but chances are I’ll be talking to Nick Cage or the Don once again in a few days. I hope I don’t have to go to the mattresses over this.

Noise? What Noise?

As some of you know, we are moving to Manhattan, KS, where Suzanne has taken a job as Senior Development Director for the College of Human Ecology at K-State University, her alma mater. Our house is on the market and we’ve begun to get lookers. Oddly enough, the thing that most of them mention as their reason for not being interested in the house is that they hear a lot of noise from I-435, which is about a block away. Now, I’d be willing to bet that most of these folks don’t even notice the noise when they are sitting at some swanky restaurant patio over in Mission Farms or downtown near the Crossroads Art District. But, yes, I’ll admit that it can get loud on occasion. To try to allay their fears, I wrote piece about the noise that we are leaving on the table with other information about the house. Here it is:

OK, if the road noise is turning you off, don’t worry… our neighbor’s stereo will drown it out. No, just kidding; you can’t possibly play Lawrence Welk that loud.

When we first moved in, we thought we’d hear I-435 ALL the time. Inside, outside, it would be all the same.

So, just take a minute and listen. Hear anything? Not much inside, but yes, you do outside. Trust me, after a week or so, you won’t notice it a bit, even when you are sitting on the deck, enjoying that glass of wine or iced tea (especially if you’ve had more than one glass of tea, wink, wink). Really. The stupid cardinals and blue jays fighting will be all you hear. Oh, and the squirrels. And kids playing in their yards. And moms and dads walking their babies (man, those strollers can get loud). And yes, our neighbor’s dog gets excited sometimes, but we haven’t had a door-to-door salesman since they moved in.

Bottom line, the neighborhood more than makes up for whatever you think you might hear. We’ve got great neighbors who look after each other (a couple of weeks ago, I went over to Westlake’s to get something for the house and while I was there I got a call from my neighbor across the street who had noticed my garage door was up but there was no car in the driveway; apparently, I had forgotten to put it down and she was concerned so she called me while I was there just to make sure everything was OK; she works for the NSA, by the way; see, that’s more important than any so-called road noise; you can ignore the noise, but you can’t ignore the neighbors; well, now, I don’t want you get the idea they are nosey….). We have neighborhood get-togethers a couple of times a year and even shovel each other’s driveways when one of us has a broken leg, or at least a fake cast.

Don’t pass up a chance to live here just because you think you’ll be disturbed by the eighteen wheelers and motorcycles racing at midnight ;-). We don’t even hear them any more. We do hear Johnny Rowlands’ helicopter reporting on the 5:30 traffic backups on the Interstate, though. But you get used to that, too.

Peace (and quiet)

Plots for a Proposed Young Adult Book Series

Book 1 — boy meets girl
Book 2 — boy and girl fall in love
Book 3 — girl’s friends dislike boy
Book 4 — girl dumps boy
Book 5 — in despair, boy drives too fast and hits a tree
Book 6 — girl realizes her friends were wrong and sells her hair to pay for boy’s funeral
Book 7 — girl adopts a puppy from the local animal shelter to keep her company
Book 8 — puppy digs up boy’s corpse
Book 9 — boy has become a zombie
Book 10 — as revenge, boy finds girl and eats her brain
Book 11 — puppy grows up to win the Westminster Dog Show three years in a row