Whew, A New Year Looms

The crazed and the sketchy got out to lunch more than usual this year.

Congress had a 7% approval rating which sounds like a 93% disapproval rating. And yet 95.4% of the encumbents who ran got re-elected. (Forty-one retired which is way more than the sixteen defeated.)

SWMBO got about a $26 Social Security raise for 2015 thanks to that magnificent 1.7% COLA. Oddly, her Medicare Advantage premium rose $43.

The University of Miami tried to sell endangered pine rockland to build a Walmart.

An intruder jumped the White House fence and ran straight in the White House unlocked front door where he then asked for a cup of coffee in the ceremonial tea room. OK, I made the last part up; he actually asked for parking validation.

Good Vibrations
The earth moved in South Puffin after a 5.0 magnitude earthquake off Cuba rattled Boot Key harbor near South Puffin. There was no tsunami.

A 27-year-old woman in Tampa allegedly slapped a 72-year-old woman who denied her friend request on Facebook. Another Florida woman is also facing a battery charge after she got into a fight with her twin sister over a vibrator. Battery.

Two men stole used fry oil from D Hookers, the Fish House, and a McDonalds in South Puffin. They were arrested for trying to make a living off the fat of the land.

Former Kansas state rep, former Kansas Insurance Commissioner, former Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius resigned from her position as Secretary of Health and Unaffordable Care Services when Healthcare.gov enrolled 157 Americans but turned away the 12 million who lost their insurance. She will take a “private” sector job with Government Motors supervising 45 recalls of 28 million cars. It is expected that more than 300 cars will be repaired before the end of 2015.

Someone tied a skeleton to an underwater post near the Seven Mile Bridge right around my birthday (I was in North Puffin. Really). We think that had nothing to do with …

A Great White Shark named Katharine stopped in at my beach. She’s the 14 foot, 2,300 pound, Great White who swam from Cape Cod to the Gulf of Mexico and back. She pinged about 20 miles out here over Memorial Day weekend. She had traveled more than 3,600 miles since she was tagged last year. She was also following the Local10 reporter reporting on her. Katharine has her own Twitter account (@Shark_Katharine), of course.

Taking a Bath
Eight vintage Corvettes disappeared in a sinkhole in Bowling Green.

The N.J. Turnpike is apparently going into the pizza business. That state agency sued Boardwalk Pizza here in the Keys because the pizza joint’s sign is too similar the Garden State Parkway signs. Both circular logos are green with a yellow border. The turnpike’s says “Garden State” along the top, while Boardwalk’s says “Jersey Boardwalk.” The middle of the Turnpike’s logo say’s “Parkway” while Boardwalk’s says “Pizza Co.” The Turnpike logo has no words along the bottom of the circle; Boardwalk’s says “Subs. Cheesesteaks. Pasta.”

You Can’t Make This [$#!*] Up
The Throne Thrusters modified a porta-potty in LaPorte, Indiana, and launched it into the sky this month. It described an elegant arc and nearly landed on a spectator’s pickup truck almost half a mile away. The thrusters spokesman said it wasn’t “barnyard engineering.” NASA’s Orion also launched, flew, and landed with “bullseye” precision.

A white man who hates black men once owned an NBA basketball team. He was harshly penalized which may tie in to …

Dennis Rodman made his thirty-fourth visit to North Korea to play some one-on-one with his misunderstood pal Kim Jong Un. Sadly, he won this final game; Mr. Kim retaliated by bombing Mr. Rodman’s PlayStation.

The FBI investigated hundreds of naked-celebrity photos spread across the Interwebs that hundreds of naked-celebrities intelligently took with their smartphones. Meanwhile, the NSA announced it had no access to any personal information on naked-celebrity smartphones, only their measurements.

More people watched the styrofoam coolers that didn’t come from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 than watched OJ run through the line of freeway traffic at 37 mph. Flight 370 is still missing. The NSA doesn’t know where it is, either.

Another Year (Almost) Gone
None of the 2014 stories measure up to this: “the sea hag” allegedly shot a 64-year-old man five times in the abdomen, back, and arm after he refused to give her a beer. They had gone to an elegant repast at the Brass Monkey and returned home. She went for her vibrator and he for a beer. She couldn’t find hers so she wanted his.

Let’s be careful out there in 2015.



I got to thinking about them as people told me about geezerhood and codgerness this past week.

“Age is just a number.”

There’s some truth to that, although I’ve never heard anyone under 20 say it. In a much earlier op-ed, I wrote about the different important but arbitrary ages. These limit the minimum age at which we humans can take part in some exciting activity:

• 16 gets a driver’s license in most states. Most boys wish it were 14; most parents, 35.
18 is the minimum age to be eligible to vote in a public election. Except it used to be 21. Or 16 in Takoma Park, Maryland.
• 21 is the youngest one can be to drink because the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 withholds revenue from states if they let anyone under that age buy booze. Despite the Internoodle rumor, it is not true that the minimum legal drinking age will be raised to 25 as of August 2.
• 35 is the minimum of gray hair allowed to be President although in practice Teddy Roosevelt was the youngest person to assume office at age 42. JFK was 43-5/8. Mr. Clinton was 46-1/2.
• 65 is retirement age. Except when it isn’t. It turns out you can collect partial Social Security at 62 but full retirement is older than 65 for anyone born after 1937. Medicare, however, kicks in at 65.

By now you may have guessed that I have attained each of those arbitrary numbers and now I have a problem: I don’t know how to be a codger.

Codger /n/ käj-r — an elderly man, especially one who is old-fashioned or eccentric.

OK, I’m sometimes old-fashioned and usually eccentric but I was that way 30-40 years ago.

The Torch Bearers, a sculpture by Anna Huntington on the Stevens Institute campus

“Horsemanship through the history of all nations has been considered one of the highest accomplishments. You can’t pass a park without seeing a statue of some old codger on a horse.”
–Will Rogers

That’s another good one, but the closest I’ll get to being that behorsed statue was painting the one at Stevens.

Now, a geezer wants to drive as slow as possible. A true geezer will pick a speed ahead of time, say, seventeen miles an hour, and drive that speed under all conceivable conditions, no matter where, no matter what. With the turn signal on. A geezer will put the turn signal on when he buys the car and then just leave it on until he trades it in. The geezer car is actually three to four normal-size cars welded together. It should be much bigger than anything else on the road, or even the road itself. The hood should be so big that it’s impossible for the driver to tell what lane he’s in, sometimes even what zip code he’s in, by merely looking out the window. Planes could take off and land on the hood of the geezer car.
–Dave Barry

OK, I admit I don’t drive as fast as I did when racing, but that happened when I discovered how much I hate paying $3.799/gallon for all that gas. I still managed to beat the Coco Plum land speed record in a Lotus a couple of years ago.

The problem is that there is no Federal educational program for geezerhood. This leads to an inevitable conclusion. I have discovered, to my great pleasure, that geezerhood arrives a minimum of 10 years after one’s current age.

Liz Arden says that’s OK. I’m just a codger-in-training.

The real milestones are our losses in my birthday week:
Actor James Garner died of natural causes at home on Saturday night. He was 86. From Maverick and Rockford to Grand Prix, he was one of my favorites. And I have long used his answering machine message.
Astronaut and test pilot Henry Hartsfield died at 80. He commanded Discovery and Challenger missions.
John Melvin was an engineer, academic and racing safety expert in NASCAR.
Actress Elaine Stritch.
And Heinz Zemanek who developed the first complete transistorized computer in Europe and defined the programming language PL/1.


Friggin’ ‘Frig

It was a rough winter in North Puffin. Fortunately, I was in South Puffin at the time. We had some plumbing issues. It turns out we also had a difficulty with the frig.

I have changed my spelling preference.
♦ The first citation of “frig” as short for refrigerator in the OED is from E. F. Spanner’s 1926 novel
Broken Trident: “Best part of our stuff here is chilled, and with no ’frig plant working, the mercury will climb like a rocket.”
♦ The earliest “fridge” cite is from Frame-Up, a 1935 crime novel by Collin Brooks: “Do you mean that you keep a dead body in a fridge waiting for the right moment to bring her out?”

The frig didn’t seem as cold as it should but our only freezer thermometer died in the freezer downstairs, so our first clue was that the milk seemed warm in the glass.

I’ve always resisted buying a refrigerator. We bought this more-than-20-years old frig because SWMBO wanted it, not because our previous white-box-that-makes-cold stopped making cold. It’s a really nice bottom freezer model with adjustable shelves and great access. It was the champ when it was young and had lots of fans. Unfortunately one of the fans has maybe gone on to love someone else. The white-box-that-makes-cold stopped pushing the cold into the box with the food in it.

I put some of the frozen canisters I use in my coolers in the frig and moved the ice cream to the otter freezer.

SWMBO and I both have wanted a French door, bottom freezer, frig.

New FrigNew French door, bottom freezer appliances cost more than some cars. As my friend “Bob” said in 2009, “$1,200 is too much. $3,000 is mindless.”

I agree wholeheartedly. I gave SWMBO the assignment. Check the sale fliers. Check the garage sales. Check craigislist. Find something we can afford.

Regular readers know I like Craigs List.

She found one in the third listing. “Brand new Kenmore…” The asking price was about half the current sale price for that model. I was on the road 10 minutes later.

I don’t really think the young seller is in the Russian Mafia, but it is indeed a brand new frig, fresh off the truck, with original packing and wrapping and taping. SWMBO is quite pleased.

On the subject of tape, if there is an uptick in refrigerator sales, buy stock in tape companies. It took most of a day to find the seller, inspect and buy the frig, and install it. It took twice that to remove all the tape. I don’t think I actually removed all the tape.

We arranged to meet in a hotel parking lot because the seller wasn’t sure of his mother-in-law’s address where the frig was in the garage. We arrived at the hotel first to find a Vermont Law Enforcement convention but no seller. He eventually drove in (the truck he was going to bring it with wouldn’t start), sneezed on us, and lead us back north to his mother-in-law’s house at the exit just south of where we started.

My truck has a cap so we had to lay the new frig down in the bed. The widest door in the house is the front door to the great room. That’s the only possible entrance for a box that is 34″ deep and 36″ wide.

Step 1: Stand the new frig up on the front porch. Cover with blue tarp so it is invisible. Let it stay awhile to reacclimate to being vertical.

Step 2: Move old frig into the middle of the great room and plug it back in until the new one settles down.

Step 3: We renovated the kitchen a few years ago, including building an alcove for the 33″ wide old frig with a nice liquor cabinet beside it. The carpenter had buried the screws in the side of the liquor cabinet, kind of behind the 2″ butcher block top. I pulled the top, got to the screws, and pulled the cabinet. I put it in the garage — out of sight, out of mind. It won’t fit beside the new 36″ wide frig but it’s too nice to toss.

Step 4: When I say I covered a mouse hole in the wall behind the frig, I mean a MOUSE hole. About 4″ high and 12″ wide. I have a vague recollection that the carpenter punched that hole by drilling lots of holes around the perimeter, then punching it out so we’d have access for a water line if desired. It left something that really looked chewed. And I could be misremembering. I do not want to meet that mouse. I covered it with a piece of steel. Since I have now really annoyed it, I really really do not want to meet that mouse.

Step 5: Boy howdy, new frigs don’t roll sideways.

Lurve jail blankets. Lurve.

This is a story very much like the platform bed coming down the low clearance stairway in Jersey. The tape measure said it wouldn’t fit so we just didn’t tell the movers.

I removed the door handles (bad design: two different size allen wrenches required) from the new frig. Popped the great room and cellar doors off their hinges. Moved furniture. There was no wiggle room, even if the frig had been inclined to move sideways when wiggled. I put a plywood plate on my handtruck to distribute the load and used my truck loadbinders to strap the thing on. Used jail blankets to pad the box. Anne pushed. I pulled and balanced. And we got the thing in the door. After considerable jockeying, it landed in front of the alcove and slid right in as if made for it.

I did not break my hand. Anne did not get concussed. We had to put it down while it was still on the porch because we didn’t get lined up straight. She stopped it with her head. And putting it down next to the alcove, it caught my hand. No apparent damage to the frig.

Step 6: Plug it in, run it a couple of hours, and fill.

Lo and behold, it ran like a new frig. Even the door alarm works, evidenced by how long we had it open while loading it. (Thankfully, that isn’t a siren call; it makes a steady ping-ping-ping, then the lights turned off.) There is both more and less room innit. I can put two gallons of milk and three 2-liter bottles in the door(s) but there isn’t as much room for butter or salad dressings because the door shelves aren’t adjustable height.

The worst part of having a new frig is the inconvenience of retraining. I have spent 20 years walking into the kitchen and opening the door by popping it on the edge. Now I have to pull a handle in the middle.

Step 7: Took the handles off the old frig and rolled it out onto the porch. Number One Daughter gave me instruction for that. “For the love of God, Pete and all that is Holy — please put the old fridge directly on the truck and take it to Hodgdons. Seriously, why touch something more than once — don’t move it from one place to another — JUST GET RID OF IT.”

Seriously, after we bounced it around the great room, the temp came down to normal. Maybe the mouse (remember the mouse?) had climbed in the air duct to build a home …

Writing the craigslist ad to sell it now.

A Southern friend pointed out to me that I overlooked a different solution:
Frig Repair

Friday Foibles

Anne and I both prefer very flat pillows. In fact, the high loft, fat bahstids popularized in motels and mattress commercials are exceedingly hard on our necks so “preference” might be understatement.

She is off to Burlington for the weekend to run the Summer Games. She plans to take her own pillow.

I’m off to Hoboken for the weekend to party down with the guys in my class. Stevens was all male undergrad when we were there, so this will be boyz’ weekend out.

I’m a guy. I cannot show up with my pillow and security blanket.

“Maybe if I fold it carefully, it will fit in your carryon,” she said.