Friday, January 19, 2018


“I think I actually deleted recording the 5 o’clock and 5:30 local TV-news,” I said to myself.
Little-by-little The Keed is learning how to drive that fantabulous remote pictured at left.
If you live in the Rochester area you know Spectrum, alias Spectrum/Time-Warner, previously Time-Warner Cable, changed its cable-TV signal to all-digital. This meant my DVD player could no longer record the local and national news.
I never watch TV anyway — I have too much fun on this laptop. The only TV I watch is the local and national news, recorded for viewing while I eat supper, which may not be until 7:30.
I set up a package a while ago, to -a) reduce cost, and -b) double Internet speed. TV had gotten much better, but I couldn’t record. The package made TV digital.
Internet-speed was doubled (so my speedtest says, but not when the kids up-the-street are playin’ their ‘pyooter-games). We plugged the TV-cable back into my old DVD so I could still record the news. Spectrum was still sending a signal my DVD could crunch. But last Wednesday they switched to “all-digital,” whatever that means, a signal my DVD could no longer crunch.
I needed Spectrum’s DVR to be able to record the news. Spectrum came out last Saturday to install their DVR, which swapped out their non-recording TV player.
“Don’t forget, yer talkin’ to someone born in the previous century,” I told the techie. “I gotta be able to drive this thing without pestering you guys.”
I still don’t know exactly what is happening: whether the actual recording takes place on their DVR here in my house. Or it’s at Spectrum’s palatial offices in Rochester.
“Go to and follow their tutorial on how to use yer remote,” techie said.
“Yeah sure!’ I said. “I had a stroke; tutorials are mental overload. I have too many questions.”
So here I was to figger out this monster alone, no longer a wife to make suggestions and cheer me on.
In fact, I’m glad my wife is no longer around to endure my frustration. I usually figgered out things myself, but there was always the pre-solution blame-game.
Engage “try it and see what happens,” what got me able to work this ‘pyooter, then my iPhone. At nearly age-74 millennials are all-too-happy to tell me I’m over-the-hill. “Hill? What hill? I don’t remember any hill!”
56 buttons, fer cryin’ out loud!
Fiddling began that night. Ergo, how do I even know it’s on? Spectrum’s techie showed me a little, and also programmed four recordings: local news at 5, 5:30, and 6, plus the national news at 6:30.
My ancient DVD was still connected, and I could use it if my TV was reading it instead of my new DVR. The news probably recorded, but I couldn’t find it.
My DVD was still set up to record news pre-digital, but if so it wouldn’t play.
Or so it seemed. Who knew if it was doing things correctly.
I was able to get my old DVD-player to play a train-video I had (I’m a railfan). I watched that instead of The Donald’s latest 3 a.m. tweet from his Great White Throne.
I tried again the next night and got the national TV-news to play. This wasn’t just fiddling the remote. It was also figgerin’ their contorted interface.
My mower-man provided the following: “How do I know it’s on or off?”
“I need a clicking on-off switch so I know it’s on,” I responded. “What I get instead is some ‘pyooter-move flashing ‘on’ at me.”
“It better not talk,” my mower-man said. “if there’s anything I can’t stand it’s my car talking to me.”
Engage guile-and-cunning (the heavy hitter).
I got it to play both local and national the next night, plus the next couple nights. Except 6 p.m. local was programmed for 6 p.m. sharp. Often the 6 p.m. local starts at 5:59, so I need to change the start time.
Also it was still recording 5 and 5:30, and I watch neither. How do I delete? Sounds like another techie visit. Every night I poked around after supper, and last night I inadvertently discovered deletion of those two programming setups. I doubt I could do it again. I probably could, but wouldn’t know what I was doing.
So now it’s programmed to record only 6 p.m. local and 6:30 national. —As always, we’ll see what it does tonight. Out of 56 buttons I use only 23. I try others, and nothing happens.
“I’m just a mechanic,” my mower-man says.
“That silly remote looks like the Starship Enterprise,” I comment.

• I had a stroke October 26th, 1993 from an undiagnosed heart-defect since repaired. I pretty much recovered. Just tiny detriments; I can pass for never having had a stroke.
• My beloved wife of over 44 years died of cancer April 17th, 2012. I miss her immensely. Best friend I ever had, and after my childhood I sure needed one. She actually liked me.


Thursday, January 18, 2018

Make ‘em laugh

“Oh goodie!” bubbled *****, my pretty young pharmacist. “Your calendar; I was hoping we’d get one. I look forward to it.”
Every year Yrs Trly has Shutterfly make a calendar of train photos my brother and I took near Altoona, PA. I send ‘em as Christmas presents, although I was delayed this year by printing issues.
Almost $3,000 for 65 calendars. “Holy moly!” said another girl.
“Don’t forget I really love doin’ ‘em.”
I am a graduate of the Hilda Q. Walton School of Sexual Relations. Hilda was my Sunday-School Superintendent, also my next door neighbor.
In concert with my parents she convinced me as a child all pants-wearers, including me, were scum. That no girl would ever wanna talk to me.
As a result I was always intimidated, especially by pretty girls.
My wife offset that by actually liking me. My wife liking me made it possible for me to avoid talking to girls.
Now with my wife gone I’m discovering girls seem to enjoy my talking to them.
“Ya wanna hear a story?” I asked *****. “Got a minute?”
“Sure,” ***** smiled.
“04T, east on Two, 242, CLEAR!”
I had to explain everything, and even then I’m sure she didn’t follow.
But she loved it. I was talking to her.
Mrs. Walton is now up to 14,000 rpm. “She won’t wanna talk to you.
But there she is, a pretty girl, smiling broadly.
***** wasn’t the first calendar I handed out. I delivered another to the nearby kennel where I occasionally daycared my dog before I put her to sleep. There I met ******, a co-owner of the kennel.
“Yippee, the calendar. We got a space for it.
“Wanna hear a story?” I asked.
“04T, east on Two, 242, CLEAR!”
Again, no idea what I was talking about, but she was thrilled.
“Wanna hear another?” I asked.
“Sure,” she giggled.
This story was totally unrelated to chasing trains, but I had her holding her head in laughter.
Now Mrs. Walton is up to 20,000 rpm. She could power a town.
I keep discovering girls love my makin’ ‘em laugh, even when my stories aren’t that funny — even the pretty ones I previously avoided.
In other words, Mrs. Walton and my parents were full-of-it!
“Wanna hear a story?”

• My wife of over 44 years died of cancer April 17th, 2012. I miss her immensely. Best friend I ever had, and after my childhood I sure needed one.


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Hippo sighting

Two I1sa’s ready for duty. (Courtesy Joe Suo Collection©.)

—The January 2018 entry of my Audio-Visual Designs black-and-white All-Pennsy Calendar is two I1sa Decapods (2-10-0) in Northumberland, PA.
They are probably preparing to take the famous Mt. Carmel ore-train up to Lehigh Valley Railroad at Mt. Carmel. From there the ore will continue to Bethlehem for its steel mills.
The ore probably came by ship to Pennsy’s Philadelphia docks. It was transloaded for delivery up Pennsy to Northumberland. There it will become the famous Mt. Carmel ore-train.
When first put in service after 1916, the I1s was so big crews called ‘em hippos. They’re not modern, mainly a gigantic 2-8-0 Consolidation with an extra driver-set.
Other railroads had Decapods, but only Western Maryland had Deks as large as the I1s. I1sa is a modification of the original I1s. “S” stands for superheat, although by then most steam-locomotives had superheat. I think all the Pennsy Deks were superheated — the letter “s” later fell out of use.
“A” was a modification of valve-events whereby steam was admitted to 78% of piston-stroke instead of the original 50%. This was probably to better use steam that HUGE boiler could generate — although I’ve heard Deks run out of steam (I have recordings).
The I1sa wasn’t a modern steamer with a high-capacity boiler. Its firebox grate was only about 70 square feet, a standard Pennsy firebox (the K-4s Pacific (4-6-2) is also 70 square feet. The Dek also lacks a combustion-chamber. Modern high-capacity steamers had combustion-chambers and 100 square-foot fire-grates.
Pennsy’s Dek also suffered many of the problems 10-drivered steamers have.
Mainly it’s long heavy drive-rods on small drivers, drivers too small to adequately counterbalance heavy side-rod weight.
The side-rods had to be heavy enough to withstand what a Dek could put out. Making them long enough to power five driver-sets made ‘em heavier yet. A K-4 was only three driver-sets; plus its drivers were much larger, so could accommodate more counterweighting.
A K-4 has 80-inch drivers; a Dek is 62-inches.
Deks rode rough. Minimal counterweighting with heavy side-rods limited a Dek to about 50 mph. And that was if you could stand it. Heavy vibration slammed you up-and-down.
Deks were the first Pennsy engines with stokers. Coal consumption was so extreme even two firemen couldn’t keep up. Deks were also hard to fire.
The Dek’s gigantic boiler/firebox made two other locomotives, the K-5 Pacific, and also the M-1 Mountain (4-8-2).
Only two K-5s were built. That boiler was too much for three driver-sets.
But the M-1 was probably the most successful steamer Pennsy had. The M-1 also had a combustion-chamber.
Pennsy had another 10-drivered steamer, its J-1 2-10-4. The J-1 wasn’t a Pennsy design; the railroad needed new power for WWII, but the War Board wouldn’t allow them to develop their own new freighters. Pennsy had to shop existing power on other railroads.
The J-1 is Chesapeake & Ohio’s T-1 Texas, also a 2-10-4, but slightly restyled. Its boiler/firebox is radial-stay T-1, not Pennsy’s trademark slab-sided Belpaire.
Furthermore the J is modern power. C&O’s T-1 isn’t Lima Locomotive, but it follows’s Lima’s “SuperPower” principles.” Mainly a HUGE boiler/firebox with appliances that enhance steam generation, The T-1s were made by American Locomotive Company.
After the war Pennsy developed even bigger 10-driver power, but they were duplex to reduce side-rod weight — 10 drivers, but four drive-pistons. Two powered six drivers, and the second two powered the four remaining drivers.
The J-1 suffered the same problems as any 10-driver steam-locomotive, mainly a HUGE rod-set to power five wheels per side. But those wheels are larger (69 inches) so could accommodate more counterweighting.

The Mt. Carmel ore-train. (Photo by Don Wood©. —To my mind, this is his best picture.)

An I1 was difficult, yet Pennsy had many, 598 total. They were especially good at mountain railroading. Pennsy’s Mt. Carmel branch is uphill. The extremely heavy Mt. Carmel ore-drag got two Deks pulling, plus two more pushing = four Deks total.
I was told the last steamer used by Pennsy was an I1 dragging coal into Altoona (PA) on November 27, 1957. —But I was also told the last Pennsy steamer was L-1 class 2-8-2 No. 2369 from Renovo on December 2, 1957.
Whatever. Both the I1 and L1 are early 20th century — fitting for Pennsy steam-usage ending with a whimper.
The last steamer on my beloved Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines (PRSL) was 5351, a K-4 Pacific, on November 2, 1957.
A ex-Pennsy 0-6-0 switcher remained in service on Union Transportation Company in New Jersey until July 17, 1959.
The Deks pictured use the gigantic “Coast-to-coast” tender, probably purloined from a retired Mountain or J. The Deks weren’t first used with a “Coast-to-coast.”



Yr Fthfl Srvnt caved.
I decided to carry my cheaters in my front shirt pocket. I always need ‘em. “I can’t read that. Where are my cheaters?”
I held out as long as I could, into my 70s. But my vision started degrading. My railfan brother, who accompanies me to Altoona, PA, to photograph trains, turned 60 last year.
He also wears cheaters. His eyesight degraded before mine — probably his genealogy. He also carries his cheaters.
“Wait a minute! I can’t see that!” Out come my cheaters.
“I can’t even sign my name.” I probably could, and often do, but cheaters help.
The ones in my pocket are my ‘pyooter glasses, 1.5X, I have others elsewhere, all 2.5X. I have five 2.5s, all compliments of Canandaigua Eye-Care Center.
I had an insurance benny of $100. Five times $20 is $100. “But I don’t need five pairs of cheaters,” I said.“Your benefit is $100; anything less is out-of-yer-pocket.”
So five pair of drugstore cheaters elegantly dispersed throughout my house, in my car, etc.
Silly as that was, I prefer Eye-Care Center. As a retired RTS bus-driver, I’m entitled to a negotiated vision-care benefit.
PASS! I prefer Eye-Care Center, which is paid by my health insurance.
The reason is Heidi Piper, M.D. , Houghton College, 1987. I could tell she was a Houghton grad as soon as I met her. “Get it right!” Extremely professional, and she cared about what she was doing instead of pulling rank.
I graduated Houghton in 1966.
Prior to Eye-Care, I was using vision-care at an HMO near Rochester, (I don’t know that HMOs exist any more.) They looked in my eyes, and noticed I had a scar.
“You’ll notice the scar,” I informed my Eye-Care Ophthalmologist. They went ballistic. “That’s a retinal tear; you need that fixed right away!”
DROP EVERYTHING! Heidi was brought in to do laser eye surgery. M.D. from St. Louis University School of Medicine, internship at Strong Memorial Hospital in Obstetrics and Gynecology, general surgery and Ophthalmology residencies at Penn State-Geisinger Medical Center, but BS from Houghton. Feet-on-the-ground, no posturing.
Why are so many Houghton graduates like that? I think it was because our professors weren’t elitists. They cared about us, and it rubbed off.
I’ve met a few Houghton grads over the years, and they all weren’t elitists. Feet-on-the-ground. The Executive-Editor at the Mighty Mezz was Houghton 1980.
Even a guy who was a complete jerk at Houghton now has his feet on-the-ground.
So now I’m awash in 2.5X cheaters, and I need ‘em.
When it comes time for cataract surgery I’m gonna advocate for Heidi.

• “RTS” equals Regional Transit Service, the public transit-bus operator in Rochester, NY, where I drove transit-bus for 16&1/2 years (1977-1993). My stroke October 26th, 1993 ended that. I retired on medical-disability. I recovered fairly well.
• The “Mighty Mezz” is the Canandaigua Daily-Messenger newspaper, from where I retired 12 years ago. Best job I ever had — I was employed there almost 10 years —worked there over 11 if you count my time as a post-stroke unpaid intern.


Monday, January 15, 2018

What happened?

The other night, in pursuit of long-ago bus-story, I started thumbing through old columns I wrote for the Canandaigua Daily Messenger newspaper.
Following my stroke I began as an unpaid intern, and was eventually hired. I preferred that over bus-driving. Writing was what I always wanted to do. Bus-driving was originally supposed to be temporary.
One day at the Mighty Mezz — I don’t think I was employed yet — I said to no one in particular: “If I were to write anything at all for this newspaper it would be that presidents don’t seem to wear hats.”
“So write it,” an editor said, instead of shutting me down.
They published it! So began my weekly column, which ran Wednesdays on their Op-Ed page.
To be fair, there was no charge. But I guess they thought well enough of it to never change anything.
So here I was reading column after column, perhaps 40 or more. It took at least two hours = to bed at midnight.
What happened? I don’t write like that any more. I found myself editing the way I do now; reduce excess verbiage, avoid passive-voice, etc. But where was the flair I had back then?
Thinking about it — I know, I was told at the Mighty Mezz “that there thinkin’ is dangerous” — it might still exist if I had what motivated my columns.
Like if I were writing about hot-air balloon rides (“Oh, the humanity”), wrastling with the I.R.S., bus-driving, etc. the flair would resurface.
As I age I pretty much stay put. Events that prompt colorful writing don’t occur much any more. Plus many of my columns dealt with childhood events.
But I feel like my colorful writing drifted away, perhaps for lack of anything dramatic to write about.
Writing (“slinging words”) is the talent I was apparently blessed with.
RE: “slinging words.....” —“But Dr. Zink” (my 12th-grade English teacher), “all it is is slinging words.”
“Hughes, you do that way better than most.”
I thought him joking at first, but later realized my writing works pretty good. Thankfully my stroke didn’t take that away.

Following is my “Presidents don’t wear hats” column:

When is the last time you saw a president wearing a hat?
If you were born or came of age after the early ‘60s, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve never seen a president wearing a hat.
My compatriots here at editorial central batted the idea around, and we all agree Harry “The Haberdasher” Truman wore hats, and Ike wore hats and was known to wear an Ivy League cap over his balding pate when he played golf. And Lyndon Johnson may have donned a 10-gallon hat at his Texas ranch, and our more recent presidents may have allowed the occasional errant telephoto to capture them with baseball hats or caps while piloting speedboats or golf carts.
But no president since Kennedy — which includes Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton — allowed himself to be caught doing his job wearing a hat. It’s as if somewhere behind the curtains in the Oval Office a shrouded media maven utters, “Thou shalt not wear a hat.”
What brought this on was the observation of our current president, Bill Clinton, on the TV news performing affairs of state at the new Lockerbie monument. The temperature was probably 45-50 degrees in Arlington Cemetery, and there’s Willie, sans hat, and no topcoat. Just the uniform presidential blue suit. It makes you wonder if the dude wears skivvies.
The image still exists of President Reagan in Reykjavík, sadly walking the sidewalk by the sea, downtrodden because he hadn’t been able to finesse Gorby into giving away the store. He was wearing a topcoat, but no hat. The famous shock of red-dyed hair was exposed to withstand Iceland’s icy blast.
It’s striking that since Kennedy no president has dared wear a hat... like it’s a symbol of yooth and vigah.
Well, I don’t know about you, but when the temperature drops, I put on a hat. I’ve tried to be presidential and do without, but I just get chills... and then sniffles... and eventually a cold.
Many years ago, my grandfather instructed me in this seemingly simple tenet of basic common sense.”Wear a hat,” he used to say.
I, for one, will be glad when our leaders return to sanity and wear hats. As far as I know, the president still pulls his pants on one leg at a time, so I’ll support the first candidate man — or woman — enough to wear a hat.

• For 16&1/2 years (1977-1993) I drove transit bus for Regional Transit Service (RTS) in Rochester, NY, a public employer, the transit-bus operator in Rochester and environs.
• The “Mighty Mezz” is the Canandaigua Daily-Messenger newspaper, from where I retired 12 years ago. Best job I ever had — I was employed there almost 10 years —worked there over 11 if you count my time as a post-stroke unpaid intern.
• I had a stroke October 26th, 1993 from an undiagnosed heart-defect since repaired. I pretty much recovered. Just tiny detriments; I can pass for never having had a stroke.


Saturday, January 13, 2018

My own calendar

(I decided to cut back even further.
Not many were reading my monthly calendar-reports. Doing them took gobs of time. A HUGE stack of cardboard sits in my garage awaiting chop-up for recycling. Lawn-mowing and laundry got delayed. Blogging on insanity got reduced, which is what I enjoy.
So I will blog only my own calendar. I still have three other train calendars of varying interest. Plus three other non-train calendars occasionally worth blogging. Still seven calendars, but more wall-art that changes every month.
If another calendar is worth blogging, I’ll do it.)

Herzog! (Photo by BobbaLew.)

—The January 2018 entry in my calendar is two helper-sets (four SD40Es) pushing a heavy Herzog ballast train toward The Mighty Curve.
I.e. the train is going away. The locomotives are pushing it toward Allegheny summit.
We are at Brickyard Crossing, where the old Pennsy main crossed little-used Porta Road, the only grade-crossing left in Altoona.
A brickyard used to be adjacent, but no longer is. The railroad, and railfans, still call it “Brickyard Crossing.”
A Herzog ballast train is extremely heavy. The cars are loaded with rock ballast, the stuff a railroad lays down between ties.
The lead locomotive has radio controls to operate the ballast cars. The train can dump ballast as it proceeds.
The train is probably going somewhere the railroad needs ballast. The ballast is quarried from rock crushed into 2-3 inch chunks. It drains well. You don’t want water puddling on the railroad roadbed. Wet spots sag, making bumpy track. It may even wash out or become inoperable.
When built, Allegheny Mountain was Pennsylvania Railroad’s greatest challenge.
In the early 1800s that mountain kept Philadelphia from trading with our nation’s interior. The Appalachians didn’t reach into NY state; therefore the Erie Canal.
To compete PA built a combination canal and portage railroad to Pittsburgh. Allegheny Mountain couldn’t be canaled. Grading back then was so poor the portage railroad had to have inclined planes.
Canal-packets were transloaded onto railroad flatcars, then winched up the planes by stationary steam-engines. Transloading was so cumbersome and slow Philadelphia capitalists came together to found a private common-carrier railroad much like the original Baltimore & Ohio. By then railroading was superseding canals.
John Edgar Thomson, who had built railroads locally, was brought in from GA. His primary trick was Horseshoe Curve, looping the railroad around a valley. It eased the grade over Allegheny Mountain enough to make through railroading possible.
Helper locomotives were needed, but a train didn’t hafta be sectioned to get over Allegheny Mountain. There also were no switchbacks. With switchbacks a train climbs into a switchback-tail, then reverses up to the next switchback-tail before continuing forward.
One wonders why Allegheny Mountain couldn’t be tunneled. That’s a four-to-seven mile tunnel. By now it could be done; but not back in 1840.
I overheard a tourist at the Mighty Curve ask why the railroad didn’t just trestle across the valley. “Because it would be too steep,” I responded. “Do that and ya gotta break the train.”
I also heard a lady ask “where’s The Hill?” 1.75% doesn’t look like much, but it’s a railroad. A heavy coal-train might be over 100 120-ton cars. 4% (four feet up for every 100 feet forward) would be near impossible. 6 or 8% highway grading would be impossible.
There are railroad grades exceeding 5%, but to climb them ya gotta break the train into multiple sections. Exceed 5% or 6% and adhesion railroading no longer holds the rail. Ya gotta cog it.
Steeper highway grading may seem advantageous, except trucking uses much more fuel. And those trucks aren’t moving over 12,000 tons. Every one of those trucks needs a driver. A 12,000-ton coal-train may only need two crewmen — additional on helpers over the mountain.
Railroading is so much more efficient, truckers hate it. But railroading is no good carrying and delivering small lots of freight, like a single trailer-load.
So double helper-sets shove the heavy Herzog train up Allegheny Mountain. Those helpers will probably stay on to hold back the train as it descends. Dynamic braking, dudes. (That’s a Wiki link.)
I could add here I try to run snow-pictures for January, February, and December. Melting snow if possible for March, and rain for April — although it may just be cloudy.
The weather has not accommodated, and both my brother and I are getting older. I’m soon to be 74, and he’s 60. When it’s frigid we dress for it. Four-five layers and long underwear for me. What we do is wait inside the car, out of the icy blast, monitoring our railroad-radio scanners. As a train passes a signal its engineer calls the signal-aspect on railroad-radio, and we’ll hear it.
“591 west on Two, 225; CLEAR!” Out of the car! Here it comes! Often I already have my camera outside on tripod.
Winter last year was lousy. Not much snow at all. I’ve seen better. Drifts blow and switches freeze. Water dripping in tunnels becomes icicles. The railroad has to knock ‘em down lest they shatter windshields.
Years ago my wife and I went to Gallitzin atop Allegheny Mountain. At least three-four feet of snow had fallen. Gallitzin was clogged. Front-end loaders were clearing the main drag.
That was after we started chasing trains with Phil Faudi, my expert railfan friend from Altoona. I wondered how we’d ever do it, but we did — and got some fabulous snow-photographs.
This Herzog picture is two-or-three years ago, long after that Gallitzin trip. (RoadRailer is along side on Track One, and the ‘Railer is no longer running.)
And now the picture I woulda liked to use:

Missing original. (Westbound stacker on Four.) (Photo by BobbaLew.)

What you see here is the blog-pik: 72 pixels-per-inch (screen-resolution), 5.597 inches wide (blog column width). What the calendar needs is far tighter resolution — my camera shoots at 300 pixels-per-inch. Crop the original and I usually get more than 300 ppi.
Shutterfly wants over 100 ppi, and justifiably. Enlarge a 72 ppi to calendar size, and one gets jagginess. The picture pixelates.
So do the original for the calendar. I can’t find it. Memory-chips are missing.
Oh well.... Such is life. Now everything I shoot goes camera-file on my computer. It seems able to swallow. 500-gig hard-drive, and I’m only 25% full. Hundreds of pictures are on it.


56 buttons

“Don’t forget,” I said to the Spectrum techie; “yer talkin’ to someone born in the previous century.”
Spectrum/Time-Warner is my cable-TV provider, also my Internet.
Spectrum will switch to all digital next Wednesday. I can imagine the torrent of phonecalls from angry Grannies: “Where’s Dr. Phil?”
“What’s on the telly, Dora?”
“A penguin.”
The techie came out to switch me to a DVR (theirs) which would crunch their new digital signal.
Yet another remote, this with 56 buttons. I already have two other remotes: my TV remote has 38 buttons, and my DVD remote has 52.
“You got so many buttons it’s intimidating. When I was a kid we only had three channels. Now yer channel-lineup looks like a thousand; both sides of an 8&1/2 by 17 sheet of paper with print so tiny I gotta use cheaters.
And back then TV was over-the-air. We had an aluminum antenna on the roof that howled in the wind.
It’s much better now. Too bad Howdy-Doody and Camel-News-Caravan weren’t what we have now.
Mention rabbit-ears and Millennials think yer talkin’ about rabbits.
Wait a minute! Yer toggling back-and-forth between this button and that? I gotta be able to drive this sucker!”
And contrary to what I was told, the new remote doesn’t turn on my DVD. TV yes, but not my DVD. Only my old DVD remote does that.
Nothing new: my old DVD remote had a button for turning on my TV, but it didn’t work either.
Techie gone, I’m left alone. “Try it and see what happens,” what got me able to drive this ‘pyooter.
“Got Internet?” the techie asked before he left. “Go to, and they got tutorials that walk you through drivin’ our remote.”
“Yeah sure,” I said. “I had a stroke. It’s called ‘information overload.’ I can’t compute all that.” (I already told him I was a stroke-survivor.)

• I had a stroke October 26th, 1993 from an undiagnosed heart-defect since repaired. I pretty much recovered. Just tiny detriments; I can pass for never having had a stroke.


I had a stroke (Nyuk-nyuk-nyuk)

“Yer talkin’ to a stroke-survivor,” I told the service-rep at Spectrum/Time-Warner.
Spectrum is my cable-TV and Internet. They’re going digital next week, which retires my DVD player. It won’t crunch their new digital TV signal; I hafta have a Spectrum DVR.
At first I wasn’t telling people I had a stroke. My aphasia isn’t bad, hardly noticeable.
It makes sense to spill in advance. My contact won’t get angry when I can’t get words out. “I may hafta have you repeat what you said, or you me.” Contacts become very tolerant. “If I stutter or slur, it happens all the time. Ask me to repeat. That way we communicate. My aphasia is slight, but that’s all it is.”
“Oh that’s okay Mr. Hughes; you sound fine.”
I had it happen before. I couldn’t get words out, so my contacts got angry. They thought I was angry. Sometimes Aphasia is so bad the stroke-victim can’t talk. Sometimes they can’t write — but I sure don’t have that problem. You know all-too-well my muse can’t shaddup.
My aphasia is only slight. Often stroke-victims don’t know they have it. I met a guy at the Canandaigua YMCA: “You had a stroke. I hear it.”
“What are you taking about?”
I’ve met other stroke-victims I barely understand. Yet they aren’t aware. Thankfully I’m aware of my Aphasia. It’s slight enough I can pass for never having had a stroke. But I have Aphasia.
One stroke-victim I knew used voice-recognition on his SmartPhone. I had to translate: what did he mean? More important: why did he not edit his voice-recognition?
Maybe he wasn’t aware his voice-recognition was messy.
I needed to set up a service-call for Spectrum to come and convert me to digital. “Make sure yer boss knows you did a good job.”
I always say that, but can because I warned my contacts in advance.
“You may get a survey regarding my performance. But that’s random.”
“In that case make sure yer boss knows. Tell ‘im; you have my blessing!”

• I had a stroke October 26th, 1993 from an undiagnosed heart-defect since repaired. It slightly compromised my speech. (Difficulty finding and putting words together.)

Friday, January 12, 2018

Continuing adventures with *****

“Fer cryin’ out loud!” I exclaimed. *****-the-lifeguard at the Canandaigua YMCA pool just told me she was 62 years old.
“I had you pegged in yer 40s,” I said.
“Well thank you,” she said.
The other day ***** was poolside as I was getting out. It seemed she wanted to shoot the breeze. I happened to notice her knees. Yep, wrinkles, age-spots, also crow’s feet around her eyes; she mentioned ‘em before. To me that’s 40s, not 62.
Driving home I did the math: amazingly in my head, not my iPhone calculator. My brother-from-Boston, who accompanies me photographing trains in Altoona, PA (we’re railfans), just turned 60 last year. He was born in 1957.
“That makes you 1955, right?” I would ask.
1955, the year Chevrolet turned things around. Before 1955 Chevrolets were turkeys. ’55 was first of the Tri-Chevys, 1955, ’56 and ’57. Probably the greatest Chevrolets ever made. All through high-school and college I lusted after a 1955 Chevy Two-Ten hardtop, four-on-the-floor, SmallBlock V8.
Mitchell’s Two-Ten hardtop. (Four-on-the-floor; converted to a 283 V8 from the six.) (Long-ago photo by BobbaLew.)
“Another useless fact,” I’d say. “In 1955 I was 11 years old. Still in south Jersey with my parents; we didn’t move to DE until I was 13 going on 14.
If yer 62, yer not far behind me. Also not far from retirement. I think I retired at 62, but not intentionally. I was getting so-called dizzy-spells, later deduced a medication side-effect. No more dizzy-spells after I stopped the medication.”
“So when ya gonna take her to lunch?” my hairdresser asked.
“Oh no,” I said. “That’s her move, not mine. I’d do it if she wants — I like talking to ***** — but I’m sure I’d quickly bore her to tears.
I’m too used to living on-my-own, and can easily entertain myself. I’m up to midnight every night, alone in my house, processing photos, “slinging words” (writing), solving ‘pyooter problems, etc. I never watch TV.”
Anyway, I have this habit of getting people upset. Just recently I tried to tell my aquacise coach I still miss my wife, and crashed in flames. I don’t want that to happen.
What I said yesterday is: “Yer where I was 20 years ago. Do this, do that, keep running, continue to eat right, and thereby remain young.”
If she’s 62, it becomes “10 years ago.”
Suddenly at age-49, POW; a totally unexpected stroke, caused by a heart-defect I didn’t know I had. That defect was repaired long-ago with open-heart surgery, chisels, buzz-saws, the whole kibosh.
And enough steel mesh to trigger the detectors in airport-security. Not actually, but I have a metal knee; I hafta tell the airport X-ray people.
“Total knee replacement, prostate removed, hernia repaired; this wasn’t supposed to happen.” I remember my doctors wondering why a guy who ran had a stroke.
I love jawing with *****, and hope I run across her when I show for aquacise.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

High-School Science-Project

Within the past year my deceased wife’s older brother, who’s still alive, and I’m good friends with, suggested I try online bank-deposit with my iPhone.
“Capital idea,” I thought. Save having to hit the bank just to deposit a check — which I don’t get often, maybe four or five times per year. Most deposits are electronic.
NY state mailed a property-tax rebate as a check. Endorse, then try online deposit.
Everything has to be done with my iPhone so the check can be photographed. That requires my bank’s app for iPhone. I installed it months ago.
I fired up the bank app; it wanted my log-in. CRASH! Insanity began: “invalid password.”
“NOT! I got it right here on a sticky.”
Oh well, nothing new. Maybe it timed out.
“Forgot password” — done it so many times it no longer drives me up the wall.
The bank wanted to send an “access-code,” so I could reset my password.
“Call this iPhone,” I instructed.
Ring-ring; “This call is auto-generated. Yer access-code is **-**-**-**.” (That’s secure?)
With that I could reset my password. I did, but then CRASH! “You can’t use an earlier password.”
I tried a variation, but that too was an earlier password. CRASH yet again.
“This is turning into a high-school science-project,” I yelled. “All I wanna do is deposit this check. Five minutes becomes a half-hour.”
“Not enough characters, no capital letters, no numbers. NAUGHTY-NAUGHTY!”
Manual set-up might take 10 minutes. 10 more minutes to go through the bank’s auto-window, which I pass anyway on my way to Canandaigua; plus my dog (now gone) loved it because the teller always gave her a MilkBone.
“Time-saving technology” is taking more time. (20 minutes manually versus 30 minutes online.)
Finally I was logged in. Now the actual transaction. I don’t do this often enough to remember procedure, but knew I had to photograph the front and back of the check with my iPhone.
Mysterious unknowable buttons: engage “try it and see what happens.”
I tried a button which snapped a picture. “Well, we got the front.”
Flop check then shoot again. The magic button was trigger-happy — my first attempt was way off-center. I tried a second time: off-center again, but not as bad.
Third attempt: centered enough to be acceptable. NOW WHAT? How do I get it to process? “Menu,” “submit,” nothing that indicates “process.” Again engage “try it and see what happens.”
Flying blind as usual; but I guess it processed.
“Time-saving technology” apparently means added minutes.
Okay, fire up laptop and bring in my bank.
“Invalid password.” (My laptop browser memorizes passwords.)
Why yes, I just changed my bank password with my iPhone; so I tried that. BOOM-ZOOM; IN!
“Update memorized password?” my browser asked. “I guess so.”
I know others my age who would throw up their hands.

• RE: “Manual set-up might take 10 minutes.......” —That’s to print. Just handwriting a deposit-ticket might take a minute. Whatever I do, I still gotta hit the bank.

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