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Murphy’s Brother?

I swear, it never fails, there are some days when the stars aren’t right or the planetary alignment is a hair from its optimum level of confustication.

Or something.

It’s a gorgeous day out and the air is pleasant, despite a wild looking November sky that’s pretty enough to suit an Impressionist painting. I don’t think I could ask for more perfect conditions for a little outdoor photography.

That last piece of my camera mount that I ordered a few days ago is out for delivery, according to the tracking number the seller provided me. One hitch: it’s going on 3:30 in the afternoon, definitely past my bedtime.

What are the odds that the mail would be unusually late today, I ask? No, there’s something fishy going on.

It’s not quite an example of Murphy’s Law, since technically nothing has actually gone wrong, it’s just that the critical factor, that camera mount, is late enough that taking photos isn’t going to happen today. It must be Murphy’s idiot brother at work…or maybe a cousin from the bad side of the family, running some corollary of the Law in my neighborhood like he’d run a crooked game of three-card Monte.

A pox on you and your family, Murphy me lad.

An Anchor Would Be Nice

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks, and I’m encouraged by the way this writing I’ve done lately has been evolving, certainly beyond my expectations.

Last week I submitted and published my first article over at the American Daily Herald, and another topic fell into my lap at just about the same time, one I didn’t feel right ignoring. Happily, this article was accepted as well, and it’s been published and is available now if you’d care to have a look. Processing all the data while researching it was draining, but I found myself genuinely enjoying the act of writing a more disciplined piece as much as I do putting together a blog entry. How cool.

I find myself wondering just how far I can go writing opinion and commentary on a regular basis. Our world, especially over the past few years is what our military friends would call a ‘target rich environment,’ to be sure, I just wonder how my fatigue and diminished multitasking skills will mesh with the task. We shall see.

It doesn’t help that the gorgeous fall weather is distracting me. I catch myself spending a lot of time thinking about the beauty of the season and its effect on me. Every year I learn a bit more about autumn, not from an academic point of view, but in the visceral feelings I notice most at this time of year. I’ve talked about it before, the wistful feeling in the air that’s unique at this time, and as usual it’s more complex than I’m able to describe properly. I might begin to get close by saying that in autumn for me the heat of summer fades differently than the chill of winter departs in spring.

Spring, being a young season and therefore a bit on the stupid side, is more brash and confident in the way it unfolds than is autumn. I think that last of the summer’s warmth doesn’t really last very long, but may seem to because it’s somehow more placid; like people, it’s got experience and some perhaps even wisdom with some age and maturity to rely on. It’s in no hurry to move on to make way for winter, a thing that appeals to me, though I’m undecided as to whether I like that sense of languorous ease in the air better or the fact that I take the time to recognize it. People so often refuse to think about or see things beyond the length of their noses, and I suspect an awful lot of them simply don’t notice something that’s always been important to me. This is like appreciating a secret that’s in plain view…people could enjoy it as much as I do, all they’d need do is allow themselves to. That’s a pretty fair idea to me, and goes back to what I’ve already written about how important creative and independent thinking are in simply being able to enjoy life…you can’t appreciate something if you’re unaware of its existence.

I’m only human, so I can’t say I see the days passing with any degree of acceptance of or resignation to my limited situation. I enjoy each with an almost rebellious fierceness, and I’m reluctant to let go of any time I can be conscious and awake to relish it. Days like these aren’t meant to be spent inside or close to the house. Dining al fresco at a restaurant, flying my models at a park, or even picking up a few things at the store late in the day to bask in that fall feeling of an early dusk as the sun sets earlier…those are the ways to enjoy autumn weather. You sip it, not swill it, savor it, not merely taste it. I know that we’ll get my Honda converted in time for me to do this, but I confess it’s tough waiting. Worse than that is knowing that those days, once past, stay past, all because of the lack of a glorified appliance!

I have noticed something about the way time is passing for me that I find rather disturbing. It moves along faster than it used to. I know, I know, for me and everyone else out of their forties. I just have a hunch that this isn’t my imagination working overtime…I think it’s because once you become essentially housebound, not only are the days painfully similar, so is the daily routine, and any well entrenched routine automatically goes faster as time goes by. There’s something else apart from that, too: not long ago I remarked that becoming disabled was analogous to stepping from a merry-go-round, but it’s even more like a boat that’s loosed and takes off, moving swiftly along in a river’s current…it’s just that from my perspective, it’s the world rushing away. The water may be dead calm but I know I’m moving, though the illusion’s convincing.

As the title says, I need an anchor to keep world from rushing away quite so fast. Ultimately, nothing will be as effective in that role but getting my Element modified. It won’t retrieve my old life back, I am very clear on that, but it will do, without a doubt. As with an anchor, it won’t allow me to move upstream again, but will surely slow my movement downstream. I already know part of what’s waiting for me:further disability, pain and frustration to name a few. It’s dimmer there and the colors of the world somehow seem muted to my eyes from my place here. I hope you’ll excuse me for not being in much of a hurry to reach that destination.

Since I’m constrained for at least the time being from the kind of involvement with the world at large I need…and I’m confident I’ll eventually attain…I try to keep as much of the world here with me as I can. My computer sims, my hobbies and of course writing all help with that, and I hope this new venture of writing online columns will be extra effective. They’re my way of casting weighted lines in the river that’s carrying me along in hopes they’ll snag on something ans slow my headlong plunge…even a little bit. I like to think I have something in common with the personification of autumn I mentioned: I prefer to take my time in getting anywhere.


Friday morning is clear, sunny…and decidedly cool, definitely a true Autumn Morning. I’m enjoying the feel of the air, not deep autumn by any means, but it has a snap to it, even though it’s barely there…it’s just not matured yet and is still kind of weak and pathetic.

It’s clear that summer is over and done. We may get a few warm days yet, in fact I really hope we do, since flying season is always too short and my airplanes don’t seem ready to go into hibernation just yet. There’ll be plenty for me to do with my hobbies over the winter though, so I’m fine with it either way. Ditto for my PC sims, I need to scrape the rust from myself in Rise of Flight, and one of these days need to get me one of the new SPAD 7 scouts, a plane that’s been anticipated for a long time. I got so busy flying my models I forgot to save a few bucks by pre-ordering it, a first for me. Tsk…they do say that the mind is the first thing to go.

Also, I just learned that the railroad sim I enjoyed so much last year is morphing into the new and upgraded Train Simulator 2012 in one week, and it comes at no additional cost to us Railworks 2 owners. Those devils are even releasing the Horseshoe Curve add on, probably the most famous railfan site in the real world just to entice suckers like me. The real one’s near Altoona, Pennsylvania, and the developers are including a bunch of Pennsylvania Railroad locomotives and rolling stock for use in free roaming or goal oriented scenarios to use in it. By Thanksgiving you can bet I’ll be sitting in the cab of a 1950s F-unit at the head of a passenger train in Tuscan Red, or driving a multiple unit lash-up of Geep freight locos painted in Brunswick Green dragging a long freight train up the grades. It should make for a fun Christmas too, I mean really, what kid doesn’t like playing with his trains on Christmas morning?

This blog continues its own metamorphosis, too. You’ve probably noticed the change I made just yesterday up in the header, the ‘About’ page is now two pages, the ‘Mission In A Nutshell’ page and the misleadingly short-named ‘Bio.’

As some of you have noticed on my other posts elsewhere, I’ve been wondering how to increase the traffic here, and hopefully the number of donations with it. Sometimes my idiocy jumps up and smacks me in the face…I realized the very very obvious fact that my original ‘About’ page was way too long for any casual visitors, but didn’t include much about my history and background that others might find interesting. Splitting it in two was the answer. Now, ‘The Mission In A Nutshell’ describes my situation, what needs to be done to remedy it, and my plan for doing so in the most compact way I could present it, so that even the most jaded and impatient reader should be able to decide whether my cause is worthy of them to at least donate a dollar toward it.

The new ‘Bio’ page is a lot longer than the original ‘About’ page, which mainly focused only on the last few years of my life. Since I didn’t magically materialize as a disabled MSer one day, I added details about where I came from, school, all those things that a web surfer would likely sneer at as far too wordy when they just want the facts, but friends and interested parties might find engaging.

I like playing with ideas to spiff up the look of the blog too. The good news is that WordPress has so many options to customize the look of a blog, but that’s the bad news too: there are so many and I’m such a noob at this that I don’t even understand what most of them are for, and trying to learn what does what and what goes where tends to lock my brain up. I’ll get there eventually, but it ain’t happening right away. Then there are the third party widgets and add ons to complicate the situation…no shortage of those either. I found a nifty one this morning, a graphic widget for displaying YouTube videos in a multipane thumbnail format. You can have a look at it here, but it might be a while before I can puzzle out how to use it. I got as far as discovering it’ll work with WordPress, so it’s a safe bet that it’ll make it here at some point. I do love new gadgets, even virtual ones.

Speaking of YouTube, I haven’t forgotten my quest to convince someone more recognizable (and photogenic) than just me to make a short dedication/endorsement video that I can make a sticky on the front of this blog. I’ve written to yet another one of those folks with a YouTube channel, and though I have yet to receive a reply from any of my inquiries, I can be mighty persistent when it comes to important stuff like this…in a very polite and diplomatiic way, of course. Sooner or later one of these good people will succumb to my wheedling, and whether they do it out of sympathy or just because they pity me, it will happen.

Changes, alternatives, roads less traveled…there are many ways to defur a feline. I’m just chock full of clever ideas, I just need to stay frosty and not let my brain get overloaded 🙂


Saturday Morning, Redux

Ye gods, Constant Reader…autumn is here.

After a week of dreary grey skies, wind, and fairly constant lashings of cold rain, the sun finally came out today with some enthusiasm, so out I went and found it waiting for me.

Though the clouds have abated for the moment and the winds were calm, it was downright chilly today. Autumn chilly, no mistake about it. That’s no joke for me, the MS affects the muscles controlling circulation in my limbs, and they often get clammy to the touch, noticeably cooler than normal body temperature. Add to this the fact that my year round uniform is shorts and a T shirt since with my train wreck of a body I can’t deal with buttons, snaps, zippers or long pants. Even with a lap blanket, when it’s chilly the blistering top speed of my chair (5.4 mph going downhill) makes for enough relative wind to have me shivering, and my left hand was curled up like a spider after being poked by the time I reached my destination.

Still and all, it was a lovely morning and I very much enjoyed the trek out to my flying site. You can’t miss the different feeling in the air, the angle of the sun and the look of the sky you get with autumn. Leaves are already falling, even though it was still emphatically summer only a couple of weeks ago and the temperatures at midday were hinting at blast furnace levels.

I really like autumn, it’s my favorite season followed by spring, then summer respectively. Winter I haven’t much use for, it’s grim, dismal, cold and dead. Autumn is subtler and more complex, just a bit melancholy in a dreamy, wistful sort of way. I’ve come a long way from when I was a kid…I hated fall then with a passion. Summer vacation’s over, and for me the whole back-to-school thing that so many enjoy was for me more like a return to prison after being paroled. Being forced to spend more time around my parents wasn’t the funnest thing, either…without going into too much sordid detail, back then my folks weren’t the stereotypical Robert Young and Jane Wyatt type by a long stretch…let’s just say they had some issues and were extremely good at coming up with new and improved ways to put the ‘fun’ in ‘dysfunctional’ on a regular basis. My mom, bless her, got over the worst of hers, but my dad went to his grave still proudly displaying his timeworn but well-polished Miserable Bastard merit badge. Ah, well.

Since I grew to adulthood, though, I’ve learned to really enjoy and relish the autumn season. We get some pretty fall colors even here in Tennessee, and of course there’s the holiday season to look forward to…and I do, the secret is not to overdo things and keep focused on what I believe are the very real, positive aspects holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year celebration can offer. No rush, mind you, I’ll be busy taking in the fall.

One of the very few good things about multiple sclerosis, at least for me, is a noticeably higher sensitivity to subtle nuances you find even in the mundane things in the world. That hint of melancholy I mentioned is stronger for me these days than when I was healthy, a not unpleasant sense of longing that can almost be savored like a well-brewed tea…and like tea it doesn’t have much in the way of body or substance, but it certainly has a distinctive flavor.

With my relatively new paradigm of motoring about the neighborhood in my powered chair, as the weather cools it means the end of my flying season, no two ways about it. Flying model aircraft is one of the few real joys I have left in my life, and its absence for several months will be keenly felt. Even that’s okay by me, though, since I’m planning some serious therapy this winter in the form of attempting to build some models for next spring, a big unknown for me, given the loss of function in my left hand. That’s why it’s therapeutic, like flying my planes or helicopter, building things demands I use that hand, and I’ve already been pleasantly surprised by the workarounds I’ve been able to learn to fly well and perform other tasks that I’d previously thought weren’t doable. Being left-handed and losing most of the use of that hand is daunting, but learning those workarounds has encouraged me, as well as the fact that my ‘dumb’ right hand has also picked up a lot of the slack.

In short, there appears to be life in the old dog yet. It’ll be slow going, but I think if I can keep my temper and not blow any gaskets I’ll produce some good results. My first project is a tiny replica of the Great War era Sopwith Triplane, as represented by a kit predominantly constructed of Depron foam and balsa. I expect it’ll be a royal pain to build even though I’d have considered it brainlessly simple just a few short years ago…but the lure and promise of the finished bird is all the motivation I need. Even unpainted it looks glorious to my eyes:

This morning, though, I was mainly concerned with getting my chilled and curled hand behaving at least a little. When I reached my parking lot/aerodrome, I unloaded my gear and found it as useless as I feared it would be. Lecturing and threatening it didn’t seem to do much, so lacking any facility for warming it up, I just sat on it. Yep, I sat on my hand like a chicken warming an egg.

By the by, if I haven’t mentioned it before, I strongly recommend that you healthy folks avoid developing any neurological diseases like MS…not only is it incredibly annoying, it really does cramp the old lifestyle. Yeah, lame attempt at humor…sue me.

Sitting on my hand actually seemed to work, and before long I got my little Aeronca Champ airborne and doing its thing, which is mainly gently flying around and looking pretty. For me, the sight of a classic aircraft purring around in the sky is like balm for the soul, and I enjoyed the time I spent this morning thoroughly. When I decided to call it quits, the airplane cooperated by rewarding me with a perfect landing and I taxied it back to my feet, thinking kind thoughts about this little contraption of foam and little electronic biscuits that gives me so much pleasure.

On the return trip home, the day had warmed a bit, but I wasn’t fooled. The occasionally falling leaves, the tilt of the sun, along with the other things I’ve talked about here were the giveaway Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, the poet Robert Herrick wrote some time ago, as an excerpt from his work instructs:

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today,
Tomorrow will be dying.

See? Pretty but a bit sad and wistful, the way I feel about this time of year. In a similar vein, since I’ve already admitted that I believe everything in life should be set to music, I’ll leave you to consider this piece from a different time…

…Okay, okay, I know the song is a bit hackneyed these days, it’s actually about winter, not autumn, and I have no longing in my heart at all for California. Visiting it once was enough, and with all due respect to any denizens of that state who may be reading this, I wouldn’t choose to live there, which goes double for L.A., a city I wouldn’t live in on a dare. Still, for some reason this song just works for me and I always hear it echoing in my head at this time of year.