Walking in the Winter

Walking downtown Omaha when the weather is nice is nice. There are so many different places to go and see. But when the weather turns bad it’s another story. In the past few weeks I have not walked nearly as much as I’d like to. Some days are just bitter. So I sit at my desk in misery. The chronic pain creeps in and I long for a good long walk.

I knew that if I could just get to the Brandies building I could get a really nice walk in. But from my location on 18th and Harney that was at least 5 blocks to make it to the 16th and Douglas entrance I was familiar with. With the temperatures getting down to the single digits, that just wasn’t going to work. I would tense up way to much to make it beneficial. So I started talking and exploring.
I figured there was at least a closer entrance to the Brandies building and by asking enough questions of my co-workers I found not only that, but a route that takes advantage of several other passages. So here goes.
Green portions are all inside

Starting at DOTComm I go up 18th to Harney and into the Douglas Omaha Civic Center. Down a hall, up an escalator and out the North entry.

I walk diagonally and then across the east crossing of 18th and Farnam and enter US Bank at their Southwest entrance. I walk through the building to the East entrance on floor down on 17th street. Just a few steps North brings me to an entrance of the 17th Street Parking garage. 
Interestingly enough. If you go down 2 flights of stairs you find your self in the Brandeis building mezzanine and food court. From there I start a 5 to 6 block walk all inside. Going from Brandeis to First National Tower, First National Bank, Double Tree Hotel, First National Technology Solutions and finally to the parking garage on 16th and Davenport. 
If I turn around and just come back I will have walked almost 30 minutes which is my goal. Today, I walked most of the inside part twice and was gone 45 minutes. I also encounter about 6 to 8 flights of stairs in that walk but they are broken up so I don’t notice them so much. And that’s how I get my walk in when it’s winter.
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Rocky

The last few years we have done everything we can to get rid of the animals. It started with Pongo our English Springer and Bob our Himalayan. They were both up in their years and had suffered from strokes. It came to be time to do the humane thing and put them down. Long time family pets but now Denise and I were becoming empty nesters of both kids and pets. (We didn’t put the kids down, they left on their own.)

Then the oldest moved back in with her husband, first child and their two dogs. A chocolate lab mix and a pit bull. What an interesting 8 months. Finally the kids were able to get back out on their own and we just had one more cat at the house.

When our youngest moved out of the house she claimed Blackie as hers and took the cat with her. So we were almost totally empty nesters now. Except…

During this past year our middle daughter was unable to keep her cat Rocky at her house so she asked if we could keep him for a couple of weeks. I’m not sure how long ago that’s been, at least 10 months.

In the spring we decided that Rocky needed to be more of an outdoor cat so we let him out. At first just for a few hours and eventually he was out most of the time. But he never missed a meal. That was until a few weeks ago, he stopped showing up.

We put out the regular notices of a missing cat. Neighbors all around us reported seeing him. Especially around a certain wooded area where they said he would be seen playing. But we never could find him.

Then finally today, a neighbor next to us said she saw him in an empty rental house behind us. Apparently there was a broken basement window that he went in but couldn’t get out. So we’re not sure how long he was in there but he is definitely a skinny cat now. We are nursing him back to health.

While we’re not so keen on having pets, we had really been worried about him. Denise especially is know for not caring much for cats but she was often looking for him and talking to the neighbors. So it’s nice to have him back. Now if we can just get the daughter to take him back…

To Google and Back!

Well, it’s taken me less than two weeks to give up on Google for mail and apps. There were just so many little things that I couldn’t do any more. So I’ve reloaded my Office 2013 Home Premium with a bit of a switch.

The thing I did like about Google was that it was all online. So in my move back to Microsoft, I am now using outlook.com rather than the fat client. All of my contacts, calendar and documents are stored in the cloud. And I have access to trimmed down versions of the office applications on the web, or I can use the full featured ones on my laptop.

I’m much happier now. I have a preview pane for my mail, I can split contents of spreadsheet columns without using some funky formula, the list goes on…

I am keeping a couple of things on Google. I like Google Sites and Blogger. So all of my blogs will stay on Blogger and I have found some really neat uses for Google Sites. To my knowledge Microsoft doesn’t have an equivalent for that.

I guess this is the crazy world we live in now. Things just seem so fluid. Nothings black and white. Remember when there was a 300 baud modem? Computers weren’t complicated then. You did all your work in one place and then you went and did something else.

Now you have your computer with you everywhere. It’s on your desktop, your lap, looks like a notepad, and in your phone. And you want them all to play nice, but they don’t. I’ll probably find a reason to change it all tomorrow but until then I’m comfortable with my choice(s).

Learning fingerstyle from Denny Zager

A few years back I was looking for a new guitar and found the site of Denny Zager. If you’re as old as I am you probably remember the song “In the Year 2525”! These days Denny lives in Lincoln NE. builds guitars and gives lessons. I’m not sure if he does one on one training any more but he does have an extensive library of training videos and workbooks to teach the fingerstyle method that he has developed over the last 40 or so years.

If you visit his site, you’ll find that he has quite a system that he has developed for building incredibly easy to play guitars. And the prices are for the common person. When I bought my guitar he was still taking peoples guitars and applying his techniques to them. I wish I had done it at that time. Now he has moved on to his own line of guitars.

Depending on how well I do with this new fingerstyle technique I may consider a new guitar. I’d really like to have a ZAD50CE for my next guitar! I have played some alternate tunings lately, my favorite being EABEBE that Jars of Clay use a lot. I’d like to be able to just leave one guitar in that tuning and have another in standard tuning.

But for now I’m just learning to play fingerstyle like never before. I’ll see how that goes, then maybe I can talk the wifey into a new guitar!

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What’s important

Recently I added one of those “cloud” widgets to the blog to show the categories that are available on the-jacobsens and to count how many articles are available under each topic.

As you can see by this classic web 2.0 design, Fibromyalgia is leading the pack on the articles that I am writing. Now I understand that having just completed a pain program that completely changed my life has a lot to do with this. I shouldn’t get too worked up yet.

The thing that I find interesting is how the other topics either rise or don’t rise to the top. I think about what is important to me and where do I spend my time. Faith and Family, you would think should rise to the top. Family only has one post. I’m also very interested in the political climate today and you would think I would have something to say about that.

In my About Me sideline I say that “I want to be me”. I think that is some of what I’m trying to decide here. Who is me? Did I really just say that?? Yes, I did.

I think this web 2.0 widget gives me some insight into who I am. The topics that cause me to write blogs are the ones that will rise to the top. Hopefully, I will find that I am spending the right amount of time and energy on the right things.

Blog it already! Will you?

I’ve been doing a lot of blogging lately. The pain program, Going Google at work and home and other things have given me a lot of stuff to talk about. I find that I can churn out a lot of posts. Michael Hyatt a popular blogger and platform evangelist, talks about getting your posts out without spending too much time on them.

I don’t like to proof read to much. I’ll write a post and read it. Most times I’ll find that I didn’t quite develop the thought like I wanted to so I’ll do a little re-arranging. Then I’ll give it a final read and shoot it out. That’s it. Not much processing or production for me to get a post posted.

Then it happens that I’ll be looking up a post to send a copy to someone who was interested in a certain topic or thought and I’ll find that really stupid English mistake or spelling problem. The other day I wrote a comment relating that I was searching my sole. But I haven’t looked at the bottom of my feet for quite a while.

I do find that I like getting things written as soon as I can. I can have two or three topics come to me and if I let them set, they’re gone. I like to grab my computer and write 500 words, get the thought out of my head and move on.

So, if you’re reading my stuff and find some really stupid English. Well…. It’s not unexpected. You can let me know. And if I’m not deeply involved in speed writing another post, I may fix it. Or not.

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I’ve Gone Google!

I have used Google in my Web Marketing business for a number of years now. The Adsense, Adwords and Analytics products have been key in monetizing my sites. I have also used the Google Webmaster Tools to track the submission of URL’s and identify site errors.

Now, I’m turning my attention to my personal productivity. Because of my experience in IT I have tended to want a high degree of control over my email. I also tended to think that I needed a high level of functionality. What I have come to terms with is that I don’t want to spend my time on the very technical aspects of managing my own technology. I also needed to determine what I truly needed in the productivity suite.

Another thing I have been mulling over is that my laptop is a beast. It’s heavy and it has a lot of fat applications loaded on it. So as I look at this whole concept. I want to see what is tying me down to my big fat laptop.

So lets start ticking off the issues.

Mail. Once I started using Gmail I found that my life became easier. I ported my personal email addresses over as pop3 accounts, deleting the email from the server when it was downloaded. I migrated all of my legacy email up to the new account along with my calendar and contacts. During this part of the change, I also tied all of this tightly to my Google+ profile. This is the beginning of my online platform.

Documents. Everything has been moved to Google Drive. I separated my true documents from the storage of my website source code and archives. Now I’m starting to realize the benefits of having everything in the cloud. No matter where I am or on what computer I can get to 90% of what I need.

Productivity Applications. Two nights ago, I uninstalled the complete Microsoft 2013 Office Premium suite from my laptop. This was quite a freeing event for me. Now that I only have the Google Apps to use. I can commit to migrating my documents to that format. Google addresses documents, spreadsheets, presentations, drawings and forms. This takes care of a lot. For Access I can use either the spreadsheet or I have access to MySQL for heavy lifting. The other things I need to consider is Visio (I think I can use autodesk online) and project.

Blogging. I used to blog on WordPress blogs that I hosted on my own servers. Again I needed to get myself out of the technology business and concentrate on what I really wanted to accomplish with blogging. I have moved my personal blog to blogger. Redirecting my personal domain name to Google. I still have a business blog to move. I found that this was not an easy task since there is not a good permalink match between the two and the workaround was a very manual process to complete.

What’s left?  I use netbeans for development. I have tried a few online IDE’s but have found them wanting. This is an application where I really need the functionality that netbeans provides. I say “need” but I have to remember that I have adapted very well with the other areas so I have to keep an open mind.

So what does this all mean to me? What have I accomplished?

I really like the ability to get to most of what I need from anywhere. I also feel like I’m leaving behind some legacy boat anchors. I am learning to use all of the social and collaborative tools of the Google suite. I’m linking Facebook, Twitter and Google+ to everything I do. I’m excited. I like being a consumer of technology.

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The overtime challenge

I knew that this week was coming. It’s a big project at Dotcomm and the roll out was scheduled for November 11th. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that I’d be working more hours this week.

Now there’s no way that I could do the 16 hour days of yesterday. That just wasn’t going to happen. But I figured there would be 10 hour days and missed lunches. The question was, how was it going to affect my pain plan.

Monday was Veterans Day so that was a scheduled day off. Since it was the day before the “Go Live” for Google email, we decided that we should come in and make sure everything was ready to go. So I came in about 8:00 and stayed until 2:30 to work on documentation. So that day was fine. Not a big deal other than it being Veterans day and I had places to go and things to do!

For the rest of the week my boss said to plan on 9 hour days. Starting at 7:00 am. and ending at 5:00. Yesterday I came pretty close to that. I was here at 9, worked through lunch and left at 5:30. Not the kind of day that I had planned. I ended up cancelling my evening plans so I could reset up for today.

And with that schedule I also skipped my walking and doing hardly any stairs. So I was setting myself up for failure. To top it off, we had a lady up here with the Linus cloud of perfume. Chemical Sensitivity and allergies were on the war path. My limbic system was on full alert. Thank fully an email to my favorite Physical Therapist at the Pain Management Program helped to get me settled down.

So what are my take-a-ways?

1. I can challenge myself but don’t forget the system. Keeping the pacing program in tact is what will make tomorrow a better day.
2. Be mindful of what I am doing to myself. Don’t catastrophize when your testing your boundaries.
3. Be aware of others. If you are in a situation different than normal it’s likely that others are facing changes too.

I don’t mind doing the long hours as a one off. But this isn’t for me for the long term. I’ll have to keep that in mind as I consider long term goals.

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Veterans day thank you’s

This morning, I stopped at HyVee for breakfast. What a nice event and gesture. I was greeted by their welcoming volunteers and showed the way to a great breakfast. They had scrambled eggs, hash browns, bacon, sausage, biscuits and gravy, and cinnamon rolls and they asked. Do you want it all? That’s more than I can eat.

I sat down a visited with a fellow who was a guardsman and one of the lade volunteers visited with us too. Nice event. Wish I could have hung around and drank some more coffee.

At lunch I met up with 3 other guys from church at the Texas Road House. I was really surprised by how fast we got in. They didn’t seem as busy as I thought they would be. One of the guys that was with us had been a Hungarian translator in the Army and another was a Global weather forecaster who jumped out of airplanes with special forces. It made for some interesting conversation. I was the common denominator with this group. They really didn’t know each other, but judging by the conversation, I think they made some life long friends.

This evening my wife and I took her father and mother to Applebees. He was had received a bronze star for his contributions in the Battle of the Bulge during WWII. Our daughter Sarah works there so we made sure to get one of her tables. It was an honor to get to bring the 92 year old, Ronnie out for the evening. Another fine meal.

Thank you to all of the businesses that make this possible. I think it’s really nice to just get a meal and have a chance to visit with fellow veterans. So much of the time it is veteran organizations that promote support of the troops, holding special events etc. It’s nice to have a day for us that is so well supported by you. Thanks!

 

My Health Care Plan part 3

Okay, so this last post isn’t so much about health care, but it’s going to carry through on a theme of independence. The first two described methods to remove or reduce other peoples control over your healthcare. They also looked at ways to reduce costs or at least gain control over how your money is used.

I had hinted at this when I wrote about becoming self insured in areas like short term disability. Using a common tool taught by Dave Ramsey. The Emergency fund. The neat thing after you have established an emergency that will cover 3 to 6 months of needs is that it also covers other areas.

How many maintenance plans have you purchased for household appliances, electronics or your car? Not needed if you have an emergency fund. What about other areas of your life and finances where other people control what you do. Does your employer offer vacation? How much? What if you wanted 3 weeks when he only provides 2. The question is who is going to pay for the extra time off?¬†Well that’s one question. Sometimes the employer doesn’t want you gone regardless of who pays for it. But in that case you need to decide what is more important.

What about retirement. I have always planned on retiring at 60. Many people think there is no way to do that. I think they just haven’t considered how much their homes cost them, or how many “things” that they are supporting that they don’t need to. You can eliminate a lot of baggage from your life and find that you can afford to not work so hard. It always kills me when people say that both the man and the wife have to work. But they have cable TV, cell phones with data plans, cars with all the neat gadgets etc. They don’t have to work. They need to figure out what it costs to have all that junk!

Now I’m considering retiring as soon as I sell the house. We’ll buy an RV and travel. I’ll work when I need to get some extra gas and food money. We won’t have lots of toys but we’ll have plenty of time. We’re always complaining about being too busy. Why is that? We allow it! We think we have to go, go, go. One of the activities I’ve really enjoyed lately is walking. 30 minutes a day gives me a good workout and if I let someone tag along we usually have a good discussion. We take different routes and look at the scenery, or stop and visit friends that we don’t see enough of.

All of these things are made possible by decisions. Often they are not possible when we just blunder through life with no planning. Or planning but setting standards that don’t need to be set. Who says I have to have ‘x’ amount of money before I do something. Turn that question around and say I have ‘x’, how do I do ‘y’ regardless. You’d be surprised at how creative you can be. It only get’s better with practice.

Over this last summer Denise and I have been working on downsizing. It’s amazing how much stuff we have sold and I can’t say I miss anything. We were able to pocket a little cash and we reduced the baggage in our life. The option of selling our house and buying a RV seems so real now. There’s no real stress now that we’ve relieved ourselves of a bunch of burdens.

So that’s it. This is all part of the health care plan. De-stressing our life. Doing the things we really want. Making plans and actually doing things that we always thought we would do….. later.

 

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