Verizon – you kidding me?

So, my daughter called me looking for an old flip phone that she could use to replace a phone she got for her daughter to use. She had gotten a flip phone that Verizon offered that is simple with limited functionally.  It can do mobile calls and text message only.  No internet access, no apps and no games any teen wants to play.  It worked well for a parent who wants to limit a young child’s use of technology. This is understandable.  It provides a comfort that they can communicate, but none of the bad attributes that a smart phone allows – addition to their games, screen, or Internet access.

I have a number of old Verizon phones around from my past. Before I searched for them,  I asked her doesn’t Verizon have a free or cheap phone that she could get.  She told me she tried to get a similar flip phone and found out Verizon now charges $160 for what she got for free.  My daughter is a teacher so she is not paid much and felt that was an expense she could handle at the time.  So, I found an old flip phone in my stash of old phone as well as a few older smart phones. 

Then I went to Verizon’s website to see if I the old flip phone would activate on their web site. The message from Verizon’s website said: “This phone is not compatible with our network.”  We know that is not true for it ran on Verizon’s website a few years ago. What Verizon really means is that they don’t want to support older phones. I get that, but why not be honest?  I tried an  iPhone 4s that just two years ran fine on Verizon. It also was ‘not compatible’.  I tried asking the Chat box that pops up on Verizon’s web site. She tried to sell me a new line for my plan.  When I told her it wasn’t for me, she and that I was not going to add a line for to find out if it worked or not, she suggested i got into the store and talk to them.  What? She can’t help unless she can sell something?  I did find my old Samsung III would work, but it is a smart phone. 

The problem with a smart phone is that, by default, they allow access to the Internet on her Mom’s family plan.  Of course, one can turn off Mobile Data, and turn off Wifi, and any remove any apps that have back door access to the internet.  However, a smart child can easily learn how to turn data access back on.

So, if one can’t afford a low technology phone that has limited features, I thought, doesn’t Verizon offer parental controls to manage their kids access?  I found it, but you have to pay $4.99 a  month for it?  Really?  This should be a free feature. 

So, I won’t go into other issues I have had with Verizon, including the difficulty I had in finding out if an older phone was supported or not, and how hard it was to find how much it cost for a feature to place controls on your kids cell phone use.  I also won’t go into many other interactions I have had with Verizon and just how hard it is to do business with them. If I, or my daughter, were rich, we probably would not be so frustrated with them.

For now, I just wanted to vent and let others know, Verizon does not provide free parental controls or make it easy to get limited basic phones.  With all the issues today with young children being always on their phone, you would think that a company like Verizon would not capitalize off a feature that parents should have to limit their child’s phone use.




A dad’s view – first posted on
Walk 2600 miles?

Who want’s to expose themselves to mountain lions, bears, Poodle Dog Brush, heat stroke, dehydration, corneal flash burns, extreme snowfalls, raging creeks, falling off a mountain and a higher risk of dying? 

The people who do these long,  multi month hikes  are called “Thru Hikers”.  You can read about them on the net and in books like ‘Wild”, “A Walk in the Woods” and “Thru-Hiking Will Break Your Heart”.  They admit to the dangers. There are others.

Who enjoys filter their drinking water from creeks that cows and deer pee in; sleep on the ground exposed to rattlesnakes, rocks, and bugs; walk in the rain, sleet and snow; go days without a shower, a comfortable place to sit, or rest;  eat only what they can carry on their back, mix with water and eat with a spork; dig a cat hole to take a dump, carry their used TP around in their backpack, and dry out their stinky socks while they are tied to their chest?
My son and I have hiked a number of times.   I understand the pleasure of being outside in nature, enjoying the vistas, smells of the forest, magic morning light, wonderful sunsets, night sky full of stars, and even meeting animals in the wild.  But, I can get that 300 feet from my house, I don’t have to walk far to experience this.
My Son will start his thru hike of the PCT on April 19. He plans on walking 2600 miles over 5 – 6 months.

He asked me  if I was interested in joining him.  I can’t imagine spending months away from my wife and home.  Also, since I’m 73, have an artificial aortic heart valve and have limits of my discomfort, I declined.

I will also admit that I don’t understand what there is about thru hiking.  He and I have hiked 30 miles with 35 pound packs on our back, climbed 14,000 ft mountains, woke up to sub-freezing temperatures, and dug our share of cat holes. I even tolerated a mountain goat a few feet away watching, waiting for me to finish. 

But, the longest I have been out on a trail is three days. I knew that any discomfort would end soon.  The discomfort of lost toenails, sore pack shoulders and three days of being dirty, sore, exhausted were enough for me. I looked forward to ice in my Dewars, a shower and real bed.
What drives PCT thru hikers?  Are they nuts, crazy, thrill seekers, suicidal?  We have had many conversations about it. I have read blogs, reports, books, watched V-logs and still do not understand.
When he asked me if I would be his cyber-base support assistant, I agreed. We talked about what message he wanted to communicate or write about. I suggested he help me answer the questions of ‘Why?”  Why do these people do it?
The nature and thrills on the trail has been discussed, recorded, photographed and written many times. You can see many on this blog.
That I get.
What I don’t get is: ‘Why’?
I want him to help me answer that question.
If things go as planned, and they rarely do, future post on this blog may address that question.

Or not.

Edited  in April to post Adam’s response. You can read it at 




Bedroom Door Project

Bedroom Door

In January of 2014,  we started building an additional bedroom since it looked like Rita’s mom was going to stay a while. With the exception of the interior door, it was completed in April of 2014.  

We lived with no door for over a year.  It was not too uncomfortable since the bed sleeping area could not be seen from the studio.

But, we could not shut out the animals nor did it feel very private.  

We looked for a used door at Construction Junction, but never found one that would work for us.  

Then, in the fall of 2014, Rita was at her mom’a and called to ask if we could use some of the lumber her dad had cut and stacked in an outbuilding over 20 years ago.  It was black walnut and appeared to be enough of it in good shape that we could use it to make a door. 

It was one of those questions, where there is only one answer. I said ‘yes’ and she loaded up the Transit.  She drove 500 miles with a load of back walnut sticking a foot out the back door.  

We took the rough cut boards to a Amish wood worker on got it planed and joined  

To make the project more challenging, the board planed to a thickness of 5/8″. Normally interior doors are 1 3/8″ to 1 3/4″ thick.

After a lot of thinking and looking at door designs, we decided to build a sliding barn door. 

Something similar to that pictured on the right (from Cottage Barn Door)

After more planning and research, we finally found the hardware at a reasonable price (at Home Depot – which surprised us saving us well over $300 in the hardware cost). I also had to get more bar clamps for I had only two and needed eight.

We started the project in August of 2015.  We had about 12 boards to choose from that varied in widths from 3 1/4″ to 8″. The length was easily over 7 foot.

After selecting boards to make up a 39″ wide door to cover a 37″ rough opening, we then selected boards for the molding and a header board for the bar.  

Then we started gluing boards together, fist two, then three, then four then all of them.
Then,  I sanded. I sanded with a belt sander. I sanded with a palm sander. I sanded by hand. I sanded until the cows came home.

After a few pounds of sawdust, watering eyes, and a large number of  great big sneezes, I  was done sanding.

I then  put two coats of Teak oil on it.
Then, we installed the barndoor hardware, after getting new holes drilled in the track to match up with our stud locations. We screwed the track through the header board into the studs.

Then we hung the door … ah, well, we tried to hang it.  There was a mistake someplace of 1/2″ and the door didn’t hang on the bar. The bar was too low. 

The door just sat there on the floor while Rita and I looked at each other.

I think I was the fist to speak:  “Bummer Shit!” I exclaimed.

“What happened?”, Rita asked.

We had a choice of cutting a 1/2″ off the door bottom or moving the bar up higher.

So, we took the bar down and re-installed it up higher by a 1/2″.

Then we hung the door.

There will be a few minor things to do yet, like install a door handle, guide on the floor.  

But now we have a bedroom door!

I’m still trying to figure out where we were off that 1/2″. It is one of those things I may never figure out.

Replacing Kitchen Sink

In 2005, when we built our house, we had talked about replacing the kitchen  sink someday.

The sink we put in was a double bowl stainless sink Rita had found it at her mother’s home. It was in one of the outbuildings that was full of accumulated treasures that her mother either could not face getting rid of, or had picked up at some garage sale at a great price. 

It was free, so we put it in. and it worked fine, except washing dishes were difficult. Using the small bowl was like trying to wash pots and pans in a teacup.

Fast forward nine years. 

We were in Construction Junction, a favorite place for Rita to browse and get artistic inspiration.   People who remodel their home or business would take their discarded items to Construction Junction to be sold at a very reasonable price to be re-used or recycled. When we built the house, we found many useful items at a great price: doors for $10 – $25, a electrical cook top for $50, windows under $25, sink cabinets for $10.  Whereas we could get useful used items for a reasonable price at Construction Junction, Rita’s Moms stuff was free.

Another difference is that Construction Junction is organized. Her Mom’s organization is based off chaos theory .  You can walk through a narrow walkway in her Mom’s basement and you will find shotgun shells, old Jello packages, a broken freezer full of plastic bags, 20 year old sheets and a saxophone all piled on one another next to a dresser containing half full bottles of wine and whisky that had been open 25 years ago.  We don’t like to call her mom a hoarder, but the TV show could would love to do a segment on her.

So it did not surprise me that on this trip to Construction Junction, Rita’s DNA kicked in. She call me over to look at this single bowl stainless steel sink.  Since, I could not find anything wrong with it, we took it home.  A new sink would cost us between $250 – $400. This one costs $15.00. 

It had been years since I installed a kitchen sink, but I took my time on a Monday and removed the old double bowl sink and put in the new one. The skills needed to do this kind of job are somewhere between  a contortionist warming up for a show and a blind guy using  a screwdriver to set his watch.  

Working under the sink can be painful and dangerous.  One is either putting strain on their back, banging their knuckles with slipping wrenches, or hitting their head on the top of the cabinet door.  

And the language!  It could make a sailor blush. It is one of those tasks that require to try putting two four letters together to make up new words.  

Also,  wearing bifocals and screwing in sink brackets while lying on your back under the sink is like trying to push a rope up a water slide, with your bare toes.

Emergency room doctors and chiropractors love people who work under the kitchen sinks.

With all the complaining, cussing and skinned knuckles and head, the job got done.

We now have a single bowl stainless steel kitchen sink. 

And, of course a new drain as well.  The old double bowl drain system looked like a sank pit.  This one is much neater.

Of course we won’t tell you of the follow up work that is needed. 

Anybody who said plumbers get paid too much has not worked under a kitchen sink.


I’m not sure when I discovered I developed vertigo.  It may have been the annual task of cleaning the chimney the wood stove used.  The Chimney was at the end of an addition of an old farm house, my ex-wife now owns. That addition was two stories on one side and three stories on the other.  The chimney was on the three story wall.  The roof slope was too steep to walk up.

The addition  was connected to the main house. The roof lines were offset.  I would climb the extension ladder to the roof of the main part of the house that had a slope could walk up (5/12).  I would climb to the peak then slide down the edge  to the roof peak of the joining room. I would scoot across that peak straddling the peak to the chimney on the far end. I would then stand up to reach the top of the chimney and proceed to clean the chimney as I straddled the steep peak. Not a fun task.   When I was done and back on the ground, I would often find my legs week and shaking. I thought it was due to the tension I of standing is such a fixed spot while I clean the chimney, but realized later that the shaking legs were the onset of vertigo.

The first time I identified it as vertigo was later when my youngest son and I took a day hike up Mt. Osceloa  in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. He was probably  14 or 15, the young reckless teen years; I was in my 40’s.  The trail started out in woods and was not too steep.  About a mile later, it started going over rocks and near cliffs.  My son would run to the edge of the cliffs and call: “Hey, Dad, look at this!” and I could fee my legs shake and my mind would visualize him going over the edge, crashing in the scrubs and rocks below. 

As my heart rate would return to normal when he retreated from the edge, I realized the true experience of vertigo.

Fast forward 30 some years later, and I still get the same feeling watching my wife on scaffolding 24 feet above the cement floor in our new home finishing the trim on the tongue and grove wood ceiling. Or watching the same son fall on a snow field and slide down a mountain in the Chicago Basin.

My vertigo is somewhat manageable as I get the same feelings on the top of a five foot stepladder today. 

But I prefer both feet planted on earth and not near a cliff.


April 1, 2015 will be my last day as an employee. I will be resigning or retiring from my day job at Keith’s. No more sales calls, no more trying to remember the SKU’s, no more unloading trucks in rain, no more regular pay checks.

I will miss my coworkers.

This is a freeing moment in my life.

No I have to train my brain to think for itself.  Train myself on how to select where and how I spend my time. I will still do technical  consulting, but I get to choose those tasks and when to do them. But, I can choose to not answer the phone. I get to put my energy toward my own goals. My efforts will help or harm me, not somebody who bought my time, talnet, expertise, and energy.

I will say that Keith’s has been good to me. Of all the jobs in my life, this one has not required me to compremise my values to make a paycheck. I attribute that to Dave Keith, the owner. I thank him for that.

Now, I get to start another chapter in my life. It may be the last, but it will be mine.

Helping my daughter and family move

March 11  – 14, 2015

My cell phone rings and from the ring tone I can tell it is from my daughter who lives in Massachusetts.  

She rarely calls.

She sounds hesitant to tell me that she is moving. They got tired of living in a loft apartment in a renovated  tobacco barn. Her last month’s propane bill was $900 and she could not get the temperature above 58 degrees in her daughter’s bedroom.  She had been looking and found that the townhouse she had rented a few years ago in Hatfield was available.  She was moving the upcoming weekend.

So, I decided to drive up to help her move.  This was against my better judgment for I clearly remember moving the piano and honker desk up the stairs just a year and 1/2 ago. I had lost 10 pounds during that move.  However, since I was at my winter heavy weight, maybe it was not such a bad idea after all.

I left the next day to drive the 550 miles.  I got a speeding ticket in New York state.  That one, I may have to protest. But that is another store.

I had made reservations to stay in a Red Roof inn nearby – wanting some private space and not wanting to hinder my daughter to find a place for me to sleep.  We had dinner that evening at a nearby cool restaurant. I ate too much.

The next morning I visited her in her classroom. She teaches grades 4 to 6 in a Montessori School in North Hampton. She was doing a lesson on Pi Day, since Saturday, 03-14-15 was a special “Pi Day’, being the first ten digits of Pi if you consider the date, hour, minutes and seconds in the morning: 3.14 15 9 26 53.  This was one of the best things that I experienced in a while. I may had to write about just this experience.

Fred helping students figure out Pi using the circle in a chair

After that lesson I got back on target regarding the move.  I went to her old apartment, walked the dogs and decided that before I could get my Transit or the U-haul truck in a position that was easy to load, I had to shovel snow.

Shovel I did.

After an hour, I had shoveled about 3/4 of the path:

If there is any good news in this, it is the dock at her door. 

You can see the walkway that was shoveled before I arrived. It was only a small path to the steps.  To get my Transit and a U-haul truck, we needed a much wider path. 

But the full record breaking snow that winter had piled up to about 3 feet of compressed snow. Each shovel must have weighed 30 pounds. 100 shovels later is a ton and 1/2. 

This was a good stress test for my back.

There was a two inch base of ice that I was not able to remove.

Below is the finished job, after I backup up the Transit to test it.

The Transit is front wheel drive. My first load was all boxes – many of which were books. Did I tell you my daughter is a teacher and lover of books? So are her two kids and partner.   The first load was the heaviest which took enough weight off the front tires that I had trouble getting traction to get out.

Her 15 year old son helped me carry all the boxes downstairs, load the Transit and unload it at the new place.

The second load was also full and by then, my daughter had arrived from work to help load and unload. However, the base of ice had gotten so slippery that we had to put some dirt under the front tires and  they had to push to get me out.

We unloaded that second load around 5:00 pm. By now, I was bushed, hungry and ready to quit. While unloading the second load, we met one of her new neighbors and discussed dinner plans of Chinese food. After some discussion, debate, and negotiating, we finally ended up having the new neighbors pick up Chinese take-out and we ate at their townhouse.  We took a load of tables to the new place on the way to eat.

I retired to my Red Roof room, with a Dewars and bag of popcorn.  Yea!

The next morning was planning for the big U-haul truck (a 13 footer).  We decided to focus on the big stuff that could not fit into my Transit or their cars.  As helped arrived from my daughter’s school (all woman) and my son arrived from Eastern MA (macho man), we started carrying the 13 book cases down to the dock while her partner went to fetch the truck. 

While freezing rain started to fall, we loaded the first load in the U-haul with bedding from the three bedrooms, most all the book cases, boxes, and other stuff to fill the voids to make it a full load. It took about an hour to load and about 3/4 to unloaded.

I was very impress with the team of woman that my daughter had arranged to help. Where my son made his presence known like a bull in a china shop, each of the woman just kept on working like a colony of ants, quietly making speedy progress, doing what needed done without fanfare or declaration.   We were done unloading around 12:30 and went back to her old place for another load.

After a few slices of pizza that one of the woman magically made appear, we tackled the biggest, most difficult items: the upright piano, a large oak desk, and two oversize stuffed couches.  It was very nice to have men with strong backs and the upper body strength, but I have to give credit to strong woman. They carried their share of weight without the grunting.

As we were moving the piano down stairs and turning a 90 degree corner to get out the door, I mistakenly brushed my left elbow up against my daughter’s best friend’s chest.  Feeling the  recognizable softness of a female breast, I said: “Sorry, I didn’t mean to poke you in the breast there.”  

She returned: “No problem, I have been been felt up in a while.”

My daughter hear our exchange and added: “Groping is not allowed while moving.”

I liked working with strong, independent woman.

At the new place, the new neighbor showed up. He had set himself up for being able to help with the heavy items since he weighed about 300 pounds and had more muscle mass than two of the woman combined.  I rolled the piano off the truck ramp on a dolly and he and my son lifted the piano into the new place by themselves.  Macho men come in handy while moving.  

The freezing rain had turned to just rain, but it was still hovering around 32 degrees. That load was done around 2:00 and we went back to the last load while some of the help left to continue with their own busy lives.

The last load was what I call ‘scrubs’.   ‘Scrubs’ are the things you have left after everything has been moved that you care about.  Small loose items, like you charcoal grill, bicycles, lamps, cloths,food, bags, dog dishes, things you find under the couches, crates, and stuff you wouldn’t miss if you left behind or lost.   It was only about 1/4 of a load.  I loaded three bicycles into the Transit and we all went to the new place for the final unloading.

By now, the new place looked like a trash heap of boxes, unassembled furniture, wet dirty floors, and total disarray.  Such it is, moving.

We returned the U-haul truck and I went back to the Red Roof room for a drink and dinner of snacks.

I left my daughter and her partner and kids to tackle the unpacking and drove to visit my son and his boys about an hour away. 

Moving is something I and my children are well experienced at. It is not an easy task, but experience and getting help make it tolerable. I lost count of the number of times I moved, close to 30 times. 

I believe everyone should move at least, once every five years. If they don’t they accumulate too much stuff and parts of their house never get cleaned.

Facing the Inevitable

A quote from Oliver Sacks, who found out he had terminal cancer, sits with me a while. It will fester, morph and maybe instigate a change inside me. 
… I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. I must focus on myself, my work and my friends. I shall no longer look at “NewsHour” every night. I shall no longer pay any attention to politics or arguments about global warming.
This is not indifference but detachment — I still care deeply about the Middle East, about global warming, about growing inequality, but these are no longer my business; they belong to the future. I rejoice when I meet gifted young people — even the one who biopsied and diagnosed my metastases. I feel the future is in good hands.
I have been increasingly conscious, for the last 10 years or so, of deaths among my contemporaries. My generation is on the way out, and each death I have felt as an abruption, a tearing away of part of myself. There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever. When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate — the genetic and neural fate — of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.”
Click to see the source of Oliver Sack’s write up.