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Sunday, January 5, 2014

Longevity and The Red Menace...A Perverse Inverse Relationship (rated R for explicit language)

Lazy winter's days in Lovely Ouray—blowing snow out Imax Windows and an ache in my gut—sentenced to a Lazy Boy recliner instead of a Lazy Daze camp in Arizona. My appetite and calendar are apathetic; I'm so bloated on Bowl Games I can't even stay awake. To be sure, there are more Bowl Games than exciting teams to play in them; thank God for the few nail-biter match ups with no-huddle rapid-fire action. Time ticks away game by game; only four more days till I get to "turn my head and cough."

Then, of course, I'll have to go get in a new line for surgery to stitch up the "blowout" in my loin-groin. FYI, If you must fall ill or off your bike, don't do it during the holidays as Docs are off playing golf on Caribbean Isles. Boo boos get caught in the Senior Suck Backlog of Breakdowns, and, to parrot NPR's "Click and Clack," even though it doesn't make me feel better when I say it, It could be worse.

Now, dear readers, let me add aggravation to injury. I waged war with a Chinese skylight yesterday—a motorized venting skylight, to be specific—and the experience reaffirms to me why women live longer than men and WW III is already underway. 

One must first understand the "Drug" before they can understand the "Addiction." Against "orders" and common sense, I've been sneaking rides on an exercise bike while waiting for Doc "Holiday" to get back from his surf and turf get-a-way. It helps pass time, burns a few leftover Christmas cookies, and helps keep my man-boobs from becoming objects of envy for lesser endowed women at the Hot Springs Pool. Biking, football, and soaking…these are the days of my life.

Maybe this addict needs an "Intervention," cart my ass of to Betty Ford's Clinic for Substance Abuse, cause I can't seem to put my exercise addiction on the shelf in spite of the gut-breach plainly visible in the "Land Down Under." In the obsessive/compulsive rational of an exercise addict, "If God really wanted me to stop exercising, He would have broken both my legs and an arm;" in which case, you'd find me doing one-handed pushups.   

The exercise bike has become my "bong," and is now a permanent fixture in the Great Room. It occupies a space right next the sliding glass door, with stellar vistas of the Hot Springs Pool, Lovely Ouray, and Mount Abram's pyramidal peak…all white with snow. Between the "bong" and ESPN re-hash on the tele, I can maintain a state of partial detox with no obvious symptoms of addiction. Everybody's happy...except the Doc, and what he doesn't know won't hurt me. 

So I piddle, soak, and pedal…the latter two a sweat-lodge ritual for removing numerous IPA's…a mellow out supporting drug that goes quite well with exercise addiction. The process of purification by stationary bike in a stuffy room is not fun for a number of reasons, the main ones being overheating and boredom; hence the sliding glass door for distracting views and cool, fresh air. There's only one problem, I get nary a breeze as the rest of the house is closed up tight. After a few overheated rides it dawns on me to open our remote controlled skylight and allow natural convection to draw me a bath of cool air.  

Twenty minutes into my pretend ride up Mount Abram I break a good purifying sweat and push the "Open" button on the skylight remote. Up, up, up it goes; ahhh, problem solved...like someone turned on the AC. Before I know it a beeper signals I've reached Red Mountain Pass; my hour is up and I go into cool-down mode; my shirt soaked with used IPA's. I promptly chill and shut the sliding glass door and hit "Close" on the skylight's remote; everything is groovy until I notice the skylight remains wide open. 

A faded note pops up on the remote's screen and suggests it's time for a battery change. Whew, and here I thought it was broken...glass half empty cynic that I am. This is no big deal, especially since we have the right batteries, and my daily dose of glorious, mood altering endorphins are rioting throughout my bloodstream, such that I feel like a twenty year old.

Now common sense and science dictates that venting skylights should be located near the highest point in a room if they are to let heat escape. Our Great Room has a vaulted ceiling and thus the skylight can't be reached without a very tall ladder...which is a pain to drag upstairs even without a hernia.

I install new batteries and re-hit the "Close" button on the remote. Another message: "Failure. See owners manual." Oh boy, it's been over three years, I wonder where where it could be?

I don't have to tell you how it goes; a person starts off chasing one goose only to end up chasing another…hence the adage, "Wild Goose Chase." My endorphin party was pooping out but I gave the Universe another opportunity to be kind; after all, "it's the Holidays, for crying out loud; I have a hernia such that I can see intestines trying to make a Jail-break; have mercy!" 

My prayer doesn't even reach the skylight, evidently, which is too bad because it's wide fucking open. Why do things like this happen   in the dead of winter instead of the middle of summer when it would be no big deal? Good Grief, Charlie Brown, I know how you feel. 

I remove the new batteries and reinsert them…a "reboot" in case electrons were confused…and hit the "Close" button once again. "Failure. See owners manual."  "*%&@*#%!" It's down to 50 degrees in the house by now so I turn up the heat.

I begin a desperate search for the Owners Manual...picturing it buried 20 feet down in some landfill under miscellaneous two by fours and a trash bag of dirty diapers. Finally, Bobbie finds the manual way back in the dark and dust of a "catchall" cabinet. We skim read...looking for a Trouble Shooting Guide. The more we read the more confounded we become...trying to cipher a solution for the gaping hole in our roof from something written by our arch enemy, The Red Menace. No wonder.

I am shocked and dismayed to find out my very American Named skylight was actually "Made in China." Inquiring minds want to know why overseas manufacturing corporations that are headquartered in America insist upon hiring moronic, English-is-my-second-language imbecilic foreigners to articulate the "Assembly Instructions" and "Owner's Manuals" for products? Anti-endorphine "commies" now run amuck in my arteries, trampling my "Good Guys," elevating blood pressure, and casting gloom upon my domain. 

It's a cunning Communist Plot, you know, one that over time will bring the good old U S of A to its knees. Not by war-headed missiles, mind you, not by a massive lock-stepped Red Army, not by improved views on Free Market and For Profit Capitalism, but still maintains the Communist Ideology of, "Money good…Freedom still bad." Nope it will happen by the simple, subtle, and underhanded act of printing Assembly Instructions that befuddle our Best and Brightest in the Pentagon and drive the rest of us to an early grave. I can hear the Commie bastards now, "Ha! We confoose instuction book…make Round-eye verwee angree...give many haught attack." 

And we put up with it because we want to save a few bucks at Walmart, whose majority stock owners are now…you guessed it, Chinese.

Long story longer...it turns out that every time the remote needs new batteries one must go through the labyrinth maze of "Setup" all over again…which means they must find the God-knows-where Disinformation Manual and jump through the "hoops" and endure the stress of its dead end contents... 
"Find and shut off correct breaker (power source to skylight) for one full minute (not a second less and not ten seconds more) while simultaneously removing batteries from remote. Reinstall batteries immediately after power is reapplied." 

Only then can one go through the lengthy step by step processes of re-registering the remote with the skylight (so they can "shake hands"), if, mind you, it is done in less than ten minutes…which dictates that you start over. Lord, really?

So we trial, error, and fail repeatedly. With each failure I feel more constriction in my chest...sense my carotid artery bulging to the point of bursting. If I had a "White Flag" I'd wave it. Just get my skylight to close, please! It's cold in here. 

I cursed everything Chinese…their MSG food and cheap toys that don't last beyond Christmas. I even swore off rice, Kung Pao Chicken, Kung Foo fighting…I crossed The Great Wall off my bucket list! and vowed never again to knowingly buy a single import Made in China no matter how much money it saved.

Minutes from a 911 call, Bobbie reads on page 89 of the nothing-short-of-a-Novella Owner's Manual…"The skylight must be in the closed position in order to reprogram the remote control." 
"Well Jesus H. Christ, if I can't reprogram the remote unless the skylight is closed, and I can't close the skylight until I reprogram the remote, WTF am I supposed to do?" It's the old "Catch 22." 

Bobbie skims along: Page 118… "Insert a small pointed object in hole "A" to close skylight." Hey, shouldn't that be on page ONE? Hernia and all, I climb up on granite counter top looking for the "A-hole" while cursing the A-hole who wrote the Manual; very dangerous in nylon socks, FYI.  I need a tall ladder.

Outside now, digging under snowdrifts in tee shirt and flip flops, no gloves, I locate my eight foot step ladder and carry it upstairs... banging walls and railings...cursing Chairman Mao...and plant it under the skylight from hell. I leave a trail of ice, snow, leaves, grime...and one unhappy woman in my destructive wake. 

On the second to the last step (one step above the sticker that says, "Do Not Climb Above This Step") I reach the skylight. Bobbie steadies the ladder while I search for the A Hole. Ten minutes gets wasted before discovering that the A hole is on the other side of the screen. Finally, screen removed, a tiny, obscure opening, slightly smaller than a matchstick. I find a match and whittle it down to fit, then, blindly, poke and "feel" for something spring loaded to push on. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Bobbie steadies the ladder with one hand while holding and reading the Disinformation Manual" in the other. It's life or death now, a race to beat my impending heart attack and/or stroke.  

Page 129…"you must push and hold the switch in hole A for five seconds…" 
"How do I even know if I'm on the freaking switch?" (understand, all these questions I'm screaming at Bobbie are strictly rhetorical). Confucian confusion…it's going to take us down without a shot being fired.  

I continue push-searching for "something," five seconds here, five seconds there, move, push, hold...move, push, hold, till finally, I hear the motor engage. The skylight opens wider. I don't know whether to celebrate or cry.

page 131…"When the switch is pushed for five seconds the skylight will cycle open and then close." Progress!!!

With the skylight closed, Bobbie addresses puddles of melted snow and ice on her kitchen floor. In a daze, I watch last fall's leaves sail the ponds like miniature canoes. Heat ceases to escape into the great outdoors. We rejoice. 

Bobbie says she's had enough...that we should just wait till summer to deal with it. "We don't need to open the skylight till then, anyway." 
"What about my workouts? I've got the Commies on the run...I can't quit now. The mess is made; the ladder is here; I'm going to get this thing programmed and working even if it kills me." 
I fall further into their "web." I swear I can hear people laughing somewhere in China.

Oh the joys of Home Ownership. I just finished up resealing a leaky glass shower stall for the third time in eight months. The renters, meanwhile, email a note saying their glass shower is now leaking. There are mounds of snow to be shoveled, Christmas lights to be taken down…all while I'm incapacitated and not supposed to lift more than five pounds. A gallon of milk weighs eight pounds. 

A skylight gets stuck open in the middle of winter…all because I needed a little fresh air. My groin throbs, presumably from wrestling a heavy, ice laden ladder from snowbanks, around corners and up a flight of stairs. I imagine the simplicity of living in Goldie…a place where I can pretty much fix anything with duct tape…a wheeled house that moves with the seasons...runs away from problems...a place where taxes are three hundred instead of three thousand dollars per year.  

I take up the tedious trial-and-error task of reprograming the remote...breaker off for one minute, R and R remote batteries, breaker on, race upstairs, complete absurd sequence of registration steps on Menu…all in less than the allotted ten minutes. "Oops. Starht ohvar, round eye, Ha ha. We give you haught attack. Sarendar now?" 

You know, I worked on and around instrumentation electronics most of my career. All of this grief could be avoided with the addition of a little one dollar "chip" in the remote control that "holds" the programed settings whenever batteries are removed and replaced. 


A long time ago a friend asked me how much money I thought it would take for me to consider myself rich. The answer was immediate: 
"Enough so that when something goes wrong or breaks down, I can pay someone else to fix it!" 

Beware…The Red Menace!


  1. "Ha ha, Round eye! We give you haught attack. Give up?"

    At that point, I'm LMAO, because I've been there, done that, but never with a hernia. In fact, just yesterday, I tried to put together a defective whatcamacallit from WalMart, the store that sells junk from hell. Easy to assemble, the box said, and it was, until one tried to put the round ends into the square ones, which wouldn't work for obvious reasons. Yup, made in China.

    Hilarious account, though I'm glad I wasn't there for the doing of the thing. :))

    Very cool shot of Delicate Arch, BTW.

  2. This is why we installed stationary skylights. And bike outside. In good weather. SorryMark, your awful day was as you intended, hilarious

    1. It's still a month or two away from being funny to me :))

  3. Could you live with an oscillating fan in front of the bike? It might be easier. Where is the Sutherland Trail? That was picture nine. I'd like to go there, please, gorgeous absolutely gorgeous.

    1. I had the ceiling fan on High…but it was just blowing hot air that gathers up there :((. Trail is over Catalina way…just north of Tucson. Spring flowers can be amazing some years.

  4. LMAO!! I feel your pain, mentally, if not physically. Actually, just assembled a Chinese manufactured grill, this afternoon. I only tried to read the instructions three times, before chunking them and going to work on it. Had one bolt left over. Hope you Drs. visit goes as planned. Love the pics...

    1. One left over bolt is better that coming up one short…which is usually what happens to me :)

  5. Bobby must be an angel to put up with you.

  6. Hey Mark, you have a flat basketball. :O) You think that hernia is just a little hole in your side, but it's really making your basketball flat. What, you say? Try coughing a little and see if you can inflate your mid section. You might not notice the difference now, but try coughing after you get it fixed and you'll understand what I'm talking about. I could of said, like you might, to sit on the pot and push, but I'm not you. :O) Really, one needs to have a full basketball for all your body functions to work well. Just a little bit of info your doc might not tell you, from experience, of course.

  7. I have no exercise equipment at home because like you I need air when working out. I hate going to the gym in winter, everyone looks at me like I'm a lunatic when I hop off the treadmill and go outside to cool down. As sympathetic as I am, I must admit to laughing my ass off while reading, it was so funny I read parts of it out loud to my 21 year old son and his buddy...they laughed too. I know I'm probably wasting my breath, but try to take it easy, Mark, you don't need more injuries. ;)

    1. It's good that your son is 21…the story couldn't be adequately expressed without R rated language. :)

  8. It's the reversion to the mean theory in play again. It sounds like you're overdue now for some good luck. Just like Andy "reversion to the mean" Reid and his Chiefs. Like I told you, they did nothing but lose since we watched Denver beat them in our rig with you on that Monday night in Zion. So good things are coming!

    1. Oh you were so right about Andy…total collapse. I hope you are right about "reversion to the mean." Statistics don't seem to apply to me, tho...

  9. From one fitness fanatic to another, I really enjoyed your post and I love your blog. Being 56 years old and having competed in weightlifting and dabbling in biking and just about anything that will challenge me physically, I can truly relate.
    In fact I have a blog I created to inspire and help others called Old Fart Training oldfarttraining.BlogSpot.com (yes, that's a cheap plug for my site!) that you might enjoy. I am just a rank amateur at best in writing but do have over 42 years of exercising and nutrition experience. This is one of many reasons I gravitated to your posts.
    Great writing and amazing pics, keep up the superb work!

    1. Old Farts need people like you to motivate them. Lots of information on your site!!!
      Thanks for tagging along.

  10. Jim and Gayle took my line!! Sorry for all your grief but it you have to admit it did lead to a great post! Thanks for the laugh:) Please be careful!!!

  11. Sorry about all your grief but you have to admit it did lead to a great post. Thanks for the laugh! Please be careful:)

    Where was the slot pictured above?

    1. I have plenty of time and lots of stories…that's for sure :) Stay warm!

  12. On one hand, I think "Oh, I wish I had a picture of this!" Then on the other hand, I realize it could be nowhere as amusing as the imaginary image of you, all buzzed on endorphins, when you hit the remote and.....nothing....happens. The visual of the trail of last fall's leaves alone has me "busting a gut."

    Take it easy, will ya?

    1. I lost a year off my life during that China fiasco alone…running total now up to a decade. Sheesh.

  13. Mark- even if we do the right thing and would never laugh at another persons problems- I hold you completely responsible for all chuckles and snickers brought on by the Chinese open windows- Very valuable info on how not to treat your body during the wait for surgery of a hernia-

  14. Thanks Steve :)
    Now I'm in another line at the hospital…surgery the 22nd. Tick Tock.

    1. Hey, I know a guy, who knows a guy that will do the surgery on 24 hours notice but you have to meet him behind the liquor store in Ouray with a bottle of Rye. I'm thinking Bobbie will chip in the bottle of Rye.


  15. This post made my day. Hey, not only one day but many still to come.

  16. Very funny stuff. Lovely photos. I agree about the rich comment, I have a stepson around for all that type of work. I have 2 fans blowing on me when I walk on my treadmill it starts a little cool but after I am cranking along it is almost not enough.

    1. Thanks JBB…
      I would rather be outside, but, ya got to roll with the Universe. :)
      Thanks for your comment,

  17. Great job on your post! Enjoyed it very much. Yes, they are going to get us!! Take care.


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