Rum-16 2010 – ?

2010

We had heard about San Telmo, in Buenos Aires, and also visited the area on previous trips. We found out about an apartment building there from a friend who lived part of the year in San Telmo. We were able to get a 3 bedroom apartment at a good price so we rented that and stayed there for 3 months from mid January till mid April. All went well, and we took a side trip to the city of Lujan which is the region for the patron Saint of Argentina. San Telmo is a lively area with lots of street entertainment. But, we decided that we were ready to move on and have made a reservation for an apartment in Panama City, Panama in 2011.

When we returned home we found that apparently the repaired roof still leaked so we contacted the roofer and our insurance company and had the ceilings repaired and repainted. It was quite a hassle but we did get the insurance company to pay for the complete repainting of the ceilings of the living room, breakfast room, and the formal dining room There was so much going on we decided not to have our usual July 4 gathering of friends. We realize we have to simplify our lives.

Since it seems that we will be in Syracuse for more of the winter – we will be in Panama City for only two months, February and March, 2011 – we decided to finally replace all the windows in the house since they all leaked and there were no storm windows. On July 29, 2010 I signed a contract with Comfort Windows and Doors Company. This was to replace 15 windows on my house at 116 Killian Drive. Cost – $11, 738. I gave them a deposit of $4000. I uinderstood it would be several weeks before the installation since Comfort manufactures the windows after the order is obtained and all windows are made to measure.

On Monday September 20 the windeows were delivered along with 3 installers. While two were in the house and third in the truck the man in the truck managed to break two of the wndows. The windows were to be placed in the northeast corner of the living room. The windows are double paned and the outside pane on two of the windows were broken. The picture on the left shows the broken pane in one window and the picture on the right is of a different pane. Also broken were the secreens on two other windows and other incidental damage to the window frames. They decided to continue with the installation and later replace the broken panes.
On Tuesday they checked over all the windows they have and found out that two windows were missing. Checking back with the office they found out that some mixup had occurred in reading the order information and this resulted in them not constructing those two windows. These windows belonged in the formal dining room. The broken screens were replaced and installed on the appropriate windows.
On Thursday the 23rd I contacted Comfort and expressed concer nover the quality of the repair job on the broken panes. I wondered if the integrity of the repaired windows woud be the same as windows conctructed in their factory. Mr. Bob Johnston came out to see the situation and assured me that all would be OK. He also indicated, in passing, that it might be late in October before the missing windows were available and indicated they would repair the broken panes at the time the last two windows were installed. He apologized for the fact that this would mean another incursion into our home. For some reason Mr Johston said they would give us a voucher for Wegmans to make up for the disruption caused by their failure. All has been quiet with Comfort since Thursday, September 23rd.

The troubles this has caused us so far is the disruption of our dining room where the missing windows should be. The place is a mess since all windows, blinds, and decorations had to be removed. Also the weather has turned cold and daily we have to turn on the heat and the windows with the proken panes are inefficiently functioning.
It is now October 4 and there was no contact from Comfort during the past week. The temperature is now down into the 40’s.

October 18, 2010. Still not contact from Comfort. I called their office and was told that later today a Mr. Mike Cross would contact me.
The off ice called back about 5:00 pm and the lady said they could install the windows and fix the broken windows this Wednesday October 20th and arrive between 8:30 and 9:00 a.m. She said Mike Cross could see me but it turns out he is the wrong person to discuss the problem with since he has no authority to grant me a discount. However a Mr. Reneau is the Sales Manager and he could discuss this with me. Mr. Reneau is out of the office a lot but she would leaave a note for him to call me, hopefully Tuesday morning. The next day we played a little telephone tag but finally made contact. I went over the situation with him and he gave me a long explanation of how good they are, etc. I told him I wanted a 5% reduction in the total cost, amounting to about $600. We argued at some length but he indicated Comfort does not give cash refunds but offered me 10% off the next job I have them do for me. I view this as a specious offer since there is no way for me to know how they arrive at a cost in the first place. He offered $100 and I refused it as too small but was willing to reduce my demand to 5% of the balance I owe, which amounts to about $350. He said he would sort of split the difference and go up to $150. I said I was fed up with this and accepted it. I told him that what really made me angry was that after I called up on Monday to complain then the next day they said they would do it on Wednesday. This meant to me that they had just dropped me from their schedule to fix their problem at my home.

After they fixed the broken windows and installed the two new picture windows I was able to paint the new woodwork and remount the blinds.
Done!

So that ended the windows saga.

Dolores has a great desire to take a trip to Chicago. She had two sons there – Les and Billy – and has always had a love affair with that city Since she really wants to be with her sons for Thanksgiving we decided to take the train there on the Tuesday before the holiday and return the following Monday. Those were the plans but then life happened. Her left knee decided it was time to act up and the pain became intense. So she chose October 18 as the date for knee surgery – she figures she will be well enough to travel on Thanksgiving. So, we cancelled our train tickets and switched instead to airline flights. Also around this time my foot trouble returned and I went to my neurologist to see what could be done. They recommended that I get physical therapy, which inclueds an anodyne treatment of the foot. But I was also getting really serious leg pain and during my annual trip to the VA they figured that was RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome) so I have a pill for that. On November 3 I started a regimin with that pill. So far there has been no easing up of any of the symptoms.

Dolores had her knee operation on October 20, and after a few days went in to physical therapy. She seems to be recovering quickly as far as knee flexibility is concerned but the pain doesn’t let up. Also, in an attempt to find the source of the trouble with my right foot an MRI was completed and it showed nothing amiss. So now the pain has been labeled idosyncratic – that is – unknow cause.

The trip to Chicago went just fine. We stayed in the apartment of Billy’s girlfriend – Joyce. Dolores was able to do what she wanted to in Chicago in spite of the pain. When we got back to Syracuse she returned to Physical Therapy. We decided not have our usual January 1st party – too much going on already.

The winter came on early and strongly and December saw an enormous amount of snow. Once again I was pleased that I had signed a fixed price contract with Tom Yager for snowplowing.

2011

I started looking into flights to Panama and I wanted to use frequent flier miles. It turned out I was about 30,000 miles short so I had to buy miles. Then I could make rhe reservations and we decided to fly out January 30 and return March 31. We felt that since it was a new country to us that we would plan on staying only 2 months – not the 3 months we did last year in San Telmo.

The weather in December and January was really cold and show filled. Day after day there was word of another storm in the making, but it seemed that late January things would start clearing off. Many of our friends would comment about us still being in town and we felt we were letting them down. They apparently were not used to seeing us in Syracuse during winter. Fortunately the bad weather held off for a few days late in the month and we left Syracuse right on schedule. Dolores was very pleased that we are scheduled to stop over in Atlanta for a couple of hours as this will give her an opportunity to get some Popeye’s chicken from a store in the Atlanta airport. Sure enough that proved to be the case she felt she was in heaven. However as she was devouring a chicken leg an upper front tooth broke. It was no big deal, it seems, in that there was no pain at all, just a blank spot near the front of her mouth. Here is a map of Panama

The rest of the trip was uneventful and we arrived at Tocumen Airport near Panama City, Panama right on schedule at about 9:30 p.m.. A driver was waiting for us and we got all our luggage into his vehicle. The airport is about 10 miles outside the city so we had a good ride in. It was quite a feeling to again sense the heat of the tropics – so much like the Philippines. An anazing thing , to me, is that Panama City, Panama, is east of Miami, Florida. Panama City is about 69 degrees west of the Grenwich meridian and Miami is 70 degrees west. Panama City seems to be under construction: there are building cranes atop many buildings and they all seem to be 50 stories or more. The US dollar is the medium of exchange. I expected to use the Bolivar but the only such money I have ever seen is in coins of 50 centavos or less. There is essentially no city bus service although there is a very large and modern bus station. There is also no subway or light rail. So, for the person with no car it is either walk or take a taxi. There are loads of taxis but no use of a taxi meter. I was told that you offer the driver what you think is fair and see how it works out. You never offer as much as $4 for any transportation inside the city. So, I offer $1 or $2 or $3 and it works out fine. In fact a couple of times I handed the driver $2 and he returned 0.50 in change.
http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=yKPRs_vDirM&vq=small#t=30
This is a video of our apartment. My video expertese is quite limited.
Our apartment is quite nice in many respects. Two bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, and a kitche, living room and dining area, One of the bathroons, which is off the kitchen, has only a cold water shower, a lavatory and a toilet. The apartment is equpped with wi-fi that is quite reliable but sometimes drops the signal.

However there is no telephone as that is a rare commodity in Panama. But there are many cell phones and the landlord rented us one with a $50 deposit. Grocery shopping isn’t too bad. Each week we go to a large supermarket, load up with food, and take a $3 taxi ride home. The price of food here is about the same as in Syracuse. We have eaten out a few times, but nothing remarkable to say yet. There is a group here known as ExPat Explorers and we did a couple of things with them. The first one is what is called a partial transit of the Panama Canal. We went through a couple of locks and it was well worth the time. We saw where the new and larger locks are under construction and it makes me appreciate how well planned the original canal really was. Then we took a tour of the city with a tour guide just so that we could get some sense for what the high points of the city are.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8MSgvrTR7HU
Above is a video taken from the tenth floor of a building. Kind of impressive, I think. That site isn’t just a building. Here’s the story. The tooth that broke is in Dolores’ upper jaw and towards the front. So we called the insurance company, Access America, and asked them to direct us to a dentist. This turned out to be the Ford Clinic on the 10th floor of the Ford building. The dentist seems to be highly qualified – certainly his office is the most modern dental office I have ever seen. So first he did an evaluation which involved taking X-Rays and such. Everything he did was displayed on monitors in the offices and it was quite impressive.
He then discussed options with us, and their costs. We concluded that the best option was to install an implant. The total cost was $2000, less than half of what it would cost in Syracuse. So the next day he pulled the remains of the broken tooth and installed the base for the implant. We had another visit about a week later to make sure all was going OK and the implant will finally be screwed into place late in March just before we head for Syracuse.
Then we decided we should take a ship through the Panama Canal and we took what is referred to as a partial transit. We couldn’t come to Panama without going through the Canal.
We decided to attend a church, Iglesia Santa Maria in nearby Balboa and met a very nice retired couple – Gladys and Dick Stoker. She is a Panamanian and he is a retired US veteran. Tomorrow Dolores and I are planning to take a bus to Colon for the day, and then next Wednesday, March 16, we will go on a trip around several northern provinces of Panama

So we bussedto Colon and all went well . We just go to the terminal and somobody is there announcing that the next bus to Colon is boarding and that was it. One pays the fare, $2.50, during the ride. The bus stopped right at the Zona Libre, the Free Zone, which is where Dolores wanted to go to see about getting ear rings for Stephanie. No success, but we met a nice guy that was instrfoduced to us by one of the guards at the entrance and he served as our guide for the day. The Free Zone is very large and we could never have done any shopping without having Eugene drive us around. After that we three had lunch and then he took us on a tour of Colon. It is a very poor city – everything in need of repair and general cleaning up.

This is a picture of Eugene and Dolores. We had some interesting conversations with him and he was most pleasant. He took us around to some sights in Colon including an old fort, a fine hotel and a cathedral. The following link is a video of the interior of the cathedral.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDQ8W2hMaUU The three of us had lunch together and then Eugene drove us to the bus station and we were off to our apartment in Panama City. My 84th birthday occurred around tht time so Dolores bought me a new Olympus camera since my old went had to be held together wwith Scotch Tape. That trip went very smmothly so we decided to do more.

Laura Alexander, the guru of ExPats, set up a 6-day 5-night tour of some of the northern provinces of Panama so we decdied to do that. We packed up and on the morning of March 16 headed north with four other tourists in a Coastal Van. Fortunately there were no other passengers, just the guide and the driver, as the van was not very large. My right foot was busy bothering me again so it was nice that I had enough room to stretch out.

Our first stop was a couple of hours north of the province of Panama at the province of Cocle. See the above map. We visted the city of El Valle. This meant walking through some artisans shops and going to a zoological garden. We also visited a Botanical garden and it was here we viewed the golden frogs. They are quite rare but the University of Houston is cooperating with the garden to protect them. Apparently the little creatures are endangered by a fungus that they are attacked by.  There were some small monkeys, like this one to the right peeking out of a knothhole.
We also found that there were some mineral hot springs and mud baths here but we avoided falling into them.  Ar one point we stopped to visit some local shops.  An interesting one was the shop of a local cigar maker.  The process can be viewed in the following movie.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1RCOZ9f4vmw
El Valle is pretty far out of the mainstream of development but a nice motel had been reserved for us and we had a great nights’ sleep. We had brought Dolores’ netbook with us but there was no Wi-Fi so we had to learn to be without that crutch.

The next day we drove to Herrera and were reintroduced to the great number of churches in Panamanian towns. Each village has one along with a park in front of it so it was all very neat.   It is also the home studio of Dario “La Maskera” known across the country as the best mask maker in Panama.  He demonstrated how the masks were made and here is a photo of one we bought.
On day 3 we traveled through the provinces of Los Santos and Veraguas stopping at a beach for a few hours of sunshine and swimming.  Dolores and I skipped both those activities and stayed in the shade for napping and conversation.  Days 4 and 5 were spent in various parts of Chiriqui including David its largest city and the Norde Americano resort city of Banguette.  Everyone we talk with about this city indeed knows that it is populated by Canadian and USA retirees.  Panama is certainly busy building an enormous number of high rise apartment buildings. most of which are unoccupied.  The big question in my mind is Why?  This might be answered if one knew the answer to a second question – Who is paying for them?  Money Laundering?  An expected upsurge in tourists and returees renting and buying?   The tour ended on March 21st with an all day drive back to Panama City
So now our sojurn in Panama is drawing to a close.  In a couple of days we head back to the “old world'”  However on Monday we have an appointment to look at another apartment that might fit into our plans for next year

The following is the promo that induced us to take the above trip

2011 – PANAMA DISCOVERY Trip
MARCH 16th to 21st
Province of COCLÉ
Antón Valley & El Valle

Golden Frog

Only two hours away from Panama City, lays the mineral rich Antón Valley,with the fresh air and  riendly climate found in the town of El Valle.We’ll be jumping directly into the beauty of Panama, it’s country and its people on this fantastic day. Here is a golden frog,

DAY TWO:PROVINCE OF HERRERA
Aguadulce, Natá, Chitré,
On this day, we are able to experience first hand how some of the beautiful handicrafts are actually made, taste the delicacies kept secret in the interior, find out about the amazing deep history of Panama, and visit some of the oldest and most beautiful Catholic Churches in all of the Americas.
DAY THREE:
PROVINCES OF LOS SANTOS & VERAGUAS Las Tablas & Santiago

BEACH DAY!!
We’ll be enjoying a beautiful sunny morning and early afternoon at a day resort before heading off too see…..
DAY FOUR
PROVINCE OF CHIRIQUÍ
Santiago, David & Boquete
FLORA, FAUNA, & FARMS
The road to Boquete, will be lined with rice-fields, pineapple and teak plantations, huge cattle ranches,  internationally award winning gardens
DAY FIVE:
MORE OF BEAUTIFUL CHIRIQUÍ & BUGABA!
Volcan, Cerro Punta & David
Belonging to the district of Bugaba, Volcan is a picturesque town located 57 km from the city of David. Both Volcan and Cerro Punta are blessed with excellent climate and diverse vegetation. Here, we will find fruit and vegetable fields lining steep mountain slopes, purebred horse stables, one of the world’s most famous Orchid Gardens, and…….

DAY SIX:
BACK TO PANAMA via LA PIÑTADA On the bus, headed home, but having fun on the way! We’ll stop for lunch.in Santiago, and visit two more truly special Panamanian studios.. We will be visiting several museums, botanic gardens, fincas (farms), natural wonders, the home workplaces of artisans known both nationally and internationally, purebred horse stables, learning about the fine art of coffee tasting (as much as, if not more, intricate than wine tasting) and so much more! You’ll go home more knowledgeable experts on Panama than many who have lived here all their lives! When looking at the cost, compare it to just getting hotel rooms for 5 nights (even here!).
End of the promo.

Later in 2011

But in the meantime several thoughts cross my mind.  Around the time I turned 84, the USA decided, along with the UN, to create a No Fly Zone over Libya.  Not only is this another war we are cooperating in, but also it seems there has been woefully little planning.  What is the objective in this?  To prevent Qadafi from killing his own people is obviously not the whole story.  What will be the exit strategy?  Who will supply the leadership, hardware, and personnel?

Another horrible event was the earthquake and tsunami that devestated parts of Japan.  Apparently the Japanese people are handling the terrible disruption of life, but what about concern about nuclear safety.  There is no way to factor in the possibility of an earthquake and tsunami  into the probability of failure of a nuclear facility.

On a totally different level we have the qustionable creation of a new College in Syracuse University. Very recently the “College of Human Ecology” was created by combining several small colleges.  Within that College there is a Program/Department called Sport Management.  This year that program has six persons who get paid salaraies sort of from the Academic Budget.  These six are made up of two assistant professors, a full professor, an Instructor, and two “Associate Professors of Practice”, whatever that means.  So, there are 4 bonafide faculty members in the Department.
On March 24, 2011, it was announced that the College of Human Ecology is to be renamed the David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics. What happened to Human Ecology?  It was also annoounced that David B. Falk and Rhonda S. Falk have made a $15 million gift to Syracuse University.  I certainly have heard of a generous gift being called a naming gift in the sense that a building will be named in honor of the generous donor.  But what does it imply if the University renames an Academic College in honor of a generous donor?  Perhaps if the donation supplies a boost to a department that is already doing great things in research and contributions to humanity that could be understood.  But this department of Sport Management doesn’t even have a tenured faculty member.  Can we point with pride to this change?

The summer was pleasant – better than in 2010 since this year I was able to swim in the pool a few times.  Jim went through a lot of changes at All Scripts in that his job changed quite a bit because they found out  how quickly he latches on to real problems.  So now he is working at several cities around the US, excluding Chicago, so he has moved back to Syracuse as his home base.  Jill is thrilled about that!

Along about the first of November I was busy doing some brailling for the Community Choir when my PC computer decided to die.  I had been using the serial port on the PC to communicate with the embosser since the parallel port on the embosser decided to quite some time ago.  I decided to use a more modern PC and this seemed to imply that I had to use a USB port on the PC.  But my embosser is quite old and has no USB port.  I spent hours trying to find and install a driver for a USB to make it act like a serial port – then I could use a USB to DB 21 bin plug and all should be ready.  The first problem was that the software driver just didn’t work.  I finally found it was because the USB cable they sent me had something wrong with it.  I scrounged around my old equipment and found that my first laptop did have a serial port – the machine is a few years old.  So the next thing I needed was some way to match the serial port on the pc to the serial port on the embosser.    I knew their baud rate, etc. so that was no problem.  Then I needed to have the software to read a file and send its data out the serial port.  A VT-100 simulator was found and seemed to work except that that type of terminal doesn’t transfit the form feed signal which is need to transfer date to the next braille page..

To solve this problem I had to go back 20 years to the time I taught assembly language at SU and write the program to do it.  That required digging up a lot of old memories from my befuddled brain bu finally that was accomplished on or about December 14!

One other problem interferred with my happy work.  A trip to my Urologist resulted in him finding out that my bladder was not properly dumping its load, and this could be serious.  So for the last two weeks our trip to Panama has been on hold until we find out what the situation is.  We found out that by taking a couple of new pills it was worth the shot to head for Panama so we started to get ready for the exodus.

2012

January 4th arrived and we were ready and willing to get out of town.  Dolores  was less than thrilled at the prospect of the very high teperatures we could expect but she was used to living with real problems so off we went.  The flight to Panama was much easier to handle since it was only four hours out of Atlanta, not the 10 hours needed to get to Buenos Aires.  The flight was on time and we were met at the airport (EZE) by a driver that took us directly to our apartment – 4A  Azucenas.  It was a very large apartment with 2 bedrooms plus a maids room.  The kitchen met all of Dolores’ specifications.  We met our friends from last  year at the church in Balboa – Iglesia Santa Maria.
I had a terrible time getting the AAUP Salary Report put together.  We had brought two computers – my notebook and Dolores’ netbook.  I needed MATLAB to create the report and I found that somehow the copy of that on my notebook had become corrupted.  However I had a second copy on Dolores’ netbook so I ended up using her computer for most of the report.  However the only copy of Microsoft Word 2007 we had was on my notebook.  Also most the soaftware I had written for creating the report was on my notebook.  So this meant much transferring of files between the two computers and there was some tendency for errors to be made but it was finally completed in early March.
We went to some dinners for ex-pats and met another couple.  Kay Moody from Jamaica and Robert Eschauzier from Niagara On the Lake, Ontario.  Kay is a very reserved woman – appears to be quite reserved.  However she opens right up with the right stimulus.  Robert is an ideologue – he says he is totally against any form of government.  However I think this is an attitude under construction; he mostly just wants to be unconventional and he succeeds at it.  We went to LaValle for a weekend with them and had a nice time.  Kay owned an apartmen in Panama City and was able to sell it fairly easily.  In fact the people who bought it wanted her to move out before she was ready to leave Panama City.  She knew a person who has an apartment in Trump Tower in Panama City and she and Robert were able to move into it for the last few weeks of her stay in Panama City.  She then left  for her homeland and Robert went back to Canada.  They intend to meet in Chicago where Kay has another apartment.  Kay says she really wants to visit Buenos Aires so it is possible we will meet them there.  Dolores and I feel we should make at least one more trip to our favorite escape site.

 May 17-23, 2012
Corey Brulé is scheduled to graduate from California State University Northridge (CSUN) in this interval so I scheduled a trip to San Diego to see how my only grandson is doing.  He did Honors type work at CSUN and so he was to participate in some special events.  I also want to visit Janet at her daughter’s home in Ridgecrest to see how she is doing.  That meant I would be out of Syracuse from Thursday through the following Wednesday.  Dolores decided not to accompany me on this trip since it overlapped with a First Communion event for two of Cathy’s children.  So she took a trip to Boston with Maryann that same weekend.
On Thursday I flew to San Diego and on Friday Mark made a dozen pasties while I watched.  He really is a good pastie maker!    Saturday we drive north to Ridgecrest – it is about a 3 1/2  hour drive.  It was great of him to do that since there is no way I could have done it by myself – partly becauser some of the trip went through parts of Los Angeles.  I visited with her upon arrival then took a nap.  We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening talking about things.  She seemed physically OK but her attention span is short and she grieves over her loss of short term memory.  We talked about many old matters and she seemed OK.    Marika informed me that indeed Janet has Alzheimer’s.  On Sunday we were scheduled to leave to go back to LA to attend a birthday dinner for Corey and MaryAlice decided she would like to go also to visit with her son and his wife and their cheld London.  She was invited to Corey’s dinner along with Janet and Bob – Marika’s husband.  When Janet was informed of this she said she did not want to go because it would be a long day for her and she would feel  ill at ease at the dinner with a lot of people she didn’t know.  Very sensible.  However in discussing this with Marika Janet became very upset and broke down and had a serious weeping spell.  I sat with her for about 15 minutes and she was totally distraught – expressed the desire to die among other things.  I then went back to the group and a few minutes later Janet reappeared and seemed composed.  Her first interest was to relocate her dog Brownie.  Marika and Bob worked it out that he would stay with Janet and so Marika followed Mark and me as he drove back to LA.
The party for Corey was attended by about 14 friends and family and it was a very cheerful affair. 

On Monday we visited Alyssa at her job with Sony and saw where she does her 3-D programming.  After another nap we went to the Convocation for the Honors recipients and were pleased to see Corey so honored – he graduated Cum Laude.  After the ceremony Mark and I went to Corey’s apartment and met his roommates.  A most pleasant discussion followed and the boys really impressed me.  A nice bunch of guys.

 

The graduation ceremony started at 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday – so early because the daytime temperature gets quite high.  After lunch we drove back to San Diego and got to bed early since we had to arise at 4:30 a.m. on Wednesday to board the 6:45 a.m. flight on Thursday for the trip back to Syracuse.  The line to get through security at the airport had about 150 people in it and it was terrible.  After the first hour or so of standing in line a TSA employee came up to me to ask me if I was all right.  I indicated I was a bit woozy so he ordered a wheelchair for me and I was wheeled through the line and to my departure gate.  Before boarding I informed the agent that my seat had been switched from an aisle seat to a window seat and I really needed the aisle seat to properly care for my trouble with footpain.  They immediately moved me to an aisle seat so Delta Airlines was also very helpful.  It was a good trip back to Syracuse and I was glad to be home again.

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