email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

Friday, October 21, 2016

US Election

Well, we are down to the final few weeks of the US Presidential election, and quite frankly, I wish it was tomorrow.  Or even yesterday.  I am SO tired of it I could scream!

At least it seems that the decision is no longer in doubt.  We will be referring to "Madame President" for the first time ever here, Democrats will have won a 3rd consecutive term controlling the White House since 1940 when Franklin Roosevelt was re-elected to a 3rd personal consecutive term, and (to steal a phrase from an previous generation) a long national nightmare will be over.

The election results will probably give nominal control of the US Senate to the Democrats by a small majority.  It is possible that the House of Representatives will become Democratic , but I'm not expecting it today (but who knows what things will look like in 3 weeks)?  Trump and the Republicans have the 3 weeks to make things better or worse.

If the Al Smith Foundation Dinner last night was any clue, it will get worse for the Republicans.  As background, the Dinner "is an annual white fundraiser in the United States for Catholic charities supporting needy children, held at theWaldorf-Astoria hotel in New York, on the third Thursday of October. It is organized by the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation in honor of Al Smith the former New York Governor and the first Catholic US Presidential candidate.  The dinner is hosted by the Archbishop of New York.

The idea is for the 2 major Presidential candidates to engage in self deprecating humor and some gentle digs at their opponent.

Trump failed at that utterly.  That's not just my opinion.  He received boos and several points when he just made his regular speech at a few points.  Commenters said afterwards that they had never heard boos at the event before.

Apparently, Trump does not understand humor at all.  He did have a few funny lines, none of which were aimed at himself, and even as delivered fell flat.  I suspect several of them would have gotten laughs if delivered by a professional.  Sarcasm can be funny, but not when delivered in anger.

Trumps best joke was when he mentioned 'Michelle Obama made a speech and everyone loved it. It was great.   My wife, Melania, made the exact same speech and everyone gets on her case.'

The audience loved it.  It is probably the best humor about plagiarism ever!  But even THEN, it wasn't aimed at himself.

The crowd stayed with Trump while he ticked down a list of what he called "corny" jokes about being a former Democrat and sarcastically calling himself "modest." And they mostly laughed along when he joked about Clinton accidentally bumping into him back stage and saying "pardon me."
"I very politely replied: Let me talk to you about that after I get into office," Trump landed the punchline. Trumps as said previously that Clinton should be in jail for various reasons.  Clinton was seen laughing.

His 20 minutes went downhill rapidly after that.

Clinton, on the other hand went straight to herself for humor.  "I took a break from my rigorous nap schedule to be here," Clinton told the audience.   And "Usually, I charge a lot for speeches like this."

She got in some rather harsh zingers, but they didn't get boos and there were definitely Trump supporters in the audience.  Rudy Giuliani was there and was the subject of one Clinton joke.  Clinton mentioned the many dignitaries in the audience positively, and then said "and then there is Rudy Giuliani".  Ouch!

“Now, many don’t know this,” Clinton continued, “but Rudy actually got his start as a prosecutor going after wealthy New Yorker's who avoided paying taxes. But, as the saying goes, ‘If you can’t beat them, go on Fox News and call them a genius".  Giuliani, a Trump surrogate speaker of increasing vicious attacks on Clinton, looked like he had a hot coal up where the sun doesn't shine...

But for the most part, Clinton was making jokes on herself and light digs at Trump, and Trump was his usual mean self.  I understand that.  People who are internally confident and happy can make jokes about themselves.

Not to say too much about myself in all of this, but I don't find self-humor threatening.  I tripped over a cat once while a friend was there, and landed on my hands and knees.  My first words were "so this is what it looks like from their point of view".

People like Trump can't laugh at themselves.  If one of his staff had written the absolutely funniest self-deprecating joke ever created, Trump would not have used it.  It would be against himself, and he can't imagine anyone against him.  Because they would simply be "wrong".

My point here, long time in coming, is that Trump can't be President because he lacks the fullness of self-awareness that allows most of us to laugh at ourselves.  I had a friend who did the almost slapstick gag of stepping onto a small boat from the pier and fell into the water as the boat moved away.

I laughed my ass off.  It was as if you actually saw someone slip on a banana peel.  He was livid, angry, enraged...  If I had done that myself, I would have keeled over in laughter at myself as I pulled myself onto the boat, and asked if anyone got a picture of it!

Narcissistic megalomaniac bullies cannot laugh at themselves.  Most of the rest of us can.  At ourselves, and at them...

But basically, all this means that the US Presidential election is decided.  Clinton will win; the question is by how much and will she carry the Senate and/or House along with her.  For the Democratic party, life looks good for 2 Presidential terms.  The interim elections are always iffy.  But the gains of the day are sufficient for the day.

I will be glad after election night Nov 8th.  No mor3e Trump for a while.

But do you know what is generally annoying?  In several places around the US, some people are starting their campaigns for the 2020 Presidential elections...

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Yardwork Again

I wasn't sure I was gong to be doing much yardwork the rest of the year.  I usually try to do at least one useful thing each day.  Sometimes I don't, but that is the goal anyway. 

So when I twisted my right knee in early April, and it was difficult to walk the first couple of weeks, I grudgingly waited for it to heal.  I do these sorts of injuries every so often but generally heal quickly enough.  I'm used to it.  You live on your own, you push yourself to do more than you should sometimes, and there is the occasional time your body says hey ease off on me a bit. 

It has happened before.  10 years ago, I casually tossed a rock at a squirrel and strained my rotator cuff and I could barely raise my arm over my shoulder for 4 months!  But it healed fine and I kind of expect that.

But this time, April rolled into May, and May into June and eventually September and it was better but not normal.  Some projects got delayed.  I had planned to repaint the bathrooms and kitchen, but crawling all around washing the walls, putting tape along all the edges and then doing the actual painting seemed too awkward.  But it could wait.

I had also planned to use my gas-powered weed-whacker with the steel cutters to eliminate the backyard brush and brambles that sprung up after I had a few trees removed  several years ago.  That didn't happen.

A few weeks ago, my right knee suddenly felt much better.  Not perfect, but good enough, and I started some minor yard projects and felt ready to do more.  I got some work done.   Mostly de-clutterring the basement the computer room, and the cat room.

And then I went and did something to the left knee.  No idea what I did.  It felt like I had banged it against a door frame, but for 2 weeks, I had 2 bad knees.  I was worried I was sufferring some serious problem (like Lyme Disease affects your joints, or longer term problems like arthritis). 

But I woke up 2 days ago and the left knee was back to normal and the right knee wasn't bad.  I could walk around pretty much normal.

So I had found a sealed bag of grass seed in the basement left over from last year .  I mowed the front yard grass very short.  Today I raked all the loose grass and dumped it where I plan to put a flowerbed island around a large rock and tree in order to smother the grass and weeds and leave some improved soil.  Then I spread the grass weeds all around.  And then I spent 90 minutes carefully spraying straight down onto the grass to beat the grass seeds onto the soil surface and give them enough water to germinate.

It is a bit late to do that.  But I had the seeds and they won't last another year.  And we are having a warm spell, so the seeds should germinate if they are still viable.  There are 2 bare spots, so I will know if they germinate.  At least that is SOMETHING done.

And both knees felt just fine after all that.  So that's good.

The next things to do are planting Daffodils in mid November, tilling some dead areas of the flowerbeds, and eliminating weeds in the paths between the framed veggie beds.  

Are you familiar with those long strips of brown paper used as packing material?  I've been saving the longest strips for several years.  The stuff comes all twisted and crinkled, but I untwist it and lay in on the basement floor and use a push broom to flatten it out.  That works very well.  Then I fold it up in 4' lengths and put a piece of plywood on it to flatten it further and keep it out of the way.  I have several hundred linear feet of it now.

It seems like great stuff to put between the framed beds, on top of weedy dead sections of the flowerbeds, and on top of all the Spring bulbs to smother weeds (with shredded bark on top).  It will probably decompose by Spring, and in not, it will certainly be easy to pull up at planting time.

It may not kill all the weeds, but it sure won't do them any good.  I am reminded of a W C Fields vaudeville joke where he says he swallowed a few moths and said he swallowed a couple of mothballs to get rid of them.  The sidekick asks if it did any good.  Fields says "well it sure couldn't have helped them any".  (Do not do this at home, mothballs are toxic).

My point is that the brown paper cover is worth trying.  If it works, GREAT!  If not, it is easy to remove and will make good compostable material after 5 months exposure to rain and melting snow all Winter and early Spring. 

Gardeners might object that  covers the soil gives voles safe space to run around under.  I did cover part of my flowerbeds with black plastic 10 years ago, and they did love it.  They ate every tulip bulb, safe from predators.  But this time, there won't be anything for them to eat.  Well, the weeds, and if they want to eat the roots of those, they are not welcome, I encourage them.  Otherwise, they don't touch Daffodils or Daylilies (toxic to mammals), the Tulips and Hyacinths are in wire cages they can't get into, and the seeds from the birdfeeder will be on top of the paper where they waill actually have trouble getting to the spilled seeds. EVIL LOL!

So I am getting into the yardwork late, but not impossibly late.  The last project, which is to plant specimen trees that won't grow tall enough to shade my garden and flowerbeds is still in reach.  By "specimen trees", I mean Korean Dogwoods, Sourwoods, Wisteria shrubs, and Star Magnolias.  Those will shade out the brush and brambles like the taller trees used to do, but not cause shade problems across the yard.

I will surround the new trees with used carpeting.  That has really worked well for me over the years.  Rain soaks right through, but weeds won't grow up through it.  And it it is usually free.  Just look for some place being renovated and ask for the old carpet.  They will usually just give it away. 

OK, I'm off to buy some specimen tree saplings...

Back, I ordered 3 Sourwood trees and 2 Korean Dogwoods.  Sourwood trees are great in Fall.  They have small grapelike clusters of yellow berries and burgundy leaves and grow to about 25'.  The Korean Dogwoods are great in Springs, don't have the same disease problems as American Dogwoods, and spread sideways.  I have one on the shady side of the house that has been happily existing for 25 years at 20 feet, and I will take some tip cuttings next June.  It has pink flowers. The dogwoods I ordered have white flowers, so that will make a nice change.

I also filled in all the screw and nail holes in the main bathroom a week ago

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Odd Connections

Last night, I was thinking about a couple of songs that run through my head.  One is "Maria" from West Side Story.  I had read that the central syllable was a "dishordant" note. So I brought it up to hear.

Apparently, I don't know music.  It sounded fine to me.  But the lovely sweet song 'Maria' was followed by 'America', a joyful contratemps song where the boys expressed having to fight there way into NYC society and the girls expressed how much better life was for them even in the slums.

And I thought of the current times, where things are so much better for their children, but not yet equal for all.

And then I thought of the current election. 

Where some people do not want "others" to join in our grand US adventure.  Where some are afraid of change and "others". 

I was an "other" once, or at least my ancestors were.  Everyone here is "other" except Native Americans.  My English and French forced their way here and decided THEY were the new native people.  When Germans came here later, my ancestors decided "they" were too strange and didn't belong.

A few generations later, when the Germans were part of the culture, the Irish came, and they were treated like dirt.  But they became part of the culture.  Do even the most fanatical "nativists" now think Germans and Irish people living here aren't part of "us"?

Then the Italians and Eastern Europeans came.  They moved into the slums and worked their way out of them.   After  couple of generations, they lost their language (but added some to ours) .  Can you tell who of us it from those places anymore?

And other people came here.  Chinese who built the railroads, Russians fleeing the Czarist monarchies and the Soviets, Jews, fleeing from everywhere, and people from all over.

Can you tell who's ancestor was Russian or Polish now?  I can't and it doesn't matter. My BI is half Korean and one of the finest people I ever met.  I can't guess at the ancestry of my youngest sister's life partner,.

I might be surprised at my own.  I bet I come from all over Europe and given my maternal Canadian French ancestry, there might well be some Native American there too.  It doesn't matter!  I'm proud of everyone in my past and present.

So there is this loudmouthed, boastful, lying, deceitful, cheating,  groping, hate-filled nativist asshole  demanding MY vote, as an American,  to keep other hard-working people out of this country.

This country, where people dream of a better life not for themselves but for their children, this land where the best and the hardest-working people come to work and prosper, this land where we have a statue holding a shining beacon to the world saying all you who are willing to try your best, "come here, come here, our golden light shine bright", join us, become one of us, make our land a better place...

And this demogogue, this would be dictator, who feeds on fear says NO!  Stay away, leave us alone, we don't want new people and new ideas, DARES to want to become our President. 

There are always frightened people fearing for their routine life, afraid of "others".  They forget that their grandparents or great-grandparents were "others" once.   They forget what makes us strong.  

We grow and thrive in diversity.  New thoughts match to old habits, and better things come from that.  New ideas lead to new ways, new thoughts, new discoveries; a continuing change, a look toward the future. 

The German Chancellor Bismark once said that America is fortunate to have friendly neighbors North and South, and oceans East and West.  But he only saw a part of it.   The people matter more.

In 1860,  before our massive Civil War, people said "the United States "are"; after it, they said "the United States "is".   That was a profound difference.  The war was fought between some States against the Government. When it was over, there was a Nation.

And it was a "Nation" for the first time.  Nebraska farmoys and Massachussets  fisherman boys met for the first time.  Alabama cotton growers and Virginia tobacco boys met for the first time.   None had ever had a sense on the whole place as a "nation" before.  By the end of the Civil War, they did. 

And now we have the party of Abraham Lincoln and General Grant living in the South in fear.

Shame, I say SHAME on you Republicans for claiming Lincoln as your birthright and denying his ideals!

Nations come and Nations go.  All that is required is the failure to to keep striving toward democracy.   Let the first little dictator in, and others will follow  One just a little worse than the last.  Like a frog in a heating pan.

The time to act is not the next election; the time to act is NOW.    We have to choose the President who will keep to the ideals of Democracy, not the one  who says "trust me I will figure it all out myself and tell you what to think"...

That is how democracy ends, in dibs and drabs,


I messed up my right knee in April.  It still bothers me.  But I know what caused it.

Last night. I did something that messed up my left knee.  It is as if I hit it on a door frame.  But I didn't.  Can't think of anything I did to cause it.  Damn...

I guess I'm going to have to see a doctor...  I used to just heal in a week from these sorts of problems.  But not any more.  Getting old is really annoying.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Angry Voters

I have been hard on Donald Trump (and rightly so).  But I haven't discussed his supporters much.

I sort of understand them.  They are angry.  They are desperate.  They aren't living the life their parents enjoyed.

In a general sense, we all know that some people succeed in life better than others. And the others don't.  The reasons are not my point here.  My point is that they know the world is somehow passing them by, they are not succeeding,  and they are angry.  There are few emotions stronger than anger.

Hate is usually directed, anger is diffuse.

Trump has activated the angry people.  He wouldn't have gotten the Republican nomination for President if anger and fear wasn't a real thing in significant part of the population.

I do not fear Trump.  He will go down into crushing defeat on Election Day.  It is the angry people who concern me.  Their anger is justified.  They used to have decent-paying jobs putting headlights on cars, collecting coins from parking meters, loading luggage on airplanes, etc.  There used to be jobs you could just learn to DO without having to work on a computer, make decisions, or attend meetings and argue with people.  Some people are just not good at those things.  And they have fewer places to do work now.

And I understand because in the 1st 10 years of my adult life, I had cruddy jobs too.  I pushed a lawn mower in the hot sun for 2 Summers on an Army Base.  I spent 2 Summers pumping gas at a full service station where the owner dipped his sticky fingers into the till and charged us workers for the "losses". 

I worked at minimum wage in several department stores while the rent went up faster than my wages.  I even got to where I was in charge of a 1/4 of the department store and my hourly pay was 25 cents above minimum wage.  And the store managers cheated us every chance they could get because every dime they took out of our pocket went into theirs!

But I took a competitive exam for Government work and scored 100% in 5 categories of jobs.  That was because *I* spent my time in high school studying while "other" kids were goofing off.  I learned "stuff".  I practiced general skills.  I did well.  I was promoted regularly.  I retired well.

But not much better than the middle class in the US did in the 50s and 60s.  The high point of the US economy was when unions were strong (but not overly strong), when the percentage of the total wealth held by the top 1% was low, and when a college education for children was withing reach of most middle class families. 

There was a chart in Scientific American magazine a month ago that showed the percentage of national wealth held by the top 1% of Americans. 

In the 1920s, it rose to 20%.  At the end of The Great Depression, it was down to 15%, and the end of WWII, it was down to 10%.

In 1970, it was down to 8%.  After the Republican Tax Reform act of 1986, it rose rather suddenly to 16%, and after the 2000 Bush Administration, it went back up to 18%.  That is wrong.  The trickle down theory of wealth only means every one below the top 1% gets peed on.

The Republicans are doing it very very wrong, in pay to their super-rich supporters.  But the Democrats are doing things a whole lot better.

What we need is a Centrist-Union party dedicated to recreating the middle class.  No industrialized nation can survive without a strong middle class.  That is what makes democracy work.

Democracy works best when the poor have a path up, the middle class has some basic stability in life, and the rich are accepting a lower level than "outrageously fabulous".

I'll give a sports example...

Say you are a farmkid in Kansas and you have a choice between driving a tractor around cornfields for $20K a year vs earning $100K a year catching balls in the outfield.  Of course you would take the $100K.  But is it worth $50M.  No, you would do it for $100K. It is idiodically super-rich people playing their own game, competing with each other.

If they weren't, the seats would cost $10 and they would all still make a fine profit.  THat's what a generally middle-class world would look like...

Monday, October 10, 2016

Annoying Commercials

I have a love/hate relationship with TV commercials.  I love humorous ones and hate annoying ones.  Dad used to mute commercials, but I always found the deafening silence more annoying than the commercial themselves.  So I grew pretty immune to them.

That doesn't mean I didn't hear what they said.  The mind just filters out the brand names  And sometimes there is a new product that will actually draw my interest in the general product.  Then I research similar products that do the same work better.  Then I sometimes find stuff that really works. 

And they have learned a couple of new tricks this year.  In the first, they repeat the same commercial the 1st and 3rd time in a single station break.  In the second, they have the same commercial played on related channels at the same time.  So if you are watching the Science channel and an annoying commercial comes and you switch to the History channel, you are likely to see the same commercial.

But, my favorite disliked commercials...

1.  Some allergy medication that says their competitor treats 1 problem and they treat 6 AND 6 IS GREATER THAN 1.  Was 6 being greater than 1 supposed to be a revelation to me?

2.  A car insurance company that criticizes a competitor for telling a customer they should have bought "full replacement insurance" and says the customer should have researched that company better.  And then offers to sell you "full replacement insurance".  Just like they criticized the competitor for doing.

3.  I'll name names for this one.  For several years, Comcast has been comparing its cable service speed to Verizons DSL service saying "we are 5x faster".  I don't know if you remember what DSL is, but it stands for "Digital Subscriber Service".  DSL is about 40 years old technology.  It worked over old twisted copper wire telephone lines that were basically cleaned of static so that 9600 kbs could be transmitted over old-fashioned telephone lines. 

Its like comparing a 1940s Oldsmobile car to a 2016 Mercedes Benz in terms of spped, safety, and features.  And you only know Comcast is comparing their current service to DSL if you listen the the fast-talk and the very end on the commercial.

4.  All the car insurance companies who claim to have better rates than the others...  Every insurance company has slightly different rates for coverage and cost.  Everyone has SOME combination where they are cheaper than the others.  They can all prove they are better than the others at SOME specific coverage even if that coverage combination is so limited and bizarre that almost no one would choose it.

5.  Another one I dislike is a medication that says ours can start working in 30 minutes while out competitor's can take up to 24 hours.  I get such a kick out of that.  From what little I can discover, they are the same chemical.   Medication tests show a range of response times to the medications.  For the same medication, some people respond very quickly and some respond very slowly. 

So a particular medication may work very quickly on some people and very slowly on others.  There are many causes for that, but don't worry about that.  What Company "A is saying is that SOME test subjects self-reported an effect in 30 minutes.  And that SOME of Company X's test subjects reported irt took 24 hours.  What they are NOT telling you (because they don't have to" as that some of THEIR test subjects took 24 hours to respond and some of the Competitor test subjects took only 30 minutes. 

In other words, they were identical.  One company took the absolute lowest response time and compared it to the other company's longest response time.


It can be hard to stay ahead of the advertizing.

Rule 1 is to look for hidden insults.  Advertisers assume everyone is stupid and gullible.  "6 is greater than 1" is the best example I have seen of that in many years.

Rule 2 is to think about the assumptions.  Is a car showing it being driven at 120 mph better than a car being driven at 60?  How often do you drive at 120?

Rule 3 is to read the fine print at the bottom of the screen at the end of the commercial.  Puse it or record it.  That's were ALL the truth is.

Rule 4 is to turn off the sound and look at the commercial without the expensive talented narrator.

Rule 5 is to do the opposite. Close your eyes and listen to the narrator.  Sometimes what he or she says doesn't actually make much sense. 

Rule 6 is to apply some basic knowledge.   All through history, people have claimed benefits from and sold common or bizarre substances.   Most people are basically honest.  They have to be to keep the respect of family and friends and neighbors.  Salesmen don't! 

If anyone says "Scientists (or Doctors) Don't Want You To Know This", that's because the claim IS NOT TRUE.  Wearing copper bracelets or moving "special" magnets over your joints does not work.  Otherwise, doctors would be doing that!  Any doctor who could show by patient recovery that some odd idea worked would become FAMOUS.

Rule 7 is that "If it seems to be too good to be true, then it isn't true".  Ideas that are good generally don't need much advertising.  There isn't a lot of business advertising telling you to eat more fruits and vegetables.  There ARE a lot telling you to eat more Toaster Sugar Blasts and Chocolate-Frosted Sugar-Bomb cereal.  Because YOU KNOW that fresh fruits and vegetables and "some" meat is good for you and eating a pound of sugar a day isn't and they have to work hard to convince you to buy their sugar/fat products.

And since the sugar/fat foods, copper bracelets, magnets, etc, etc, etc are their only way to make a fortune, they try it.  And when it works, they are gleeful.  They think it is sure better than having a REAL job...

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Trump's Commennts About Women

I am posting this Saturday evening, before any new news about the Presidential debate or further news discussion about Trump's comments about how he views or has treated women comes out.

So this is general.  You know I don't like Trump.  He lies.  He lies about what he said years ago and he lies about what he said yesterday.  There is nearly no position that Trump has ever claimed that he has not denied afterwards.

My point here is not to list them.  Professional journalists and fact-checkers have done that before and found/proved him to be a pathological liar about almost everything.  That is what he is.  You can accept him for that or deny it, but he is that so frequently proven.

My concern today is the video of his comments about women.  Trump was politically-fatally damaged by the video.  Trump will never be a President of the US.

What I want to discuss is his justification for the comments.  His claim was they were locker room comments.  I've been in locker rooms.  I played soccer in high school and that was a rough bunch.  And we often shared locker room time with the football players and they tend toward crudeness.  Comments about cheerleaders, comments about fans in the stands.  Never in any locker room did I hear statements like Trump made.

In college, I tried rugby for a few months, and never did I hear such comments there.

And let me try to explain it.  In the locker room, some guys talked about expectations of having sex with their girlfriends.  Some talked about about going out to a local bar and trying to hook up with "fangirls".

Those were mostly established monogomous relationships or just plain fantasies.  There is a difference!

That isn't what Trump was talking about.  He was talking about outright predatory sexual assault, he was talking about using a position of power and influence to get unwilling sex, he was talking about taking advantage of fear of retribution and career destruction to have sex with women.  He wasn't talking about vague "desires".  He was talking about actual factual experiences in his life and the expectation that they would continue.  That is a VERY different thing.

The terms "creep, "vile", and "predator", come to mind.

His apologies are insipid, deceitful, and vapid! His first response was "I apologize if anyone was offended".  Now THAT is a standard political trick.  He isn't apologizing for what he SAID or DID, he is expressing some vague regret that OTHERS were upset by what he said or did which he considers perfectly OK.  In other words " You are an overly-sensitive, politically-correct annoying twit who doesn't understand reality".  That isn't an apology; that's an insult.

An apology is a clear unambiguous statement that you were wrong by all social standards, that you wish you had never said or done the thing, and that it was a strange inexplicable action that was totally out of character.  Allowable reasons are things like utterly mis-speaking, medication effects, typos on your notes, etc.

When you say you can get away with things like that when you are famous, you can't even apologize at all.  It is just "who you are"!  And that IS who he IS!

So, Trump is no longer viable as President of the US in any consideration.  That is simply an "absolute".  I don't care what any supporter thinks of his general political views, I don't care what his supporters think of his list of Supreme Court nominees, I don't even care if he COULD improve the economy (which he wouldn't).  That no longer matters.

Donald Trump must NOT ever be President of the US...

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Recent Posts and Comments

First, thank you to everyone who commented about my recent house searches. The comments all made good sense (and they were easy to agree with since I was coming to that understanding myself).  I have MUCH to like about my current house and LESS than I imagined to dislike.  After enough years, you have everything where you want it.  Minor problems seem larger than they really are.  Sometimes it seems easier to escape them than just fix them.

I argue with myself about many things.  I see both sides of issues and that can really make decision-making difficult.  I've had friends for whom any question gave them an immediate answer which they acted upon with no further concerns.  Personally, I thought they tended to make bad decisions sometimes, but at least they were never tortured by doubt. 

But thinking too much about everything can lead to "analysis-paralysis" and that can be just as big a problem.  You get to a close decision and you are STUCK in between.  I recently saw a TV ad that used the term "FOBO" (Fear Of Better Options).  I get that.

2 years ago, I looked at houses with County water and sewage and cable and large open yards with sunlight for gardening.  Last year, I looked at rural lots of converted farmland that I could build a new home on.  Starting from scratch in the yard and a new house that would outlast me seemed good.  But all the lots I could find were surrounded by working farmland with overpowering fertilizer smells and I never found the open house structure I could afford (like 100'x50' for one-level living and a workshop attached and a garage.   This year, I looked at large Ramblers about the size of my current size  over a large open basement large enough for my woodworking equipment, and had a 2 car garage (one car, one boat).

The good house was on a lawn dome that fell off into ravines in back and the large side, the house with the good yard had crumbling foundations and obvious water problems in the basement, and the last one had a good yard but was smaller than my current house and, even filtered and softened, the water tasted bad.  And was $150,000 more than my house is estimated

So I have decided to remain here for a while.  Perhaps in a few years County water and sewage will be installed in more rural areas, the cable companies will expand, solar panels will become cheaper and more efficient, etc.  But that time is not now.

There isn't a whole lot I can do about my lack of gardening sunlight, though some ideas occur to me.  Putting up silver-painted sheet metal on the shady side would reflect a fair amount of sunlight back into the garden, for example. 

There isn't much I can do about the trees.  They are tall and narrow.  It's not the overhanging branches; it is their sheer height.  And it has been years since I asked about removing them.  Perhaps paying to have them professionally removed and replacing them with flowering trees like dogwoods would work.  I'll at least ask again.

And if that doesn't work, I do have the right to cut out all roots invading my soil.  Since they are so close to the property line, that might kill them.  And THEN I can offer them lower growing flowering trees that won't cause me problems.  From the shade angles, all I need is that trees be not more than 20' high.  The current ones are 50 to 75'.

As far as the house itself goes, most of the things that bother me are fixable through my own or contractor efforts.  The basement bathroom I installed myself 20 years ago was a mistake, but it can also be removed.  I've never used it except for storage.  It goes back to when I paneled 3/4 of the basement and carpeted the area thinking I would have parties.  I didn't throw parties and tore out the carpet in favor of a wood-working area, but the bathroom remains as dead space.  The ancient refrigerator can go, in favor of a medium chest freezer in the cat room upstairs.

I have 3 rooms with original 30 year old carpeting.  The master bedroom carpet is still oddly good (it gets so little use), but the other 2 are trashable and I'm thinking linoleum for the computer room (getting rid of the annoying chair mats) and tight pile carpet for the cat room).

I have new shingles on the roof, a new deck, new siding, and I have raised the front lawn to solve  drainage problems.  The asphalt driveway is deteriorating gradually; that can be removed and replaced with concrete. 

My 25 year old perennial beds have less in them than my pictures show these days (which is why you have been seeing more pictures of potted deck plants this year).  I can dig up the good plants, rototill the areas, replant the good ones and add more.  But that is what I would be doing in a new place anyway, and with greater effort. 

I could go on, but you get the idea.  I was desiring to escape redoing and fixing things and just starting over.  Starting over is neat and clean.  Summer's Mom mentioned that HER passion was big beautiful houses  and those are what she wants to spend her time and effort on.    I when I lie in bed at night, thinking about what's not perfect about my house, my thoughts are on doing work to make it better.

I have reasons to want to move, but less than I thought a month ago.  I'm staying.  And if you are the kind of person who remembers things like this and I mention moving again next year, remind me about the past 3 years of searches.  LOL!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Houses Again

I visited another house today.  This one was listed a shade over $400k, but I could tell they would accept a lower offer.  The elderly lady and her son seemed to want to leave ASAP. 

The house is nice.  3 decent bedrooms, 3 baths,  large kitchen, combined dining/living room, 2 car garage, decent basement (divided into several rooms but they didn't seem to be structural so they could be removed).  Large front lawn, backyard sunny enough for gardening, and the place comes with a separate deed for 20 surrounding wooded acres.  I could probably sell a few acres and even make a profit on the cost of the house.

I discussed the purchase procedure with the agent and suggested starting the paperwork.  I could afford the new place, and what is the point of dying wealthy when you have no descendants?

There were some negatives.  The place is on  well water and a septic tank.  The direct water is OK for washing and showering etc, but not for drinking.  Even filtered and softened, the water tasted terrible (the agent looked at the system and said better ones are available).  I would need to build a 300' fence around the backyard to protect the cats from neighborhood dogs and the garden from deer.  I would have to have a large toolshed added.  I would have to remove interior basement walls.  The deck was tiny and I would want a much larger one. 

But those are problems that can be overcome.  The problem is ME!  I sat down after I returned home and thought about it.  Then I looked around the house and yard and realized I JUST COULDN'T GET MYSELF TO MOVE!  I have become part of the property.  I'm rooted, affixed, nailed down.  I don't want to change, I don't want to learn a new house, I like the taste of the water here, etc, etc, etc.  I have never lived in "someone else's" house before

For possibly the 1st time, I understand both sets of grandparents.  All 4 died "oldish" in the houses they moved into in their late 20s.  They had become part of their houses.  Or their houses had become their larger "skin".  My house and yard are part of me, and I can't shake that feeling.  Everything in the house is exactly where I want it to be.  The yard needs work, but that is always an ongoing process.  If I moved, I would feel like I abandoned a friend in need of assistance and care.

I don't need to move for a new job or anything.

For what it is worth, I can easily afford to buy the new house outright, empty the current one, and then have it professionally cleaned before selling it afterwards.  I could even sell the current place "as is" and not even bother with making the kinds of repairs that 30 years of living have inflicted.

Has my train gotten completely de-railed here?  Am I talking myself out of a good life decision?  Have you faced a similar uncertainty of moving, and if so, what decision did you make?

Wednesday, October 5, 2016


Well, I'm a bit depressed today.  I've lived here 30 years, improved the property, improved my gardening area, and I gain NOTHING!  Because every year, the neighbors' trees bordering my property grow taller and cut out more sunlight. 

If I had known those trash saplings of 2 feet 30 years ago would grow to massive shady sunlight-sucking monsters 50' tall by now, I would have mowed them dead!  I have asked the neighbors' if I could pay to have the tall trees replaced with fancy flowering smaller ones.  They say "no" because they like the shade.  Hint, hint; on the east and south sides THEY DON'T GET ANY SHADE FROM THOSE TREES!  But they are oblivious to that.  "Just saying NO" is easier.

So last year, after the gardening season was over, I looked at new homes on the internet.  I would like an open house layout with rooms defined vaguely by 30" high walls (all the better to put plants on). and a large enough property so that trees can't block the sunlight in some 40'x40' garden.

I visited some open lands.  They were all corners of farmland being sold off for cash, with working farmland next door.  Well, if you don't know what farmland fertilizer and/or a horse stable smells like all Spring and Summer; *I* do!

So that idea was a failure.

Last week, I looked for existing houses on 1-3 acres of rural land away from farms.  I found 5 that looked good.  Within a day, I learned that 2 were under contract for sale, 1 had a fussy homeowners association controlling almost anything you can image, and 2 were still available.

I visited those 2 houses with a realtor agent today.  Gosh, photographs can be deceptive.  Both were 3 bedroom/2 baths and 3-5 acres. 

The first, pictured here, was great inside.  Lots of great features inside, nice interior, high wood beam ceilings, a kitchen island with an induction cooktop, granite counters, large rooms, 2 car garage (in my case that would be 1 car and 1 boat), dual fireplaces (right in the center of the house), etc.  The basement was chopped into small rooms ( I want a workshop).  But mostly, the back 2 acres fell right into a ravine practically straight out the back door.  No chance for gardening there.  The house is basically like a Monopoly Hotel sitting on a baseball cap (good front visor, nothing behind).
So we went to the other house.  An acre wide and 5 acres deep.  The backyard was sunny ("gardeny").  And it was flat further back, so I could get for open space cutting down some trees.  Nice toolshed.  The upper interior was cramped but more space than I have now.  The basement was large; plenty of room for woodworking equipment.  
But it stank of mildew and showed water damage.  The reason was obvious when I looked under the deck.  The foundation is crumbling from long-term rain exposure.  The backyard drains TOWARD the house.  Whoever leveled the terrain originally should be drawn and quartered!  There were chunks of foundation spalled off from water damage.  Looking back into the basement, it became obvious the basement had been routinely flooded and the owners had tried a cheap paint job to cover it up.

Both properties were being sold for $350,000 in a rural area with well water and septic fields.

The realtor pair with me had never shown the properties previously and were dismayed by the problems I pointed out.  They seemed genuinely upset.  To the point were they took pictures of the problem areas and even noted some they found themselves ( a water-stained ceiling tile, for example). 

I'm sure that won't stop them from selling either place to anyone who wants them; that IS their job.  But they WERE surprised at what they saw.  I'll bet both places drop below $300,000 very soon. 

For someone who never bought a used house (and only my current one new-built) I sem to have a knack for discovering evidence of problems.  I noticed some other tricks the homeowners tried.  One front door rubbed hard on the carpet, yet there was no wear showing.   That meant the carpet was new.  So when I rapped on the carpet, the subfloor didn't sound solid.  That meant rain-damage through the roof.  Sure enough, there was discoloration in the ceiling above.  It had been re-painted and poorly, so you could see the spot if you knew to look. 

So my search continues.  A rambler on a basement on an open yard.  That's all I ask.  Looks like I will be staying here another year, though I will continue to check the listing "just in case".

Bad as my sunlight is, I refuse to move in the middle of Winter or in the middle of gardening season.

My plan is to buy a house, move, then clean/repaint/renovate the existing house.  I can have 2 for a few months because the current one is paid off so there is no expense holding it for sales prep.

But I'm sure not going to move unless I like the house better and I can garden better!!!