email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Immersion Blender

I mentioned my immersion blender on a friend's website, so I thought I would say what I like doing with mine...

Soup:  I like to make navy bean soup, and using the immersion blender briefly among the beans thickens it nicely.

Beef Stew:  Add and extra potato in chunks.  Pressing the immersion blender (IB) on those extra potato chunks 30 minutes before done thickens it nicely too.

Italian Dressing:  I make Italian dressing from dry mix envelopes.  You are supposed to "shake the contents".  Using the IB works better and the contents never separate!

1 cup blender attachment:  You want a great marinade/rub?  Add 3 cloves of peeled garlic, a 1/2" slice of peeled ginger, 1/4" slice of onion, and a dash of soy sauce.  Run it though the small blender attachment!  It is small enough not to just spray the contents against the inside walls.  The paste liquid flavor is absorbed into the meat wonderfully.  4 hours for chicken, 6 hours for pork, 8 hours for beef.

Cocktail Sauce?  1/4 c ketchup, 1 tblsp minced horseradish, 1 tblsp lemon juice, dash of hot sauce.  Blend 10 seconds.

Tartar Sauce?  1/4 c mayonaise, 1 tblsp pickle relish, 1 tsp lemon juice.

Gravy lumpy?  Use the IB to blend!

Want spaghetti sauce from canned diced tomatoes fast?  Use the IB on it and heat it in a nonstick skillet about 10 minutes!  But stir frequently.

I'm sure there are more uses, those are just the ones I use...

Monday, December 26, 2011


Friends, among all the mediocre and even failing customer support staff, there sometimes appears a bright shining star.  One such person was granted to me this morning.

Jesus De Leon, of Verizon, is that person, and I applaud and salute him.  He fixed my email problem when the previous 5 Verizon agents could not.  For the first time since I switched from Comcast to Verizon, my email WORKS!  It took 2 days, 16 hours, and 5 Agents, but Mr. De Leon knew everything right. 

If you ever need Verizon internet email help, ask for him!

So my new email address is "cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT net".

Switching From Comcast ISP To Verizon ISP

Last week, I decided to finally rid myself of Comcast Internet and Cable TV service.  I did not have their internet telephone service because (1) they could not keep my current telephone number and (2) they did not have a good quality rating for it anyway.  I used Verizon for telephone, with a "foreign exchange" (allowed me "local" calls to my friends in the Washington DC area).  The combined services were costing me $210 per month. 

Verizon kept sending me ads for all 3 services at $99 per month.  Of course, I wanted better TV than the basic, but I estimated (from the bill of a friend) that the total cost would drop to about $140 per month.  And with faster internet speed, less or no TV picture freezing (brief, but frequent on Comcast), no modem rental fee, no charge to service failed equipment (Comcast charges for any visit unless you pay a monthly support fee), etc, etc, etc.

So I arranged for Verizon FiOS service.  It was installed Dec 23rd.  I've got some gripes.  The Verizon TV remote control needs to be aimed dead on to register; the Comcast remote could be aimed anywhere in the general direction of the set top box.  I think I can fix that by raising the set top box to a higher shelf and angling it upwards a bit with rubber doorstop wedges.  The Comcast TV listings were easy to read and navigate; The Verizon TV listings are more like navigating a website.  And while the Comcast HD channels were a "bit" randomly numbered, they HAPPENED to have clumped MY favorite channels closely together.  On Verizon, the channels are logically grouped by topic, but my favorite channels are now far apart.  I'll get used to that once I memorize the new channel numbers.

Sounds OK, right?  Not!  So far, I have spent 16 hours in 2 days fighting to get my new email addresses working.  OK, Christmas weekend might not seem the best time, but it seemed to me the best.  Everyone is busy with Christmas stuff!  But I think only the least able Verizon agents were online too.

My Mac Mail was easy to set up with my Comcast service years ago.  Straightforward, no problems.  I got instructions, they worked, I had functional email.  I didn't even have any problem with Comcast when I switched from Windows to Apple.

But, oh boy, am I having problems NOW with Verizon email!  Verizon has many customer support options; telephone, virtual agent, live chat with real agents, user forums, and a downloadable diagnostic program.  The telephone que was 45 minutes, so I tried the live chat (online streaming service).  That was "not available).  So I tried the virtual agent.  My problem was beyond its programming, but it DID offer to connect me to Live Chat (not available according to its own link).  SURPRISE!  Virtual Agent can get me to Live Chat even when Live Chat thinks it is "not available". 

Sadly, I had to pull that little maneuver several times Saturday...

Saturday, into Sunday morning, I contacted Live Chat Agents 4 times.  Here is the problem I was trying to solve (and to anyone who has read this far, type "artichoke" into the comments, so that I'll know).

The agents were Kumar, Carlos, Moad, and Salvador.  I think I went all over the world!  Maybe I need a Li and an Umlak to complete the continents.  I may, yet...

The problem was that, while I could set up email accounts at the Verizon site, and set up the same on my Mac Mail, they wouldn't connect.  At first, I could send emails from my new Verizon address via Mac Mail, but not receive emails from the Verizon server.

The first Verizon Live Chat agent fixed that.  I could send emails.  But then I couldn't receive them.  I discovered he had reset my primary user name from "cavebear2118" to "vze1983ol" and THAT godwful ugly thing was my new email name (as in "").  He also deleted one of my new Verizon email sub-accounts (marksmews) AND even (in his hapless inept attempts at fixing my problem while he controlled my screen, changed my PRINTER connections (as if that had anything to do with the problem.  But afterwards, I couldn't RECEIVE any emails to my new Verizon accounts.

So after an hour of struggling, I went to Live Chat again (only game in town Xmas Eve). THAT agent got me able to RECEIVE emails to the new account, but I discovered afterwards that I couldn't SEND!

I am not a really patient person, but I AM persistent!  The next Verizon Live Chat agent assured me he understood the problem and could fix it.  He got me back to sending emails, but after he signed off, I found I couldn't send them again.

I should mention that setting up email accounts involves specific incoming and outgoing addresses and port numbers, SSL (secure socket layer -whatever those are) choices, user names, STMPs, etc; few of which I know much about (but can enter in the right places upon instructions.  I know how to find those places when asked, but I don't know what they mean.

The 3rd Live Chat agent brought me back to where the 1st one had me, but stated that the Verizon setting were right, my Mac Mail settings were right, so it had to be a Mac problem.  I let him go after only 30 minutes because my Mac Mail works just GREAT with my Comcast email addresses and there is no difference between Comcast and Verizon in that regard.

The 4th Verizon agent smiled when I explained my problem and said he knew exactly what I needed to do to fix the problem because he was familiar with it.  He gave me specific settings to enter and specific ports and where to "allow SSL with authentication".  He sure seemed to know what he was doing!  I was grateful.  But then afterwards, I discovered I STILL couldn't both send AND receive emails (as usual so far). 

I gave up for the night...

I tried again today.  This time, the agent apologised for the problems the previous agents had caused and gave me very different and very specific instructions.  Even told me how to change my primary email address from that awful "vze1982ol" to "cavebear2118".  He explained I was a POP3 on the Verizon FiOS (not the standard POP the other agents had assumed), and gave me specifv port numbers to use in several places.  He included a link to the "24/7 restart" site.  I was thrilled!!!

The link was down...  ROTFLMAO! 

Basically. all YOU will see is that my email address will change (eventually) but not yet.  Iam debating whether to attack this again tonight (it is 12:40 am here).  I'm alert at late night...  Thinking, thinking, thinking...

Well, well, what the hell, I'll go "once more into the breach, dear friends"...

Thursday, December 22, 2011

My Crazy Neighbors

Hey, DIFFERENT vehicles are showing up at the house late tonight.  Does that mean there will REALLY be new neighbors?  I can only hope.


Don't you hate it when you THINK you have deleted a post you started?  LOL!

I THINK I am too nervous about changing internet companies tomorrow.  I don't know how that is going to mess up my email...

My Crazy Neighbors

They aren't quite going away yet.  Its very odd.

But t still seems they are leaving.  The woman never shows up with the baby anymore, and there are boxes thrown out the door,  It is getting even more odd.  There was a police car in front of their house for an hour last night.  Just watching...  Then it just drove away.

Odder and odder...

Cars with some of them show up daily, but leave after 15 minutes.  Several times a day.  I can't figure out what they are doing.  More weirdly, they fill a bucket of creek water and bring it inside.

A wild guess would be that their water is turned off and they need outside water to flush the toilets.  But then why return?

Mysteries abound.

On a completely other subject, I got my backgammon rating up from 1420 to 1675 today,  It was just a matter of game discipline.  "Don't hit them, don't hit them, don't hit them".  It really works.  Now I have to decide whether to try to take the rating above 1700.  I am sure there is a new lesson to learn after 1700.  Maybe WHEN to hit.  But I love the game.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Cards

Well, I botched it this year.  First, most of the cards we send from here are to cats.  So I design a new cat card each year.  44 cat cards and 9 family cards this year.  I seem to be running out of family but not friends of my cats.

So I use the computer to make address and return labels (neat stuff from Avery).   Partly because I can't write script anymore, and partly because even my printing is getting worse, I pre-printed the cats names on the cards.

So I printed all the cards for the cats, intending to make different cards for friends and family. 

Oops.  In the process of "doing" the cards, I forgot the family cards and use the cat cards.  So, family, sorry that the cards seemed more cat-oriented than usual.  Well, just consider that any card I send that involves the cats is important to me and let it go at that.  I meant well.

The other half of this is that we forgot to make a list of the cards we sent.  So now that we are receiving them, we can't tell if we sent one to you or not except on the Huffington list..  If you sent one and didn't receive one, it is entirely my fault.  We will make up for that next year because I will keep all the addressed envelopes we get and add it to our spreadsheet.

Feeling lame this year,


Monday, December 12, 2011

My Crazy Neighbors

I THINK they have moved out!!!  I happened to look out the window late Friday afternoon and saw THIS...
That is bedroom furniture packed up in the pickup truck.  I couldn't tell what was packed in the other vehicle, but it's full of some stuff.

I can't be sure yet if it is ALL of them moving.  There is FIG (Fat Idiot Guy), his wife SDA (Stupid Dumb Ass), his mother, and an apparently unrelated male.  So it might be only some of them.  But I seem to recall them moving in about this time of year (it's a rental), so it would make sense for them all to be leaving.  They don't seem like people who make their landlords happy.

I haven't seen a single car in the driveway since, so it looks promising...  On the other hand, a hauling trailer is still on the front lawn.  Since FIG built it himself (on top of a flat boat trailer) just this Summer, I don't think he would leave it behind.  But they didn't use it to haul any furniture, so maybe there is something wrong with it and he abandoned it.

I'll be watching for cleaning or maintenance trucks showing up soon!

Now, I've mentioned all the yelling screaming fights.  Outdoors.  Late at night.

But there were other odd things they did.

Let me count the OTHER ways...

FIG standing at the mailbox sorting through it.  Some he would just toss back in the mailbox (presumably not stuff for him).  But also tossed an occasional piece into the drainage easement.  I'm guessing it was misdelivered mail and he just wouldn't bother to deliver it next door.  I get those from time to time myself.  I deliver them to the correct address.

There is an advertising "newspaper" that lands on all our driveways each Friday.  I pick it up and it goes directly into the recycling bin.  FIG shoves them aside of the driveway until they collect for months.

Last Spring, they removed a window screen so that they could move some odd pieces of furniture through the far bedroom window.  That's fine.  But the removed window screen is STILL sitting against the front of the house 8 months later.

They mowed a strip of lawn one day.  The mower died.  It sat there for WEEKS!

Their back yard is covered with "pink stuff".  I think they are ripping out the insulation from somewhere in the house.  But I dare not go look at what it really is.

The Mom there is in denial.  In the last screaming fight late at night last week, she claimed it was about a cell phone.  Rather strange since the wife was screaming about an evident affair the husband was having.  I'll put it as delicately as I can.  She was screaming "Why are you F,ing her, Why are you F,ing her, Why are you" her over and over and over at the top of her lungs at 4 a.m.   I have no idea who "her" is or whether it is true. and I don't want to know.  SDA is as crazy as FIG as far as I can tell.

And THAT didn't seem to be about a cell phone...

Thats when I finally went out and screamed at them to just move away.  I felt bad about it afterwards, but there are limits.

I like my house and yard.  Living in one place for 25 years matters.  But I'm getting more concerned about the neighborhood.  The neighbor on one side started building a garage then stopped halfway for several years.  I've read that is a clear sign of marital problems, and they moved away suddenly this summer.

The male neighbor on the OTHER side of me had an affair with the lady next door to him.  When they were found out, the male neighbor wife left him and the lady next door to THEM killed herself.   Wow!  He seldom stays in the house.  The fence gate is BUSTED wide open!  I think he drove his motorcycle through it one angry morning.  There is a riding lawn mower that just stays outside in the rain in spite of there being a large storage shed in the back yard.

I told the policeman I talked to last week that I have never seen anything like this in the 25 years I lived here.  He said that neighborhoods sometimes fall apart...   

I got the impression that he expects to visit this neighborhood a lot more often than he has in the past.  Not a good sign...

But FIG and friends moved out, so that may be good.  You know what else they did?  They backed their cars onto my rain-soaked lawn and left gouges in it.  I had JUST gotten grass to grow near the street and they ruined it!


But it gets better.  Some older guy came by their house tonite, turned off all the outside lights they left on, and left the place dark as a stygian pit!  I think it was the landlord.  This may be my best day in months...  I THINK they are really gone!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Fun With The old Watch

I have a very old digital watch.  My Dad bought this digital watch for me when I was about 16.  It didn't cost much, but it has simple time/date controls and it keeps perfect time.  I have it on a simple velcro watchstrap (I'm not into BLING).

It keeps near-perfect time  and it suits me well, so for 44 years, all I've had to do is get the battery replaced every couple years.  I've spent more money on batteries than the watch cost.  More on velcro straps, too.   

It's fun bringing it to the local jeweler,  The same old guy is there every time, and every time he mentions that he hasn't seen a watch like that in 30 years.  I think he means it, just that he forgets he saw MINE a couple years before.  But I get to tell the story of the watch, and it seems to please him.  I wonder who is pleasing who, sometimes, but he seems sincere. 

Someday, the watch is just going to die.  I hope it lasts as long as I do, at least.  I'd hate to have to get used to a new one.  It is strange sometimes, looking at that watch.  Like looking at the strange light bulb way up in the ceiling of a warehouse that has been lit for longer than anyone can remember. 

If you'll forgive a similar memory, there was an odd Santa Claus head bulb in our old Christmas tree lights when I was young.  Dad remembered it from when HE was young. One year, it finally didn't light.  I missed that bulb, but I know that Dad missed it more.  It was something he trusted to keep going on.

Like I do my watch...

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

My Crazy Neighbors

There are apparently 2 couples and a Mother in the rental house across the street.  The problem is FIG (Fat Idiot Guy) and his wife SDA (Stupid Dumb Ass).   She screams at him outside and always late at night, that he is (let's just say "having an affair").  The language is much more graphic...  He uses the baby(?)  and his car as a weapon.  He tries to drive off and she stands in front of the car screaming.  She pounds on the hood of the car and he bumps the car forward a few feet at a time to push her away.  Eventually she gives up and screams at him until he peels out of sight through the neighborhood. 

I had to call the cops once because he took their phone and she said he beat her and took the baby and she asked for help calling the police.  But she seems as nuts as he is...

I hate the term "trailer trash", but boy do they fit the stereotype.

They are all entirely crazy. 

The older woman is FIG's mother and the guy next door seems to be her "ex".  They all have screaming ranting raging arguments at night, about once a week in good weather, less often in Fall/Winter.  Meaning that FIG screams raging at his mother, too.  I can't even tell you what he calls her sometimes.  Not the ex, he seems resigned to the situation and preturnaturally calm about it.

After the 5th or 6th MAJOR event, I finally went out and yelled at them that I wished they would move away.  I wasn't polite about it and used "bad words".  And I didn't feel pleased with myself afterwards.  And when the police showed up (as is becoming a routine), I yelled about the neighbors. 

I got "talked to" by the cops for "yelling"...  That's somewhere between irony and ludicrousness.

The Ex is no gem either.  He did some suspicious deal to get a designated wetland across the street rezoned for a house.  He even bragged to me about it once .  So I can't think much of him either.  I should investigate that deal one day.  Might be a local political scandal in there somewhere.

All that was a week ago.  And there were cop cars in front of their house again this past night.  I HOPE that FIG broke a no-visit zone, but thats just a guess.  There MIGHT be a crime ring there.  Couple months ago, the cops were there about some thefts involving FIGs car.  Sadly, they didn't haul his ass away.

I've lived here 25 years and never seen anything like this before.  I look out the window every day hoping to see a moving van appear.  But it never does show up.

I should move...

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Fun Yard Work, And A Little Nature Philosophy

As much as I regret the coming of Winter, and the end of the growing season, there is one activity I positively enjoy.  I refer to taking care of the leaves that fall on the lawn.  I have a heavily treed yard.  There are huge oaks, tulip poplars, sweet gums, and maples on half the back yard.  They are mostly upwind of the back and front.  So the grass gets carpeted fully every Fall.

I don't mean that I enjoy raking leaves.  I do that only to the extent required to get them out of corners and off the decks into the yard itself.

Then I mow!!!  I love shredding the leaves into small bits that nestle in between the grass leaves and decompose to improve the lawn soil.  I used to use a standard push mower, now I have a riding mower, which is easier to use.  I just keep driving back and forth over the leaves shredding them more and more each time.  With a little practice, you can keep the flung bits in rows for efficient remowing and re-re-mowing.  After a few repeated patterns, the leaves are "gone", the grass seems clean, and the lawn has effectively been mulched.

When I chose this lot 25 years ago, I tested the soil in the areas that would become lawn.  Its easy,  You take a 6" soil plug, put it in a large clear jug, fill it half up with water and then shake the hell out of it.  The gravel and mineral grit settles out first, the sand 2nd, the clay next, then the humus/loam, and finally fine silt.  After several days, you can read the composition of the soil in the layers that form.  The lot I chose had great trees, was large, and had great soil.

So imagine my shock when the house was built and I discovered the builder had cleared off the top foot of soil.  I was left with gravel, sand, and clay.  So, over the years, I kept shredding the leaves onto the top.  Today, I have 6" of loamy soil mixed with some clay.  A lot better than I started with (after the builder scraped the good soil off).

The trees don't suffer.  They depend on their fallen leaves decomposing around them to be taken up again in Spring.  But tree leaves tend to blow away.  So shredding them on the spot saves the nutrients from the leaves for the trees.  The lawn soil gets a little softer each year so that the rain soaks in better, and more air reaches the tree roots.  Tree roots actually need air.

The grass benefits too.  Aside from leaving the grass clippings on the lawn (there is no better grass fertilizer than grass clippings), the shredded leaves provide more.  That passes through the grass and eventually goes deeper into the tree root zone.  And, BTW, grass clippings do not cause thatch; spreading grass roots at the surface cause thatch.  That's why I have a fescue lawn.  Fescue does not spread by root runners.  And even grasses that spread by root runners don't cause thatch unless they are watered shallowly so that the roots all stay on the surface.  If you have thatch, you are watering too little, too often.

So yesterday was my big leaf-shredding day.  My neighbors sometimes look at me like I'm crazy, driving all around the yard with the riding mower in weird patterns.  I'm mowing leaves, not grass, so I go where the leaves are.  They rake up their leaves carefully and put them in bags to be hauled away.  Then they buy synthetic fertilizers several times a year to feed their lawns (with stuff that provides only the major 3 nutrients and none of the minor ones (like us eating meat and no vegetables).

There is also an aesthetic pleasure to the process.  It is amazing to watch the shredded and re-shredded leaves "disappear" into the lawn...

It's not perfect; I'm burning gasoline to do it.  But nothing is perfect.  If I did it as perfectly as I could locally, I would use a non-motor reel-type push mower.  But those are lousy at dealing with large leaves.  I used one at a Grandfathers place and it just bulldozed the leaves into piles in front of it.  I had to rake them up and (guess what?) they got bagged and hauled away.

So I enjoyed the grand once-a year leaf shredding.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Cousin Bobby

My cousin Bobby, about the same age as me, drowned at about age 12.  I cant remember the exact time anymore.  I remember Mom sitting on the edge of the bed trying to explain what happened,  He had cramps swimming in a quarry hole with other kids and drowned.

We visited my Grandparents, where he lived, the next summer.  I still expected to see him again.  Stupid, of course, but I did.  And he wasn't there.   He had polio at a younger age.  He pulled himself around by his arms and he was real strong.  He recovered, and could run around as well as I could.  But one day, suddenly, he was gone.

While we were visiting, I saw a telescope Bobby enjoyed using.   I asked for it.  The adults didn't understand.  I didn't want the telescope for itself, I wanted it because it was something he had handled and enjoyed.  I wanted it BECAUSE he had used it.  That made a connection to me for my lost cousin.

The adults just thought I wanted the  telescope for itself...  As if I just wanted a gift.  They never understood.  And I was too young to explain it right...

I wanted a remembrance, something Bobby had touched and used.  I wasn't given it.  Instead, I got a new telescope as a Christmas present that year.  None of the adults understood what I meant by my request.  They thought I wanted a "thing". 

All I wanted was something to remind me of Bobby.  And no matter how I tried to explain, I never got anything he used. 

I am that way still about lost loved ones.  Just any little thing is fine...  Something tangible to remember them by is all I ask.  I've been luckier lately.  I have Grampa's carved whale, Dad's wooden-built tool chest (he's still alive), Mom's corn-on-the-cob plates and the imitation Tiffany Lamp she loved...

These things are treasures to me...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Childhood Friend

I got to thinking about Ronnie tonight.  He was a childhood friend who had muscular dystrophy.  When I first met him at 9 years, he was fine.  Then we kids noticed that he was walking around on his toes.

Then he started to fall over.  That is a scary thing for kids.  You know, when things don't work right...

I don't remember perfectly now, but I think he was a couple years older than me.  His problems grew until he couldn't leave the house anymore.  I used to visit him and we would play Monopoly.  He enjoyed that.  He had a bed with a lifting device eventually.  It allowed his mother to change his sheets and clothes.

I don't understand the details of MS, but there came a day when he didn't understand Monopoly anymore.  So I moved the pieces around the board  and made up stories about his piece having fun on the board .  Toward the end, he couldn't even move the hotels, so I did it for him.  He was pretty much "out of it" by that point.

Then we moved away.  I wrote him some letters at 14 years old.  One day I got a letter back.  His Mom said he had died.  That was a terrible shock.  My cousin Bobby had drowned 2 years before, now Ronnie was dead.  I didn't understand death then very well. Kids were protected from that stuff when I was young. 

No purpose to this, just a remembrance from many years ago...  I think it was about this time of year.

Remembering you, Ronnie Richards...

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Lord of the Rings

I happened to watch LotR, Fellowship of the Ring tonite.  I think it is the best of the 3 movies.    I never liked the one where Frodo and Sam are slogging through the swamps and fighting Shelob.  Quite frankly, that was dull.  Essential to the story, but it didn't develop the story much.  And I never quite thought the ending was right.  Dramatic, yes, but I always thought Frodo should have been able to throw the Ring into the fires of Mt Doom himself.

He had already managed to release or offer the Ring several times.  He handed it to Gandalf at home where it was tossed in the fireplace, placed it on the table at the Council of Elrond, offered it to Galadriel, and held it out for taking by Aragorn just before the Fellowship split up. 

And I'm one who gets annoyed by story changes.  Frodo DIDN'T go over the cliff in the books when Gollum fell clutching the ring, for example.  And it wasn't Arwen who saved him from the Black Riders over the river, it was Glorfindel. 

But that's not why I am mentioning all of this.

I wish I could read the books for the first time again.  Watching the movie, I knew what the characters were going to say too many times in precise quotes.  I wish I did not have that memory.  It may sound stupid, but I really wish I could read the story anew. 

Sone day, there will be a forgetfulness pill, where you take a pill, watch a movie (or read a book) and you will forget it entirely.  And enjoy the watching or reading brand new...

PS, my other prediction is that someone will produce a perpetual kittenhood shot.  Cats will stay kittens until old age and suddenly die at the usual 16 years old.  Who doesn't want utterly cute kittens?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I Miss JFK

I remember where I was when I heard he died.  In a classroom, staring at the public announcement speaker at the top of the wall behind the teacher.  7th grade Social Studies class, I think, but that wasn't important.  The PA Speaker was light brown wood, about a 12" cube, dark brown cloth covering the grill.  The announcement from the Principal, that President Kennedy had been killed in Dallas Texas and that school would be closing for the day.  That students who took buses were to go to the assigned pickup points and wait with teachers.  That students who walked or rode bikes and had a parent at home (pretty routine in those days) should go directly home.  That those who did not should go directly to the cafeteria to wait for a parent to pick them up.  And then just stunned silence. 

I sometimes wonder what he would have been like in a 2nd term, then retired to "senior statesman" status for another 30 years.  Would the Vietnam War have developed as it did?  Would he have influenced the Civil Rights years?  Would he have become a great person in his elder years?  We'll never know, of course.

I wonder what he would think about our current political situation.  Could he have imagined that both parties would cease having conservative, moderate, and liberal factions?  Yes, there used to be Conservative Democrats and Liberal Republicans...

There used to be only 3 TV networks, too.  NBC, CBS, and ABC.  All that was on TV for several days was news about his death, the aftermath (Jack Ruby killing Lee Harvey Oswald), and the funeral.

I miss him.  A glowing candle, snuffed too soon, dimming the room for us all...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Occupy Wall Street

I haven't followed the OWS movement city-by-city, or day-by-day.  And as a Vietnam War college protestor, I have a certain sympathy for their actions.  Peaceful assembly is is protected Constitutional right.

But I saw something on TV yesterday that angered me.  I do not know which city it occurred in, I could Google it, but it is irrelevant.  The problem is that it happened somewhere in the US, not where it happened. 

In some city, peaceful protesters were blocking a street.  They weren't digging holes in the street, they weren't threatening to throw rocks or bottles at passing cars or at surrounding buildings, and they weren't threatening the police.  They were sitting quietly in a street. 

Yes, that disturbed commuters.  As a Washington DC worker for 30 years, I have sufferred that many times, and it is truly annoying. 

The role of the police in those situations is to remove the offending people from the street to permit traffic to move again and guide the protestors to places where they can express their views without unreasonably disaccomodating other citizens. 

The police were entirely capable (protected by their armor and the non-resistance of the protestors) of simply removing the protestors blocking the road.  This is what disturbs me.  They didn't DO that.  Instead of just removing the offending protestors, they pepper-sprayed them first, several times!  Not just once, but back and forth along the line several times.  And THEN they removed them.  I watched that on TV.  I saw the repeated, and unneccesary chemical attack on people how would would have peacefully allowed themselves to be arrested.

Something is wrong there.  If they were going to remove the non-violent protestors anyway, why torture them first with pepper spray?  And it wasn't a small shot to subdue anyone.  It was from a fire-extinguisher-sized cannister back and forth along the line of quietly sitting protestors several times.

Where have we gone so wrong, that a few people sitting in a street, who could be easily removed by police without resistance, OUGHT to be sprayed repeatedly by pepper spray.

For no practical reason!  Most of the handcuffed pepper-sprayed protestors cooperatively walked away with the police.  They didn't even make it hard by going limp and having to be dragged away. WHY did they have to be pepper-sprayed?  I keep searching for any tactical reason, and I can't find one.

Part of the irony is that the protestors were protesting the loss of police jobs (along with  teachers and fire-fighters) in their community.

There is something imbalanced here, and I don't like it.   Every day, I am coming down in support on the OWS people. 

I'm 61.  I can't spend months outside in a tent.  I sure wish I was 20 again, when I COULD do that...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

It Is Time to Say This.

Given the Penn State University scandal, I have to say my own bad experience.

I got over it (I thought), and it never SEEMED to bother me too much, but I've been thinking about it lately.   It always seemed a bit weird.  I can only hope someone out there can corroborate my strange experience,

The first year I attended  The University of MD, I took Physical  Education class.  We played tennis, football, etc.  I have good memories of that football.  I was a small guy lined up against very bigger guys.  I crashed at them as hard as I could.  One of the big guys even said afterwards, I was the hardest hitting little guy he ever met.  I did what I could. So I was pleased with the physical education class,

The next is going to sound weird.  Part of the Pys Ed class involved swimming and diving,  The  teacher/coach ordered us not to wear bathing suits.  Because "the lint in the bathing suits was a problem".  OK, I would know that was wrong today.  I didn't then.  An adult guy told us to do it and we did.  All the other guys went along.  I did too because they did.

We swam and dove naked for 2 weeks in the pool.  There was no inappropriate touching, but it was still wrong.  I am angrier today about it than I was then.  I wish now that I had gone to the Dean of the College.  And I am starting to understand that it bothers me more to this day than it did then.  It was all more wrong than I could understand at the time.  I feel guilty that I didn't say anything at the time.  I know now that that was dumb.

I/we weren't molested directly.  But being watched naked for a couple weeks had an effect on me,

And it may not be an accident that I suddenly have hiccups....  This has begun to bother me many days and nights.

I had to finally tell about it to try to get it out of my mind.

Who should I talk to?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Veterans Day, Part 2

I feel that I never do right by Veterans Day.  I can't really; I did not serve in time of war, nor in the military at all.  I don't mean that I couldn't have eaten lousy food, slept in mud, or hiked through rain.  I've done that.

What I mean is that I am not a loyal group person, and that I just will not follow blind orders.  I would not have been the person you needed to trust in battle.  That doesn't mean I'm a pacifist.  I would kill a real enemy without any serious compunction.  I might actually make a good guerilla fighter.

So I would like to spent a few minutes honoring those who did serve, in war or not.  You did what I could not.  You learned to work together as a team preparing or actually engaging in terrible situations.  You learned to follow orders.  More importantly, you learned to follow orders yet act individually when circumstances required it.  That is a great part of our military; follow orders but also be trained and able to act on your own.

I was born in 1950.  Too young for WWII or Korea, too unwilling to volunteer to fight in Vietnam, and too old for military training after that.  I took my chances in 1969 (1970?).  When the draft lottery was announced, I dropped my college deferment.  I would have gone.  My number was 256, and I was passed by.  I was not exactly saddened by that.  I did not consider the Vietnam War to be the same as WWII.

I grew up hearing of the then-recent WWII.  I had family members who fought, and luckily, none of them died.  I respected then greatly.  I respected all WWII military greatly.  Family history says one uncle dropped a bomb down a Japanese destroyer smokestack and sank it.  Other family members were in other fields of war, or spend the war building ships. 

It is partly for reasons like that that I minored in history in college.  I studied wartimes.  I watch wartime documentaries.  The bravery of soldiers matters.  I am not one of them.  But I have done the best I could to try to understand.

If the respect or thanks of a civilian matters, I offer it.  If you refuse it because I did not participate, I understand.

I cannot salute you, as a civilian.  But there seems to be a Roman Empire gesture that civilians could use respectfully (there is some disagreement on this) to their soldiers.  Right arm held out, hand angled down.  If that is correct, I offer it.

Please accept my gratitude for defending your country whenever called upon.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Michael Jackson

I'm tired of hearing about Michael Jackson, his strange life, his spiral into near-lunacy, the charges of child molestation, his death, and FINALLY the last gasp of the trial of his doctor.  I'm glad it's over.

I am not big into "celebrity".

But I recognize talent.  Michael Jackson was probably the most multi-talented entertainer I have ever seen.  He could dance better than Fred Astaire and Elvis Presley combined, he could sing with a breathless passion, and he produced songs (so far as I know) of an originality slightly beyond the Beatles or Bob Dylan.  The Moonwalk, Billy Jean, and Thriller amaze me to this day almost 30 years later.  But that WAS almost 30 years ago.

I regret the curse of great riches that happens to some people.  As it did Michael Jackson.  Some people can handle money, some can't.  Jackson couldn't.  I wish he could have stayed "merely wealthy".  At some level of income that would have have made his life great but not overpowering.

I couldn't like him in his last 20 years.  He just became too weird.  He "lost touch".  We will probably never really know what drove him down his own personal rabbit hole, and I regret it happened, as I would regret it happened to the poor and average among us.  But it happened. 

I an reminded of a question in a Philosophy class.  "Your very good tennis partner is accused and acquitted of child porn.  What do you do?"

My answer was "play tennis, but not allow him to babysit the kids".  I gave reasons, of course; it was an essay question. But that was the the core of the answer.

In the same way, I admire Billy Jean and Thriller, etc, but I am vaguely glad that he is gone...  And with the trial of his "doctor" over and done, I hope to never hear his name again on TV.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Computer Scare

I have a confession.  I am hard on inanimate objects when I get angry.  I have punched holes in walls, in hollow doors, and I have been known to throw things.  There are reasons why some people live alone...

Don't worry, I never take out anger on people or pets.  I also play online computer games with other people.  That's not really a good combination.

I thought I had ruined my computer last night.  I was playing Risk and had won 3 games in a row, and reached a level where I was playing a real expert.  I had him on the ropes when suddenly I couldn't make any moves.  After 3 turns of complete frustration, I threw the wireless mouse at the wall.  It broke apart quite satisfactorily...

I had an older wired mouse to replace it.  I still couldn't make any moves.  The keyboard went next, then the wineglass (which had only ginger ale).  So I shut off the computer.  I spent the next hour on my hands and knees carefully collecting bits of glass in a small wastebasket so the cats wouldn't step on them.  That was penance... 

This morning, I set about reconstructing the computer...  The wireless mouse went back together well, the keyboard  was plugged in...  Nothing.  I tried an older keyboard.  The only problem with it was a "B" key, so it should have at least worked otherwise.  I tried an older wired mouse that would only scroll up.  That didn't work either.  I checked the monitor for power, it had it.  Rebooting my Mac-Mini, I could hear the power-up sound.  The monitor would come on with the "no signal" graphic normal at start up.  I was baffled.  I tried every combination I could think of.

I worried about what scheduled blog posts said that I meant to edit.  I worried about emails I wasn't receiving.  I worried about what I was missing on the CB... 

I was so annoyed that I ate dinner early because I didn't have anything else to do.

I kept going at it all night.  I am not skilled at computers, but I am analytical and persistent.




The monitor connection to the computer had come loose...

All is well.  The wireless mouse still works, the keyboard still works, the computer still works.  Meanwhile, I feel pretty stupid...  Throwing things at walls never accomplishes anything useful.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Unhappy Halloween

This may sound strange.  I don't like Halloween.  I used to.  I used to carve pumpkins and stay by the front door to give out candy and admire costumes.

But about 6 years ago, no kids came to the door (or my neighbor's) and after a couple years of that, I just stopped trying.  I don't eat candy, so I had to throw it away after the holiday.  I started just ignoring Halloween.

To avoid an odd single trick-or-treater disturbing the evening meal, I started just blacking out the windows and turning the room lights off to signal I wasn't participating.

Until THIS year!  I read in the local newspaper that sex offenders in many places were REQUIRED to do what I was doing.  Turn out the lights, not give out candy...  Oh GREAT, if I DON'T give out candy and participate, I will be viewed as a sex offender by some neighbor, and you know how rumors spread...

I batted that back and forth all day in my head, and I hate to say that I caved!

I worry about rumors.  I'm an aging (61) single guy; the modern version of aging females considered witches in the older days.  So I rushed out to buy candy, kept all the house lights on, ate dinner early, and waited for trick-or-treaters.  None came.  Well, the cats were happy, they HATE the doorbell!

And you know what I noticed at prime trick-or-treating time?  Half the houses on my street were dark!  Either I live in a very BAD neighborhood, or THEY weren't worried about appearances...   So a good lesson about appearances. 

Now WHAT do I do with a year's supply of Hershey Hugs...?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


So I was shoveling the mulch out of the trailer.  Here are pictures...
First step. shoveling the mulch away from the back so I can remove the back of the trailer...
Half done...
 The pile off the trailer...
The mosquitos got too fierce.  I had to stop. The only good thing about the skeeters this time of year is that they are slow.  Still, I got 8 bites.  It was that they were around my face that made it hard.
Really, it was harder than it looks...  It was close to like chopping ice off the driveway...

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Neat Trick

My most immediate outdoors project is emptying the trailerload of mulch.  And I made good progress at it today (about 2/3 emptied - pictures another time).  Unfortunately, the mulch is packed down by rain and weight and it has to be broken loose in chunks even using a mulching fork.  That was a bit of work.

So I took a breather every 15 minutes and walked around the yard a bit, which is semi-forest and lots of field weeds.  Guess what, those triangular sticky-seed plants are in full seed!  I can never remember the name of the plant and I never remember what it looks like, but if they grow where you live, you know the seeds.  By the time I was done with the mulch for the day, my pants were coated with 100s of them.  I HATE picking those stupid seeds off.  I even considered just trashing the pants (they ARE old).

But I had a thought.  I have a hand vac with a rotating brush head.  Spreading the pants out flat on the floor, I tried the vac.  It worked beautifully.  In about 3 minutes, they were completely cleaned of sticky-seeds!!!

Give it a try.  Just remember not to empty the collection bag outside where the seeds will sprout...  LOL!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sometimes I am REALLY Dense

Recently, I posted about my frustrations in trying to repair the drip irrigation hoses.  I had 4 of them mounted to a 4 gang valve on a 12" post.  Two winters ago, the heavy snow broke the drip hoses off the couplings at the gang valve.  I became obsessed trying to find an internal connection (like a stent, I suppose) to reattach the hoses to the couplings.  I wasn't having any luck, because I needed 7/16" tubing and couldn't find that size anywhere.

One person, seybernetx, suggested standard garden hose repair kits.  I dismissed the idea because, well, it wasn't a standard garden hose.  Have you ever dismissed an idea because it didn't fit the way you were thinking of a problem?  Yeah, me too!

Well, I was walking past the broken drip hoses today, and the old LIGHT BULB OVER THE HEAD lit up!  A hose is a hose is a hose...  WHY was I caring about the existing brass hose couplings?  A standard hose repair kit would work just fine.  I had simply assumed the drip hoses were some odd size that wouldn't work with standard hose repair kits!

Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb!!!

The hard part is that I am usually quite resourceful about fixing things, using odd unrelated objects to make repairs... I guess this is one of the top 10 list of THINGS I FLUBBED!  I even had one of the right size repair kits sitting around.  It worked just fine.  I just need 3 more from the hardware store tomorrow.

Thank you, seybernetx.  And my cats say "hello" to your cats...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Outdoor Fall Projects

Well, it is raining again today.  It must be the rainiest Sept/Oct I have experienced.  And that has exploded the mosquito population.  Even with deet on my arms and neck, they swarm around my face.  They are pretty desperate.  Probably because there are so many of them and so few victims outside in suburbia.  Really, when I was young, all kids were outside from dawn to dusk except during school.  Now, hardly a kid is outside.

And with more pets being cats, and kept indoors, less pets for the skeeters to feed on.  I am considering getting my hunting garb mosquito netting headgear out...  That may seem extreme, but when the skeeters are biting your face, its not!

I haven't been doing too much outside the past week.  The inside of the house needed a lot of cleaning and organizing.  And I have that trail-load of mulch to empty...

Project 1 - Empty the trailer of mulch.
Project 2 - Deadhead all the perennial flowers of flowerstems and hang them up for the finches to eat the seeds.
Project 3 - Deepen the drainage ditch from the patio and install real perforated drainage pipe to the downslope area.
Project 4 - Clean the patio of silt and debris.
Project 5 - Protect the patio from rain from the deck above.  My idea is to put plastic on the deck and then cover it with outdoor carpet.  I plan to rebuild the 20 year old deck in a year or two, so it is a temporary measure.  The deck has given its expected lifetime.
Project 6 - Kill the ivy that has taken over the ridge in the backyard.  Too awkward to mow, but I cant till it down and spread the soil until the ivy is all dead.  The vines wrap around the tiller tines.

THAT should keep me busy for awhile!  And I'll try for pictures...

Monday, October 3, 2011

Crazy Neighbors

Well, I stayed up all night playing Risk and Hearts online, and I heard a familiar scream out the window.  The neighbors across the street were at it again.  Usually the Fat Idiot Guy (FIG) is ranting and screaming at the woman. 

Ofentimes, this results in him peeling the car backwards out of the driveway, then peeling rubber down the street out of the neigborhood.  She sometimes runs in front of the car.  He USED to STOP.

Its gotten worse lately and I have been very worried about her safety.  And recently, there has been a child involved in the fight.  FIG suddenly likes to take the infant with him in the car.  Driving away recklessly.

This morning, FIG took off again. with infant, and the woman stood there screaming.  I have intervened before with threats of "calling the cops".  I have spoken to the renters there (there are at least 2 couples, I think).  Its hard to tell. 

But this time I asked the woman (18? 21?) if she needed help.  She asked my to call the police.  I did.

They were there in 5 minutes.  Two County and two State cars.  I explained that I had called on her behalf, and backed off so they could talk to her.  One cop stayed aside , and I gave him a brief background on the problems of the past year.

He talked to the woman for about 20 minutes, giving her advice and explaining the limitations (FIG IS the child's father, so it isn't kidnapping).  I lent her my cordless phone to call friends for a safe haven.  I was amazed the phone worked outside like that, but it did. 

After overhearing that she needed to file legal papers at the County Courthouse10 miles away (and knowing she had no car), I offerred to drive her there if her friends/family couldn't.  I'll bring a book if asked to drive.  Paperwork takes time.

But I just couldn't continue to hear her screaming in mental agony every week.  Yes, maybe I should have acted more forcibly before.  But it is difficult to know the dynamics of bad relationships.  I have acted before in other places and been told  (rather forcibly) to "BUTT OUT".  But I guess I judged this one correctly.

I did not know before this that there was physical violence involved.  It was all yelling and screaming before.  But she had blood on her nose (interestingly, she was not aware of that).  That shows how bad things can get behind closed doors. 

I'm glad I called the police, I think she is going to get some legal help and it is now "on the record".

On the other hand, this FIG is a real looney tunes type.  If someone bangs on my door, I will answer through the computer room window.  That's safe.  If it's the woman, I will drive her to a safe house or legal place of her choice.  If its the FIG, well, I have a real Gladius propped by the front door and another at the top of the stairs for self-protection.  He IS the kind of person who would beat down a door and attack. 

Sorry to bother you all with this, but I have to write sometimes to get things straight and put disturbing events in print.  Some good news.  A car pulled into the driveway a few minutes ago.  It wasn't FIG.  It was her dad. (Well, I went out and asked)  He came by to help her pack some things and bring her home for some shelter for a while.  I offerred any help I could give.


BTW, the cats didn't know the earthquake was coming, but they DID know the neighbor screams were going to start before I did.  They went all poofed and UTB about 3 seconds before I heard the first yells.  Good for them.

(Very Tired) Mark

Friday, September 30, 2011

Garden Watering Stand

I like to keep the garden watered, but it's boring.  It's wasteful to use an oscillating sprinkler on the raised veggie beds because of the walkways between them, and the flowerbeds are too narrow for one.  It is too boring to just stand there and water all the beds by hand.  I have drip irrigation hoses, but they all broke off at the raised brass couplings under the weight of the snow 2 winters ago (haven't quite figured out how to repair them).

I had developed a rather convenient way to water them all a patch at a time using a fat hose nozzle and a spading fork.  I stabbed the fork in the ground abut 10' away and nestled the fat hose nozzle (shower setting) in the fork's D handle.  But that required getting the garden fork firmly in the ground at each 6' section or raised bed.  Naturally, if I needed to water the beds, the lawn soil was rather hard to penetrate with the fork.

I needed a better way.  My first thought was a pole with a clamp on top and a flat "X" at the bottom with spikes to "step" into the lawn.  I couldn't find any parts like that, and I'm not a welder.  Then I looked at my camera tripod.  It looked a bit flimsy, needed some kind of attachment at the top, and I wasn't sure how waterproof it was.  But a tripod seemed the way to go.

I built one using pressure treated wood and stainless steel hardware.  The PT wood is 2x2"deck balusters. The tripod is designed with 1 forward and 2 back legs.  It is 2 back legs to resist the backwards force of the water and the weight of the hose.

The balusters come with pointed ends.  I wanted the points for the bottoms, but I wanted flat tops to attach a nozzle platform.  So I cut off the tops of each of the 3 balusters.  Then I cut 3" off the 2 back legs to use to widen the attachment surface.  Two pieces of scrap wood added some width.  It was all glued and screwed to the front leg.
Next, I used a tapering jig on the tablesaw to cut angles for the 2 back legs to attach to the front leg.  They are shorter because I used 3" to make the top attachment surfaces, but also because the front needs to be longer to create an upwards angle for the nozzle platform.  That will make more sense in the last pictures.  I can't give an exact angle for the cut (I really just overlayed one on the other and eyeballed the "right" spread).  It looks about 30 degrees though.
I needed to drill a hole through the 3 legs for an axle bolt.  I rigged up some stops and supports on my drill press for the 2 angled back legs.  The front leg just needed a spacer to account for the platform support.
It looks like this when the bolt and nut is put through all 3 legs.   This holds the legs all at the angles.  But I also wanted to be able to store it easily for the winter.  That meant being able to collapse it.  So I took the back legs back to the drill press and lifted them up slightly to angle the holes. 
I may not be explaining that well.  To store it, I wanted the 3 legs to compress flat to each other, and the lengthened hole allowed that.  And so that the bolthead and wing nut (for tightening securely on a flat surface, I used a forstener bit to make an angled hole the size of the flat washers.  I don't have a picture of that, but it will be obvious when/if you make one of these yourself.

Notes:  1, The washers between the legs were removed later.  I realized I DIDN'T want the legs to slide easily when being set up.  2,  The spacer washers below the wing nut are there because the wing nut catches on the wood before the bolt is tight.  3, Use a bolt with threads the whole length.  The bolts with about 1" of threads don't have enough thread length.
Here is the tripod in the storage position.  That's what I mean by "compressing flat" and why the back legs have elongated holes. 
Here is the tripod set up, minus the hose nozzle platform on top...  You can see that with the front leg longer, it creates an upwards angle.
Here is the finished tripod.  A piece of PT board is glued an screwed to the platform support on the front leg (the screws are countersunk under the wand nozzle).  Copper clamp-downs hold the wand in place with pan-head exterior screws.  A wand nozzle is much easier to attach than a standard nozzle.  The wand, BTW, has the most uniform spray of any nozzle I have ever tried.  This brand is Melcor; others may be just as good.
To relieve hose-weight pressure on the wand, I attached an angled  hose connector.  I have quick-connect attachments on all my hoses and attachments.
And here is the watering tripod in action!  Adjusting the angle of the front leg easily adjusts the angle of spray.
It's easy to move from spot to spot, stores nicely, and should last decades!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Pictures Again!

I've been a bit frustrated lately, often not being able to get pictures into the posts.  They would upload in the Choose Files box, but would not transfer to the post.  I even posted a question on the Blogger Help forum (no replies).  So, today I tried the new Blogger interface, and pictures load properly.


I am showing the pictures of the "Poor Old Storm Drain" to add to THIS POST today...

The overview...  Yes, believe it or not there is a 4x4x4 foot brick well and heavy metal grate under there!
At first, I tried to pull the debris off.
Most of it was too entangled.  I wasn't surprised.  The last time the drain was like this, the County needed power equipment!
But I stopped trying as soon as I saw that the brick structure was broken!  You can see part of the brick wall is at an angle.

I also noticed that the metal grate on top is actually shoved OFF the brick structure!  You can also see that the woody debris is packed so tightly that stones washed over the top and wouldn't fall through.
I called County Maintenance and reported the problem.  They politely took all the information, but wouldn't suggest a repair date.  I'll be happy to see them out here by next Spring.  That's about how long it took the last time.  However, I will say that they do good work when they come.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Redo On The Lawn

I haven't re-seeded the lawn in years and there are thin/bare spots.  So before Tropical Storm Lee came through, I thought I would take advantage of the predicted rain for the week to keep new grass seed wet while it germinated.

I didn't realize how MUCH rain there would be and how HARD it would fall at times.  Some of the seed I put down then has germinated - in thick separated bands.  It looks like the lime markers on a football field!  And all the formerly bare spots are still bare.

So much for THAT $42 worth of grass seed!  So, today, I bought another bag and I re-seeded the lawn after mowing it down as short as I dared (1").  This time, I even raked the lawn roughly and collected dried crumbled grass clippings to cover the bare areas after seeding.

After seeding the lawn again, I sprinkled the dried grass clippings over the bare spots.  Not thickly, just enough to give a little cover and hide them from the birds...  Then I spent an hour gradually watering the seeds enough to let then soak up some moisture and start germinating. 

I saved about a lb of grass seed for patching spots that don't grow this time.  Its a blend of 3 Rebel tall fescue.  I like fescue, but it isn't a spreading grass, so bare spots develop.  I think I will get some bluegrass for the sunnier areas next time.  It spreads.  But the lawn is at least half shaded, so I need fescue on most of it. 

Sorry no pictures again, but for some odd reason, I can't upload pictures on THIS blog.  Works fine on the cat blog, and as far as I can tell, the settings are the same.  I don't have any maximum picture upload issues, as all of mine are in the "free" range.  And pictures that won't upload here WILL upload to the cat blog.  It's driving me nuts.  I posted a question on the Blogger Help Forum days ago, but have not gotten any responses.  Any ideas are more than welcome!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Poor Old Storm Drain

Tropical Storm Lee finally did it in.  I'm used to it getting covered with fallen branches and washed-down debris, but this time the washed-down stuff actually broke the storm drain apart.    It is a brick shell covered by a heavy metal grate that sits on the bricks.

Not any more... 

The back of the brick structure is batterred loose and at an angle.  the top is covered with tree debris I can't pull apart.  It is so tightly interwoven that stones piled up on the top.

I would show the pictures of the broken storm drain, but blogger isn't letting me upload any pictures on this blog..  I getting a bit pissed about that.   Not only that, but all of a sudden, I have to sign in to each of my 2 blogs every time with full username and password.  Two days ago, I could select them from a drop-down list or use a bookmark.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


On 9-11-2001, I was quietly doing my regular job.  An odd news announcement caught my ear at 9 a.m.  A plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.  Strange accident, but one hit the empire State Building many decades before in heavy fog.  But I mentioned it to a supervisor (his office included FEMA responses for our agency).

Then there was a 2nd.

Later, I felt a "thump" through my feet.  A few moments afterwards, I learned the Pentagon had been struck by "something".  I worked a couple miles away from the Pentagon, and 2 blocks from the White House.  It was a really bad day after that.  We all watched the terrible events.  I won't go into that further.

When I got home, I bought and set out a flag from my back deck vowing to leave it there until the perpetrators were caught and punished for such a horrific act.  I have decided to leave it up (4th one actually, they do wear out).

In past years, I have said many things about the events.  This time, I think it best to display a couple of images.  I searched 1,000s of pictures.  Most I found were far too graphic, or xenographic, or bloody, or boastful.

I hope these 2 wordless graphics will strike the right balance on this 10th year commemoration of 9/11...

Friday, September 9, 2011

Earthquake and Storms

[Sorry no pictures today.  Blogger has been rejecting pictures on THIS blog, but not my other.  Can't figure out why.  I'm not exceeding any limits.]

Well it sure has been an interesting few weeks.  First an earthquake on Aug 23rd, then Hurricane Irene Aug 27th/28th, and then Tropical Storm Lee Sept 5th-9th!

It was the 1st earthquake I ever felt, and while it was nothing like West Coast earthquakes, it was certainly more of a surprise.  My first thought was "It CAN'T be an earthquake, they don't happen here!", but after a few seconds, it was obvious it wasn't a tree falling on the house.  And then we had to wait to see if there would be aftershocks.

Hurricanes aren't terribly common here.  They tend to either make landfall south and approach over land, weakening rapidly, or pass by further off the coast.  But we do get serious ones occasionally.  I remember Hurricane Agnes in 1972.  It came right up the Chesapeake Bay and sank the family boat (a complete loss).  Then there was Hurricane Floyd in 1999.  That one dropped so much rain so fast that my street was flooded, half my front yard was flooded, and I stayed up all night wet-vacuuming water from the basement.  It is the only time I've ever seen the 2 storm drains next to my yard actually completely covered with standing water!

So then we had Irene.  Fortunately, the ground was very dry and basically absorbed all the rainfall and there wasn't even standing water afterwards on my low front lawn.  Still, 7" fell here, and it was the strongest wind I have experienced in my 25 years at this location.

Tropical Storm Lee was actually worse.  First, it came over Maryland and just sat there for 4 days raining almost constantly!  Not as hard as Irene, but for over twice as long.  Second, the rain bands were heading directly north the last 2 days.  The strongest ones kept going directly through my county.  It was depressing, as if the rain bands were following the highway through town!  I had to empty my good rain gauge twice!  The total for Lee here was 10.5"!  The airport 15 miles west only got 5.5" and to the east they got only 7".  That made 17.5" of rain in 13 days...  Third, the ground was completely saturated from Irene, so the rainfall had nowhere to go but across the surface seeking low spots.

One of those low spots was my patio!  The entire yard slopes gradually from the far back to the street front.  Part of the patio has cinder block walls to hold the slope.  The non-cinder block entrance is at ground level.  The patio was never built properly.  The house builder didn't properly slope it slightly toward the lawn to prevent water collecting there.  And over the years, the lawn has risen slightly, enough so that prolonged rain can lap against the sliding glass basement doors and seep in.  I have occasionally had a slight problem with that.

Well, after the 3rd day of rain, it finally started seeping in again.  I tried the wet-vac, but it was too prolonged a rain to stop seeping in.  I finally had to go out in the pouring rain at Midnight and dig a 6" deep and wide ditch 10' to a more downslope spot at the fence gate.  Happily, the water collected in the patio started rushing out!  I was relieved.  In only 10 minutes, the collected rainfall was a foot away from the doors and I knew I wouldn't have any further problems in the basement.

It finally stopped raining very early this morning...

One odd note about the storm.  The County came by just before Hurricane Irene and cleaned the collected debris of several years from the primary storm drain.  It worked fine for Irene.  But Lee covered it back up again.  That shows how much more forceful rainfall drainage there was from Lee.  And not only tree debris; there are golfball size stones covering the woven tree debris covering the storm drain!  AND, it appears that the brick storm drain has been broken by the force of the debris and stones.  The back bricks appear all loose and tilted, and the metal grate at an angle.  I will have to call the County about that.  I'm sure they will be thrilled!

Can I please have a break from earthquakes and hurricanes for a while?  Please?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane Irene

Well, it's been an interesting week.  First an earthquake, then a hurricane!  Hurricanes aren't too rare here, but this was the most direct hit I've experienced as an adult (and the eye was still 80 miles east).  But it was clear there was going to be major rain and wind.

So I was prepared the evening before.  Aside from the usual emergency supplies (flashlights, crank radio, batteries, water, food, etc), I made sure to have a good supply of comfort foods...
Before I went to bed that evening, I noticed my 5" rain gauge was at 4.75", so I went out and emptied it.  I took a quick look around the yard for any tree damage and found none.  But the most intense part of the storm hadn't arrived yet.  The lights dimmed a couple of times, but I never lost power.  I'm very glad all the electric and cable lines are underground here!

This morning I found another 2.5" of rain in the gauge, for a total of 7.25".

There was some tree damage, but nothing serious.  I haven't driven out yet, but I did hear a chain saw in the neighborhood, so someone had some larger damage.

I found some medium branches fallen.

And a few smaller ones, but those were from my favorite saucer magnolia tree.
I have some repair work to do in that tree!  There are a couple of breaks like this.
Two of my tomato cages blew over in spite of being staked.  One stake was bent over at ground level, the other was simply pushed over in the soaked garden soil.  I was able to raise the cages without any apparent damage to the plants.  I put 2 stakes on each cage for better protection.
So I came through the hurricane in good shape. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Well, I have experienced my first earthquake.  It was quite interesting.  My first thought was that one of the 2 huge trees near the house was falling on it an breaking through the attic in stages.  But I realized immediately that the shaking was too frequent and sudden.  So I guess it was about 5 seconds before I knew it had to be an earthquake.

It was odd; the house felt like it was being pounded rather than shaken.  There was no vertical movement sensation.  I think I was being moved back and forth laterally about 6 inches.  I kept on my feet, but after a few more seconds it became visually disorienting because the house and I were not moving in the same way.  So I had to put a hand on the kitchen counter.

It felt as though it lasted about 15 seconds, but everyone on TV later agreed it was about 25 seconds.  The center was about 90 miles away, in central VA, 5.8 magnitude.  Apparently there was one major aftershock and several minor ones in the following hour, but I did not feel any of those here. 

The range of detectable shaking was very large; from Atlanta GA to Ontario, to Ohio (as best I've heard).  It was so widespread because the US east coast is old solid ground; few faults to absorb movement.

  I went outside immediately when the shaking stopped, mainly in case one of those trees DID decide to fall.  It was another minute before the first neighbor came out.  It was hilarious.  The first 3 neighbors to come out all asked "Did you feel that?".  DUH!  I assured them that everyone for many miles around had surely felt it.  I said, "for all we know at the moment, New York is in ruins or the New Madrid fault opened up again" (none of my neighbors had heard of New Madrid).

I went back inside to look for any damage and check CNN for details and likelihood of aftershocks.  All the cats were STILL poofed up after 10 minutes and now, 3 hours later are demanding more attention than usual (making it hard to type).  The only consequences were some fishtank water had sloshed out (no fish), a framed photograph had shaken off a bookshelf, and one tippy samurai figurine had fallen over (undamaged).

It was interesting, but I won't mind if it doesn't happen again...

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Free Mulch Again!

For years, the County collected lawn and tree debris, shredded it, and aged it.  Then gave it back to county residents for free.  On Saturdays, they would even load it in trailers or pickups for free.  It wasn't big pieces like commercial mulch, nor aged enough to be compost.  I used to get 2 trailer loads each Spring.  One to use for mulch and the other to set aside to compost further.

Then they stopped for 2 (3?) years.  I kept checking their website only to see "No Mulch Available".  I figured they were either using it for county maintenance, or lacked the funds to keep processing the raw debris.

So when I had a landfill load of trash, I asked about it.  I was told the mulch had become available again all this year.  I would swear the website said "No Mulch Available" just last month.  But the imporatant thing was that the mulch was available again!

There used to be hour-long lines to get the Saturday free loading, but yesterday, I was the only customer.  I drove up, put a tarp on the bottom of the trailer (it has gaps between the floorboards) and set the edge of a larger tarp in the front so the mulch would hold it in place.  ONE big bucket load later, the trailer was filled to overflowing!  I folded the top tarp back over the pile and attached it down with bungee cords.

I drove it into the back yard, where I will scoop it out onto this beat up old tarp where the last of the compost mulch was used up this Spring.  Unfortunately, the top tarp did not reach all the way to the back end, and with 3" of rain falling on it, the exposed mulch got so heavy it tipped the trailer back.

Now there is too much weight against the removable back  upright, I can't remove it.  So I'll have to shovel a foot or so clear before I can slide the mulch out.

This is how tipped it is.  I removed the top tarp, in hopes that the rain forecast for tonight will even out the weight and let it sit level again so that I can remove the back.

I shot this picture crooked so that it would LOOK level.  LOL!  That's 2.75 cubic yards of free mulch!  I hate to think what it would cost to buy it by the bag!

As soon as I get this unloaded and spread around the flower/garden beds, I'll go back and get more to leave aside to compost, then whatever more I can get, I'll use to cover my daffodil and hosta beds!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Strange Rain

I had the oddest experience today.  Something that hasn't happened to me since I was about 11.  Those many years ago, we kids were playing outside and realized that it was raining in our yard, but NOT across the street!

Well, it finally happened again!  I was watching the rain suddenly pouring down in the front yard, so I went to the back to watch the rain gauge fill up.  Nothing!  It WASN"T raining in the back yard.  Not a drop.

Convinced I was just not seeing it, I went out on the deck.  Dry!  I even went out in the yard because sometimes the trees absorb a lot of rain at first.  Nothing!  It was several minutes before rain finally started falling in the back.

Talk about being on the edge of a cloud!!!  Has this ever happened to you?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Forced Shopping

This is NOT an advertisement for Walmart, though it may seem like one.  It's just that I had a massive shopping trip (for a reason).

For a week, there has been utility digging in the neighborhood.  A large sign said the electricity would be off Aug 1 from 8 am to 1 pm.  So I planned for it.  I had left my car for a battery problem at the dealership last week and the Walmart is right across the street.  I spent the scheduled service hour wandering through the store and found a number of things I could use, plus some things I didn't know Walmart carried (they have expanded their food area).  I didn't want to buy anything then because I would have had to haul it all back to the car dealership.

But I planned yesterday carefully.  The power was to go off at 8 am (and the temperature was forecast for the upper 90s). And I know that scheduled outages get extended sometimes.  So I got up at 6 am and cranked the A/C down to 65, showered, got dressed, made breakfast.  I took the car out of the garage (electric door).  At 7:45, I checked the computer, shut it down, and turned off the backup battery, and unplugged the emergency outage lights.

The power went off at 8:15.  As planned, I went outside to do some garden weeding and random yardwork in the "cool" of the morning (it was already 85).  I came inside at 10 am and the house temp was up to 70 already and no air circulation.  So I went on my planned shopping expedition.

First, to places that sold stuff Walmart doesn't (or has but is junk).  I started at the Home Depot (Big Box DIY store).  I have had several burst hoses lately (they are all getting old) so I wanted commercial-grade, and I needed a couple good new hose sprayers too.  Plus I am trying to design a stand for attaching a nozzle to so that I don't have to stand around holding a nozzle all day when I water the gardens.  I needed to just see what basic stuff I might use.

Got to the Home Depot and found 2 nice hose nozzles.  Damn, I forgot to pace off the lengths of hoses I wanted to replace.  I'll have to get those later.  And I forgot to get 2 more quick-connect male connections.  Later on those too.  Any shopping list is guaranteed to be incomplete.

From there, I went to PetsMart.  Petco has the higher-quality stuff, but where they both have the same product, PetsMart is cheaper.  I wanted a 3rd cat carrier (3 cats - 3 carriers) and a collar for Iza (she lost another one).  I found a nice new red collar for Iza (this one is even reflective).  It was hard deciding on a new carrier (trying to judge the size from memory of the other ones at home).  I already have a small one (fine for Ayla at 7 pounds) and a larger one (fine for Iza at 12 pounds).  But I decided that Marley is probably going to get near 16 pounds at the rate he is growing, so I got an even larger one.  AND it has a TOP opening door!  It has a front one too.  I never saw that before!  I decided to pass on the customized pad at $12; I have lots of old towels.

To my surprise, PetsMart is now carrying Eukanuba kibble.  I hadn't seen it there before.  Cheaper than Petco by $3!  Grabbed a bag.  I have some already, but it will last.

So then it was on to Walmart.  Some of their own brand stuff is well-rated by Consumer Reports magazine, and I go there for those anyway.  But when they sell the same brand name product at 75% of the regular price as other places, I'd be a fool not to shop there.

I bought/guesstimate savings:

Kleenex 3 packs/25%
Tidy-Cat litter/40%
Toilet paper/30%
A single outstanding car mat/(not found elsewhere)
Low sodium V8 juice/33%
Tea (regular and decaffinated)/50%
Narrow spatula (sharp-edged and heat resistant/it was only 88 cents!
A pill splitter (for vitamins and cat pills)10%
Nestle's Quick (no sugar added)/20%
Candy (I have a weakness for Hershey Hugs and Dove Raspberry Dark Chocolate)/20%
A hand-held fertilizer dispenser (for where the yard-type one can't go)/not found elsewhere
Pajama shorts/ impulse purchase
Thick work socks (my gardening shoes are just a little large)/just seemed a good deal

Picture of the loot...
And the new cat carrier.  I hope whoever thought of putting a door ON THE TOP got a HUGE bonus for that idea!

Oh, about that car mat...  I have had this flimsy car mat from the previous car and it keeps sagging and folding under the pedals.  I have to straighten it out every time I drive.  I was going to rubber-cement it to a piece of old chairmat to stiffen it.  Partly because auto places only sell mats in 4-packs (2 front, 2 back) for about $30.  This single one is all I need, it is thick and ribbed  and it cost about $5!

Usually, I just go to Walmart for a few specific things.  I'm usually there for the kitty litter (they sell the 35# bucket for less than the pet stores sell the 27# bucket) and the V8 juice.  But when they sell brand name stuff at half-price, I gotta shop there...

I'll give an interesting example of how bulk changes prices.  When I moved here 25 years ago, one of the first things I bought from a local hardware store was a benchtop table saw.  3 months later, the first Big Box DIY store opened and they had the exact model for half the price and it wasn't even "on sale".  Just their regular price.  I felt robbed!

Another thing...  I had been looking on the net for a wall "clock" that gave date/day/time digitally in big letters.  Couldn't find one.  Walmart had one.  And it gives the outside temperature, indoor temperature and indoor humidity.  AND keeps the clock accurate by radio signal.  For $20!

Another thing...  I had been wanting a "touch-on" bedside lamp for years.  I found one at Home Depot for $40.  It broke in months.  They didn't sell it anymore.  Walmart had one, one time.  Two per box actually.  For $20.  Working fine after several years.

But anyway, it was a great day shopping.  It's not something I do often, so it was great fun!  But it worked out perfectly.  When I got home, the power was back on, and one clock I have counts the time from power-on.  It was only 15 minutes.  I pretty much timed it perfectly.