email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


I'm the kind of person who is always mildly injured.  It's not that I'm clumsy (I'm not), but also not because I plays rough sports.  I just push myself or engage in risky actions.  And even then, I don't mean that I go rock-climbing or parachuting.

It's the small daily events that get me.  I got annoyed at a squirrel once and tossed a rock at it and messed up my rotator cuff for 6 months.  I ordered some large stones (small boulders?) and hurt my back moving them around a small pond I built.  Once I was cutting a branch off of an apple tree and didn't realize the branch was torqued.  When cut through, it sprang up against my hand pushing against the saw blade.  I cut the the finger to the bone.  These things happen.  I'm active and live alone. so I always have to do things that should really take 2 people.  There is always some strained muscle or sore joint...

So today I am am humorously writing about a fingertip.  "A fingertip"?  Yes.

On New Year's Eve, I set a small fire in the basement fireplace.  Nothing big.  I don't have any good fireplace wood.  I used some clean wood scraps and some newspaper.  I just felt a fire was traditional.  Well, in the course of feeding newspaper to the fire, I brushed the hot grate with a finger.  OUCH!

But that sort of thing is common.  I work in the garden, sometimes I get a blister.  I work in the yard, sometimes I strain a muscle.  BFD.  I pretty much ignored it.  2 days later, I noticed the tip on a finger was numb and hard.  I remembered the grate incident.  But it didn't swell up like burns usually do.

It just sat there.

Today, 17 days later, it suddenly fell apart!  17 days???

It went apart like sunburned skin.  All of a sudden and nothing first, the skin was flaking off.  I've had burns before.  I managed to drop a pot of spaghetti water once and burned both legs badly.  And having a fireplace, I've had my share of minor burns.  But not delayed like this!

It isn't painful yesterday.  I was able to rub the old skin off and the new skin isn't sensitive.  But it sure was weird!

If a blister had formed the day after and it hurt and swelled like such things usually do, I wouldn't have bothered to mention it.  But the delay and lack of the normal irritations of a burn made this very strange.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Cable TV Annoyances

It started with the remote control slowing down as I tried to change channels.  Then, the TV Guide part started working slower too.  Finally, I couldn't enter the 3-number channel numbers.  It would transmit 1 number (sometimes 2) never the last.

I changed the batteries (rechargeable) and then changed them again.  No good.  I cleaned the window on the remote control, on the TV, and on the cable box.  No good.

So, I took the remote control (which needed to be replaced because the battery cover has to be taped on and you can't read the buttons anymore) to the local cable site.  The place is more fortified than my bank!  2" plexiglass (or whatever they use these days),  a double-covered opening to speak through (have they never heard of microphones?), and a double-locked box through which can pass equipment.  You open your side and put the equipment in and close it.  The cable person locks your door amd opens his to retrieve it.

I'm not kidding.  My bank doesn't have that kind of security.  It has no barriers and they have real money behind them!

But be that as it may...  I told them my remote control seemed to be failing.  The guy said "put it in the box".  I started to do so and he shouted "No, in the BOX, man, I don't want it".  Huh?  He meant in the trash can on my side of the Embassy-quality security barrier.  I pointed out that the logical "box" was the one for returning or receiving equipment.

Strangely, he seemed pissed at my incomprehension.  OK...  not one to fight the system, I dropped it in there.  Then he said he was passing me a new remote control through the "box".  Silly me, I looked at the trash can.  No, it can through the FT Knox quality plexiglass-survive-an-atomic-bomb box. 

No, I did not even point out the silliness of the terms.  I wanted to get the hell out of there!  I just took the new remote and went home.

Never mind the huge sign that said that NO EQUIPMENT WILL BE PROVIDED WITHOUT PROOF OF IDENTITY, and I hadn't.

So I got home and the new remote control had no effect.  I tried newly charged rechargeable batteries in case the provided ones were dead.  No change.


It had to be the cable box itself (only months old).  So I pulled the TV stand out from the wall and detached the cables, leaving them in place to make it easier to reattach them.  I CAN figure out cabling (and did it succesfully when I added a DVD player/recorder to the system last month), but it wasn't easy.  So I am very careful.

I brought the cable box to Comcast.  And standing there, I had to listen to a customer making small talk to the service guy (obviously trying to get a date).  Hey, don't do that on MY time, OK?  So, I explained the problem to the service guy (eventually).  He spoke very quietly through the barrier.  And as I tried to hear his words, another customer came to the other window and started YELLING about his bill problem.  And the other guy was OBVIOUSLY wrong.  I almost offerred to throw him out.

I did pass my cable box through "The Security Box".

But I struggled to hear my own customer service representative (with a BAD accent).  He was trying to tell me that he didn't have my type of cable box in stock and that I might have to wait for several days.

Sorry, no, that wasn't acceptable. and "could I at least have my previous box back"?  Slow channel selection is better than none...  He said he couldn't give me a damaged box back because I said it was "damaged".  He said the only ones available were for "better systems" but he could give me a lesser box until the right one was available.  I have everything they OFFER!

He said the "better one" was HDMI.   I pointed out that the box I gave him was HDMI!  He didn't believe me, but disappeared into a room for (and I measured it) 5 full minutes.  He finally came out with a cable box identical down to the last to the last outlet and input and said "I'll give you this one", as if he was reluctantly granting me a heart transplant.

And remember that sign below the counter about not giving out cable equipment?  They never did ask me for mine.  If I had stolen a discarded broken one, I would have gotten a new working one!

Strange people...

So I got home with the replacement cable box.  I hooked it up properly (I thought).  This part is my fault.   You have to call the cable company and go through a bunch of questions to get a signal sent to the new unit to activate it and wait (up to) 45 minutes.  I called and the voice-only system said it send the signal.  45 minutes later, there was still no signal.

I hadn't fully seated the power cord properly.  My fault all the way.  I had to talk to the VOICE again and get a new signal sent.  At least it worked this time.  The cable system is working again.

I shouldn't even mention that coding the new Universal Remote meant I had to go through a bunch of nonsense.  But the cable TV instructions were in invisible print and I had to copy it from their site to PDF and from there to WORD and expand it to 20 point font just to read it.

And I will add that the "Universal Remote" isn't.  It will not control my TV except to shut it off and on.  It won't control my new DVR at all.  For me to watch a DVR, I have to use 3 separate remotes...  LOL!

But at least I can finally change channels on the cable again with A remote..

Thursday, January 13, 2011


My purchase of a fancy snowblower in October has been paying off well!  Here around Washington DC, we have had three 1" snowfalls so far.  We barely missing some serious snowfalls!  I take all the credit for that.

The snow demons KNOW I now have a serious snowblower and they avoid the area just to spite my desire to try it out...

It's like when I watch a local sports team.  If I watch, they lose.  If I don't watch, they win.  If they are winning and I turn on the game in the middle, they immediately fall apart and lose.

So my ownership of the snowblower should provide assurance to the rest of the DC area.

Cash donations from grateful local residents are encouraged...

UPDATE:  I just heard that 71% of the US is covered with snow.  Consider THAT you people who deny climate change...  The only State free of it is Florida and their usual crops are dying.
Because of the comforting and healing ceremony in Tucson yesterday, I have decided to just "let it be".  I can't think of anything I can add to that.

Many speakers said wonderful things, and they did it better than I can.  President Obama's speech was particularly good.  So I don't think I will be posting on the subject as I thought I would.  If disturbing information arises in the future on this tragedy, I may.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tucson Mass Killings

I have been trying to learn and understand about the mass killing in Tucson Arizona.  I want to write about it.  I haven' decided how.  I have been thinking some poetry lines.  I have been thinking some prose.  I have been thinking of some lists of quotes about the event.  I haven't decided how to approach the posts about it over the next few days.  Probably all of them...

I don't want it to be political in main purpose, but some political thoughts will emerge.  Politics IS involved in some ways. But I have listened to extremists at both ends and I don't want to go there.

I think I will try for a poem to mention the loss and sadness first, but simple prose might be easier soonest.  This whole event both angers and saddens me; I don't know which will show up before the other.

But I do apologize for taking over my own blog for a specific purpose (temporarily).


Monday, January 10, 2011

Garden (And Other) Catalogs

For years I received dozens of gardening catalogs.  I never knew much about which ones were good companies except by trial and error.  Fortunately, a few years ago, I discovered a website dedicated to catalog company evaluation by serious gardeners.  You can find it HERE

The site offers its Top 30 Rated Garden Catalog Companies, the newest comments, and a way to search for any other garden catalog to see their rating/comments.   I have found it to be a wonderful way of evaluating companies and finding new good sources.

Getting a lot of gardenomg catalogs with poor ratings and you want to stop receiving them (or any other particular types of catalogs)?  I have learned ways of doing this.

First, you can go to Catalog Choice.  You have to set up an account, but it is free and I can't detect that I have gotten any spam as a result.  They have a list of catalog companies.  You click on the company, enter some address label information, and they contact the company that you don't want that catalog.  It is voluntary for the company, but MOST of them comply (they don't want to waste money sending you a catalog you actively don't want).  I would guess I've had about a 75% success rate.  Plus, if your unwanted catalog company isn't on their list, they will add it AND let you know when it is available for cancelling.  Some just will not remove you from their list, but I have really cut down on the number of unwanted catalogs I receive.

Second, if you go directly to the company's website, look for their Privacy Policy.  There is almost always an "unsubscribe" option in there.  That has been successful, even for companies that do not respond to Catalog Choice requests.  Perhaps they are more legally or policy bound to honoring direct requests.

Third, if you are receiving a catalog you like, but don't really need to receive it every month (face it, some products and prices just don't change that often), some companies will allow you to change the frequency of mailing.  Changing it from once a month to twice a year saves throwing out a lot of catalogs.  Who doesn't want to save a few trees?

Fourth, you may be getting the same wanted catalog twice.  Companies sometimes get your address in different forms and don't know they are sending you 2 or 3 of the same one.  It is worth checking the address labels.  Even slight differences can fool a company.  Look for a Customer ID on the label.  Many, but not all, have those. If you see different ones and want the catalog, cancel the others.  The companies usually have a "duplicate mailing" option for cancellation.  They respond to that reason very well.

Hope this helps...

Thursday, January 6, 2011

2011 Gardening Season

The 2011 gardening season has begun! I've received my good seed&supply catalogs.

Now,  it is time to go through my seeds and decide which need to be restocked or replaced (because of age).  Fortunately, I have a system for storing and tracking them.

First, all the seeds are kept in capped vials with a number on the top.  Yes, those are "specimen containers".  I found them cheap 10 years ago somewhere.  The tray makes for easy carrying and finding the numbered vials.

The seed tray is kept in a basement refrigerator that I also use as a root cellar and bulk frozen food storage.  They last longer sealed and chilled...  The open vials remind me that that seed is used up.  The 0-99 series is for flowers and herbs, the 100+ series is for veggies.

Second, a list has the seed name and type, the year of purchase, and the vial number.  I keep it on Excel because the columns are easy to manage.  But I also print out 2 copies for safety.  One stays in the seed tray, the other in a 3x5" card file (more on that below). 

BTW, that's only 1/2 the list.  I had to fold it to make it large enough to be readable here.

The smaller the seeds, generally the shorter they last.  So I'll go through the list looking for ones that seem old or I don't like.  For example, I'll be replacing all the corn (111-115) this year.  The Bon Appetit is too old, and I didn't like the Golden Bantam.  Far too starchy for me.

The third part of my system is calendar and a 3x5" card file.  That is for specific weekly instructions for each crop.  On the calendar, I simply find the average last frost date and write "0" on the closest weekend.  Then going backwards I write -1, -2, -3..., etc for each weekend; forward from there it is of course 1, 2, 3... so I have "weeks til" and "weeks after" the average last frost date.  Those are the basis for the card file instructions.

Each file card has  a specific crop, a specific numbered week, and instructions for what to do with that crop that week.
For example, this card reminds me that in week -4 (4 weeks before the average last frost date), I need to transplant my tomatoes from the small cell packs to larger individual pots and set them deeper in the soil.  So there are 4 cards for tomatoes.  One to plant, one to transplant inside, one to harden them off outside, and one to plant outside.

Each week has it's own tab in the card file box.  Week 0 might have individual cards for tomatoes, cabbage, leeks, radishes and cucumbers; week 2 might have cards for radishes, corn, broccoli, beans, and melons.

I have a separate series of cards for Spring planting and Fall planting (counted from average first frost date in October.  Some crops have many cards for the same purpose (for succession planting of radishes every 2 weeks for example).

The cards are, of course, geared to my specific location (Southern MD USDA Zone 7A) and gardening habits (using protective covers outside on some crops).  It may seem a bit complicated.  Some people just remember this stuff easily, I don't.  And some people trust their gardening by the weather each year, I don't.  And some people don't like to keep records, I do.  It works well for me.

If you have any questions about it, leave me a comment or email me:  yardenman-2118 AT comcast DOT net.  (replace the caps with the symbols)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Reflections on 2010

2010 was not a good year.  It was a hard year for many people, but I'm not talking about that.

And, since I am alive, healthy, and my 2 current cats are young and happy, I'm not talking about that either.  I'm looking at the "related" losses.

My dear cat, LC, went over The Bridge in January.  While she wasn't "the cat of my life", she was a good cat.  Friendly, neat, undemanding, and companionable.  Mostly, she was Skeeter's friend.  And since Skeeter was "the cat of my life" until Dec 2008, her companionship to him made HIS days wonderful and I thank her for that.  After Skeeter left us, she was a good friend to me.  Both of them lived past 16 years old and are missed.  Burying her in the frozen January garden was very hard, physically and emotionally.  And when she went, that was the last contact with Skeeter.

The garden was a disaster last year.  The Spring was cold and rainy, the Summer hot and dry.  The small crops never grew, the cukes and pole beans just sat there at a few inches, and the heirloom tomatoes died in July.  I got only a dozen tomatoes and I LOVE tomatoes.

My youngest sister died in August.  She had some brain blood vessel problem that took her life short.  She was a dear friend, a fellow organic gardener (much better than me), a wonderful mother to 3 kids, and I miss her very much.  She was 16 years younger than me and I was her adored older brother.  I wish it had been me instead.  I'm just a single old guy and my loss would mean little.  She had a family who needed her..

I lost my Mom in September.  She was old and had Parkinson's and other problems.  But she was the person who taught me to read and write, and to love Broadway musicals and classical music when I was older.  She taught me to cook. She did so much else, but you get the idea.

A tale of a vegetable peeler...  When I set up my first apartment around age 20, Mom gave me a few items.  One was a cheap vegetable peeler.  It was old when she gave it to me 40 years ago.  Over the years, it has been honed to perfection.  It takes the thinnest peels off carrots and tosses them off.  A new one I bought does not.  Every time I use that old peeler, I think of Mom.  And I have a few other kitchen tools like that.  Goodbye Mom, I love you.  And I will remember you every day by the things I have from you.  Things that you used and touched...

So I sadly say farewell to those I have lost this year and hope that 2011 is kinder to those I know.  And if this happens to be my year to go, I want everyone to know ahead of that time that I enjoyed our time together.  I loved it all.  No one knows when the last day comes, so I want to make sure to thank everyone "in case".

Well, let's see what 2011 has to offer.  I hope it is kinder...