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

YAY!

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 "vze1982ol@verizon.net").  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.

Games

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...

http://micom.net/oops/


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,

Mark

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 F.ing" 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.