email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

Monday, December 30, 2013

Deleting Old Emails and a Rant

Do you ever go through your emails like once a year and delete a lot of them?  And feel sad about some?

I did that last night.  A lot were routine emails of blog comments.  I keep the most meaningful ones.  But some were from a friend I had to give up on in early 2011.  In a practical sense, some people just change over a few years and you are not really friends anymore.  But this was someone I had known since college days 40 years ago. 

The break came when he wanted me to drive him to a place with A-rated plywood for his new toy train setup in the basement and carry the plywood into his basement.  I have always been helpful to him and done the hard work (he says he has a "bad back" which I have reasons to doubt) watching him do things he enjoys.

But when I sat down and thought about it, I realized that he was asking me to drive my trailer 30 miles to his house, 60 miles to the wood place, 60 miles back to his house, and then 30 miles back to my house.  I checked the wood at the place he liked and found it was the same as could be ordered from the local Home Depot.  "A" grade is "A" grade.  But he would have none of that.  He likes the wood store 90 miles away from him.

I mentioned that in an email (I had to mention details in email because he just evades conversational disputes of any sort).

He responded that I was "mean and hurtful and don't contact me anymore".  OK, he does this every few years.  I usually reply in a way to jolly him out of his unhappiness.  He HATES having his plans questioned even when all the work is being done by others. 

And my initial reaction was to get him "happified" again.  But you know what?  This time I didn't.  I unloaded the personal shotgun on him.  I told him how insensitive he was, how demanding, and how unreasonable he had become over the years and had become worse.  I told him that when he needed help around the house and yard, he had me.  But when I needed help around the house and yard, I still only had me.  He eventually replied "How do we re-engage"?   Re-engage?  That was "goodbye jerk" and I made that clear.  And that's the last I heard from him.

But as I was going through the old emails, I found a few from him still there.  I deleted them.  A part of my life over.  But it also felt sad doing it.  The last one I deleted was where he criticized me in return.  I paid great attention on to those 6 things a last tine.  One was even accurate (I am not really good talking on the telephone).  But that was about all he could say.

He complained that I never took him fishing in my boat the last few years.  Well he was inept and useless in a boat.  You know those cartoons where a person has one foot on the pier and another in the boat and the boat slowly moves away from the pier?  He actually did that.  And I had to to do all the work unloading and reloading the boat on the trailer every single time. He couldn't. 

He tipped over our canoe once leaning way too far over the edge in uplake Canada.  When I saw what he was doing I yelled and grabbed for the other side, but 225 pounds beats 160 pounds every time.

After I got the canoe righted and mostly bailed out, I got him back in on one side while I held the other.  I then spent an hour going down to feel around for our gear and retrieving what I could.  He couldn't because he "couldn't swim well".  The water was shallow enough for him (at 6' 4") to stand in).  He wouldn't.  He didn't have to swim, because *I* could.  

And along that line, we had to canoe back 10 miles on the open lake on the last day of our vacation to the camping station when a storm came up.  He had no idea what to do.  I did.  I was in the back of the canoe (of course) and drove the canoe quartering the waves to the lee side of the lake.  We hit shore and waited for the storm to pass. 

He complained that I wasn't a very "neat" person.  OK, My floors weren't fit of to eat from.  He used to clean his baseboards once a week and his floors daily.  Well, yeah, I'm not like that.  I'm pretty sure you can't eat off my floors safely. 

He was also angry that my family doesn't have big funeral ceremonies.  Never mind that that was none of his business, we just don't do that.  The family habit is cremation and no ceremony.  You were alive, you are dead, nice to have known you, good life and all of that.  My own expectations are the same.  Distribute my ashes around the yard, raise a glass of wine in my memory, and history goes on. Glad I was part of it.

And finally, he repeated again that I was "mean".  By that, he meant I was honest.  I told him what I thought for 40 years, I explained what I meant, and I gave reasons.  That was too straightforward and he never liked it, I guess, and I suppose it wore him out over all the years.  He considered honesty to be "mean" in that what I said sometimes didn't make him feel good about himself.

He was a constantly annoying person.  He never kept a job in one office for more than a few years because he utterly aggravated every co-worker and supervisor he encountered.  But he always had a great technical resume, so he could move on.  Every place he worked at was "corrupt" and "incompetent".  For all I know, he was right, but he never gave much actual evidence of that. I suspect mostly that he was a real "pill" to work with.

So last night, I deleted the last of his emails and went to bed.  I slept well.  Sometimes, you just have to cut connections.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Its Hard Getting Old And Fussy

A niece is getting married 2 hours away in February.  I can't get myself to attend.  The drive would be horrible to me, I hate long ceremonies, I don't like loud music, and I hate dancing.  And the whole thing is being done at night.  So I can't even enjoy any champagne if I want to drive home afterwards, and I hate driving in the dark.  I even hate ceremonies.  When I was younger, I even hated ceremonies involving ME!  I didn't even attend my own college graduation.  They say "enjoy myself" and just spend the night in a motel. 

Right, stay in a motel overnight and bring home cockroaches and bedbugs...

I love the niece dearly, but I won't drive 2 hours to a long boring ceremony and the threat of insect infestations.  I hope I'm not the only one who feels that way.  But if I am, it wouldn't change my opinion in the least.

I attended a few weddings when I was younger.  In the worst, they played 60 minutes of "personally meaningful music" before they got on to the actual ceremony, which took ANOTHER 60 minutes of pledges.  I was ready to run gagging and screaming from the room.  I won't do that again, ever.

My tolerance for long drawn-out ceremonies is even less these days.  Some of us are just NOT into ceremonies...

Monday, December 23, 2013

Short Movie Review

I watched 'Thor' the other night.  Waste of night hours, but I had to for the love of old time Marvel Comics reasons.  I seriously regret it.  Nice special effects, but anyone can do that these days.  Mostly, Thor needed a LOT more "humbling" than he received, to have the redemption he was granted.  Another example of how a few "comic books" did a better job than a whole movie. 

And Loki was just pathetic from start to end.  What were they THINKING?  Have the producers never read the mythology?   Jeez, even Odin was a bit lame. and that's pretty hard to do with the Asgardian Allfather.  Don't even get me started on the weak Destroyer.

The whole thing was a bunch of rubbish.  I had to eventually watch it to know for certain, but it really was a waste of time.  You sure can't know ahead of time what is going to disappoint, but I sure wish a future self had dropped in to say "no don't"!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Winter Solstice

Darn, I missed it!  Well, I did notice it a couple of times during the day, but only when I was busy doing something else.  I suppose that doesn't matter.  It's not like I need to do anything that day, I just like it.  But I didn't get around to posting...

It means the days will be getting longer.  And even though it means it will be getting colder for 3 months, it means that gardening season starts again in a couple weeks.  Not the planting, but the seed ordering.  And even then, it will only be 4 weeks before I can plant the first seeds in flats under lights in the basement!  After that, it's not too long to transplanting the sprouts to individual cells and then outside.

I plan to plant a lot more flowers this year.  I spent 10 years focussing on perennials for the convenience of not replanting every year, but quite frankly, most of them aren't worth having.  So many perennials bloom for a week or two and then they're done for the year.  Some bloom most of the season (coneflowers, black-eyed susans, reblooming daylilies) and I'm keeping those.  Some make quite an impact with just a few plants (oriental lilies, stokes aster).  Some are for the foliage anyway (hostas).

So I've been growing more annuals the past few years.  The season-long blooming of 30 square feet of bright zinnias is worth the hour it takes to plant them outside.
Two such patches of different color zinnias,  one of marigolds, and one of vivid salvia will go a long way and cost less than one hosta.

But back to Winter Solstice.  I like the more natural holidays, the ones that occur for uncomplicated real reasons.  New Years Day,  Summer Solstice, Thankgiving, Winter Solstice...  Near Year's Day is as artificial as can be (because calendars are completely artificial), but I like it because that's the first day of the current calendar, and you might as well celebrate a new year starting.  Summer Solstice is OK as a natural event, but somehow the longest day of the year doesn't have the same meaning as the shortest day.  At Summer Solstice, I'm not noticing the change in day-length all that much.

Thanksgiving is close to the best holiday.  Coming from a long line of farmers and having a strong sense of agriculture through history, I appreciate the importance and relief of a good Fall harvest.  Especially those crops that don't keep well (it's eat it or lose it)!  Even with year-round fresh food in these modern times, a Winter grocery store tomato is NOT the same as an August tomato from the back yard.

But I personal like Winter Solstice for the historical agricultural reasons above.  Maybe (as an ancestor) the Fall Harvest was not what you hoped it would be, but the Winter Solstice is the promise and hope of a better year ahead.  Promise and hope can keep you going in April when you are down to your last moldy or shriveled potatoes, carrots, and apples.  And lucky to have those.
(site said the image was "free")

I suppose I should mention Ground Hog Day.  It's not an accident that it is halfway between the 1st day of Winter and the 1st day of Spring.  In olden days, it meant "we've made it halfway, we can get through the other half".   And there is even a reason for that celebration.  From what I've read (disclaimer clause), Winter weather warms up earlier in Europe, sometimes starting in early February.  For pre-calendar farmers there, the emergence of hibernating burrowing mammals (hedgehogs, marmots) was a good sign that it was the time to plant the earliest Spring crops.  However, if shadows were seen (meaning clear bright days, meaning still-cold weather) it was best to wait a couple of weeks.  When those Europeans arrived in NE North America (where the climate stayed colder longer being on the eastern side of a continent), they had to adjust the timing.  And they had to adjust the animal.

So instead of small hedgehogs who HAD to emerge earlier because they had smaller fat reserves (and who don't exist in NA), they went by the larger groundhogs (2 foot tall marmots like land-based beavers without a tail, for my European friends) who could afford to check outside conditions and retreat for more hibernation if required.

So, I'll add Groundhog Day to my list of "natural" holidays even though I don't think it was a very good guide for planting (sunny days occur rather randomly in NA Winters).  A good measure of Groundhog Day sense in NA is that nobody sends Groundhog Day cards to friends.  LOL!

And lastly?  I like these holidays because there isn't much theology involved in them.  Natural and calendar events just "are" and you don't have to worry about them.  I DO like that...  :)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas and After...

The cards all addressed and mailed to cats, family, and friends, the presents sent, no more trips to the post office.  Time now to turn to those kitties and friends for whom I have only email addresses these days (and new ones I have received cards from)...

But basically, I can relax and listen to the radio Christmas songs for a week.  Thats about as many days as I can take.  I really do like Christmas Carols on the stereo, but repetitiveness wears me out fast. 

I miss the days of my youth when "Christmas Season" was just "the couple weeks before the day".

I am saving all the cards I/we have received so far to open them on the Winter Solstice Day at 12:11 pm EST.  I personally LIKE the moment of the first lengthening of days.  That what all the winter holidays center around, after all.  It's probably the oldest human holiday.  And it is a natural one.  One day is the shortest day of the year, the next is the first longer one.  I like that.  Every day past then leads me to the Spring planting season, and that is a highlight of my year.

I am already searching through the garden catalogs for the replacements of old seeds, the idea of some new ones, and the thrill of seeing the new plants grow and thrive. 

I look forward to the first flower seeds I can plant outside in February (snow peas) and the first flowers I can plant inside  at the same time (who grow germinate and grow slowly).  Thing speed up after that.  But it's the best time of year.  Harvest is great, but the starting is better.  All that hope, you know?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Chris Christie, NJ Gov

You know how some simple images ruin Presidential political aspirations?  Like Mike Dukakis riding in a tank, Jimmie Carter beating at a rabbit swimming toward his canoe, or John Kerry windsurfing? 

Governor Chis Cristie may have just had that politically fatal moment regarding shutting down some traffic lanes at the George Washington Memorial Bridge to annoy the Democratic Mayor of Fort Lee New Jersey.  Gov Christie surely and obviously ordered his political appointees to the Port Authority to do it.

They resigned, and the reason is not hard to guess.  The final act of any political appointee is to fall on his sword.  After being assured a nice job elsewhere in the politisphere...

It SEEMS that it was a petty repayment for Republican Gov Christie not getting a gubertorial endorsement from the Democratic Mayor of Fort Lee NJ.  I can imagine the telephone conversation:

Gov Christie:  Endorse me for Republican Governor!

Mayor Sokolich:  I'm a Democrat you idiot, I cant do that.

Gov Christie:  You'll pay, and yer little dog Toto, too, heh, heh, heh...

You get the general idea.  A Republican Governor demanded that a Democratic Mayor endorse him and then got pissed off when he declined for the very logical political reasons.  So he reacted in the most petty ways.  How could anyone trust someone like Gov Christie to be president in charge of the IRS and NSA after acting in such a small sorry way?  Do you remember Nixon and his use of "The Enemies List"?

Where do these people come from?  If a Democratic Governor had demanded that some Republican Mayor endorse him (with equivalent threats), all Hell would have broken loose on Fox news.  Tea Party Republicans would have been screaming for "impeachment", calling the Gov a "tyrant", and suggesting "2nd amendment solutions" (aka assassination).

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Random Thoughts

1.  Marley threw up today after chasing tossed kibbles around during my dinnertime and thats been a LONG time.  And Iza didn't which is routine..

2.  The "low tire pressure light" came on in the car, and I had just filled them.  And I checked again.  They are all at 32 psi.

3. Risk suggests you should click on the originator's icon to see the special conditions of the game.  But if you do, the game is all filled up.  So you really have to enter each game blind.

4.  Republicans are essentially merchantile or anarchists.  No other explanation for refusing to regulate the worst practices of SOME industries and the idea that people should go into bars, get drunk, and carry guns.

5.  BTW, being merchantile AND anarchistic is "libertarian".  And most Republicans hate libertarians.  They are horrified by the idea that "Someone, Somewhere, is Having Fun".

6.  Democrats can be idiots too.  Throwing money at problems doesn't always work.

7.  What happened to the idea that Congress should "govern"?  Good ideas get ignored for entirely political reasons.

8.  I had to build a high fence around my yard to keep huge viscious dogs out.  Why didn't "THEY" have to build high fences to keep their viscous dogs "IN"?  Were you ever attacked by a wandering cat?

9.  People say cats reduce bird populations.  There are more birds living on my property now than when I moved in 27 years ago because I assist them.  And I let the cats out daily. They catch about 1 a month.  Guess how many birds a hawk needs to catch every day...

10.  Playing games against a computer is essentially worthless.  If a program can't improve its odds of winning to at least 50-50, the programmer should be fired.

11.  My car battery dies in the garage about every few weeks.  Pisses me off.  On the other hand, it never dies at Walmart or Safeway.  Why is it always when it is in the garage?

12.  When you download a new program, why does it fail so often and the provider doesn't feel embarassed, and just say "sorry site down"?  So why do all the Republicans attack the ObamaCare Website?  Should Government do better than the best internet sites.

13.  Why can't I cook stir-fry as "cooked yet crisp" as a cheap Chinese restaurant can?  I sure try.

14.  When I play Pogo cribbage against the computer, it always stays even with me until the last turn, then gets a wonderful hand.  Can't they program it to play more evenly than that?  It starts to feel pointless except for the enjoyment of playing at all.

15.  Comet ISON ticked me off.  It was SUPPOSED TO BE the spectacular comet of the decade, and then and went and fell apart traveling around the sun too close.  I mean WHO was in charge of that?  Should they get fired?  (j/k)

16.  How many deer need to be killed before I can grow hostas in the front yard?  I can buy dead wild ducks at the meat store.  Why isn't venison offerred routinely.  We certainly seem to have enough deer around.

Just some thoughts...

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Risk Game Report

Joined 3 games of Risk today.  Started with crap in each (the games were already started and I had little to work with).  But I felt rather coldly lethal today (Skeeter anniversary) AND fortune smiled on me.  I lost one game that was dragged out to a hard end and then one the other two from way behind against higher-rated players. 

I can assure you, THAT does not happen often.  So I think I will stop playing and rest on my laurels.  Not that laurels are all THAT soft to rest on.  But what I mean is that when you only play once a week, nobody remembers who you are.  Because they go after recent winners...  A low profile is sometimes a good thing. 

I think it would be wise to go play cribbage or backgammon for a few days.

But there is also something else.  I've learned something by watching the cats hunt mice.  You sit quietly and don't disturb the environment.  And when the opportunity arises, you pounce...

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Missing Skeeter

Today is the 5th anniversary of Skeeter's death.  Losing him still hurts.  But all things fade with time, and I almost didn't remember today was "The Day" until this afternoon.  I was actually looking at regular daily pictures of the current cats to decide which to use for today's Mark's Mews cat blog post when I glanced at the date on the computer and changed my planned post.

As the years have passed, I have posted less personal and detailed memories of his passing.  It is good to remember those gone, with love, but more important to attend to the living. 

That is not to say that I can read the early posts of the cat blog without a catch in my throat about those happy years with him (and most of our years together were before I started the blog), and I still can't read the posts and comments about his death without tears.

But there was a surprise.  I finished the brief post recognizing the day, and hit "publish".  The time on the post was 3:45 pm EST.  That was the very moment of his death 5 years ago.  It was a complete coincidence...

I am not one who pays much attention to coincidences.  I find them more "interesting" than "meaningful".  But it sure was a surprise when I noticed the blogpost time!

Some of it may not be very odd.  I often post in mid-afternoon, and after 2500 posts, I'm sure there have been others posted at the same time.  But I would be surprised if there were 2 other posts at the exact same time of day about such a singular event unintentionally.  I think (without checking) that I did deliberately post at that exact time on this date previously.  This was not one of those times.

Monday, December 9, 2013

A VERY Unusual Day

It was a dark and winter-stormy morning.  In spite of that, I pulled on my "viscious-winter coat", and went into the garage, where the sled awaited.  Then, I pulled off the "viscious-winter-coat", tossed it in the front seat, and luxuriated in the medium-green Elven(ish) cloak cleverly colored to blend in with medium-green grass, medium-green rocks, and medium-green rivers.

Leaving the animals of the house to fend for themselves, off I went on an ADVENTURE.  And none like I had ever done before.  THIS adventure was to meet with a tribe of CATWOMEN, partake of their strange rituals, talking ceremonies, and eat unaccustomed foods.  I myself chose a strange meal of burned bread, tomato, and crisped bacon.  It was so thick, I could barely open me mouth widely enow to bite on it.  But it WAS raucously fare vittle!

The first part of the adventure was getting to the ship.  Amazingly, there was snow, sleet, and freezing rain.  It was a hard slog, mateys!  Snow beat hard on the mainsails and the nearly came to brittle freezing...  Lost a few good men there on the upper sails I did.

Fortunately, there was some underground traveling through tunnels.  Dark they were and we met some strange travellers along the way.  Eventually, we surfaced through the dark.  The longest staircase I ever saw in me life appeared before me.  To my relief, the STAIRCASE itself moved me upwards (the crew stayed behind and ya will hear no more of them as they was all eaten by dinosaurs or somethin else happened ta them, but don't worry about them).  The staircase called "The Bethesda Escalator" took hours.  Verily, a "stairway to heaven".  Or so I thought.  It landed me in "a parking garage"...

In discussion with some natives, I found an entranceway ta the HUGE building above the cavernous passageway, and entered cautiously.  The room was FILLED with obsequious servents.  I inquired of one where there might be the designated "lobby" wherein I might meet the fabled Catwomen, but all the poor wretch could do was point around the very room I be standing on...

So I explored around a bit and noticed a room with the name Daily Grill.  That WAS the place we would be to eating in later, so I inquired about the foodstuffs offered therein.  Fine stuff; serious meats variously cooked for the men-types, and daintier foods fer the wenches (er Catwomen).

I happened ta mention I was there fer a meetin with the Catwomen, and the servent there said my name out loud.  I was shocked!  Apperently, the Sisterhood of the Catwomen was already gathered inside!  And I had arrived EARLY to scout out the place first.  A sad day when a scouter arrives last...

I immediately made my acquiantance to them all and I tell you, it was such a fine greeting from all.  I knew them all by reputation, of course, and they me.  It was a grand round of hugs all.  I haven't been hugged like that much if a decade!  It did me good.  I immediately cast off the "viscious winter coat" and sat meself down at the table, happier than a lost kitten finding his littermates.

OK, enough of that, LOL!

I found the ladies and was glad it wasn't difficult.  I had had visions of walking around the hotel carrying the Flat Mews overhead hoping that someone somewhere would recognize what they were. 

We had a wonderful lunch, sparkling conversation, discussions about cat-blogging, some sharing of personal thoughts about "the universe and everything",  memories of "cats-who-came-before",  and (as the King of Siam said in Anna And The King of Siam), "etc, etc, etc.

I was astonished at the Flat Cats in attendance.  I had made a quick version of The Mews (best picture I could find that I printed on cardstock glued to cardboard) the night before (thinking it was pretty good), but you wouldn't believe THEM!  Three times as big, and not a bad cut edge in the bunch.  I gotta work on that, and I learned a lot just by seeing the Good ones (ALL the others).  But they all admired the poorly done Mews annyway.  Talk about "kind"...

We had a GREAT waitress!  Maybe it was a "tiny" bit because it was a really slow day (bad weather and the local Pro football team having a home game), but she really liked us!  We found out at the end of the meal that she had supported feral cats at her previous house and really liked that we were all "cat-people".  She even used all our cameras to take group pictures!

Memo to self, check Bethesda Hyatt Regency Daily Grill site and see if there is an "I love This Server" option...

 And we gave her a 33% tip... 

Now, I have to say that I am really inexperienced at meeting new people in groups after so many years living by myself.  There were Gifts.  I didn't bring any... Dang, and I "considered" at least bringing fresh Nip leafs for the kitties and Truffles for the ladies.  I decided "it was just lunch".  And Ayla even told me to bring some things.  I SHOULD have listened to her...

Well, you live and learn.

But all good things must come to an end.  We had to part eventually, after a great lunch and great conversation.  I had a WONDERFUL time, more than well-worth the trip in the bad weather.  I got on the MetroRail, had an easy trip from Bethesda to Branch Avenue (about 10 miles straight under Washington DC), had a few fun minutes scraping frozen rain off the car windows, and driving home.

There WAS a slight scare.  My "low tire inflation" light came on 7 miles from home.  Thankfully, I had no problems, but I sure with bring the air pump into the garage later today to make sure all the tires are inflated properly.  Could be a problem though.  I had the car at the dealership for regular maintenence last Thursday, and I thought tire pressure was one of the things they checked.  Not that I don't know how the check it myself, but since I thought THEY just had, I didn't bother before going out on (what was to ME) a major trip.

Now for some pictures (and you thought there wouldn't be any LOL after all these words)...

I take a picture...
Teri takes a picture with my camera...
 Group picture by the Wonderful Waitress...
All the Flat Cats (see The Mews tiny in the front?).
Cat swag...
Me swag...
I haven't had a BETTER day in years.  Glad I braved the weather...

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Political Season

Just a note to say that, as the 2014 political season develops, I will be getting more political here on this blog.  I hope you all will put up with it (and especially not blame the cats at THEIR blog).

I am an unabashed Progressive (former Progressive Republican until purged in the "Reagan Revolution".  Relatively non-ideological "what works, works", mostly looking for what helps construct a financially-healthy middle-class (with upward mobility to all, but reasonable rewards for abilty and effort), and some balance on top incomes for the basic benefit of society.

In other words, I regret that TODAY'S Republicans are trying to eliminate the middle class, destroy fair voting, and suborn the functionality of general governance.

I don't say that lightly.  I majored in Political Science and specialized in Political Behavioralism (essentially Political Psychology; why voters vote as they do and why politicians act as they do).

So, part of me hopes certain politicians with certain stated goals will win; part of me realizes that those stated goals will not entirely determine the election results; and part of me sees the deeper crass strategies, lies, and dirty tricks that have nothing to do with truth and reality.

I'll be discussing all of those as the 2014 election develops.

Today's observation?  The establishment House Republicans have refused to act on any legislation for the last few months and won't until late February 2014...

Due to highly partisan re-districting (changing the borders of House districts to assure a majority for one party Gerrymandering), the House of Representatives will stay Republican for several election cycles  (The Senate is not subject to "Gerrymandering" because State borders are not changeable as in-State House Districts are).   So the "safe" Republicans House Districts mean that the winner of the party primary is nearly always the winner of the general election in November.  And THAT means that the only danger to a Republican House Member is from a more conservative challenger in the party primary election.

The incumbent Representatives don't want that kind of primary challenge, of course.  So they are playing a waiting game right now.  The deadlines for primary challenges will end in January/February in most places.  So if the incumbents actively do NOTHING for several months now to avoid a more conservative primary challenge, they are home free in November for another 2 years.

So...  When the House Republicans do nothing NOW, they aren't upsetting the more conservative base and encouraging a primary challenge.

Look for establishment Republicans to become more active and (slightly) less partisan starting in March when they are free of Tea Party party Primary challenges...

Now aren't you glad you majored in something less weird?  Like engineering or 14th century French poetry?  In politics, what they SAY never matters.  Its WHY they say it.  Words within wheels around goals, surrounded by campaign funding!

I'll try to explain most of what goes on as the election cycle progresses.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Car Troubles Resolved, Sort Of...

Well, as I expected, the dealership found no problems with the battery OR the charging system.  They also said their tests showed no "parasitic battery draw".  I guess that means they found no short-circuit using up the battery.  I thought it HAD to be one or the other, but those folks always know SOME way to explain problems away non-professionals won't think of. 

I don't drive enough!  They swear!  They say I do only local errands and that I'm just NOT driving it often enough.  I sure hadn't expected THAT as a cause, but they MAY be right.  Its a 2005 car and I've only driven it 23,300 miles.  And fewer than 2,000 miles/year the last few years. 

Basically, (they say) I am draining the battery through starting it several times in short errands and not driving it long enough to recharge the battery.  They suggested several ways to prevent similar future problems (several of them idiotic from my point of view). 

1.  I could just drive the car to nowhere and back twice a week for at least 15 minutes. 
2.  I could leave the car idling in the driveway 15 minutes twice a week.
3.  I could drive longer routes to my errands.

Do those also seem idiotic to you?

4.  They suggest I slap on a battery charger in "trickle mode".  That means recharging the battery after the usual short multi-stop errand trips and giving the battery a slow auto-shut-off charging.  But that means that twice a week, I need to find the hood opening lever in the car, prop the hood up, attach the charger to the battery, and then undo all that each time I want to use the car.  For the life of the car (which, quite frankly, I expect to last 20 years at the rate I use it). 

Doesn't THAT seem a bit idiotic to you also?

What I NEED is a plug-in car.  Oh wait, that's called a hybrid.  And I expect that is what I really need.  An electric usage for the usual very local errand-shopping where I can just plug it in each time after use; and a gas engine for the longer 2 hour trips to family events and or towing the boat on 1 hour fishing trips. 

Lifestyle choices do cause some specific demands.  But (and mine are admittedly not the routine car-usage demands), one has to adapt equipment to them.  I love my Toyota Highlander, but it WILL be 10 years old next year.  And I've read that the Highlander Hybrid will be redesigned and improved next year.  It may be time to replace it then.  I can deal with a weekly routine of keeping the battery charged up properly for a year I guess.  Not happily, but I'll consider it something like getting routine haircuts, brushing teeth, cleaning house, etc, until then.

But I'm still ticked off about the entire situation...

AND: To 'Sometimes Cats Herd You', thanks for the url to the neat gadget that cuts off battery drain.  It COULD have solved me problem if there was a short (apparently, not the problem).  I'm going to get it anyway "just in case" that solves the problem.  I'm also looking for some battery charger I can just plug into the cigarette lighter to make trickle charging easier as a backup.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Car Troubles

I'm getting tired of the battery problems!  For the past 2 years, the battery will simply and suddenly go dead.  OK, twice I left the back hatch up overnight, and once the regular door wasn't firmly closed.  Last year it happened several other times for no reason and I had the battery replaced even though the dealer said it was OK and I had no problems until this August. 

Then it happened several times again for no reason and they checked it again finding no problem.  I started keeping a boat battery in the car.   Now it has happened again 3 times in 2 weeks.  But it's always when its been sitting in the garage for 2-5 days!  A battery shouldn't discharge sitting in a garage for that short a time.

I usually need to go somewhere immediately, so I've previously jump-started it from the boat battery.  Yesterday I put my good battery-charger on it.  The charger as a display that shows the percent recharged.  It started at 13% and got up to 70% in a few hours.  And it stayed there for the next several hours!

I turned it off overnight and started charging it again this morning.  It was down to 50% already!  And it stayed there.  There HAS to be something wrong with the battery.  OR something wrong with the charging system.  Yet it seems to charge up when I drive it, because I never have a problem starting the car after a shopping trip.  I drove the car to the dealer today for a battery check and a charging system diagnosis.  I'll bet both check out OK.

I FEAR there is an intermittent short causing the battery to discharge.  Those are miserably difficult to find!  I KNOW I'm not leaving a door ajar, because for months, I've been standing there until the interior lights go out, showing that everything is shut tight.

Well, I should find out something tomorrow when the dealer calls.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Movie Thoughts

I sometimes talk about awkward subjects (more often in the past then lately).  Things that might upset some people.   So recent readers may be a bit surprised at this.

I don't watch many movies and the ones I do are usually old.  Not OLD old like 'Wizard Of Oz' but not "new" like the newest movies on HBO.  I watched 'Red Dawn' (1984, I think) tonight.  Well, sometimes the nature and science CDs start to feel repetitive, you know?

The movie is about WWIII when some collection of Soviet-based countries decide to attack the US in the "near future" *hey it was 1984 at the time of the movie*.  It had a decent explanation, not about the reasons, but about the methods. Some Coloradans decide to fight back. 

So some older teenagers/young adults were away from home hunting in the countryside when the attack hit.  With typical hollywood bravado and skill, they fought back.  They got better at it with experience.

No deaths were glorified (much), some of it was difficult, some was sad.  A person had to kill his brother after a betrayal; a young mortally-wounded woman saved her last grenade to take an enemy soldier with her; a sacrifice was made for honor...  One of the best things about 'Red Dawn' was that it ended ambiguously; no resolution to the war is provided. 

 What struck me was the practical lethality. And this is what causing me to write about this tonight. And let me state upfront that I was never a soldier and never had to face that choice of killing another human being.  But if there is something abhorrent about killing someone who is trying to kill you for no really good reason, I don't know it.

The deaths were mostly long-distance rifles and machine-guns and anonymous.  Bombs set off at distances, grenades dropped into tanks, simple ambushes.

I do not like death.  I stopped hunting deer when I killed a lactating doe with an arrow, realizing that there must be a fawn somewhere that would die of starvation slowly.  I cried about that.  I cry when I read of a cat who dies, even though all such deaths are inevitable.   I weep for the innocent...

But I just can't feel the same for those who attack other people.  One of the lines in the movie was something like Enemy: "Why are you killing us"; and the response from the US partisan was "Because this land is mine".  I understand THAT!

Killing in that situation wouldn't cause a single tear from MY eyes...  I wouldn't know the enemy's family (or beloved cats).  My conclusion after watching the movie was "I could do that easily".

Having said that, I am taking some time to decide whether or not to post this.  8:56 pm  Post or not, hmmm...  Could be a lot of objections; could be angry responses from veterans who say I don't know what killing a person is like; could be angry replies from anti-hunting people.  I'll think on it a few hours...

OK post it.  I'll be interested in the responses, if any.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

An Unusually Productive Day

I have to admit, most days are spent preparing lunch and eating it while reading the newspaper, doing general daily things (blogging and helping the cats visit their friends' blogs, cleaning litter boxes, letting the cats in and out, playing with them, watching science/nature/politic news...  I do a few errands once per week (groceries, hardware, and odds&ends).  At this time of year, there is nothing to be done in the garden.  I often sleep late ( a pleasure earned by retirement - I got up at 5 AM and returned home at 6 PM for 35 years, so I plan to sleep late for 35 years to catch up) .

So today was a good day.  I was up an hour early, ate lunch faster than usual and took a look at the basement.  Oh boy, there's a year's worth of work.  But I got a good start on it...

First, I collected all the plastic 6-packs I grow plants from seeds in, filled up the laundry tub, added some bleach, and set them all in to soak old dirt loose for 4 hours.  All the damaged ones went into a bag for disposal or recycling. 

Second, took the two 35 pound tubs of new kitty litter and divided them among 7 smaller 12 pound plastic containers from a previous brand (easier to pour from). 

Third, my car battery dies randomly every few months (dealer says the battery is good and I must be leaving a door slightly unlatched to keep the internal lights on.  *I* say I have learned to watch the car EVERY TIME until the internal lights go out AND I check every door every time) - but I can't PROVE that).  So I keep a marine battery in the back of the car.  I used it yesterday, so I recharged it.

Fourth, had some caladium bulbs in planters and they needed to be removed from soil and dried out in cool (but above 50 degree temps).  I have more of them in lager planters I brought into the basement, but they need to dry out more.  Washed soil off the saved ones and set them to dry.

Fifth, shook the soil out of the soaked plastic planting cells in the laundry tub, rinsed them carefully,  and stacked them up in rotation to dry over a heavy towel on the top of the washing machine.  Next laundry day is 10 days, so they will be thoroughly dried to be stack together tightly for storage until January (when the whole planting season starts again - cant wait).

Sixth, collected all used dry potting soil into a big trash barrel for use with established houseplants and transplanted vegetables.

Studied the whole-house humidifier again.  It seems too dry in the bedroom at night.  I don't get static shocks like I once did (there was a time when I could get the fluorescent lamp on my headboard to glow when I touched it and stroking cat fur caused sparks).  But I'm on my 2nd humidifier.  The first was a sponge drum that rotated through a water tray and worked great.  But it (grungily) fell apart after 3 years.  But it worked great, (45% humidity)  The current one drips water down a honeycomb  panel and isn't worth a bowl of water on a heating vent for 3 years.  The highest relative humidity I can get with this one is 25%.  I need to get a drum-type again.  But the opening to the airflow it wants is leess than the current one, so I need to srew some sheet metal over the existing opening and then cut it to size.    It would be nice if there were standard sizes for those things.

Seventh, pumped up bicycle tires, wheelbarrow tires, mower tires, and handtruck tires.  I have an air compressor, but the darn thing is too big to move around conventiently.  I only use that on the car tires and I've never used it as intended. with impact wrenches and spay painting.  Sad.

Eighth, swept most of the basement floor.  I hate the noise of the shop-vac.  Plus it tends to sucky-stick flat on the cement floor.  I tried to epoxy some 1/8" wood spacers under the wide nozzle corners once but it didn't work.  Must try a new way. 

Ninth, took off the sprayer on the watering tripod I made a few years ago.  The round spray doesn't allow as mush water as a different kind I have  (more horizontal) that works better for my flowerbeds.  Measured the size hold-down clamps I needed.    Have a good list of stuff I need from Home Depot.

I decided that was enough for one day...

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Remembering John F Kennedy

I spent all of Friday watching specials on TV.  And I was still too worked up to write yesterday.  On this 50th anniversary of his assassination, maybe I'm ready...  I'll try...

I was 13 when JFK was killed in Dallas.  Home life was good, private life was good (as good as it could be for a 13 yer old boy trying to "figure out things").

But, as they say, everyone of a certain age remembers that day. I do too, generally.

But what struck me as I watched the various TV shows detailing the events, I do not remember them as accurately as I thought.  Over 50 years, some recollections are just plain wrong and some are "iffy" at best.

The major details are accurate, the ones we all know from history.  Date, time, place, shooter, etc.  But my specific personal recollections are in doubt.  Things that I thought were factual, aren't (and I'm not talking about conspiracy theories here.

I have the clearest recollection of looking at the school "public address" (PA) box at the top of the cinder block wall above the teacher suddenly announcing that the President had been shot and killed in Dallas Texas.  The PA box was light wood colored, square with rounded corners, black cloth behind a open wooden grid.  It was angled slightly downward.  We were told that those of us who walked or rode our bikes to school should immediately return home.  Those who took busses should line up at our usual spots and wait for the buses to arrive.

I rode a bike to school, so I went straight home. 

And yet, my memory has the time and location wrong in some way.  In November 1963, I lived in Maryland.  When my memory looks out the classroom windows when I hear the announcement, I am seeing the previous year-before Virginia school I attended then (we moved around every few years).  I can't have been in Virginia in November 1963.

And the time is wrong.  My memory says we got the announcement just after lunch, about 12:30.  That was Eastern Time.  That isn't possible.  JFK died at 1 PM Central Time, 2 PM Eastern Time.  It took a while to get the news spread, and the school administrators could not have reacted immediately  (needing to arrange buses, plan students leaving, etc).  It had to be at least 3 PM before the announcement came over the PA system.

That's a shock to my memory.  Wrong place, wrong time.

The other memory problem is that I recall being at my grandparants house watching the funerial ceremonies for several days.  The memories are VERY clear.  My gramma was crying, my grampa was watching intently (but not crying), my dad was not very interested (at least not watching the small TV).

But wait, how did I get from Maryland to New England?  I'm not sure I was really there.  Would my parents have taken me out of school to go watch the funeral services in New England?  That was a very serious trip in 1963!  But the personal memories are SO strong.  Maybe we did go to New England for family grieving.  But how can I know?

Gramma and Grampa are long gone, Mom is dead, Dad can't remember where he lived last year.  I'm the eldest child; my younger siblings can't know (at 11 and 7).  Its not like there are any records I can check now.  My parents never kept a journal of events.  The only thing I have are old photographs and no photos I have show anything about that time at home or on travel.

I have clear memories of there being nothing on TV for several days except JFK's death and funeral march.  That has to come from somewhere, but whether from Maryland or New England, I cannot tell.

It bothers me greatly that I can't determine the accuracy of my memories of the events then.  Some MUST be false, some MAY be false, some are accurate.  But there comes a time when you can't know which are which.

And I don't mean to say that my memory is failing exactly.  Its more that the ongoing historical shows over the years have caused some "adjustments" to my memories.  I do understand how that works.  But it is sad to see the proof of that the past few days.  It is a shock to me.

And one of the TV shows about JFK's death was about personal recollections of "Where You Were".  I have to wonder about the accuracy of THEIR recollections.  Some of them were my age or younger.

I DO know that, even at age 13, I knew something horrible had happened and that history had changed (I was big into history at a young age and also reading alternate universe fiction).  JFK's death probably had some major part of why I studied "Government and Politics" in college.

Its odd to think that, had Oswald missed his target, I might have majored in history and had an entirely different career.  But I was considering mechanical engineering too.  Maybe I'd be designing a Tesla car today...

Maybe JFK is why I love alternate history stories.  Just think of a world where he wasn't killed and a story starts "The visit to Dallas was a great success, won him Texas, and led to the second Kennedy term..."

But I'm wandering.  JFK's assassination was a major event in my young life that has had serious repercussions through the years, and I have found I misremember parts of those personal recollections.  It's disturbing, possible inevitable, and maybe important or not.

Are YOUR memories of the event (should you be of that age) as accurate as you think they are?

Monday, November 18, 2013


Wow, the "10% chance of rain tonight suddenly became pounding on the window! 

And I MEAN "suddenly".  And "pounding".  From nothing it went from not raining to nearly beating the windows in!  Weird!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Computer Room Rearrangement

After falling over in the chair slipping off the plywood base onto the carpet, I decided to rearrange things. 

First rule, make the newer Mac computer table and the older PC be in swivel-range of the computer chair! without getting the chair wheels on the carpet.

1.  Move the 4-drawer file cabinet out of the way.
2.  Move the stored folding chairs out of the way to another room.
3.  Move the old PC table into the way.

I'm glad I have a hand-truck.  That allowed we to move the heavy file cabinet awy from the current spot.  Keep in mind that I was moving stuff around IN the room, so space was tight. 

I moved the 4 drawer file cabinet out of the way.  Then I vacuumed that spot.  Hint:  Rub/Twist  your shoes over the spots where the carpet is crushed down and it raises the pile back up rather well.

Vaccuumed that spot again with the vaccuum-brusher on.  Can hardly see the impressions of the file cabinet.  Connected a multi-plug outlet to the unused battery back-up plug fr the Mac.  Stuffed the wire into the the edge of the carpet to keep from tripping on it.  C0nnected that to another surge supressor to add protection AND reach the new PC table.

I know have the Mac and the old PC set up on tables so that all I need to do is swivel in he chair on the same base.  The least likely thing was that my 4'x4' plywood base would work for both the Mac and PC computer tables but it has.

The old big file cabinet and the chairs used to be opposite my Mac.  The chairs are now in the cat room (they like to walk on the tops of the chairs) .  The big file cabinet is now next to the door.  The little file cabinet is now next to the PC for the boom box to sit on (and the spacing of the little 2 drawer file cabinet next to the wall with the card table with the PC means that both computers are exactly opposite.

I think I'm pretty safe from the chair tipping over when it hits the carpet now.  I should have done this before.  It wasn't the chair's fault that it tipped.  It was that the small wheels were hitting carpet becausr my Mac and PC tables were not aligned.

"Its a poor mechanic who blames his tools".  I was wrong to blame the chair.  But when you make mistakes, you just figure out the problem and fix them.  So I've fixed it. 

The "fix" was to get the computers connected in chair support base and that I could just swivel 180 from Mac to PC.. 

Note the new unclawed chair!  It "only" took an hour to assemble.  The second arm took half the time because the hole in the arm didn't match up to the  hole in the back.  I had to loosen almost all the screws in the bottom to give "just enough" slack to get it finished.  Instructions on everything is awful...
And now that I moved the tall file cabinet to the doorway, I need to decorate it it in some way.  Suggestions?  I'm thinking "flatcats", but I'm not locked into that.  A fancy towel might be good, or a poster.  Or other...

Friday, November 8, 2013

Fun With Monitors

Soooo, I bought this new monitor for the old PC I use only to play Civilization 2 (and maybe retrieve some old files and photos from AND it has MS Paint which I've always liked for creating greeting cards).  At 19.5" diagonal, and 16:9 aspect, its bigger than the monitor on my "real" computer (the fast internet one).  But I needed one that had the older-style connections (male, D, 15 pin plug, so I didn't have a lot of choices). 

Opening the box, I found warranties in several languages, a page of disclaimers, a page of warnings, and a CD.  No set up instructions...  Those were on the CD.  Um, how do you read a CD if you dont have a working monitor?  How often do YOU replace a working monitor with a new one?  Plus there was a page that said if the monitor did not receive a working video input it would turn on.  I had to think about that later...

Fortunately, the monitor was good for both PCs and Macs, so I could load the CD in the Mac while I set up the monitor on the CD.  The CD PDF manual was pretty pathetic.  Even though I could choose among languages to read it in, there were mostly just pictogram instructions.  One instruction said to repeatedly press the f8 button while booting up to get to a "safe screen" and and a page of possible ways to get to setting up the monitor.

Nothing happened...  Which could either mean the plugs weren't connecting, the monitor wasn't compatible, I had a "too old" version of Windows (and how can you find out if there is no monitor to click on the Windows icon to see what Windows version you have?), and how do you know the electrical cable is working if the monitor won't even light up?

BLEH!  It was a real Catch-22*

Fortunately I saw a PFD-manual reference to a small LED light that would show a working connection to the computer.  I didn't find one, but feeling around the bottom of the monitor frame I found a  pinhead-sized plastic button hidden about as well as possible.  I pressed it.  The monitor lit up (HOUSTON, WE HAVE LIFT-OFF).

The brief printed guidelines were COMPLETELY false.  NONE of the setup instructions had anything functional about them.  The manufacturer probably fired the person who wrote the instructions for the 3-generation previous version and never had them rewritten.

The instructions DID have some useful guidelines for setting the screen resolution and aspect choices.  IF you figured out that they were in the wrong order.  If I was new to this stuff, I would have returned the monitor to the store as "non-functioning"...

Then I turned on the Civilization 2 game I use the PC for.  The colors were HORRIBLE!  Dark, blurry, and the text was unreadable.  OK, little habit here.  I often just squat in front of the computer rather than bother with a chair.  I often did my computer work at the office and home squatting, standing, etc because I am restless and hate to just SIT.  But when you stand or sit a lot, squatting  puts a different tension on the leg muscles that can be relaxing.

So image my surprise when I stood up and the computer colors suddenly became perfect, then "too light".  This monitor is apparently very direct "square-on" to be color-correct".  I was angry!  I went to the Mac and loaded up a full screen color photo and tried the same "from squatting to standing" examination.

I was shocked!  It did the same thing.  Then, with some testing, I realized that the situations where I squatted to use the Mac were for reading email and that is in black and white.  When I am doing lengthier work, I sit.  Try it yourself; with a full color photo on the screen look at it from below to middle to above.  Do the colors change severely?  Mine do.

So, when I use the old PC to play the Civilization 2 game, I will be sitting in a chair with the monitor aimed directly at me for proper colors.

It shouldn't have been that hard.  Of all the parts of a desktop computer, the one part that OUGHT to be utterly "plug and play" is the monitor.  If it doesn't just "come on" automatically, its really frustrating,  And useless.

*  If you don't know what a "Catch-22" is, its a situation where one is trapped between conflicting rules from which there is no escape.  Catch-22 is a novel by Joseph Heller about absurd situations in WWII.  The title was originally Catch-18 but was changed because of a then-recently published book Mila 18, then changed from Catch-11 because of a movie Ocean's Eleven, then changed from Catch-17 because of the movie Stalag 17, then not Catch-14 because "14" wasn't considered a "funny number", finally landing on Catch-22 for the duplication of "2" which seemed to fit the duplication concept AND "2" standing for the deja vu situations in the book.  I knew some of that, but got more from Wikipedia...  Didn't want to do a "Rand Paul" here.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Gripe, Lather, Repeat

Yes, I've been complaining lately.  And I'm going to do it again.  It's a bit long...

Electrical -  Sometimes I can't even win using AngiesList.

1.  The first visit had a guy over to add a downstair's light and replace an upstair's light.  He did the downstair's light.  I told him to wire it directly to the upstair's light, but he insisted it was better to wire it to the downstair's switch (of a 3-way switch).  Afterwards, he show me it worked.  Later, I found it only worked from the downstairs switch.  From the middle and upper switches, the lights went on and off oppositely.  He said the big lamp I wanted to replace in the upper stairs needed some nuts to "tighten things up".  And he said the heavy replacement light (a tiffany style knockoff) would need 2 people.  He also looked at the front door motion-detectotrlight and said it need to be replaced due to rust.

2.  So I worked on the "tiffany" lamp.  I found a few nuts at Home Depot that tightened it all up fine.  Then I called the electrical folks to come back with 2 people and fix the problems.  Two guys came by.  They said the big tiffany light wiring was not to code and that it needed a "vintage lamp restorer" to redo everything.  They undid the weird opposite on/off problem so that I was back to the original top light only condition.  They begged off wiring the downstair's light directly to the upper one, saying that, since they would by installing the large tiffany light the next visit anyway, it would be better to do both parts then.  OK...  They also replaced the old motion detector with a new one I had bought.  As one guy did that, he asked about the options (when and for how long the floodlights would come on.  I told him "only when the motion detector comes on, and only for about 10 minutes".  It was daylight, but he said he covered the detector and tested it and it was working as requested,

3.  The nearest "vintage lamp restorer" was an hour away.  When I brought the tiffany lamp to him, he admired it, but said "any qualified electrician should have been able to do this work", and "you should fire them for not just doing it".  Well, I wasn't going to get in the middle of an argument that might require me to make several more hour long trips, so I had him just do the work.

4.  I retrieved the rebuilt tiffany lamp and contacted the electrical company to come and install it and also wire the downstair's light to the tiffany one as recommennded by the 2nd guys in #2.  I specifically reminded the electrical company that the previous guys had said it would take 2 people to install the heavy lamp, plus that they recommended it be wired directly to the bottom light.  Plus, that a hallway ceiling light had died and needed repair (the circular fluorescent bulb only came on halfway).

5.  Team #3 arrived.  The service manager at the electrical company had called just before then and told me that he was reducing the hourly rate to $90 per hour from $110 because of all the trouble in the work and he was sending a "best" team.  OK.  I knew there was trouble right from the start.  They would not wire the lower light to the upper one.  They hadn't brought their "28 drill bit" to get through the wall bases (and I'm not sure why that was MY problem).  But they said everything would work if they wired the bottom light to the top switch.  OK. 

Why are electricians determined not to EVER go up into an attic?  They simply refused to do it!  One guy DID go up in the attic because he was simply forced to to attach 2 screws for a support bar over the heavy tiffany lamp.  And he was pissed about doing that.  Really, he said he was.

6.  Team #3 did wire the bottom light to the top switch and it does work properly.  Both the top and bottom lights go on and off together.  But now I have a 3rd cutout of my drywall I have to repair.  If they had simply fished the wire from the bottom light to the top light. I wouldn't have had the drywall cutout to repair in the main living area.

7.  Plus, I asked them to look at the hallway light.  As they did so, there was a snap sound and a piece of plastic fell on the floor.  They said the existing fluorescent light couldn't be repaired and should be replaced.  OK.  I CAN actually do that.  I forgot to ask them to fix the settings on the motion detector to the settings I originally requested.  My fault.

8.  So I looked at the hallway light after they left to measure the size I needed to cover the unpainted part of the ceiling.  I found that the snapped piece of plastic was a part were the lamp needed to be attached.  The guy had tried to tighten the old light too hard and had broken it off.  I can now try to attach the new (very lightweight) light I bought today or I can have some electrician come out and replace the electrical junction box to allow for thew usual 2 attachment bolts to go in.

9.  And then the bill arrived.  It charged me for the same original work of installing the bottom stair's light that the first guy had charged me for, that the 2nd team had undone the bad work of, and tht the 3rd team had finally done correctly (even though not as I desired). I had to argue with them for 10 minutes about the fact that some of the work was previously paid-for .  And then, all I got was "I'll knock off half the labor hours "TO RESOLVE THIS SITUATION".  But not at the reduced hourly cost.  *I* accepted "to resolve the situation".

I MAY contact the original electrical company, try to do it myself, or contact a different electrical company.

And that is just PART of this past month's annoyances...

A.  On October 1st, I damaged my left arm ulner nerve.  That's the one that controls your little finger and half the ring finger.  It happened before.  20 years ago, I was a passenger on a car that hit a deer.  Two days later, my left 2 fingers were numb.  I thought it was carpal tunnel syndrome (I worked on a computer all day at work and sometimes at home at games).  After some awful electrical acupuncturish tests up one arm and down the other and into my neck (until I finally went into cold clammy shock and passed out), it was determined that there was a minor fracture of the 5th or 6th neck vertebrae.  The prescription was resting the neck and taking ibuprophen at double the recommended rate.  The problem went away in 4 to 6 weeks (can't recall exactly).

B.  On October 1st my computer chair fell over when I slid it off the plywood roller base and the wheels caught on the carpet.  On the same night, I had sat at my computer resting my head on my left elbow for 12 hours while engaged in a strategic computer game.  And immediately the next morning, I engaged in some rather violent shovel work (like digging up sod.  So I don't know the cause.  But I treated it the same.  Until that didn't help after 5 weeks now.

C.  I lost a filling in a tooth 7 years ago.  It hasn't bothered me.  But now there is a slight pain in the far back of my jaw in that side.  Coincidence, I hope, as it feels more like there is a chewed off fingernail bit stuck back there.  And there is a slight infrequent ear ache on that side.  But I get those infrequently too, so it could all be coincidence.

D.  But after the 3rd time my computer chair tossed me down this month (and it hasn't happened before) and I had to put the chair top on the wheeled bottom, I got pissed.  I took the parts out onto the deck and pounded them a bit.

E.  I've mentioned that the old monitor on the old PC has been acting up lately.  In randomly turns on and off.  Something wrong with the on/off button.  I took a small C clamp to the on button and it stayed on for weeks.  But lately it got worse and failed completely.  Same night the chair tipped over the 3rd time, I had to keep adjusting the C clamp every few minutes.  Then when it started going wrong  every few seconds, I disconnected it, took it out to the deck and threw it down hard.  Well, now I know what the insides of a monitor look like.

F.  It is satisfying breaking material objects that stop working (I never act out at living things of course).  Now I have a new (better) computer chair and a bigger monitor.  I expect them both to work fine for years.

G.  Now all I need to do is get my Ulner Nerve fixed so that my to left lingers don't feel numb...  And get that that hallway ceiling light replaced.  Oh yeah, my Photoshop Elements 6 disappeared when I downloaded Mac's OS Maverick...  And there is a new groundhog under the old toolshed.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


I have 2 computers set up.  One is the usual Mac I use to post with.  But last month, I got an old PC up and running and set it up on a card table behind me.

I have a 4'x4' plywood base so the computer chair rolls on it easily at the Mac table.  And that's where the problem started.  The plywood base doesn't quite reach to the new PC card table.  I have to roll it onto some carpet.  Not usually a problem. 

So I moved from the Mac (where I was downloading the new Maverick OSX) and playing Civilization II on the PC, and I failed to negotiate the drop off the plywood correctly and leaned a bit too far over...

Found myself on the floor with the chair in two pieces.  Naturally, I focussed on the chair.  Apparently the sitting part of chair can just lift off the wheeled base, but it took a few minutes to see that (I don't often fall off of chairs and few of THEM come apart).  Actually, I spent some time looking for a loose set screw I assumed was there to prevent exactly this from happening.

There wasn't one.  So I set the sitting part back on the wheeled part and sat in it carefully.  It seemed as solid as ever.  So I just had better be careful wheeling it off the plywood "carpet mat".  I decided that was a good time to call it quits for the night and went to bed.

I'm glad I have synthetic product carpet in the computer room.   The next morning, I discovered that I had also flipped the ashtray over (yes, I smoke) as I fell off the chair.  A lit cigarette fell onto the carpet.  Well, when you are suddenly falling, minor details escape your notice.  As in, I can't recall what song was playing on the radio, what time it was, and whether I had a lit cigarette.

I had a lit cigarette.  It melted an inch long spot in the carpet.  "Darn" (I used other words at the time, but I won't ruin your innocent ears by being specific now).

Fortunately, there was no serious damage to me or anything.  But I sure will remember the awful sudden feeling of falling over in the chair!  Five wheels on the chair and 3 of them did NOT work in my favor, LOL!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Fun With Lamps

Three years ago, I inherited a knock-off (but good quality vintage) "tiffany" lamp.

I dithered for 3 years about what to do with it (Living Room or Stairwell).  I finally decided on stairwell. 

First, I called an electrical company I found on Angie's List.  I explained about hanging the lamp in the ceiling over the stairwell to replace an existing working light and that it was heavy and awkward (so it might require 2 people).  I also requested them to install a regular ceiling light at the bottom of the stairs wired into the same 3-way switch as the top one, and that I needed the outside motion detector repaired.  They sent 1 person.  He looked at the tiffany lamp and said it was missing some hanging parts.  Well, I hadn't examined it that carefully, and it was a bit loose.  So I had him look at the motion detector.  He said the detector parts had rusted and it needed to be replaced.  So I had him install the small ceiling lamp at the bottom of the stairs.  I thought it should simply be wired directly to the upper lamp (where the tiffany lamp would go later, but he said it would be easier to just wire it into the bottom stair switch.  OK, whatever works… 

The new bottom light seemed to work fine.  Both upper and bottom lights came on and wet off with the switch.  And the electrician said it would take 2 people to hang the tiffany lamp (agreeing with what I had told them to begin with).  But the next day I discovered that using the top switch caused one to come on while the other went off.  I called the electrical company back and explained the situation.  Meanwhile, I had found that the hanging parts on the tiffany lamp seemed merely loose and with an additional nut, tightened it all up nicely.  So they sent out 2 guys a few days later.

I had a new motion detector for them to install as well.  First, they looked at the tiffany lamp and declared it "not to code".  They said it needed a complete new "canopy attachment" and rewiring, and that they didn't do that kind of work, suggesting a vintage lamp restoration company in Annapolis.  I later googled "vintage lamp restoration" and sure enough Annapolis was closest (but not exactly next door).  Meanwhile, they undid the bad wiring job of the first guy, and installed the new motion detector outside.  I suggested that they wire the new bottom light to the top light then, but they said it would mean doing the same wiring work on the top light twice and cost more.  So I agreed to wait until they could install the tiffany lamp at the same time.

So I brought the lamp to Annapolis Lighting for repair.  The repair manager told me that any qualified electrician should have been able to make the attachment and wiring repairs, but he would do it.  Still, that was an hour drive both to and from there, and I had to do it twice (delivery and pickup).  Meanwhile, my hallway light died.  I replaced the circular fluorescent bulb and then the starter, but it still didn't work, so there was new work to be done.

A new pair of guys arrived today.  The original one was fired for incompetency, and the second team had been promoted to commercial work.  The new pair did know what they were doing.  One went to work on getting the bottom stair light wired in properly.  I still think it made more sense to wire the bottom light directly up to the top one, but he chose to wire it to the primary switch (which was at the top of the stairs). 

The other guy tackled the tiffany lamp installation.  He was convinced that it could just be attached to the existing electric box already there, but I told him I wanted a better support (knowing how my builder cut corners).  Sure enough, when he removed the existing ceiling light, there was just a plastic electric box that he pulled out of the attic joist by hand.  He had to get into the attic (they do almost anything to avoid that) to install a support bar and new electric box.   In spite of the idea that both of them were there to cooperate in installing the heavy tiffany lamp, the 1 guy did it himself.  He had to stand on the very top and almost losing his grip on it once, he got it installed properly.  The 2nd guy got the bottom light wired. 

 It all worked, and we 3 tested all the 3 switches in combinations to make sure there was none of that 1 on and 1 off problem from before. 

Then came a bill for $440.  I pointed out that I had already paid for that bottom light being wired properly.  So I had to talk to their service manager.  He pointed out that he was already offerring me a discount on the hourly work.  I pointed out that the initial paid work included "install new light at bottom of stairs and run wire".  He said the first guy did the invoice wrong and the price only included installing the new light.  When I asked who would think anyone would install a light WITHOUT attaching it to a switch, he babbled for a moment, and I added that it was a quoted price and I paid for it at the time (so one of the guys here today was merely correcting the bad work of the original guy and they couldn't charge me for that twice).  When he said I had requested 2 people, I told him that was what HIS people had suggested.

The $440 came down to $275.  The service manager allowed that he was doing it "to resolve the situation"  (as if he was doing me a great favor by not charging me twice for an initially botched wiring job).  I don't really care how he accounts for his charges, just that the final charge was only for the work installing the tiffany lamp and it seemed a fair charge.

I asked the electrician here how HE would interpret "install new light at bottom of stairs and run wire", and he laughed saying he never argues with the service manager.  I understand; to the electrician (a sub-contractor), I'm not the customer, the service manager is.

But everything is fine now and I am thrilled with the tiffany lamp…
I haven't decided how I will review the work on Angie's List yet.  They botched the first wiring, but made up for it immediately.  The tiffany lamp wiring and hanging hardware wasn't their fault.  And while they got confused about the costs involved in the 3 visits, they did make the charges reasonable after a brief discussion.  And the work WAS finally done well.

I can't give them perfect scores, but I won't flame them either.

But I LOVE the new staircase lamp there.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

More Movie (The Hobbit)

And I wasn't expecting this.  Verizon called and I don't usually to bother to listen to telephone offers but that started with one I could tolerate.  They were offerring increased internet connection speed for $10 per month.  Forever.  Well, I don't really feel a need for that.  Internet speed is pretty much instantaneous here.  But maybe not forever, and I am considering a mobile device.  But I told them I wasn't really very interested.

They tossed in HBO.  Hmmm...  I don't really watch movies very often and don't miss any HBO shows.  But I DO like Bill Maher and seldom see him.  And the offer had no contract requirement and no equipment installation.

I said OK.  I cant say that I really notice any difference in internet speed.  But I saw the movie "The Hobbit" was on, so I watched it out of curiousity.  Why not, I only got up at 5 pm (played Civilization II from 10 pm to 11 am), so the day was pretty much wasted already.  Keep in mind that (in my opinion) the book "The Hobbit' was to 'Lord of the Rings' as ''Dick Jane and Sally' was to 'Hamlet.

I don't have a history of admiring the way movies translate books, and 'The Hobbit' was a pretty poor book to begin with...

But "Oh WOW"!  I may have to change my opinion of movies made from books.  Every one I've seen made in the past decade has been outstanding.  I can still complain that they don't follow the original books very well, but they sure do make a good movie from them.

I have to credit planned sequels and big budgets.  It used to be that science fiction/fantasy movies were produced on low budgets and the producers crushed whatever story there was into a 90 minute movie.  Not any more, apparently.

So, "The Hobbit' was only half the book (and I'll say again that the book makes me cringe compared to 'LOTR' and the 'Silmarillion'), but the producers/directors/whoevers really did a superb job with this one.  In the scene where the Giant  Eagles took the whole Gandalfian group away from the goblins, I was just gob-smacked.  Admittedly, special effects really make a difference.  Eagles with a 50' wingspan are unusual.

My criticisms of the movie include the really human-looking dwarves (in spite of the fancy hair and beards which were well done) compared to the true-to-book description of Gimli of LOTR, the attack on the campfire rolls by the dwarves, and the apparent confusion between goblins and orcs.  I could get into details about Bilbo's "orc-detecting sword" glowing when there were only goblins around, but I'll spare you.

But as a movie when you don't know the book (or if book/movie differences don't bother you)?  It's a great watch!  It kept me in my chair for almost 3 hours, and that's not easy to do...  I'm looking forward to part 2.

And as a very minor matter, I miss commercials.  Sometimes you just have to pee.  I may have to just record the few movies I want to watch before watching them just so I can put them on pause when nature calls.sometimes.  LOL!

Monday, October 7, 2013

I Watched Two Movies Recently

Which may not seem odd to many of you, but I generally don't watch movies in theaters or at home.  Most are about "human drama" which I don't need more of, action movies wore me out after Rocky and Diehard, and most sci-fi movies weren't faithful to the books or comic strips.  Especially the sci-fi.  Seriously, I'm old enough to have seen mostly bad sci movies when younger.

Most of my life, favorite sci fi comic books or real books have been made into truly dreadful movies.  Have you ever seen "Howard The Duck"?  A thoughtful mature social-satire comic was turned into a Grade D farce.  And the first Dune movie was little better. 

So I've been pleased the past decade or so as sci-fi and comic book characters have been turned into quality movies.  The second version of Dune was suberb, Siderman was very good, and the movie industry has done a decent job since.  They still mess up the characters badly (Lord of the Rings was most accurate).

But while Marvel comic characters have done reasonably well (being written toward college students), DC comic characters have generally not (Superman and Batman being exceptions).  So when I saw that Green Lantern was a movie on TV tonight, I cringed, but need something to watch while eating dinner.  Well, Green Lantern was probably one of the hokiest shallow undeveloped  characters DC comics ever created.  Really a magic ring lets you create anything you can imagine (no origin of the power or anything.  That's 1940s sci-fi stuff...

Imagine my surprise when I enjoyed the movie.  There was actually character development!  There was a theme.  There was even some philosophical discussion (the difference between fearlessness and courage for example).  I enjoyed it.

And there was a scene which I absolutely positively delighted in.  Green Lantern touched down on the balcony of his love interest (like in Superman).  She was amazed at his mystery and power (just like in Superman).  Then she looked at him, sniffed him, and identified him at once (unlike Superman).  I cracked up!  I don't know what writer got that scene in the movie, but I sure hope s/he got a raise and a bonus.  I flashed Two Thumbs Up and decided to watch the rest of the movie.   The rest was Ok, concluding with a reasonably good fight and a clever resolution based on information offerred earlier in the movie.

But I only watched Green Lantern because I had watched an anti-hero movie a few days ago.  Hancock.  If you haven't seen it, Hancock is the only superperson anywhere.  He is no hero.  He is lazy, irresponsible, drunk, stupid, carelessly destructive, and amnesiac.

In fact, he is only named "Hancock" because the hospital told him to put his "John Hancock" on the forms and he thought they knew that was his name (note to foreign readers - a "John Hancock" is a generic term for a signature because the real John Hancock wrote his name so LARGE on the Declaration Of Independence)

I would have thought about the amnesiac part earlier, but I assumed that some OTHER character would come along to straighten him out.  Well, actually I was right about that, but sure not in the way I expected.  There was no character to "straighten him out" by being stronger and wiser" (deus ex machia). 

Hancock goes through life stopping minor crimes by destroyed massive amounts of property just because that's the easiest way to do it, acting like an idiot physically and socially, and living a lonely boring life punctuated by violence.  The citizenry is thinking they might be better off without him but there is nothing they can do about him.  He is invulnerable and seemingly immortal.  He's sort of like the vigilante semi-crazed Batman with Superman powers, except that he doesn't seem to care about crime other than than that he gets to really beat up on the bad guys.

And then, oh so slowly, a past begins to emerge.  He begins to recognize that he is destructive.  The wife of his best friend turns out to be a superperson too.  Not different (ie, "feminine" powers),  to oppose Hancock; identical! 

After the obligatory fight scenes (equal to the last iota of energy) where they seem to destroy a large part of a city (after which it seemed to me that even Hancock looked around appalled), the truth starts to come out. 

Hancock first lived in ancient times, created by ancient deities.  Beings like him were created in pairs, male/female.  As they found each other, their powers waned so that after so many years they could live mortal lives and love, raise families, and finally die (often called the "mortals blessing" in mythology).  Hancock and Mary (the female superpower) were the last of the pairs. 

In a touching scene, she explains all his scars as examples of what happens when the two of them are close and their powers weaken.  Though nearly mortal, he fought off swordsmen in Sumeria (Persia?), saved her a few more times through history.  They always had to separate to regain their powers. 

But the last time they were together, he was injured so badly he was amnesiac, not eve remembering who he or Mary was.  She left him so he could survive, determined to stay away from him forever to keep him alive.

After getting in touch again (Hancock saves Mary's husband's life) the weakness begins again,  Hancock is shot in a minor robbery.  While stopping from (unexplained?) assassins from killing Hancock, Mary is mortally wounded.  Hancock (near death) manages to kill the assasins efficiently (throwing several out of high windows) and Mary's EKG flatlines.  Hancock understands what is happening and leaps out the high window himself to increase the distance between himself and Mary.

He survives the fall (barely) and so jumps further away, gaining strength as he gets further away.  Mary de-flatlines!  Her fingers twitch, she breathes again, she lives.  Her husband Ray (who understands everything by now) rushes to her side with the young daughter.  All is well in her world.

The resolution is basically that Hancock has learned responsibility, purpose, and control in line with his original created intent, and that Mary will have a temporary loving marriage with Ray.  That she and Hancock will have a new relationship in the future, and that Earth will have a superhero. 

I note (cautiously) that Hancock and Mary seem to have not had any children in the times they were together.  There might be an origin movie someday.

But it was sure a good movie.  And having watched only 2 movies in several years,  Those were good ones.

Friday, October 4, 2013

NOW I Remember...

why I stopped playing Civilization II years ago.  Its addictive.  I don't eat.  I don't sleep.  I just keep playing...

A few days ago, I got my old PC working again and played Civ II all night.  I mean like 12 hours.  And 12 hours does not complete a game.  I finished the next day in 8 hours.  OK, got THAT out of my sytem, right?  NO.  Started another game last night and played from 8 pm to 10 am.  I collapsed into bed from 10 am to 3 pm, got up, cleaned house and made dinner.  Played with the cats.  Watched science and polital talk on tv.

And the new game is sitting there calling to me...  How can I leave a game unfinished?

Drugs have nothing on Civ II for demanding attention!

The good news is that I lost 3 pounds by not bothering to eat.  LOL!  But I think the cat blog is going to suffer until I get tired of this game again...

Thursday, October 3, 2013

A Day In The Life

I don't often bother to contact my local elected officials.  The few times I have done so in the past got me responses that either completely ignored my issue, or got it backwards and thanked me for supporting the vote I was complaining about.

But today I got interested in obtaining genetic testing.  I had thought about it for several years, so it wasn't exactly an impulsive decision.  My delay had been the cost a few years ago ($1,000) and limited results offerred. 

But when I drilled deeply into one of the provider's websites (and found the cost of $99 and the list of results very lengthy and detailed),  I decided to purchase this genome test.  Imagine my surprise when I was informed by the website that Maryland is the ONLY State that completely prohibits such "direct-to-consumer" transactions (New York State has a partial ban).

I decided to complain.  From what little I could find out about the original regulation, it was aimed at preventing people from being suckered by fly-by-night scammers and those who might sell your genetic information to insurance companies and employers.  But the professional companies doing this now seem to protect you from that. 

And even if that wasn't true, it doesn't matter to me anymore.  I'm retired and my federal health insurance has worked like ObamaCare for 30 years and it is WONDERFUL!  I can switch insurance companies every year (I don't) and pre-existing conditions don't matter.

But back to genome (genetic) testing...  Alone, Maryland will not allow me to just send a spit sample to a genome testing company and get results.  So I looked up all my elected representatives.  I emailed them all demanding they allow me the RIGHT to get my genetic results directly from a qualified lab the same way my fellow-citizens in OTHER States can.

I bet all the responses from the politicians are vague and promise agreement even when they say they support the law I am complaining about. 

But I'm still glad I spent a few hours contacting them.  Sure made ME feel better.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Blast From The Past

I got my old PC up and running in order to play Civilization 2 (aka Civ II), which I haven't played for about 10 years.  I knew I would be rusty at it, so I started he game at the lowest level. 

For those who are not familiar with the game, you and several players (human if online, computer bots if not) each start with  their own single barely historic settler and decide where on a random map to create a first city.  You slowly work up to modern times by learning weapons, governments, and knowledge advancements.  There are politics involved.  The goal is to be the one who launches a spaceship reaching Alpha Centuri.  It is wicked tricky and complicated.

I reached a point in my first new game where I was getting to build a spaceship.  And when I say "build" I mean you really had to construct your spaceship from parts you built/bought/stole in your own constructed cities or your opponents.  You needed some various precise combinations of "structural components", "propulsion units",  "habitation units",  "fuel",  and "energy".  Different combinations had different consequences.  Some made the spaceship fail.  Some caused the inhabitants to die.  Other combinations affected the likelihood that the ship would arrive, and others affected the years of the flight.

It is an AWESOME game!

I recalled that I had once worked out many of the best combinations of the spaceship parts, so I googled "civilization II spaceship formulas", figuring someone had posted them.

You won't BELIEVE what I got at the top of the list...

MY OWN LIST.  Still considered part of the Civ II bible after all these years...

In a site for info for Civ II players  by various categories (like how to defend a new city, when to use a spy, and when to break an alliance).  And THERE, in a page of its OWN, was a page titled "Optimum Spaceship Configurations"  by Cavebear.

I blushed...

But yup, that's me, Cavebear.  I even recognize my usual typos and unmatched parentheses.

I'm stunned. 

You don't expect to see anything you did a decade ago still meaningful, especially in a game.  It brought tears to my eyes...

I can't quite get a screenshot, but it is HERE

And I sure hope I get to use that decade-old info on the winning spaceship tonight.