email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Almost Entirely Back!

It is funny now, after all the problems are solved.  But it wasn't before that.

I was frustrated when I first hooked up the new Mac Mini.  No monitor picture...  And that was the same problem I had a week ago.  Not knowing the cable lingo made it hard.  The old Mac Mini had two ports labeled with a "monitor" symbol.  The new one didn't.  Just one labeled HDMI (which I understand, having an HDMI TV) and one I didn't labeled "Thunderbolt".  Thunderbolt did match the plug I had on the VGA-to-monitor cable, so I tried it.  Nothing. 

Why does this sort of thing only happen after business hours when I can't call anyone?  And please don't say just go online; the monitor wasn't working, LOL!  So I struggled with things all night.  And I mean "all night"  I went to bed at 9 am.

Who knew that the FOURTH time I re-plugged the monitor cable in it would work just fine?  I try things over and over again because I really don't know what else to do.  And sometimes it works.

So there I was at 4 am with a working computer.  I tried to play a game of cribbage at  No luck, just endless "loading".  After that, I did what any annoyed and frustrated person would do who smokes and drinks.  I went out ant bought a pack of cigs from the all-night 7-11 and poured myself a glass of wine when I got back.  Surely the problems would resolve themselves after my punishing myself with drugs...


This morning, I called the computer repair shop and asked for help.  The guy who answered the phone seemed knowledgeable.  He directed me to the "About The Mac" click and asked me to read what it said.  When I got to memory (not RAM) it said 512 MB.  Yes, "512 MB".  He said, "well there's your problem, you didn't get enough storage".  I said the Mac Mini ONLY comes in 512 GB or 1 TB.  He said I should have gotten the 512 GB drive and I could come in for an upgrade.

I was annoyed by that, but thought for a minute and decided that was preposterous.  NOBODY offers a 512 MB drive any more!  So I told him so and asked if there was someone more knowledgeable I could speak to.  He got all huffy about THAT and said he would have someone call me back.

Two hours later, I got a call back.  The guy said the 512 MB was just the graphics memory and I had a full 512 GB hard drive.  So we proceeded to go through the system to prove it.  I really DO have 512GBs.  Which is fine because I had only used 100GB on the old computer.

It turned out that I didn't have the new Java script needed.  I HAD downloaded that at the computer's request the night before, but nothing had happened.  OK, usually, you have to download those files and then install them.  But since there was no file to open in the downloads folder, I assumed it self-opened (which seemed a process improvement).


It saved to my documents folder for some reason.  With the computer guys help, I found it and installed it.  Problem solved.  I asked who the previous guy (the idiot) was and the person I was talking to wouldn't say.  But, as the problems were solved I let it go.  I assume the first guy is a relative of the owner of the shop, LOL!

I had 200 emails to read...  I think I'll go watch TV for an hour (Rachel Maddow on MSNBC) and come back later to start visiting the cats' friends...

Computers are maddening.  I know enough to use them and figure out some problems, but not enough to solve the weird problems.

Back Online!

I'm back, but don't tell the cats.  I want the Golden Oldies Week to use up the preset posts. 

But the computer problem was serious.  In spite of my taking the cover off the old Mac Mini and looking for any sign of wine spill damage (none visible), there was some on the hard drive and some port according to the repair guys.  Enough so that the Mac Repair Shop said it needed more work than a new one would cost.  I have some doubts, but I don't have the expertise to argue with them or repair it myself.

Well, 3 years for computer isn't TOO bad ...

I talked to the repair guys and am not much more knowledgeable than when I started.  They were able to transfer my old hard drive to the new computer (so why wasn't it able to work in my Mini Mac)?  But there are times to surrender.  I now have a replacement (essentially identical to the old one).  That's OK.  The old one had 500GB and I only used 100, so the same is just fine.

The interesting thing is that I was using the old Mac DeskPro and found iPhoto pictures on it that I had deleted on the Mac Mini in 2010.  I copied them over to the new computer with a flash drive in a new-named file.

I copied them to the new computer to a new file named  "iPhoto2", but I can't seem to merge the files.  I'm afraid to just copy the old file into the new one in case it just overwrites the new file and overwrites all the new photos.  Any advice would be great.  For what is worth, I have the entire new iPhoto pictures saved on an external backup drive, so I probably can't lose them.

I checked my Google Reader.  226 posts to read!  And 150 emails!  That will take a few days!  LOL!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Offline (Sort Of)

My Mac Mini died a few days ago.  A minor matter of a toppled glass of wine...  It didn't seem to hit the computer, but when I picked it up to clean under it, it stopped sending to the monitor.   I hoped it was the exposed adaptor cable (insulation loose at one end and split at the other - its old).  I spent Friday trying to get a replacement adaptor cable, and by the time I did, and tried it out, it was too late to get the Mac Mini to a repair shop (they are few and far between around here).

Since the only "near" repair shop for Apples is closed weekends, it probably doesn't matter.  I'll be delivering it Monday morning.  It will probably take 2 days to clean and/or repair, so I am mostly off-line until then.

How am I online now, you ask?  I still have my old Mac Deskpro.  It can do a little bit of work still (like access my blog account).  It's mostly an expensive doorstop these days, but I'm glad I kept it around.

It was great at it's time...  TWO 2GB hard drives and whatever passed for serious RAM and processors in 2006. 

I can't get email on it because both it is set up for an ISP I no longer use AND the memory is too little for my current system.  When it failed in 2010, I COULD have seriously upgraded it after thorough cleaning and parts replacement.  EXCEPT that the failure was due to cigarette smoke accumulation (causing overheating) and Apple repair shops will not clean a computer with that problem.  "TOXIC ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARD", according to Apple policy.  It would have been nice if they had advised me of that when I bought it.  Yeah, I know, "serves me right for smoking"...

PC repair stores don't care about that.  They used to just clean my old PCs and replace the overworked fan.  If you smoke and are considering buying Apple products, be aware of that.

The Mac Minis don't work the same way as large desktop units.  I don't know why.  Maybe they use flash drives and no fan.  All I know is that after 3 years, when I took the Mac Mini cover off (an adventure in itself) it looked sparkly-clean.

I'm not defending smoking, I'm ready to quit.  But it IS interesting that PC repair shops are all independent and THEY will clean any smoker's PC while Apple stores (with a virtual monopoly on repairs) will not.  Its their right to do so...

Forgive the minor rant.  I'm conflicted between my desire to have a computer cleaned and repaired, and my understanding that smoke debris is probably not the best thing to have to clean out.  I'm just annoyed all over again about the $3,500 Mac Deskpro doorstop that's been sitting around for years.  But I AM glad I kept it around.  Otherwise I wouldn't be able to even post this.

PS - If you are very anti-smoking and want to tell me how bad it is, please don't.  I already agree with you.  Seriously, I feel stupid enough about smoking as it is.  And I am at the point where I really WILL stop.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

I've Had Better Days

I don't mean anything serious went bad.  No family problems, no accidents, no injuries.  But you know how some days just go "off"...

Yesterday started well.  I slept well after getting up at dawn for the tree removal crew the day before, and got up early enough to make Dad and myself an actual breakfast omelet (with sauted red and green bell peppers, onion, mushroom, and cheese), toasted english muffins, bacon, and cottage-fried potatoes.  He usually eats cereal because I tend to sleep late.  So when I'm up early, I try to give him a change of pace.

I knew I had a vet appointment for Marley to get a 2nd of 3 shots for "something".  All the cats shots seem to have similiar initials.  But I had other shopping to do and enough time, so off I went.

A foot-pedal compost can for Dad (to make it easier) and a wooden toast tong so Dad can get those small english muffins out - after I saw him get at one with a fork), kitty litter at Petsmart, an ATM visit, and then a trip through WalMart!

I was looking for camo jeans (no luck), rechargeable batteries (got them), calendars (got them), candy/tea/V8 (got them), locktite screw-holder (no luck), and aquarium fish (thereby hangs the tale)...

I'm not sure how to say this.  I know some people are not as capable as others and have some difficulties in life.  I understand that, and I am patient.  I have had friends and relatives in my younger years like that.  I was the kid who told the other kids to calm down (or back off) around other kids who had problems.

The local Walmart has this one guy who works in the pet department.  He tries well, but he is slow to do things.  Walmart does not make it easier for him.  They put several kinds of fish in the same aquarium, they don't put pictures of the fish on the labels and its seems they don't provide any training at catching fish in aquariums.

I have dealt with the guy before.  I stay polite and patient.  I know he is doing the best he can.  I had an appointment to bring Marley to the Vet at 3 pm, but it was only 2 pm, and I had some other things to buy.  I got him to write down the 3 fish I wanted.  6 tiger barbs, 6 serpa tetra, and one small plecostomus.  I made sure he saw which fish they were.

 He got the tiger barbs just fine, so I went to finish my shopping.

10 minutes later, he was struggling to get the serpa tetra.  They are coralish-orangy-colored and were in a tank of several kinds of black fish.   He kept taking black fish out of the tank.  I suggested several easier ways of getting them, but he didn't understand what I suggested.  My brain was screaming "just take the net and get them", but I waited.  And waited.  And waited.  It took 35 minutes!!!  I felt sorry for him, but I didn't know what to do.  I could have netted all the fish in 3 minutes. 

Exactly when he was done, another guy in the pet dept called out to him "you need some help?" and "hope you didn't kill any this time".  I felt very bad.  So after I got my fish, I went over to the guy and asked him why he didn't volunteer to help the other guy when he first saw he was having trouble.  He said it was funny watching him.  I said it wasn't funny to ME!

I'm not pure on this.  I just wanted to get my cheap fish from Walmart and get the heck out of the store as fast as possible and put them in the quarantine tank to see if they are healthy after a week.

But the delay meant I was seriously behind schedule getting Marley to the vet.  When I got home, I had to toss the bag of new fish into the main aquarium to stay warm. get out the cat carrier, and get Marley into it.

Naturally, he had to see me take out the cat carrier and he hid.  I HATE sitting around the vet office.  If you are late, you have to sit around through 2 more appointments.  So I got after Marley aggressively.  By the time I got ahold of him and him into the carrier, we were BOTH seriously aggravated.  Marley clawed me good on the neck...

I gave Marley extra attention last night.  But I wonder if that guy at Walmart will be getting any attention.  He needs it.


My new fish seem OK in the quarantine tank.  Marley has calmed down and is back looking for scritchies and chin rubs.  Dad is happily watching a replay of the golf tournament he watched this past weekend.  I am managing my odd household...

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tree Removal

Well, the tree removal crew finally arrived this morning.  Considering that the first scheduled day was about 50 degrees and the second scheduled day was 45, I think they regretted their delays.  When they arrived, it was only 18 degrees and never got above 24!  And some wind whipped up after a couple of hours. 

It got off to a bad start!  The plan was for them to drive the grinder machine into the back yard (which I have done with my car several times) to leave me the chips/sawdust in large piles in the corner of the yard and the the center near the pond.  The first would decompose to compost after a couple of years and the second I would spread around about 4" deep to suppress grass.  But the estimator failed to consider that their truck was 2 feet wider than my SUV! 

So they went to back it onto the front lawn as far as possible.  Damn that grinder machine is heavy!  The wheels sank up to the rim and they had to pull it back to the street.  The lawn is easily repairable, but the crew was sad.  Instead of having to haul the pieces of 8 trees about 30 yards, they had to haul them 60 yards!  It also meant I wouldn't have the chips, but the price was the same either way.

But they got going with the job and everything went fine after that.

I didn't take pictures of the trees falling (they don't come out well).  But I did take some of the stump grinder they brought in for the fallen tree's stump.  It doesn't LOOK all that impressive.
The stump DID look impressive, front

And back.

But the grinder did the job.  That wheel has teeth around it and edges on both sides.  It swings back and forth and just pulverizes the wood and dirt a few inches at a time.

After they smoothed the pile it left, it looked like this.  Like it was never there...

I had them leave the other stumps because the surrounding areas were covered with emerging daffodils and they would have been decimated.  The stumps will rot (and they don't bother me).

I sure hope the additional sunlight will be worth it!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Getting Stuff Done

I try to do something useful around the house or yard every day.  I don't mean routine house duties like daily/weekly cooking, cleaning, laundry.  More like some specific project, and it doesn't have to be major; like cleaning out a whole closet, washing all the windows, organizing the basement workbench, inventorying my garden seeds to order replacements, weeding a section of the flowerbeds, etc.

Being retired tempts one into an "I'll do it tomorrow" attitude, and I found myself slipping into that 2 years ago.  And I will admit then when I get a really major thing done, I may take the rest of the week off (like when I had a new roof put on one week and new siding the next week).

A good example is when I collected stem cuttings of my butterfly bush, my Catnip plant, and a Wave Petunia last month.  Most of them are growing and I will have some great replacement plants this Spring.

So I was pleased to get projects done yesterday and today.

Yesterday, I managed my new seed order.  I have a system for storing seeds.  Years ago, I obtained plastic vials to store seeds in.  I drilled holes in a piece of plywood to hold them, and wrote numbers on the vials with a marker.  A sheet of paper identifies all the vials by number, seed, and year.  I keep the tray of vials in a basement refrigerator (along with bulk foods and beer).  So, yesterday, I took out the tray, added the new seeds to empty vials, and updated my list.  I nearly lost my list one year, so now I print three copies.  One goes in the seed tray, one in a looseleaf garden journal, and one in the index card box that has my planting/transplanting schedule by weeks from last frost date.

Today, I heard a weather report that suggested we would be getting 3-6" of snow tomorrow.  Three Winters ago, we had 3 major snowstorms adding up to almost 4'.  That Spring, I bought a good snowblower (on sale cheaper then).  I assembled it, added gas/oil and tested it.  It ran well.  Then it sat.  Never got any snow worth even removing since.  But I left the little bit of gas in there...

So I was doubtful it would run today.  I had to re-read the manual, added new gas, checked the oil, etc.  It took a few tries, but it started.  I ran it 5 minutes to make sure it was working well, turned it off, let it cool down, and set it in the garage ready for use.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...  I'm ready (so I bet it doesn't snow, LOL!).  But it was a good satisfying project for the day.

Tomorrow, the project is all errands.  New fish for the aquarium, a few hardware supplies, pick up shortened pants from a tailor, bring unliked catfood to a donation center, etc.  Friday will be a recycling day.  I have 300 pounds of used kitty litter, boxes and newspapers, uncompostable trash, and bags of plastic.

I figure that getting one useful thing done each day adds up, and I intend to make this a productive year!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Washed Out

Good Grief!  The tree company called and cancelled the scheduled work for today.  It's drizzling, and  they don't climb up wet trees...  We rescheduled for next Monday.

Yeah I know, it's a safety issue...

Monday, January 14, 2013

Yard Work

This will be a busy week (by my standards).  I'm completely taking apart my existing aquarium and cleaning it to start new after giving away my 10" plecostomus catfish (see yesterday's post).

Tuesday, a tree removal company (that I have good past experience with) is coming to remove the huge fallen tree in the backyard and 7 others that are starting to shade my garden.  I spent hours Sunday preparing a corner of the backyard and 2 other area to receive all the ground-up tree chips.  It will take several years for them to decompose, but I will have year's worth of great compost after that.

Yes, the tree company would haul the tree-chips away for free to the landfill (or maybe for sale somewhere, but I hate to waste organic material.  Eight trees will make several impressive piles and I expect that they will start to steam in the winter as they begin to break down.  And, for sure, I won't have to buy any mulch for the flowerbeds for many years!

I sure got plenty of winter exercise!  The corner of the backyard where most of the chips will go  used to be where I stored firewood.  It was so long ago that I had to push over old rotten wood and pry out cinder blocks buried in the ground from where I had upright P-T 2x4s to hold the firewood in place.  Carrying 10 cinder blocks 50' each is serious exercise when you are 62.  And then there were all the 12' 2x4s that supported the firewood across the cinder blocks

Plus, I moved stored hoses, removed hose supports, moved various planting buckets that have been sitting around for years, put boards over the pond runway so they wont puncture holes in it by walking on it or dropping tree parts on it (that liner is expensive), marked out areas where the tree removal crew shouldn't drag logs through (where plants were still underground but labels were above).  LOL, I even found my old compost sifter box and pried it out of the vines.

You never realize how much clutter you have around the yard until someone else is coming over to do something in it...

Three hours of heavy work!  I need them to move one bench that is too heavy for me to move alone, but other than that, I'm ready for them to arrive Tuesday at 7:30 am!  I can hardly wait.

It will be worth it for the greater sunlight when it is done!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Pleco Has A New Home

The Plecostomus catfish has a new home now. 

After the first round of emails on the Craiglist offer, I was pretty discouraged.  The first person to respond said he would be over that night after work, then the 2nd night because he needed his big net and a plastic container for transport, then... nothing.  The 2nd person also failed to reply a 2nd time after expressing great interest.  The 3rd and 4th never replied when I asked if they were still interested.

 And then there were the 4 pathetically obvious spam emails.  The grammar was so stilted that it was obvious they weren't local.  Forgive me for saying "typical bad chinese spammer translations".  But seriously, they mentioned how much their children wanted a sweet cuddly pet, asked if it had its shots, etc, as if it was a mammal pet. 

So I posted a new offer on craigslist and received two emails.  The first wrote like pet owners do, describing the large 210 gallon heated aquarium, the few large fish, the outside ponds and that there were only goldfish in the aquarium because they hate to leave them outside for the winter, the 2 dogs and 6 cats.  She asked if she could steal enough water that the pleco was used to so that she could slowly add her aquarium water to a cooler to adjust it to any pH differences, etc.  Hallmarks of a knowledgeable aquariast...

The 2nd person sent a picture of what was obviously an "for sale" empty pet store aquarium (in Dallas, based on the displays around it).  I didn't even reply to THAT one, LOL!  And there were more of the spammer hoax offers.

So the 1st person came by Saturday afternoon.  I was comfortable with her the moment I saw her.  She was wearing boots, twill workpants and an old parka, and asked if she was going to scare the kitties before she came in the house.  She apologized to the pleco for scaring it before she went in with her large net, moved the net slowly, joked when I sucked a bit of water in my mouth starting the siphon, and talked to it as she put it in the cooler of my aquarium water.  All good signs.

I think my pleco will have a much better time in her larger aquarium...

Today, I filled a smaller aquarium with some of the existing water and moved all the plants to a bucket and the small fish to the smaller aquarium so that I can clean the large one thoroughly.  I'll add an extra 1" of aquarium gravel to set the plants in better, add new (aged) water, and set the smaller fish bak in after a couple days.

And then I'll go buy a young 1.5" pleco!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

My Big 10" Fish

Well, OK, the warm-water Plecostomus catfish/algae-eater is really 9.5", but I love it just the same.  Sadly, it has gotten too big for my 30 gallon aquarium, so I offerred it free to "a good home" on Craigslist, asking for aquarium size and pictures of the new aquarium home.

What an adventure!  I received 6 inquiries the first day.  Only one sent a picture and said the aquarium was 150 gallons, but I saw goldfish in there.  Still, it was in the house, so it couldn't be THAT cold.  That person promised to come by Monday night, then Tuesday with a big net and transport box.  Haven't heard from him since.

The 2nd person had a 125 gallon aquarium and "really been looking for" a large Pleco.  2 emails, no further response.

3rd admitted to having a large oscar that killed smaller plecos.  Forget that!

2 others that haven't replied to requests for pictures of their aquarium.

Oh drat!  The most promising person just replied "no longer interested".  Sad...

And then there were the spam responses.  They were hilarious AND pathetically easy to identify.  They said they wanted a cuddly pet for their kids, and asked if it had gotten its shots.  All said almost the exact same thing.  Some sort of flash mob game, I suppose.  Very strange.

But here I am now with my plecostomus, too big for the aquarium, and only one person left who might want it (I'm waiting for a reply).

I really care about the Pleco.  Its somewhere between 12-15 years old and I got it as a baby at 1".  And I KNOW that some person or business with a large display tank would love having this fish.

JUST got a reply from the best home.  She wanted it for a friend's aquarium.  Friend was too far to drive here and she won't drive into MD.  I won't drive into VA.

I will put up a new ad on Craigslist tonight...  I just want a better home for my Pleco.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Football Playoff Game

My local team is the Washington Redskins (and no, I don't like their name).  I'm not a great football fan in general.  But when the local team has people who play their best and are doing well, I follow their progress. 

Sometimes there are great players and great coaches.  sometimes there are average players and average players.  Sometimes both are awful.

Its been some years since I liked both the coaches and players of the Washington Redskins (PLEASE CHANGE THE TEAM NAME, IT'S EMBARRASSING).  This year, there were both good coaches and players.  The coaches and TWO rookies brought the team from 3-6 to 10-6, and got us into the playoffs. 

I'm not a die-hard "homie".  I can easily imagine a successful team I did not respect. Cheating coaches, hockey-style "injure-the-opponents" players, etc.

But this year looked good.  TWO good rookie quarterbacks, a good rookie running backs, A good balance of defense/offense, a good balance of passes and runs, a great kicker...  Clean imaginative play, hard-running, honest stuff, new ideas from coaches...  I watched today's playoff game against the very talented Seattle Seahawks.  Washington scored touchdowns on the first 2 possessions.  I thought it would be a wonderful game.

I had my doubts about the wisdom of playing the #1 quarterback with a knee injury because a big part of his style was running the ball himself.    The #2 quarterback had proven himself in 2 late season games.  And then the further injury I was expecting...

I am disgusted!  My concern about the quarterback was justified.  You could see he could hardly run at all from the start. 

I'm not disgusted because my team lost.  It's the playoffs and there are no bad teams playing; someone has to lose each one.  And when you get to one-game eliminations, its not even the "best" team that survives to the end.

What disgusts me is that the Washington coaches risked the future of one of the possible hall-of-fame quarterbacks as a rookie for one game.  And I'll offer an analogy.  The Washington Nationals baseball team have a potential hall-of-famer pitcher.  They could have just used him up going for the World Series this past season.  Instead, they used him carefully and stopped when they thought he had pitched enough.  It cost them in the playoffs this year, but they knew they will have greater years ahead.  And they will.

The Washington Redskins (PLEASE CHANGE THE NAME, IT'S EMBARRASSING) coaches rolled the dice and played their star injured quarterback almost the whole game, risking his future when they had a proven backup ready to go.

If they were afraid of putting in the #2 quarterback, well I never complain about protecting an injured player...

And THAT'S why I'm disgusted by the game...

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Pre-Gardening Season

I tried a few things last Fall.  I waited until now to make sure they were working.

The first idea was to replace my aging butterfly bushes.  I'd decided to try cloning the best one with stem-cuttings.  I pruned it in the early fall, and it sent out new shoots as I expected.  I cut them all off and set them into 6 cell-packs after pulling the lower leaves off and dipping the cut stems in rooting hormone.  10 of the 12 cuttings are growing well under my plant stand lights!

The second idea was to take a dozen catmint stems and root THEM.  10 out of 12 growing nicely there too!

The third idea was the best.   I LOVE spreading petunias (aka "wave petunias").  I had 6 last year at a few $$ apiece.  Sometimes they are wonderful.  Last year was a hard year and they didn't grow well.  So last Fall, I dug up the only survivor and put it in a pot under the grow lamps.  Then I snipped off 12 stems and rooted them with rooting hormone powder (the stuff is AMAZING).  Not only is the original plant blooming nicely, ten of the stems are growing as well.  If they stay healthy, I will have 13 spreading petunia to plant in May!!!
I'm thrilled that these attempts are all working out!