email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

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.