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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Wow, I Got Counterfeited!

Seriously.  I got my credit card statement, and there was a charge I didn't recognize.  Now, I wasn't sure at first.  It was from a chain store listed from a nearby major city but that I haven't been to in years.  But I know that billings on credit cards sometimes come from Headquarters and sometimes in names you don't recognize (like a HQ company).

And there IS a store of that chain here in my town.  So I had to think about it for a day.  Trying to recall if I had possibly bought something there I was not remembering.

But "no".  And the charge was $100.00, exactly.  What merchandise purchase ever comes to that exact amount?

So I called the credit card company.  I got to the Fraud Department.  They checked and confirmed that a working physical credit card had been presented to a store in that city.  In a city I had not been in for 10 years.  So it was obvious fraud!

But, a real card?  I only have the one card and it has never been out of my hands.  Sure, I use it, but for swipes only.  It never leaves my hands.

The amount is, of course, suspicious.  Probably a gift card purchase (and I have never purchased a gift card in my life).

The card was cancelled immediately, of course (and I cut the card up into a dozen pieces and disposed of the pieces in several locations.  I will get a replacement with new numbers in a few days.  I don't use the card online "much",  and only with reputable companies.  I use it routinely for food and gas purchases.  But even then, I look for those "add-ons" you read about that cover card readers.

I examined my purchases for this month online and saw nothing suspicious.   So apparently, "someone" is clever enough to create a physical card, use it once, and then stop. 

I sure hope the card company fraud department finds the person who somehow counterfeited my card!   I want to know what company they got the card info from!!!  They probably won't tell me though...

Friday, January 29, 2016

A Week In The Life...

Some weeks, problems accumulate...

1.  Naturally, I had to order more cat food just as the snowstorm struck.  2 boxes of 8 trays total, scheduled to arrive Wed and Thurs.  Well, I had the driveway and sidewalk cleared of snow Sunday, but I didn't shovel the front steps.  Figured I would most of it melt and shovel the remainder Tuesday afternoon.  The first box arrived Tuesday morning.  UPS left it at the garage door.  So I pushed the box inside the garage.

I forgot about the box when I decided to drive out for some errands Wed.  Well, you would be surprised at how many cans of cat food an SUV can crush beyond use...  ARGHHH!

2.  The outside unit of the heat pump stopped working.  I'm getting normal heat via electrical induction from the inside unit (like an oven), and I suspect it isn't costing MUCH more than the usual heating (some normal furnaces routinely operate that way).  I have been trying a few things hoping the outside unit will just "start" again.  I shovelled the snow from around the unit where air comes in, scooped out accumulated snow inside the unit, poured hot water over the insides hoping some ice was preventing operation, pulled and re-inserted circuit breakers, etc.  No luck.

But when the block of ice inside the outside unit finally melts and it doesn't start working normally again in a couple of days, I will have to call for repairs.  I didn't call immediately, because I AM getting heat, and I know they take complete failures as emergencies first.  Besides, they always want to just replace the whole unit. 

3.  My automatic garage door openers stopped working.  The overhead door light just blied rapidly.  That probably means something, but I couldn't find the manual.  But it isn't THAT hard to just raise and lower the door manually.

So I checked the power supply, circuit breakers, spring attachments, possible blockages, etc.  No luck.  Finally, I followed the wiring down to the bottom of the garage door track.  Well lookee there!  There is a set of safety lights at each side.  If the light beam between them is blocked, the system shuts off.  One of them had gotten pushed off.  Well, I guess when I ran over the box of cat food, I also pushed it into the light beam device.  Took just a minute to get it clipped back on and aimed properly. 

At least SOMETHING got working again.

4.  I mentioned previously that I had set up a regular birdfeeder on a pole on the deck to feed the non-finch birds sunflower seeds during the snowstorm.  They emptied it today.  The stepladder is still buried under the deck snowdrift, so I figured I would just untie it and set it down flat to refill it, and them put it upright again and retie it.  Brilliant but dumb idea!

The instant I untied the last know holding the pole tight, a strong gust of wind hit.  So there I was holding the bottom of the pole while the heavy top started to fall over.  I couldn't hold it up.  The feeder can crashing down on the deck.  The wooden feeder broke into 4 pieces!  I said a few BAD WORDS.  But what is done is done, and you go on from there.

I took the pieces down to the work bench and set about regluing the pieces (with exterior waterproof wood glue).  It took 12 bar clamps (you can never have too many bar clamps).  The feeder is back together, but it has to set until tomorrow morning.  I started to put out a tray of seeds, but even with a brick in the tray, the wind was slowly pushing it around.  And even if I clamped the tray to the deck rails, the wind would probably just blow the seeds out.  Sadly, the birds will have to wait til I get up in the morning...

5.  The trash company didn't show up for regular pickup today.  I'm leaving it out by the street.  I recycle and compost so much that about the only thing that goes in the trash is used cat litter, styrofoam,  and chicken skin.  And I out the chicken skin IN the litter bags.  So I feel pretty confident that NO scavenger is going to bother MY garbage can!  LOL!

BTW, I drove out today and saw a neighbor's TRASH can knocked over and the contents spilled out.  It was ALL cans and bottles.  All recyclable.  Aw c'mon...  We get free street-side recycle pickup and you don't even have to sort it.  Are they ACTIVELY against recyclying?

6.  This one is a bit long...  My waterbed sprung a leak.  That happens.  I have a repair kit.  I've probably patched it a dozen times (the waterbed mattress is at least 35 years old).  I only noticed when I pulled the sheets up for washing and the edges in one corner were wet.  I pulled up that corner of the waterbed. I thought it was wet cat food at first (because there was some there), and thereby hangs a short tale.

Ayla eats only in the bedroom, and sometimes she decides on some odd places.  That morning she had decided she would eat on the bookcase headboard of the waterbed.  I sure don't argue about it.   It's not like she gets to make a WHOLE lot of decisions in her life, so I give her the ones I can. 

That afternoon, when I pulled the wet sheets up I found her bowl tucked into that corner.  WOW!  I sure didn't think there was THAT much water in canned cat food (and it didn't smell like anycat had peed there).  But the cause and effect seemed clear.  So I cleaned up the spilled cat food, wiped it clean, and stuffed an old towel down to absorb the water.

Well, THAT wasn't the problem.  There was TOO much water the next morning and the towel was soaked.  So I pulled the corner of the waterbed up (which is not easy - water is heavy).  And I found a strange little piece of sharp metal.  I can't identify it, but I assume it took a while for it to slowly wear through the waterbed mattress. 

I can't get a patch to hold in the corner unless I drain the mattress and remove in entirely.  And even that might not work.  So, after all these years, I think I will replace it.  It's OK, they aren't expensive.  $50 to $200 depending on whether you want baffles and lumbar supports etc.  But I'm used to the cheap kind with nothing fancy so I will stick with that.

There COULD have been a better time for this.  All my hoses are outside and too cold to uncoil without maybe causing a break.  But at least the forecast calls for 50F temperatures Sunday, so I can probably get one into the basement undamaged and let it warm up inside.   One of the problems with a waterbed is draining them.  That can take a couple hours.  And then you have to fill the new one.  Filling a waterbed takes about 30 minutes from the outside spigot, and it takes all day for the heater to warm the water. 

Fortunately, my basement laundry tub faucet has a garden hose screw fitting.  But my water heater doesn't hold enough hot water to fill the king size waterbed mattress.  So it will be a balancing act to get the heated and cold tub water mixed right so I can sleep on the new mattress the same night as I empty it.

I'm probably not saying this clearly.  I have to get up in the morning, drain the old mattress, remove it, pull up the old liner (old and worn out) dry the wood frame, set the new liner in place, set in the new mattress, fill it, get the water warm enough, and put the mattress pads and sheets back on.  My recollection from the last time (30 years ago) was that took all day.  So I will be in for a very boring (watching a waterbed mattress fill up is like watching paint dry), but dedicated day...

7.  I had a mouse invasion.  Marley caught 5 mice!  I initially blamed the snow for making mice seek shelter, but it might have actually been my fault.  Last Friday, when the snow began to fall, I brought a few tubs of planting soil into the basement to thaw out so I could plant leftover Spring bulbs in them for forcing by Spring.  There MAY have been mice nesting in them in the leaf litter covering the soil. 

I HOPE he caught them all regardless of how they got inside.  Probably.  There were 4 caught one day, I found a 5th in a bucket the 2nd, and none for 4 days.

Quite a week!

Trivial Pursuit

About once a month, I play Trivial Pursuit on  I always win eventually.  This one was harder because several of my initial wedges vanished (stuff happens).  But I kept on.

I'm not actually good at true trivia.  I can't tell you how many #1 records The Beatles had or what Pete Rose's last batting average was.  I don't know how many leaves a palm tree has or what horse won the 1968 Kentucky Derby.  But they ask enough actual information questions for me to get by...  The Lone Eagle was Charles Lindbergh, John Kennedy's boat was PT-109, the volume of a circle is pi R2, etc.

I crushed it tonight, LOL!  I got the whole pie in 1 hour.  Hey, ya gotta have good nights at what ya enjoy, right?  Ask me about YOUR favorite topic and I'll get killed.  Maybe...

So I'm thinking of joining a bowling league...  Some balance in life is good.


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Bad Snow-Plowing

We usually see a snow plow come down our dead-end street 2 days after the snow ends.  The County admits (reasonably) that Cul De Sacs and Dead-End streets don't have the same traffic demands that more travelled streets do.  I accept that.

So I was surprised to see someone plowing my street Sunday morning right after the snow stopped falling.  But it wasn't a real snowplow.  It was a guy in a front-end loader.
Not the most efficient way to remove snow from streets, but anything was welcome.

He was working well, and even tried to dump the piles of snow in between yards at the property lines.  I was watching out the computer room window.  Unprepared to go rushing outside in the snow...

It suddenly struck me that his "in-between properties" pattern was going to cover the storm drains at the corners of my property!  Ack, it would create an ice dam under the pressure of the snowpile.  I yelled at him out of the window and pointed the both storm drains, but he couldn't hear what I was yelling over the noise of the diesel engine.   But he could tell I was yelling at him.  It went downhill from there...

So I slammed on a pair of shoes and went running outside to explain.  I guess he gets complaints from residents who say not to pile the snow on THEIR yards.  Because the first thing he screamed at me (yes "screamed") was that 6' off the road was really County property.  (well, yes, but only if they do a legal "taking" of it for sidewalks and such). 

But I pointed at the 2 storm drains and demanded he NOT pile snow THERE!  It happened once 20 years ago and the street in front of me was a ice rink for a week! 

I saw him talking to my neighbors shortly after I went back inside.  He probably told them I was a crazy person. 

Fortunately, he didn't pile snow on one storm drain because I had a trailer parked right next to it.  He came close to covering the storm drain that would have caused real problems, but didn't.   But he was about to when I ran out...
As annoyed as he was, and least he didn't cover the storm drain!

So he piled it up on my front lawn instead. 

Well, the snow had to go SOMEWHERE and at least snow does melt eventually... 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Post-Snow Post

Well, I sure am glad I have my snowblower!  After the 2010 storms, I finally bought one.  Buying one in the Spring, though, I had time to do some research and get a good price.  Granted, they were "last year's models".  But they don't change much.  Really, what can they do other than make the blades that throw the snow heated so snow doesn't stick?  And I expect that will be a while.

I read in an article that one can expect any future event to be 25% "more" than what one has experienced before.  So when it came to the abilty to handle deep snow, I took my deepest snow and added 25% to that depth.

Good thing I did, because this Toro 24' wide and 20" tall input was barely enough!!!  And in a couple of drifts in the driveway, I had to tilt it up slightly and make 2 passes.  And THAT was while the snow was still falling Saturday after lunch!

But it worked perfectly.  The snow was dry and powdery and went "up, up, up, and away"!  The swirling wind made me keep rotating the output chute right and left (and I DID get snow back at me a few times).  Five passes up and down the driveway had it nearly cleared.  
Sunday morning, I went out and blew off the 9" of snow that had fallen overnight (6") and the 3" that drifted in with the wind.  Each time took only 20 minutes!

And removing the snow before it started to freeze on the bottom really helped.  The snowblower gets down to about 1/4".  The sunlight gets through that little snow and hits the black asphalt which warms enough to melt the remaining snow above it.  The next day, it was all clear, like this...
If I had to shovel the snow by hand, it would have been 2 three hour efforts; maybe 3 efforts.

Aside from that, we are all doing fine here.  The cats have a small area to step outside on the deck.  It took a while to shovel 4' though the 3' snowdrift (and throwing the shoveled snow 4' over the side of the deck was some work.  But I know to pace myself and take rest breaks.  I extended the path out toward the end of the deck a few feet every few hours on Monday, and completed it Tuesday.

You may have noticed a box from Chewy in the top picture.  Naturally, we were running out of canned cat food just as the storm hit.  But a Saturday online order arrived here this afternoon while there were still 2 cans left.  Good timing. 

Well, I WOULD have just driven to the local PetSmart for some if needed.  The roads are clear "enough".  But it was nice to have 5 cases of food delivered to the garage door!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sunday Snow Aftermath

I have lived in various parts of Maryland since 1963.  In the NE part til 1968, at Univ of MD  til 1973, and around Washington DC since then.

The worst single snowstorm I experienced in Maryland was in 1966 where is snowed for 4 days.  The accumulation was only 20", but the winds whipped up snowdrifts covering the ground floor windows.  And Mom was about to have a baby!  The neighborhood roads were not plowed.  Dad and I shoveled 20" of snow a car width wide for 150' to the main road behind the house.

And off Dad and Mom went by car seeking the local hospital (which had a maternity wing of course).  At 15 (I keep thinking 16 because it was 1966, but I wasn't really 16 until May), I was left behind to take care of my 2 younger siblings.  For 2 days.  It was quite an adventure...  It's a good thing I could cook.  And apparently, I would have made a good parent (if I do say so myself); peace and calm abounded!

7 Mothers delivered babies in Harford County that day.  The other 6 Mothers were brought to the county hospital by helicoptor.  Dad drove...  Determination and self-reliance (to a point) is a family habit.  And school was closed for a WEEK!

So that was a really serious snowstorm.  And there have been some bad storms since then, but mostly several close-together storms with recovery time between.

But this one was BAD.  I think it is now considered 2nd or 3rd worst in the Washington DC area (that 1966 one mentioned above slid north of DC so they don't count it here).

So here are some more pictures of THIS one...

The wind collected a lot of snow near the house on the deck.  It was 3' deep in the drift Saturday afternoon.
 And it got worse as the day went along.

The sunflower seed birdfeeder was standing tall.  I had cardinals, sparrows, juncos, titmice,  nuthatches, chicadees, purple finches, and goldfinches there at various times.  I could have done without the sparrows (they get i seeds and kick backwards, shoveling seeds out of the tray.  It is their successful "scratching the ground" habit, so I can't exactly blame them.  But they sure are unwelcome at a seed tray.
But then the outside unit of the heat pump failed overnight.  Probably because the sides got covered by snow preventing air from getting in.  I assume it shut itself down because of the lack of air flow.  I'm on "Heat2" right now.   That's less efficient than the usual heat pump process, but I don't know exactly what it is doing.  All I can tell (from the manual) is that it is not "emergency" heating (which would be like turning on an electric oven with the door open).  It will probably be more expensive, but not like I have much choice.  The repair company is busy with true failures and at least mine is keeping the house at normal temperatures (operating constantly).  There ARE priorities of repairs.
So the first thing I did Saturday morning was to dress up warm* and shovel the snow from around the sides of the heat pump.  That didn't get it started again.  When I looked inside, it was all full of snow.  I know it is SUPPOSED to "de-ice" itself when that happens.  So I tried some simple repairs.  I loosened the grid on the top to scoop out the accumulated snow inside.  NO GO!   I couldn't remove the grid because there is a heavy duty electrical cable stuck to it.

But I WAS able to lift up the opposite side and scoop most of the inside snow out.  That didn't get it going either.  So I poured bucket after bucket of VERY HOT water into it to melt the remaining snow. and ice around the working parts.  Well, those parts are exposed to rain all the time (water drains out the bottom), what harm can water do?  But that didn't get it started either.   I removed and replaced the outside unit circuit breaker.  No success there either.  I suppose some part has failed at the worst possible time (like there is ever a BEST possible time?) and I will have to call for service.

But I am still getting heat from the inside part of the equipment, so it is not an emergency.  I keep hoping to hear the outside unit suddenly come on though...

The snowdrift on the deck is probably about its highest. 
And the snow on the roof is slowly sliding off.  It should start to fall on the deck soon.  I have a specialty tool for pulling snow off the roof, but I have to get out on the deck to use it and that snow drift is too deep for me to even push through wearing my trout-fishing hip-high waders.
So I am just going to wait things out.  Which could get awkward.  The Weather Channel says it will get down to 8F tonight!  There isn't going to be any melting for a few days at least...

Did get to use the snowblower though.  More on that next post!

* Warm meant thermal underwear under heavy jeans, extra thick socks in the 16" rubber boots, thick flannel shirt, ski mask, insulated rubber gloves, AND a hat with ear flaps!  And of course a long insulated jacket you could explore the Arctic in...  I don't play around with cold windy weather.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Record Snowfall For Washington DC

Well, in SOME areas around here.  We came close in my town but DIDN'T break the record.  By only 2 inches.  I think (since the record was almost a century ago, that counts as SERIOUS SNOWFALL).

It started here at precisely 1 pm Friday (I was looking at the window, and one minute there were no snowflakes and then there were).  Sort of like looking at a digital clock as it changes minutes...

So it started.  At the time, I doubted it would be all the snow predicted.  Forecasters prefer to suggest the top range.  That way, people aren't so annoyed when it is less.  But if it is MORE snow, they get upset.  A forecaster explained that in a moment of honesty...

But the forecast nailed it to the inch in most places around here.  The Friday morning snowfall maps had a dividing line right through my town.  18" - 24" NW of me and 12-18" SE, so that put me on the 18" line.  We got 18"!

OK, before I forget, here are the starting pictures...

A pre-flurry not connected with the real storm left a trace of snow.   But since it remained, it meant that everything was cold enough for any new snow to stick. 
The yardstick in place so I could measure the snowfall...
 The accumulation by dark Friday...
It was serious by morning Saturday...

About 12" deep, but drifting from high winds (up to 45 MPH in my area, higher in others).
The snow that accumulated nearly a foot softly on the deck rails during Friday were whipped clean by the winds in the night.

I had temporarily installed an old sunflower seed birdfeeder Friday morning.  I forgot that the lower 3' of the pole were previously in the ground, so it was a bit higher than I expected.  And note that the open tray of the feeder is set opposite from the general wind direction.  Well, first, I didn't want the seeds to be blown out and second, I thought it would give the birds some protection from the forecast high winds.

I even kept the 8' stepladder on the deck so I could use it to refill the feeder.  It was barely high enough to reach the top of the feeder, but "barely high enough" is sufficient. 
I was still thinking it was going to be a lot of snow, but in a normal way.  Level and even after the wind spread it around after it stopped.

OOPS!!!  More tomorrow about how bad things got (and could have been worse).

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Weird Political Year

I majored in Government and Politics at U of MD, so I do really get into the details of campaigns, polling, and debates.  Not directly involved in any though.  Just interested.  So I think of what might happen.

And I supported McGovern in 1972 and he got wiped in that election, so maybe what do I know? LOL!  Good thing I didn't make a career of it.  But there ARE a few things about it that I am good at.  Well, exremists usually DO lose big...

1.  Polling questions - You can write polling questions to get about any response you want.  Good pollsters work very hard to stay neutral, bad ones write the questions to get the replies they desire.

Consider 2 questions.  One poll asks "Of the 3 leading candidates for Party X, which do you prefer"?  The other asks "Of the 3 leading candidates, which would you go vote for"?  Those seem about the same, but they aren't.  One asks preferences and the other asks about the action of voting.  Many people have preferences, but only half the people actually vote.

So pollsters can affect the results by asking questions various ways and by deciding who they poll.

An example.  If you ask old people in assisted-living houses who they prefer, you get one result.  If you ask college students, you get another.  If you ask people who are at home in houses on workdays, you get yet a different result.  Same for calling people.  Landline telephone owners have different views than smart phone owners.  Even landline phone owners can be different.  Those who are awake at 8 am are different from those who are awake at midnight.

Even worse is when pollsters ask "leading questions".  Like "Candidate X wants to weaken our military forces.  Do you think that is good or bad"?

Well, of course no one wants that.  A more neutral question would be "Should tax money be applied more to military spending or to economic development"?  Even better is a list of things money should be spend on and the pollee chooses.

2.  Voting experience - Polling people who routinely vote is different from polling people who normally don't.  Both can have strong preferences, but if you don't vote, your preference doesn't matter.  And oddly enough, excited groups of supporters who routinely haven't voted in the past will usually not vote when it matters.  They just have "others things to do that day".  Or they feel uncomfortable doing something new to them (voting).

3.  Voting accessibility - It matters how easy it is to vote.  I know that from personal experience.  When I first moved here, the voting line in the local school was 4 hours long and I saw people just giving up and leaving.  They had other things they needed to do.  Now, my voting place has no line and I am in and out in 10 minutes.  Same number of voters, but more places.  That affects voting.  When voting is made harder in some places, it affects who can afford the time.

4.  Ease of voting - When I vote, no one questions my identity.  I could prove who I am easily enough.  But not everyone can.  Even legitimate voters in some places get challenged (unlike me - older white male).  When I was single and in college, I had to drive 60 miles home to vote.  But I could and did.  So I skipped a half day of classes.  But what if you had to take 3 buses for an hour and walk a mile when you had kids to care for or a job that demanded you work all the voting hours?  That is the deliberate arrangement in some places.

I could go on, but I hope you see my point.  Polls have errors, supporters don't show up, voters have easier or harder times voting.  No one knows the results until they are counted.

And pollsters have been famously wrong.  Dewey Defeats Truman is most famous, but there are others.  We young Baby-Boomers were assured that McGovern would beat Nixon in 1972, but we didn't go and vote like the pollsters thought we would (I did).  In 2008, The consensus of 7 polls taken just before the NH primary had Obama winning by 8.2 percent in the voting. Instead, Clinton beat Obama by a 39 to 36 percent margin. So the polls were off by a staggering 11 percent.  And THOSE were a simple one-on-one poll taken among "likely voters"!  And the list goes on, and on, and on...

You just never know about polls.   As Yogi Berra said, "It ain't over til it's over"...


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Cat Tree Repair

A few months ago, the tallest platform on one of the 2 cat trees came loose.  Its the one that Ayla and Marley use to jump up to the top of the nearby bookcases, so there is sideways pressure going up and down.  I discovered it was attached with bolts through plastic disks in the post and the plastic had broken at both the top and bottom.  I thought about attaching blocks of wood in the post, but that seemed like a weak repair.  So I searched for a replacement post.

The manufacturer of the brand didn't seem to sell replacements, but I found one at another brand's site.  Assuming they were all the same, I ordered one.  It arrived.  With a block of wood in the top and bottom of the post, LOL!  And the wood stuck down out of the post slightly,  which meant it would wobble a bit no matter how tight.  But it also had a long skinny bolt sticking DOWN several inches and a smaller one sticking UP an inch.  Well, that was no good, either bolt would injure the cats.

So I complained to the seller and demanded a free return label.  They just credited my card instead.  Fine.  I just ignored the whole problem for a while.

A few days ago, I got back at it.  As awkward as it was to do, I got both bolts out and drilled the holes larger to fit the original bolts (which were flush to the surfaces and capped with protective plastic caps).  Then I clamped the post in a bench vise and planed the wood blocks flush with the surface.

The original bolts had little hex-shaped indents for tightening with an allen wrench, which holds well but can be difficult to turn.  But I got that done eventually, and the platform was re-installed nice and tight!  Hurray!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Ender's Game

In a sci-fi world of the future, some evolved ant-like Beings left their homeworld to establish a colony on a suitable planet in another solar system.  That world was Earth and it was occupied.  After a war, they retreated.

The Earthlings felt threatened and decided to fight the invaders (the only intelligent beings they had ever met).  To that end, they trained and tested all sorts of young humans, seeking the best natural war-generals.  To make a long story short, they eventually found a youth with unusual strategic and tactical skills.

His name was Ender.  He succeeded at the military games in the academy by unusual tactics.  Slowly he learned strategic skills.  But he had odd dreams of the Enemy.

After successes at the academy, he was brought to the advanced training center where he was challenged in harder ways, but always succeeding. 

I know the story from the book, but I saw it as a movie a few nights ago.  Movies seldom present the nuances of a book, but this one did at least a B grade.

In the book, Ender advanced slowly through all the training sessions successfully until the end.  The Enemy was not much presented or understood.  In the movie, the Enemy was often shown and even explained.

In both, Ender is presented with increasingly more complex battles until the Government is convinced he can be a Battle-General.

In the book and in the movie, there are points where the reader/viewer can see the truth of the situation.  But there is a difference.  In the book, the moment of truth sneaks up very gradually.  In the movie, it is pretty obvious. 

I remember reading the book.  There is one spot where you suddenly, horrifyingly, realize that Ender (without his knowledge, thinking he is engaged in just another training simulation) destroys the Enemy completely and utterly.  He destroys an alien race not knowing that his "battle" is real.  And you, the reader, know before he does.

Few stories raise the hairs on my arms and neck; that one did.  The sudden understanding that the simulation was reality was a shock.  I have only felt that way with one story before (The Star).

They did a reasonable job of it in the movie, but of course nuance is not a movie trait.  Ender's discovery that he had destroyed the Enemy in what he thought was a training session was presented a bit too suddenly.  The book gave gradual hints; the movie just thrust the fact on you.

But most movies made from books are worse.  If the book was an A+, the movie was an A-.  Compared to other book-to-movie attempts, that's not bad.  Consider either version of Dune, or Howard The Duck, Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, Alice In Wonderland, and How The Grinch Stole Christmas movies.

I'd watch Ender's Game again.

And BTW, I met Orson Scott Card once before he was famous.  He was a speaker at a conference.  He had a routine called "The Speaker On The Monitor" (I think) and it was hilarious.  It was back in the days of computer greenscreens and was a rif on biblical chapters (no disrespect meant - simply humor).  Like he would refer to the god of the computer and make the sign of the monitor (fingers shaping a square).  I actually shook his hand afterwards.   

I also met Issac Asimov once at a college presentation, but he seemed dead drunk.  Not like I could be sure, being a bit high myself at the time.  But he was beet red-faced and slurred as he spoke, and he made no sense at all.  Meeting famous people sometimes isn't all that good.

So read the book 'Ender's Game' and get the real story.

Sunday, January 10, 2016


I have to admit that I appreciate the delayed Winter here.  On the other hand, the bad forecasts are driving me crazy.

I look at The Weather Channel website FOR MY ZIPCODE (which should be pretty specific) and it says 0% chance of precipitation for 5 days.  And so I walk outside to plant more Spring Bulbs (daffodils now) and heavy mist is falling.  Which means the soil is muddy.  ARGHH!

Well, at least I have gotten 90% of the tulips and hyacinths planted in vole/squirrel proof wire cages.  There are a few leftovers of each and I can plant them in pots to be enclosed in the garden area with hopes of getting blooms and replanting them next Spring.

I still have daffodils to plant, but they don't need cages (being toxic to the varmints).  I can plant THOSE using my 12" drill auger.  As soon as the rain stops...

And with just drilling holes and dropping bulbs in, the daffs go in fast.  Which is why I left them for last.  At least I'm done with the digging of 14'X16" holes 12" deep!

I always try to do too much.  LOL!  Well, better than trying to do too little.

I have a lot of crocus bulbs, but those are going in some large shallow plastic bins to grow in Spring and then be replanted in May along a border.

It didn't seem like THIS much work when I ordered all the bulbs last Fall!  I'm bad at estimating the work my projects require.  But it will be worth it in Spring and for many Springs to come.   I don't think I will be planting any more Spring bulbs for many years to come.

Tomorrow is supposed to rain all day.  Good.  I have some serious inside cleaning to do!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Welcome To The Team, 2016!

Well, 2016, you have a big job ahead of you.  I don't mind saying that your predecessor, 2015, did a pretty poor job.  There were many reasons we finally had to let him go. 

Please try not to make the same mistakes.  Your contract is for a full year (you drive a hard bargain) and there won't be much we can do if you screw up so we are stuck with you.

On the other hand, you are stuck with US too.  So it's a mutual "let's try to get along" deal.  Your year matters to US in that we have to live through it, but your legacy depends on it as well.  Surely, you do not want to go down in history as "one of the bad years".  We expect great efforts from you.

Pursuant to that, let us point out some salient terms of our contract.  To wit:

Paragraph 3, subsection B, clause 12 - "Humans take no responsibility for their actions in any way, shape, form, and all general synonyms".

And clause 13 of the above - "2016 is entirely, totally, completely, and all general synonyms responsible for all bad events specified (but not limited to) clause 13, list 2:

List 2:  War, Illness, Asteroids, Alien Invasion, Politics, Religious Extremism, Starvation and Hunger, Climate Change, Wildlife Extinction, Volcanic Activity, and Pollution".  Plus items listed in Secret Addendums 2 and 3".

We note your objection that "Politics" were to be specifically excluded, but we snuck it back in and you signed the contract by appearing on January 1, 2016 midnight, so HA-HA-HA on YOU!

We remind you that, in accordance with standard practice (i.e., software licensing agreements), all disputes will be resolved in our favor by own personally-chosen hired arbitrators, so you don't have a snowball's chance in a furnace of winning any argument.

So we wish you a successful year with us, 2016!  Good luck.

You'll NEED it!