email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Catching Up With Weeds

I guess I haven't posted in a while.  I guess I haven't done much to mention.  Who gets excited reading that you watered the garden and routine stuff like that?  But such things do need to get done and in August, sometimes just keeping up with watering the garden and flowers is plenty.  Never mind all the inside work which I had gotten behind on as well.

So we had a couple relatively cooler days (meaning 90 instead of 100F) and I took a look around for other things needing attention outside.  Weeds are insidious!  They look about the same one day to another but after a few weeks have gone from a few innocent inches high to 2' high (some straight up, some spreading out sideways).

You may (or not, LOL!) remember that I set up 3 roundish prepared edged planting beds last Fall.
The far one was for wildflowers and I scattered 2 pounds of wildflower seeds there.  A little thin for the space, but I figured I would add transplants into the area later.  I have native flowers growing in a few areas and would add them to places without flowers.  The results have been rather "less than mediocre".  May have been 2 dozen blooms in the whole area.  But most were perennials and they don't bloom the first year much, so I will add more seeds and some transplants this Fall and hope for better next year.

The middle area was going to be for Lysimachia, which has lovely purple foliage and small yellow flowers, but it is invasive.  So I thought putting it were I could mow around would control that.  Alas, I discovered that it is also called Loosestrife and if you look at the common name "loose" and "strife", you can tell it is a problem plant.  I  found it growing in several places on its own and I am trying to pull them all up!  Now I am thinking several dwarf butterfly bushes intermixed with Knockout roses which are generally pest-free and self-dead-heading.  They have no fragrance, but you can't have everything.  I will add a few oriental lilies for some fragrance.

The near area is for color.  I planted 100 or so tulips  and another 100 hyacinths in mesh cages (protection from the voles) and a couple of hundred daffodils straight in the ground as they need no protection).  I'll be adding another couple hundred daffodils in early November.

The hyacinths never came up last Spring, and I figured I planted too late.  But as I was digging around, I found one of the cages and opened the top and pulled out a few bulbs.  To my surprize, they were all solid and had some roots!  They didn't get enough chill time to bloom last year but they seem firm and healthy, and I expect them to come up gloriously in Spring!  And if not, I will dig the cages up and try again.  And if they don't grow next Spring, I will dig the cages up and plant more tulips!

This Spring, I took divisions of standard daylilies (as odd as it might seem, I had a couple dozen 6" pots of daylilies just sitting around existing on rainfall for 2 years) and planted them between the tulip
and hyacinth cages.

 There's a reason for that; the tulip/hyacinth bulbs like to be dry in Summer, and lilies have tuberous roots that store water so they don't need watering in Summer (much).  They make a good combination. I think I will add some Sedum 'Dark Magic' as they are about a foot high and drought tolerant as well as blooming in Fall.  A drought tolerant threesome in Spring Summer And Fall would be awesome. 

But the near spot looked terrible when I paid attention to it last week.  Grasses were growing up all over and spreading weeds below them. 
So I took care of the tall ones first.  Well, there are only 2 good times to weed.  The first is when the soil is soaked.  The weed roots can't hold on to the loose wet soil.   The other time is when the soil is bone dry (unless it is clay).  In good soil the roots come up like they were growing in powder.

So I pulled up all the tall ones in bone dry soil.  I left that one small pile to show them pulled up.  Actually, I filled a trashcan with them.  Not that I would trash them; the nutrients are free and they are great compost after being heated up by sunlight in the closed trashcan for a couple days to kill any seeds.  They look like cooked spinach afterwards.  And then straight into the compost pile they go...
I have some annuals around the outer front edge just for some color this first year.  Being downslope, I can water them enough to keep them happy without soaking the tulip bulbs that don't want to see water until Spring.

And I'm putting up with the orange landscaping flags this year.  Some mark the small newly-planted daylillies (so that I don't pull them up thinking they are grass weeds - because they sure look a lot alike when you are tired) and some mark the tulip and hyacinth cages (so I don't plant anything on top of them). 

Next, now that the tall weeds are gone, I can get at the low-growing weeds. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

Cmputer Updates

Well, I defeated Apple.  Sort of...  One of the good thing I have is called 'Time Machine'. I may not use it the way Apple intended.  I have it set up as an external drive.  I'm sure I'm not the only one.  But it does mean that I can restore my Mac to previously saved times.  I did that last night and today.  It took about 7 hours and I'm glad I did it.

Everything works the way it did before and the way I liked it.  iPhotos shows the file names again, the graphics aren't annoying-looking, and the help bar actually answers questions.

I may have to upgrade to the newest Apple OSX someday, but it will not be this day. 

I will not go to the iCloud this day, I will not be forced onto Facetime this day, I will not accept the loss of features I valued on this day.  Apple can be slipped around on its plans again on this day!

I have taken back my computer to when it worked for me, and that is all that matters to me.

And I will hope that when my last program will no longer function, that Apple or Microsoft will have finally solved their problems and made things that are user-friendlyagain. 

Because if they don't, someone else will.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Random Thoughts

1.  It doesn't look like my neighbor is coming back to cut down that tree shading my flowerbed.  He has a trailer still sitting by the street that I know he wants to retreive.  So if it is gone one day and the tree is still there, I'll know I'm out of luck.  I dare not cut down the tree without permission.

2.  I had the sharpest lightening strike ever two nights ago.  There was NO gap between the lightening flash and the thunder.  And the thunderclap was SO loud and sharp it physically staggered me.  The cats vanished. 

I was sure a neighboring house had been struck, but went I went out and flashed a light around, I couldn't see any damage.  Not that I could see very well.  The torrent of rain was so strong and the wind swirling around so much that I was drenched instantly looking out both the front door and the back. 

3.  I finally had to update my Mac operating system.  It gets to where some programs just won't work anymore.  I hate that.  It USED to be that system upgrades added features and security.  Now they seem to restrict them.  Apple seems to be trying to force me in certain directions they think are socially sharing and beneficial.  *I* think they want to deliberately create a society where everything is shared with everyone else and there is no privacy. 

I've read some dys-utopian sci-fi books like that and that is not the world I want to live in.  I left Microsoft Windows 8 years ago because it crashed all the time and required a lot of serious security software.  But I've read recently that Microsoft is a lot more stable and Apple viruses starting to spread around.  It might be time to consider changing...

The general problem is that Apple is becoming more and more "control freak oriented".

4.  The specific irritation (and a good general example) is with the changes to Apple iPhotos.  For a decade, my camera has provided sequential file names to each picture (IMG 5223.jpg, IMG 5224.jpg, etc and iPhotos accepted them as titles.  No more.  They want me to give specific names to each pictures, plus locations, face names, and general subjects.  Like I have time for THAT?  And they are making it hard to not save my files of "the cloud".  I know what that is, I just don't trust them with that kind of access and control.

But what is driving me crazy right now?  The iPhoto program no longer shows the file name of each picture.  I have to go through a couple of menu actions to get that.  And I like having the main toolbar above the window.  It used to just stay there.  Now it won't.  I spent 1.5 hours today trying to find out how to get it to stay. 

I used to be able to look at the top bar and see the day/date/time, now I have to deliberately go look for it.  Sure, I can stick a calendar and a clock next to the computer and check my watch for the time.  But wasn't that one of those things the computer was supposed to free you from?

What's next?  When I change an autocorrect spelling, will it argue with me?  Will it tell me I am making an unwise statement in an email or blog comment?  Will it refuse to allow me to post a comment Apple does not agree with? 

I wonder when the monitor screen will become a camera that watches me as I post, to judge my sanity and mood.  1984, anyone?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Are You Not Moving?

Are you sure?

As you sit unmoving in a chair, you are probably moving about 750 miles per hour as the Earth rotates.  More if you are near the equator, less if you are closer to the poles.

But then the Earth is in orbit around the Sun.  That has you moving at about 67,000 miles per hour.

The sun is part of The Milky Way galaxy.  The Milky Way rotates at about 540,000 miles per hour in the main body of stars.

Our Milky Way galaxy is part of a local cluster of galaxies moving generally along together at higher speeds, and the local cluster is part of a supercluster moving faster than the local cluster, etc.

You are moving at something like a million miles per hour.  It gets worse than THAT but I'll spare you...  And you feel like you are sitting still.  That's what gravity does.

And yet gravity is weak.  You can easily lift a brick against the full force of the gravity of the entire planet!  The human record seems to be 1,102.3 pounds of deadlift (just off the floor).

So gravity is weak, and we are moving at about 1 million miles per hour...  Ever wonder what keeps us on the Erth surface and just not jumping away?  LOL!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Legal Property Ownership

Its maddening, utterly maddening. Insane and Inane! Completely beyond any failure of any system of records I ever knew in my career in government!  OH MY GOD, the dimmest nitwit I ever met in Federal Government was a FREAKING GENIUS compared to the State Government. 

There does not appear to be ANYONE IN THE UNIVERSE who actually knows who LEGALLY OWNS THE PROPERTY NEXT DOOR TO ME!   NO ONE!

I have spent 5 days calling various banks, real estate organizations, and local government offices and searching websites following all possible leads to offices seemingly connected with property ownership.  Not one single person in any office can actually say for SURE who owns the property

No one knows but everyone thinks they know who SHOULD!    I have talked to 100 offices and EVERYONE is truly sympathetic and really helpful, and has an idea who I should call next!  Even when I tell them that's the office that sent me to THEM!

OK, look, I spent years of my Federal Government career in "Administrative Services", the catchall Division of the catchall Office of the catchall Agency.  We were the office where questions were sent that no one else could answer, and I was the best at it. 

So the idea that "Who Owns That Property?" being unanswerable drove me completely NUTS!

Fanning myself down....................

Oh dang, apparently, no one actually DOES know who owns the property.  It has to be SOMEONE SOMEWHERE of course, but no one seems to actually know.  It is as if they had a stolen artwork and cannot admit it.

The resident has abandoned the property, some sites have notices that it was sold at auction June 14th, local newspapers won't claim to find any legal notice of the sale, no real estate agent can find a listing for it.  It is as if the property doesn't exist.

And that has got me royally upset!  How can you buy a property when you can't find out who OWNS it!?


My sister (and hubby and daughter) are moving far away.  She's the 1st of us elder children to leave MD.  They are really going "small" in the new place.  Some people do that after retirement.  I wish them happiness.

My neighbor has moved away.  He said he was coming back to get a trailer he can't store at his new place, and to cut down 2 trees that shade my flowerbeds as they grow larger.  But I'm betting he abandons or sells the trailer and doesn't cut down the trees.  I know how it is when you leave a place.  You leave and forget about the old place.  I wouldn't blame him in the least for "moving on" with his life.

I don't think he actually owns the place now, and I sure can't just go over and cut down a couple trees myself.  Unless I buy the house...

I COULD.  I've accumulated a lot of stocks over the years and they are at a high right now.  Selling some to buy a rental property MIGHT be a good idea, but you never know.  I'd really only be buying the house to control who is my neighbor and get rid of trees shading my flowerbeds and garden.

Yeah, they mean THAT much to me.  Not that I would expect to LOSE money, but breaking even on rent and maintenance over the years and making sure I didn't have a crazy neighbor there sounds good.

I would have the tall junk trees cut down and plant flowering ones, like dogwoods and star magnolias (to match what I am doing in my own yard).   And since it is a smaller 1 story house, I might move there someday and sell my split-foyer (2 level) house when I can't handle the stairs anymore.  I like to plan ahead.

But it is all just thoughts for now.  For all I know, the bank has already auctioned it off or something.  The neighbor doesn't even know who owns the mortgage now.  After several hours trying to find out by phone and internet yesterday, I can't tell either.  Everyone I talk to says it may take weeks for the records to catch up with the foreclosure as these things get sold/traded around very fast.

I could find someone moving in next week, or it could sit abandoned for months while some investment group collects a 100 foreclosed houses to sell to a commercial group.  All *I* can do is wait to see a foreclosure notice on the front door or a For Sale sign in the front yard some morning.


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Fare Well Good Neighbor!

Well, it turns out my neighbor really IS moving!  I'm glad I was out trimming my lawn this afternoon, because it turns out he was making his last trip.  I saw him glance over at me and I waved.  He waved back.  I went over and asked if he was moving.  He said he was.   I told him I thought he might be, but there was no For Sale sign, so it might have been his daughter was leaving for college or a place of her own.

It turns out that after failing to refinance his mortgage twice recently, he was turning it back over to the bank and just walking away!  That is very sad...  He says he has rented a place across town.  Says he never really liked the place; his wife chose it.

Not to be gossipy (I can't; I never KNOW anything), but that was a real mess!  I only found out a year later.  And I didn't know that I didn't want to know until AFTER I was told about it by a neighbor woman.  But YOU will never know any of them, so I suppose it doesn't matter. 

About 8 years ago, my neighbor guy had an affair with the woman next door, her husband found out and filed for divorce, she shot herself, and and his wife left him.  Unusually, the daughter stayed with him.  Tragic all around.

Of COURSE he didn't "seem like the type".  Who ever does?  I knew so many guys who cheated (and wives who made passes at ME) that little of that surprises me.   But it is still sad... Whenever I hear about stuff like that, I'm glad I am happy living peacefully alone!!!

But I do not judge, not knowing the situations.  He has been a good quiet neighbor (at least since he got rid of his motorcycle years ago), no loud parties, no barking dogs, etc.  The next residents may be loud and annoying.  He said I had been a great neighbor (I merely helped out with a couple small projects, but I suppose I'm quiet myself and keep the house and yard looking decent).

I asked him why he couldn't just sell it himself and he explained that he owed WAY more than he could get.  Personally I think he is looking at things short-term, as housing prices are rising again, but I don't know his finances of course.  Divorces and child care can be brutally expensive.  I mentioned that I was thinking of a rental property and it couldn't be more convenient than next door.

But since he was just abandoning the house and the mortgage, the bank will be selling it free of the old mortgage, and cheaper.  I would have an appraiser go in and estimate renovation needs and current real value, of course.  And of course it might not make financial sense.  But I'll see.  I mean, since he's gone, it all starts fresh.  I wonder if the bank knows yet?

I did ask him about some troublesome trees along our property line.  Mostly a mulberry tree that started from seeds from one *I* had and cut down years ago.  The roots and sprouts and shade are causing me grief in my main flowerbed.  Then, just before I asked if I could come over and cut it (and 2 other saplings that will only grow larger) down he offerred to come back this weekend and cut it down himself and haul off the debris.  WOW!

It will certainly be interesting seeing what happens...

Monday, August 8, 2016

Mosquito Problems

This Zika virus problem reminds me of an event in the past.  In 1999, I was suddenly getting bitten by mosquitoes in the daytime.  I managed to hit one of the little blood-suckers against my arm with a cupped hand.  It was completely dead and completely intact.  The air pressure killed it.

It didn't look familiar when I looked at it under a magnifying glass, so I did an internet search.  It was an Asian Tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus), only known as far north as North Carolina at the time (I'm in Maryland, 2 states north of there).  I put it in a small plastic container and set it in the refrigerator.  Then I called around looking for anyone who might be interested.

The University of Maryland Entomology offices weren't interested.  The Washington Post newspaper was not interested.  I should have called the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, but I didn't think of them at the time.  After a few months, I tossed it away.  After all, there were plenty of others around.

Then 2 years later, I read an article in The Washington Post about how Asian Tiger mosquitoes had arrived in our area.  Gee, I tried to tell them that 2 years before!  I keep wondering if it would have helped if they had listened to me then.

I have a mosquito-unfriendly yard.  I have some standing water (a 5' pond and a tub used for cleaning garden tools).  But I put Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) dunks in them that kill mosquito larvae.  I even have trap pots of Bt water around the yard.  But they are still here.  They don't travel more than a 100 yards, but I suppose my neighbors are less careful than I am.

My point is that that another mosquito (Aedes aegypti) is the most common carrier of Zika virus, but  is climate-restricted to the very far southern US.  Asian Tiger mosquitoes, however, have also been found now to carry it.  Asian Tiger mosquitoes survive as far north as New England.

And the June 2016 issue of Smithsonian magazine has a cover article about how we can kill off mosquitoes using genetics.  The method seems convincing, effective, and relatively straight-forward.

Yet there are people in the article who question the morality of deliberately causing the extinction of mosquitoes.  REALLY?  We are killing off much more advanced animal species almost daily and they are worried about MOSQUITOES?

Sharks kill about 6 people per year, scorpions 3,250, snakes 100,000, and mosquitoes 725,000.  725,000!  Most mosquitoes don't transmit diseases.  KILL ALL THE DISEASE-CARRYING MOSQUITOES!!!

Sign me up to "push the button", "throw the switch", "give the order", whatever!  I'll accept the ethical blame...  With peace in my heart...

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Random Thoughts

1.  Why are the Summer Olympics being held in Brazil?  No offense to Brazil, but it is WINTER there!  They must have warm Winters...

2.  My neighbor appears to be moving out.  That will be a shame.  Not that we ever talked much, but he has been a good one.  Quiet (at least since he stopped idling his motorcycle a half hour in the driveway each morning at 5 am a few years ago), no loud parties, no barking dogs, and mostly absent.  There is no "For Sale" sign, but he might be doing what I would do:  Move out, clean up, THEN sell it.

3.  Last Fall,  after years of one side of the front lawn settling lower than the drainage easement along side it and flooding periodically, I had a landscaper add 2 truckloads of topsoil and raise it 2 feet.  It was part of a larger project involving removal of several trees and leveling a 6' high ridge in the back yard.  I roto-tilled the soil, added compost, and planted new grass seed (a high quality brand).  The grass is now dying (and the older part of the lawn is fine).  I hope there wasn't something bad in that soil! 

4.  Donald Trump is self-imploding.  YAY!  I have previously wondered if he was doing it deliberately to avoid the restrictions of becoming President.  But now I think it just comes naturally to him.  Republicans are starting to bail out all over the place.  And I won't call that "rats deserting a sinking ship".  I would call it sensible people trying to escape a burning building.

5.  By the way, what is bad about rats deserting a sinking ship?  It is a rational thing to do.  I don't even think CAPTAINS should go down with their ship...

6.  I surrendered to the cat claws.  I can't clip them (my hands aren't steady enough anymore and they resist)!   In spite of having scratchers they use and running around outside briefly, they were starting to stick to blankets towels and carpet.  So when the vet announced he was offerring clipping for $13, I brought Marley in yesterday.   He is far more compliant at the Vet, and there are 2 people to do it (one to hold and one to clip).  Iza goes in tomorrow! 

7.  I had a new bathtub installed end of May.  And the room needs to be painted.  I painted the entire interior of the house 15 years ago.  I haven't painted the bathroom yet.  Suddenly, the task seems daunting.  All that wall-cleaning, all that taping, all those drop cloths.  And all those accessories to be removed:  towel rack, TP holder, toothbrush holder, soap dish, light switch cover,  outlet cover, mirror!  I can't get myself to start...

8.  On the other hand, my garden is finally starting to produce!  I have home-grown heirloom tomatoes again.  I have heirloom flat italian beans again!  I'm getting carrots and zucchini.  I'm getting cucumbers.  I have some Fall crops started.  And the chicken-wire enclosed garden structure is keeping the squirrels and groundhogs out!

9.  I had been having constant battery problems with my 11 year old Toyota Highlander and my equally old riding mower.  The recommended batteries weren't lasting.  In Spring, I replaced them with ones recommended by Consumer Reports magazine.  Well, who would have thought that Walmart sold the best batteries for my 2 vehicles?

10.  I love the odd little butcher/deli/liquor store in town.  They were selling filet mignon whole for $8.99/lb this week.  They trim it to perfection and slice it to your desire (I like 1.5").  They normally toss the trimmings, but I have them save them.  I can get another whole meal from those with a little knife work (which I enjoy doing).  So I end up with six 6 oz filet mignon steaks for $4 each. 

They also sell frozen large deveined shrimp at $6/lb.  And they used to sell a Zinfandel (Twisted Zin) that I really loved but dropped it.  But they special order it just for me.  I get a case of 6 1.5 liter bottles for $10.  They really appreciate their regular customers.

11.  Speaking of local businesses, the barber shop I used to visit suddenly started wanting appointments.  But the barber shop close by them, that used to be busy as heck is now a no-wait place.  So I tried them.  Hey, I have dead-limp straight hair, I'm retired, and I'm not fussy.  Who COULDN'T cut that?  And they do just as well as the previous place.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Crown Of Gold

Well, I'm sitting here contemplating the Gold Crown on the table in front of me.  Unfortunately, its not the kingly type of crown.  Its the kind that comes loose from a tooth!

It hardly seems fair.  I don't eat hard candies.  I don't crunch on ice cubes.  I don't eat really sticky stuff like taffy.  I was simply eating a bit of marinated boneless skinless chicken breast.  But it seems there was a tiny flake of bone in there.  It jammed in between 2 teeth like an ax into a log.

I was careful, I really was!  I used a wooden toothpick, I tried to remove the bone flake with downward pressure front and back for several cautious minutes.  When it finally seemed to loosen slightly, I OH SO CAREFULLY tried to lift it back out the way it entered. 

The length of time between feeling a slight movement and the realization that it was a crown coming loose was infinitesimal.  Seriously, I didn't even know that tooth HAD a crown.  I have a half dozen scattered around and after a month I can't tell where they are.  That's kind of the whole point of having them...

If dental stuff is icky to you, you might want to just skim ahead...

The last thing I was expecting earlier today was having to call a dentist tomorrow for an appointment.  But life is what happens when you aren't expecting it.  I suppose I should have though.  I may have gotten good cold and flu resistance genes from my parents, but the tooth genes were not so good.  Dad had only half his teeth by my age and a mouthful of partial dentures that seemed to come loose every 3 or 4 years.  He complained about it a lot.

In fact, my wisdom teeth never emerged.   X-Rays show them, but apparently they are blocked or something.  Side note:  Wisdom teeth are slowly vanishing from humans.  Some people don't have them, in others, they don't emerge.  Someday we won't have them at all.

I don't hate dentists!  What they do is valuable for relieving pain and making it easy to eat, etc.  But I DO hate dental work.  I was cursed with a small jaw and therefore crowded teeth.  When I was in my 20s one dentist wanted to pull a couple of teeth "to give me a better smile".  That sounded miserable and I wasn't concerned with what I perceived to be cosmetic dentistry.  I wish he had been more straightforward!  I only learned many years later that there had still been time for the remaining teeth to slowly spread to normal positions (or so another dentist told me in my 50s).

And some dental work is seemingly worse for most but easier for me.  I'll just say that layin on my back while someone is messing around in my mouth is physically horrible (2 words - "nasal drip"), but sitting upright is OK. 

So when a tooth utterly broke 2 years ago and the dentist had to pull it out, I was worried at the time, the the pulling was mostly just boring.  And when he told my the tooth root was interlocked with the one next to it and had to come out too, I just said "sure"... 

I haven't had any problems with the 2 removed teeth.  Can't even tell they are missing when I chew.

But last year, suddenly 2 small fillings came out in upper back molars.  I had been planning to (and delaying) making an appointment.  Now it's forced, so I will have something done to those.  I hope they are refillable, but if they have to be removed I might find that easier.

And since I'm going on a dentist journey, I may see about implants for the 2 previously pulled teeth.  If (and only if)  they will be essentially permanent. 

Some day, we humans will learn how to grow new teeth as adults.  And there IS research toward that end.  Until then - AARRGGGHHH!