email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Gardening Season Starts

I'm more than ready to start the new gardening season.  I've BEEN ready since the last one ended.  I went through my saved refrigerated seeds last month and bought replacements for the ones getting too old or that had been used up last year.  I emptied old soil out of planting pots.  I cleaned all the pots and planting trays.  I threw away the damaged ones and got new replacements out of the shed.

A little story on that.  15 years ago, I bought a nearly lifetime supply of trays and 6-packs.  It made sense.  At the bulk prices, more started to become almost free.  I'm only 1/2 through the BIG BOXES now.

But what I didn't have was seed-starting soil.  And that is slightly a technical term.  It's not "potting soil" (though I have often used that in the past and it seems to work pretty well).  Seed-starting soil is sterile and has no fertilizer.  That helps avoid moss growth, fungal diseases (a seedling's worst enemy), and weeds.  Plus, the stuff is very loose so roots grow quickly.

This year, the only seed-starting mix I could find was ridiculously expensive and even the potting soil was poor (highly-fertilized Miracle-Gro or a cheaper brand that was (I discovered last year) dyed to look better than it was and wouldn't retain any moisture.

So I decided to return to my past habits and mix my own seed-starting soil...  My gardening book had a good recipe:  4 parts compost, 2 parts peat moss, 1 part vermiculite, and 1/2 part perlite.  I can't tell you what vermiculite is (does "hydrous phyllosilicate mineral" tell you anything?  Me neither).  All I know is that it is lightweight, non-compacting, and retains water.  Perlite looks like ground-up styrofoam, but it seems to be like popcorn made from volcanic ash.  It is also very light and holds water.

I don't have to know that, just that those 4 items make a really good seed-starting soil.   So I found all the ingredients over the weekend and set about mixing them together today.  OMG!  It took 4 hours.  I had to sift the peat moss and compost through 2 meshed screens (when you are filling 2" planting cubes, you can't have sticks and pieces of bark in there).  Then I had to mix the sifted peat moss and compost with the vermiculite and perlite.

I have to laugh.  It took four 5 gallon buckets and 3 large trash cans and a small 1 gallon bucket as a scoop, a lot of lifting and dumping, and when I was done I had enough on the basement floor to fill a 5 gallon bucket to add into the finished product.  I filled a 40 gallon trash barrel right to the top perfectly! 

Its the best-looking seed-starting soil I've ever seen.  I figure it cost $50.  An equal amount of commercial product (with fertilizer I didn't want, dyes I didn't want, and less of the vermiculite and perlite I did want) would have cost almost the same ($48).

But I still have 2/3 of my raw materials leftover!  So for 4 hours work, I have a better quality seed-starting soil at 1/3 the cost plus more raw material for future use.  I am very pleased with my work.

Tomorrow, I plant seeds!

Friday, February 26, 2016


Yeah, Star Wars, Star Trek, and Close Encounters.

And I don't mean the actors or the tech.  I mean, it's the past, the future, and the present.

Every time I talk to friends about Star Wars, they describe it as the future.  They don't remember the opening sequence:  "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..."  Star Wars is in the past!

Star Trek is in the future, 300-400 years give or take a century. 

Close Encounters is the present.  Assuming the meetings continued to today, of course.

But it just amazes me that so many Star Wars fans keep thinking it is our future after we spread out among the stars...

Thursday, February 25, 2016


I love baseball.  I understand it.  You hit, field, catch, pitch.  You stand around and watch a lot. 

I tried other sports.  As soon as I reached minimal competence, I was bored.  In some I was simple unable. 

The minimal competence ones were tennis, golf, and soccer.  The unable ones were basketball, football, and rugby.  At 5' 7" and 135 pounds out of high school,  I was too short for basketball, too light for football, and I never figured out the "scrum" in rugby. 

I could play tennis a bit.  It was basically ping-pong on a larger field.  And the phy ed teacher had us doing some skill exercizes of bounces the ball first on one side of the racket then the other.  When he saw me bouncing the tennis ball on the edge of the racket, he dragged me off to more detailed play.  But I never could serve the ball hard or accurately, so off I went. 

Golf was similar.  I could hit the ball, and putt well enough, but I actually got worse the more THEY tried to teach me.  Went from a soft hook to a wicked slice under high school coach "help". 

But baseball always made sense to me.  And I mention all this only because I just finished re-watching Ken Burns' PBS Baseball series.

I started off bad! 
The pictures there are fake.  Well, "posed".  Truth be told, I kept my bat on my shoulder in play and the one time I recall swinging, I hit it just over 2nd base.  Dad cheered that I finally got a hit.  I usually got a walk though and was a demon on the base paths.  I stole 2nd base a lot.  But my team was so bad I seldom got any further. 

I was a good 2nd baseman.  I knew how to drop on any ball near me and get it to first base.

I even got an unassisted triple play once!  I jumped up high to catch a line drive,  touched 2nd base to catch the runner going to 3rd thinking it was a hit, and tagged the kid running from 1st to 2nd who also thought it had gone into the outfield.  My high point in little league.  Also my last year playing because the pitchers got much better and I couldn't even get walks.

And I tell you that to tell you THIS:

I got a lot better years later after college.  I had a temp Summer job with the navy and they had a softball team needing "anyone" and I became catcher.  Not much of a respected position in softball, but hey, I was on the team.  I there I was among big tall strong navy guys.

But I discovered I could hit the ball!  Pretty much anywhere I wanted...  I had completely changed from 12 to 22!  I became a fearless swinger.  My specialty was hitting between 1st and 2nd basemen, but when they shifted for that, I just hit between 3rd and shortstop.  And when they pulled the shortfielder (there were 10 players in that league), I just stepped into the plate and hit it over the right-fielder.  The right-fielder was always the worst player on any team...

What mattered to ME was that it DIDN'T matter that I was smaller than the navy guys because I could hit the ball wherever I needed to.

So all this is going through my mind while I watched 'Baseball' on DVD.  And there comes some celebrity saying that every fan thought they could do as well.  The difference in hitting between pros and "wannabees" was really only about 40'.

And then they showed close-ups of the pro hitters.  Their arms looked like my legs!  Only with more muscles.  LOL!

I'm sure glad I went to college and got a degree in something that demanded I "think" instead of "hit"...

To this day, I am "competent" at nearly anything sportswise, but not "good" at anything in particular.  And I'm satisfied with THAT!  So, don't worry, nothing profound here, I'm justunspooling some memories I guess.

You ever do that?

Friday, February 19, 2016

Random Thoughts

Why does "cleave" mean both to join and divide?

I used to be a Republican in the 70s, but they left me, so I vote Democrat (usually).

Can it get worse than seeing Donald Trump running for President?  Sure!  What if he actually won?

What happens when the umpire in baseball throws the ball directly to the pitcher?  If the ump throws a wild toss, can the guys on base run?

Why is a mouse when it spins?  OK, that's an old Dad joke.  He never showed much sense of absurdity, so I always remembered that one.  BTW, the answer is "The higher the much".  It shows that even staid old engineers have an inner sense of humor.

Speaking of Dad, he once bowshot a front-facing deer just as it lowered its head.  The arrow got it right in the forehead.  Which wasn't immediately fatal, but crashing into a tree trunk as it ran away was.  Likely the only "deer death by tree".  Even Dad felt sorry for the deer.  What a weird way to go.  At least it was sudden...

Cleaning old bathtub tiles is awful.  I found this stuff that I tried today (Kaboom with Oxy-Clean) that melted the old stuff right off.  And dont worry, this isnt an ad; they don't have the slightest idea I exist.

And speaking of bathrooms, I found something that cleans the inner shower curtain nicely.  Any house vinyl-siding wash... 

I seem focused on cleaning right now.  You want to protect your hands from harsh chemicals?  Hardware stores sell disposable latex gloves 200 for a few dollars.  Want permanent gloves that are longer on your arm than the household-style rubber gloves?  Pond supply companies sell gloves that cover almost the entire arm.

Have outdoor planter saucers that hold water and breed mosquitoes?  The hardware store sells packs of "mosquito dunks".  Those are time-release doughnuts that last a month and contain a bacteria that infests mosquito larvae and kills them.  They are designed for small ponds, but if you crunch one into small bits, you can sprinkle a pinch into plant saucers each month.  Harmless to people, pets, and beneficial insects.

Most folk remedies don't work.  Moles don't eat bits of chewing gum put into the tunnels and die from their stomachs being clogged.  Dandelion root pulp does not clear skin conditions.  Sage leaf paste does not regrow hair (if the hair follicles are dead, they're DEAD.  Forever)!  On the other hand, aloe does relieve surface skin itches, and willow bark teas does relieve minor discomforts (we call the synthetic compound "aspirin").

Hair is almost pure nitrogen.  Add it to your compost.

Speaking of compost, if you are a kind of "natural" person, add pee.   It's mostly water, and nitrogen with other minor organics and minerals.  Composting microbes LOVE that stuff.  And it repels varmints.  You might want to do it at night, though, if you have watchful neighbors...

And more about compost...  "They" say never to add meat or fats to your compost pile cuz it will attract varmints.  That's only because most compost piles are open.  In one enclosed with hardware cloth, it is a good addition for trace elements.  Seriously, do you think dead animals just lay around unreturned to the soil?

You can snip a lot of perennial plants and stick them in soil to root.  I did that with pink, purple, and white azaleas last Fall, and some are flowering now.  At 1" tall.

Buy some childhood toys.  Did you use a top as a kid?  Buy one and learn to use it again.  Gyroscopes are neat too.  And get one of those cheap radiometers that spin around in the bulb in sunlight.  Don't get old...

Old crockpots work better than the newer ones.  Those removable inserts don't heat evenly.

Speaking of old stuff...  If you are as old as I am, you remember your parents having the Circus glasses.  They are still available on eBay.
Changing a waterbed mattress is harder than it sounds.  Emptying the old one and refilling the new one takes a LOT of water and that water doesn't warm up for a couple days.  And woodstain that is supposed to take 8 hours to dry takes 3 days!

A bucketloader that removes snow from your street in big piles is not as nice as a real snowplow that just spreads it on the side of the road evenly.

My Alma Mater men's basketball team was #2 and lost to an average team.  Then was #6 and lost to a conference team that had gone 0-13.  The will be lucky to stay in the top 10.

Donald Trump criticized The Pope for criticizing his idea of building a wall to keep illegal immigrants out (saying building walls instead of bridges wasn't "Christian").  I'm not discussing THAT, but Trump said ""No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man's religion or faith,".  Wait, isn't that what religious leaders DO?

I once read that every deer thinks every hunter is a shrub and that every turkey thinks that every shrub is a hunter.  So turkeys are hard to sneak up on.  But every squirrel thinks every noise (like a very slowly opened window) is a hawk! 

Baseball season is slowly beginning in training camps in the southern US.  I've read that half the teams are predicted to get to the World Series.  I hope that is only true for MY team and one other.

The past 3 Winters, my car battery died routinely.  So I bought something called a "battery minder" that keeps it charged.  So naturally, THIS WINTER the battery is staying charged just fine!

I was re-arranging the basement and there were several bags of particular bolts and nuts.  For some project I never finished.  I hate that!  Now I label such bags with the intended purpose.

"Hints From Heloise" have some of the dumbest hints I've ever seen.  I read one recently about knitting covers to the tube tops of squeeze ketchup and mustard bottles.  WHAT???  Some people have no real lives...

I think I will make up some fake "Hints To Heloise"...  Good mental exercise.

Keep a last year's calendar on the wall.  Makes you think about what day it REALLY is.

Walmart is infamous for double-bagging.  Today, they hit a new mark.  High mark or low, mark I cannot say.  They double-bagged, alone in a double-bag, a 4 roll pack of toilet paper!  What did they think was going to go wrong with a single bag?

Grocery-store shoppers drive me nuts.  What is the instinct that makes them all leave their carts in the middle of the aisle?  Half of them are oblivious and at least apologize.  But the other half seem offended when I politely do the "coff, coff, excuse me please?" request.

Do you have some favorite observations or complaints?

Tuesday, February 16, 2016


WARNING, bird guts.  But not from cats...

There is a hawk around here lately.  I noticed it first a couple weeks ago.  It flew through the back yard catching nothing. 

Then last week, I happened to walk out onto the deck just as the hawk was going for a dove.  The hawk panicked and flew off.  The dove it was chasing panicked and crashed into the side of the house (flew away unharmed).

Yesterday morning, as the snow was falling, I looked out the bathroom window to see the finches at the thistle feeder and the other birds at the sunflower seed feeder.  None!  Huh...

Then right below the window, the hawk lifted off with some (ahem) mangled bird in its talons.  Well, that was sort of exciting; not something I've seen out the window before.

It took a few minutes to find out what happened (snow-blindness after just waking up from total bedroom darkness).  Then I found the spot.

It was some blackbird from the feathers.
The hawk apparently felt safe enough a few feet from the house!
And ate happily.
The other birds stayed away for 15 minutes.
I don't blame them.  But the lure of the feeders is strong.
They returned.  They have to.  Too much food.

I suspect that few birds live as long as they could.  They have many predators.  Hawks, weasels, snakes...  Cats too, but I doubt that cats kill as many as the other bird predators.  Hawks need a few birds every day.  So do weasels.  Snakes get some, but perhaps more eggs than adult birds.

So keep the cats from killing birds and it probably won't make much difference.  Fewer cats killing birds, more weasels and hawks.

But seeing that hawk fly off with the remains of the bird is caught WAS very impressive.

You never have a camera ready when the really SURPRIZE things happen!

Monday, February 15, 2016


Have you ever made a series of measurements of something you are trying to build (or re-assemble) and, no matter how you look at it, it WILL NOT WORK?  Something that once worked as assembled, but no longer will?

I bought a king-size waterbed with a 6-drawer pedestal underneath 40 years ago.  About 20 years ago, the sides started to bend out a bit and caused me to worry that the frame wold slip off the support. 

So I built a new top frame.  It is still functionally perfect.  But I did such a horrid job of staining the raw wood frame (being in a hurry to get it assembled because I was sleeping on the floor while the stain dried).  And then when Ayla was new here, she really clawed up one corner of the frame.

It's not like anyone ever sees it, but bad woodwork bothers me.  So I took the old frame into the basement (it should not surprise you that I keep nearly EVERYTHING that isn't actually broken) to see about using it again (the stainwork was better).

I should explain the waterbed frame...   There are 2 supports about a foot high.  There are drawers build into the supports.  On top of the support is 1/2" plywood to hold the waterbed mattress weight.  There are 2"x10" high boards resting on the plywood to keep the waterbed mattress from just squishing out sideways.

Some of you may have framed waterbeds and know all this, others may not.  So here is a diagram...

build a waterbed frame for less than $99

I built the replacement frames to match the original plywood base of the old frame, naturally.  I mean, it was the right size.  The picture shows brackets holding the frame to the plywood, but there is also a rabbet cut on the bottom on the side frame.
The bottom surface on the left rest on the plywood support; the part that sticks down on the right covers the ragged edge of the plywood.  All I can say is that it makes a stronger connection.

Here's the weird thing!  After having placed all the original frame parts in on the basement floor, I discovered that IT CANNOT FIT on the original plywood base!

I've measured and re-measured it a dozen times.  I've tried to move the frame pieces around.  I've done every possible re-configuration of the 4 basic pieces of frame.

It CAN'T fit on the plywood!  A sensible person would just say "HUH!" and go on from there.  I can't do that.  I have a conundrum, and I want to solve it.  What is driving me nuts is that it should be IMPOSSIBLE that it doesn't fit the original plywood base!  It USED TO!

This reminds me of an old joke about a lost traveler who stops by a farmer and asks for directions back to the highway.  The farmer starts "Well, ya go up this road to the feed store an take a right and, wait, that won't work.  OK, go back down this way and go left at the Fire Station.  No wait, that won't work either".  He scratches his head a few times and finally says "Ya can't get there from here"!

In that sense, I can't get the original frame back onto the original plywood base!  That seems impossible, as it once fit.  But impossible or not, it just won't fit now.

I can recut the original frame boards to fit the plywood base.  Having a table saw and a router table can allow a lot of changes to the original frame boards.  And in a few years, I will probably forget even having had to do all that.

But right now, the unfittingness of the boards is maddening.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Repairman Blues

ARGGGHHHH!  Repairmen drive me crazy sometimes.  It always seems there is some part of the repair that they just can't do properly.  And I don't mean some part of the job that is just hard to do.  I mean some part that they don't UNDERSTAND how to do. 

I shouldn't be too surprised.  I seem to have the misfortune of having "the troublesome repairs".  No one ever comes here and finds just "a loose wire" to re-attach...

Yesterday it was the heat pump outside unit.  It failed a week ago.  But there is a backup heating unit inside mine that provides heat (an electrical induction coil like in a space heater).  That works well enough, standard electric furnaces work that way routinely though not quite as efficiently.  So I waited until the snow melted.

This time, the initial diagnostic test suggested 2 possible problem, and of course it wasn't the simple one.  Surprise, surprise!  The "thermal expansion valve" had gone bad and they had to order one, being a part that "rarely fails".  Surprise, surprise!

So they came back Monday morning at 8:30 am to replace it.  I had a vet appointment at 2:15 pm, but I wasn't worried about it.  An hour to replace a part, I assumed. 

Little did I suspect that he had to disassemble most of the outside unit to get AT the part.  I was annoyed by late morning and worried by Noon.  He had the outside unit running by Noon, but was still having a problem.

I have a "normal" setting were the actual heat pump provides the heat.  There is a "stage 2 heat" where the inside induction coil comes on to provide additional heat if required.  That's for extreme demand (like when the power has been off and the house has gotten very cold, or when the outside unit fails).  There is "emergency heat" (which I assume means both are on when it gets too cold outside for the heat pump alone to keep up).

The repairman couldn't get the thermostat off the stage 2 heating mode.  I didn't know that.  He just kept fiddling with the thermostat and then going back outside to wait for the outside unit to come on again (there is a time delay when changing settings. 

I generally keep the house at 70F.  When I started getting worried about the time to the vet appointment, I started watching what he was doing.  He would set the target temperature up to 80F wait until the outside unit came on (after the 5 minute delay) then go back inside and see the stage 2 icon on.

I finally asked him what he was trying to do.  He said he was trying to get the system operating on normal heat, not stage 2.  Well, OK, I certainly want that.  After the 3rd cycle of that I started asking questions.  I'm analytical; I figure out logical problems.  So I asked why he thought the thermostat setting would change.

I immediately got that "God save me from curious customers" look. Undaunted, I said it wouldn't change until the house temperature reached the target setting.  I got a child's explanation of how the thermostat worked.

Bad move on his part.  I've been operating thermostats for 30 years, I know how they work.  And I said so.  THAT got me the "God save me from customers who think they know better than the repairman" look.

Worse move on his part!  So I asked him what he expected to happen.  He explained carefully that the "normal" icon should show up when the outside unit is operating.  I told him, it doesn't work that way; the stage 2 heat will stay on until the house temperature reaches the target setting.  He looked pained and launched into a much longer and very detailed explanation of how heat pump thermostats work.  I guess that was on the idea that if he couldn't dismiss my concerns he would drown me in details.

Worst move on his part!  Now that I knew what he was thinking, I knew where he was WRONG!  He thought the thermostat operated in 5 degree intervals.  As in, you set the target temperature to 70, the heat stays on until 75, then kicks on again when the house gets down to 65. 

WHAT?!?  No, it works in 1 degree increments I said.  If set to 70, its heats to 71 and shuts off.  Then kicks back on at 69.  He didn't believe me.  I told him it had always operated that way.

Then it got loonier!  He asked what base temperature the installers had programmed the thermostat to initially.  (Huh?)   He said if I kept the house at 70, they would have set the system to 70 at installation.  Well, that made no sense.  He even examined the insides of the thermostat looking for "something".  He demanded to see the manual.  I provided it.  He could barely read it (English was not his native [Italian] language, which added to our difficulties on explanations).

Now, the fan itself has 3 settings; "auto" meaning the fan is on when the system is on, "on" which means the fan is constantly operating, and "circulate" meaning the fan cycles on and off constantly every 10 minutes (for no purpose I can think of).

The repairman kept pointing to the "auto" icon, thinking it referred to the "normal" heat setting (also described as "auto" on the thermostat.  I had to lead him step-by-step through the manual before he realized the difference.

Which got us back to his idea that the system had been "programmed" to a specific temperature setting.  I never could convince him that there was no such thing (admittedly "that I knew of").  He insisted on getting the house cooled back down to 70, and opened the deck and front doors to let in cold air.  I went along since he was utterly convinced the system wasn't working properly and apparently I wasn't getting rid of him until he was happy.

I tried another leap of logic...  The house was at 80 (he had bumped the target temperature up several times is his testing).  So I asked what was the difference between seeing what happened going from 80 to 81 instead of cooling the house to 70 and seeing what happened bumping the setting to 71?  I should work just as well for testing purposes.

I got "that look" again...

But he "allowed" it, so we did.  After waiting the 5 minute delay (which is actually only 30 seconds normally - his equipment outside probably had a time delay built in - but I wasn't going to quibble over minor matters).

Hot Damn!  The thermostat icon went to "normal" heating immediately.  Surprise, surprise!  He was shocked (and I think a bit disappointed).  His misunderstanding of thermostats (Ok, OK, maybe they work differently in Italy) wasted almost 2 hours of my time and forced me to reschedule the vet appointment.

Epilog:  You'll get a kick out of this...  I had accepted a 2 delay repair delay because the office manager said he wanted to send one of his experts instead of one of the "regular" guys.  Makes me worry about the "regular" guys!  Imagine how bad THAT might have been...

Fortunately, the repair was a fixed price, not by-the-hour.  So I didn't actually have to pay for the wasted time.  But at bill-paying time, the repair ticket had a rating section for the repairman's work.  I had to fill it out right there in front of him.  That's a cheap trick companies use.  I could tell that if I had given less than a perfect 10, he would have whined and pleaded.  So I gave him 10s to get him out of the house.  I'll write a detailed letter to the company advising them of his thermostat-confusion later today.  He DID know the mechanics of the part-replacement! 

And as he left, he suggested that there was still a problem with the thermostat.  I could see he was thinking that I would be calling them back soon).  The whole system seems to be working perfectly and as intended...

And the cats' annual vet exam was rescheduled for an hour later and they are all fine!

Saturday, February 6, 2016


I can't wait for the New Hampshire primary results on Tuesday!  I'll admit that I am not a "first-tier" political junkie like the professionals and not a second-tier junkie like the political talking heads on TV.  But I watch political discussion shows on TV most all evening after dinner (and with one or more cats on my lap).

For once, the primaries of both major parties are fascinating!  The debate between Clinton and Sanders Thursday night was amazing.  I don't think I have ever seen dabates where the 2 serious candidates actually respect each other  (but have to create differences between them) like this before.  I can almost imagine them sitting down together and saying "oh you got me on X subject" and the other saying "but you had a real good response on subject Y".

Both Clinton and Sanders want to win, desperately.  But they remind me of 2 chessplayers who are friends competing in a tournament.  One will lose, but both respect the other.

The Republican primaries are a whole other kettle of fish.  I think they all really do hate each other.  OK, maybe a couple get along, but it is really a cage match of desperate candidates.

No one likes Cruz.  From everything I read, he is not only bipartisanly destested among his fellow male and female Senators, he is universally detested among almost all politicians.  And among most professional political observers.  That takes real effort!

Trump is beyond belief.  His inaccurate claims in every speech astound the fact-checkers, baffle analysts, and convince many observers that his followers are facists, communists, AND anarchists.  I have seen his type before in my political and history studies in college; the results are NEVER good.  He claims things that never happened and stands by those statements when disproved.  Even worse, he claims he would be a good President because he can negotiate.  Seriously, Putin and most other world leaders would just obliterate him.

Ben Carson...  What can you say about a person who thinks the egyptian pyramids were built by Jewish slaves to store grain?  The pyramids weren't built by Jewish slaves (archeology proves that) and the pyramids are nearly solid stone (no place to store grain).  Carson is a brilliantly trained neurosurgeon, but other than that he is a raving lunatic.  Also wants a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.  Which would have prevented us from fighting WWI, WWII, building the US Highways, and fighting the Cold War with the Soviets.

Chris Christie;  Schoolyard bully.  Statewide embarrassment.  Blowhard.  Would be the "Donald Trump" of the campaign if The Donald wasn't in it.

Marco Rubio.  Probably the Republican candidate eventually.  The 3 main parts of the Republican triad (Evangicals, Wall Street, and Social Conservatives) will likely supress their gag reflexes and accept him as "most possible to win".

JEB!  With the Republicans livid about a "Clinton Dynasty", they can hardly nominate a 3rd Bush.  Besides, JEB! IS a rather low energy candidate.  Can you name ANY program he wants to implement?  On the other hand, he is probably the most moderate of the remaining Republican candidates, and in a contested convention could be the "reluctant but generally acceptable electable choice".  So JEB!'s plan is to be there at the end as "least unlikable".

John Kasich...  When I heard the things he did in Ohio in the late 90s, I thought he was the farthest Right anyone could be.  Now he is just average.  And now he almost sounds reasonable.  But he doesn't have a good campaign going.  No money = no campaign future.

Carly Fiorina - Republicans don't like female leaders.  Sarah Palin was widely regarded as a horrible decision of the McCain campaign (as in "OMG, what if McCain dies).  Fiorina has a history as a business CEO, but it is attackable for failure.  Plus, she has no particular agenda other than CEO experience and those who gravitate to business leaders see Trump as far more successful. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Zika Disease

Viruses never stop evolving.  The newest severe viral mutation to attacks humans is called "Zika".  It seems to have appeared rather suddenly in tropical South America, is spreading quickly, and is serious to pregnant women.  If this seems like the setup for a bad joke (like the old one about "di-hydrogen monoxide", it isn't.

If you haven't heard of it yet, the Zika virus is "spread to people through mosquito bites. The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon".

Most people who are exposed to the virus won't even know it.  However, in pregnant women, it can cause birth defects and failed pregnancies.   One serious result is "microcephaly" (small head).

It is mainly in the tropical areas now, but moving slowly north through Mexico.  There have been several cases in the US from people who had traveled to infected areas.  But I saw a report tonight that said one woman in Florida had become infected without travelling to the infected areas.  There is a possibility that it was transmitted sexually.

There is currently no test for Zika virus.  The news report suggested that blood supplies could become contaminated with the virus and that the US could become subject to direct infection from mosquitoes as warmer weather to come allows mosquitoes to spread slowly and infected (but not showing symptoms) individuals travel.

I wonder what the first report of serious influenza mutations looked like in the past?  For every major disease, there is always some first reports that don't realize the seriousness to come.

I explained THAT to write THIS...

Not to make light of something that could, in a year or two, be a serious medical emergency, I also heard a news report statement that just baffles me.  The statement said "men should abstain from having sex with women who are trying to become pregnant". 

Now, think about that.  I'll assume that most women who are "trying to become pregnant" are in some sort of stable relationship with a man.  If the man is abstaining from sex with that woman, just how is she "trying to become pregnant".  It takes two to tango...

If the man is abstaining from sex with his stable partner, there ISN'T going to be any "trying to become pregnant"!  I have to assume the news editor noticed the illogic at some point, because the news streamer at the bottom of the screen dropped it after some short time.

And also, the new viral disease "Zika" caused the Tata Car company in India to regret their new "Zica" car name (short for "zippy car"). 

But back to seriousness; I sure hope a test and preventative vaccination is found soon.  Otherwise, this could become the new AIDS.

And it is another example of climate change.  The mosquitoes that can carry and spread this virus can only spread because the world is getting warmer.  Various mosquitoes survive and reproduce in limited temperature ranges.  An average difference of only 1 degree in Winter temperatures can mean survival or death for them. 

1 degree in temperature does not mean that much to us humans.  So we heat the house a little bit more; BFD.  But it means that some mosquitoes can move 100 miles north...

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Feeling Sad For Iza Today

Warning, some icky biological stuff is involved here...

Poor Iza, She hasn't been able to keep much food down Mon and Tues or this morning.  Then today I brought her to the vet, where she was "temperatured" (ahem), had a blood sample taken, x-rayed, given two shots and returned to the PTU.  Suffice it to say that she was "subdued"

And then the vet instructionn were that she couldn't have any food or water until the next morning.  If she tossed up any food tomorrow or often in the next few days, she needs further tests.  The vet suggests berium pumped into the stomach and ultrasound if that doesn't show the problem, but I am thinking of just going straight to ultrasound.

Iza has always had a tendency to toss up her food once every week or two.  Giving her spoonfuls many times a day the past few months has helped.  But this change to hurling every meal is too serious.

She keeps her food in her stomach for 4-5 hours at least.  I can tell because of the varied cube, sliced, and minced foods I give the cats.  When a cat tosses up undigested cubes 4 hours after eating, there is a problem.  Food shouldn't stay in the stomach that long.  And she isn't even stopping the hurling when the food is out of her stomach; sometimes she keeps at it later when there is nothing but tan foam.  There is no grass of plant material; this isn't "scouring".

The vet says the x-rays show mysterious spots in Iza's stomach, which seems to confuse him; he thinks it is just air.  I keep thinking there is something Iza has swallowed that is blocking the output end of her stomach.  Maybe that's what the mystery spot is.  The vet just doesn't seem to want to consider that.  

He pointed out that there IS matter in her intestines, so there is no blockage.  But what if the "something" moves around in her stomach and only sometimes blocks it. 

He called this afternoon and said her blood work is fine, no sign of infection of organ problems.  That's good.  She had no high temperature, physical sensitivity, or reaction to being prodded.  

But she did refuse to eat Tuesday night (and she has never refused food in her life), she just stared at the food and left.  She has lost 1.5 pounds in a week.  There is OBVIOUSLY something wrong!

I just KNOW this brief fast after the 2 shots the vet gave her are NOT going to have any effect!  She has had this problem (to a much lesser degree) all her life.  I can tell I will have to proceed to more serious examinations after the Friday vet visit where it seems clear that he will tell me the problem is unresolved.

The odd hardest thing, though, is that I can't give poor Iza any food after she hasn't kept much down for 3 days!  All I can do is just hold and comfort her...