email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Great Shopping Day

I had a long list of stuff to buy at the local DIY store.  And found most.

The mailbox door broke after 30 years.  Tsk, tsk!  Only 30 years.  But it is in good shape, so repairable.  It needed a 3/16ths bolt through the 7" wide front.  Was that easy to find?  NO!  I finally found a 12" metal rod with threads.  Have to cut it down to size though.  The good news is that I also found "stop nuts".  Those have nylon on the inside so you don't need nuts and washers.

I got tired on wooden sawhorses that kept getting loose around the brackets.  Found some adjustable metal ones with places to attach temporary boards to protect against cutting the sawhorses.

Helped 3 other customers there looking for other stuff I knew where they were.  If I wanted a retirement job, I know where to go, LOL.

Found some super-magnets. (rare-earth materials)  Wasn't looking for them, but I can sure use them.  Those feeble refrigerator magnets aren't worth having.

Got 150 new plastic 6" plant labels.  My old ones were written over too many times and exposure to U/V rays makes them brittle after a few years anyway.  So, new start.

Green garden twine, stretch tape, and a small seed-sower (little clicks send one small seed at a time down a narrowing slot).  Beats using a tweezer or planting several at a spot!  Or straining my eyes even with reading glasses...

I keep using plastic ties
Black UV Cable Ties






and I seem to use them a lot.  Buying them a dozen at a time was driving me crazy.  So, at the very bottom shelf, I found bags of 1,000.  GASP!  And they were the same price as 4 packs of 25!  I bought a bag each of 8" and 4".  Talk about volume discounts...  Lifetime supply, I hope.

 The funniest part was the scissors.  I wasn't looking for one, but they were in front of me, so I tossed one into my cart.  The basement scissors had just rubber handles and they finally broke.  So the cashier picks them up and says "what are these".  OK, that really threw me.  Everyone knows what scissors are, right?  I couldn't figure out the question. 

But she meant there was no tag on them, so she couldn't ring them up.  I always seem to find the item with no pricing label!  I just told her to set them aside.  I didn't even know where to go look for another with a label...

I can get scissors anywhere.  But all in all, it was a great day shopping...




Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Waiting For...

Baseball season to start on April 1st... 

The last-Fall-planted tulips to bloom...  The buds are up on short stems, but that's good enough for the 1st year.  The wire cages they are planted in should give them protection from voles and squirrels for many many years to come. 

The last-Fall-planted daffodils to send up blooms.  Just small leafs so far.  And being toxic to nibbling varmints, they don't need cages...

The last-Fall-planted hyacinths to show up at all.  Not a leaf in sight yet...

Next week's seed-planting inside.  This time of year, there are always something to plant each week inside or out.

The wind to die down tomorrow.  I need to spray liquid corn gluten before the lawn soil warms up more.  The corn gluten stops seeds from sprouting.  The past 2 days were so windy, I couldn't spray it without the spray drifting to the vegetable garden and I have lots of seeds to plant there before the inhibitory effect ends in 6 weeks.

The NCAA basketball tournament to end.  It's painful.  The U of Maryland Men's and Women's teams had such high promise this year, but things didn't go their way.  They sure gave us exciting seasons though...

Cleaning the riding mower.  I figured out a way to elevate the riding mower to clean the underside of grass clippings and get at the blades to sharpen them.  You can't exactly tip a riding mower on its side to do that.  But I have ramps that will let me get at the underside.  I always did, I just didn't realize it.

Pruning low-hanging tree branches.  I finally got the chain saw blade on again and adjusted.  I have a LOT of branches to remove.

Seeing the first dandelion flowers.  I bought a COOL TOOL that lets you step on weeds, pry them up, and just flip them away.  I tried it out on some other weeds and it works GREAT!  Not an ad, just an appreciation for a good tool.

Fiskars Deluxe Stand-up Weeder (4-claw)


Product Details

BTW, you can't just pull up dandelion plants and leave them to die.  The stems have enough food to ripen the seeds.  So you have to bag them...

Time to shift from long-sleeve flannel shirts to short-sleeved cotton.  It's "iffy" this time of year, but short-sleeve season is coming and I love the free-arm feeling.

Open doors!  The cats will love it and so will I.  It doesn't last long though.  Around here it goes from 50 to 80 in a month.  I can kill the occasional wandering wasp...

A warm day to wash the car outside.  It needs it.  At 11 years old and only 24K miles, I want to keep it looking decent.  A new one would have too much computer nonsense in it.

I'm sure there is other stuff, but memory fails after 5 am...

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Plant Growth And New Seeds

1.  I am so relieved that the new late-planted spring bulbs are coming up.  Counted 110 tulips today, about 100 early daffodils, and the first few late daffodils.  No hyacinths yet.  Because the top of the soil was so hard, I watered the area to soften it.  The Winter rains and melting snow have the ground well-moisted deep, but the surface was very dry and hard.

2.  While trying to water the new spring bulbs with a sprinkler, I discovered it stuck in one position.  Something else to take apart and repair.

3.  And I say "something else to repair" because I had to take apart my submersible pond pump a few days ago to find why it wasn't working.  Good ones cost a few $100.  Turns out there is a simple rod that broke.  The material is uncertain; it's a bit rough to be plastic, a bit smooth to be ceramic; maybe its resin.  Anyway, it's what turns a "impeller" (think "propeller").  I gather that the difference is that the first pushes and the second pulls.

And thereby hangs a tale.  The pump stopped working and I don't know anything about pond pumps.  The pump didn't even have a brand name on it.  But I looked at the specification plate, and saw a UL (Underwriters Laboratory) number.  So, thinking the UL number might provide some information, I searched it.

WOW!  The UL number actually did lead me to the pump!  Not the actual manufacturer like I hoped, but to the generic model.  It turns out that many companies sell the same items under their own name.  But all the parts are the same!!!

And there in one listing was a replacement impeller that looked identical.  Not just the broken rod (which would have been easily and more cheaply replacable) but at least the unit is WAY cheaper than a new pump.  It should arrive in a couple days.

4.  So why did I want the pump working?  To spray liquid corn gluten all around the yard.  Corn gluten stops weed seeds (and any other seeds) from germinating.  Some weeds germinate in Spring, others in Fall.  I try to do it in both Spring and Fall, and I have to admit that I have a LOT fewer weeds in the lawn than my neighbors who use more serious chemicals.

And a benefit is that corn gluten is 9-0-0 fertilizer.  All nitrogen, which is just what your lawn needs.    But back to why I wanted the pump working... 

The liquid corn gluten comes in containers you just hook up to a hose and spray around the yard.  Only they don't work.  THEY JUST DON'T WORK.  I'm not surprised.  The supplier is selling the liquid corn gluten and saying it is easy to apply.  They don't want to spent money on disposable applicators!  So, of course, they don't work. 

The product reviews are constant in the complaints about the sprayer function.  So, I thought, why do it THEIR way?  I poured a bottle of the stuff through a fine mesh sieve (many users complained about corn grit blocker the sprayers) into a barrel filled with water. 

So (brilliant me), I would just use the submersible pond pump to spray a diluted mix all over the yard using a fan nozzle (so that I would see if the output holes where getting clogged).  And then the pump didn't work!





Here's hoping the replacement impeller solves that problem.  The corn gluten really DOES inhibit initial seed roots, but you only have a couple of weeks to apply it (when the forsythia are starting to bloom - the same time the weed seeds germinate). 

5.  Planted 6 more flats of seeds today.  A flat equals 35 cells (cell = 1.5" square x 2" deep) for me - I leave one cut out for watering.  This weekend was bell peppers, zinnias, and marigolds.  I've given up on most perennial flowers.  They don't bloom for long, most die after a few years, and I have time to grow and plant annuals.  THEY bloom all season, and I love seeing all the flowers all season.

6.  Cuttings of the 3' Knockout Rose and the 3' dwarf butterfly bush aren't  sending out new shoots after 3 weeks in pots, but they aren't dying either, so that is encouraging.  The original plants are sending out new branches, so that it good.  At least if the cuttings don't root, the original plants are still doing well.  Planted outside in early May, they should branch out more and I will have another chance to get cuttings to root.

Gardening/rooted shoots is fascinating.  And "something for nothing" is always good.  The azalea cuttings from last Fall are all doing well and are doubled in height and branches from last month. 


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Garden Enclosure

Well, with the decent weather, I am turning my attention to finishing the Garden Enclosure.  And I have to thank Marley for kick-starting me into that.  I had noticed some scratching around going on inside the enclosure, and finally noticed Marley INSIDE the enclosure.

Well, I knew I hadn't finished connecting all the strips of screening everywhere, but I thought it was pretty much complete.  So I went out last week and used a few nylon tie strips to finish it.
 mounted cable ties
Usually for bundling wires, they are good for pulling chicken wire tightly together too. I will be using 100s of yards of thin wire like thread to REALLY attach all the chicken wire strips, but I thought it was all pretty good already.

Til Marley appeared inside.  So I called him to see where he came back out.  And tightened THAT spot.  And he got in again, so I tightened THAT spot!  After several days of that, I went out to get the job done right.

I was SHOCKED at how many openings I found Marley could get through.  I understand why he was attracted to it.  6 large boxes of deep soft soil... He must have thought he had found his Forever litter box!

Well, I'm glad he found the opening before I planted the seeds and the squirrels found the openings!  They would have nibbled off my seedlings as if there was no enclosure of all.

So I decided I better get the enclosure sealed against even the squirrels.  First, since there were vines around the edges of the enclosure, I sharpened my sickle of the grinding wheel.  Nothing fancy, just a shot around the curve.  But it cut a piece of paper in half cleanly.

So I used it to slice through the vines at the bottom edges of the enclosure, then got to work with the 8" nylon ties.  They are being used to hold the chicken wire tight around the top and bottom PVC pipes, around the upright PVC pipes, and to hold the 4' chicken wire strips together tightly.

And I spent time cutting the ground level excess chicken wire to extend 2' out from the bottom so that groundhogs can't go up to the enclosure and dig under it.  They are not clever enough to back up 2' and dig from there.  I hope!  If they are, there are other things I can to to stop them.

But the nylon ties are temporary.  They will deteriorate in sunlight after a few years and start popping loose.  Which is why my next step is to start threading long lengths of galvanized wire through the seams of the chicken wire like stitching a hem.

The nylon ties are 2' apart.  The wire will thread through every couple of inches.  If I can get the wire through all the seams (hoping I don't miss some), no varmint is going to eat my seedlings again!!!

If I seem obsessive about this, it is due to sad experience.  Varmints in suburban areas are generally desperate for food.  In their natural environs like open fields or oak-filled forests, they have plenty of food.  In my yard, the only good food they can see is MY GARDEN!  The ones in my yard are the losers who have been driven out of their natural habitat by other varmints.

I really do feel vaguely sorry for them, but not sorry enough to let them eat all my veggies...

So back to Marley.  When he can't get back into the enclosure, I know I will have stopped the groundhogs and hopefully the squirrels.

Marley got extra treats tonight for his efforts to get inside the garden enclosure...  LOL!






Wednesday, March 23, 2016

I'm Thrilled!

Yes, really.  When I was late planting tulips and hyacinths in wire cages I made from 1/2" wire and buried 10" deep in 2' square holes a but late (Dec-Jan), I didn't know what to expect.  Same for 200 daffodils that don't need cages, so I just used a small auger to make 10" holes.  I'm not a bulb expert.  I know they need chilling temperatures, but I wasn't sure if that was for the bulbs to just grow or for flowers to develop.

Well, now I know part of the answer.  There are tulips and daffodils emerging from the ground all over.  I saw the first tulips a week ago, then there were 15, then 26, then 46, and today I counted 51 tulips.  And I suddenly realized today that one type of the 2 daffodil varieties are poking up all over too.  I assume the other daffodils and the hyacinths are later-emerging and will appear in a couple weeks.  If some are growing, the others probably will too. 

Not anything to take a picture of yet.  An inch tall tulip leaf is rather insignificant, after all.  But I get to watch more appear every day, so when they get large enough in one group, I'll post pics.

I planted the tulips 8 or 9 to a cage; the hyacinths 7 or 8 (they didn't divide up among the number of cages perfectly). 

But even if they don't bloom this year (but have vigorous plants), it will be a success.  Because they WILL bloom next year if not this one.  I was mostly afraid they would just rot, being too warm this first shortened growth season.

In a few weeks, I will be transplanting purple coneflowers and daylilies there too, between the cages of spring bulbs.  Maybe add some Mums for Fall color

That was in just one of the 3 new planting areas I worked on last Fall after I had that annoying english ivy, poison ivy, and wild grape covered ridge removed in September.

The larger of the 3 got spread with some "meadow-flower" mix back in November.  It certainly is covered with "green", but I have no idea if anything good is growing there.  It could be all weeds (and I can tell that some are), but there may be some nice self-seeding annuals and some flowering perennials there.  I am encouraged because it is much greener than the last circle where I planted nothing yet. 

So the difference between those 2 patches SHOULD be the meadow seeds I scatterred.  I probably won't be able to tell much about that until mid summer.  And if it turns out to be nothing but weeds, I will cover it in black plastic to smother the weeds and try again next Fall.  And in fact, I may just grow 100s of individual plants and do the planting more deliberately.  But I'll hope for success this year.  A 20"x15' patch of natural meadow would be very nice.

And not just nice to look at.  The beneficial insects, bees, and butterflies would love it.  So would the cats!  Not just because they would have tall plants to sneak around in, the think undisturbed growth would attract all the voles in the yard for them to hunt.

Speaking of bees, I saw my first honeybees of the year moving among to blooming hyacinths near the house.  My yard is mostly organic (I sometimes have to get lethal with the poison ivy that invades from my neighbors' yards).  But that's not where the bees and butterflies are attracted. 

The 3rd circle is for the lysimachia firecracker.   I love the purple foliage and yellow starry flowers, but it is too spreading for my main flowerbed.  So I'm moving them to an edged circle I can mow around easily to contain them.  They are related to Loosestrife, but not quite as invasive (being a domesticated hybrid, I assume).  But kept to themselves, they are lovely all season long, grow thickly enough to shade out all weeds, and look impressive in masses.  They don't seem to have any serious pests or diseases either. 

So with the 3 patches, I will have a naturalistic meadow, a patch of 2' tall purple plants, and a patch with spring bulbs and summer/fall plants.  It might be a thing of wonderful constant changes though the seasons or a visually-discordant disaster!

You will all find out about as fast as I do.  The good thing is that plants can be moved or replaced or expanded.  

Monday, March 21, 2016

A Thought For Spring

I like getting all over the top with humor, but that's not all there is.  Serious thoughts do happen here.  And I was feeling bad cuz I got all snarky in an email (apologies were offerred and accepted), but I still felt a bit stupid.  And I realized I had one of those "earworms" going around in my head (you know what those are, right?).  So this tune was in my brain and wouldn't let go.  Then I finally caught what the song was and it was SO appropriate.

We've all felt stupid, sad, regretful.  We've lost a parent, spouse, animal companion.  We feel guilty when we aren't.  Or are.

So I thought it would be a good idea to share.  This is a song of acknowledging errors and forgiving oneself; of forgiving others, and remembering, of being reminded we are all just people doing the best we can with the strengths and flaws we have.  We all do the best we can...

It's the "all right" song from the Traveling Wilbury's

 (I left out the chorus)

Well it's all right, riding around in the breeze
Well it's all right, if you live the life you please
Well it's all right, doing the best you can
Well it's all right, as long as you lend a hand

Well it's all right, even if they say you're wrong
Well it's all right, sometimes you gotta be strong
Well it's all right, As long as you got somewhere to lay
Well it's all right, everyday is Judgment Day

Well it's all right, even when push comes to shove
Well it's all right, if you got someone to love
Well it's all right, everything'll work out fine
Well it's all right, we're going to the end of the line

Well it's all right, even if you're old and gray
Well it's all right, you still got something to say
Well it's all right, remember to live and let live
Well it's all right, the best you can do is forgive...


So when you said something stupid, or when someone has said something stupid to you; when you have hurt someone, or someone has hurt you; when you've lost someone or somebeing or somecritter, and can't say "I'm sorry" anymore; when you think you must be the dumbest jackass on the planet... 

...Let this earworm into your brain.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Fake "Hints From Heloise"

Have you ever read the real ones in the newspaper?  Some of them are SO silly.  This is recent real one:  "Remove individual [computer] keys to clean and wipe the underside with a microfiber cloth. Some keys have springs and it might be tough to get them back in place."

Is she SERIOUS?  Even Martha Stewart wouldn't do that!

So I decided to make some fake ones to send...

1.  When I print out my local baseball team's annual schedule, I snip the printout into weeks and stack them on the refrigerator with rare earth magnets.  Just remove one each week!  Saves LOTS of refrigerator door space.

2.  Storing socks in the dresser drawer uses up a lot of space.  So I clamp mine between 2 cookie sheets.

3.  The easiest way to clean teflon pans is to spray them with oven cleaner.  However, you can only do that once.

4.  You want to clean your microwave fast?  Just put a bottle of window cleaner in there and set it on high for 10 minutes.  The replacement M/W oven will be clean as new!

5.  Birdseed is expensive.  Just visit a woodworking shop to get shavings for free,  The birds will get used to it.

6.  If you swallow a moth, just swallow a few mothballs afterwards and your discomfort will go away forever.

7.  You can make a perfectly good Halloween pumpkin from a soccer ball!  Just put it in a carved pumpkin first.

8.  You can improve your school report cards with Photoshop!  Mom and Dad will be SO proud.

9.  Buy a 3-D printer and put a $20 bill in the input slot.  Free money!

10.  Garden slugs are almost pure protein.  Think of them as "hamburger helper".

11.  Air Force pilots earn big money.  So get one of those computer games and "earn your way to the top".

12.  Garden trowels can be hammered into very workable spatulas!

13.  Online purchases come packed in long strips of brown paper.  Enough glue and you have unique wallpaper!

14.  Wall art is sold by the pound at charity centers.  Load up, it might be valuable someday.

15.  Use losing lottery tickets as coasters in parties.  Claim they are winning tickets too low in value to bother with.  Your friends will be very impressed.

16.  Save leftover paint and mix it all together.  Why pay for designer colors when you can make them yourself?

17.  Kitty litter works when dry.  So dump the used stuff in your dryer and its good for another round.

18.  Secret hint.  Newspapers pay for crossword puzzles.  So save old ones and submit them to another newspaper in a few years.

19.  Calendars repeat after 28 years.  Save them for future use!

I think I'll stop there...  No, I haven't actually sent those, but I MIGHT.  LOL! 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Busy, Busy

It's THAT time of year again.  The best time.  Planting seeds...

But that wasn't all today.  It was one of THOSE days.  Odd jobs...  Things that should have been done before.  I ahd all the cat-cards from Christmas stacked up and Iza trashed the pile.  So I stacked them (and lost some of the addressed envelopes with the cards) and got them up out of her reach.

But she is a real paper-chewer, so I had a pile of wasted printed paper I use for temporary notes and she chewed up those.  I better get her some jerky to chew up.

I tossed her mousies until she tired and wandered off into the bedroom to nap.

Saw Marley and Ayla snuggled up like spoons there.  Naturally, my camera was in another room.  As soon as I left to get it, Marley followed me out.  No picture of THAT!  I keep the camera in my pocket a LOT, but not that time.

Finished enclosing the garden.  I thought I had before, but I saw Marley in it earlier today.  He found a loose seam and was in enjoying the loose soil as a litterbox.  Quite frankly, I don't want my carrots fertilized by cat-poop, but I will sifting it soon for planting.

Getting near time to mow the lawn, so I'll drive the riding mower up on boards to clean the old grass clippings from under the deck, sharpen the blade, and then take out the spark plugs and such to pretend I know what I'm doing while I clean and gap them.  They are always just fine, but I have to look.  You do what you know to do and hope for the best. 

I suppose the mower would work better if it was worked over by pros.  And I know some good ones.  Every few years I go in for an "annual" tune-up.  Maybe next year;  the mower still works.

I think I need to pull out the chipper/shredder and see if I can start it.  Been 5 years since I used it and I have a lot of brambles to get rid of.  I could haul them to the recycling center in exchange for shredded mulch, but handling brambles is not fun.  Easier to shred then here.

Sanding plaster patches on the walls.  2 year old electrical work patches and I've ignored them too long.  You can ignore things a long time when you live alone.  But I will have family visitors some month soon and can't let those patches be unsanded, primed, and painted.

The front door and garage door need to be painted.  I've dithered about the color.  The new house siding is medium green and the shutters dark green.  The doors are white.  Should I paint the doors to match the shutters or leave them white? 

I've had a fantasy about painting that garage door a really weird color/pattern.  Like a 60's Warhol. 











 Kind of daring for me, and my "cat" would probably look more like a rat.  I can't sketch worth a tinker's dam!  Should I dare try?

If my front door wasn't surrounded by brick, I would love to have a round hobbit door installed...  But maybe I can make it look like wood.  Fantasies that will never happen...

The older shed needs a new roof.  I recall shoving 4x8 sheets of 1/2" plywood up there when I was 35.  I can't lift the stuff now.  But cut in half, I could manage that.  And conveniently, I half 1/2 sheets stored in the basement from what used to be the attic flooring (which I can't use for storage now because there is 18" of blown insulation everywhere up there) and THAT would be manageable for the shed roof. 

My azalea cuttings from last Fall before the soil ridge was removed are all doing fine.  Amazingly, 34 of the 36 cuttings (12 white, 12 purple, and 10 red) have taken root.  I'm not sure where I will put them all, but I sure have plenty to use.

Backyard covered with wild blackberries and english ivy and poison ivy.  I hate to use herbicides, but if ever there was a good reason, this is it...

That's enough for now.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Happy Pi Day

To infinity and beyond -

3.141592653589793238462643383279502884197169399375105820974944592307
8164062862089986280348253421170679821480865132823066470938446095505
8223172535940812848111745028410270193852110555964462294895493038196
4428810975665933446128475648233786783165271201909145648566923460348
6104543266482133936072602491412737245870066063155881748815209209628
2925409171536436789259036001133053054882046652138414695194151160943
3057270365759591953092186117381932611793105118548074462379962749567
3518857527248912279381830119491298336733624406566430860213949463952
2473719070217986094370277053921717629317675238467481846766940513200
0568127145263560827785771342757789609173637178721468440901224953430
1465495853710507922796892589235420199561121290219608640344181598136
2977477130996051870721134999999837297804995105973173281609631859502
4459455346908302642522308253344685035261931188171010003137838752886
5875332083814206171776691473035982534904287554687311595628638823537
8759375195778185778053217122680661300192787661119590921642019893809
5257201065485863278865936153381827968230301952035301852968995773622
5994138912497217752834791315155748572424541506959508295331168617278
5588907509838175463746493931925506040092770167113900984882401285836
1603563707660104710181942955596198946767837449448255379774726847104
0475346462080466842590694912933136770289891521047521620569660240580
3815019351125338243003558764024749647326391419927260426992279678235
4781636009341721641219924586315030286182974555706749838505494588586
9269956909272107975093029553211653449872027559602364806654991198...

Friday, March 11, 2016

10th Anniversary Of Retirement

Yeah, 10 years now...  I retired 10 years ago last week.  It doesn't feel like 10 years.  The first couple years were noticable.  The next few were less so.  These days, I have to think about my career life. 

As much as I enjoyed my career challenge (and I really did - it kept my mind busy and I saved my Federal Agency a lot more money than they paid me), it was a relief to stop. 

Some people can't stop working because it defines them; they only think of themselves as what they do for a job.  They have nothing to do other than their jobs.  Not me.  I always had a life outside my job.  I knew too many people who, while pretty poor at their jobs, that was all they had.  I'm glad I was not one of those.

I spent my career going full-out at it.  After my first month as a temp worker, I found I had done all my work one mid day and told my boss.  So I got more.  And the "more" was more complicated work.  I got made permanent shortly after that.  And advanced...

I got moved from office to office, always some duty new to me.  I loved learning new stuff.  It was a challenge, and I loved challenges.  From counting furniture, I went to writing telephone change orders to moving whole offices with all the furniture and equipment and ordering new carpet.  From there, I supported Presidential Commissions and Committees and then Senate and House Members' office.  I went on to inventory the White House assets.  I even got under the President's desk in the Oval Office and Private Study for several Presidents.  I saw Ford's football helmet, and I got a few of Carter's peanuts and Reagan's jelly beans.  I still have a pad of White House notepaper, tucked way in my treasure chest, LOL!

But even that had advancement limitations, so I got into telecommunications management.  That was amazing.  It was planned to be a 17 person office.  But I was the only one hired before a budget cut stopped the hiring.  And for 20 years, it was just ME! 

I wrote the first telecommunications manual for my Agency (General Services Administration - GSA), and received the first telephone call records.  On paper (useless) at first, but then on pre-internet vendor-specific data mag-tapes (still useless). 

I found a company that could read the vendor data tapes on a (then) fancy bit of hardware.  It took 36 hours to process a month's calls.  Then I found how to do it in 24 hours, then, 2 hours, and finally I could get it into something Microsoft Access could read.  After that, I learned to get the data from Access to Excel.

I created an entire procedure across GSA for sending offices their long-distance calls.  You wouldn't believe how many people call non-business numbers.  Let's just say that some employees had private businesses running and some called "naughty" numbers.  I put a stop to most of that!

With the call records available to office managers, I turned my attention to video-conferencing.  My supervisor and I visited all our regional offices to help set up videoconferencing rooms nationwide.  We not only designed state-of-the-art non-acoustical walls, we found ways to to that for ceilings and floors too! 

I designed a spreadsheet that kept all video rooms schedulable across time zones.    I was also dragged around by higher management to other agencies to show them how to red the contractor data in Access and Excel, and also how to use my scheduling system (it seemed simple to me but usually got an "OH!" response.

I gave the office a year's notice of my retirement.  They were shocked; apparently most people just gave 2 weeks notice.  But I wanted a good replacement.  And to management's credit, they acted 4 months before I retired.  My supervisor and I were the interview team. 

From a couple of dozen resumes, we chose 5 and interviewed them with a set series of questions.  One guy was so tightly wound (nuts) that I was looking around for a letter-opener to defend myself.  Another had no apparent connection to the skill set described and his own.  2 others were "decent".  The last one had a sense of both managing a program and relating to customers. 

After she left, I said to my supervisor, "We have my replacement".  I spend the last 4 months training her on the details of my system.

On my last day, my supervisor's supervisor gave me a project and I just laughed at him.  I packed up my stuff and walked out the door.  It was funny.  We had various work schedules, and mine was the latest of the day.  So I was alone in the office that last day. 

I had filled my car with my potted snake plants and personal stuff at lunchtime.  I spent the last few hours emailing my regional co-workers about how great it had been to work with them, and hoping they trusted my replacement to help them as I had.

And then, I walked out the office door turning out the lights as I went, locked it behind me, and drove silently off into the sunset. 

I kept in touch with my replacement and a few trusted co-workers for a few months.  My replacement couldn't handle the work.  I guess it was the right temperment but not the ability to work "flat out crazy".  I was eventually replaced with 4 full time employees.  And THEY complained about the workload. 

From my first year to my last day, I always outworked any 2 co-workers and at a higher accuracy.  Each office I left needed at least 2 people to do my work.

To this day, I am STILL pleased about THAT!  I TOLD them they needed more people to do what I did, and they didn't believe me.  At first...  LOL!

So Happy 10th Retirement Week To Me!

Yeah, I'm bragging...  ;)




Saturday, March 5, 2016

Political Stuff

I'm worried about the Republican Party.  When I could first vote in 1968, I thought Richard Nixon was extreme!  His "Law and Order" platform against freedom of expression was scary.  This was when there actually were liberal republicans (like Senator "Mac" Mathias of Maryland and most of the New England republicans).  I considered myself a Republican back then (fiscally moderate and socially progressive).

Then came Reagan (aka "Ronald Ray-Guns" to my college and young professional crowd).  He was scarier!  Bush The Elder followed and he wasn't too bad (except that he once stated that he didn't think atheists should be considered legitimate citizens).

Then came Bush The Younger.  I didn't agree with him much, but at least he seemed sane (although a lightweight thinker, an embarassing mangler of language, and apparently controlled by that extremophile Dick Cheney.  "Mission Accomplished" and "Weapons Of Mass Destruction" will follow his administration down through history.  His utter inability to judge foreign leaders (“I looked [Putin] in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy" says it all.

And now there is The Donald.  The scariest Republican yet...  The man is deeply disturbed.  A neutral psychiatrist would have a field day with him.  Not that he is the only person like that, but he is a possible US President and that makes a WHOLE lot of difference.  I would try to describe all the problems, but a cat-blogger I visit said it better than I could and in more detail.  Read it HERE.

People think of Trump as a successful businessman.  He isn't really.  And I don't mean that he is a failed businessman.  Its that he isn't really a "businessman".  He is a marketing genius!  He sells his name.  He is like a Kardassian...  When anyone looks inside his enterprises, all they find is his name.  No substance, no product, no employment.  He is like a terrible driver who leaves a long string of bad accidents behind him and escapes them all.

Demagogues like Trump come along in politics every so often.  They usually fade soon enough before causing too much harm.  And there ARE some signs that Trump is beginning to fade as well.  He has lost a couple of State primaries he was expected to win and the next round of primaries are not suiting his style of ideology as well as the earlier ones.  So he may fade like Ben Carson (another lunatic) did in the past couple months.

One can only hope...

But you know what scares me the most?  His followers...  I don't care too much if some individual politician has delusions of grandeur, makes bizarre unrealistic promises, is ammoral, unethical, and changes views  as often as rock stars change outfits in concerts.  It doesn't fool ME.  But it sure fools his supporters.  And there are a LOT of THEM...

It is THEIR existence that scares me, keeps me awake at night, and worries me while watching the news.  No generally decent civilization ever fell overnight, but there was one day when they suddenly "weren't" anymore.  The ancient Greeks were suddenly Roman subjects, the Romans were suddenly bending their knees to the Vandals, the Visigoths who created Spain were driven down by the conquering Moors, the Incas to the Spaniards, etc.

No country lasts forever, and democracies especially are fragile and need constant vigilance to survive.  Demagogues are ever-present, needing only one opportunity to succeed.

Trump has to lose...
The Mob, Adam Zyglis,The Buffalo News,trump, the mob, angry, gop, conservatives, power, authoritarianism, fascism, violence, radical, republican, presidential, race, election, donald, campaign

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Baseball Season Starts Soon

I love baseball.  I understand it better than most other sports.  And I just finished re-watching Kens Burn's 'Baseball' PBS production. 

It "nicer" than most sports.  Many people have decsribed it, but to MY mind, none better than George Carlin.  I won't post the whole statement here, but it's HERE.

I'll paste SOME of it though: 

"Baseball has no time limit: we don't know when it's gonna end - might have extra innings.
Football is rigidly timed, and it will end even if we've got to go to sudden death."

"In football the object is for the quarterback, also known as the field general, to be on target with his aerial assault, riddling the defense by hitting his receivers with deadly accuracy in spite of the blitz, even if he has to use shotgun. With short bullet passes and long bombs, he marches his troops into enemy territory, balancing this aerial assault with a sustained ground attack that punches holes in the forward wall of the enemy's defensive line.
In baseball the object is to go home! And to be safe! - I hope I'll be safe at home!"

"
Baseball is a nineteenth-century pastoral game.
Football is a twentieth-century technological struggle.

Baseball is played on a diamond, in a park.The baseball park!
Football is played on a gridiron, in a stadium, sometimes called Soldier Field or War Memorial Stadium."

And I'll add some gleanings from the Ken Burn's production...

Baseball is the only game where the Defense has the ball.

The is no clock in baseball.  The batter comes to the plate, the pitcher steps off the mound.  The pitcher returns to the plate and the batter steps out to wipe his eyes or adjust his grip on the bat.  The umpire sweeps the dirt off the home plate.  The pitcher begins his delivery, the batter swings.  Or doesn't.  Theoretically, a game could last forever.  And some seem to.

A batter who only hits the ball safely 1/3 of the time is a hero!

Batters "hit safely" and if they round the bags they come "home".  In football (American), they battle their way into the END zone leaving fallen players scattered around on the field.

In baseball, if you hit a home run, you get to trot around the bases at a leisurely slow speed, assured that the fans and teamates know it was YOU who did that.  In football, no one ever really knows who did what to cause a play to work.

And while where is some contact in baseball, it is not routine.  In football, basketball, hockey, boxing, and wrestling, players are pounding each other, throwing elbows, slamming each other with equipment, etc. 

Baseball players have most of their original teeth.  In other sports, teeth are just temporary things.

I can't wait for baseball season to start again!