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Friday, January 17, 2020

Marvel VS DC Comics

I grew up reading Marvel Comics.  DC Comics were beneath me.  I once read a newspaper article explaining that Marvel was aimed at college students while DC was aimed at high schoolers.  That may have been an understatement.  I could tell the difference when I was 14.  Marvel all the way! 

DC:  Superman was invulnerable unless he was exposed to some dozen forms of Kryptonite.  He learned to fly by floating with balloons.  His opponents were silly people.  He had a supergirl, a superdog and there may have been other superpets too.  As Superman, he had muscles like a pro weightlifter, but as Clark Kent he was "less built".  He had no personal problems other than women who's initials were always L.L.  His eyeglasses deceived everyone...

Aquaman was a joke.  Green Lantern couldn't handle anything yellow.  Batman had promise in his darker aspects.  None of the characters were actually adults and most had children as sidekicks.

Marvel used to be (I think) "Timely Comics".  They had the worst junk I ever spent a dime on.  I recall a giant eraser smoothing the surface on the Earth until some genius threw paint in front of it and revealed a weerd creature damaging the Earth (the eraser could then finally erase it).  How it followed the creature just behind was never explained).  And one where a creature on a planet grew to control the whole thibg glorying in its power until a human turned on the tub faucet and washed it away to drown.  REALLY BAD STUFF!

But then Stan Lee came along with some broke artists.  The owner changed the name to Marvel.  And he had seen a new DC comic book of heroes getting together (Justice League) and told Lee he wanted a team.  In a week.  The group created the Fantastic Four.  And later The Avengers.  They later created Spiderman.

Te cause of their superpowers was kind of lame.  Cosmic Rays for the Fantastic Four, Gamma Rays for the Hulk, a radioactive spider for Spiderman.  Antman had a shrinking/expanding ray. 

But the point was that they had "problems?  And as teenagers, we understood "problems".  The FF were normal except for Ben Grimm (the Thing).  Spiderman had to hide his powers from friends and family and was a dud (early on) with girls.  The Hulk had no self control. 

Iron Man was at least self-created, but a real jerk.  Sub-Mariner and Captain America returned from some old 1940s comics.  New villains and heroes were created, and THEY had personal problems.  EVERYONE in the Marvel world had problems.  Thor was originally lame Dr Blake who struck his cane in a special cave and became Thor and had to go back and forth (the cane was somehow Thor's Hammer).

Both DC and Marvel had a letters page at the end of each comic book early on.  DC spoke to children; Marvel spoke to adults. 

But I partly wrote all that to say this...  The movies of the DC and Marvel characters are relatively equal in quality.  That's mostly because the movie-makers aren't the DC writers.  Give a telented production team, and they can do almost as much with Wonder Woman or Superman as Spiderman or The Avengers.  But "relative" is not "equal".

I liked the Superman movies.  They actually made a fairly real person out of him.  Batman seems the realist of the DC characters.  But Marvel has really done it right.  I can't rewatch the Superman movies (I can rewatch the Batman ones, sometimes), but I can rewatch the Marvel ones.  And that includes the critically-panned FF movies.  *I* liked them!  Though they really did mess up Dr Doom and Galactus a bit. 

I haven't watched the 2 last Avengers movies.  Cable wants too much.  I may check out streaming on my Amazon account...

Thursday, January 16, 2020

2019 Words I Don't want To Hear Again

Every year brings some new word or phrase and becomes popular on TV political commentary.  Over-used and often inaccurately-used...  I don't want to hear them in 2020!

1.  "Quid Pro Quo" - In Latin, it means "this for that" or "a favor for a favor".  Let's say my neighbor is good at basic engine repair and has a 2 acre yard he mows with a regular rotary push mower.  Takes him a coupe hours.  I have a riding mower I can't get to run (old gas, curburator needs cleaning).  I offer to mow his yard once if he will clean the carburator  to get it running.

We agree and both are happy.  That is a Quid Pro Quo.  But the idea is often wrongly applied to politics.  As in, "you donate cash to my campaign and I will get your law passed that benefits you".  Or "if you don't pass the law I want, my friends will trash your campaign headquarters".

Neither is truly a Quid Pro Quo.  The first is a bribe; the second is extortion.  Those are both illegal.

I did notice that some TV commenters started to realize the difference and started referring to bribery and extortion.

2.  "Inflection Point" - Too many TV commentators seem to use this term to mean "a developing disagreement" or a "change in political momentum".  An "inflection point" is a mathematic term describing a change in a graph:
Image result for inflection point
I suspect the misuse comes from business types using it to describe graphs showing changes in company profits if certain new strategies are adopted.  But those were still graphs.

When I was working in Government, I had a steady stream of higher-ups who were always seeking terms to make them look smarter than they were (and in fairness, some few WERE smart and well-respected among us lower-downs) and grabbed onto to any phrase that was new.  And they loved that the phrases sounded impressive and no one else quite knew what they meant.   "Unicorns, in the pipeline, move the needle, pain point, ladder up", and my favorite, "silos".  The latter means keeping  control over your office functions and information and was supposed to be bad but they all did it relentlessly.

3.  "Tranch/Tranche" - Tranch/Tranche means "a portion of money, a slice, a portion".  In TV commentary parlance, it has lately been used to mean "previously unreleased  information held by a person".  Why not just say "new information"?  I have no objection to foreign words with nuanced meaning being introduced into English (which actually means almost all of them).  Besides, "tranch" is a really awkward-sounding word in English.

Those are my "annoying 3" of 2019 (and they will probably continue in 2020).  Have you any favorite bad ones?



Tuesday, January 14, 2020

A Day in The Basement

I have mentioned cleaning and/or rearranging the house.  You wouldn't believe how little difference that usually makes.  Time spent is like cleaning up 10% after a tornado.  I try.  And while *I* can tell the difference, few others would.

So today was cleaning off the accumulated stuff on the table saw.  I wanted actually USE it.  The rule is that before you can do ANYTHING you have to do something else first.   So I wanted to use the tablesaw that had stuff on it (any horizontal surface collects stuff).  That meant I had to move that stuff. All sorts of gardening stuff.

To do THAT, I had to but them where they belonged on a shelf under the stairs,  But to do THAT, I had to clean the sawdust and junk from there.  And to do THAT, I had to get stuff out of the way.  And to do THAT, I had to move THAT stuff.  You see where this is going...

So I put the damn bicycle I bought (because I thought I would ride it for exercise) out of the way.  It ended up leaning against the fireplace I don't use these days. 

THAT meant I could push a cabinet on wheels into a corner. 

Which meant I could actually take stuff OUT from the understairway shelf to Of course, the table saw.  Progress comes and goes...

But with the shelf empty, I could vaccuum the sawdust out.  Which meant dragging out the shop vac.  And I found stuff in there I had forgotten existed.  Arrows.  Posters.  One was a 70's poster about comic strip characters all drawn together.  Another was even unopened.  I opened it.  It is a map of the LOTR Middle Earth.  Given that it is untouched after 30 years, it is probably worth something.  I have stuff like that all around.

But I cleaned the shelf.  And started sorting out the various garden bottles by type.  I'm generally organic, but I have poison ivy (not organic) and mole repellent stuff (organic). More than I realized, in fact.  The moles are going to have a VERY BAD 2020 here.

And I had cleaned a dozen boxes I was saving because they were all the same size and decided I didnt need the from in front of the internal heat pump part.  

And I have organic fertlizers and fruit sprays (a clay spray).  And finally, I have all my rooting hormones in one place.  3 bottles (I kept losing them).  And several pH sets of test strips.  Useful if I ever get the 8' pond set up again.  Point being that I have too much stuff in duplicates.  Cleaning reveals that. 

So the table saw was clear.  That meant I could vacuum it clean.  And the metal part could use an auto wax...  Since my car never gets waxed, I'll have to buy some.  Maintenance is NOT MY BIG THING. I drive a 15 year old SUV with paint rubs, dents and scrapes.  The battery only works because I have a trickle charger on it.  I could easily buy a new one, but I hate all the stuff that come with new cars.  Tell-tale equipment, auto brakes, internet of things...  I don't want that.

But there ARE pictures...

From left to right, mole stuff, herbicides, insecticides, fertilizers, and test equipment...
The cleaned tablesaw.  And yes it is a fancy one.  I need all the help I can get.
The cleaned area in front of the internal heat pump unit...  And yes that is the cat PTU in red on the right.  I don't dare bring it upstairs until they are all outside.  They panic seeing it.  And they haven't all been outside at the same time.  Some days are like that.
My lettuces under lights...  And some ivy I intend to pot up.
That damned bike...  The tires are both flat.  The sellers tricked me on that, pumping them up just before I bought it.  But it didn't matter.  It turns out you CAN forget how to ride a bike.   I gave it a go and fell over twice.  I need to donate it somewhere.



Monday, January 13, 2020

I Surrender, Almost

Mac and Windows have finally won.  They've beaten me.  They have sent my computer life out of my control.  I don't say that lightly.

A month ago, I confidently downloaded the lastest version of the Mac O/S.  Catalina.  But it prevented me from using my Mac version of MS Office Word and Excel.  Huh!  Well, OK, I'll revert to the previous Mac O/S.  I can't.  It doesn't want me to.  There are suggestions on how to do that on some sites, but I can't make them work.  Catalina really wants to stay active.

I've spent hours on and off for the past week trying to get rid of it.  No luck.  So last night I sat down determined to restore the entire computer to a November version. 

Macs have that capability through something called "Time Machine".  I've done it before.  You go to a timeline of external drive backups, choose the one you want, hit the "restore" button, and you have the old version from that day.

Guess what won't work anymore?  Time Machine.  I spent several hours trying to do the "restore".  On the few occasions I even got the restore button to be active (most times it was greyed out), my password wouldn't work.  Catalina is actively thwarting my attempts...

Mac has moved from 32 bit to 64 bit and it wants you to stay there!  THEY KNOW BEST, after all...  They are creating a consistent world of users that suits their conception of the  future. 

So, while persistence in the past has usually worked, there is evidently a wall I can't get around now.  I've tried everything I can (with an exception I will get to later).

So, I suppose I have with Mac O/S Catalina.  And if you haven't, don't.  Unless you love buying new apps.

One of the things I lose on Catalina is my old MS For Mac Office.  MS Word and Excel are much better than Mac's iWorks Page and Numbers apps.  I do a lot in both Word and Excel that Page and Numbers won't.

So, I said I surrendered.  That means upgrading to MS For Mac 365.  And that means a yearly subscription fee of $70 rather than just buying the program.  I hate that.  The previous version was Office 2008 for a reason.  Lasted 11 years, no problems, cost about $40.  Until I find something really better, I'm perfectly happy with basic programs tat do the simle things I want them to do.

So, I went to the Mac App store to but MS For Mac 365.  It sends me to Microsoft.  Microsoft wanted me to set up an account.  OK.  I was kind of pissed off, so my password wasn't really "friendly".  Nothing "nasty" but It violated some rule.  

So the site said I had to send them my phone number so they could text me a temp password so I could get into my new account and change it.  Guess who doesn't have a smart phone?  And guess who didn't offer me any options to contact them?

THEY (MS) WON'T EVEN LET ME BUY THEIR DAMN SOFTWARE!

And apparently, even if I can figure out how to buy MS Office For Mac 365, it is in "the cloud".

Mac and MS are doing their uttermost to take the least bit of control I had away.

Now, given ALL THAT, I may have an "out".  I have a new mac mini I bought last year because I misunderstood how much RAM I had left on the current one.  And I have the previous one too.  The newer one might not have Catalina.  And I know the older one does NOT!

I'm going to set both up offline tomorrow.  See what O/S the new one is on first.  If it is Catalina, I will set it aside (it may have MS For Mac Office 365 on it and some other good programs).  And if so, I will check the older Mac Mini and hook up the Time Machine external drive to see if it will do the "restore" function.

If it does, maybe I can migrate the old computer  to the current one (not the new one) and keep going from there as I've been doing.

I'm not a computer geek.  For me, many changes are like beating away a crocodile with a baseball bat.  I don't even understand why some changes are made.  Mac Photos is probably an improvement over Mac iPhotos for some people, but I was perfectly happy with iPhotos. 

Photos just keeps saying it is rearranging things (anticipating my desires, I suppose) but I don't WANT it to do that.  If I want rearrangements, give me the option to tell it to do that.  Don't force it on me.  Ah but Mac knows best...  And so does Windows. 

When I was younger, I used to read a lot of science fiction.  Some of the stories "predicted" dystopias where Government or Business would force people to do things a certain way or act a certain way, or people would just learn to all act the same. in the "future".

The "future" is now.

I bet I can get around Mac and MS for a few more years.    But there will come a time when I just plain CAN'T. 

DAMN!




Saturday, January 11, 2020

An Odd Thing

There are fossilized footprints of a family moving across the desert in Australia 20K years ago.  The family strides were normal for men, women, and children.  But one adult male was hopping on one leg.  Trained trackers evaluated the site. 

There were no pointy depressions showing a crutch.  No surrounding footprints seem to show he was supported by others.  He hopped well enough to keep up a regular walking pace.  His footprint was deeper than the others.  No assistance...

I can barely conceive of that.




Friday, January 10, 2020

My Seed Tray

The seed tray I made a few years ago works great.  Holds vials of seeds conveniently and is sized to fit in the old basement fridge.  The newest one is on the left, my first on the right.  Having 2 layers makes the vials stay upright better.
 
Well, it broke.  Gluing plywood on the edges is weak, but I thought it was sufficient.   OK, time to re-glue.  I wedged the edge up just a little, and the other side came loose too.  Broke it.

OK, time for screws!  Not that it is easy to put screws into the edges of plywood.  Plywood is made of layers, screws apply outward pressure, layers separate!  So I used the thinnest screws I had (#4 if you know about that), drilled the largest hole I dared, used more glue (worked for several years and it sure can't hurt), clamped it all together and drilled countersunk holes for the screw heads, and screwed them in by hand until they were "barely tight", but flush with the surface.

That may seem like a lot of effort, but it is SO convenient for fitting in the fridge and for finding a vial of seeds (I have 90 seed vials).  My Dad used to just keep packs of seeds in a box in the garage, and I remember him searching through the box in frustration.  And being in the garage, they didn't last long.

But I got it all back together...
The vials fit through the top, and there are holes in the bottom too...
The sides are both glued AND screwed now, so it should hold together better...
And speaking of the basement fridge...  Here is the insides.  The black bottles are Nyger thistle seed I use to feed the finches.  Keeping them chilled helps them last longer.  I have more in the freezer section.  I buy it in a 50lb bag.  Not because I want 50 lbs at once, but because it is really good quality and I can't get it in a smaller size from that source, and finches are fussy about fresh seed.  The Big Box Store stuff is crap.  They let it sit out in the sun and it goes bad.

The seed tray fits perfectly next to them.  Yes that was deliberate.

Below the the thistle seed is beer.  I use it in place of water when baking bread.  Gives it a "deeper" flavor.

Next to the beer are jars of saved seeds.  I have some "self-sowing" seed flowers of types the bees and butterflies, and hummingbirds like.  But they are not as good at "self-sowing" as I would like, so I harvest dried flowerheads and separate the seeds to spread around in the beds in Spring.  And then I use a rlloer to spread compost over them.  I don't mind "helping Mother Nature" a bit.

My sealed-vial refrigerated seeds germinate after 10 years, when at normal temperatures and humidity, they would fail after 3.  And they are easier to find.  The vials are all numbered and I keep a list in 3 places (a 3 ring binder, the seed tray, and my set of index cards arranged by week of planting.  4 actually, it's on the computer.  Well, the complete disaster would be losing track of what seeds were in which vial.

I had to order more seeds (they do get used up when they last longer), but only 8 of the 90 vials.  And some just never never get used up before even being refrigerated they expire.  Celery comes about 1,000 seeds per pack.  My new oregano packet has 2,000.  I'll never use all those.  I plant 4 celery plants per year, and I only want 2 oregano plants, LOL!

Some of my seeds take a few weeks to germinate and grow slowly (especially some flowers), so planting season starts soon.  I used up my trash barrel of mixed potting soil from last year, so I better find the ingredients soon to make a new batch...

I usually do that in the Fall, but I slacked last year.






Thursday, January 9, 2020

Speaking Of Internetlly Stupid

I order veggie and flower seeds just this time of year.  I get great catalogs in the mail.  Must cost them a fortune...  I've found the catalogs come in 2 categories.  The really good companies and the really bad ones.  The really bad companies offer "the world's biggest tomato" or the "cheapest prices" .

I've been gardening for 50 years.  I can tell the difference at a glance.  But for those of you who haven't, (and I'm not posting just for that) HERE is a website that rates gardening companies...

My point is to say that some really good businesses have REALLY WRETCHED websites.  If I was in the "website design" business (I'm not), I would search them and offer to improve them.  I mention that only for my possible easier use of them.

I ordered this year (as past) from Territorial Seed Company.  They don't have the very highest rating, but the negative ratings aren't things that are issues for me (quite frankly, there are some dumb gardeners out there). 

But their website is hard to navigate.  Most garden sites, you can just type in item numbers from the catalog.  Territorial Seeds doesn't even recognize its own item numbers.  Like they say a small packet of seeds is a "BN047C" and a larger packet is a "BN046G" (made those up just for examples) and you enter "BN047C", all you get is all the bean seeds...

And if you try going for all the bean seeds (beans on a drop down menu), it wants you to look at all beans even though the category says "romano beans".  And you have to repeat the menu for every item.  And if you enter a coupon code (there are sites for coupon codes), sometimes that wipes the cart and you have to staet again.  More than one user complained about that, so I didn't even try for one.  LOL!

Maybe it's a marketing thing.

But maybe someone should fix their website.  Anyway, my order got placed and I will get some new seeds in a week.   I usually need to get about 10% of my seeds each year.  I keep them in specimen vials in the basement refrigerator, so they last years, but I do run out of some each year. 

I'll mention all this to the company, but you folks come first.  LOL!


Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Smetimes It Pays To Complain

Well, I've been a loyal subscriber to my local newspaper for 30+ years.  My "local" newspaper is 'The Washington Post'.  Not the average "local" newspaper...

I got a notice of subscription increases.  Mostly because they have started sending out "special editions" on topics I don't care about.  I wasn't subscibing because it was "local", but because it is one of the top newspapers in the the US.  The "local" part was happenstance.

I got tired of paying $5 for subjects like "museums" or "the subway".  I don't actually go to Washington DC anymore, I just happen to live nearby.  So I emailed them (emails are great for keeping records) to cancel.  I would miss the editorials and comics (2 full pages and I love comics strips), but I objected the the $5 special editions (that arrived more frequently lately).

They replied with a 50% discount offer...  Well, that sure makes up for the $5 special issue nonsense!  I accepted.  I got a confirmation email today.

They didn't make it easy.  Their emails were all "no reply" addresses.  Even copying the discount offer wouldn't work.  And the emails even said "just reply to this email".  Businesses are entirely stupid internetly sometimes...

I had to do a copy to Word, "forward" the email and copy the relevant part (offering the discount), and then add text to say I was ACCEPTING their offer.  Sent it. 

They may STILL be wondering how I did that...  LOL!

Monday, January 6, 2020

Heat Pump

It's working, but getting worrisome.  In freezing weather, it has a frost-thaw cycle in the outside part that usually lasts about 5 seconds before the heat cycle comes on.  Lately, it has been taking 15-20 seconds.  Not much difference, but changes aren't good.  And 2 nights ago, during a cooling cycle, it started making rattling noises.  That's not normal at all.

So, for once, before it heat pump just stops, I called the installer and arranged for a diagnostic visit.  They arrive tomorrow afternoon.  I sure hope the rattley sound is just a loose fan blade of something.  But whatever, I hope it is something easily fixable.

I have bad luck with heat pumps.  They usually die on a friday night on the hottest day of Summer and I have to suffer several days before they can come out to repair it.  Historically, it has needed replacement every 7-8 years.  Once one died in mid-Winter.  I can deal with cold a bit better than hot, but it still isn't fun.  I mean, I can add more clothes but there is a limit to how much I can take off.

If they find something simple to repair (or nothing or major repairs, come to think of it), I can at least get an annual maintenance contract at a good price and I think I will.  Knowing my luck, THAT should guarantee nothing ever fails again, LOL!  But it would be worth it.

I am one of those people who think that anything working should keep working.  It's illogical.  It like with my gardens and flowerbeds.  I keep thinking that, once weeded, they should STAY that way.  They don't.  ;(

The heat pump company gives the general "4 hour" range for arrival.  But at least this one calls a half hour that day before they anticipate arriving.  That helps.

UPDATE:

The heat pump was overcharged.  Over-pressurized.  The technician discharged "enough".   And because they overcharged it initially, all they charged was the visit.  I didn't argue about it.

It was sufficient that he immediately heard the same problem I did (and that is rare), fixed it, and left.  It was raining, and I held a BIG golf umbrella over him while he worked.  That got some good will.

He also gave me some useful advice.  I bump the heat up in the morning and use the a/c to cool down at night.  He said stop doing that.  "Open a window at night and use the fan, heat pumps don't like cooling the house when it is below 50F outside". 

OK, live and learn.  Wish someone had told me that 33 years ago.  My heat pumps die every 7-8 years.  My neighbors' heat pumps don't.  I've asked.  Now maybe I know why...

Friday, January 3, 2020

Gardening Light Stand

I have had my indoor gardening light stand the long way against the wall since I assembled it.  But it occurred to me that it would be easier to water all the plants if it stood out from the narrow end.  So I tried to just move it.  SCREEECH!!!  And my muscles objected.

Metal doesn't move on a concrete floor well.

So my first thought was to reduce the weight.  The rack came with shelves.  But they were kind of flimsy to add fluorescent light fixtures to, so I added plywood.  Worked great, but it is also hard to remove.  I managed the added plywood removal, but the lights were NOT coming off. 

The rack is 4' long.  The light fixtures are 4'+ and bolted in after disassembling and reassembling the fixtures.  I wasn't going to do that.  And the stand isn't actually bolted together.  It has parts that hold it together by its own weight.  It means you cant actually lift it or parts come apart.

So I had to figure out how to hold it together to lift the bottom.  Clamping pieces of wood to each corner in multiple ways seemed like a good idea.  If the parts separate by being moved up, them holding the parts down seemed promising. 

It worked.  I'm not sure whether a lever is geometry or physics, but after I clamped short blocks of wood to the bottom shelf.  I was able to move it 1" at a time.  And there was a pattern of moving the crowbar that worked.

1", 1", 1"...  And eventually, all those 1"s added up and I had it rotated 90 degrees...

Now I can put plant trays in and water easily from both sides and lift them out more easily (the original problems I was trying to solve).

And I had large plastic trash bags on the shelves.  They moved.  This time, as I set them back, I put the shelves IN the trash bags and folded the excess under them. 

Of COURSE I didn't take pictures.  I get involved in doing something and pictures are the last thing I think of.  But I can replicate some of it...

Did you think I wouldn't provide pictures?

OK, first is the clamping.  The one at the bottom crosses the rack parts that want to come loose.  The ones on the sides prevent that.  Clamps were suffifient.

Wedging the bottom allowed some slight movement.  That was the 1" at a time I mentioned above.  I did slowly move the stand 90 degrees.
Then I needed to replace the plywood above the light shelves.   And I wanted them covered with heavy duty plastic bags.That took some work fitting them over the sharp corners.  The boards BARELY fit around the rack.  This is an example of one.  And a cool thing is that I was able to fold the excess plastic trash bag under the shelf, so it stays tight. 
Here is the lettuce trays under the shelf I did today.  The others will be done tomorrow.  One is so tight, I have to cut it in half to fit them back, which is why I stopped.  And it was dinnertime too.

But the trays were SO MUCH easier to water and that was the point.  So I watered them, and it worked great.  I can get at them from both sides now.