Monday, July 14, 2014

Homegrown Tomatoes

Had our first homegrown tomatoes yesterday. In celebration I give you the Guy Clark song, for those of you I haven't inflicted it on yet.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Face Time with A Bear

Last night it was time to take the dog out for one last chance to take care of any business she had to do. As we headed out the front door Sophie made a funny noise. Certainly not a bark - more like a 'woof' but kind of stifled. I knew something had her going; I had a flashlight and shot out there, figuring I'd get to see a deer. 

I had been about 10 feet away from a bear that had knocked down our bird feeder. I didn't take this picture, but this is pretty much what I saw with a flashlight [of course it was dark out].

I was pretty excited, Sue tells me. The bear thankfully wanted no further acquaintance and was running away pretty much just like you see here.

We also learned Sophie probably will not make a good bear dog. She was not ready to tear into any such critter, thank you very much. If you get the sense that this looks like a pretty good size bear, well, it was really a pretty good size bear from what I could tell.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Four and a Half Hours Against Lies, Stupidity and Cowardice

Google the title, I dare ya. 

But that's about what it came to, several hours anyway, and what I was railing against Hitler-like was the pack of lies, stupidity, and cowardice contained in the modern manual that comes with your purchase of whatever. This time it was a lawn mower.

I figured we better grab a lawn mower for our new house before the grass started growing aggressively, so we went to Tractor Supply Company and picked out a self-propelled model. Their brand, Countyline; TSC treated us well recently about the invisible fence we bought, but that's another story. For the mower, there was a small amount of assembly required, and I haven't fooled with a lawn mower in eons, so I wanted to look over the manuals that came with it pretty thoroughly.

First the Cowardice. The manuals are jam-packed with inane safety warnings. Sure, maybe there are some people who wouldn't know it's probably best not to operate the mower in a closed garage and be breathing carbon monoxide; or need to be reminded. But by the time you've read all the silly stuff such as "gasoline is dangerous," your eyes have glazed over and your not going to get to the advice you might really have needed to read. And the manual is so jam-packed with this nonsense it's hard to find and keep track of the things you actually need to find to put this thing together and operate. It *is* cowardice. All these outfits are scared to death of the lawsuits. "I didn't know my child shouldn't drink gasoline"

Next the Stupidity. After discovering what I needed to glean from the one billion pages of the manual was one diagram and a paragraph or so ... about the only real content outside of the safety warnings ... I was ready to find something about how to operate the mower. I got to that part and it said "drop dead". Well, not literally, it instead told you to go to the other manual. That part is provided by Honda, since the motor is a Honda. And although the other manual committed the same sin of failing to put out a document that was just for the mower I bought [mucho "if so equipped" lines to deal with], the Honda manual was a monstrosity in this regard. It was one manual for 9 different motors [no exaggeration]! I would actually have been better off not looking at this manual. Finally giving up on it, I just approached the mower and tried to see if I could get it going. 

The first thing I see is a tag around a large cap on top of the mower. It says there's no oil in the mower yet, to put some in before starting, and [thankfully] it said to check what you were adding with the dipstick. But I saw no dipstick! I looked to see if it was attached loose somewhere. It's nowhere. Finally I see that this self-same cap has a symbol on it indicating this is where you put the fuel. Wow, due to the stupidity of putting that tag on the gasoline cap, I almost ruined the motor by pouring oil in there! I'll grant you that is stupidity on my part too, but honestly the last mower I remember much about was Dad's as a kid, and that had a fuel tank on the side with a small cap ... just above the exhaust pipe too [Sue can tell you something about that].

No safety warning in the manual about that though. The safety of the motor is no concern of the seller. Whoever heard of a lawsuit about that?

Well, I get the oil put in and the gas too. Figuring out how the lawyer-designed spout for the gas can worked was another 15 minutes of my life I'm never going to get back, but let's move on. The instructions I unfortunately read have a little checklist that includes checking the spark plug. This is shown on all 9 pictures as being on the side along with the throttle/choke controls etc. I peer at this nut that would appear to be hiding completely the spark plug; weird, never imagined you would have so little access to the plug! All it really shows is using a special wrench on the plug at this spot. Well, I figure OK, all I appear to need to do now is pull the cord and start it. Surely the plug is in there all set to go.

So I pull and pull on the cord, nothing happens. Probably now the thing is flooded. So I wait a while, try again, wait a while, try again. Nothing doing. I have to give up and start imagining taking this back to the store to see if they can get it going. But I decide to look over the whole mover top to bottom. Sure enough, in front where none of the diagrams show it is the spark plug with the wire disconnected. I connect it and in one pull the mover is running. Unbelievable!

Lastly, the Lies. The mower operates by squeezing one lever up where your hands are to open the throttle, and squeezing another lever next to that to propel the mover. The cord to start the mower is also up by your hands, so you can squeeze the lever while you pull the starter. This lever is called "blade control". OK, well, it'd be kind of nice to have a lever that stops the blades that handy, yes, we'll even say it is a good safety feature. Surely, though, the engine doesn't stop every time you let go of this lever! Wrong! That's exactly what it does! Are you kidding me? every time I need to let go, the engine stops and I have to start it again? What attorney up in what ivory tower thinks that is going to go on? Without question, I will not be operating the mower without using something to clamp down the lever, no, not even for the first time I use the mower. Well, maybe "Lie" is not exactly the right word for this idiocy, but I will say it is a Lie that what they are worried about is safety. Lawsuits filed by morons is what they are worried about. No one in his right mind would ever go this far otherwise.

One day the Safety Nazis will win and they'll figure out how to do this and there will be nothing you can do about it. Mowing the lawn will mean buying a new mower every other year, as no one will be able to stand an old mower that take a few pulls to get started. As for now, thank God we can sometimes win some of the battles.

Oh, one more 'defeating the Nazis' battle won too: around here I can get gasoline from the Farmer's Coop that is alcohol free. That's about 10,000 times better for the lawn mower motor. We're using it in our vehicles too. To understand what that does for me click here:

Monday, March 17, 2014

Sophie the Wonder Dog

Perhaps you've heard we got a new dog. 

Boy did we get lucky. She is really just a wonderful dog who wants nothing more than to please. Younger than we first thought, due to an incorrect sign at the ASPCA, really still a puppy at one and a half years. An Australian Cattle Dog [probably mixed breed].

As advertised she is spayed, housebroken, and good with cats. I often say Callie the cat could not ask for a better dog to deal with. 

The training we have done with her has gone really well. She learned to sit almost immediately, although the first few times I tried to teach her this command I had to pull her legs out from underneath her. After about a day, she had it down. I suspected teaching her to "go lie down" would take about 3 weeks, but it was more like 3 days. She takes to this very well and sleeps all night in her own spot; I typically get up before her and if it is still dark, she just "sleeps on" till daybreak. Like some teenager, she "ain't getting up yet."

So it is truly Sophie the Wonder Dog. I thought you might need a picture.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Good Car Commercial

Usually I have contempt for car commercials. This one with the two Spocks has to be seen, though. 

PS: be sure to watch the ending. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Modern Things I Hate

*getting a phone tree when you call for service somewhere
*phone trees that require you to use voice only
*devises that unnecessarily use remotes
*but especially devices that have functions unobtainable without the remote
*phone trees that go by voice only, then say "I couldn't understand that"

*but that's not their cue that they need to connect you to a human
*websites that start playing video automatically once you load them
*phone trees that take you deeper and deeper before giving you an operator
*companies that should never use phone trees, that do anyway
*phone trees that will not allow you to hit 0 for operator
*phone trees that gather excessive account information, then switch you to someone without that information, and you start over
*companies that use chat rooms to provide service, but provide know-nothing hosts for the chat room

Just Saying.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Defeating the Nazis

One of the nice things about our new home is having three bathrooms. When it is just the two of us, even, two bathrooms are going to get used on a regular basis. Not only does a person not want to wait until a bathroom is available if that is avoidable, but just the matter of having a different set of towels handy, a razor that is still where you left it. Soap without weird ingredients in the dish. Etc. It would certainly astonish me to find that anyone felt differently, assuming the arrangement is possible. Growing up, it was one bathroom for a family of 5. 

But all was not well in our particular situation either. The prior owner, a contractor who had remodeled about everything, had remarked that the Safety Nazis had pulled off a victory in their campaign to inconvenience others when it came to the shower faucets. By no means did he put it in such a sarcastic way, but he was prompted to say upon some cue that a remodeler has no choice today, the only kind of faucet being sold can not be turned on all the way to spray 100% hot water. This of course prevents someone from stepping into the shower having failed to test the water first, an accommodation that no doubt is expected to save one severe scalding from happening every 350 years in the United States alone. Any vampires out there can keep an eye on the statistic.

For some reason, that was all he said. Sure enough, the two showers downstairs, similar to the image, have some internal block that prevents turning the control all the way over, but instead only halfway. For the shower off the master bedroom, he had evidently been able to monkey with it so that the control could be turned slightly more than halfway, which is fine; but for the other shower, halfway was it. I noticed that the hot water heater was really turned up high, so I assumed this was how he was trying to handle the problem that goes with the un-adjusted controls: the water simply does not get hot enough. Unfortunately even having the hot water turned up very high did not solve the problem for shower #2. During the winter especially, this was turning into an unpleasant fact. Showering there meant a cold shower on a cold day. I would sometimes force myself to admit that if you stuck your hand into the spray, it did feel somewhat lukewarm, meaning I could summon up the gumption to go ahead with it. But, nope, for the rest of the body, it was a cold shock. If you've ever swam in a cold swimming hole, you'll be able to relate to how a person eventually doesn't notice the cold, and how this is much more tolerable in the summer! But I was lining up a plumber, friends, and, yes, many times I just used the other shower.

For six months this was the status quo for this shower. Then one recent day I'm showering and accidentally bump the control in this shower. I braced myself for a cold blast while turning the knob back as fast as I can; but then I noticed. The shower got warmer, not colder. What? I test it again. Yep, by turning it towards 'off' it gets warmer, too warm in fact. Holy Cow! The contractor just reversed the hot and cold hook-up! Ingenious!

Sue and I are still laughing about this one. I'm trying to think why the guy didn't tell me what he had done. Perhaps he started to, and got interrupted. Or maybe he thought I would be able to tell [no, and I don't feel bad about this one, it's just not something you investigate unless you suspect such a thing].

In the meantime, life has improved in our humble abode.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Fish and Pawpaws, Can't Beat It!

From the Maury river behind the house. Haven't had a bad day fishing yet, although 'big' fish is not the scene.

Pawpaws: after thinking about it only a second, I knew the fruit Sue and I saw were pawpaws. This although I do not remember the circumstances of some 45 years ago when I must have first learned what they were, probably from Dad. He probably picked them up, knowing what they were,  and showed them to me -  but I know we didnt eat them.

I have a book on edible plants and the trick [which Dad probably was unsure of, if it was indeed him] was to let them ripen and don't eat the skin. They are full of these big seeds, which means you spit the seeds out [the fruit kind of clings to the seeds]. It seems to be the sort of thing you eat maybe one of at a time. Very tasty! The whole business is a lot like persimmons, it seems, what with needing to ripen and being undesirable till that point, but they taste and smell like bananas. 

Of course I had to go back and get some more [while fishing]. So this is what I have been up to while it's too hot for hunting. 

 The shotgun shell is for size perspective.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

DVR cont.

Hey everybody, they have this new device where you turn it on and they send pictures to you over the air! "Television!"

OK, unintentionally my last post might have sounded like that to some, a guy eager to tell everybody about something new to him, foolishly assuming that it was new to everybody. Well, I knew better than that and I regret the blog post came across sounding like that. For the record, the article at Wikipedia says "Consumer digital video recorders ReplayTV and TiVo were launched at the 1999 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas."

True, I was writing in part to someone I expected to read it who said he didn't have a DVR yet. But I was also writing in part to indicate how I almost immediately started using DVR differently than VCR, wondering if I would get feedback with others who might say the same. And of course I especially was wondering if anyone was using it to watch sports the same way I am now doing. The feedback I in fact did get would seem to indicate that there must be plenty of folks who merely use it the way they used to use their old VCR. I haven't seen any data on what percentages of people now have a DVR or DVR service, and how many just use it like a VCR. It would be interesting. 

Bearing in mind that I expected to someday possibly have DVR, for whatever reason I can't say that I was ever running across articles, or programs, or conversations about what it was like to have one. So here is such a conversation for what it is worth. 

Watching NFL games with the DVR is underway for me. Observations:

*Special set-up to include overtime is essential. With the service we have, you can set-up to record with one click; it gives an option to add 30 minutes. This is not enough sometimes to do full regulation time, so it means learning to do your own set-up.

*It does seem more important to use the recording in a way such that you catch up with real-time by some point in the 4th quarter; it's just harder to avoid news of the final score with football. Note that to be able to do this really is a unique ability afforded by DVR.

*Waiting a bit over an hour to begin viewing the game you are recording is not too much. There is easily just as much game delay and certainly as many or more commercials as in baseball. I am experimenting with waiting even longer.

*It occurs to you that you don't need to wait around for the refs to go through the full penalty process. Punts that likely will result in "fair catch" can be blown through fast with an eye to go back if needed [so easy to do]; with the new rules, more kick-offs go too far back to bring out as well. Surprises in extra point attempts will be discovered checking on the score in the next phase. Needless to say, interminable zebra conferences get the complete axe. 

*I watched three games Sunday. One game in particular I blew through pretty fast, granting that when you do this perhaps it is not too much different from creating your own highlight reel. A complete one though, without prematurely learning the final score! One game of the three I watched pretty thoroughly and I think this will be typical for me. 

It sometimes occurs to me that I am over-using the remote to skip too quickly through the game, and I will put it down then. I'm not going to sit through commercials, but otherwise there is an element of spoiling a game rather than enjoying it if you don't look out. On the other hand, sometimes the choice is blowing through all slow elements or going back to just watching bits and pieces of the game. Time just does not allow watching that much sports for me, that I can watch full game after full game. As with cutting out intervals between pitches in baseball, in football you can cut out the huddle time. It is a little harder to get this right, replays are shown constantly with this game. You need to get used to the rhythm of each team, it seems.

PS: I set up to record and waited 90 minutes to start watching Patriots/Jets Thursday 9-12-13. I got to the very end of the 4th quarter for real-time catch-up by just skipping commercials and challenges-dead-time etc. I fast-forwarded through punts and kick-offs but slowly enough that I could check to see if those were returned or not; this works well as commercials usually follow and the fast-forward can then be speeded up. I put down the remote for all other parts of the game and watched every play. 

I'd say an hour and 15 minutes is probably about right, games will vary and I think you want to catch up with real time for sure on late games [otherwise plan to finish the next day].

Sunday, September 1, 2013

How to Watch Sports in Modern Times

With our current set up we now have Digital Video Recorder [DVR] service through our satellite provider. Although I realized it was an improvement over the VCR, I did not realize the difference would be so great that essentially we have been launched into a new universe. Although there is a learning curve with it and the remote that is needed, it is actually easier to use overall than a VCR. More importantly, it just does more things and does them more efficiently. You can record at least two things at once and watch a third - and play something you recorded on another TV while the other TV plays something else. The amount you can record is enormous. Really, you get hooked and start to think of the old VCR like you think of your old typewriter. I just got caught up with hooking up things and we now have the DVD/CD/XM players going; and the VCR. But the latter is now just set up to play, not record.

It has changed the way I want to watch TV. You sit there while a commercial comes on and all of a sudden it hits you, "I can just record this by pushing a button, watch something else for a while, even read!" After a suitable length of time you start watching the show again, but this time blowing through the ads. You wind up at the end of the program at the same time as usual. It's great!

I am definitely watching more sports, and watching them differently. It's probably fair to say in my life I had gotten to where I wasn't really watching sports. Oh, I'd tune in once in a while for an inning or two of baseball, maybe the first and fourth quarter of an interesting NFL game, parts of a NHL contest. Enjoyment came with this, and I can even say I can get into the relaxed pace of baseball [it requires an adjustment after hockey season!] But three or more hours devoted to watching sports had gotten to be really too much for me. Living on the East coast, I have come to realize, meant often not staying up to watch who won prime time events as well. This situation held for me when working full time, part time, and when not working at all. I was just not going to spend that much time and then say, as Woody Paige quipped recently, gee I was watching some commercials and a football game broke out for a while!

Baseball is what I've been experimenting with so far. Here's the formula,

*set it up to record 6 hours to catch any extra innings. Again, capacity for DVR is enormous. Record any and all you have any notion to do.
*don't even start watching at first; about one hour should go by, not necessarily more, ideally.
*tune in and watch the first inning or two completely to catch up with the pitchers, current stats for the players, and some team news as the announcers slowly disgorge that. Skip only the commercials.
*innings 3-6 watch unitl the first 2 outs of each half-inning, and if no one is on base and the pitcher seems to be in control, fast forward through the action and the batch of commercials to the next team's at-bat. If you missed some scoring, you will be able to tell, and also if you don't f-forward too fast you can see the bases get loaded by the graphic, and go back.
*in these middle innings it should be also possible to skip other slow moments, such as when for some mysterious reason the batter or the pitcher is still not ready. If a pitcher is especially slow, you can f-forward slowly and when you see the batter look at the pitcher or the pitcher look at the catcher's signals, you know it's time to go back to normal speed for a pitch.
*by the 7th inning, pitchers may change [that means a commercial break to blow through], often other line-up changes, and a more interesting part of the game. Especially if the latter is holding up, go back to watching each pitch. 
*If you've been using up your bought time ideally,  you get caught up with real time about by the end of the 8th inning. You get a hint of where you are with a graphic that comes up when you use the controls too.
*If you don't get a chance to start watching until the game is into later innings, it's just time to accelerate all of this to get to the 7th or 8th innings. You can keep an eye out for action and stop and 'rewind'  too, by looking at the graphics and the score. This is just as well since there are so many baseball games; I'm wondering if especially with football you might just wait to watch until the next day. Ironically, this also means there is more risk you will accidentally be told the final score prematurely, though. 
*Extra innings? I prefer to finish up the next day, especially on evening games.

Bear in mind also you can still do the opposite of skipping, and instead repeat good plays or events that were accidentally missed, etc. This just buys you more time to skip what you'd like to skip. It never happened with a VCR, but I start to think of the DVR as my time machine. Sometimes you have to be reminded that you can only view the past. For example, it doesn't buy you anything to freeze the action during commercials, you might as well just use the mute button. You can only 'buy' time when you freeze action that you are actually going to watch later. On the other hand, when you repeat events, you've bought something your 'time machine' can use. 

Now some fans who watch entire baseball games might be critical of some of the above, assuming that person still exists. The thing is, I am now really watching baseball games, not little bits of them and trying to keep up interest by getting the highlights and final scores later. I hope to be able to watch football, baseball, and hockey when all three are going at the same time! That, friends, is going to be a challenge! DVR service is the only thing that might make it possible

Any program that can still be enjoyed the next day, Sue and I pretty much just go ahead and record. Even just a program that starts earlier in the day than we will want to start watching, that also is well worth recording. With DVR, recording just a small portion before watching, while the real time show is still going on, is not only possible but something you find yourself doing all the time.

A final note: At one time it looked like TiVo was going to accomplish the "Kleenex" feat and become the name people were going to use for this ability to record without tape. It even became a verb for a while! I think it is because the cable and satellite services started offering the service without having to buy a device to hook up that this usage is almost gone. TiVo is still around and continuing to be innovative, though, it seems.