Friday, February 27, 2015

4017 Bad winter?

Friday, February 27, 2015

I don't understand why everyone around here is grousing about what a bad winter this has been.  I absolutely understand why people to the north and east of central NJ would feel that way --- they've been slammed.  But it hasn't been that way here.

Yeah, we've had some snow fall almost every week since early January, but we've measured it in single digit inches, usually 2 or 3, 5 or 6 at the most.  And in between, we've had enough sun to mostly melt it, so there's not more than maybe six inches remaining on the ground.

Yeah, the temperatures are lower than usual, but I don't think we've gone negative yet, the few teens have been only during the night.  We've had little wind, and lots of sun.

So yeah, it's winter, but I don't think it has been that bad around here.

I don't understand.

Maybe people see on TV  that it's so bad in other areas, so they feel they should have the right to complain, too?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

4016 Hair

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

My hair is getting long.  It's now to my mid-back.  Last summer it was so thick and shiny (ack! no spellcheck on the notebook pad whatever this thing is!).  For the last six months or so, it's been shedding heavily.  The long stuff is getting thin.  There's a lot of new baby hair near the scalp, but that's no help.  Hope, but no help.

People will say to just cut it short and then it will be thick again.

I DON'T WANT TO CUT IT!!!!  (Lying on floor and kicking heels.)

My hair is in excellent condition.  I don't have a single split end or shaft break on my entire head.  I've been so careful.  No heat, ever.  No French barettes.  No bare rubber bands.  No rollers.  No dyes.  No bobby pins.

I've always preferred my hair long, no bangs, and I figure now is my last chance to GO FOR IT!  I want to be able to sit on it before I die.  I want to be that old lady in the grocery store with the hair down to her ass and the hippie headband!


The one complaint I have about my hair is that it doesn't shine unless it's straight.   It has an odd texture, not wavy or curly or straight --- it crinkles.  No other word for it.  Seen against the sun, I have a corona.  So if I want it to look really nice, I have to straighten it somehow.

How, without heat?

I found a way.  Vacuum cleaner!

I sometimes dry it with the vacuum cleaner,  with the doflinky open for a gentle suction.  Not often, just for special occasions.  I happen to have a piece of hose extension that has never been used, so it's clean inside.  Does a great job getting from damp to smooth and dry, without heat.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

4015 Seat up, seat down

Sunday, February 22,  2015

"The greatest of faults, I should say, is to be conscious of none." 
-- Thomas Carlyle --


Toilet seat up or down has never been an issue in any house I've ever lived in, because I have one simple rule that is not open to compromise, and every person I have ever lived with has come to see the wisdom of that rule and agree with it.

The Rule:
1.  Except for when the toilet is in use, the lid is closed.
2.  The lid is always closed before flushing.

The advantages:
-  Not a temptation for small humans.
-  Not a water bowl or drowning pool for beasties.
-  No flush spray filling the air and settling on toothbrushes etc.
-  Seat available for sitting, drying feet, setting things down, whatever.
-  Neat and clean appearance.
-  The Rule requires the exact same effort from both sexes; no one can complain about feeling put upon or disrespected.

Plus there's something inherently ugly and distasteful about the sight of an open toilet glimpsed through a doorway.

I don't understand why the "seat up seat down" argument even exists.  it seems stupid when such a simple solution exists.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

4014 Bacon

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Arthur Schopenhauer: "Every person takes the limits of their own field of vision for the limits of the world."


l got 1.5 lbs. of bacon with my last Peapod order.  I divided it into 6 portions, froze them on a tray, put the frozen portions in a ziplock bag and into the freezer.  (I do that with ground beef, too.)

This evening I cooked up one portion, one quarter pound, intending half of it on this evening's salad and the other half for tomorrow's breakfast.

I ate it all.  Before I'd even made the salad.

I'd never tasted bacon that good! (Or maybe I was just especially hungry for bacon.) It had exactly the right mix of sweet and salty.

I had thrown the wrapper away when I had divided it, and was disappointed that I might never find it again --- and then I found the Peapod printout.

In case I discard the Peapod printout, I'm immortalizing it here, where I can always find it again:
Oscar Mayer bacon butcher thick cut Applewood smoked  24 oz pkg  $7.99

If you know something awful about it, don't tell me.  I don't eat bacon more than once month anyway, so short of it containing kittens, I don't care.

4013 Slow days

Saturday, February  21, 2015

People who are stupid, unskilled, or incompetent are frequently too stupid, unskilled, or incompetent to realize how stupid, unskilled, or incompetent they really are. That's basically known as the Dunning-Kruger Effect.


Did you know that cats reserve open-mouth meows for when addressing humans?  They never meow to each other, or to anything else, or for any other reason.  Just to humans.   It's like they invented a whole language especially for talking to us!  And every cat speaks it.

I've had cats pretty much all my life, and I'd never noticed that, but now, yeah, come to think of it, it seems true.  I wonder how they learn that.  Mother cats talk to their kittens in a closed-mouth sort of "mmmmrrrrrrrr", which is sort of almost but not quite a meow.  Perhaps cats consider humans equivalent to hearing-impaired  kittens.



I'm writing this on my little tablet, because a few days ago the Wifi finder and hooker upper thingy on my laptop stopped finding and hooking up, and finally it simply declared it no longer existed.  As far as I'm concerned, no Internet = brick.   Monday I'll take it in for service.

In the meantime, the tablet (or whatever Sony calls it).  Onscreen keyboard.  switching back and forth for numbers letters punctuation.  Bleck.  I had bought a wonderful little Bluetooth keyboard for it that worked beautifully, but I can't seem to get it to charge this time, so that also will get a checkup on Monday.

Sigh.  And it's snowing.  Again.

I've had a cold that seems to swap back and forth from nose/throat to sinuses to throat only and through the cycle again.  Bad cough for two days, then slight cough with severe body aches for two days, then all fine except for hot throat for two days, then start the cycle again.  No fever at all so far, but today I've got a new one --- my voice is completely gone.  I have nothing above a whisper.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

4012 Southern situation, and Measles

Saturday, February 14, 2015

"Nothing in all the world is more dangerous
than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity."
 --Martin Luther King, Jr. --


Well, Ex#2 was transferred to a rehab facility last Monday.  He was told it was because he's at risk for falling (true, his balance is not good) so he's there to work on that, and he accepted that.  He'll be there for two more weeks.   The place is close to home, so his sister is visiting frequently.  So far, so good.  Daughter is hoping that maybe there he'll learn how to take better care of himself, but I suspect she's hoping for too much.


When I was a kid, doctors made home visits.  Not always, sometimes you had to go to their offices, like for followup visits, but the first appointment for a new illness was often at home.  Then at some point it changed.  You had to go to the office or to the ER no matter how sick you were, drag yourself from your deathbed, call an ambulance, whatever.  People complained, but I don't remember ever hearing an explanation as to why it changed.

People just thought doctors got lazy or greedy.

Well, with the current measles mini-outbreak, I think I figured out why.  The lightbulb flash came when I read a story about a child fighting leukemia who was exposed to measles in a doctor's waiting room (along with a small herd of other kids).  That's why doctors used to come to our homes!  There were a lot of very dangerous and highly contagious diseases around, and in the days before vaccines they wanted a diagnosis before allowing you to spread your infection around the waiting room or other folks.  After vaccines, polio, measles, diphtheria, and so on were of less concern, since it was assumed most of the herd was vaccinated.

There's a lot of discussion on the internet about "measles parties" in the '50s and '60s, where mothers would arrange playdates with kids who had measles (or chicken pox) to get it over with at a convenient time.  Some people remember them vividly, others who were also "there" swear they never happened.  I was amazed that no one arguing about the topic seemed to know that there were two versions of measles when we were kids.  There was the regular measles (rubeola), and then there was German measles (rubella).  Although the are not related, the two looked pretty much the same, fever, red spots, etc.  Rubella/German measles was fairly innocuous (except for pregnant women) and rubeola/measles was dangerous, potentially fatal.

There a pretty good comparison of the two at

I had rubeola/measles.  I did develop encephalitis and was in the hospital for a very long time.  I was young, and don't remember anything except how everyone was so nice for a short time after I returned home, but according to Mom (who, it might be noted, cannot be relied on for any kind of medical report) I was in a coma for a time.

What I do remember is that there WERE measles parties for rubella/German measles. Women wanted to get it over with during a time when they were sure they weren't pregnant.   Rubeola/measles got you and your whole family quarantined.  Sign on the door and everything.  No parties for rubeola.

 I am frustrated that in all these articles about the current measles outbreak, they don't say which measles it is.  With all the excitement, I assume it's rubeola, but maybe not?  Anyone know for sure?

4011 Respect

Saturday, February 14, 2015

"He who praises you for what you lack
wishes to take from you what you have."
--Don Juan Manuel--


I  have no idea what that green quote up there means, but for some reason it resonated with me, so I saved it.  Anyone want to take a stab at interpreting it in the comments?


I found this, and it also resonated with me:

(BTW, I am not an atheist, but there is no human-defined religion I know of that fits my beliefs.)

There's been a lot of discussion lately about violence and religion.  Christians tend to forget that Christianity has been responsible for a lot of violence, too.  Here,, is a pretty long list of atrocities in the name of Christ.  It's enough to turn the strongest stomach.  Christians have no right to criticize any other group.

And the US can't say "Oh, well, that's history, we don't do that anymore."  Americans have a recent history of free-lance lynchings and burnings.  It's still happening.  Like last year in Mississippi.


I've been watching videos shot from quadcopters, and I WANT ONE!  A quadcopter, that is.  But I know durn well I wouldn't use it,  I don't go anywhere interesting anymore, I barely walk at all.  Daughter and Hercules would make much more effective use of one - so I bought them one.  A DJI Phantom 2 Vision+, with extra battery, extra propellers, and propeller guards.

It arrived last Wednesday.  Daughter is not very enthusiastic, but Hercules is thrilled.  He called this morning to say that he read all the materials, researched the local laws, and will be taking it out today for a trial run.

I had told them that there IS a string attached.  I want to see all videos shot with it.  

Thursday, February 05, 2015

4010 Followup from the south

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Well, Ex#2's lab results came back, and he does have (did have?) Stage 1 colon cancer.  Apparently no big deal.

Mentally he's not doing so well.  In the ICU he apparently kept trying to get dressed and leave, so they finally had to strap him to the bed.  Daughter has been talking with him on the phone, and he thinks he's in a hotel. "I don't know the name of it.  The cleaning ladies are nice, but they won't  let me out of bed."

Daughter had a nice long heart-to-heart with a case manager, and the plan now is not for him to go directly home, but to spend some recovery time at a skilled nursing facility, where maybe? they can evaluate? his ability to care for himself.  "The family", his sister and all those other family members down there, have a very strong prejudice against admitting any kind of mental problems, they see it as some kind of unacceptable weakness, a character flaw, so Daughter has to work against them, too.  She's been choosing her words carefully, and that's a strain itself.

In the meantime, Hercules's maternal grandmother, who pretty much raised him, died on Tuesday.  Not unexpected, she's well into her nineties.  The funeral is tomorrow.  Hercules's mother is just plain nuts, certifiably, seriously, the only way she avoided incarceration in North Carolina was by agreeing to psychiatric counseling, whereupon she promptly moved across the country, well anyway she is currently at nasty odds with everyone else, including Hercules, and she will be there.  Daughter and Nugget were supposed to go to the funeral, too, but Nugget suddenly developed an abdominal malady while visiting me yesterday, and she was throwing up last night, and lethargic today (but a bit more chipper this evening), so Hercules left for Pennsylvania today alone.  Poor guy.  Daughter is, I suspect, guiltily happy she doesn't have to deal with her mother-in-law.

The MIL hasn't seen the Nugget in --- gee, maybe more than a year, not since she moved to Arizona or wherever the hell she is now, and I'm worried that since Nugget isn't there, she's going to change her flight plans and insist on coming back here with Hercules.  That may be more than Daughter can handle right now.  Probably more than Hercules can handle.  Likely more than their marriage can handle.  I hope he has the strength to say no if she demands it.

Well, things have been very tense across the street for a while now.  I hope things will loosen up over the next few weeks.

Monday, February 02, 2015

4009 News from the south

Monday, February 2, 2015

"Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove
that the other party is unfit to rule - and both commonly succeed, and are right."


I've said many times that I don't understand how Ex#2 is still alive.

He has actually gone into diabetic crash at least once in the past.  He was warned that he has to watch his diet.  He doesn't.  He subsists mainly on junk food.  Stuff that comes in crinkly bags, you know?  He doesn't check his blood sugar, doesn't even think about it.

He had an old injury to his lower back that messed up the nerves to his lower body, which led to some continence problems (both) all his life, which he never admitted to a doctor, and about two decades ago he landed in the hospital with what they thought was an abdominal tumor, but was discovered to be an enormous bladder - he had become unable to empty his bladder.  They did something, I don't know what, but then they taught him how to use a catheter to empty it.  That was supposed to be a temporary thing, and he was supposed to be getting therapy to learn how to control it, but he didn't bother.  When he could no longer get prescriptions for sterile tubing, he just bought aquarium tubing and used that.  Still is, as far as I know.  How has he avoided massive infection?

He was diagnosed as well into congestive heart failure about ten years ago.  Doesn't seem to worry him any.

He doesn't bathe.  Maybe once a week, if that.  He brushes his teeth only when he leaves the house, which these days is almost never, but that no longer matters because he lost all his teeth twenty years ago.

For a long time, Daughter fussed over him like a mother hen.  She felt guilty that she couldn't "fix" him.  It took me a long time to get through to her that he can't be fixed.  All she can do is stand back, let him be himself, and be available.

He'd been having tarry stools for a few weeks, and I guess someone talked him into a colonoscopy, and ....

Daughter is down there (far south NJ) right now.  She just called to fill me in.  He had surgery today, a laparoscopic bowel resection to remove a tumor on one side and some large polyps on the other side.   Don't know yet whether it's benign or not, but with everything else wrong with him he's not a candidate for chemotherapy anyway.

As usual with him, he went his own way.  They wanted to do another colonoscopy before the surgery, so they had given him three bottles of that icky cleaner-outer stuff to drink last night.  He drank two, and decided he'd rather sleep than be up on the toilet all night, so he didn't drink the third, with the result that he was so dirty in there they couldn't do the colonoscopy.  Sigh.

They plan to send him home Wednesday, Daughter says, because they are severely short on beds.  Daughter originally planned to stay until he went home, but now she says she'll come home tomorrow.


He lives in a studio apartment built onto his (late) parent's big old south Jersey farm house.  His sister, her son, the son's girlfriend and their toddler, and the ex-husband of the sister's daughter, and who knows who else (and I'm not sure of all that, it's weird) live in the main part of the house.  They are there in case something happens, and I guess the sister will be picking him up from the hospital, but they long ago gave up trying to ride herd on Ex#2.

The sister was very angry with me when, after 13 years of marriage, I left him.  I suspect she's no longer mad at me.  I think since he's been living there, she understands.  It's amazing that I lasted as long as I did.

He bought that house from his mother after his father had died and his mother got sick, with the idea that, having no savings, she could live on the money from the house.  She lived in a hospital bed in a front downstairs room for nearly twenty years.  She kept saying she wanted to "go", but she kept on breathing.  I think she was in her 90s when she finally found release.  (I figured as much as she said she wanted to die, she was afraid to.  Afraid to meet her Maker.  Yeah, I'm awful, but she was worse, and I think when she thought the end was near, she realized how much she had to answer for.)

So, what Ex#2 is driving everyone crazy about now, and for the past few years, is his will.  There's the house, and a bunch of money.  He set up a trust containing the house and the investments.  There are all kinds of conditions.  The house is not to be sold - it's to be kept for the use of several family members (those living there now and a few others, three or four generations worth) for as long as anyone wants to use it. It can be sold only after none of the dozen or so people want to live there. Household expenses (including groceries!), utilities, repairs, upgrades, real estate taxes, etc. are to be paid from the trust.  And on and on.

He doesn't seem to realize that there are a lot of beneficiaries of his trust, and if only one person stubbornly decides to continue to live there, only that person will consume the trust.  Daughter asked me if he has some great attachment to the house, if his purpose is to ensure the house stays in the family, is never sold or demolished.  No, he never lived there until just lately.  He didn't move there until after his mother had died.  He should have no emotional attachment to it, except that his mother died there.  I think he just never thought it through. I think he has a vision of "providing for his family, a roof over their heads" in perpetuity.  Paint that in gold with beams of light around it.

For the past several years, that trust has been his sole occupation.  He runs spreadsheets over and over, and has been harassing everyone else in the family to contribute their personal financial information so he can "manage" that, too.  It's all he talks about.  Daughter got sick and tired of his wanting to go over spreadsheets over the phone every week, and I got sick and tired of her complaining about it, so I finally gave her a piece of her own advice - either quit complaining, or DO something about it.  So she told him she didn't want to hear about spreadsheets any more.  

Daughter was originally the executor of his will and manager/trustee of the trust, but after finding out some of the details, she wants out.  It's simply too complicated, and she wants no part of writing checks for household expenses ("I'm not going to write checks for toilet paper receipts!").  Too many ways to get everyone angry.  Recently he agreed to add his sister and his niece's ex-husband as co-whatevers.  The sister has told Daughter not to worry, that the three of them will simply agree that majority rules.  If two want to sell the house, it will be sold.  End of problem.

(I worry that the damn thing might be written such that legally it won't be that easy.  I was tempted to ask to see a copy, but then backed off.  No way I'm going to step into that.  Besides, the sister went to law school or something... anyway, she's smart.)

I simply don't understand how he's still alive.  That household has guns.

4008 More snow

Monday, February 2, 2015

If you find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn't lead anywhere.
--Frank A. Clarke--


It snowed about 2 inches overnight.  By the time I got up this morning, it had turned to light rain.  Slush everywhere.  

Today is a garbage day, so the street was lined with full garbage cans.   I was in the kitchen when I heard a loud bang, hard to describe, but my first thought was a natural gas line explosion, it was that loud.  I ran to the front porch, and discovered it was a town plow truck plowing the slush in the street, and hitting every garbage can the whole way down the street.  Garbage flying everywhere.

Guy oughta be fired! 

It's now 2:40 pm, and the garbage crew is coming by, unusually late for them.  They usually come through by 10 am.  I wonder what their opinion of the plow driver is.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

4007 It was all a trick...

Saturday, January 31, 2015

What's past is prologue.
--William Shakespeare, The Tempest.--

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ get us to buy gas, milk, and bread.

We had snow overnight last Monday into Tuesday.  It was predicted to be a huge blizzard, with this area on the lower edge.  We were supposed to get between 18 and 24 inches.

We got maybe 6 to 8. 

It's hard to tell how much because it was a light dry snow and there was a lot of wall-shaking wind, so it drifted.  One side of my driveway was completely bare, and the other side had maybe 10 inches.

Some people were angry that the weather service had misled us, but I can understand why.  Better to be over-prepared than to be caught short.

What annoyed me was that the past few winters I had been unable to find anyone to shovel my driveway.  This year I was able to contract for the winter with a local kid who now is paying for a car.  He'll shovel (actually run his snowthrower) for an exorbitant price that my sensitive back is willing to pay just to get it done.  $30.  My driveway is exactly the footprint of four cars parked two-across.  

That part is not the problem.  It was that suddenly kids willing to shovel for anywhere from $4 to $10 were crawling out of the woodwork.  I had seven, count 'em, seven offers to shovel.  

Where were those kids last year, and the year before, and the year before? Where were they at the beginning of this winter, when I was looking for someone I could count on whenever it snowed?

The  tax documents and financial statement are coming in, and I got a pleasant surprise.  I have two index-based mutual fund IRAs and a 401K, and I ignore them.  I don't fiddle with them, and usually have no idea how much is there.  But this year I have to start withdrawals, and the amount to withdraw is based on the total in them, so I looked.

Shocker - Since December 2011, all three have doubled!  They doubled their value in three years.  

Piper has a lot to answer for.   I pull about 3% out of my account with him per year to supplement my retirement and SS checks, and yet the total in the account hasn't moved much in the past ten years.

Two weeks ago I got mad, and sent him an email requesting that he pull all of my money out of wherever he's got it, and move it into five mutual funds, preferably no-load index-based, and then leave it there!  No more playing the market.  No more moving stuff around.  Forget bonds, forget money markets, stay away from foreign stuff - go all US stocks.  Keep about 5% in cash that I can get to easily.

Yes, I'll take a hit this year, but in the long term, it will work out.

He went into a panic.  Seriously.  I thought he'd have a heart attack.   He doesn't seem worried about my money - he seems worried that I'm telling him I'm unhappy with his management.  Well, I didn't tell him that, but yeah, I am.

When my ignoring is doing vastly better than his active management, yeah, there's something very wrong.


In case you're wondering, the IRAs are with Janus (research fund) and Vanguard (S&P index).  Very low management fees (less than 1%).

Monday, January 19, 2015

4006 The State Resort

Monday, January 19, 2015

The minute you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.
 --Peter Pan--


In 1967 into '68 I lived near Schwenksville, Pa.  I was living with and trying to leave Ex#1, and temporarily  teaching at the high school  in Lansdale.  (There's a whole story around that period of my life.  Maybe someday....)

The apartment was part of a large old house surrounded by fields.  I had heard that there was a prison just over the fields, but there were trees between, and you couldn't see it from the house.

One day there was an escape.  Lots of excitement, police everywhere, "lock your doors", and so on.

I was thinking about the prison the other day, wondering exactly where it was in relation to the house, what kind of prison it was (high or low security) and so on, so I went to Google maps and looked for it.

With Google maps, sometimes if you click on a labelled spot, like a hotel or resort, you get all kinds of information, including reviews.  So I clicked on it.

I got reviews.  They are funny.  Note the "impromptu activities".

State Correctional Institution at Graterford

3 stars  -  Set in the rolling hills of the Perkiomen countryside, Graterford stands out with this prominent industrialized complex. It is a diversified self-contained facility with many activities to keep guests entertained. Scheduled activities include ping pong, weight lifting, exercise class and book club. Special impromptu activities include hide and seek, man hunt and “you’re getting hotter/colder”. . Short-term and long-term visits can be scheduled through the department of corrections.

5 stars - It's an all inclusive resort for some of the states finest criminals. The experience is second to none, that is why many return multiple times.

Later edit - it's a maximum security prison. They even have a death row, although executions are not carried out there.  A proportion of the prisoners are under 23-hour lockdown, one hour a day out for exercise, only one visitor allowed per month.



Sunday, January 18, 2015

4005 Hands, Furnace

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Is it better for a man to have chosen evil, than to have good imposed upon him?
--A. Burgess, A Clockwork Orange--


I'm having a weird reaction to hands lately.  Whenever I see hands in a photo, or even more recently in a video, my immediate thought is that there are too many fingers.  Especially if the fingers are spread.   I have to count them to be sure.

So far, in real life, hands remain "normal". 

Something weird going on in my brain?


I woke up this morning to a very cold house.  I still had power.  I still had gas - the stove worked.  I checked the box and the circuit breakers were on.  I checked the gas bill and I'm paid up.  But BOTH thermostats were dark and unresponsive, and there was nothing coming from the heat vents.

I have two thermostats, one upstairs, one down.  I have two furnaces in the attic, one for upstairs and one for down.  It freaked me out that both were dead.  Both, at once.  Both?

It took me several calls to find someone who would come out and check, but I finally found someone willing to make an emergency call on a Sunday.  A rainy Sunday.

The problem, it turned out, was in the thermostats.  The batteries were dead in both.  Yes, they do run on house current, and I had assumed the batteries were just for backlighting when you need to see the display in the dark, but apparently not.  According to the service guy, the batteries do a lot more, and allowing them to die can burn out the thermostat.  We put new batteries in, and now everything's working.  (Yeah, I was aware the batteries needed replacing, but I couldn't figure out how to open the case.)

"But, both at once?  Both during the night?"

He pointed out that if the upstairs one had gone out first, with the heat coming up the stairs from downstairs, I might not have noticed for a long time.

...Yeah, I did notice the last few baths and showers have been a bit of a shock when I got out.  With the bathroom door closed (to keep a curious Jasper from falling in the tub; he likes to splash water) there was no heat in there.

Lesson - change the batteries in your thermostat occasionally.

4004 Friends

Saturday, January 17, 2015

"In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."
--Martin Luther King, Jr. --


A few days ago I mentioned that I talk to no one much now  other than Daughter and store clerks.  Yeah.  That's quite different from four years ago in the Hudson Valley.  I was very active there in Mensa and the Albany and Poughkeepsie/Newburgh Meetup groups, and a few other things I belong to.  A lot of going out to movies, luncheons, dinners, hikes, activities --- a lot of conversation.

Here,  nothing.

I checked out the local chapter of Mensa.  There seems to be two subsets of the group.  The bunch near me seems to be overweight male basement-dwelling WoW types who don't much talk at all.  The more interesting folks congregate around Princeton.  They are fun --- but Princeton is a bit of a distance on a busy highway, and the drive just doesn't feel worth the effort.

I tried Meetup, but there are few dinner-and-conversation groups.  It seems to be mostly oriented toward booze, bars, and bands, or very young folks doing very physical things.  All that's left after that is special-interest groups, mostly woo-woo types.  Also, the people are different.  They are not as aware of what's going on in the world, not as well-read, not as intellectual as I'm used to in the Albany area.  They seem pretty xenophobic and racist.  I just don't fit in with any of that. 

I tried starting my own dinner and conversation Meetup group, and discovered that even if nine people reserve a spot at the table, that doesn't mean any of them will actually show up.  That is a major problem here, all of the organizers complain about it, and I guess it's the main reason activities are of the happy-hour type.   Then it doesn't matter so much; if 50 people sign up and 30 blow it off, who cares.

I looked for a volunteer group, like the RSVP (Retired & Seniors Volunteer Program) I had worked with up north, but although there are literally thousands of sub-chapters within 20 miles of here, 99.9% are in NYC.  The few things in NJ are hospice and animal rescue groups, and I know me well enough to know that I have to stay away from anything where I'll get emotionally involved.  I DID find the volunteer tax-prep assistance locally, something I did back in the Hudson Valley, but believe it or not, the classes for that ended January 17.  Today.  Missed it.

Upstate I was also into volunteer civil/small claims court mediation, but there doesn't seem to be anything like here.  


Yeah, I've got neighbors, but, frankly, I'm not into that kind of thing.  I'm actually more than a bit of a loner.  In fact, I'm very much a loner.  I really don't want people who are there all the time.  I guess I don't really want friends.  Not that kind.   I've often in my youth been hurt by friends who, now that they know a lot about you, suddenly turn on you, and know exactly how to hurt you.  I never understood that.  It seems like friendships take a lot of work, and steel emotions. 

I think I got turned off by stuff I saw happen in the upstate NY Mensa group, too.  Like what happened with May.  May and her husband, I'll call him Joe, hosted a weekly Happy Hour in Kingston, with a core group of ten or so people every week.  That went on for like ten years.  And every year they hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for all members without families.   And then Joe died.  The night he died, sitting in his recliner at home, May called me, I rushed over there, I walked her through making the necessary calls, took her to the undertaker and lawyer over the next few days, and so on.  No one else, of all those people, helped her.  I called the editor of the newsletter to tell him to put a notice in the next issue, and he refused, because Joe "was not a member".  I was furious!  Everyone knew Joe!  He was always with May at every event.  Everyone knew May.  How can you just ignore his death!?  How can he not matter!

And then there was NJ.  NJ was one of the founding members of that local Mensa group. She was the newsletter editor for years, and was the treasurer for decades.   She hosted three of the biggest and best annual parties every year, including food and champagne for all at her own expense (and she was far from rich).  Everyone went to them.  Then she came down with colon cancer.  No one knew until we all went to her annual Moonlight Madness party and discovered she was wearing a chemo pump.  When she had to resign her job in White Plains (under threat of layoff) just before her surgery, like three weeks after that party, she asked the group for assistance clearing out her personal belongings.  That Saturday, one other guy (the aging hippy) and I were the only people to show up.  Nobody else even acknowledged her need.  That really pissed me off.

I thought May and NJ had a lot of friends in Mensa.  Maybe not bosom buddies, but still a lot better than mere acquaintances.  I guess not.  Once they seemed no longer useful, once they weren't throwing parties any more, they were pretty much cast adrift.

Let's not forget my experience with FW, she who started out a friend, and ended up scaring me half to death with her demands and accusations.  The one The Man called my psycho exgirlfriend.  She was poison to my mental health.  I made a serious mistake there.   (Actually, she turned out to have problems with others, too.  She had been elected president of the local Mensa group, but was relieved of her duties under threat from national, and ultimately resigned from the group altogether after some unpleasant interactions with others.)

I don't get it.  I really don't.  I don't know how this "friends" stuff is supposed to work and I'm afraid to try.  It's just too hard, and I don't understand the rules, I guess.  I don't want friends anyway.  All I really want is compatible people to converse with occasionally, that's all, and I can't seem to find even that.  Not around here, anyway.

On the other hand, I am perfectly comfortable with my own company, especially these days when my body rebels frequently, so I'm not suffering any, either.

(Daughter seems to have a lot of friends, but I've noticed the friends she has now are not the same ones she had two years ago.) 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

4003 So many women remain lost....

Saturday, January 17, 2015

No man ever listened himself out of a job.
--Calvin Coolidge--


Over the past 15 years I have been able to locate a lot of my classmates from high school and college --- the MALE classmates.  I have been able to locate only three old female classmates --- one who never married, and two that I know who they married.

Women who change their name when they marry get lost.  They get cut off from the past.

I don't understand why young women today still change their name.  Unless they want to hide from the past, it no longer makes any sense at all.  You'd think there'd be a movement among socially aware young women to maintain their own identity.

I don't understand.

There used to be a time when it didn't matter, because women had no identity of their own.  Their identity was solely based on who their father was, or who their husband was.  (Who owned them, basically.)  Their world was very small, circumscribed by men.  Men put their stamps on them.  That's the time that this name-change custom came from.  

Girls --- marry.  But keep your birth name.  If your future husband doesn't like that, maybe you should ask him why before marrying him. Better yet, if he wants that both of you have the same name, propose that HE change his name to yours (it's just as easily done), and if he reacts with horror, ask him to explain why that's such an awful idea, then maybe he'll understand.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

4002 Not the smartest dog

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

I just had to share this.  I love it.

Monday, January 12, 2015

4001 Strange baby

January 12, 2015

"I think computer viruses should count as life. I think it says something about
human nature that the only form of life we have created so far is purely destructive.
We've created life in our own image."
 --Stephen Hawking--


I recently read an article about a woman who went to the emergency room with back and abdominal pain, and one hour after discovering that she was pregnant, she gave birth to a full-term baby.

It happens occasionally.  Especially if you are very heavy you don't notice the belly getting bigger, and large women frequently have irregular periods because fat flattens out hormones.

It reminded me of something that happened when I was very young, probably 10 or less.  It was when we lived in a tiny Pennsylvania village, you know, four blocks by five blocks big.  We're talking mid-'50s ish.  In those days, kids my age knew literally nothing about sex (if you didn't live on a farm).  Babies appeared magically.  Couples on TV slept in twin beds.

There was a shopkeeper - I believe he was the town baker, whose one-man shop was in the first floor of a converted house on the main street.  He owned the house, and rented out the second floor apartment.  Big middle-aged man.  Married.  Lived with his wife and children outside the village.

He rented the apartment over the shop to a youngish woman.  Single.  She didn't seem to have a job.  I don't know what she lived on (although my mother had her suspicions).  Anyway, she was very large.  Had to be pushing 400 lbs, maybe.  I'm not good at weight estimates.

One day I came home from playing and my mother was hopping with excitement.  She was overloaded with juicy gossip, and just had to spill it.  It seems that the woman had been stricken with horrible stomach cramps, and an ambulance had come and taken her to the little hospital in the town 20 miles up the road.  She had been anesthetized in her hospital bed, and a few hours later awoke in the same bed with a baby in a bassinet next to her.  (Remember, this was the '50s.  Women were put to sleep through labor and birth.  No muss, no fuss.  (Also no DNA tests.))  The nurses told her it was her baby, and she refused to believe it.  Flatly.  Insisted that it was impossible.  Screamed until they took the baby to the nursery.  Her theory was that some rich bitch'd had the baby and didn't want it, so the hospital was trying to fob it off on her.  She was no fool, by damn!  Last heard, she refused to take the baby home and was going to sue the hospital.

Everybody in town was laughing.  Everyone knew exactly where that baby came from.  Everyone who bought bread, anyway, and everyone they talked to, which was everybody else.

It seemed that sometimes when you went to the bakery, it was closed.  Temporarily.  When it was supposed to be open.  This being the '50s, air conditioners were rare, so when it was hot, you had windows open.  If you stood on the stoop of the shop, you were right under the open windows of the woman's apartment.  Her bedroom must have been in the front, because as you stood on the stoop of the closed shop, you could often hear interesting and unmistakeable sounds coming from the window just 8 feet or so up.


That's as much as my mother told me that day.  I never heard anything more, and there's no way I was going to ask.  Here it is 60 years later, and I still occasionally wonder what happened to that baby.

I hope the woman wasn't bullied into taking it.  I can't imagine her ever having been a good mother to it.  I can't imagine her ever having accepted it.

4000 Of

January 12, 2015

"A stupid man's report of what a clever man says can never be accurate, because he
unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand."
 --Bertrand Russell--


I seem to be complaining at lot in this blog lately, mostly because these days the only person I talk to other than store clerks and people I do business with is my daughter, and she hates to hear anyone complain about anything.  That's not new with her.  When she was a child and went to spend some time in the summer with her grandmother in Florida, when asked on her return how it went, the only thing she ever said (with an eye roll) was, "She complains about everything, all the time!"  Yeah, old folks do that.  Daughter, however, has the attitude that if something is worth complaining about, you either fix it, or stop complaining about it, and she gets angry if you don't do one or the other.  Ah, the arrogance of youth.

So, this is my soapbox.

My new complaint:

It's becoming increasingly obvious that schools (and home) are no longer teaching proper sentence construction and verb conjugation. I'm seeing more and more lately "could of", "should of", and "would of [verb]", even from people who style themselves as professional writers, and it jerks my chain every time.  I want to scream.

I can almost understand it, because people don't say "would have".  They say "woulda", so I can see where that could become "would of" when written if you don't know any better.  Sometimes, when I'm being purposely informal, even I write it as "woulda".   But I know the "a" is for "have", which is actually part of the verb.  These people don't.

Another very common crapolla is "embarrassed of".  That one I can't figure out at all, can't come up with an excuse for it.  Does that mean you are embarrassed by, or embarrassed for?  That's two different things.  "Embarrassed of" makes no sense at all.  But I see it everywhere, over and over.  Does anyone think about what words mean any more?  

The most recent is "have a crush of [somebody]".  The first time I saw that I thought it was a typo.  I have since seen it several places, different people, different ages.   Again, I can come up with no excuse, and it makes absolutely no sense.  Granted, "crush on" is an idiom (I think), but it's old enough that it should be well known.

It seems like "of" is the go-to word when you know something should fill that space, but you don't know what.

And it infuriates me that anyone who attempts to correct the perpetrators of this kind of crap on the internet is hounded with accusations of "Grammar Nazi"**.  Like, nobody should ever learn any better.  After all, you know what they mean, right?  So who cares?


** I've noticed "Grammar Nazi" is beginning to morph into "Grammer Nazi".  We are doomed.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

3999 - Notes to the World

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

When the end of the world comes, I hope I am in Louisiana.
Everything gets there 20 years late.


Graham crackers are not gingerbread.  Quit making graham cracker houses and calling them gingerbread houses!  That's not gingerbread!  Gingerbread houses take a lot more work and planning.  You cheated, so quit bragging.

Draping and wrapping Christmas lights over and around your pets and then photographing them is not as cute as you think it is.  It's obvious that the beasties didn't entangle themselves, and most of them look embarrassed that anyone might think they did.  And it's not very original or natural.

Bah!  Get off my lawn!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

3998 Stones

Thursday, December 11, 2014

"When a true genius appears in this world, you may know him by this sign,
that the dunces are all in confederacy against him."
 --Jonathan Swift--


Daughter complains that I never let past slights or resentments go.  I remember things.  I even still complain.  I still carry anger toward certain people for things they did to me, especially if those people still don't seem to care. 

Well, yeah, I guess so.  But anyone who claims they don't hang on to stuff like that is in deep denial.  Maybe you don't ever think about that stuff, but it's still there at some level, it's always there, and it affects your actions and reactions today.  In fact, the more you "let it go" (actually bury it, you can't let it go, it's a part of you), the deeper you bury it and refuse to look at it, the more likely it is to permeate your life, your thinking.  

If you acknowledge it, pull it out and look at it occasionally, turn it around in your hands and then put it back away, the less likely it is to spin and mutter and burst out under disguise.  So I think my way is healthier.

I came across a phrase this morning in a book I'm reading, "looking like a dog's breakfast", that hit me in a wave of sadness.  You know, my mother never once that I can remember ever told me I looked nice.  Not once.  Not for the proms, not for the wedding, never leaving the house.  
I always 
-looked like a dog's breakfast
-looked like something the cat dragged in
-looked like a bag tied in the middle
-looked like a rat's nest
-was ok, I guess, with a sigh.  

I'll never forget the time I looked up at the dinner table and saw her staring at me speculatively.  She said, "Your nose is all over your face."  What's a young girl supposed to do with stuff like that?

She never made any effort to fix anything, either.  She acted like it was hopeless.  

Now, if I had accepted what she said, if I had accepted her judgement and internalized it, I'd have been the mess she seemed to think I was, and still would be.  But I didn't.  I knew she was wrong, even then, that the problem was hers, not mine, that she was unfair to me.  And every time I take out one of those gems of mother love and turn it over in my hands, I know it didn't define me, it defined her.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

3997 For Rocky

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A lot of people really think a constitution written hundreds of years ago provides
written guidance to any issue the nation might be faced with.
Then again, a large subset of the same group believes that a book
written 2000 years ago provides answers to all problems in life.
--Olof Ã…kerlund--


Rocky, I'd have put this in the comment on your blog, but I couldn't figure out how without getting Blogger to upload it first (and even then it didn't work).  This photo is over 2 years old, but it illustrates the intersection:
Daughter and Nugget.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

3996 Suicidal Caterpillar explained

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Our elected officials put a hand on the Bible and swear to uphold the Constitution.
They don't put a hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible.
I think some forget that.


A few years ago I wrote a few posts about a plant the Hairless Hunk had given me.  Becs identified it as Jimson weed (Datura stramonium).  Several respected sources informed me that the plant is very dangerous, that every part of the plant is poisonous, and that no animal or insect is known to eat Jimson weed.  But then I found a huge tomato hornworm caterpillar eating it.  The caterpillar was covered with cocoons of the sphinx moth.  (That post is here.  scroll down to the photo of the caterpillar.)  The sphinx moth lays eggs under the caterpillar's skin, the moth larvae eat its insides, and then emerge to pupate on its back.  (Bleck.  How was that moth still alive and moving?  A question still to be answered.)  I wondered if the caterpillar was trying to commit suicide.

Well, the past few days I've been watching a lot of documentary videos on YouTube about plants, how they communicate with each other, how they protect themselves, and so on.  Some people are saying that plants are intelligent and aware, others say no, it's just genes and chemical and electrical, just the way they're built, and so on.  But, uh, look at us and animals.  It's just genes and chemicals and electrical with us, too, but we consider ourselves and animals as having intelligence.  Maybe we need to look deeper into plants and expand that definition a bit.

There was a drought somewhere in Africa, and Kudu antelopes in a preserve were reduced to eating acacia leaves.  Kudus eat acacia leaves normally, no big deal.  But the kudus started dying.  They were poisoned.  It turned out that the acacia leaves being eaten were extraordinarily high in tannins. 

It wasn't  because of the drought - trees well outside the reserve had normal levels. Scientists figured that predation had caused the trees to react by producing more tannins to discourage munching.  Then it got more interesting.  Trees just outside the fence, that had not been chewed, were also high.  So -- it's not being chewed that causes the tannin in those trees.

Turns out that the trees under attack had put out a chemical signal into the air that alerted other nearby trees of the danger, and they, too, upped the tannin in their leaves, even if they had not yet been chewed, and also spread the signal.  

That's called communication.

Back to the caterpillar.  Another video mentioned the wild tobacco plant (which is related to the Jimson weed) and how it produces poison such that no insects eat it.  EXCEPT the hornworm caterpillar!  Hornworms are immune to the poison!  Wow!  Confusion cleared.  That explains the hornworm on my Jimson.

But then it gets weird.  When it feels itself getting munched, the tobacco plant (and, I assume, Jimson weed) puts out a chemical signal into the air that attracts (ta rah!) braconid wasps.  Who (slowly) kill the caterpillar.

Then it gets even weirder.  The wild tobacco plant normaly has flowers that bloom in the evening, and are pollinated by moths.  But if too many of those moths are sphinx moths who are laying eggs and threatening the plant, the plant puts out another signal, and all the tobacco plants in the area switch their flowers to day-blooming long-throated blossoms that attract hummingbirds, not moths.

(Actually, back when the plants "called" the braconid wasps, maybe they should have called a big bird, or some lizards, who'd eat the caterpillars right off.  Those wasp larvae are too slow.)

I often tease people who smugly say they never eat anything with a face with "No, you'd rather tear the arms off a living broccoli just because you can't hear them scream".  Turns out they DO scream.  We are simply not equipped to "hear" them.

Monday, December 01, 2014

3995 Life is ... well, it just is.

Monday, December 1, 2014

"Most people would rather be certain they're miserable than risk being happy."
 --Robert Anthony--


I went up to the old house Saturday morning, November 15, just for the day, just to make sure the furnace was on and that it was running well.  It was 40 degrees in the house when I arrived and turned the furnace on.  I spent the next five hours sorting papers in the big filing cabinets, while the house warmed up.

I found a lot of neat stuff.  Once upon a time, in the old days, people wrote letters - actual penmanship, on real paper.  I had always kept personal letters and cards.  I found letters from my mother, letters from my youngest sister, copies of letters I had written to Jay's family when he was sick, and a few old love letters from suitors, including a love letter from Jay from before we were married.  

I set most of those aside to bring down here. I read the one from Jay several times up there before adding it to the "keep" pile; I'll read the others some day. I brought back with me a large box of paper for recycling, thinking I'd bring the "keep" letters back on the next trip, which was supposed to be later that next week.  

I stayed only until evening.  By 5 pm the house was up to 65 degrees, but I'd had enough.  I was freezing!  Shivering.  My hands were shaking so badly I was having difficulty handling papers.  We forget that it's not just the air in the house that's cold and needs to be warmed, but everything in the house. Walls, floors, furniture, appliances - they all suck heat out of the air (and out of me) until they get up to air temp.  That takes a long time.  So I set the thermostat back to 60 degrees, went to the diner in the village for dinner, and came on home.  I intended to return the next Thursday, the 20th, then stay until Saturday, and sort and pack up some more.

That Thursday morning I woke up and couldn't bend my left knee without a lot of pain, and it wouldn't support any weight bent.  It was fine straight, I just couldn't bend it.  There was no swelling, no heat or redness, no lumps, no tender spots, nothing.  I suspect I'd slept on it funny and sprained or strained something.  The main problem was the knee, but my hip was complaining, too.  (I notice stuff like this happening more as I get older. Side effect of increased wisdom, I guess.)  I was walking like a pirate swinging a wooden leg.  Stairs were interesting, and I couldn't drive because I couldn't use the clutch, so I wasn't going north.

By Sunday it seemed a bit better, but I didn't really trust it until like Tuesday, but with Thanksgiving on Thursday, there was no way I'd be on the highways until ... well ... today at the earliest.  Sigh.

So much for my determination to get moving on that house.  I hadn't been up there since early summer, for various reasons that now sound like excuses, but were really valid at the time - like Hal being in the shop and waiting for parts several times, and a very bad cold followed by a sinus infection, and commitments made to Daughter and to Nugget, and so on.  Not to mention that IRS thing and some other businessy garbage that took time and attention.


Speaking of the IRS thing, I am going to have to have a serious talk with Piper.  He is in charge of my investments, and he moves money around too much in my estimation.  He's always buying this and selling that.  I can't complain that he has lost money for me, but he seems to consider it a game to "beat the market".  He's starting to look like a damn day-trader, with MY MONEY!  Having no particular expertise in that area, it's difficult for me to rein him in.  Well, he was proud that he had increased my holdings by something like 22% in 2013.  Then I got the annual statements from my 401K and my IRAs, which I control, not him.  My strategy is to find the best place to put the money, put it there, and LEAVE it there.  

My 401K and three IRAs all had gains over 33% in 2013.  That's 33%.  If 22% is pretty damn good, then 33% is fantastic!

So next time I see him, I'm going to tell him to find the best place to put the money, put it there, and LEAVE it there. I don't want to see more than three trades a year.  Period.  I'll spoil his fun, and he's going to have fits, but that's it.  I've had it.  Every trade he makes costs me money in processing fees, and I see no advantage in "playing" the market.  My IRAs are in no-load low-fee index-based mutual funds, and they are growing just fine, thank you.  They dipped a little in 2007-8ish, but they more than recovered just fine.  

Actually, I know what's going on.  He dearly loves everything Wall Street.  I don't think he has any other hobbies.  The Market IS his hobby.  His daughter has joined him in his business, and over the past five years she has gradually taken over most of his accounts, the largest of which are large union and business retirement funds.  He has retained his private accounts.  Like mine.  We are all he has left to indulge his passion.  

The other problem is that his buddies are all gloom-and-doom Wall Street Republicans who can't see anything ahead but recession and depression from Democrats (especially when led by a brown one), so he takes their advice and panics and sells off everything before every election.  I could strangle him for that.  Is anyone aware that the economy is just fine?  33% growth in index accounts in 2013?  Yeah, the middle class isn't recovering very quickly, but that fabled 1% is doing just fine.  The rich are getting richer.  Corporations are doing just fine.  

I hope I can convince him to settle down.  I hope I don't have to fire him.  I will if I have to, but it would cost a small fortune to pull out, and I don't know where I'd put it then.  I've met a few investment counselors in the past decade (remember The Ditz, for example?  That's what she does) and I don't trust any of them.  At least I can trust Piper - trust is not the problem with him.  He really thinks he's doing the best for me.  I just don't agree with his political philosophy and management methods. 


Oh, almost forgot.  There was a big storm at the old house the day before Thanksgiving, and a huge tree fell across the top of the driveway.  One of those that pulled the root ball out of the ground.  The Hairless Hunk sent me a text msg plus photo this morning. His wife's mother had died last week, too, so he apologized that today was the first time he'd checked the house since the storm. (Sheesh.  Yeah, take care of your family first, Hunk.  Don't apologize for that.)  He has been rotating his excess vehicles at the top of my drive so it looks like there's activity at the house, and from the tiny photo it looks like maybe his car got hit by the tree.  His note didn't say anything about that.  So, anyway, until he clears the tree out, I don't think I'll be going up there.  I hope It doesn't snow before then, or it will be a real mess!

Why are things so complicated?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

3994 Already?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

"Against logic there is no armor like ignorance." 
--Laurence J. Peter--


According to my outdoor thermometer, it's 47 F outside.

It's raining.  It's 10:45 pm.

I was just out on the front porch, and I noticed that some of those raindrops looked rather large. 
And white. 
And shiny.

The grass and driveway showed just wetness, so I stuck the black velvet sleeve of my jacket out into the "rain" and caught a few of the "raindrops",
and several of them were flat,
and six-pointed.

I feel sick.  I'm not ready for this.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

3993 Squirrel Heaven

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Love is the only beast that bites after it's dead.
(Except for reptiles.)


There's a squirrel who comes to my porch sometimes to beg for peanuts when he sees me outside.  This afternoon, I heard him running through the drifted leaves, but then he took a sharp right turn and ran for the tree on the other side of the driveway.  There was something about the way he was moving that signaled major excitement, not his usual stop-and-go scamper.  He seemed to have some difficulty climbing the tree.

I walked across the driveway to see why, and saw that he was carrying something in his mouth.  Something beige, about half his size.  Something with long dangly things on each side.  Oh good grief - it looked like he was carrying a baby rabbit!

I got closer and discovered that he was carrying a small ear of corn.  The "bunny ears" were the husk.

He was so excited, and so obviously happy, and so determined to get that thing up to the top of the tree.

Somebody may have lost part of their door wreath.