Sunday, May 17, 2015

4039 Pill Bugs and Horseshoe Crabs

Sunday, May 17, 2015

I read a lot.  Most of the day, in fact.  But even though I keep buying books, most of them are in the "to read" stack.  Most of my reading is on the internet.  I start with something, and start following links, and next thing I know hours have passed.

Earlier today Daughter asked if we could feed the baby bird pill bugs.  I started looking, and ended up fascinated.  Did you know that pill bugs (a.k.a. roly-poly, sowbug, wood louse) aren't insects at all?  They are crustaceans, descended from trilobites, and directly related to horseshoe crabs.  They breathe with gills. That's why they need to stay in moist areas.  They, along with the horseshoe crabs, evolved many eons ago, when there was more copper in the oceans than iron, so their blood is copper-based, not iron-based, and so their blood is blue, not red.

Birds do love to eat them, but rarely find them because they stay in dark places, and are active at night.

However, pill bugs suffer from a parasite that warps their minds.  The parasite eggs are in bird poop.  When the pill bugs eat the bird poop, the eggs hatch inside them and take over their brains, causing them to go out in the open in daylight, where birds find them and eat them.  The parasite grows in the birds from the larval stage to the adult stage, mate, lay eggs in the birds' digestive tract, and then the eggs are pooped out, to be eaten by more pill bugs.

So yes, we can feed the baby bird pill bugs, but only those captured in dark places.  None found out in the open.

Cool, huh?

(Earthworms have the same parasite, with the same life cycle, but it doesn't take over their brains.  The parasite is dangerous for baby birds because the first stage of the parasite is spent in the bird's trachea, where they grow into wormy things, and then when it gets to adult stage it moves to the esophagus, and if there is a large infestation, it can impede the bird's breathing.  So it's not a good idea to feed baby birds worms.  Which I don't understand, because parent birds feed chicks worms all the time.  Another interesting note - chickens won't touch a pill bug.)
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4038 Stuff

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The baby bird in the bathroom is getting feistier.  He sits and opens up if he's hungry, but if he's full he runs away and hides.  That's good, I guess.

If your feelings about modern art are anything like mine, you'll like the following video.  Seems like today, art is not about craft, or talent, or uplifting beauty, or leading us to see more than a simple picture, it's all about marketing.  About convincing people that this "creation" is art.  Usta be art was obvious, something extraordinary, something I couldn't do.  Well, I don't have the words.  This guy does:


[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lNI07egoefc]

Would you like to commit a murder and get away with it?  Even if there are witnesses?  Even if you confess?  See http://nowiknow.com/the-perfect-crime-scene/.  That article is very short, and has all the info you need, but it contains a link to an analysis by a law scholar that's quite a bit longer, but well worth reading if you happen to be, like me, a law wonk.

And now a list of my latest peeves:

  • It's not free reign.  It's free rein.  Like a horse that's allowed to go where it wants.
  • It's a necklace, not a neckless.  Sheesh!  I'm seeing this one more and more lately.
  • It's a mock turtleneck, not a mock neck.
  • To obey the rules is to toe the line, not to tow the line, unless you happen to be a mule on a canal towpath.
  • Wander and wonder are different words.  Even my SIL Hercules screws this one up.
  • You don't wreck havoc; you wreak havoc.
  • Massive means having great mass.  It is NOT a synonym for huge.  A rock can be massive.  A large balloon is probably not.  And a spat is definitely not massive, no matter how angry anyone got.
It's Mensa election time, and I'm getting emails with candidate campaign statements.  A lot of people have been unhappy with the direction Mensa has been taking, so many of the candidates are promising to change things.  One woman's proposals sounded really good to me, I was ready for go out and campaign for her, and then she screwed it up royally, turned me off completely.  She started a paragraph at the end with the sentence, "If you have a complaint with no potential solution, then stop."  She doesn't mean that if there is no solution, then shut up.  The remaining paragraph made it clear that if you see a problem, don't bother bringing it to her attention unless you already know how, and have the means to know how, to fix it.  Provide a solution, or don't mention it at all.

I HATE that attitude.  Ran into it several times with managers in IBM. 

Sometimes you are in a position to see that a certain course of action is guaranteed to run into disaster, but you are not in a position to do anything about it.  You can see the danger, but you don't have all the pieces to figure it out what to do about it. The solution requires that several disciplines work together to figure it out.  Like engineering, financial, and legal, who each have their own view of the situation, their own goals.  No, you are not allowed to raise a red flag with someone who can take it up the line, pull multiple divisions together.  Nope.  If you can't tell them what to do to fix it, then you are supposed to just sit there and watch the train run off the tracks.  In parts of IBM, bringing up a problem without also supplying the complete ideal solution is known as "Eek-a-mouse".

I really really hate that.

I especially hated it when in the end, the train ran off the tracks, as predicted.
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Saturday, May 16, 2015

4037 Continuation of Post 4036

Saturday, May 16, 2015

I got interrupted yesterday by Nugget coming over to visit.

Walking her back over to her house later, we found a tiny baby bird (still with fluff on either side of his head and on his back, so definitely not ready to leave the nest) hopping down the middle of the street.  No idea where he came from.  The rest of the evening was spent building him a nest box in my spare bathroom, digging worms and grubs for him, and feeding him.  So I now have a bird after all.  Looks like it might be a starling.

To conclude the previous bird stories, the blackbirds gave up on the dryer vent after one got stuck ripping open the netting Daughter had put over the opening to keep them out.  Once it got loose, they never came back.  Funny that running the clothes dryer didn't bother them, but a net "trap" frightened them away.

The house finches who built the nest in the wreath on my front door were evicted twice, and when they rebuilt the third time I gave up and allowed them to stay.  They laid four eggs in the prettiest, softest-lined nest I've ever seen, and just five days later the eggs were ... gone.  I suspect a squirrel got them.  Mother squirrels will eat eggs and new hatchlings because they need calcium when they're nursing babies.  (When you make eggs for breakfast, crush the shells and toss them out on the lawn for nursing mothers: squirrels, racoons, possums, cats, whatever.  If nobody takes them, they're good for your lawn.)  Anyway, the finches haven't been back.

I think the robin who'd laid claim to my patch of front lawn has built a nest in the tree, and may have chicks because I'll see a robin fly into the tree, and then there's an unholy racket of buzzing and chirping.

So, expect future updates on the baby bird in the bathroom.  He eats a LOT!  Just this evening he ate six chubby earthworms, two fat grubs, and about 12-15 medium-sized mealworms before he decided he was full and stopped begging.  That was his fifth meal of the day.  Nugget is happy feeding him, but when he gets full and wants to sleep, she's done.  Daughter has fallen in love with him and will easily spend an hour up there snuggling him.

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So, to continue from yesterday.  Where was I?  Oh, yeah, Tuesday, May 5th.  The Hunk had just put the new tire on my car.  Then I went to the village diner for lunch, and to the hardware store for white spray paint, and a few other stores for some other stuff.  When I got back to the house, I pried the new numbers off the tree next to the driveway, painted a large white oval on the bark, and renailed the numbers.  Now you can see them.

By then it was close to 5 pm.  Still nothing accomplished on the house, midway through the second trip.

I had been trying to sort the crap in the house into "take south", "sell or give away", and "throw away", and I'd been making very little progress because, well, there's so much, and everything has to be touched, examined, considered.  On a previous 2014 three day trip, all I'd done was go through one drawer of the four drawer horizontal file cabinet. This time I just grabbed some garbage bags and ran quickly around throwing stuff in the bags.  I was really being tough.  I even threw out a jade Chinese teapot because it leaked.  I filled two huge garbage bags, and tossed them into the back seat of the car.  And then about 8 pm I sat down in the den for a minute, and woke at 11 pm with my head on the desk.  I was exhausted.  I went to bed.

I left fairly early Wednesday because I have to be south of Newark by 4 pm or the traffic is awful, or wait until after 6 pm to leave, and I wanted to be home to watch Survivor at 8 so that wasn't going to cut it.  I left at 1 pm, and the 2.5 hour trip took me 4.5 hours because of roadwork near Suffern and ... something? an accident long cleared out? ... near the Oranges that both slowed me down to 2nd gear for miles and miles.

But I was very good about those garbage bags.  I resisted the urge to look into them one more time, and they went out with Thursday's garbage collection.

So, two round trips, five days, many hours driving, $900 in hotel, gas, tolls, thermostat, tire, and I have two bags of trash to show for it.  I hope the next trip is more productive --- but I sorta doubt it because I'll be meeting with the a/c man to discuss getting the old heat pump replaced with electric a/c, and I want to go to the SS office up there to get some business handled, since the local SS office down here is understaffed and overcrowded, you can't make an appointment (although the website says you can by calling, but the phone call gets you a recorded message that says you have to appear in person), and on three attempts in person I hadn't been able to actually see anyone ("take a number", wait wait wait, "oops, we're closing now, come back tomorrow", when it's the same thing again).

I am currently collecting SS and Medicare on Jay's record as his widow, but I can give myself a huge raise by collecting on Ex#2's record.  That is complicated, have to show proof we were married long enough, it affects my medical insurance, and so on and so on.  Can't do it online.

I hope no more trees get blown over up there.
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4036 Long time no see.

Friday, May 15, 2015

It's been a while.  Slightly over a month.  Partly because I'd been busy, but mainly because my laptop had been in the shop (which was mysteriously closed for a while).  I have my little Sony notebook, which works just fine for visiting websites and reading mail, and writing short comments and so on, but is frustrating to type on.  Yes, I bought a Bluetooth keyboard for it, but the freakin' thing doesn't want to hold a charge.

Laptop is now back, so I am too.

About the only noteworthy thing that's happened in the past month is that the Nugget celebrated her fourth birthday, and I've been to the old house twice in the past three weeks, both very expensive trips.

Nugget has been hearing about measles, I guess.  She told her father one day that she wasn't feeling well, might be coming down with something, "I think I have weasels."  For her birthday I got her an art easel she can use at my house, the kind with blackboard on one side, white board on the other, and paper on a roll underneath that can be draped over the top.  She went home and told her Daddy that Gramma got her a weasel!

Sometimes it's hard to know what's going on with 4-year-olds.


I hadn't been to the old house all winter.  They had a LOT of snow last winter, and I just didn't want to deal with it.  My last trip of 2014 had been in November, to make sure the furnace was on and to shut off the water and drain the pipes so there'd be no danger of freezing.  I made my first trip for this year in late April, heading up Thursday, planning to stay until Saturday.

It was still very cold up there - daytime high in the low 40s and nights dropping into the low 30s.  When I got to the house on Thursday, it was 56 in the house.  I pushed the thermostat buttons to boost the heat, and nothing happened, except that the thermostat went blank - except for a flashing "low bat".  Hmmmm.

I drove into the village and bought some batteries.  I installed the new batteries, and the thermostat went completely wonky, like digital "8"s blinking everywhere.  But the furnace fan did come on.  It was blowing cold air.  Seems like the burner wasn't on.  Hmmmm.

I went downstairs to check the furnace, and the gauge on the oil tank said it was empty.  Hmmmm.  Maybe the furnace hadn't been running at all?  So how could it have been 56 when I arrived?  Then I remembered - that house is extremely well insulated, and practically the entire west wall is glass.  The afternoon sun can warm it up.

By then it was getting late, sun was low, and the temperature started dropping.  Obviously I wasn't going to be sleeping there.  I don't know what the heck was going on locally, but the cheapest close hotel room I could get was $199.  Plus tax.  Sigh.  Non-scary Kingston motels aren't cheap to start with, and Rhinebeck is worse.

The next morning, Friday, I went back to the house, and it was cold. Worse, it was a cloudy day.  The Hairless Hunk had been removing some fallen trees from my side yard, so loads of logs, his huge trailer, AND a flatbed truck, AND his spare car were parked at the top of the driveway.  The fuel oil truck needs to be able to turn around at the top because the driveway is long, steep, curving, and narrow and they hate to back up or down it.  I can't call for a delivery until I know the Hunk has cleared the driveway, and he has a job.  I felt so discouraged I packed up a few things and went home.  Made my calls from there.

I couldn't go back until the second Monday following, but I got an oil delivery order in the meantime, and made an appointment for thermostat service on Monday, May 4, at 2 pm.  I rushed up river that Monday to arrive by 1 pm, because I had to nail some house numbers on a tree near the end of the driveway, because some fool had run over the mailbox.  The bark on the tree was light gray.  The numbers were 7 inches high, black with reflective white edges.  From a distance of 8 feet you couldn't see the stupid numbers.

Drove up the rest of the driveway and found the invoice for the oil delivery on the front door.  They had pumped $9.32 worth of oil.  Duh?  The previous delivery had been in late February, for 250 gallons, so that means that up until February the furnace had been running, but had not been running since the February delivery.

The service guy arrived.  He said yeah, the oil tank is full, the gauge must be stuck on empty.  The furnace had to be reset, it must have run out of oil just before the February delivery and shut itself off.  Yup, the thermostat was dead, no idea why, sometimes they just fry themselves.  Especially after fifteen years.

I'm so glad there's no water in the pipes in the house.  It was a very cold February and March up there.

The furnace guy didn't want to install a new thermostat.  He was honest.  He said the thermostat isn't covered under my (very expensive) service contract, so the company would bill me $300 for a new one, but I could buy a perfectly good one for $65 at the big hardware store across the river and install it myself or have someone do it for me.  The Hunk works weird hours (UPS), so he was already sleeping and would be leaving for work at 9 pm.  It took me about 30 seconds thinking to say, "Fooey.  Do it now.  I'd rather have it working now than have to freeze here today and spend another night in a hotel."  (The bill has arrived, BTW, and I got a discount because of the service contract, so it was just a hair over $200.)  That's $400 so far on two trips up, in addition to the $100 per trip in gas and tolls, and I hadn't accomplished anything yet.

After the furnace guy left, I went to the deli to get a late lunch, and hit a pothole.  With the BMW.  Split a sidewall, about 1.5 inches.  Drove into the village to meet with Piper to discuss investment strategy, then drove to Rhinebeck to the tire place.  They didn't have my tire in stock (low profile, drive-flat).  They can get it in by tomorrow morning, but that's ok, I can drive on a blown drive-flat at low speeds for like 100 miles, no problem.

By then it was like 6 pm, and I was dog tired.  I poked around at the house a little bit, and went to bed early.  I slept very badly, hardly at all, because the alarm clock no longer works, and I needed to be up and dressed early.

At 7 am Tuesday morning, the Hunk came by to look at some tools I had told him he could have from the basement - a large standing drill press and a table saw.  He's been so dependable and helpful the past few years, keeping the grounds presentable and the house safe, as far as I'm concerned he can have everything I don't need.  He loaded the drill press into his truck, and then said, "Hey, your tire's flat."

BMWs don't come with spare tires.  Or jacks.  There's no place to put them anyway.

The damn thing was down to the rim.  No way I was going to drive it the 10 miles to Rhinebeck.  Now, the Hunk gets home from work about 6 am, works a variety of jobs until about 2 pm, goes to sleep for a few hours, and then back to UPS at 9 pm.  He had mentioned he had a contract in Rhinebeck that day.  I said I was going to call the tire place and get a tow truck.  He said no, he'd just take the tire off and take me and the tire to Rhinebeck - but he wouldn't be able to pick me up again until around 2, is that ok?

The new tire was on the rim at about 11, and I got a call from him as I was paying ($245) for it, he needed to go home to get some tools - so he picked me and the tire up, took us home, put the tire on the car, and retrieved his jack and tire iron, and went back to the job.

See why I don't mind giving him drill presses and table saws?

Continued next post.......
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Monday, April 13, 2015

4035 Shoot Me Now

Monday, April 13, 2015

Daughter came over yesterday and we got the nylon netting up over the vent flaps. This morning I heard a heard a bird in the vent.  He (or she) had either torn a hole in the netting or moved it aside or something, had gotten inside the flap, and then caught a foot in the netting and was fluttering furiously trying to get loose.  Inside the vent.

The ladder was still out there, and I must have scared him dragging the ladder over, because he broke loose and disappeared into the tube.  I removed the netting, and then went in and turned the dryer on to blow him back out.  I don't know where he went or how he fared.

I guess I'm going to have to get some kind of metal screening or something.  Is this an isolated case of birds invading vents?  It can't be.  Are there vent flaps made to discourage birds?  If not, why not?  If there are, why would anyone install this kind, especially with the danger of nesting materials catching fire in the ceiling, or the danger of cooking eggs or baby birds in there.

I don't know what to do.  I guess I'll go to Home Depot and ask someone.

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The Angel sent me a draft of my 2014 tax return to review.  I took one look and freaked.  There had to be something terribly wrong.  According to this, I will pay $0 in federal and state taxes for 2014.  That's zero.  Nothing.  Zilch.  Nada.  I will be refunded every dollar I had paid in estimated tax and withholding over the year.

I don't understand.

I usually pay something between a few thousand and several thousand.  2013 was unusually high, $9K+ for federal, $4K for state, but that was... very unusual.

I dragged out the 2013 return and compared them.  It doesn't look like anything was missed.  The big difference was in capital gains.  In 2013 I had a lot.  In 2014 I ended up with a small net loss (which Piper will have to explain next time I see him).  I fired off some questions to the Angel, all of which he answered satisfactorily except for one $5K itemized deduction I still don't understand.  I have to get back to him on that.

After that mess last fall when the IRS decided I owed an additional $61K for 2012 (I didn't, but clearing that up was not easy), I really don't want to attract attention! Given the difference between 2013 and 2014, I'm afraid red flags will be popping up all over the place.

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Update:  internet search.  Bird guard.  Can buy in hardware stores.
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Friday, April 10, 2015

4034. More bird fuss

Friday, April 10, 2015

Well, I'm still battling the black birds who have decided to nest in my dryer vent.  I have the netting and the duct tape to block the vent, and the ladder to reach it, but it has rained and/or been windy every day.  The few periods of dry, Daughter has not been home, and I don't want to climb that high without someone to "spot" me.  So, there's a towel in the dryer that gets dried over and over, to blow out nesting materials and attempt to convince the birds the vent is not a good place.

Rocky suggested the birds might be starlings.  I didn't think so because they have no white speckles and no iridescence, I've seen them at a distance of two feet through the sliding glass patio door, but the more I read about starlings, the more I think maybe she's right.

Starling bills are yellow in nesting season, the size is right, the tails are right, and starlings nest in holes.  Starlings, when they find a good hole, are very aggressive about keeping it, defending it against other birds and animals, even to removing the nests of others, destroying the eggs of others, and killing the nestlings of others.

These two sure are determined to keep this hole, so yeah, I think maybe starling is right.  This is New Jersey.  There are lots of stories here about oddly-colored birds.  Two summers ago I saw several robins in the back yard with white edges on their wings and tails.  Lots of Super Fund sites around.  Raritan Bay.  Major air and ground pollution.  Outflow from the East River.  Odd coloring is the least of possibilities.
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Thursday, April 09, 2015

4033 More birds! I'm under attack!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

There is a pair of tiny birds building a nest in the wreath on my front door.  When I opened the front door this morning they were hard at work, and fluttered away chirping.

The wreath is a grape vine and silk flower arrangement that Daughter and the Nugget had made for me.  The flowers are very large, so the birds had been able to tuck the nest behind them pretty much out of sight.

There are no leaves on the trees yet, not even any swollen buds, so maybe the birds are desperate for hidden spots.

I pulled the little circle of grass out.  The door opens inward, so when a parent is sitting on eggs and I open the door, the bird would be IN the house.  Not a good idea. I'm kind of hoping they try the porch light.  That wouldn't bother me.
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Tuesday, April 07, 2015

4032 Doves

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Doves have to be the stupidest birds ever.

The street at the country house doesn't have curbs.  The side of the road is gravel. There's a tree at the end of the driveway that every spring releases fluffy puffs of fragile twigs of white something-or-other that looks for all the world like snow. It forms drifts up to a foot deep up and down the road.

We had a pair of doves that every spring built their nest smack on the gravel on the side of the road, in the midst of the floral "snow", just a few feet north of my mailbox. Every day the mailman flattened the nest, and every day the doves rebuilt it. Eventually the "snow" disintegrated, and the doves would give up.

Never saw any eggs.

There was a huge dense daffodil bed close by, and an acre of lawn, not to mention the woods.  I will never understand why they chose the road, year after year.

Update - to the new house.  For the past two weeks, every time I go out to the front porch for a cigarette, there has been a dove sitting on the electric wires passing over the end of the yard. You can tell it's a dove even in silhouette by the tiny head out of proportion with the chubby body.  It sits facing me.  Staring at me or the house. Unmoving. Eerie. It was really starting to bother me.  Shouldn't it be out foraging somewhere?

In front of the front door there's a rubber doormat.  This morning I discovered the beginnings of a dove nest on the doormat, on the hinge side of the door.  You can tell it's a dove nest because it's long fine grasses curved into a circle.

Duh?

How have doves managed to still be here?  Their survivor skills are nil.  They have to be the stupidest birds ever!
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Monday, April 06, 2015

4031 Bird Begone!

Monday, April 6, 2015

There's a pair of birds who have decided to build a nest in the exhaust vent for my clothes dryer.  Birds tried last year, too, but I foiled them by making sure the flap was closed all the time.  It tends to stick open after I've dried a load, so I whack it with a mop handle to close it.

This pair however has learned to open the flap, so when I hear them scrabbling around in the tube, (in the kitchen ceiling), I run the dryer to chase them out, and blow out the sticks and grass they had taken in.  We've been battling for three days now, and they haven't given up yet.

I have some plastic netting with holes small enough to keep birds out, and large enough to not obstruct lint or whatever, and duct tape to stick it over the vent, but it has been so windy I didn't want to climb a ladder.  The vent cover is about 10 feet up, so I have to use the big ladder.

Looks like today is the day.

I don't know what kind of birds they are.  The male and female look alike, both about the size of a robin.  The head is dark black, and the body is a slightly lighter black.  Beak and legs are yellow.  At first I thought they might be grackles, but they're a bit small for grackles, and they have shorter tails that taper to a point.  There doesn't seem to be any white on them anywhere, and no iridescence that I can see.

Any birders out there who can identify them?  Whatever they are, they're pretty smart, but not easily discouraged.
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Saturday, April 04, 2015

4030 Les Nessman lives! And is working in Alaska.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

A town in Alaska, possibly Eagle River, hosted an Easter egg hunt for the children.  They roped off around a paved parking lot, covered the pavement with straw, and then dropped thousands of plastic eggs filled with candy from a helicopter.

What could go wrong?

The minute I realized what they intended to do, I knew it was going to be bad.

The wash or downdraft or whatever it's called from the helicopter blew the straw and chaff from the pavement onto the crowd of children and parents surrounding the lot.  Then the plastic eggs were dropped by the thousands onto bare pavement, where they shattered into tens of thousands of sharp shards.  Of course there was no way to hold the children back, not with all that loose candy out there.  But the candy had been mostly blown into the mounds of straw surrounding the egg carnage.

All that was lacking was a WKRP DJ on a loudspeaker, "Oh, the humanity!"

You can experience it for yourself by going to YouTube and searching for "egg drop gone wrong living in Alaska 137" (without the quotes).

I'd provide the link, but I'm using the notebook, and it insists on using the Youtube mobile app, which doesn't show URLs.
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Friday, April 03, 2015

4029 Alphabet soup

Friday, April 3, 2015

My daughter has passed her exams for physical therapist and has acquired another set of initials after her name.  Daughter  R.M.T., L.M.T., C.P.T. 

R.M.T. - Reiki Master Teacher
L.M.T. - Licensed Massage Therapist 
C.P.T. - Certified Personal Trainer

CONGRATULATIONS, Kid!

(Note that she also has a degree in civil eengineering, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering from Penn State, but she never mentions that.  Yeah, she doesn't use it, but it's still quite an accomplishment.)
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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

4028 I'm still here.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Not much to say. I'm doing next to nothing, except that somehow I still manage to mess up the house and create laundry --- and still can't keep up with it.

That robin I'd mentioned who was hunting in my front yard is still there every day, and he seems to have laid claim to the territory. 0ne day another robin landed on the lawn and was happily hunting, ignoring robin #1, and robin #1 had a fit. He attacked, and there was quite an aerial battle, until the stranger retreated to the lawn across the street. Later, the stranger hopped into the street, and "my" robin marched back and forth on the curb, as if to say "the line is drawn here!", until the interloper retreated.

The cyst in Jasper's throat doesn't seem to have gotten any larger since it refilled after draining, still slightly smaller than maybe a ping pong ball.  But he's still beating up on his water dish, splashing in it and emptying it all over the kitchen floor twice a day.   It's low enough that I'm sure it's not hurting his neck.  I think he's just playing.  But this is a serious problem, since it means I can't leave him alone for even a day (let alone the two or three days to go to the country house) unless I have Daughter come in twice a day to refill his dish.

No, the water dispensers won't work for two reasons - he's so timid the glug glug will scare him away from the water altogether, and if there's somehow no sound he'll just empty the entire reservoir in one play session.  'Tis a puzzlement.

I need a way to allow him to drink, but discourage him from splashing.

Daughter believes in using "correct" terms for everything with the Nugget.  The other day I was at their house and commented to Nugget that she's getting so very tall, she's already up to my chest (she'll be four next month).  She ran over to her daddy, stood close in front of him, put her hand on the top of her head, and said "Yes!  I'm already higher than Daddy's penis!"

The taste of Spring weather was short.  The past week has been very cold.  The township had an Easter Egg hunt on Saturday (Nugget's age group ran to gather eggs lying on the outfield of a baseball diamond --- the eggs were just lying there on the very short grass, plastic eggs with candy inside, it looked like the place had been scatter-bombed --- and of the hundreds of eggs, three contained gift certificates for a craft store.  Nugget got one of them.  But, it was so cold I was wearing a winter coat and a fur scarf over a heavy sweater, and after the egg gathering I went back to the car for shelter from the wind while everyone else visited the playground.

I have fallen in love with PeaPod grocery deliveries.  I'll still go to the store for anything I want to see and touch, like fresh vegetables, but I think I'm pretty well locked in for everything that comes in a package.  No more lugging dozens of bags to the car, lifting them from the trunk, and dragging them to the house.  By the time I finish a major trip on my own, I'm too tired to put the stuff away.  The products don't cost more - in fact they run a lot of sales.  There is a delivery fee and a driver tip, but they keep sending me email coupons for free delivery, and I'm more than happy to add a tip.  And the driver takes manufacturers' coupons that are deducted from the bill before it goes to the credit card.  I love it!

Which reminds me - time to put together something for dinner.  Bye!
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Friday, March 20, 2015

4027 Winter returns

Friday, March 20, 2015

We had a string of beautiful days in the high 40s and low 50s, and today we got a shock. Heavy snow, big flakes, all day. Several inches out there now.

For most of this week there was a small rabbit eating what little green still showed in the front lawn. He was kind of cute because my coming out the front door and standing on the porch eight feet away didn't faze him at all, but if a car drove past on the street, he dove for cover under the van.

There was also a male robin who spent every day scouring the front lawn for munchies. I don't know what he was finding, but every so often he stabbed with his beak, picked something up, and swallowed it.

It felt like Spring.

Oh well, the forecast for tomorrow is 50 degrees.

I hope the robin can manage one day without dinner. Tomorrow should be better.
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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

4026 Forty years of regression

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Binge-watching '70s shows. There were a lot of good ones!
Mary Tyler Moore
All In the Family
M.A.S.H.
Taxi
Carol Burnett (but I could never stand Tim Conway....)
Bob Newhart
Barney Miller
Laverne and Shirley (loved Lenny and Squiggy)
Happy Days (until Fonzie took over the show -- yuck)
Rockford Files
Soap
Flip Wilson (and who didn't love Geraldine?)
... and a few others I don't remember offhand.

The days of real people writing real scripts about real stuff.

Actors with real bodies and real teeth.

That's one thing that struck me --- the teeth. These days, everyone on TV, even on the
"reality" shows, has perfectly even, perfectly straight, perfectly white teeth. It's like a law. You can't be seen on TV unless your teeth are blindingly white.

Forty years ago, teeth were more natural.

It must have changed somewhere about the late '90s, because I remember an episode of Friends where Ross got his teeth whitened, and everyone made fun of him. Now everyone on TV has those ridiculous teeth.
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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

4025. Blasts

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Wind today.  Strong, steady, cold, almost icy wind.  After several days of balmy breezes in the 50s, it's a miserable reminder that winter isn't going to give up so easily.

The cold wind is getting into my house somehow.  Even hurricane Sandy didn't accomplish that.  It may be coming in through the bathroom and laundry vents, I don't know, but when there's an especially strong gust, I feel a draft.

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Between January 1976 and May 1977 there was a television show, five evenings a week, a soap opera parody named "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman".   It was very unusual and very popular.  I was not aware of it at first, watched very little TV in those days, but there is there was an aspect of the show that I can't go into here that applied strongly to my life at the time, and many people asked me, "Oh, Mary Hartman, yeah, is that why you [blah blah]?  Wow.  That's great!"  Well, it wasn't, and I had been proud of being unique in that blah blah, but suddenly everyone was blah blahing, and it pissed me off, since I had been blah blahing since long before the show was even on, and people should have known that. Plus, in groups it was the main topic of conversation, so if you didn't watch it you were left out. I  So, of course I had to watch the show.

I got hooked.  It really was fun.  Unfortunately, it ended shortly after I started, and in those days there was nothing like VCRs so if you missed a show, unless it went into reruns you were out of luck.

Well, all these years later, just within the past three weeks, somebody has uploaded the entire series, some 300+ episodes, onto Youtube.  I wonder where they got them, and how long the copyright holder will allow them to stay.

 I've been binge-watching, all the episodes I had missed, and enjoying them thoroughly, hoping I can at least get to the point where I had picked up the story in late 1976.

What's interesting is that I'm getting some references I suspect I might have missed back then.

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Anyone else out there remember Mary?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

4024 Spring?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Spring is almost here!  I got so excited I wet my plants!

Birds are arriving in large flocks.  They fill the trees and make a racket early in the morning.  I think they're just stopping over on migration, though, since they stay for only a day or two, and then are replaced by a different bunch.

Yesterday I had a flying bug in the kitchen, one of those tiny almost microscopic black things that come through the screens.  Not looking forward to that part of Spring.
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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

4023 Jasper, update

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Jasper allowed me to check his neck this morning.  There's still a lump there, a small one, maybe a bit smaller than a ping-pong ball.  I wish I'd been able to check it right after the vet had drained it yesterday,  so I'd know if this what what had been left or how much it has already refilled.

I guess I'll be finding out soon.
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Monday, March 09, 2015

4022 Jasper

Monday, March 9, 2015

Jasper had a vet appointment this morning.  Given that he freaks out in the car (as in seizures) I was very happy to find that the vet in the van is still making house calls (not in the house --  an enormous fully equipped office he parks in the driveway).

The initial possible diagnosis was very bad, but in the end, it was much better.

You have to understand Jasper to forgive me for not noticing earlier that he had a problem.  He was feral when I brought him home eight years ago. I'd been staying in a hotel near Princeton, the kind of hotel where you have a kitchen, livingroom, bedroom, and bathroom.  He was a few months old, and was begging at an entrance near the parking lot, "performing" by being cute, and sometimes getting food from guest's kitchens, and sometimes getting kicks.  It took me three days to get him to let me touch him.  When I left, he went back to the country house with me, crying and seizing.

He's very timid.  He's never been a lap cat.  The only time I'm allowed to pet him is when he comes to me and asks for it, and then only on his forehead and back.  I am not allowed to touch his undersides, legs, paws.  He doesn't want to be picked up, ever.  He won't hurt me if I do anything he doesn't like, but he will struggle to get away.  He sleeps at night against the back of my knees.  And everything new, strange, or different scares him.  He trusts me, but that has limits.

So, anyway, last week I noticed that his collar was riding unusually high on his neck, practically under his ears.  I stuck a finger under it to check that it wasn't too tight, and discovered that although it was loose, it wouldn't go down.  He actually let me run my fingers around his neck, and I discovered a lump, firm, a little larger than a golf ball, on the underside of his neck.  Took his collar off and called the vet.

I might have been able to get an earlier appointment with a different vet, but that would mean a car trip, and I decided to spare him the stress.  He's eating, drinking, piddling, pooping just fine, his activity level is the same as always, weight hasn't changed, doesn't seem to be in any distress, so I figured a few days would be fine.  Plus, one other factor that I really feel guilty about ---

I think he's had the lump for at least six weeks or so.

Jasper loves to play with his drinking water.  He has always loved to splash in it.  One front paw, then the other, over and over.  It's almost like he's fishing, or washing his paws after using the litter box.  So the water dish has high sides to lessen the splashing on the floor.  But, since like the end of January, he's been fighting with the water dish.  He'd hook it and pull it off the tray.  He'd try to dump it on the floor.  I actually saw him grasp it with one paw on the inside and one on the outside of the rim, and try to lift it.  I read online that some cats don't want the water near the food dish, so I moved it.  Didn't help.  I then put it under a chair, and he seemed to accept that.  What I did notice, but didn't think about, was that to drink, he was standing on the rail under the chair.

When I felt that lump under his throat, I immediately understood.  Reaching over the edge of the dish to drink hurt. It bumped the lump.  Poor baby!  I felt so guilty!  I gave him a shallow bowl, and he's happy.

So, the vet.  He felt the lump, and said that whatever it is, it's wrapped around Jasper's trachea.  And that area is full of important blood vessels and nerves, so no surgeon will touch it without an MRI, and even then probably not.  (His van is equipped for x-ray and minor surgery, but not fancy stuff.)  If we decide to treat it, it would probably be radiation and chemotherapy.

He thought about it a bit, and then decided to do a needle biopsy (he has a microscope) so maybe we could have some idea what we're dealing with.

The needle went in easily, the doctor's eyebrows shot up, and he aspirated about an ounce of fluid.  It's a cyst!  It didn't feel like a cyst because it was so firm.

We have options.  It will fill with fluid again, but we can just drain it again.  The only danger then is infection, which can be handled.  If it turns out that it refills too rapidly, or if it causes breathing problems, then surgery is an option.  Cysts are easier than tumors.

Poor little boy has been traumatized, plus he got his distemper shot which might make him feel a little under the weather, so he's been downstairs for a snack and for some petting only twice today.  Mostly he's hiding out on my bed.

He has no idea how relieved he should feel.
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Saturday, March 07, 2015

4021 The usual NJ Meetup

Saturday, March 7, 2015

There's a woman who lives about 4 blocks from me who is very active in Meetup.  Back when I first arrived here she was hosting a waterfront walk and lunch  a few times a month that I participated in, but the past long while it's been mostly bar happy hours and so on, which don't interest me.

Yesterday evening she had a party at her house.  That's more my speed, but I didn't RSVP right away because, well, I've become increasingly reclusive lately, and I wanted to see how I felt about it closer to the date.  She had restricted attendance to 40, and the 40 slots filled up quickly.

Yesterday late morning she sent out a broadcast email saying that 15 slots had opened up, so I went to the group website, and sure enough the excuses were pouring in.  Family obligations.  Have to work late.  Sister is coming for the weekend. Worried about ice on the drive home.

This seems to be typical for this area.

The hostess, cheerful as always, said oh well, 25 is a more comfortable number in her small home anyway.

This morning I checked again.  17 people actually showed up, and having seen her counts for some of the walks I'd been on, I know she tends to pad the numbers a bit.  I suspect it was more likely fewer.

Even using her numbers, that means 40 people snapped up the places (to make sure they had something to do on that Friday night in case nothing better turned up), 15 cancelled the DAY of the event, and 8 or more didn't even bother to cancel.

I really don't like the people around here.
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Thursday, March 05, 2015

4020 More snow

Thursday, March 5, 2015

It has been snowing all day, about 7 inches on the driveway now, and I guess it's supposed to continue into tomorrow.

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I've said several times that I tend to read literally.

This morning I found the following headline on Yahoo News (famous for hiring high school dropouts to write the articles):

"Family of California Girl Left Brain Dead After Tonsillectomy Sues Hospital"

The way my mind works, first interpretation:
- How does a tonsillectomy sue a hospital?
- The whole family is brain dead now?  What?

It took me about three readings to "get" it.
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Wednesday, March 04, 2015

4019 IRS again.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

I am livid!

To recap:
The IRS had sent me a notice that I owed an additional $61,000.00 in taxes for 2012, which was patently ridiculous.  It turned out Schwab had sent info on trades that did not include the cost basis.  I sent it all off to The Angel, who sent in an amended 1040, which showed that I should actually be getting an additional few hundred in refund for 2012.  I don't know who screwed up, or how, neither do I care, as long as it gets fixed.  The IRS refigured my taxes using the new amended 1040, and sent me a letter saying that I will be getting a check for $121.00.  Why the reduction from Angel's recalculation?  I don't know and I don't care, as long as the IRS goes away.

Ok, that's where it stood as of mid-February.

Early last week, I received a check from the Us Treasury for $127.82, dated 2/23/15. Duh?  Is the extra $6.82 interest?  Seems a bit low for interest....

Last Monday I received a letter from the IRS, dated 3/2/15 (yeah, dated the same day I received it), informing me (again) that I would be receiving a check for $121.00 within the next two to three weeks.

Um, what?

Yesterday and today I spent literally hours on the phone to the national IRS number and the local IRS office trying to find out why the difference, and can I get into trouble for depositing what appears to be an incorrect check (which of course I have already done), and will I really be getting another check in the smaller amount, and if so, what do I do with it?

You will not believe the problems I've had getting through.  There's the usual "high call volume  try again later".  There's the enter your birthdate, month now, two characters, so I enter"10", and hear "must be two characters" along with a kindergarten example of what two numbers look like, but I already know, because I can see the "10" I had entered on my phone's screen, so they say to enter the month again, so I do, and again I see the 10 on my screen, and the mechanical voice says "call again when you have the information", and HANGS UP!!!

I finally managed to get through on something like the fifth try and got on the queue, "calls are handled in the order they are received, so stay on the line, do not hang up", and listened to horrible jangley music for 40 minutes, when I heard the music stop, and a clicking sound, then silence --- silence long enough, about 5 seconds, that the cell phone figured the line was dead, and DROPPED THE CALL!!!!

I went to the IRS website, and there's no way to ask my question there.

I called the local IRS office.  They don't see people in person.  All inquiries are handled by the phone system, which, by the way, has no option to leave a question to be answered by a human, and,by the way, rejected my two-digit birth date and hung up on me THREE TIMES before I was able to get to the part where I could ask (sort of) about the 2012 refund, whereupon I was informed that I would be receiving a check for $121.00 in two to three weeks.

And people wonder why I hate telephones.

And the IRS.
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Sunday, March 01, 2015

4018 More snowy mess

Sunday, March 1, 2015

It snowed again this morning, fast and hard, but only 2 inches worth.  Not so bad ...  except that it immediately turned to drizzle, which has formed a thick icy crust on top.

It's below freezing out there.  How can it be drizzling?

I don't understand.
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