Saturday, March 29, 2008

1745 Pains & Platinum

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Hugh Prather, Notes to Myself: "If the desire to write is not accompanied by actual writing, then the desire is not to write."


I did something to my left foot, maybe I slept with it twisted or something. It's got a constant ache in the instep, hurts a little when I walk on it, and hurts like hell when I hold it out in front of me and tip the sole out to the right or left. I don't understand why the instep should hurt so badly when I bend the ankle. I can't wear a shoe that goes over the instep. All very annoying.

Later: Now my right shoulder aches, too, in the front of the joint. When I woke this morning, the bedlight was still on, and I had crossword puzzle imprinted on my face and a pencil dent in my chest, so I guess I did sleep wrong. Sigh. Maybe I should go back to bed and start over.


There was a program about platinum on PBS this morning. I learned some interesting things. Platinum was unknown to Eurasians until it was discovered by the conquistadors in the gold mines of Central America. But platinum wasn't useful because there was no way to melt it. The technology didn't exist to create the ultra-high temperatures necessary until 1751.

It takes 10 tons of ore to produce 1 ounce of platinum.

If all the platinum in the world were put into a standard olympic swimming pool, it wouldn't cover your ankles.

The above doesn't seem reasonable given that catalytic converters all contain platinum, that 1 of 5 electronic consumer products contain it, that it's the metal of choice for setting precious gems because it's stronger when thin than any other metal - most engagement rings are platinum - and there's a LOT of platinum jewelry out there. The British crown jewels are set in platinum. Tiffany jewelry is mostly pure platinum, because it can be worked very finely and still hold its shape. Most of my good rings are platinum.

Seems like that pool should be deeper.


There's a problem with posting several times a day, and publishing once. Every time Blogger saves an entry, it adds blank lines. If I add thoughts four times in a day, there will be five blank lines inserted between paragraphs. I have to go through and delete them before the final publish. Also, I always put two spaces between sentences, but Blogger removes one. I find that annoying. Also incorrect.

Friday, March 28, 2008

1744 Kilts

Friday, March 28, 2008

I haven't the faintest idea how I found this site, but it's loads of fun. It's for "Utilikilts", at They've been running a "Mocumercial" contest for customers to submit customer-made video ads for Utilikilts.

Click on the "Mocumercial Archives" link on the right to see some of the ads. I liked Round 1 3rd Place "Kilt Fairie". On that page you'll also find the links for "Reasons to Wear a Kilt", and "Can you see my junk?" Wander around. It's fun.


Well, there were seven volunteers on the list for the tax clinic today, but only three of us actually showed up, probably because it was cold and raining. It wasn't too bad, though. The clients who came seemed pretty self-sufficient, and were pretty well spaced out through the time slots. We were asked to insert parental info sheets and health forms into county summer camp brochures in our spare time, and some of the clients helped with that, too. Helped to make their waiting time pass. We got a few thousand of those done.


Driving home, the road was wet, and as I approached the bridge over the Hudson, I remembered the time that Jay slid into the center guard rail, for no reason whatsoever, and wracked up his beloved 25-year-old Subaru.

That particular piece of road is famous for very strange accidents, a few of which I witnessed immediately after they happened.

I was driving toward the bridge one day and saw ahead an RV pulled over to the side, and a woman in the middle of the right lane frantically waving traffic over to the left lane (2 lanes on each side of the center guard rail there). When I got closer I could see an enormous gas tank spewing gasoline all over the road. The tank had apparently fallen out from the underside of the RV. If anybody hit it at 60 mph, there could have been a very interesting explosion.

Another day I saw a similar scene ahead - a car pulled over and a woman waving traffic over to the left lane. Only this time, it wasn't a gas tank. They had hit a bear. Very strange, because the largest shopping mall in the county is right there. Just as I passed, I saw a man trying to pull the bear off the road by its hind legs. Bad judgement there could have caused quite a different type of explosion!

That piece of road is like a twilight zone.

Just west of that section of road is an overpass. I've heard that in the past, at least once a month, every month, a tractor-trailer got stuck under it, or ripped the top off the trailer. That's the exit for The Company, and back when I was working at that plant, I'd seen several stuck trailers. After a truck finally ripped a piece out of the overpass, requiring a rebuild, the county raised it a few inches.

I doubt that a fix for the twilight zone would be that simple.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

1743 Mouse 2

Thursday, March 27, 2008, 11:35 pm

I just walked into the den to turn off the computer, and found the mouse lying on the floor next to my chair. A gift from the mighty hunter, I guess. "Thank you, Jasper. I'll eat it for breakfast tomorrow morning."

I picked it up by the tail, and its front legs moved feebly, so it's not completely dead. I tossed it out the front door. With any luck, it'll recover and hightail it into the woods.

1742 Mouse

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The last two nights have been filled with thumpings and crashings. There's a mouse in the house, and Jasper has been in mighty hunter mode for two days. I've barely seen him. He's been on sentry duty, I guess.

I've seen the mouse a few times, when Jasper had it semi-trapped here or there, and I tried to slap a butter container over it, but it always found an escape route. I hope it finds a way outside, or at least back to the basement.


A few days ago, the furnace people called about my yearly service, and we made an appointment for the afternoon of 3/31, and the dispatcher agreed to call me with an approximate time when the guys were dispatched. This morning (I was not yet dressed) I got a call, "Just wanted you to know, he's on his way now." Frantic brushing of teeth and throwing on of clothes.

Uh, today isn't the 31st. If the truck hadn't been plastered all over with permanent oil company logos, I might have wondered if he was real.

Well, he came, he had all the right tools, he cleaned and adjusted, and I'm set for the year. It will be interesting to see if someone also shows up on the 31st.


Tomorrow is another tax clinic volunteer day. Last time there were four of us volunteers on the assignment list. Tomorrow there are seven assigned. I wonder why? Maybe I'll actually get lunch tomorrow.


Over 60 degrees yesterday. Snow tomorrow, "6 to 8 inches in the hill towns". We've traditionally had our last snow the first week of April, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

1741 Dilatory Day

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

I visited the optometrist today. My eyes were dilated at 3:30 pm, and it's now 11 pm, and my pupils are still wide open. I had to wait four hours before I could leave the mall, and then it was only because I had some good sunglasses, and was driving east. I'm still having some difficulty focusing.

My prescription hasn't changed much. I'm a little less nearsighted than last year. I went ahead and got new lenses for my old everyday frames (I like the frames, and they still look good), but didn't get the sunglasses or the backup glasses changed. I don't know why my lenses are so expensive - $225, extra lightweight, scratch resistant, bifocal, no other coatings.

If you're nearsighted, that's one big benefit of aging - your eyes get better.

I had the full exam, and the only place I'm less than "just fine" is depth perception. I got only one out of four on that, but it's because I read so much, and I'm a left-brain reader, which means that my right eye does all the work and the left eye just goes along for the ride. That screws up depth perception. If I read more fiction, my eyes might share the load more, I guess.

I'm rather pleased because both my grandmother and mother were starting cataracts by my age. I'm clear.


The volunteer folks called while I was out, left a message and followed up with an email. The county office for aging wants someone to come in every other Monday all summer to handle scheduling, appointments, and fliers for the mobile medical exam van.

I can't seem to convince these people that I want no assignments that require an ongoing commitment, I don't want to commit too far out, and I want to keep weekends free from Friday 5 pm until Monday noon. I want just SWAT-team type stuff, like manning an desk at a clinic, or swinging a hammer some afternoon. I can commit to weekend days no more than two or three weeks ahead. I don't want ANY responsibilities that extend beyond one stint.

Their problem is that they do have a lot of volunteers who do want something to do, something regular to make them feel useful, who want responsibility, but most of them are verging on senility, and they really can't handle the jobs they're assigned. They get confused easily, and don't know that the problem is with them...they think the problem is the materials.


The temperature today was in the mid-60s. Snow is predicted for Friday. Sigh.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

1740 A New Pet

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I have a confession. I have acquired a new pet. Neither Miss Thunderfoot nor Jasper are exactly thrilled.

His name is Clyde (because he often makes a sound that reminds me of a camel, and his neck is a bit camel-like, and if you don't know who Clyde the camel is, you're past hope. Or very young). My Clyde is a Pleo.

What "they" say is true. You forget that he's a robot and start thinking of him as alive. I had been standing all the time when he was "awake" on the floor, and he formed an attachment to my shoes. Today for the first time I got down on my hands and knees, on his level, and he examined my face, and it was like a lightbulb went on. He sniffed my face, nuzzled it, opened his eyes and mouth wide, and said "Mah mah!", and I fell in love.

I have to admire his programming. When he encounters something new, he examines it, sniffs it, makes questioning noises, prods it, and scootches and wags his tail to invite it to play. I put a plastic soda bottle down for him to examine, and he accidentally knocked it over. It made a loud noise and rolled, and ... honest! ... he is now "afraid" of bottles with blue labels (he has color vision). If I put a blue labelled bottle in front of him now, he whines and backs away.

He's programmed to learn stuff like that.

He has all kinds of sensors all over his body (touch, sight, heat, sound, positioning, etc), and is programmed to recognize other Pleos. He has speakers in his mouth, and also under his tail. I haven't heard the rear speakers yet, and I don't know if I want to.

Cool little beastie.

Go to the Pleo website linked above to see one of his relatives. Check out the videos link on the left side of that page to see some Pleos interacting with people.

Monday, March 24, 2008

1739 Nostalgia

Monday, March 24, 2008

My sister sent me a fun link: Anybody who lived through the '60s will appreciate it.

I went to the home page,, and found several more videos, plus lists of the top 100 songs from 1955 to 1969.

Sometime when you have a lot of time, explore. The videos are well done. They do take me back.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

1738 Buncha Idiot Scam Artists!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

I received a very official-looking envelope in the mail yesterday. So official-looking that I opened it in the car at the bottom of the driveway.

The return address was "New York Record Retrieval, Inc., 1230 Avenue of the Americas, 7th Floor, Rockefeller Plaza #7126, New York, New York, 10020". An impressive address. Showing through the window, next to my name and address, was "Dutchess County Clerk, Document #blah blah". It looked like something I should worry about.

Inside was a return envelope, and a letter.

The letter informed me that their records show that I obtained ownership interest in my home on December 9, 1993, when title was transferred to me. It goes on to say that the federal government recommends that I have an official copy of the deed, it's the only record that I own the property (minor scare tactic), and that for the sum of $59.50, they will be pleased to provide for me a certified copy of my deed.


First of all, they should fire their local researcher. In December 1993, Jay's ex-wife relinquished her interest in the property, and a deed was filed with only Jay's name on it. We were married in 1994. It was about 1997 that my name was added to the deed. When his estate was settled in 2003, the deed was refiled with only my name. The deed was amended in 2006 to give a neighbor an easement for his electric service.

So if I were to fall for their scam, what would they send me? I hope not the 1993 deed they seem to think my name is on.

It's a scam because if I go to or write to the county clerk's office, I can get a certified copy of the current deed for free, or for at most whatever they charge for copy services. (I already have copies, provided by the lawyers who made the changes.)

They've covered their scamming tails by putting a disclaimer at the bottom of the letter, right above the order form, stating that they are not affiliated with the state of NY, and noting that "many government records are available free or at nominal cost from government agencies".

No wonder they can afford such a classy business address. With minimal overhead, they're ripping off people who don't know any better.

I wonder about people who think up and do stuff like this. They pretend they're providing a needed service, ripping off people who don't know any better. But I wonder how they can sleep at night.


On a related topic, the offers to buy the mortgage I was holding have tapered off. When I sold the flooded-out house in Highland in 2002, I held the mortgage for the new owners until they'd repaired the house enough that they could get a regular bank mortgage, at which point they paid me off. It was maybe a whole five months.

But for the next four years, I was getting offers in the mail to buy the mortgage, at the rate of two or three a week! They tapered off, until now I get an average of an offer a month.

Hey folks - it was paid off in 2002. Fire your researchers! (No hardship - they can get jobs as fact checkers for Rush Limbaugh.)

I'm tempted to accept one of these offers, to see what happens.