Saturday, January 29, 2011

3244 The pitfalls of ownership

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Everyone we meet in life is meant to show us either who we are or who we are not.


I read somewhere that Mark Zuckerberg is living in a "modest house" he is renting somewhere in California. The author of the article expressed great surprise that a) the house, though large and luxurious, is not a mansion on a walled estate, and b) he's renting. Not purchasing.

In my opinion, he's smart.

(The rent, by the way, is $7,000 a month.)

No one needs more house than he needs, and Mark is smart enough to know that. And renting is sometimes preferable to buying, because if something goes wrong, you don't have to fuss over it yourself, and if fixing it is too big a problem, or you decide to go somewhere else, you can walk away.

So if you aren't thinking in terms of investment, and you have better things to do and to think about than fussing over a building, renting might be the most convenient way to go.

Mark Zuckerberg can certainly afford to opt for convenience.


The last time I was at the old house, I ran in to get some avocados I had been growing. I had to come straight back, so I didn't spend any time there.

I didn't bring the avocados back.

Last time I'd seen them, they were about a foot tall, growing out of the pits half sunk in soil. This time, there was no sign of green. Nothing whatsoever. Not like they'd wilted and fallen over. Gone. And the pits had been eaten, chewed right down to the top of the soil.


It was apparent that the mice were running rampant.

That house, being in woods near fields, always had mice in the fall. They move in looking for a warm place for the winter. In the past, they were confined pretty much to the basement with occasional short forays into the kitchen and laundry room.

With no human and no cat to frighten them, they seem to have pretty much taken over the house.

I am now worried. I'm afraid that they might build nests in the upholstered furniture and mattresses. At the rate things are going, and with the snow not cooperating, I'm afraid it will be well into spring before I get that stuff moved.

Next trip up, I'll have to set traps. Sorry poor mice. I do like and admire you, but most of my furniture has gone 100 to 150 years without musty mouse scent, and I'd like to see it last a little longer.


I don't understand my electric bill from the old house. The bill includes a bar graph showing usage for the previous several billing periods, and from the same period of the previous year, for comparison. The bars are marked as to whether it's from an estimated or actual meter reading.

I'm on a budget plan, so I pay the same amount every month regardless of the usage, so I wasn't expecting the actual bill to be lower, but I was expecting to see a lower KWH usage, and eventually to start running a credit and recalculation of the budget amount.

Since the beginning of November, there has been ONE small light on. The water has not been run, so the well pump has not been running. Although the water heater is on, it has only had to maintain the constant temperature - no hot water going out, no cold coming in. The refrigerator and freezer are on, but the doors have not been opened. The oil furnace is on, but the entrance doors have not been opened, so it should be running less than when people are going in and out. I can't think of anything else that would be using electricity. (No, neighbors are too far away to be running an extension cord, and the exterior outlets are off at the box, anyway.)

And yet, the electric bill says I've used the same monthly amount of electricity as when I was living there, and the same as last year, and claims it's from an actual reading.

Bull poopy!

Next time I visit (if we ever have a week without snow!) I intend to read the meter myself!

3243 Ants!

Saturday, January 29, 20011

Isn’t everybody pre-med? Either you’re a doctor, or you’re not…yet. Right?


I have ants! They're the tiniest ants I've ever seen in my entire life!

Jasper likes Hartz "Crunch 'n Clean" kitty treats, and this morning I dropped a few on the carpet in the hall for him. Normally they disappear quickly, but this morning he'd just had breakfast, so he ate only two and left three lying there. I just walked past them, bent to pick them up and drop them into his food dish, and one of the three was covered with ants. Ants so tiny it would take 20 of them end to end to make an inch.

Where are they coming from? Why only one of the treats? What do I do now? Ants have never been a big problem anywhere I've lived. The old house would get a few big black ones in the spring (not carpenter ants, just big black ones), but they were usually just lost and passing through, new spring swarms looking for a good nesting place.

I immediately checked Jasper's food dish - no ants. Checked the kitchen garbage can - no ants. Checked the pantry - no ants.

I'm a little bit freaked.

The old house had clothes moths everywhere, mice coming up from the basement, and yellow jackets and hornets who liked to nest in the cars, but for some reason they didn't bother me as much as tiny ants here.


Later: I found out what they are. See

3242 The Unhonored Others

Saturday, January 29, 2011

"Every true genius is bound to be naive"
-- Friedrich Schiller --


There's been a lot of ... reminiscence? ... the past few days on the 25th anniversary of the shuttle explosion. I am a bit annoyed that almost all of it is all about the teacher who was on the shuttle.'s "Big Picture" did a whole photo essay on her yesterday.

There were six other people on that shuttle! I challenge anyone to name ONE of them without looking it up. They were not less valuable. What happened to them was not less horrific. I hate the way they have been pushed aside.

I guess the strength of my anger comes a lot from 9/11 and Jay's reaction. There were a few thousand people who died in the towers, but we have ignored all the people who died in the ripples. Jay was one of them. He fought his illness hard, until the towers fell. He thought the world would be plunged into war, and he realized he would not be able to protect me, that in fact he would be a burden on me in the hard times to come, so he gave up and died. He gave up that day, stopped fighting. We all could see it.

I wonder how many very ill people in homes and hospitals died in September and October of 2001. You know how "they" say death rates go up after Christmas, people who hang on until after the holidays? People can choose to live or choose to die. I think a lot of people (who might even have eventually recovered) gave up when they thought they might have been a burden to their loved ones. I consider a lot of those people victims of 9/11 as much as the ones in the towers.

They got no honor.

Their families didn't get to share in the millions of dollars handed out to "the victims of 9/11". Their names don't get read on the anniversary. That pisses me off. I consider Jay a victim of 9/11. Yes, I know Jay probably wouldn't have lasted much longer anyway, but that's not the point. The point is that there's more damage than the obvious, more than the famous, and we ignore all the others. Like they don't count.

To refresh your memories, the others killed in the Challenger disaster were Ellison Onizuka, Mike Smith, Dick Scobee, Greg Jarvis, Ron McNair and Judith Resnik. Have you ever even heard of them? How do their families feel when everyone acts like the only person on the shuttle was Christa McAuliffe?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

3241 Awesome and Awful

Thursday, January 27, 2011

No man has a prosperity so high or firm, but that two or three words can dishearten it;
and there is no calamity which right words will not begin to redress.
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson --


I came across two maps today that are amusing and interesting - identifying what each of the states should be proud of, and what they should be ashamed of. I have not attempted to embed the maps, because you need to see them fullsize to easily read the labels.



The article:

Monday, January 24, 2011

3240 That's why.

Monday, January 21, 2011

The Japanese have a term, muda, which refers to activity that doesn't add value.


After the previous post, I was wondering why any man would have that "wanna get married" urge.

A few minutes ago I was standing on the porch when Hercules returned from work and pulled into the driveway across the street. It's full dark and cold, but the lights were on in the house, it looked warm in there, and I could catch glimpses of Daughter puttering in the kitchen.

I imagined his entering the house and greeting his six-months-pregnant wife ...

... and that's why.

3239 Happy?

Monday, January 24, 2011

“Red flags when you’re dating don’t disappear after the wedding.”
-- Shelley at --


The green quotes up there are random, just the next one in my list, and seldom have anything to do with any post topic. But today, it almost applies.

I've been thinking about an old friend whom I haven't seen in a few years. He was one of my doctors in the '80s, and we became friends. At one point, he decided he wanted to get married, and married the first woman who said yes. Some men do that. They seem to suddenly decide it's time, and they'll fall madly in love with the first woman who'll have them.

They had two kids right away, and then ....

He confided in me that he was unhappy, because she seemed to make no effort anymore to make him happy. Stuff like he was on a strict macrobiotic diet (she and the kids weren't), so when he got home from the office every day, she had cooked dinner for herself and the kids, and had eaten, but had made nothing for him. And she'd make plans with her friends, and if it was something he didn't want to do, or people he didn't like, she'd just go without him.

I listened sympathetically and kept my mouth shut for a long time, until I'd about had it with his whines and complaints that "She doesn't make me happy."

I sat him down one day and told him, "Your happiness is not her responsibility! Not her job. Your happiness is your own job. Either you are happy in yourself, or you're not. Another person can increase your happiness, but they can't create it. So if you're not happy, it's because you're looking for someone to give it to you instead of making it yourself. And no, I can't tell you how to do that. You need to figure that out yourself. What I do know is that people like to share happiness, and to increase happiness that's already there. If you're happy in yourself, maybe she will be more willing to share it with you. You were happy yourself back when you first met, and happy when you were dating, and the two of you had a lot of fun, but then you, like, handed over the happiness generating job to her. It's not a job she signed up for."

He thought about it a long time. He found a few things that made him happy, got more involved with the kids and some external activities, some work on the house that made him proud. He did seem happier and more content. But eventually they divorced anyway. They really weren't suited from the beginning, had been dating less than a year when they married, and any of us watching could have told him that they had too little in common except that he wanted a wife and she wanted a husband, but, when a guy's in the "wanna get married" fever, nothing else matters.

I last saw him about five years ago. At that time he'd been dating a woman for a long time, maybe five or eight years. The ex had taken everything, including the house and a large chunk of support. He was living in the semi-finished basement of his chiropractic office and had the kids every weekend and most of the summer, and he seemed happier and more contented than ever.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

3238 Sunday Thoughts

Sunday, January 23, 2011

"Male circumcision has long been an operation in search of a disease," wrote members of the group Doctors Opposing Circumcision in the May 12th edition of The Lancet.


New Jersey is famous for potholes. The Man has replaced a few tires and rims wrecked in potholes, and Hercules actually totaled a car, breaking an axle.

When I started doing a lot of local driving here, I didn't see that many, but as the winter progresses, they're starting to scare me. Some of them are HUGE and DEEP! I don't want to think about how much rims for Hal cost. Lately I'm driving slow enough and with enough space between me and the car ahead so that I can see them in enough time to veer around them.

I also noticed something else - they plow right down to the blacktop here. The plows are set low. After a snowplow goes by, the road looks like it's been swept. And I think that's what's causing the potholes!

If there's the slightest uneven spot in the road, like a seam (most of the potholes are on seams) or a pothole patch, the edge of the low-set plow blade catches it and rips it. Once started, subsequent plowings, traffic, and freezing and thawing enlarges it.

I wonder how soon into the winter more accidents are caused by perpetual potholes than by occasional snow on the road.


Out of nowhere - I absolutely hated the way "Carrie Bradshaw" (Sex and the City) dressed. Her clothes were stupid, and I despised the way she ignored her bra - like the back of the bra showing across the back of a backless dress.

Which reminds me of Princess Diana's bridal gown, which of course is all over the place again with the wedding fever in England, and the fact that Diana's wardrobe is currently touring the US. I have never understood all the people who swooned over how beautiful it was.

Huh? With the dense fabric, ruffled neckline, poofy sleeves ending in ruffles, and poor fit, it looked like something Queen Victoria would have worn to bed. A Victorian nightgown. I mean, go to the link above and look at it. Tell me I'm wrong. Snort.

I suspect the stuffiness of it was on purpose, to draw a parallel to queens past and present. But that didn't make it "beautiful", folks. Note that even the swooners didn't copy it.


Eh. Maybe I just have rotten taste. I didn't like Jackie Kennedy's dress, either. I thought it looked like it was made from a colonial bedspread.


I made an effort to get out and meet some people today.

A Meetup group was "mall walking" at Bridgewater Commons Mall this afternoon. The mall was described as a "large upscale shopping Mecca". It was ok, but having been used to the malls in the Albany area, I was underwhelmed. One difference I did notice - most of the stores, even the big name stores (except for the three anchors) were tiny shops. I don't think I've ever seen such a small Victoria's Secret. That tells me the rents must be much higher than anywhere else.

Another odd thing was that the movie theater advertised "dining in". You get a menu with your movie ticket. I'd love to know how that works.

The group was supposed to meet by 2:30, at the back of the food court, near the restrooms. I found the restrooms at 2:20. Never found the group. Apparently there were two sets of restrooms by the food court, although the mall map showed only one. So I ended up wandering the mall alone.

Yeah. "Upscale." Not necessarily in the quality of goods offered, but definitely in the price tags.


I'm still amazed at the variety of stores to be found here, after 25+ years in the Mid-Hudson Valley. (I remember the excitement when the first Pizza Hut arrived in the Valley, and then the hysteria surrounding the arrival of Barnes & Noble and Starbucks.) I couldn't help but think of the people (well, actually one particular guy in Mensa) who puts on an air of sophistication by name-dropping. Not famous people, though. Stores. He's always talking about the wonders to be found in stores not available in the Valley, like Trader Joe's, and Whole Foods, for example. Places he, of course, shops all the time. Snork.

You'd think with so much competition, the prices around here would be lower. They're not.