Product Endorsement

Last weekend we hit Costco for our usual stocking job. One of the products being pushed was a liquid that supposedly removed moss, mold, mildew and stains from “anything”. Anything including decks, awnings, screens, walls – all the places and surfaces that collect grib in Florida. The product caught my eye because we fight the grib more or less year round and I was facing a major job of cleaning the awnings which were, day by day, getting greener. Supposedly the stuff was better than bleach and not caustic. You apply it using a standard pressure dispenser like I use for spraying herbicide and insecticide. So if it worked, it would be alot faster and easier than soaking/scrubbing with bleach and then power washing – my normal method. Not to mention that the last time I bleached my new pants half way up the leg. But it seemed a bit pricey – $38 for 1.3 gallons. The 1.3 gallons is concentrated and produces 8 gallons of useable product. So at almost $5/gallon, it’s maybe double the cost of bleach and doesn’t sound so bad that way. Of course I know bleach works and this would be a total gamble. The guy who was pushing it said that all you do is spray it and forget it – that it takes a while to work and continues working for months. I went for it.

Today I decided to do the flight test and sat down to read the instructions. The devil is in the details. The literature reiterated that it works over time rather than instantaneously and uses natural factors to gradually make it happen. That would be things like dew, rain, and sunlight. And it could be up to a year to see the results. That cracked me up and I knew I had been scammed since you’d really never know if it was working. I laughed out loud when I thought about explaining to Nancy how it was really working when the awnings were still green a month or six from now. But it sounded good to me and cut me quite a bit of slack. Nancy is a nit picker inspector kind of person so this delayed results thing would definitely throw her off her game.

I mixed up 2 gallons and in 10 minutes had sprayed the awnings and a few stained spots on the deck. For me that started the 12 month wait. And I’d only used maybe 1/2 gallon of the juice so this was looking cheaper too. I remembered that our porch screen was also turning green and that an hour of pressure washing a few months ago had not touched it. We really didn’t have a solution for that and had been talking about maybe having a professional cleaner come in and tackle it with steam or something. What the hell, let’s spray the screens. My reservation was that if this stuff ate away the screens, I’d have real problems. The container said non caustic, non acidic, no bleach and that it worked on any surface. It also said “Danger, keep out of reach of children”. I went back to the awnings and noticed that they were still there and had not started fallling apart; in fact maybe they were not quite as green. So I decided to experiment with one screen panel. When the spray hit the screen it started to fizz. I checked back in 10 minutes and the panel was almost green free; just a few spots that I had probably missed on the first spray. I hit those spots and moved on to a bigger, gribbier panel. In about 20 minutes I had sprayed all the easily reachable areas and could see the mildew disappearing within seconds of the application. Back to the awnings – the mold and mildew were gone. I can’t imagine how good they are going to look in a few weeks if this stuff actually takes time to work.

I have about half a gallon of the first batch still in the sprayer so I’ll do a touch up tomorrow – assuming the screen is still intact and not all eaten up. So far this stuff is incredible. If you’re interested it’s call Wet & Forget – moss, mold, mildew Stain Remover.

digital TV upgrade?

You’ve been seeing all the stuff on TV about the switch over to digital in Feb. 2009. It’s a switch I’ve been dreading since I have this deep abiding distrust of all things digital. Something is always lost when you try to express it in a fixed number of ones and zero’s. Without getting into conspiracy theories, let’s just say it’s going to happen. I signed up to get the $40 discount coupons for a device which converts the incoming digital signal into regular TV. The words are that all you do is plug this boy between the antenna and the TV set and all is right again. When the coupons came there was also a long list of devices and information regarding purchase points. A friend of Joey’s advised that Consumer Reports had rated the Zenith unit the best. That was good info because I had assumed up until then that probably all devices were the same, just simple D/A converters. I researched it a bit further and learned that the Magnavox unit available at WalMart was not a good unit – bad reception. I also read that the zenith unit – Circuit City – was great and that people with marginal reception were seeing dramatic picture improvements. The Zenith unit was $10 more than the Magnavox so cost was not an issue. Two TV’s, Two boxes.

We got them home and I read the installation instructions and sure enough, it seemed to be a no brainer – unplug the antenna from the TV and plug it into the box; plug the box into the TV. Red Flag #1. I noticed that the instructions made no mention of how to deal with a VCR. I called Zenith and learned that you can no longer record a channel on the VCR while watching another on the TV. The guy said I could hook it up so that I was recording the same show I was watching. I asked him why anyone would want to do that and got silence. I’m guessing somewhere in Bombay there was a guy with a blank stare on his face pondering my question. For us, that’s a huge downside. I continued on with the installation setup and in a couple of minutes it was up and running. Red Flag #2 showed immediately – the picture is smaller than it was before with big borders top and bottom, and both sides. I dove for the manual and they steered me to a button on the remote called zoom. When I hit “zoom” a screen message appeared and said the program determined the size. So at this point I’ve lost the VCR and the picture is smaller – the exact reasons I hadn’t bought a digital TV a year ago. I guess I could buy a 42” digital TV to get the same size picture I now get on my 32” set.

But there were some plusses. The channels were much clearer. Our channels 6 , 24 and sometimes 35 were marginal at best. Now they’re crystal clear as were all the others. And the number of channels increased dramatically. I think I counted 35 channels compared to 8-10 previously. That sounds impressive but several of the channels are Spanish speaking versions of the regular show; several are strictly weather info from the regular channels which I guess will be ok once in a while but hardly count as regular channels. On the 2 PBS channels there are 4 sub channels which seemed at the time to include classroom stuff from DBCC and UCF and the Florida legislature. I don’t see me watching those any time soon. Ditto the 2 religious channels each with 4 subchannels. So the bottom line is that channels 6, 24, and 35 come in better than they did before, albeit smaller.

For now I plan to leave the box on one of the TV’s and not on the other. That gives us the ability to at least tape most of what we want and to see full screen shows rather than the shrunk down versions. And if we want to watch a noisy channel, we have a TV that’s got the better picture quality. If I need to surf between Pat Robertson and Jimmy Swaggert………………….

Couldn’t test red flag #3 – what happens when it rains hard. My experience with things digital is that they are either very good or 100% gonzo. Another reason to keep the 2 set solution until Feb. 2009 when big brother kills my fallback. argghhhhhhhhhhh.

Spring Break with Simon

Had a really great week. Simon came up and spent it with us on his spring break. He and I went fishing every day; twice to the surf and three times kayaking in brackish water. We hit the Tomoka River, Bulow Creek, and the back canals of Tomoka State Park. The fishing itself was ok – not good – but we did manage to hook and land several nice fish. Ditto the surf although in Flagler the cross currents were strong enough to make fishing a bit of a chore. We both got sunburned and have achy muscles from so, so much kayaking. At least I admit to being sore. And of course we took time out to do a crabbing venture so that he and Nancy could have fresh blue crab appetizers before dinner one night. The great thing about Simon this year is that he crossed over solidly into being a fishing companion in the fullest sense from being a student fisherman. He’s a 100% help in moving boats, loading, unloading and splitting all the overhead associated with a trip. That cuts my work at least in half. The other nice thing is that I am now coaching him on subtle techniques rather than the basics of how to do this, that and the other thing. Those have all been mastered. The other large advantage to fishing with Simon is that every morning Nancy fixes a nice lunch in a cooler. That never happens when I’m by myself.

The garden is now at full size. I tilled up the last few hundred square feet using my new tiller. It worked like a charm and I am so glad it’s part of my arsenal. I reckon the total garden at 1250 SF give or take a few. The new summer stuff planted over the past few weeks is taking off. Believe it or not there are wee tiny crooked necks; micro zucchini; and teeny weeny cucumbers on the respective plants already. That’s about a month after planting the seeds and 2-3 weeks after transplanting them into the garden. I really wouldn’t have believed that if I hadn’t seen it myself. The last of the broccoli should come out this week and we ate the first cabbage from the winter planting last night. The cauliflower will be pickable this coming week. Each time I pull out one of the winter veggies, I replace it with a summer variety and we’ll have a few weeks where both the winter stuff and the summer stuff are hitting the kitchen table. I planted corn seeds about 3 weeks ago and it’s now all standing nearly a foot tall. I planted the rows about 2′ apart and have put winter squash in between the rows. That would be varieties like butternut, acorn, spaghetti and on and on. I have six different varieties of hard squash living in the corn patch. Simon and I kept two fish and buried them next to two tomato plants in a scientific experiment. We want to see if there is any noticeable difference in growth rate with those two plants and also whether the fruit will taste fishy. We could have anchovy flavored tomatoes, pizza ready tomatoes right from the garden. The trick might be keeping them buried until they disintegrate and away from the possums and raccoons.