F150 v MacBook

Here’s a comparison. My 1995 Ford F150 lost brakes. I crawled underneath and saw where the metal brake line had rusted through in one spot and leaked out the fluid. Went to the Pierson NAPA store and picked up a 51” brake line and a can of brake fluid for $8.58. In an hour my neighbor George replaced the line, bled the air out of the system and was out for a test drive. My 2009 MacBook and a guy designated as a Mac Genius, designated by Apple, can’t fix it. I updated to the latest version of software, latest means 6 months newer. Now my printer won’t print and the modem is still history. I sure wish Ford made computers.

George and I have this mulch thing down to a science. He has a John Deere riding mower with a bagger. So he rides around picking up all the oak leaves on his driveway and lawn area and deposits them in a designated spot where I break out my Shop Vac leaf mulcher and convert the leaves into finely chopped mulch. Between us in an hour we can fill several 50 gallon plastic bags and have enough leaf mulch to last months and months. You really can’t buy this kind of mulch but the closest to it costs about $2 for a 1CF bag. That roughly works out to maybe $50 an hour. The mulcher has already paid for itself and I can tell it’s going to add years of life to my back by eliminating hours and hours of weeding in the garden. What I don’t need is an
i-mulcher, or a windows mulcher or a droid mulcher.

Health care

I have to make a comment regarding the Health Care bill. None of the newsers seem to be mentioning the $500B cut to Medicare. That’s $B not $M. It’s a no brainer what that means – more good doctors will quit taking Medicare patients. That leads to the classic Socialized medicine problem – long waits, poor service, and limited access to anything on the leading edge. It also means that premiums for supplemental insurance will rise dramatically as the supplement picks up more and more of the total cost. Medicare becomes Medicaid. The folks that will be hit hardest are the ones now using a Medicare Advantage program. Those plans will disappear forcing the current recipients into straight Medicare or into far more costly supplementals.

Of course they’ll maybe save something by closing the prescription drug doughnut hole. I actually thought the gap was a clever idea because it drove more people to use generics instead of the higher priced proprietary drugs. But the new provision that really made me laugh was the one that now allows an annual wellness checkup. I never knew you couldn’t do that because Nancy and I have had annual checkups for the last 10 years. So when I heard that the new legislation allows that, I assumed that our supplemental must have paid for it in the past. Turns out that assumption was wrong. It all has to do with how the doctor defines the visit. If they call it a “physical”, it’s not paid for; but if they call it a “follow-up” visit or an “annual checkup”, it’s covered. Can’t imagine there are very many doctors who don’t understand how to work the labeling game.

The provision that really causes me to scratch my head is the one that will fine employers $2000 per employee if they don’t provide health insurance. As a former employer I know that it was costing us roughly $650 per employee per month for health insurance (in 1998) so I’m not sure why it still won’t make sense for a small business guy to just pay the fine – sort of a brand new tax – rather than spring for $7500 + insurance will cost.

The really great thing about our political system is that we have an election coming up in 8 months that will most likely become a referendum on the health care legislation. If the voters like the bill and how it was handled or just the opposite, we’ll get to count votes. Usually we don’t get to see such direct feedback but in this case with all the focus having been on Health care, it won’t be difficult to draw a line between that one piece of legislation and the results of the election.

garden update

Decided to take a leap of faith in the garden based on what the certified chief meteorologist on the tube said. According to him, it looks like about 10 days ahead of weather staying above 50 at night and touching 80 during the day. Based on that I took half of the summer squash that I had started in the house and transplanted it to the garden. That would be 3 plants, each a different variety. I have 3 more in reserve just in case these guys meet an early demise. For the past two years I’ve had near zero success with summer squash for several reasons but mostly nematode attacks. So this planting is designed to fix that problem. First I dug a much deeper than normal hole and sprinkled it liberally with sugar and fertilizer. Then I laid down a couple of sheets of newspaper, the WSJ to be precise, and soaked it with a mix of Miracle Gro and water. My idea is to make a barrier for the nematodes which will eventually degrade but not until the plants are firmly established. Next I filled the hole with fresh compost so none of the surrounding soil will touch the plant for a while. Supposedly one of the cures for nematodes is to use highly organic soil and this compost is 100% pure organic material. Last I set the peat pot holding the squash plant on top of the compost and surrounded it with potting soil. So the plant is sitting maybe a foot away from any of the old soil which I assume holds nematodes. I’m also hoping that this approach keeps away the feared and dreaded cutworms as well. According to the seed company, these varieties are roughly 50 days from seed to veggie so my thought is that all these precautions plus giving the plants a couple of weeks in peat pots in the house will allow them to start producing before the nematodes even know they’re there.

One of the upsides to using the library wi-fi approach to internet access is that while Nancy is picking up all the tidbits on Facebook, I check out gardening magazines. I picked up two new recipes a few weeks back and tried them both this week. We’ve taken to roasting many veggies on the Holland grill and really have loved them cooked that way. The recipes I found use that same technique with kohlrabi and with whole carrots. Generically you coat the veggie with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and maybe garlic powder and then roast at 400 degrees for a period consistent with the particular veggie. I didn’t remember that we still had a kohlrabi in the refrigerator veggie bin. I thought we had eaten the last one back in December after the crop was done. So I wasn’t sure it was still edible but figured I’d find out soon if it was spoiled inside or had turned to wood. I peeled it and cut it into French fry sized strips. Looked just fine and I guessed it would be a 20 minute roast. Perfect. Since you can eat Kohlrabi either raw or cooked, not sure cooking time makes much difference. At 20 minutes a couple of them had started to brown and look nicer but also softer. With the carrots, we had used the roasting technique on nickel cut carrots and it worked fine but had never tried a whole carrot. To peel or not to peel? I decided to try both ways since the whole thing was an experiment. I guess these at 45 minutes, about the same as a small potato, anticipating that same texture at the end. The tasted ok, not spectacular, and were not the softer texture of a potato. Maybe they will never get soft but next time I’ll try cooking for an hour or so.

march madness

I have my own version of March Madness going on. Took the truck out and learned that I had no right turn signal and no cruise control. So I bought a set of lamps and guessed that the cruise control could be a fuse that somehow was associated with the lamp problem. That all happened a week or so ago and I just today got around to making the repair. No problem with changing the lamps and verifying they worked OK. But the fuse that controlled the cruise control was not blown so there’s a deepening mystery there. But the big news was that when I went to apply the brakes to check out the brake light – no brakes, pedal right to the floor. Last time I drove it, no problem. It sits for a week and now, zero brakes. So what started out as a simple burnt out bulb has escalated into a total truck melt down. And this on top of losing my Devil’s Horse. So to summarize I now have no internet, no truck, and no Devil’s Horse. Gators lose to BYU in the first round – does life get any more stressful?

The good news is that my neighbor is a great mechanic and he owes me for splitting all those logs.

Regarding my internet woes, I’ve officially thrown in the towel. My last hope was to install the latest and greatest operating system from Apple – Snow Leopard. Making such a leap caused me great heartburn just because it’s as close to starting over as I dare to try. I held my breath when it was done to see just how many data files were no longer in existence. Couldn’t have gone smoother although it took about an hour for the software to install. My biggest concern was whether or not the new operating system would support Appleworks where I have a couple decades of spreadsheets and databases. I tried opening one of my doc’s and up popped a dialogue box telling me I had to install a program called Rosetta which just so happens to reside on the same install disk as an optional installation. I went ahead and installed Rosetta and as if my magic, my Appleworks doc’s opened just fine. So I jumped right to AOL and tried to dial up. Nope, same as before. Dials just fine, AOL answers, and the two modems start squeaking and squawking at each other but somehow they are unable to communicate. I’m done screwing with it and will limit my internet visits to wi-fi , wherever that may be. Long term, I’m going to wait to try an Ipad and see if that does what we need using ATT’s 3G network.

so I’ve had bad day/week/month

This just isn’t my month – First I lost the internet now I lost my last two hook Devil’s Horse. It went out in grand fashion – hooked firmly in the jaws of a big bass. I really hated losing that particular plug. It’s been a staple in my tackle box for years and years and accounted for who knows how many bass in Florida, Utah, and any other place I used it. The really bad news is that it’s irreplaceable. The lure’s manufacturer, Smithwick, decided some years ago not to make the small, two hook model any more. I can still get the larger three hook version but it won’t be the same and I just won’t have quite the confidence in the bigger plug. I’ll just have to live with an image of my lure hanging on a trophy rack underwater where bass come by and admire it and the monster who finally brought it down.

My neighbor George is a fireplace kind of guy. He goes through incredible amounts of firewood, all coming from trees on his or our property or other neighbors willing to give up their dead trees. Most are water oak and pine, neither of which are particularly long living trees. Being such a long, hard winter this year, what seemed to me enough firewood for a lifetime, dwindled to zero so he got into some serious tree cutting and log splitting this week. I always help George with heavy work because he’s the guy who fixes most anything that goes wrong with any of my equipment or appliances. He also has heart issues and I’d hate to see something bad happen when he was doing something I could have been helping with. George has for sure cut down hundreds of trees over the years and knows what he’s doing. As opposed to me, when he tells you where a felled tree is going to land, you can go to the bank on it. We had taken down a large oak and tackled a dead pine right next to it. The oak was tricky due to the way the branches were hanging but the pine looked to be a piece of cake. After quite a tussle involving ropes and trucks, we pretty much laid the oak down where planned. But just as George was making the last cut on the pine, a gust of wind came up and blew it in exactly the opposite direction as planned. It was caught by another oak but the top most branches crossed the power lines. Didn’t break the lines but had them fairly well stressed. We started lopping pieces off the bottom of the tree which caused it to start lifting up and away from the lines. With each cut the tree got a bit more upright and closer to leaving the lines. The last cut did it – the tree snapped upright and popped away from the lines without breaking them. But the lines were like bow strings and slapped together for just a second. Pop, snap, sizzle. The pop was the circuit breaker servicing the neighborhood. We quickly cleaned up the evidence and then called the power company to report an outage. It took them 2 1/2 hours to restore power since we couldn’t tell them exactly which breaker to check first. So a day that started out kind of boring ending with a bit of excitement. The funny part was that Nancy and Barbara were watching the whole thing and George had made a big deal of putting down an X where he intended the tree to drop. That was probably as big a mistake as not having a guide rope on the tree.

No end in Sight

The internet saga continues. Sent back both modems, one to US Robotics, one to Amazon. Amazon sent me a replacement quick, quick, quick. Hooked it up and learned almost immediately that it didn’t work either. But, it didn’t work in a different fashion. The modems I returned didn’t dial the server. This modem dialed just fine but the server didn’t answer. Now I’m mentally back to an AOL problem but one hooked to the basic communication function. When I unwrapped the new modem I noticed that it was a V92 compatible modem, supposedly the latest and greatest, but I vaguely remembered that the one I sent back was a V90. I asked the AOL guy if they were V92 compatible and was told that they were not, V90 only. As of now I haven’t received the replacement for the one I sent back to the manufacturer but I have some hope that I’m closing in on it.

And I might have found out why the two other modems either failed or appeared to have failed. Not sure which. I had decided that when I installed this brand new one, I was going to hook it to a dedicated line – one with no splitter to support a voice phone – and to use only the cable that came with the modem. That cable had an RFI filter built in and the one I had always used was just a standard issue telephone line. When I got under the desk to disconnect everything, I found that somewhere along the way I had picked up a powered surge protection device for the tele line and that the cable I had been using to connect the modem went through that surge device. So if that device was bad, perhaps that was what was killing the signal out of the modem and has been the problem all along. I would certainly feel better if that turns out to be the cause. I’ll just take a sledge hammer to it and beat it until all of my frustrations have been revenged. That’s one nice thing about hardware problems vs software problems – the ability to take a hammer to the bad guy.

One good thing that has come out of this whole mess is going to the library to hit the wi-fi once in a while. Turns out that a group called Friends of the Library sells used books on the premises. They get $1 for hardbacks and $.25 for paperbacks. Each time we go I hit the used book shelves while Nancy does her Face Booking online. I read about one book per week, year round and have built up a backlog of 25 books, mostly paperbacks, as of yesterday. So even if we ever get back online at the house, I’m set for books until the next cold season comes around. When I finish the books I return them to the library for resale so I’m really renting them much cheaper than paying overdue book fines.

Late Breaking

Wrong again. The new modem(s) seem to work just fine but were unable to hook up with AOL – and of course that’s the whole objective. I spent another hour on the phone with US Robotics and they finally ended up telling me that I needed to go to Apple to solve the problem and to please call them with what fixes the problem so they will know in the future how to deal with my situation.

Called Apple and that’s when the axe fell. The service tech told me that I had the feared and dreaded software problem – a corrupt file and the only thing he knew to do was reload the operating system which could wipe out everything so I needed a good backup. And even worse, they, Apple, no longer supported dial-up so he really couldn’t help. I almost passed out and asked exactly what he meant by no longer supported dial-up. He said it means that they are no longer trained on how to deal with dial-up products and that he was surprised that my laptop ever worked. I asked him if there was anybody there in the support center that had some gray hair and remembered how to deal with old time problems. He laughed and set me up for an appointment with a service guy at the Apple Store. So here I am swept back 40 years to the feared and dreaded software problem where nobody really knows what the hell is going on. The Gates’ Curse on my Mac. No hardware to hammer; no good way to vent.

This may be my last post for the foreseeable future.

Quilting event

Had another big quilting event at the house – a mystery quilt airing. The 10 members of the quilt group each make a quilt using exactly the same squares – the same pattern – but using whatever combinations, colors, positioning etc that they want. Even the size of the individual squares and of the end item can be different. The only rule is that the quilt must incorporate the same 8 square patterns. The ladies have a luncheon and while they’re eating I hang up the quilts outside on the clotheslines. Then they all come out and ooooh and aaaaaah and say how pretty each one is. What amazes me is that unless you know the ground rules in advance, you’d really never pick up the fact that they all contained the same elements. By the way the patterns are positioned on the quilt and the choices of colors, each one looks totally original. The next event is already planned for September on Joey’s boat.

We’ve got an interesting, my words not Nancy’s, phenomena at the lake this time of year- the pine trees are pollinating. We have so many pine trees that it’s not something you can miss. What happens is that a fine yellow powder saturates the air and layers on every available surface. So the cars turn yellow, the deck turns yellow, and even the surface of the lake gets a powdery film on it that appears at first to be algae. If you stood still for a couple of hours I’m sure you would have a golden gilt. I feel it in my eyes but it doesn’t seem to give me any respiratory problems although I have to imagine my lungs have a fine yellow coating this time of year. It literally drives Nancy crazy – not any allergy but the dust on everything. Doesn’t seem to bother the fish which would get my attention in a heart beat. One thing for sure, after the pine comes the oak and the oak pollen really does attack me. All the rain we are having probably helps pull the pollen out of the air so that makes me feel better when the rain has me trapped inside.

computer woes

I’ve been having computer/Internet problems for the past week or so but finally seem to have worked it out. I’ve had this laptop system since August and had zero problems. Then last week, all of a sudden I was unable to get online. I have the old fashioned dial up communications and could listen in on the comm protocol to see if I could hear what was happening. Sure enough, my modem all of a sudden wasn’t dialing correctly. It was putting something on the line that caused an operator intercept and my error box indicated that we were getting no carrier from the far end modem- which was absolutely true. After exhausting all the thing I knew to do, over and over again, I gave up and figured that my modem itself had crashed. Bought another modem and had the exact same problem. I went back to the thoughts that it was a cockpit problem and took all the equipment to Tommy’s – the family IT dept. He did pretty much all the same things I did but guess what, it worked at his house. I then had him hook up the original modem and sure enough, it didn’t work. That pretty much confirmed that my diagnosis of a bad modem was correct. Brought the gear home, plugged it in and all was well with the world – for 3 days. Then back to the exact same problem. Has to be something in my house so I went over to my neighbor’s and hooked up to his telephone line. Same thing so my line isn’t the problem. Can’t imagine a problem that would allow a modem to work for a while and then stop, never again to work. Out of desperation, I called AOL suspecting somewhere along the line they had maybe changed software and I needed an upgrade. Turns out I might be on the right track and learned that the AOL software installed was for desktops not laptops and the problem I was having was exactly the symptom for that situation. So I suspect the original modem is just fine. They’re sending me the correct version of AOL or I could go to the library and download using wi-fi . That’s what I hate about these machines – they do things that are just weird and defy logic. Who would guess that something could work for months with the wrong software and then one day just decide it had had enough? That’s what the guys at Toyota are scratching their heads about.

Hold it, late breaking news – installed the new AOL software by downloading it at the library. Still doesn’t work. I’m right on the edge of throwing in the towel and going celibnet – no more internet. The only thing that has kept me wrestling with it has been my bride but at this point I’m ready to throw her under the bus with the laptop. The Carbone IT dept has flown the coop – I guess it’s just fair because I was probably on some business trip when he was having trouble with a math problem or something. Payback is a bitch. Nancy keeps suggesting I go to the Apple store where I’d be interfacing with somebody just past being a teenager who has no idea what a dialup modem is and suggest it would work just fine on DSL. My big hangup with that is a question in my mind whether I could hear that and not smash the laptop over his head. After reason has been exhausted it’s violence and that’s where I am.

Another chapter – decided to call the modem folks again and this time got a guy that really felt my pain and seemed to know all about the modem-Mac interface. I worked with this guy for nearly an hour at which time he announced that both of my modems were bad. I have to believe that the likelihood of me having two modems crater with the same failure mode is as close to zero as you can get. The fact that the modem guy didn’t think so bothers me just a bit. I think in my computer lifetime I never had a modem die and now to have two within such a short time………………………. So this story isn’t over and it may never have a happy ending. One big impact is that Nancy now wants to combine going to the library with having lunch or dinner out a couple times a week. So if this situation isn’t rectified in a few weeks, all of a sudden getting a satellite link starts to make economic sense. Talk about being backed into a corner.

These kind of happenings really make me nervous when I hear that the postal service is crashing as people leave traditional mail for electronic communications. I’m one of those guys that just know one day we are going to wake up and find that the world is down electronically through some scurrilous hacker activity or a natural phenomena that totally screws up the earth’s magnetic fields. Living in the woods, I’m halfway there all the time but the city folk will be jumping off the roofs of their high rises. If I just unhook now I can sit back and wait for the big event knowing I won’t be nearly as inconvenienced as the techy world.

A little politics

Haven’t mentioned politics for a while so here comes just a few observations.

Obama made a great comment the other day – “That’s what elections are all about”. What we’ll learn next November is whether the folks think they screwed up in the last election or will double down and load up Washington with more Dem’s.

I’m not even slightly surprised by the administrations desire to cut way back on the manned space program. It costs a ton of money which is spent in a very un democrat fashion. You could take 100 NASA workers and get 1000 pot hole fillers, union pot hole fillers, for the same money. Not even a close call. In this case the trade may have been the space program in exchange for the high speed train to Tampa. Wonder how many Brevard Countians voted for Obama? Bet lots of the soon to be unemployed. Guess that “change” thing isn’t working out to well for them. I haven’t seen any estimates yet of how much money each space shuttle launch adds to the local economy in terms of tourist dollars but suspect there will be some painful readjustments. Maybe it will all go to Orange County and Disney. Personally I wouldn’t want to be a Democrat running for office in Central Florida. Between gutting the space program and proposing giant medicare cuts, Central Floridians understand clearly now that they screwed up last election and appreciate what “change” means. To me the real irony is that a popular Democrat, JFK, jump started the manned space program and a popular Democrat, BHO, killed it. Show’s just how far that party has come in 50 years.

The older I get the more I appreciate the sheer brilliance of the founding fathers in designing our government. Having both a senate and a house of representatives, staggered election cycles, and having different term lengths for the senate and house – brilliant and another built in set of checks and balances. The two year house cycle keeps things from going too far off the tracks. You have a year to see how well your representative is doing and then he’s facing an election – a year to adjust as necessary. In the situation we’re in right now, interim elections in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts have alerted all House members and a third of the Senators that there are some seriously unhappy voters out there and some adjustments may be necessary if they are to hold on to their jobs. And they better get on with making those adjustments right now before the steam roller – that would be the voters – crushes them.

I wonder if there’s any concern that the only sector where employment is noticeably rising is in the government itself? That’s nice but government workers don’t produce anything – no products, no sales, no profits nada. In fact, the bigger the bureaucracy, the larger the impediment to private production so if you get in a spiral where government employment grows while private sector employment declines —–pending disaster. Especially scary is that a large number of these new government workers are unionized. You know when you hear about France being shut down by strikes………….

In closing, you have probably guessed that I’m not an Obama fan but my biggest beef and the change I hate the most is that it was never, ever this cold under George Bush.