Holiday, part 1, is over

Well, Christmas of 2011 is now over.  Today, being the 30th, is almost the last day of the year too.  Our Christmas here was very quiet.  Our granddaughter is down in Texas going to college there so there was just three of us to exchange gifts.  We have a friend, who we’ve known for over 40 years, living in our basement.  Of course, he was invited up to share Christmas dinner with us.

We had a great dinner – probably ate too much – and then settled down in the living room to open gifts.  I got some very nice pocket tee shirts.  They are very hard to find, especially in short sleeves.  I dislike getting tee shirts that don’t have a pocket because (now) I carry around a small notebook to jot down things I want to remember.  The old brain cell isn’t functioning as it should since I’ve gotten older.

I got a couple of books from my wife.  Both are in my small group of favorite authors, and both were brand new releases.  Unfortunately, I’ve already blown through Griffin’s book, but Clancy’s book will take a lot longer.  My most surprising gift came from my friend Rick.  He gave me a 30G iPod.  Only recently have I discovered that if I use larger, over-the-ear, earphones I can hear music very well.  I can’t use ear buds because I have to take out my hearing aids and that negates hearing music because I can’t distinguish the middle frequencies enough to enjoy it.  Now, I have to get busy and continue transferring my vinyl collection (450 records strong) over to MP3 for the iPod.  To that end, I bought a USB turntable a while back.  It works well but the bundled software that came with it was really badly written and difficult to work with.  I now just fire up Audacity, start the record playing, and come back in a half hour to stop recording.  Then, all I have to do is chop up the half hour recording into tracks.  Easy.

Regarding my post a while ago about my rusting truck I now have to consider putting inner tubes into all four of my tires.  I paid almost a hundred dollars to have all four tires remounted (after cleaning the rims) but since they are aluminum alloy wheels, they have developed corrosion enough to cause air leakage.  They are still slowly leaking.  Short of buying new wheels (which I definitely cannot afford) tubes are the next line of defense.  I never knew that there were inner tubes specifically designed for radial tires.  They are a bit more expensive, but will keep the heat down from the sidewalls friction.  Conventional tubes will blow out quicker due to all the heat.

The weather has not been cooperating at all.  We’ve had lots of rain, blustery winds, and even a tiny bit of snow for the last ten days.  Definitely not what I’d consider proper Christmas weather.  Right now, I went out to refill the bird feeder and add another cob of corn to my squirrel bungee.  As I look out the window, I see that the little brown chickadees (or whatever they are) are having a blast picking out the smaller seeds and kicking the larger ones down to the ground for the larger birds to eat.  I don’t mind that, but in the spring some of the seeds sprout instead of being bird food and then I have a darker patch of grass to deal with.  Every year I move the feeder to another branch so I can clean up the sunflower shells.

My squirrel family across the road have been hunkered down in their nest most of this winter so far.  They venture out only when they spy a new corn cob on the rope.  I’ve lowered it somewhat so that the younger squirrels can jump up to it.  A couple of weeks ago I watched an older squirrel carefully pulling the rope up to the limb he was sitting on.  Once he wedged the cob into the fork of limbs, he went about stripping it of kernels.  Tricky animals, these squirrels.

My remaining desktop computer developed a case of ‘fan-itus’.  The cooling fan at the back of the case began to sound noisy from time to time.  I removed it and manually spun the blades.  They wouldn’t even make one revolution before stopping.  One, or both, of the bearings appeared to be bad.  This explained why, when I booted up a couple of times, I got told that the “system fan has failed, press F2 to continue”.  That sounds ominous, but it only means that the RPMs have fallen below what the BIOS has deemed to be safe.  It was still turning, but not moving a lot of air.  I ordered a new fan from Newegg (I love that place) and it arrived yesterday.  It was installed and now the temperatures inside the case are back to normal.  One strange thing though: The shipment started out as a UPS shipment but when it got to Dayton, for some very strange reason, it was turned over to the US Postal service for delivery.  Since I was tracking it, I noted that it arrived in Dayton very early one morning, but wasn’t delivered until TWO DAYS later by the Post Office.  So, this package took two days to come eight miles from central Dayton to me.  No wonder the Postal Service is whining about money.

That’s about it for now.  Not planning much for New Years.  I did note, however, that Lady Gaga will be putting on a couple of performances before the big ball drops.  I haven’t watched Dick Clark’s narrative of the Times Square happenings for years, but I just might this time.  For some undefinable reason it turns out that I like Lady Gaga’s music.  I couldn’t tell you why, but I do.  I’ve watched the DVD I made of her “Monster Ball at Madison Square Garden” performance on HBO several times.  The ‘A Capella’ rendition of Born This Way during the closing credits is great.  I guess you’re only as young as you feel.

Happy fall to you

As it was pointed out on the news today, the autumnal equinox occurred at twenty-three-something last night.  The time is, of course, in Eastern Daylight Time.  For one, I am fairly happy to see this summer go away.  It has been a very hot and muggy summer.  It was pretty much full of days where you didn’t even want to go outside for any reason.  If you did, you’d be covered in sweat perspiration, and your clothes would hang on you like burlap bags.

I notice that Flighty’s post today (http://flightplot.wordpress.com/) holds a wonderful picture of ‘punkins’; the traditional Autumn and October vegetable.  Somehow, I just can’t bring myself to call them by their proper name of pumpkins.  I’ve always called them the diminutive of punkin.  My dad used the term as well as his dad when he grew them on his farm out in Colorado.  Like Flighty, I’m not all the keen on punkins, but they make a great severed head for Halloween.

It is still  muggy and hot outside.  Yesterday it hit 95 degrees and it is supposed to be this way for the rest of the week.  We had a touch of rain, but it pretty much steamed up from the ground right as it hit.  I don’t see any more on the way for us for the rest of the week.  There is a storm system to the west of us, but it seems to be carrying northwards up into the Michigan peninsula and will probably cross the border into Canada instead of coming this way.

The house and grounds I am caring for is once again up for sale.  The price has been reduced drastically down to around $215K.  If I had the money, that would sound attractive to me for a historic house and just a hair under 3 acres of huge trees.  Since I’m the ‘caretaker’ I’ve been asked to get it ready for tours by making sure all the doors close properly and the floors are nice and clean – that sort of thing.  Since the house as been vacant for so long, and the heating/cooling has been turned off, some of the frames around the doors have warped slightly.  I need to touch them up with a little filing or planing so they will close.  I am told that doors not closing is a big turn-off for potential house buyers.

Well, breakfast is done, so I guess it’s time for me to get moving over to the house and begin working on it.

Bill

I have a web site!

Two days ago I uploaded the first draft of my web site.  The first page has a picture of me at the controls of a steam engine.  Number 97 of the Valley Railroad.  The railroad itself is over in Connecticut, in the town of Essex.  It is known also as “The Essex Steam Train” and their web site can be found here: http://www.essexsteamtrain.com/.

My site is a specialized site aimed at allowing people whose versions of the train simulator sold by Auran (Australian company) have become unsupported.  A ‘route’ is a collection of train boards with all manner of textures, trees, houses, tracks, trains, and the like set down on them.  Terrain can be modeled from actual digital maps and can be quite realistic.

I offer some pictures of a route that I created several years ago so you can get the general idea what Trainz is all about.

The site is here: http://trainzroutez.info/welcome.html so drop on by if you’re curious to see what I look like (with an added 20 pounds I have since lost).

Something screwy going on here.  I’m not getting my RSS feeds of this blog.

Bill

Thing we should know but probably don’t

Most of the items are aimed for a US audience, but they are interesting anyway.  Courtesy (again) of my sister.

1.  Money isn’t made out of paper, it’s made out of cotton.

2.  The Declaration of Independence was written on hemp (marijuana) paper.

3.  The dot over the letter i is called a ‘tittle’.

4.  A raisin dropped in a glass of fresh champagne will bounce up and down continuously from the bottom of the glass to the top.

5.  Susan Lucci is the daughter of Phyllis Diller.

6.  40% of MacDonald ‘s profits come from the sales of Happy Meals.

7.  315 entries in Webster’s 1996 Dictionary were misspelled.

8.  The ‘spot’ on 7UP comes from its inventor, who had red eyes.  He was albino.

9.  On average, 12 newborns will be given to the wrong parents, daily.

10.  Warren Beatty and Shirley MacLaine are brother and sister.

11.  Chocolate affects a dog’s heart and nervous system; a few ounces will kill a small-sized dog.

12.  Orcas (killer whales) kill sharks by torpedoing up into the shark’s stomach from underneath, causing the shark to explode.

13.  Most lipstick contains fish scales.

14.  Donald Duck comics were banned from Finland because he doesn’t wear pants.

15.  Ketchup was sold in the 1830’s as medicine.

16.  Upper and lower-case letters are named ‘upper’ and ‘lower’ because in the time when all original print had to be set in individual letters, the ‘upper case’ letters were stored in the case on top of the case that stored the smaller, ‘lower case’ letters.

17.  Leonardo Da Vinci could write with one hand and draw with the other at the same time, hence, multi-tasking was invented.

18.  Because metal was scarce, the Oscars given out during World War II were made of wood.

19.  There are no clocks in Las Vegas gambling casinos.

20.  The name Wendy was made up for the book Peter Pan; there was never a recorded Wendy before!

21.  There are no words in the dictionary that rhyme with: orange, purple, or silver!

22.  Leonardo Da Vinci invented scissors.  Also, it took him 10 years to paint Mona Lisa’s lips.

23.  A tiny amount of liquor on a scorpion will make it instantly go mad and sting itself to death.

24.  The mask used by Michael Myers in the original ‘Halloween’ was a Captain Kirk’s mask painted white.

25.  If you have three quarters, four dimes, and four pennies, you have $1.19.  You also have the largest amount of money in coins without being able to make change for a dollar.

26.  By raising your legs slowly and lying on your back, you can’t sink in quicksand (and you thought this list was completely useless.)

27.  The phrase ‘rule of thumb’ is derived from an old English law, which stated that you couldn’t beat your wife with anything wider than your thumb.

28.  The first product Motorola started to develop was a record player for automobiles.  At that time, the most known player on the market was the Victrola, so they called themselves Motorola.

29.  Celery has negative calories!  It takes more calories to eat a piece of celery than the celery has in it to begin with.  It’s the same with apples.

30.  Chewing gum while peeling onions will keep you from crying!

31.  The glue on Israeli postage stamps is certified kosher.

32.  “Guinness Book of Records” holds the record for being the book most often stolen from public Libraries.

33.  Astronauts are not allowed to eat beans before they go into space because passing wind in a space suit damages it.

34.  George Carlin said it best about Martha Stewart.  ” Boy, I feel a lot safer now that she’s behind bars.  O.J.  Simpson and Kobe Bryant are still walking around; Osama Bin Laden too, but they take the ONE woman in America willing to cook, clean, and work in the yard, and they haul her off to jail.”

Enjoy.

Bill

Snow, snow, everywhere

No pictures today.  I looked outside this morning and saw that we had already accumulated almost three inches over the last eight inches we had before.  Even then, I had to run my granddaughter over to the next town for her college class.  Luckily, my truck had been repaired from it’s bout with a blown hydraulic hose in the steering.  Four-wheel driving all the way there are back.  Not much fun.  We found, when we got back, that afternoon and evening classes had been canceled.

So, here I sit, penned in by the snow, and nothing to do.  Right now, the satellite is “in”, but with all the snow it just might go “out”.  I have a lot of DVD’s to watch though so all is not lost.  I might even try to do some more work on one of my virtual railroads.  Chippy has been asking for an update to my German route “Echternach to Erdorf” so maybe I’ll work on that.  It is unfortunate that I didn’t use the real terrain for the route, but, instead, just did a rough approximation.  Back in 1955 (through 1958) my dad was stationed in Bitburg which is right in the middle of my route.  To get names for surrounding towns, I just went out on Google Earth and mapped out the old train route.  It doesn’t even exist any more now.  The line stops at Bitburg and doesn’t continue down to the Luxembourg border.

Even I, a great lover of all things snowy, am ready for spring.

Bill

Rainy day ramblings

Today was full of surprises.  At about 0430 I got up for a moment and headed to the bathroom.  What captured my attention right away was the weird flashing lights on all the windows.  When I returned to the bedroom, I looked out and the entire sky was alight from end to end with huge blasts of lightning.  It was a completely silent display though – no thunder at all.  It looked like the Northern Lights.

At first I wondered if I should stick my hearing aids in to see if there was some thunder, but decided not to.  Instead, I went to my computer room and brought up the NOAA weather map (http://radar.weather.gov/Conus/index_lite.php).  Sure enough, there was a huge pod of storms centered overhead.

About that time, thunder began registering from the West – a normal direction for most storms.  Lightning began flashing even faster and, since thunder was accompanying it at around two or three second intervals (about 3 miles away) I decided to shut down my electronics.  Good thing too as about ten minutes later we had a power dip that lasted about three seconds.  I could hear my electronics and UPS boxes beeping.

When I got back to bed a half-hour later I kept getting jolted awake by thunder as I dozed off.  Very noisy indeed.  Finally gave up at about 0730 and went for my mile walk in brief sunshine.

Now, all day long it has been storming on and off.  First a burst of sun and next heavy, rain-laden clouds.  Not very much actual rain though.  My gauge shows only about 0.85 inches as of 1700 today.  The wind was very high at times and blew a squirrels nest right out of a tree and onto the top of my truck.  No damage, but I bet it was a wild ride for the squirrels inside it.

The weather has somewhat backed off now but the wind continues.  According to the weatherpersons it will continue like this for the next two days.  I don’t think so though.

Saturday was me and my wife’s 46th wedding anniversary.  We went to the Red Lobster and had a great dinner.  You have to be careful about telling anyone at those resturaunts though about special days because most of them make a big fuss over it.  I prefer not to be the object of everyone’s attention.  For example: when we went to a local Texas steak house for my birthday one of my friends told the greeter it was my birthday and, when I wasn’t looking, they wheeled over a huge spindly fake horse with a saddle and tried to get me to sit on it.  That wouldn’t have been too bad, but they also wanted me to slap on a goofy 10-gallon hat made of floppy felt that had a brim about 3-feet round.  I felt like an idiot.

My granddaughter is doing right well with her driving lessons.  She can now zoom along an interstate highway without trepidation.  She still merges cautiously, which is a plus, but needs to be just a bit more agressive.  She also received confirmation this afternoon that she has landed a great job working with kids part time.  This is not to interfere with her college classes though.  It will give her some spending money for sure and give her lots of practical experience for her chosen professional aims – lower grades teaching.

Time to get ready for dinner now.