Wondering about wild grapes

Monday, February 28, 2011

Wondering when a person is dead.

I have been told in the past that I was brain dead. Now the person telling me that was not a doctor nor was I dead. It was just their way of telling me that they thought I was acting stupid. Now, believe me, I don’t have to act.

In the good old days, if you were not breathing and if no one could hear a heart beat, you were pronounced dead, but they did hold wakes just in case you woke up, but more for the alcohol involved in the process. I assume, a few “dead” people actually did wake up. Has even happened in modern times.

Now days, your heart beat and breathing can be normal, but they can pronounce you brain dead and pull the feeding tube and let you starve to death. Ever wonder how many people we have killed that way who could have recovered? I just finished reading an article by Kat McGowan in the magazine Discover that was titled “Back from the Brink”. Very interesting and told how even some “brain dead” people still had a spark of life in the brain and some repair themselves enough to communicate and some need a little brain stimulation. The question is, how many people have we killed?

My wife’s cousin’s husband had a motorcycle accident the day of my father-in-laws funeral. He was in a coma for many, many years, but she refused to “pull the plug” on him. She says that he was still there and sometimes his eyes followed her. After reading that article in Discover, I am now convinced that she did the right thing. It was definitely the right thing for her.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Paper Cutter, etc.

My wife and I went to the flea market yesterday morning. It was cloudy and every now and then you could feel a little mist in the air. There were only about three quarters the vendors that are there on Sundays and hardly any customers. A very good time to browse around.

It turned out to be a good day for us. Both my wife and I purchased some things that we wanted. My wife got a lot of things that she wants to use in her crafting work, plus a nice small solid wood table along with some other things.

I am the one that found the best bargain, a Fiskars 12” Deluxe Rotary paper trimmer. Here is a picture of my purchase, sorry for the blurriness, I must have moved when taking the picture:

It is as good as new and does a fantastic job. It clamps the paper in place while you cut it. I would imagine that it would cut other material, also, although my wife tells me it would be best to stick to paper.

Here is a link to the paper cutter I purchased at the flea market yesterday for only $2.00. And it is as good as new:

Now, I would say that is quite a bargain, $2.00 for an item that retails at $82.45. I saved $80.45 with that purchase. The only way to save more is not to have bought anything, (grin).

Here is the replacement bar:

As you can see, it costs $14.58 but can be rotated 8 times for a new cutting surface.  And the 45 mm rotary cutting blades can be purchased at any store that sells crafts or hardware.

Now I can pack away the old cheap one I was using and save it as a spare. My wife and I cut a lot of paper since we have been making cards to send to my Aunt every day. This will do a better job and easier, too.

Now that I am on a roll, will go back to the flea market again this morning. At least all the walking is good exercise, right?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Another comment about tires

Remember my blog the day before yesterday titled: “Wondering about your  tires”?  In that blog I stated that the four tires that I took off the Jeep looked almost new except for some tread wear. That statement was correct; there were no apparent weathering cracks that I could see. These tires had been driven on almost every day. 

Now, I looked at the spare tire this morning. This tire is the same age as the ones I took off the four wheels. The difference is the weathering cracks. The spare is not a safe tire to drive on. I will only use it for short term emergency use.

Don’t believe me? Here are three pictures that I took this morning of my spare tire:

If this doesn’t make my point of what happens to a tire after 6 or 7 years, I don’t know what will.  This tire was never used and it will be 7 years old sometime this year.

The difference between this tire and the ones that I drove on was that the rubber got flexed while in use. This helped prevent the observable cracking, but the integrity of the tire would have been dropping off rather quickly.

I was lucky in one respect. The tire dealer told me that the tires on my Jeep where manufactured only a month before the Jeep. He said that is the exception rather than the rule. Depending on the popularity and the market, a lot of tires sit in warehouses for long periods of time after they are manufactured. The tire makers produce tires in batches. They can not afford to tool up to produce just a few tires of one kind, so when they need to make a certain tire size and model, they make a lot of them and then store them. Makes business sense.

So, check the manufacture date of your tires and try to replace them after they reach 7 years old or before if you see signs of failure.  And, check the manufacture dates on any new tires that you purchase.
I want you to be safe out there.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Wondering about shapes.

I received an email from a friend of mine and a commenter on my blog. His name is Ernest and a very great and interesting fellow. Anyway, I am going to paste his email here in my blog for you all to see:

Hello Dick, You got me to thinking about things, with all your wondering.

I was wondering about shapes.

When I was a kid the shape that fascinated me was the Quaker Oats box. I loved that thing. I used it to make a small fort, a tower, a rocket ship, and probably stuff I just forgot about. All other pantry boxes were square, this one was and still is round. It changed a little bit. The cover is sealed differently. We used to pull a string on the top near the cover to open it.

Altoids tins are very popular with hams for qrp stuff, yet another neat little box.

I also like the shape of Tobasco bottles. Old Coca Cola bottles, the 5 cent ones were really nice to hold in my hand. They fit just right. Coke just ain't the same out of a can or 2 liter bottle. Coke glasses from a soda fountain are nicely shaped too.

In the old days you could recognize a product by its unique shaped container, not so much anymore!

I hope you'll do a blog on it some time.

Well, Ernest, here it is.

And I replied to him not to forget the small slender metal tobacco cans. When I was a kid I had a couple that I used to hold bait for fishing. One, with holes punched in it for crickets or grass-hoppers and one for worms. It would fit easily into your back pocket and when the contents were needed, the lid just flipped open.

Back when Ernest and I were kids growing up, companies tried to design their products and/or containers to be unique and easily recognizable. A lot of products today do, also, but in the most part, containers have become generic.

Just look at the automobile industry. Back when we were young, you could quickly identify a vehicle’s make, model, and year just by a quick glance. By looking at it from any angle, it had an unique shape that told the beholder immediately what it was. Try that today!! They all, with a few exceptions, look the same to me. I have to be real close so I can read the name to tell which company built the car I am looking at. What does that one car ad call them, “Cookie Cutter Cars”?

It seems that Ernest and I grew up in the best possible time period. For me, the late 40’s and early 50’s were a great time to be alive (and young).

What are some of your favorite shapes? How about the ones you dislike?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Wondering about your tires.

Well, I broke down (or should I say I am broke now) and went and bought 10 tires and had them all put on; 6 for the motor-home and 4 for the Jeep. Had all that done in just part of yesterday afternoon. I just hooked up the Jeep to the back of the old motor-home and went to the tire shop less than 10 miles from my place. Yes, there were a lot of tire places closer, but the people at this one impressed me the most.

I almost cried when I made the decision to replace all the tires, since they all had a whole lot of tread left. In fact, the ones on the motor-home looked almost new. That is, until you looked closely at the side walls near the tread and near the bead. They were dry-rotting. The tire guy said it was not dry-rot but weathering and this area with the high humidity and lots of sun was hard on tires, especially if they didn’t get used and the tires start cracking. The Jeep’s tires had more tread wear but the side walls looked new.

You should always replace tires that were manufactured over 6 years ago, or at the most, 7 years ago. The last four digits on the serial number are the week and year of manufacture. All my tires were original and the Jeep is a 2004 model and the RV is a 2005 model, so it was time. I didn’t replace the spare on the jeep, since it was never used and hopefully never will be. If I need to use it, it will be just long enough to get another tire. It is too old, so would not trust it too far.

I wasn’t too worried about the Jeep. It probably could have gone another year or so, but I have a couple of trips planned for this year and didn’t want any tire troubles, so just did my best to prevent any.

The tire guy was surprised to see that the old tires on my Jeep where made the same month as the Jeep. They didn’t sit around in any warehouse. Depending on the popularity of your tire brand and size, a newly purchased tire can already be a couple years old. Always check, tires start to disintegrate as soon as they are made, not when you put them on your vehicle.

I want all of you out there to be safe on the roads. Check your tires. Remember, yours and your loved ones’ lives are riding on those tires. How many of you have replaced tires that appeared good but had reached the 7 year old mark? Please do.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Iced Tea poll results, etc.

Thank you all for participating in my poll on iced tea. The question was whether you took it sweetened or unsweetened. Of the eight comments, four liked it sweet and four liked it unsweetened. Of course, since I like it straight up (unsweetened), I will break the tie. I was surprised that it was so close. It just goes to show you that we in America are not afraid to be different than the other fellow.

I am sure that there are subjects that we could all agree on; well, most of us, anyway. But in most things we are divided. That is why our government has worked as well as it has over the last 235 years. That is why there are two distinct political parties. I bet that we would be pretty much equally divided on almost every subject.

You all need to go to Ben’s blog, An Older Texan Remembers, and click on the link to the story about the air rifle that Lewis and Clark took on their expedition.  I had never heard of it and was amazed.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Wondering whether sweet or unsweetened.

Hermit Jim’s comment on my last blog got me a wondering about iced tea, sweet or unsweetened. Before I moved to Texas in 1980, I had only had sweetened ice tea and I didn’t much like it. Didn’t care much for hot tea, either. Then, after arriving in Texas, I discovered unsweetened iced tea. I really liked it; it was just so very refreshing.

I had to take a business trip to Calgary, Alberta one time. The first evening, I sat down at a restaurant and ordered iced tea with my meal. In the Houston area, I was used to being served unsweetened tea and if you wanted it sweet, there were bowls of sugar on all the tables, or they would ask you if you wanted sweet or unsweetened.

I was really dry and took a great big gulp of the tea and almost spit it all out. It was as sweet as syrup!!! I could not drink it, would have gone into sugar shock (grin). It seems to me that the further north you go the sweeter the iced tea gets. Wonder how the Eskimos drink iced tea. Maybe that far north the choice is “frozen or thawed”.

Well, I have now learned when I order iced tea to plainly state that I want no sweetener of any kind what so ever in it. I don’t drink much iced tea at home, mostly coffee, so when I go out to eat the iced tea is an additional treat.

OK, how do you all like your iced tea, sweet or unsweetened?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Just a wondering

A friend who moved up north from here in Texas sent us a picture of a frozen lake with a sign that read, “Swimming Prohibited”. Now, what I am wondering about, since it is frozen over, is it legal to walk on it? Or are those signs just another form of “no trespassing” signs?

 In the summer, can you boat on it?

 If you fall out of the boat or off the shore, you would have to drown, since it is illegal to swim, right?

What if I just waded or floated?

Dang, aint life confusing?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Old camera Old drive

How old are you in computer years? Dang, I must be thousands or millions of years old. You see, I remember when a computer took up an enormous size room and spit out punch cards. By the way, did you know that the only reason the first computer systems used punch cards instead of magnetic tape (yes, magnetic tape storage was available) was that IBM had the best sells force and they already had punch card systems in use. Because of that, we were set back years in computer development.

Then came personal computers with huge “floppy drives”. Then the hard drive came about and the floppy shrunk down to under 6” and then they came out with the 3.5” floppy. I liked that one and still do, but now computers don’t come standard with 3.5” drives anymore.

Do you remember what your first digital camera was? Mine was a Sony Digital Mavica that used 3.5” floppy drives to save pictures as .pdf files. It had a 10x zoom. I loved that camera and still do. Although the picture files were not high resolution, the 10x zoom brought distant objects close. You could also pull out the floppy and stick it right into any computer. That is, up until now. Seems they have eliminated the 3.5” drive on new computers. The last one I had built, I insisted that one be included.

Here is picture of the front of the old camera:

And here is the back:

And here is a picture of my newer camera taken with the old one.  Notice how much smaller the newer one is:

Just to prove that the old camera took good pictures, although not as dense, here are a few old pictures.  This first one is of a mushroom and the detail is quite clear:

And these two are of a humming bird, one in flight and one sitting.  That old camera did a pretty good job:

Go take some pictures and enjoy life now and again when you look at your pictures.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Pig Update

OK, I have spent over two hours just reading blogs and trying to think of something to say. Well, it is Saturday morning and I am brain dead today, so just can’t think of anything. Then I said to myself “Self, there is always the Pig”.

Great idea, so I grabbed my camera and ran outside. Dang, she wasn’t in her normal spot. But this story had a happy ending.

The “Pig” was lying near a big old oak tree with a smaller male that has been running with her for a long time. Although I get really mad at her for tearing up my yard and stirring up my dogs and scaring my wife, I must admit that she does come in handy when I can’t think of anything to write about in my blog.

I took the following pictures while standing in the dogs’ back yard. The pigs were lying on the strip of land between my back yard and my swamp.

And here is close-up.  You can just barely see the rear end of the smaller, darker male lying behind her:

Well, that is it for today.  Maybe by tomorrow, my brain will start working again.  Of course, I am not sure if it ever did work. .  .

Friday, February 18, 2011

Wondering about CME’s

Last Monday the first of three large Coronal Mass Ejections broke loose from the sun and are heading in our direction. About 8 minutes after the first CME broke loose; the earth was bombarded with a wave of radiation that had some effect on radio communication and GPS systems. But the huge clouds of charged particles takes a lot longer to reach earth and in most cases, they miss earth altogether.

From what I have heard, the probability of these three affecting earth is quite high. Normally our magnetic shield protects us from a lot of radiation and most charged particles, but it can be overpowered by a huge cloud (or mass) of charged particles. Then all sorts of bad things can happen, especially to the power grids and communications. Now my friends off grid have the least to worry about.

If a CME is large enough and hits us full force, it can strip away our magnetic field and induce high and fluctuating currents in transmission lines or any wire long enough to be affected. That could shut down grids and overload others causing blackouts. It could also ruin sensitive electronic equipment and of course pretty much put an end to radio communications. And in a worse case scenario, it could ruin are protective magnetic shield and allow cosmic radiation and all the radiation from the sun through to us. Of course, they could miss us entirely. We are just a little blue dot floating in an enormous space.

And too, the effects are felt more severely the closer to the poles you get. So Alaska and our neighbor to the north, Canada, would get hit the hardest. Of course everything has a good side and this holds true for CMEs. They can produce some of the most spectacular aurora borealis man has ever seen.

OK, to read all about it here is a link to a FOX news report on the subject:


I remember a few in the past. One in particular caused the grid to collapse in Canada and the north eastern US. There were black outs and some power generation plants where damaged along with some of the grids components.

Of course, like most things that could be really, really bad, they usually never live up to their full expectations and that is a good thing. It takes a few things beyond human control to happen now and then to humble us. The human race sometimes thinks it can control everything, if not now, eventually. Now and then it is good to be presented with something that is way beyond human control. I’m feeling a little more humble, how about you?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Wondering why I like working at home.

I can stop wondering now. I had a meeting in northwest Houston yesterday. It was planned very well to avoid any traffic problems and the location sounded easy to get to. The time was set for early afternoon. Everything was timed for the easiest commute.

Now, I have not been to Houston for a couple of years. I still have all those fond memories of sitting hours on end in backed up traffic. All it takes is one minor incident and in a few seconds, traffic is backed up for miles. Houston traffic jams are a dynamic thing. They change positions and sizes with time. The blockage seems to move upstream from the origin with time, so after some time has passed, you would have no idea where it had begun, except like yesterday when the Northwest Fwy had a multiple vehicle accident and created a huge jam.

I was lucky, although my meeting was located near the intersection of the Norhtwest Fwy and Beltway 8 (the toll road), I was unaffected by the jam. In reality, my trip went easily with no problems, but even at that time of day, the traffic was very, very heavy. This ole country boy driving along playing a bluegrass CD just seemed way out of place (and felt that way, too). I had forgotten just how bad the Houston traffic was at anytime of any day.

It was a journey of just shy of 50 miles for me and it only took me an hour and a half. The first half hour was used up just getting to Interstate 45 at Conroe. I took I-45 to the Beltway (toll road) and was suppose to get off at the Southwest Fwy exit, but missed the off ramp and had to go to the next exit and back track. That was not too hard, had a little help from my GPS and an associate on the cell phone who was waiting for me in the parking lot.

All went well and I got back home in one piece. I wasn’t even the worse for wear. Now I know why I have worked for myself out of my home office for almost the last 20 years. I actually started working on my own in 1984, 27 years ago, but did take on some full time jobs and projects since then. It has been an interesting adventure and still is. The work I get is always something new and different. I may not have made a fortune but I sure was never bored. This meeting was about something very new, so if I do get work out of it, it will be another new and interesting project.

You all have a good rest of the week.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

No Internet

Wow, I didn’t know I relied on the internet for so much until I didn’t have it anymore. I guess the old saying is right “You don’t get thirsty until the well goes dry.” I sure got thirsty real quick. I was expecting an email with some important information that I needed to have by this morning and yesterday the internet came crawling to a halt.

Let me explain. A couple of days ago, I thought that I noticed a slow down of my DSL service. I just shrugged it off as it being overloaded with too many using it at the same time. The speed seemed to fluctuate and if I waited for awhile, I could do what I wanted without much delay. It kept getting worse until yesterday morning just after I got my blog posted.

It took over five minutes just to receive a two sentence email. Then it stopped completely. I called the service number and the technician had me unplug all my computers from the DSL line and he ran some tests. He said that it was the company’s lines somewhere between the switching station and my property. He put in a work order and told me it may be up to 24 to 48 hours before it gets fixed.

Well, it came back up to normal last evening, so cross your fingers for me and hope it stays up. It pleased me that they got it up and running so quickly, but this short period of time let me know just how much I use the internet for almost everything. I have become internet dependent. There is no way that I could function with out it. Since I have worked out of my home office for years, the internet was my link to my customers and visa versa. Blogs and my email, oh my, what would I do without them.

I hope the end of the Mayan calendar is not predicting the end of the internet. That would be the end of life as we know it. Dang. . . .

As I am trying to post this blog, the internet is getting very sluggish again. Whatever the problem in the line is, it must not be fixed and must be intermittent. If they did fix it, they didn’t do too good of a job. OK, now, let me see if I can post this. . . I may not be able to post another one for awhile nor comment on the blogs I follow.  Maybe it will be back to normal in a day or two.  Hope so.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Survived Valentine’s Day

Well, I survived Saint Valentine’s Day, did you? Didn’t have any special candy, just ate a couple pieces of my 70 percent dark chocolate, just like every day. We did, however, get a couple of Caesar salads at McDonalds and a box of seven stuffed jalapeƱos (jusst for me) at Jack-in-the-Box for supper and a bowl of ice cream for an evening snack. That was the extent of my extravagance for Valentine’s Day and my birthday.

I got a call from my 90 something young Aunt, and she and her daughters sang “Happy Birthday to You” over the phone to me. Just loved it. Since they called when we were out getting our supper to bring home, the singing got recorded on my answering machine. I can now play it over any time I feel low. It will surely perk me up. I am blessed with great relatives, trouble is, they are all so far away.

This last weekend was potato planting time around here. I used to have a large garden. Gave that up a long time ago. Now that we have wild pigs all over the place, it would be useless.

Hope you all have a great week. Weather here will be warm and balmy. It feels nice for a change, after all that cold weather we have been enduring. Trouble is, it will now start to get real hot and humid. You haven’t lived until you have enjoyed 99 degrees with 99 percent humidity. Good for the complexion, they tell me. Didn’t help my looks any. . .

Monday, February 14, 2011

Fretting over Guitar Stands

OK, a little play on words. I have an Ovation guitar. Had it for a lot of years. You know the one that Glen Campbell made famous. Anyway, since it has an aluminum neck that is very straight, it is adjusted for very little clearance between the top of the frets and the bottom of the strings. Some of the frets up near the end of the neck where a large percentage of the chords are played have worn down and when a string is depressed the vibrations can make it hit frets on down toward the body.

I want to replace some frets. I stopped at a couple of music shops and they don’t seem to know anything about old Ovations. One guy thought that the whole neck had to be replaced. I don’t think so! I need to find better music stores that know what they are doing and stock the frets I need to replace the worn ones.

This guitar has a parabolic back, supposedly to create a better sound. It doesn’t when I play it, but I had a friend, Mike Guthrie, who could make it sound really good. Yes, his cousin was Arlo.

Anyway, since today is my birthday, the other day I bought myself a present. Got a guitar stand. I don’t think they make any for this guitar. It just barely fits in the one I bought and can not lean back because the parabolic back side is too wide. It stands straight up and looks like it is ready to fall over with the slightest jar. But the center of gravity must be back far enough that it seems fairly stable. It is just a little hard getting it placed in the stand so that it will stay.

Guess I will have to keep my eyes open for a better one. Maybe when I find a better music shop as I said I wanted to above. And no, I ain’t going to get a different guitar. I like this one.

You all have a happy Valentine’s Day and don’t eat too much candy nor kiss too much. . .

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Old Friends and the Daytime Moon

On nice clear days like we had yesterday (and predicted to continue) it is nice to be able to see the moon in the daytime. Here is a picture that I took yesterday at about 17:30 (5:30 pm):
And a closer view:

Sometimes, to me, it seems that the sun is not in the right spot to create the light and dark parts of the moon. But where we stand here on earth, it is hard to get the correct perspective. Half of the moon is always bathed in the sun, except in those rare occasions when the earth gets in the way and then there is a lunar eclipse. Like yesterday, from where we are, we don’t always see the entire lighted surface.

I reconnected to an old friend who I had lost contact with for many years. He was my “Best Man” at my wedding, even though we eloped. We had a church wedding and even had a couple of guests. This friend of mine had an exciting, varied, and unique life. He went to the Merchant Marine Academy and spent some interesting years on a ship as an engineer shipping war supplies to and from Viet Nam. Then he joined the Navy and became one of those Navel Air pilots that land a jet on the bobbing decks of a moving aircraft carrier. After the Navy, he became a commercial pilot and then I lost track of him until just few weeks ago.

What was funny, we both attended a class reunion. The reunion that year was for 5 different classes, I think that graduated in 1959 through 1963. Just this morning, I got an email telling me he did attend that reunion and told me where he was in the class picture. I got it out and sure enough, there he was, plain as day. We had both changed a lot, especially me. I don’t understand why I got so old and he didn’t!?!?

I told before about finally contacting him in my blog:
Like I said then, the last time before this, when I tried to locate him, he was living in England. He has sure had an exciting life and am now looking forward to a time when we can get together, sit down over a cup of coffee, and talk about old times and our lives since then.

You all have a great day now, you hear?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Wondering how I can do better

I want to thank all of you who left such kind comments on my blog yesterday. I really am glad that you all liked my try at art work, but let me tell you what I don’t like and what I would like to learn. I did get some critique from my wife and from a friend.

The friend commented, “The stucco on the adobe blocks is too monotone. It needs some value variation to give the stucco depth.” I totally agree. I am sure that I will do other paintings of the Terlingua area and will remember my friend’s suggestion.

My wife stated that the adobe blocks looked to perfect and more like cement blocks. I agree with her also. It is hard to unlearn engineering drafting skills (grin). I tried and tried when I first started the painting to show the old ruin made out of stone like the one I was using as a model. I just could not get them to look like stones, so switched them to adobe blocks. That is something that I am going to work on. Will just have to get an old piece of cardboard and keep painting stones until I get it right. May never be able to do it right, but am going to try.

Although the painting didn’t turn out exactly like I wanted it, I too think that it was not as bad as some of my other paintings.

Speaking of older paintings, you can take a look at the links below to see if I have progressed any.



Well, this is supposed to be the end of the cold spell. We will have highs in the 70’s for the next seven days and maybe even warmer at the end of next week. Took awhile to shake off “Old Man Winter” this year. In fact, it was down to 26 degrees when I got up this morning and it is suppose to get to the 70’s today. Wow, that is big jump in temperatures, don’t you think?

You all have a good weekend, you hear. . .

Friday, February 11, 2011

Continued as promised from Jan 5th.

Back on January 5, 2011, I posted a blog where I showed this quick sketch:

and told you that I was planning to make a painting of it. For some reason, I didn’t seem to take any time to work on it. A partially finished painting sitting there looking at me saying “finish me”. Well, last night I did just that.

Sorry that the picture of the painting came out so dark. Hope you can make out most of it and critique it like you did all my other paintings. I learned a lot from your comments. You will not hurt my feeling, sock it to me. After I quit crying and sobbing, I will be all right (grin).

My wife points out flaws in my painting all the time. At first I disagree with her, but after I sit and stare at the painting, I realize that she is usually right. OK, you got me there, I will correct that statement. My wife is ALWAYS right. Now, is that better?

Have a good upcoming weekend. The weather here is supposed to be fabulous. Hope it also is where you life.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Print-out Alignment

Have you ever tried to print something out on both sides of the paper that need to exactly line up? It isn’t as easy as it sounds; at least it wasn’t for this old dumb county boy.

I thought it would be neat to make a Valentine’s Day greeting card for my Aunt all by myself on my computer. Shoot, I got the software to handle that, at least I thought I did. Well, there is nothing wrong with my software, but there is something missing in the head of the operator.

There are four sides to a card, the front, the back and when you open it, there is a left and a right side. I had something that I wanted to put on every side. So I got started.

I made two different layouts, the front and back on one 6.5” x 10” layout and the two inside pages on another 6.5” x 10”. When folded up the card would be 5” x 6.5” so that it would fit the envelope that I had for it.

The outside had the front on the right and the back on the left. The inside had the writing (a poem I wrote) on the right side and a picture/design on the left side. Now came the problem. Since the flat card layout is smaller than a full sheet of paper, you just couldn’t run it through the printer twice. Now I had to think. Haven’t done that in years and it hurt.

I first printed the outside of the card. The back came out of the printer first with the bottom to the left. To keep the same orientation, I turned it over and placed it in the “in” tray with the back leading. I was smart enough to realize that I had to rotate the layout 180 degrees to get the inside verse side to line up with the outside back side. Then I printed it.

Oops, the orientation was correct but the front and back were offset. I measured the mismatch and offset the print that much on the next go-around. That actually worked. It sounded like I figured that out quickly, but that was not the case. It took a couple of hours to get it figured out. Now, I wonder if I will remember how to do that the next time?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Mid-Week Bog-Down

Mid-week bog down? Not with me, I am pretty bogged down every day. The older I get the deeper the bog gets. I can remember the good old days when I could run on the surface, now I sink in pretty deep.

I guess the “bog” has always been just as deep but the speed at which you run is what determines how deep you will sink. I don’t run nearly as fast as I used to. When I sink in up to my neck, I plan to speed up. But, then it will probably be too late. So, I guess I better put the pedal to the medal and get myself going. Surfing or skiing on top of the bog is much better than sinking in over my head.

This got me thinking about my swamp and what my youngest son did one day. He put a propeller on the end of gasoline powered weed-eater. He then put the canoe in the swamp and fired up the weed-eater and stuck the prop end into the water. Wow, he just zoomed across the swamp like a jet sky and I bet he trimmed a few weeds on the way.

It was quite maneuverable and very fast. Actually, I thought he had a great idea. Probably wouldn’t need a license since there was no motor mounted to the canoe. It was just a power paddle (grin). . .

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Wondering if we learn more.

In this modern day and age, we have more information readily available right at our fingertips than ever before. With all this abundant information, I wonder if we really learn anything. Human beings are basically lazy as our all parts of our body. Any aids to our body do not make the affected parts get any stronger, just the same or weaker. You know, like wearing glasses or hearing aids or having your arm in a sling.

The glasses help you see better, but the body becomes dependent on them and does not try harder to see better, same with hearing aids, etc. If you carry your arm in a sling, your arm will become weaker. I need not go on, you get my point, which is, the easier we get information the less we learn by ourselves or try to work things out ourselves.

I know that is true for me. I never could spell very well, but now with the aid of spell checkers, my spelling has become worse. And why should I remember anything, when with a few keystrokes I can retrieve any fact, address, telephone number, etc. that I want to know. Even when driving somewhere, my GPS system tells me where to go, even more than the wife does.

I commented on Gypsy’s blog yesterday telling her about an aid to identifying celestial objects. It is called the SkyScout by Celestron. You just aim it at any one of 50,000 objects in the sky and a 5 line text and a graphics display describes them while you listen through earbuds to stories and facts about the object.

I suppose a gadget like that will help you learn the sky. That is, if you don’t get lazy and depend on it. Which do you think would happen?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Monday again,

Well this is Monday morning again. Actually, now that I am retired and just plain tired, Mondays are not that special. Of course since I was self employed and worked out of my home, Mondays were not then a big deal, either. Hope your Monday is going great.

Yesterday was beautiful. It got up to the low 70’s and with a breeze, was very comfortable. We went to the flea market just to get some walking in and to see all the different stuff that was for sell. I spotted another neat car parked there. Must be a favorite destination for people with classic or unusual vehicles. Here is a picture:

I told you once about my friend Les who was also a HAM. We were always in radio contact, even when I moved to Texas. I kept a schedule with him on 15 meters. He was a neat fellow and lived in an area of Pennsylvania where I loved to go deer hunting or camping or just for a walk or a drive in the woods. I can tell you lots of radio related things that he and I got into, but since most of you are not Amateur Radio operators, I will not bore with them, although some are quite hilarious.

One of his other hobbies was collecting antique tractors. Here is a picture taken in 1983 of Les and three of his tractors. The one in front is a 1923 Fordson, then a 1942 John Deere “LA” and the last is a 1946 John Deere “LA”. These pictures were taken in Leslie’s front yard.

Neat tractors, don’t you think?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Young Campers

Do you remember back when you where a kid and went camping with a friend? Maybe it was just out in the back yard up close to the house or maybe it was far off in the woods. No matter where you went camping, it was an adventure, fun, and exciting experience. I grew up in a camping family. Both my parents grew up camping.

After World War Two, there was a lot of military surplus stuff to use for camping. One thing I remember is the tent halves. Why halves, you ask? Back then, canvas was what tents were made from and it was heavy. A soldier in the field had a lot of other important things to carry with him, so each soldier carried a tent half. It could be used alone as a one man shelter, but if he had a buddy, they could attach the two halves together and have a fairly roomy two man pup tent.

Well, I had both halves, so with a little help from my Dad, I would pitch a tent up in the woods or at the edge of the woods on the back of our property. He even taught me how to trench it so the rain would not get inside.
Well, my best friend and companion who lived within a mile of my home, used to come up and we would camp out. Here is a picture of the two of us:

He and I have been best friends ever since I can remember. He is a year younger than me, but back when we were growing up, he was the bigger of the two of us. Not only did we camp by ourselves, but we would go off to a church camp for a week every summer.

Here is a picture of my buddy and one of the cabins we stayed in:

And the creek that we swam in:

It had leaches and was really cold. After a few years, they built swimming pool and we used that instead. We really had good times at that camp, except for the early morning calisthenics. And the time I fell out of bed. I was sleeping in the top bunk all wrapped up inside a sleeping bag. I must have rolled off and didn’t wake up until I was half way to the floor. My arms were held to my side by the twisted sleeping bag and I landed face down on the wood floor without the ability to slow the fall with my hands. Of course, being young helped me get over that. Got back up in bed and don’t believe I even woke anyone else.

The good old days. How about you, have any camping stories when you were young?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Did you miss me?

First day I missed a post since I started blogging. Did you miss me? Took the day off, had other things that needed attention.

Didn’t have anything to say yesterday and not much today. Almost everyone had bad weather yesterday. We were supposed to get up to 3” of snow, but instead we got an ice storm that pretty much closed down Houston. Didn’t bother me any, since I didn’t have anywhere that I needed to be.

Remember my post about the mistletoe? Well the day before yesterday, when that front blew through here, some of it was blown out of the tree. Here is a picture of a sprig of it:

Last evening, the ice was still around. Just before the sun set, I snapped this picture of the ice sparkling in an oak tree. Actually looked better in person:

The ice was not all pretty. Less than a mile from me there was a fatal accident on the bridge over Caney Creek. The news said Houston had over 800 reported accidents. A baby was born while the mother was stuck trying to get to the hospital. Yesterday will have stories told about it for years to come.

How did you make out at your place?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Word Hunt

I did this once before when I didn’t know what to write about and I am going to do it again today. I got out my big old dictionary, the one with 1716 pages. With my eyes closed, I touched a spot and opened it to that page. I then, with eyes still closed, pointed to somewhere on the pages. I opened my eyes to see what word I selected; figured it would be just some simple word that I was familiar with, right? Wrong!! The word was “aerostat”. OK, I have never heard that word, have you?

At first I figured it meant some kind of statistic about flying or maybe some kind of an air control device. You know, a thermostat controls the heat so an aerostat would control air, maybe air flow. Wrong again.

You got it figured out yet? If you do, I will have to give you credit, because I sure didn’t know what it meant. I am thinking that maybe Ben knows what it means. Do you Ben?

OK, enough is enough. This word aerostat means “an airship, balloon, or other aircraft that is lifted and sustained by means of one or more containers filled with gas lighter than air.” How many of you knew that? I sure didn’t.

Well, at least I learned a new word today.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Not this week!!

I was wondering when Spring would get here. Well, one thing I know for sure, it ain’t going to be this week!! Now, I really should not complain, I don’t have it near as bad as most people in our great country. And my water is still running when I turn on the spigot. It was just a hair below 20 degrees when I got up a few hours ago and hasn’t gone up much since then, just less than two degrees.

It is not how low the temperature gets, but how long it stays there, that causes the problems. If it stays cold long enough to freeze the surface of the ground and doesn’t warm up enough to thaw it out, then more things will freeze the next night when it dips below freezing. That warmth that radiates from unfrozen earth sure does make a difference, and when it is absent, water pipes and such freeze up much faster. Tonight will be the most dangerous for the pipes. If we get past tonight, we should be OK. Winter was a little slow getting to this area, but it is sure making up for lost time.

Hey, I am not complaining, most of you out there are having much worse weather. When I lived in Pennsylvania, it was much, much worse than it ever could get here. The difference is, up there the buildings and infrastructure was designed for cold below freezing weather. Where I live, freezing temperatures are never in the mind of the builder. It is up to the home owner to take precautions.

I always get prepared . . . well, maybe a few days after it gets cold. Why do today what you can put off until . . . . .

Stay warm out there.

Our friends in Australia are about to be hit with the largest cyclone to hit them in years, if ever. yesterday it had winds up to 175 mph. I wouldn't want to be in the path of that one and a lot of good people are. Let us hope and pray for the best outcome possible.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Is it Spring yet?

Has Spring sprung around here? Heck, I thought it had, all those nice days in the 70’s and the balmy nights with the frogs yelling their heads off out there in my swamp. Well, that all came to an end just before 06:00 this morning. A cold front came charging through here slamming into all this warm, balmy, humid air and everything just exploded. Wham-Bang, all “you know what” broke loose. High winds, hail, rain, wind, lightning, and of course a very sharp drop in temperatures. At least, so far, the white stuff is staying up Ben’s way.

Do you think this change in our weather was brought on by the Pittsburgh Steelers coming down to Cowboy Stadium for the “big” game? That will make them feel right at home. I guess it will be the same for Green Bay. It was really very nice of the Dallas-Fort Worth area to be so accommodating. I just wish that they would have kept it all up there and not bothered to share it with us, also.

Temperatures are supposed to plummet and be below freezing for many hours during this coming week. I have a couple of tarps thrown over my well, pump, and pressure tanks. Sometime today, I will get a trouble light going under the tarps to keep anything from freezing.

For years, I always told all my friends that live up north that the last two weeks in January and the first two weeks in February are usually the worst, if we do have winter. Of course I only admitted that after I had told them that last year, winter was on a Thursday. . .

I remember some bad winters in this area. So far, this one has not been high on the list, but it is sure working its way up. Potato planting time is the middle of February, so that gives you gardeners an example of when Spring time comes to this area. I do remember times when I had to hill dirt up over the potato plants when a late frost was expected to arrive.

Last night the frogs and owls were telling me that Spring was almost here. OK, I am waiting.