Sunday, December 31, 2006
12 PM - In the past 5
years, cordless tools have really gained popularity with the construction crowd.
At the SDSU Physical Plant, every shop had at least one and tables were set
aside to hold the clusters of battery charging manifolds. Skil and
Milwaukee were the popular brands and a good power drill with battery and
charger could easily set you back several hundred dollars.
For the ranch, I went with a
slightly cheaper setup that came with two batteries, a power drill, circular saw
and reciprocating saw. It's not one of their high end models but it was made by
Skil which is a brand that I cautiously respect.
But, as most construction workers
know, the weak link with these convenient tools is battery life. They work
exceptionally well in remote situations when power isn't available and your job
is small and un-repetitive. But the battery charge doesn't hold up during
extended use and if you have a job that will last all day, you might as well
bring a generator and use your corded tools. (or have several batteries that are
being rotated in the shop charger.)
Another drawback is that the nicad
batteries are expensive and can't be expected to last over two years. (Mileage
varies) And that's where I am today, with two 18 volt nicads that won't hold a
charge and will only power my tools for short bursts of action. On sale,
replacements cost $50 each and with that, we're approaching what I paid for the
entire set of tools, including the batteries.
So instead, and trying to be
cagey, I got on Amazon and ordered a rebuilt skill power drill that comes with
the two needed batteries but only costs $70. Sounds right, the model numbers
match, looks like I might have made a smart move; I don't see any small print... What could go wrong???
I'll find out on Tuesday.
3 PM - Another year,
another diet. After four weeks I'm down about 5 pounds. I'll take it but
it sure feels like it should be more. If anything, I suppose I need to
step up my exercise a bit. It'll take more than just eating boring food so this
morning I moved my set of weights up to the back porch.
And the 2nd photo of the day is of
Blackie the cat who's living up to his name. For two weeks his favorite
napping spot has been in an old box full of packing peanuts.
December 28, 2006
9 AM -
Other than the light drizzle storm we had yesterday, summer has returned to our
ranch in the valley. And the mild temperatures have inspired me to step up
my attempts to neaten up the property. Basically, I'm consolidating all
the random piles of junk and moving them to the north corner. My goal is
to create a park like atmosphere while
dedicating a small isolated space for storage of the junk that always
seems to accumulate on rural land.
So, for the past week I've
been moving old piles of lumber, rolled up fencing, lengths of pipe, and old
tires to the storage area (junk yard). It's one of those deals where you
don't notice that the junk is gone but you couldn't miss it when it was there.
And that's the effect I'm trying to achieve. When walking on this land I want
the eye to be drawn towards nature, not clutter.
Our goal when we
purchased this property was to return it to its native appearance but we got
sidetracked with trying to build and maintain the infrastructure that allows us
to live here comfortably. For the most part, the utilities are completed so
today I'm working on moving a pallet of bricks that clutters up the
view. Of course I don't have a pallet jack so it means lots of un-stacking and
restacking. My exercise for the day.
Saturday, December 23, 2006
I still try to get some
target practice in during the week and I've slowly improved to a point where I
cautiously consider myself 'competent'. As far as I'm concerned, shooting
a pistol at 25 yards and keeping the holes on a pie plate sized target can be
called competent but not good. For me, good would be if all the holes were
within the #2 circle.
Of course mileage varies depending
on the caliber of gun and the conditions of the shot. Frankly, if you're using a
quality firearm and you take your time to line the sites up properly, the bullet
will go were it's supposed to. I'm still thankful to my father-in-law who
years ago, before I ever considered getting into target practice, gave me a
quick course in marksmanship. He taught me one little trick about dealing with
an un-steady hand that I somehow remembered and has proved useful.
Cath is still sick so we're
staying close to home. It's really quiet in the valley and I'm wondering
if all our neighbors have left for the holidays. If Catherine doesn't
visit her mother in L.A., it will be the first Christmas we've stayed at
home since we've been together. All things considered, not a bad prospect
and I find nothing wrong with a quiet holiday by ourselves.
And I'm still working on being
able to spend the whole day reading without feeling guilty.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
8 AM - We've been having a quiet
pre-Christmas week which for the most part has been spent at home. We did
get out on Tuesday for a drive on the back road up to Julian and then further up
to Mount Laguna where people were gathering to play in the snow. It's a
fun 3 hour drive especially when done during the middle of the week.
Cath has been home with a sore
throat so I've been doing my morning walks alone. The ground has stayed
frozen and I kind of like the feeling of ice crunching under my feet while I'm
walking my trail. In the interest of losing weight and complimenting my diet,
I've upped my walking distance and sometimes I'll add a 20 minute bike ride at
the end of the day. After two weeks I've lost very little weight in spite
of my efforts. My next doctors appointment is in February and I'd like to drop
10 lbs before then.
Cows on the road to Julian
4 PM -
I'm currently reading On The Wild Edge by David Peterson. It's a book
about living in and appreciating wilderness. Written in the spirit of Henry
David Thoreau, it's about living simply without all the trappings of our
materialistic society. I appreciate the philosophy and concur with the
spirit of the theme though, as a superficial lover of consumables, I'd never
be able to put his philosophy into practice.
I guess it's
all a matter of degree. I know of some who consider my life in Sherilton
Valley as primitive. It's 25 minutes to our one-store town, 45 minutes to a
"civilized" Wal-Mart and an hour drive to the nearest theater. But there's
nothing primitive about our home in the valley. It comes with satellite TV
and a 200 amp electrical service that I'm not afraid to use. Motorcycles,
4-wheel drive ATVs, two Toyota pickups and a continuous internet connection
all add up to a lifestyle that any nature loving hippie would consider
in a 550 square ft. self-built cabin with a wood stove and an icebox full of
food that he hunted himself. He's a true minimalist who doesn't make
concessions to the world of material things. And he's smart. He spends days
on end reading and writing without the need for trivial diversions.
in my current state of philosophical development, it's not a life-style that
I could replicate. On occasion I fantasize about unplugging the TV for a
week but that's a lofty notion that quickly goes away. The incentive that
would cause such a radical change in my worldly temperament would probably
have to involve some form of drug addiction or a spiritual epiphany along
the lines of Joseph Smith. Frankly, and not to put myself down, I don't
think I'm that philosophically deep.
other hand, the world is teeming with people fascinated by Britney Spears'
lack of underwear and feuds between Trump and Rosie. I suppose the depth of
one's personal philosophy is relative.
Monday, December 18, 2006
It snowed this
afternoon. It melted right away but it was still a pleasant surprise. Our
low last night was 27 and I expect it will get down to at least that tonight.
Those are the temperatures that crack pipes so in the morning I have to
make sure I check the plumbing that supplies the outlying areas.
We put up a Christmas tree the
other day and Blackie the cat is having a great time knocking off the plastic
balls and leaping up to grab his stuffed polar bear toy. I didn't hang it
too high just to give him a sporting chance.
And getting in the mood, I watched
Miracle on 42nd Street along with A Christmas Story and the TIVO
is set to record the 1938 version of A Christmas Carol. Don't settle for
any other version.
The photo today was taken by the
web camera at 2:10 this afternoon. Snow at the higher elevations so Julian and
Cuyamaca will be getting a lot of visitors over the next few days.
December 17, 2006
After my morning
exercise, I spent the rest of the day reading. The TV was on but muted and tuned
to CNN. From noon onward CNN was doing their never ending, breaking story
about the lost climbers on Mount Hood. Nothing really to report but I guess it
was a slow news day so they stuck with it the entire afternoon. I suspect it's a
story that will end poorly.
The book I finally
finished was The Discomfort Zone by Jonathan Franzen. It took a couple of
months to get around to finishing this book and I almost gave up several times.
My problem was that I just couldn't find a reason to like the author. He
was an excellent student, always fit in, never had to hold a job and his parents
paid for college including studying in Europe. For some strange reason he feels
that those circumstances are antithetical to the popular conception of a normal
life and it somehow made him an outsider worthy of a book describing his
suffering about trying to fit in. I'm not exactly sure what's going on
with this guy. He seems to have a twisted world view that says if you have it
all, you are automatically a misfit because you're above the lowly rabble that
make up the majority of the populous. That feeling of superiority was probably
behind him insulting Oprah Winfrey which got him un-invited to her show. No
doubt the publicity about that insult gained him all sorts of favor with the
elite intellectuals he covertly tries to identify with.
It's late, end of
Thursday, December 14, 2006
AM - Good morning. The results are in and everyone who wagered lost,
including myself. The .38 cal bullet fired without a hitch. Bam! It wasn't
effected at all by going through the wash and I would have bet money against it.
According to Smith & Wesson, if you want to disarm a bullet, you should soak it
over night in motor oil. They don't say anything about water.
And a bigger surprise was that the
flash memory card also worked perfectly. I let it dry out for a day and it still
held all 200 photos that it saved from the stealth cam. Quite a surprise but
from now on I'm still going to try harder to check my pockets before washing .
Today's quiz. What important
American was born on this day in 1949. A: Sissy Spacek B: Bruce
Springsteen C: Rob Horne D: Meryl Streep
2 PM - The Hughes
satellite technician was here today to check my setup and diagnose my connection
problems. Visually, the way the dish is mounted looks pretty shaky but
when you get up next to it, you see that the poles are mounted in concrete and
that they are tightly supported with guy wires. (In the photo it's the one
on the right) The support stand doesn't move however he did find that one of the
bolts that connects the dish to the stand was loose. He replaced the bolts
and re-pointed the dish which brought my signal strength up from 60 to 86.
For now, my browsing speed has improved, that is to say, it's better than dial
up but not as good as a cable connection. With satellite internet, you don't get
any better than that. (The hughes support technicians say that signal strength
doesn't effect browsing speed but that's only when they don't have someone
available to re-set the dish.)
Whatever. I've reprogrammed my
weather station to update more often and set the webcam back to update every 15
minutes. This is just in time for our first real storm that is predicted for
Saturday night and we may be seeing snow on the mountain by Monday. I'll
spare you my usual rant about how poorly the weather is predicted in our area.
December 13, 2006
8 AM -
Yesterday was a LDDH (Lost Day Due To Headache). Today I'm feeling pretty good
so I got out early for my 30 minute walk and for breakfast I had one of those
240 calorie diet drinks. Of course that drink is supposed to hold me till lunch
when I get to feast on celery and water. No problem.
This morning I'll
be doing some housework while preparing for the dumpster pickup at 10 AM.
that I've been taking Lovastatin and it got my cholesterol down to a healthy
level. But not so fast! If your doctor only gives you a one number figure when
discussing it, he's only giving you part of the story. You've also got
your triglycerides, your HDL's, your LDL's and don't forget about your high
density lipoproteins. Those little add-ons are what continue to give me
problems and even though the Lovastatin has raised my ALT value, (yet one more
acronym to figure out) my doctor wants me to continue using it. "Is all
this going to be on Friday's quiz?"
Ultimately I'd like to
make what my brother calls "a lifestyle change" which will mean that I don't
have to take the Lovastatin. I'm just hoping that this change will eventually
feel natural and won't dominate my every thought for the rest of my life. Diets
& exercise tend to do that to me. Gets boring after awhile and I move on to
idleness & ice-cream. (Also known as i i c syndrome).
11 PM -
Doing my part to keep the world informed about important matters, I'm
introducing a new series to this journal called, Will it Break? In
today's installment I'm asking the question, "Can a .38 caliber bullet and a
512k Compact Flash card survive going through the washer and dryer?".
Place your bets now, the answer will be revealed tomorrow.
Saturday, December 9, 2006
7 AM - I'm getting a lot of
useful advice from readers about managing my photos and slides. Clarence of
Can You Hear
Me Now? mentioned Picasa which is a free program from Google that you can
get here. (Windows XP
only) This is an excellent full featured program that is better than most
programs that cost money. It searches your computer for graphics files, sorts
and organizes them, compiles them and burns them to a CD. It also comes with
many tools that automatically repair and improve old photos.
I've been a fan of the Google
company for some time. They haven't disappointed me yet.
12 PM - I've been
spending time today trying to sort out all the wires from my new computer
peripherals and get them routed to the computer. Old legacy USB 1 cables are
different from USB 2 and though they will work, you loose speed if you use them
to connect the newer USB 2 devices. Lots of fiddling required.
And the photo of the day is my
"Healthy Meal" Salisbury steak breakfast. It looks much bigger than it was.
December 8, 2006
7 AM - Got
an e-mail from Bob Woolcock, my photographer friend. (His website
used Photoshop to make adjustments on the photo I posted yesterday and he
improved it immensely. The photo on the left is mine and the far right is
after Bob worked on it. Years ago at work I took a two hour seminar on
using Photoshop and learned some of the basics. It's a huge program and a person
can easily get lost if you want to master it. Obviously I need a little
more practice so I'll be fooling around with that in the days ahead.
And today the
satellite internet connection is working perfectly even though a technician is
still being sent to my house on the 14th. At least they told me that I won't be
paying for the call. Just the same it seems like a useless waste of time
because I think the problem is on their end. And even more ridiculous, I
think they know it.
- Health stuff, geez how boring. But I can't ignore it any longer. A year ago I
went biking with some people who were almost 10 years older than me and they
left me in the dust. Jim at
Jim's journal is
a couple of years older than me and he regularly runs in races. Just about
everyone I know is in better shape but dang, it's not like I sit on my ass all
the time eating nachos and drinking beer.
8 months ago my
health appraisal reported my cholesterol level as elevated. It wasn't
"through the roof" but I started taking Lovastatin to bring it down. That worked
but today my results showed an elevation in the ALT test which means the
medication is effecting my liver. So...no easy fix for me. I guess I'll be
dropping the medication and getting serious about my diet & exercise. Dang.
4 PM - I'm
back from a shopping trip where I bought boring diet food and an external USB
drive to store the photos I'm scanning. Surprisingly the drive installed
without a hitch. "Plug and play" has finally arrived; as long as you have
Windows XP, all the updates and a computer with USB 2.
Thursday, December 7, 2006
7 AM - Yesterday I lost my
satellite internet connection. Same story, different day. As usual I spent time
on the phone trying to talk to a person in India who's accent was so strong, I
could only understand about every other word. I'm not sure but I've either
agreed to have a technician sent to my house ($200) or I'm paying to have a new
satellite launched into space ($200,000,000).
The frustrating thing is that the
problem is most likely due to improper settings in the Hughes network operation
center (NOC). The guy in India just follows a written script that has
nothing to do with actually diagnosing the problem. The problem is
intermittent and related to congestion caused by too many people trying to use
the satellite during peak hours. The Hughes people handle that by flipping
switches and juggling network settings that rotate the load which means that one
day your connection is trouble free, the next day you have nothing.
11 AM - From my last
entry you may have noticed that I'm playing around with resurrecting my father's
slide collection. It consists of hundreds of slides taken in the 40's and
50's and these days, digitizing photographs is the only reasonable course of
action if you want to preserve the family album.
It can be a big task that is
equipment and software intensive. Luckily I already own Photoshop and my
computer is relatively new with plenty of memory. My five year old scanner
was not up to snuff so I purchased a new one that can scan up to 16 slides at a
time. It's an HP device that scans the slides and automatically places the
photographs into Photoshop where each one is then adjusted, fine tuned and saved
into a usable format.
Today's photo is my nod to 1941
and the day of infamy. Well, the photo was taken in 1949 but at least it
was in the same time zone as Pearl Harbor. Sheila & Barry, my sister & brother.
December 2, 2006
1955 my father had just earned the rank of Commander and our family was
stationed at the Naval Ordinance Training Center in China Lake California. Dad
was the base legal officer and he later described it as his favorite tour of
duty. His friend and drinking buddy was a crusty old guy named "Pop" Lofinck who
was the base range guard and worked out of an isolated desert outpost called
Junction Ranch. I'm not sure if it was always work related but every chance they
got they would spend days exploring the Mojave Desert and nights at Junction
Ranch drinking beer and telling war stories. On some weekends our family would
join the party and I have fond memories of riding in old 1945 vintage jeeps on
safari like expeditions that my dad called "boondocking". The photo on the right
is of me, my brother Barry, my sister Sheila and Pop.
Even at that age I recognized that they were exciting times. The father of one
of my classmates had invented the sidewinder missile and even in the first
grade, we knew what his dad had done and that it was important. The base was a
high security area and when you exited the main gate you passed a large
billboard that read, "What you see here, what you do here, what you hear here,
when you leave here, let it stay here." All the base dependents were required to
wear neck chains with laminated I.D. cards attached. They had to be visible at
all times and we never left the house without them. Baby boomer children playing
cowboy and watching The Mickey Mouse Club but always ready to present their
From the window of my first grade class, I could see missiles being test fired
from desert launch sites but the most notable test occurred one morning before
sun rise. My father herded my brother, sister and I out on the front lawn and we
stood in the cool darkness facing east. For just a few seconds it looked like
the sun was coming up. The horizon lit up, glowed brightly and returned to
darkness. The Nevada test range was over 100 miles away but not far enough to
diminish the radiance of an atomic bomb being detonated.