Friday, March 30, 2012

To be tutored....

One of my favorite cartoonists is Scott Adams creator of the Far Side cartoons.  One of my favorites shows a dog yelling out the car window to the cat saying "I'm going to the vet to get tutored!"  Well, we got to take our dog to the vet today but only for her normal shots since she was 'tutored' many years ago.  Today's visit wasn't a big deal but she has some lumps on her body that we wanted the vet to see.  As we feared, the vet doesn't like the look of them at all and wants to remove them.  It was hardly a surprise, Sammie, the dog, has had cancerous tumors removed twice (2007 and 2010) and we are getting to know what it looks like.  She has four lumps that should be removed for a total cost of $800.  We haven't really decided yet but we'll probably go ahead and do it.  Watching the dog die of cancer doesn't sound like that much fun.

I made a little more progress on the seating area in the back yard.  I cut some of the support boards and moved the concrete blocks around to make them more uniform.  My wife is the official family painter so hopefully she'll get to paint a bit this weekend.  I still need to get some more wood so I guess I'll be in the queue at Home Depot tomorrow.  We still haven't figured out what kind of end tables we want; all I'm sure of is that they have to be higher than the dog's tail.  She can sweep a drink off a table with that tail of hers before you can blink!  I'd like to cast them from concrete with ceramic tiles inset but I'm not sure I have the skill. 

Last night we sat out there for an hour and a half or so just enjoying the view and the mild weather.  It was quite nice but as we sat there watching the sunset a cloud bank developed and the sky was mostly overcast by the time the sun set.  This morning dawned bright with hardly a cloud in the sky.  Odd stuff.  Now the forecast for tomorrow is for a sunny day but 25-35mph (40-55kph) breezes with higher gusts.  What's that old saw about March coming in like a lamb and going out like a lion?  Grrrr says the weather.

Here's a photo I took probably thirty years ago:  windows from a building reflected in the windows of a second building.  Have a good one!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Quiet day

This has been a fairly quiet day.  We got up and had breakfast and watched the Malaysian Grand Prix - or at least most of it.  We record the race on our DVR and always add an extra half hour or so in case there is some delay.  Well, this time there was a huge rain delay after 8 laps so even with our extra time we lost out on the last 10 laps or so.  We hate it when this happens but it's a bunch better than watching an hour worth of commercials!  Not to mention that the race is run at about 02:00 our time.  Fernando Alonzo driving a Ferrari won much to everyone's surprise.  Way to go Fernando!

We also took a walk out in the desert.  It's been quite a while since we've done that and the poor dog was really dragging by the time we made it home.  She is as out of shape as we are.  Now that the weather is getting nicer we'll all get back to walking regularly.  After the walk I filled up the sprayer and went weed hunting.  Our 'lawn' is all rock with a few cacti planted here and there.  Unfortunately that leaves lots of room for weeds to pop up.  Last year I sprang for the $100 bottle of concentrated weed killer and used about half of it.  We don't have anywhere near the same number of weeds so far this year so I'm hoping that bottle will keep us weed free for at least three years.  I can manage $30 a year but $100 was hurting my feelings!

Copying our photographs is taking time but I think it will be worth it.  I wanted to start with something good so I started with our 1993 trip to Europe.  It was a pretty good time though my wife did get ill from her allergies about half way through the three weeks we were there.  At the time we didn't know what was up and thought it was a flu or cold.  Now we know that if she doubles up on her medication she would be fine.
Having a glass of wine on the balcony and watching the Rhine go by was NOT tough duty!  The beard sure isn't that color any more though.  Jeez, it just occurred to me that next year will be the 20th anniversary of that trip!  OMG!  Hmmm, maybe we'll have to have someone keep the dog and cat so we can make a return visit. 

We are off to have some Thai food.  The people make pretty good food but can't deal if they have more than five customers.  Gotta go early.  Have a good one!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Vegas again!

Yesterday we made the big trip 'over the hump' to Las Vegas again.  This time it was for a kind of different reason:  we wanted to visit a museum!  Yeah, not exactly what Las Vegas is known for but they actually do have some decent cultural things.  This was the National Atomic Testing Museum.  As most people know, the US government carried on above and below ground testing of nuclear weapons in Nevada for many years.  The area that was used is known as the Nevada Test Site and is northwest of Las Vegas here in Nye County.  The southern edge is probably about 20 miles (32km) from here. 

It was an interesting place to visit; they try to cover everything from the development of the a-bomb to modern day nuclear science.  The a-bomb was, of course, developed elsewhere but after the war the government wanted to keep playing with it's new toy.  First they tried it out on some islands in the South Pacific but the commute was just too much for them and they decided to use someplace that was closer but pretty uninhabited; like Nye County, Nevada.  They did a lot of testing over the years and now are using the facility for storage of low grade nuclear waste.  We are told that this would be stuff like a pair of coveralls that were used in a nuclear facility and over time picked up a bit of radioactivity.  It works for me; the facility is out in the middle of nowhere and that stuff needs to be stored somewhere.  My only problem with the museum is that it doesn't have much focus; I mean they even had a section of the Berlin Wall and a piece of steel from the World Trade Center.  WTF has either of those things to do with Atomic Testing?

The museum had a special exhibit on Area 51 where all kinds of secret activities are supposed to have taken place from the development of the U2 aircraft to the storage of aliens from outer space.  I'm sure there were lots of secret things going on out there but the exhibit did nothing to enlighten one; it was titillating but that was about it.  Like so much in Vegas it was lots of show but no go.  You are charged extra for the exhibit and I cannot really recommend it.  Spend an hour on the internet and you will know as much or more than if you visited it.  Here are a couple of links:  for Area 51 and a map showing the location of the Test Site.

Enjoy and have a good one!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Not so regular posting.....

I've not been very regular about posting lately and I've noticed that quite a few of the blogs I follow are also becoming more irregular.  No idea why; let's blame the solar flare. 

We've been working (irregularly as well) at getting our outdoor seating area trialed.  I put up a prototype bench just to see if we thought it might work, then another prototype and now we have a good idea of what the thing will look like.  We even went out and bought a bunch of paint so that's serious intent!  These are just simple backless bench seats.  It's a  place where we can go out and admire the sunset on the mountains or the stars in the cold night sky.  This is such a lovely valley but you need to get out away from houses and lights to take full advantage of the beauty.  It is also a brutal place.  110F (43C) isn't unusual for a few weeks in the summer and 20F (-7C) is our usual low for several weeks in the winter.  Earlier this month we had wind gusts of 85 mph (135 kph).  Our furniture is being designed so we can leave it out year-round and need not worry about it. It is also designed so that if we decide we don't like it in a year, we can just get rid of it.  Minimal investment, maximum utility is our mantra.

I was reading in Glenn's blog how much he enjoyed reading "Blue Highways" by William Least Heat Moon.  He was so persuasive that I had to go rent it from the library.  My goodness, can that man write!  He convinced me I need to read the book from standing in the library reading the first sentence.  If you haven't read it, I can recommend it most highly.  The author is traveling the back-roads of America in 1978, visiting some amazing places and meeting amazing people.  Thank you Glenn!

I also must admit that this sort of travelog is one of my minor addictions.  I've even become addicted to Larry the Cable Guy's show on History channel "Only in America".  This is certainly NOT the only interesting country in the world but Larry does meet some amazing people while wandering around.  The folks he meets are a diverse group; country squirrel hunters, professional fishermen, rodeo clowns and a whole lot more.  It is presented from Larry's country boy persona but he manages to ask intelligent questions and is clearly impressed by the difficulty of people's jobs. 

I'm going to try to get back on this horse and do more posting.  I hope some of my favorite bloggers do the same.  Have a good one!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Happy Late St. Patrick's Day

I hope everyone had a good St. Patrick's Day; well, as good as an Irish protestant could wish for you.  My dad always claimed to be from the North of Ireland and relations with the Catholic saints have not been good for the last several hundred years.  Not that I give a rats a$$ about that since I'm not even a protestant!

Our neighbors in Florida always gave a big party on St. Paddy's Day and we have tried to make the traditional corned beef and cabbage dinner.  Last year the corned beef was just plain tough; this year it was much better though I'm not sure what caused the improvement.  At any rate, it was good, everything was good.  My wife even gave soda bread a try (from 'Beard on Bread' - remember cookbooks?) and it was really very nice.  In fact I'm expecting to put a hurt on the loaf this morning for my breakfast.  Yum!

To enhance the Irish experience our weather even cooperated and it rained the entire afternoon, a fine soft Irish sort of rain but quite a bit for us.  Weather underground says we got .73 of an inch (1.8 cm)!  I'm absolutely amazed. 

My wife and I needed a bit more Irish though so we watched 'The Quiet Man' with John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara.  Filmed by John Ford in Ireland in 1952, it's the story of a retired boxer who returns to the Irish village in which he was born and finds his true love.  I understand there was a 'chemistry' between Wayne and O'Hara and it comes through in this sentimental film  It works especially well though when you are full of corned beef and cabbage and Guinness.  Yes, I had to have a Guinness though the bottled version basically sucks.  Well, even the tap version that we get in this country isn't as good as they have in England and I'm hoping that the Irish would be even better.  Maybe I'll make it there one day and try it out.    

Until then, have a good one!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

My ......

I don't know what to call this but the simple answer is 'my MG'.  It is a 1969 MG-B that I bought used in 1971.  There was a problem with the paint on the hood (bonnet) so I had the dealer re-paint it.  BIG MISTAKE; in a couple of years the paint wasn't even close to matching.  Oh well, guess I learned from that.  In this photo it has an aftermarket fiberglass top; it was ok but wore through the paint on the rear deck even though it was supposed to be mounted in such a way as to not put pressure on it.  This was when I lived in the Pacific Northwest and the additional protection from the rain and the cold was worth quite a bit!  I kept the car until 1996;  bought it in Texas, moved to Washington, moved to Orlando, back to Washington and finally sold it when we lived in New Jersey to a guy who wanted to restore it for his wife.  For much of it's life it carried my tool kit around in the trunk.  It's embarrassing how often I needed something from that kit!  I bought the RAC emblem before I had the car!  I'm that much of a nerd.

Photo copying is still in progress.  I should be done with the slides in another week or ten days.  Heaven only knows how the photo copying will go since just getting them out of the albums will be a chore!  Sent one to a friend and she responded the next day with a couple old photos of me.  Hmmm, I guess there are people in this world who are much more organized than I.  We were attending Western Washington University at the time and helping each other through Calculus.  I'll close with that.  Have a good one!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Quiet Day Today

Haven't done much at all.  The high point seems to be having loaded a new version of Quicken so I can see how our accounting is fairing.  Talk about life in the fast lane; I'm chasing the family accountant!  Actually I shouldn't make fun of accountants; when I was studying for my Computer Science degree, the accountants had lots more parties than the Comp Sci folks did.  I was even tempted to go for my CPA credentials but stupidly didn't do it.  Oh well, just goes to show that my current level of stupidity isn't the result of accident.  I worked for it!

The incredible geniuses at TD Ameritrade sent me a pamphlet entitled "Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options"  It was written in 1994; has 94 pages of crap about options.  Then there are 72 pages of supplemental information and 16 pages of supplemental information printed only in January and March of 2011.  Let's face it folks, options are NOT for the average investor.  Aside from a covered call, it's really dangerous territory out there.  This is ONE area that I'd consider marked 'For Professionals Only'. 

The thing is that options are investments that are based on your view of the future.  There are two ways to play them. 
1)   You buy the option (a call) of purchasing X at $5 within the next three months(time is variable but I'm just using 3 months).  If X is only selling for $4 at that time; your option is worthless.  If X is selling for $10, you can get it for $5 and look like a hero. 
2)  You sell a 'put' offering to sell X for $5 within the next three months.  A 'covered call' is when you actually own the stock; if you don't own it it's an 'uncovered call'.  If X is only worth $4; you have gotten the money from the 'put' for nothing.  If X is selling for $10, you are selling for $5 and look like a schmuck.  It's even worse if you were selling shares in X that you didn't own (yes, that is the uncovered call) so you  have to buy them for $10 and re-sell for  $5.  Yep, that can happen.  Lucky you!

OK; that was 'Options 101' - call TD Ameritrade and ask for their 170+ page booklet if you want to know more.  They will love you.  My OPINION is that aside from writing a 'covered call' where you own some stock and offer to sell it for some ridiculous sum in the future; you are crazy if you fool with options.  It is simply putting your money on the line about if you think a stock (or whatever) is going to go up or go down.  Kind of like gambling in Las Vegas.  And I DEFINITELY  cannot tell the future.  If you can, here's the way to great wealth. Go forward, grasshopper, with my blessings and envy. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Wheeler Pass Rd.

Today I took a little drive up Wheeler Pass Road.  I suppose it crosses through the Spring Mountains but I sure didn't go that far.  It's gravel and I went about 8 miles up before I turned around.  I could probably go quite a bit farther but that was enough for me.  Our town's elevation is 2,695 feet (820m); my GPS said the place where I turned around was at 5,396 feet(1,645m).  It's not a lot but it was pretty continuously UP.  I down-shifted the truck to control the speed on the way down or I would have been on the brakes every inch.  It's a nice, wild place.  Needless to say I forgot my camera so we only have cell-phone photos.
 You can see that the Joshua Tree is doing well up there along with the usual desert scrub.  That is the same Mt. Charleston that is on the blog header; just with a bit less snow and from a different angle.  There are a lot of trails for ATVs and dirt bikes; it makes me want one!  Maybe we'll manage that another year.  The road is probably maintained as a fire road by the BLM.  It's a good gravel road wide enough to meet someone in most places.  In a couple places I saw horse droppings, there are wild horses up here but they were all hiding.

The trip was kind of an antidote to yesterday which we spent wandering around in Las Vegas.  We had a few errands to do and ended up getting home about 17:00.  That's a long day for this old goat and the city traffic is a pain in the ass.  However, we got spa chlorine and shoes and all kinds of stuff.  I like Las Vegas, I really do.  I think it was the errands that were all over the map that bothered me.  I've got to go over, sit in a casino and people watch.  That would be a great day!  Walmartians have nothing on the people you see in Sin City.

We did have breakfast in the casino here in town on Thursday.  It has a sign in the men's room that I've certainly never seen anywhere else.  I'm pretty sure it's not aimed at diabetics.
Ain't it a wonderful world.  Have a good one!

Friday, March 09, 2012

Did I mention rain?

The other day when we had all the wind, we got a few drops of rain.  This is an un-retouched photo of our bathroom window.
I have done nothing to it but make it smaller than the original.  You are looking at a concrete block wall with some evergreens beyond it.  Yep, looks like someone has been messing with the photo but it is just a dirty window.  Now I'm glad we didn't wash the windows for our visitors!  Here's a link to the local paper.

We have lots of clean-up but it's pretty minor stuff really.  Since we have no trees, we have no branches down.  Since our cars were in the garage, we don't have to wash them.  (The local car wash was still doing a great business today.)  We do have to clean the windows but they needed it anyway.  I'm happy!  We managed an 85mph (135kph) gust of wind according to the tv news.  Impressive, I must say.  We looked out at our new spa and the cover was trying to fly away.  I put 4 concrete blocks on it to dissuade it from leaving.  Worked like a champ too.  Of course, only in Pahrump to you need to have a stock of spare concrete blocks!  Our wind-sock blew down so I put it back up.  Fifteen minutes later it was at a 45 degree angle again.  Rats!  The second time I put in a new lower clamp that we've never needed before.  So far, so good. 

One thing happened that I've never heard of before but apparently it is a result of really low air pressure in our attic.  We have a simple attic entrance that consists of a piece of plywood fitted into a square in the ceiling.  Somehow it was pulled off the opening and insulation rained down on our floor.  That's why I noticed it; there was this white crap all over the hall.  Then I looked up and saw the plywood was moved to one side.  Amazing!  Went up there and didn't see any real damage.  I should re-position some of the insulation but that is definitely something for another day. 

So, here is to some quiet days.  At least we were dealing with nature.  Friends of friends in Mexico had a bit more of a problem with humanity.  Take care folks!

Tuesday, March 06, 2012


It's VINDY today - The Weather Channel says 20 mph (32kph) but they lie!  My cell phone info also comes from The Weather Channel and on it they say 38 mph (61kph) - that's more like it. I'm just going to have to get a weather station so I can monitor this stuff!

Had a great weekend with our son & daughter-in-law who came over from San Diego to celebrate his 40th birthday.  Wow!  How did that happen?  It the slides I've been copying he's only about 10.  Of course his mother and I are skinny and only about 30 ourselves in those photos.  We mostly ate out.  Here that is frought with difficulty.  We went to Stockman's inside the Golden Nugget casino.  The food was good but the wait between our salads and our dinner was almost an hour!  And that's one of the better restaurants in town!  There are others we can't take anyone to because they are so unreliable.  Going in to Vegas is investing about two and a half hours in driving before adding in the time to actually eat.  Grrrr!

When I worked in Seattle, we were on the 24th floor of a building that isn't even there any more.  We had good views though.  This would be when we'd get off the elevator on the 18th floor and walk up because we all needed the exercise.  Don't do stuff like that anymore! 

This is Elliot Bay from the old Pacific Northwest Bell building.  The light is kind of subdued because the windows were heavily tinted.  You can tell it's a nice summer day though, it isn't raining!  Have a good one.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Just fooling around

I haven't blogged lately because I'm not doing much of interest.  We DID get electric for the hot tub:  the two guys arrived at 08:00 and left at 19:30.  They were gone for about an hour for lunch and to return the trenching machine to the rental place.  We like this guy because he does a very professional job; including showing up on time which is unfortunately rare these days.

We've tried out the hot tub a couple of times.  We bought from a company called LA Spas; based in California but they have an outlet here.  We are very happy with it so far; the warm water is great and the jets feel pretty good on the old back too.  The owner's manual leaves a lot to be desired but... we can cope.  We aren't asking a lot from the thing so it should be ok.  No photos, sorry about that but when we are alone we keep the tub as a clothing free zone and this isn't that kind of blog!

I'm still copying old slides to the computer.  I bought a Epson V500 because it got pretty good reviews on Amazon without costing an arm and a leg; so far it's doing fine.  I've done 650 slides so far and estimate I've got a couple thousand more to copy.  All I'm doing is copying them and giving some identifiable names.  There is software that came with the machine to clean up the images but I tried it a couple times and wasn't too impressed.  Not only did it not do much of a cleanup job but it made the slow process of copying the slide even slower.  Hell, my photos aren't that special anyway!  Here's an example from 1980; see I was fascinated with shadow even then.

Today I'm building a prototype bench seat for our star viewing.  I say prototype because my wife and I have different views of what we need.  Neither of us is a good enough draftsman to convey what we want to do so a prototype is required.  Fortunately it's only a couple of boards and a few concrete blocks!  If I had to actually build something I'd need serious help.  I put wheels on a set of shelves a week or so ago and it took me two hours.  Grrr!

Gotta go.  Have a good one.