Saturday, December 29, 2012

Animal blog?

No, not quite, but almost.  At least we'll have an animal post.  Sammie the dog is just doing her doggie thing.  She doesn't even seem to know she is ill.  Here is a shot of her sitting, not to patiently, since she was just playing with one of her Christmas toys.
You can see the odd growth on her chest.  Here is a closer view.
That wasn't there before Thanksgiving!  In little more than a month this growth the size of a man's fist has appeared.  It seems it cannot be long before it bursts.  We'll just have to see.

I spoke of a Christmas toy; well, we got toys for the cat as well.  One was a laser pointer, I though he'd love chasing that little red dot.  Turns out, he basically doesn't care, the dog is more interested.  Now we are betting that the cat is at least partially blind.  He is 17 years old and has fits of howling in the night as if he were frightened.  We are guessing that he wakes in the night, can't really see very well, no one is in the room and he gets frightened.  So he howls.  After three or four howls, he figures he has scared off anything that would attack him so he shuts up.  If there are any cat psychologists out there who have a better idea; I'm certainly open to learning more. 

If I may jump to a completely different subject, how do you store your photos?  I store my photos by date; my wife stores hers by subject.  I have started using 'tags' so I can search by subject but that is relatively new.  (This is all Windows PC stuff; even when I had an iMac I stayed away from that Apple proprietary crap!)  Finding specific photos is obviously a pain in the ass regardless of the system.  When looking for a specific photo I have to have an idea when it was taken; my wife has to sort through tons of photos of the same subject to find the one she is wanting.  Any advice would be appreciated. 

Have a good one!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas to all and may you and yours have a fantastic New Year!

Things are happening around here; some good and some bad.  I'll start with the bad.  Last Thursday we loaded our dog Sammie into the car for a trip to visit the nice people at the Las Vegas Veterinary Specialty Center aka the oncologist.  Just before Thanksgiving we noticed that the growth on the dog's chest was going wild.  This is the same spot where she has had three surgeries for cancer; the latest only last April.  We spent quite a long while talking with a very nice (and very pregnant!) vet who explained what kind of cancer the dog has and the various treatment options.  The options are all over the place.  The most aggressive is taking her to Los Angeles or San Diego for surgery and a month of radiation treatments.  Let's not even discuss cost!  Then there is surgery done here in Las Vegas, various radiation therapy options and finally a simple painkiller to keep her comfortable until we need to euthanize her.  The doctor helped us understand why this sort of cancer is so difficult to remove completely and that even the most aggressive treatment would probably not be successful.  The doctor took a lot of time to help us come to our decision which is, of course, the last since it is so doubtful that the cancer can be overcome.  Right now she doesn't seem to be in any particular pain.  She is slow to get up but likes her walks and is always looking forward to feeding time.  The huge growth on her chest doesn't seem to bother her at all.  So we are good to go until something causes a reduction in her quality of life.  When that happens, it will be time to say goodbye. 

The good news is that talking with the vet brought us a better understanding of what we will be facing for the next few months.  Knowing that makes facing it easier.  Our other good news is that we are actually ready for Christmas.  Part of the reason is that we are reducing the size of the celebration.  Since it is only us and Number One Daughter, we don't need four appetizers, two desserts, rolls, two vegies, etc.  We'll have a ham, mac and cheese and a vegie.  We even managed to find a slightly under six pound ham (2.6 kg) - it should be fun to find out if that will provide enough for dinner plus all the secondary uses we find for ham. 

We made a trip into Las Vegas about a week ago for shopping.  Shopping together means that there won't be too many surprises under the tree but we are confident that we'll like what we get!  Old people can do this stuff!  I think it's in the Bible somewhere; near where they say you have to go out and go into debt buying presents at Christmas.  

I did actually write (email) to President Obama and my Congressional representatives about the fiscal cliff and how they shouldn't act like school children but should keep us from going over and under.  My Representative and one Senator responded with canned responses; nothing from Mr. Obama who is so proud of his "open and responsive adminestration".  I hope they can manage something but I guess we'll just have to get along if they don't.  It wouldn't be the first screw up by those idiots we voters send to D.C.

We have been having all kinds of different weather.  Cloudy days, clear days, windy days and all the possible variations have been coming our way.  I left the hummingbird feeder out one night and discovered it frozen the next morning.  I'd forgotten that last year we brought it in every night so now that is added to the nightly chores.  I saw a hummingbird trying to drink from it the morning it was frozen; afterwards he perched on the holder and kind of looked at me.  Bet he was thinking nasty thoughts!  Here's a shot of Mt. Charleston with the desert floor in the foreground.  Have a happy holiday.  I'll be back before the new year.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

What can one say?

I had a thought or two that I was going to share this morning but after the shooting in Connecticut, what else can I say but Oh My God, all those little children dead.  The photos of the parents who have found their children; the photos of the parents who have not; it is just heartbreaking.  The news that is coming out is so contradictory.  I suppose in a couple of weeks we will have a better idea of what happened and why.  Not that I expect it will help the parents of the children or the husbands and wives of the school workers.  Maybe it will help the survivors, a little.

Needless to say all the gun control people will be howling.  They seem to misunderstand that people who want to kill will manage it regardless of the laws.  Don't you have to be 21 to purchase a gun?  The kid identified as the shooter was only 20.  Laws don't protect people, they can only punish people who get caught.

I don't break speeding laws much but there are plenty who do.  Maybe we should build cars that know the speed limits and won't break them.  Surely the technology is there.  Our GPS knows the speed limits on most streets and highways; it would be trivial to tie the GPS into the car computer system and have it just say 'no' when you want to speed.  That and a car that won't start if the driver has been drinking would save thousands of lives.  Laws are only the answer if people obey them and some people just don't.

On a happier note, we got half an inch of rain (1.3 cm) yesterday and a bit more today.  For a place where four inches (10 cm) is the average, that's good news!  It means we have lots of clouds around the mountains as well.  Very pretty.  The ski resort over on the Las Vegas side of the mountain is pretty darned happy too.  Let me close with yet another photo of the mountains I look at as I sit here; this from yesterday afternoon.  Have a good one!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Rainy Day

Yep, around here, it's news!  We were getting a few drops at 07:00 when I took the dog out and it has increased to the point where we might receive a measurable amount.  Hot dog!

The big plan for today is to hit the couple places where toys are sold.  The Marines have lots of boxes out for Toys for Tots and we like to contribute.  We figure older kids should either work for their toys or go without but little kids aren't going to understand if there isn't something for them.  We are good with buying stuff for Tots.  I can see why people have trouble though.  It's really easy to blow through some serious money when the toys are $25 or $50 each.  Needless to say, we stay in the cheap seats when buying stuff for the little kids.  Number One Son made a name for himself many years ago when he played longer with the box than the toy.

Of course there will be a food drive; probably this weekend though I haven't heard of it.  It is another opportunity to help the less fortunate.  We have plenty of homeless folks and plenty who are just poor.  I suppose it is the same everywhere but with the lack of work here in our valley we notice it especially.

I read a very good commentary in The Economist about Republicans beating up Mr. Romney for losing the election.  There were lots of rocks to throw of course.  When he made the stupid 47% comment I thought he must be mad.  To say something like that in a public forum ranks right up there with sending threatening emails or leaving voicemails that should be a private one-on-one conversations.  (Yes, I've known people who have done both of those things!)  The GOOD news though is that some Republicans are saying things like we shouldn't divide the country into "our" and "their" voters.  Tom Cole, an Oklahoma congressman, talked about drawing a distinction between those who need help and those for whom state aid has become "a way of life".  Now those are thoughts, if they remember them, that will help Republican candidates in 2014 & 2016. 

No photos today but it looks like we have snow down to about 4,000 ft (1,200m).  It might be a good sign for tomorrow.  Have a good one!

Saturday, December 08, 2012

It's chilly!

I went out the feed the birds this a.m. and got an interesting little lesson in hydrodynamics.  The birdbath was frozen so I took a pointed rock and knocked a small hole in the ice.  I was thinking I'd knock it all out but every time I hit the ice, water shot out of the first hole I'd made.  Interesting!  It never would have occurred to me that the pressure on the ‘body’ of the ice would have that result.  Live and learn I guess.  So I waited a couple hours until at least some of the water thawed before I gave the birds their fresh water. 

We had a little water by the base of the water heater the other day.  Today it is dry.  I’m confused; I would have thought that the darn thing would either leak or not leak.  Apparently it leaks on Fridays but not Saturdays?  Again, I’m learning new stuff here.  I’m thinking I’m going to learn how to change out a water heater though before I’m much older.  Life in the fast lane.  Now I’m spending some quality internet time checking out water heaters – looks like we’ll be spending somewhere between $300 and $1,000 on a new one.  There are some amazing heaters; even one that has a sort of heat pump attachment that makes it more energy efficient. 

We were out enjoying the sunset last night and got to see some military aircraft playing over the California desert.  All we could see were the contrails but it looked like they were having fun.  The one plane would make a tight turn and the other would follow along.  I suppose they were a couple miles apart but they looked close.  We watched them for a good half hour just carving trails in the sky. 

I’ll end with a photo of our cat.  He is getting old and doesn’t clean himself very well.  He gets mats in his fur so we get him a ‘lion cut’ a couple times a year.  My wife was playing with his tail; I thought it was kind of cute.  Sorry about the quality but I took this with my cell phone.  Have a good one!

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Finances - and the cliff

This time of year I always find myself thinking about our finances.  I should probably think about it more often but the end of the year it is pretty much guaranteed.   Tax season will be upon us next quarter so that is part of the reason.  Of course everyone wants to know how they have done over the last year so that’s another reason. 

This year I’m planning on giving up some of the mutual funds we’ve held for many years and going to more index-based products.  The amazing Random Roger posted a graph a couple months ago showing the correlation between various large funds and the index they follow; it was amazing!  The correlation is really strong, as I guess you would expect, so why pay for a managed fund if you aren’t getting any extra return?  Guess I’m kind of slow to have this dawn on my after all these years but what can I say?  Better late than never? 

I’m still a fan of ownership if specific companies.  I think you can get a better overall return even if there is statistically more risk.  I don’t like to admit it but we do have one investment that is way too large a proportion of our portfolio.  It is a company I used to work for and I just let the investment grow rather than sell parts of it off during my years there.  Aside from that, most of our individual investments are 2-5% of our net worth.  Over the years we’ve lost 100% of our investment in a couple companies but when you are talking that size investment it’s hardly a bump in the road. 

This year I have an additional challenge in that Number One Daughter has asked me for some investment advice.  She has a 401k that she wants to roll over to something else.  That will be a challenge because she isn’t very patient so a 5% yearly increase isn’t going to make her happy but losing money will make her even less happy.  It will be a learning experience for us both I’m sure. 

I wish I could get the old crystal ball shined up but it is just as cloudy as ever.  About the best I can say is that I don’t think the sky is falling quite yet.  Even if we do go over the fiscal cliff, which I certainly hope those idiots in Washington manage to avoid, I imagine things will keep moving in the same general direction.  Paying more and getting less is not a new idea.  It has been happening pretty much my entire life.  Lots of us were driving when we paid $.30 a gallon for gas.  Doesn’t anyone else remember when the Post Office delivered more letters than advertising fliers?  (As an aside, I was talking to a guy who has a little local magazine.  He said it is $.14 a copy to flood the town with his magazine.  Really!  And a postage stamp costs $.44, right, that's clever.)

Speaking of the fiscal cliff, I’m going to write emails to a bunch of folks in Washington including the Pres, our state representatives and the leaders of the House & Senate.  I wish LOTS of people would drop them a line explaining what idiots they will be if they don’t get something going.  I’m going to be stressing the statesmanship aspect of their jobs rather than the partisan politics that they all seem to prefer.  It probably will just be a waste of time but I’d feel really dumb not doing anything.  So get out there & write!

And have a good one!

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Holiday Weekend!

No, I haven't fallen on my head.  This is our new holiday weekend.  At least for this year!  What has happened is that Number One Son and his Significant Other (SO) have trouble getting time off on the holidays so we decided to make our own holiday.  Number One Daughter can pretty much schedule her time her way so she has no problem.  We are retired so no problem.  What we are hoping is that having a mid-December holiday will enable us to all be together for a couple days.  So far it seems to be working.  The only problem is to not become too blimp-like from eating too much three times in a month! I'm sure we can figure out something. 

This year though my wife was determined to do a Prime Rib.  (Prime is the highest quality rating that is commonly available.)  I won't say how much that damn roast cost but will tell you it was $19.99 a pound.  If you care you can figure out the price per kilo; personally I don't want to know!  I must say it was very good and remarkably easy.  We made a garlic/salt/pepper/thyme paste to put on the outside and let it sit in the fridge for a day to soak up the flavors.  Then tossed it in the oven for half an hour at 450F (230C) then reduced the heat to 350F (175C) until the internal temp. was 115F (46C).  It took about three hours.  When we tried the crust, it was AWFUL - totally salty but it also just fell off the roast.  Without the crust the roast was great.  The two end pieces were fairly well done but the interior was just medium rare; just like everyone likes it.  I had one of the ends and even it was nice and juicy and even the exterior was tasty.

Everyone who watches the various cooking shows has seen someone using a mandolin.  It is used to cut  uniform slices off potatoes, onions, etc.  I just had to buy a cheap one a couple weeks ago and yesterday we decided to use it for the first time to slice some potatoes for a dish.  I managed to slice a piece off my little finger on the second slice!  Grrr!  What a chump.  My wife did use it to slice the rest of the potatoes and you can believe she was careful.  I must say it did a great job though; uniform slices and the job didn't take more than about a minute a potato.  This is about the cheapest mandolin on the market & I can recommend one if you are careful.  Maybe it's not so great if you are a chump like me. 

Now we have three whole weeks until the next holiday.  Why don't we move Christmas to April or sometime?  I'm going to break the scale if this over-eating and over-drinking keeps up. 

Have a good one!