Friday, December 7, 2018

When Mothers Go Bad

I  (- you know - the first born - clearly her favorite -) called my mommy the other day,

       the woman that birthed me, fed me, guided me firmly down the right path,

                      and also the one that sold up and moved to an independent living place a few months ago.

We barely got started and I was settling in for a nice chat when she interrupted me mid-sentence and said "I'm hanging up now cause I gota a thing ta go to."


What the hell!!!

But then I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised.

Last week she was telling me about how much she's enjoying her Tuesday evening card group.

How they're all a fun bunch of people and they meet for dinner then go play cards the rest of the night.

And, while telling me all this, she accidentally let it slip that the other night they were playing -- gasp -- FOR MONEY!!!

But wait, it doesn't stop there!!  She actually went to my sister's place for a family Thanksgiving with the grandkids and great grandkids, WEARING BLUE JEANS!!!

What is happening??!!

Personally I think she's done that dire and dastardly thing she warned me about all through my teens.

I think she's fallen in with a bad crowd!

But what can I do about it? She HUNG UP on me!!

I wonder what's next. . .

           Food fights? . . .

                       TP'ing the concierge's office?

Disclaimer: None of the images above are of my mom or her new bad crowd because they broke curfew and I don't know where they are. . . 

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

(Something) Touches Red You're Dead??

Once in a while, while doing my laps on the back of the property, I run into a snake. The vast majority of the time it's a Texas Rat, a grumpy but otherwise harmless reptilian neighbor, (To big critters like me anyway. I'm sure the voles and field mice have their own take on this.) like the one above that enjoys lurking in the well-house's warmth. (That's the top of the well casing over there on the right, ruining my otherwise perfect composition. . .)

But today, up on the southern end of the ridge-top I ran into one of these. It was about 2.5 feet long (Actually, at the time I figured it was more like 20.5 feet long but you know how things like this tend to get exaggerated.) and must have recently shed because it was very bright and shiny with well defined borders between the colors.

Being a pair of very civilized creatures we both went our own ways, each suffering nothing more than a momentary fright.

There are two red, yellow, black snakes. One is venomous and the other is not. All the way down the hill after our chance encounter I was trying to remember the mnemonic (Isn't that a weird way to spell the word?!) I was taught as a Boy Scout. I knew it was about which color touches red, but I couldn't remember if it was yellow or black that makes me dead.

Well apparently my Boy Scout days are too far behind because according to the The Art of Manliness Guide to Snakes, the publishers of other manly tomes such as How To Ram Through Vehicular Roadblocks: Becoming Antifragile: and How to Make Women Like You: (And the source of the image above since I didn't have my camera with me at the time) the mnemonic is actually Red and Black friend of Jack; Red and Yellow Kill a Fellow.

Clearly I just had a close encounter with a venomous Coral snake; but since I wasn't going to pick it up and put it in my pocket anyway, Coral snake or King snake, it doesn't really matter. (Beyond having a Manliness Encounter that is.)

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Don't Cha Just Hate That!

When the cows are on the wrong side of the fence?

We were making a quick trip down a nearby county road into town last week.

That whitish square in the center of the image is the new bridge over a tributary of of Cummins Creek, itself a tributary of Colorado River. It's a replacement for the old bridge that washed on down the creek a couple-three years ago. It took nearly a year before this new bridge was usable and the road opened back up, but that's not what this image is about.

If you blow it up you just might be able to see a handful of black marks inside the red circle.

They, the black marks, the cows, are a little clearer in this shot taken from the dash-cam video just as we pulled over (We've been getting a lot of rain for two months now so pulling over too far and falling off the hard-surface is not recommended!)

Another thing not recommended is to continue driving, or walking, or anything, at cows that are being pushed along towards you. It freaks them out and they scatter everywhere which would certainly not make the guy trying to get them back where they belong very happy. (He's just barely visible here riding along just behind the cows on a wheeler with a blue feed-bucket on the front rack.)

And there they go in this shot from the rear camera through a not-very-clean window. (One of the things on the list for this trip was a new rear wiper blade.) Two mom-cows that probably know better and two calves just tagging along.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018


It was a beautiful morning. One to be appreciated after all the rain and gloom we've had the past couple months. (I think we've used up our annual quota of 60 days of clouds all in one shot!!)

The sun was leaking through the trees to the east and poking at the gaps around the barn doors so I opened them up and stepped out to just stand there and soak up some D.

That's the point where everything went to shit. . .

Instead of being hugged by some rays I was mugged by an electric coop crew clearing right-of-way a half-mile to the south of us.

Then kicked in the nuts by people talking loud in the vicinity of the gate - probably bicyclists trying to recover after a serious uphill grind, (Doesn't matter which way you come from, it's all uphill to our gate which seems to be a popular break-spot)

Taunted by a single-engine plane snarling through the sky above

And if that wasn't enough, had my head drilled by a truck going by on the county road singing that tuneless knobby-tire-whine.

I was ready to march down there, throw all their tools into the chipper and tell the coop-dudes I'm going to take myself off-grid forever.

I had to hang tight to the nearest tree to keep myself from running up to the gate and marching those damn cyclists back to the city where they came from. (OK so they probably came from a B&B in the town of 200 five miles away, but same thing. . .)

If my arms were long enough I would have reached up and snatched that plane right out of the sky and fed it prop-first into the coop wood-chipper.

And I attempted to use some of that wizardry that seems to popular nowadays to put a thrown-rod hex on that truck.

Just when the hell did I turn into the neighborhood curmudgeon???

Though I have to admit, it seems to fit me like a tailored suit.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

This Is Not Right!

OK, this may look fine to y'all, but it's not.

There are probably less than a dozen mornings in a year where the barn doors are not opened first thing, then only closed again when it's dark out and we are wrapping things up for the night.

And those days occur in the January-February timeframe, Never in November. And especially not in the first half of November!!

But this morning it was a full 25 degrees colder than the normal low of 50. In fact, for the third day in a row, the high for the day will be less than the normal low.

And even though the barn is not exactly what you would consider weather-tight, with the doors closed it is still considerably warmer than on the other side of them. 52 degrees inside compared to the 25 degrees outside.

Fortunately for us, inside the living quarters which are in a corner of the barn and significantly more weather-tight, we woke up to 64 degrees, and this is without heat which we only run once in a while to take the edge off during the evening, but never while we sleep.

The Van, being a marginally insulated steel box, doesn't fare quite so well, so this is one of the rare occasions when I drag out the neglected power cord

and set up the little space-heater, that frankly sees most of its annual quota of use as a load on the generator during the monthly check-runs.

In these kinds of temperatures it keeps the insides of The Van at 47, warmer than it needs to be but cranked down to the lowest temp and running on the Low setting, that's the lowest I can get it. Still, it sure beats messing around with winterizing! (I designed The Van with both the potable and grey water tanks as well as the pump and what little plumbing there is, including the tank fill and dump lines, to fit inside The Van with nothing hanging out underneath where I can't protect it.)

But look on the bright side!

Having to wear gloves means my old-man hands are covered up, taking years off my age. . .Right??

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

I'm Prime Stuff !

That's right, I'm a Grade A: USDA Prime: hunk-a beef !

Wait . . . That can't be right.*

*Actually, truth is I am a superb example of a ripped and cut specimen of a man, but you don't know that because I'm really good at disguising it under a fluffy layer of excess calories.

Oh . . . Right . . . What I meant to say is that I'm now an Amazon Prime Member.

For some membership is a coveted accoutrement to be collected like a lothario collects notches on the bedpost. Be it that coveted golf club, or the book club, maybe that not-so-exclusive gentleman's club, (not that I have any firsthand knowledge of gentlemen's clubs! - OK - so there maybe a little knowledge there, but not enough that they know me by name) or even just a seat at the morning McDonald's coffee gathering table, but, being the crotchety old bastard I am, membership is not usually my thing. (Does Sams Club count?)

But for many months now I've been non-member-shamed at Whole Foods.

For years we've been making a trip into the city every week or two and stocking up on produce at Whole Foods and ever since Amazon bought them out the cashier has bugged me for my Prime membership number and I've been forced to admit that I am not one of the elite.

Well no more!  At least for now. . .

I finally broke down and became a Prime Member so now when, after letting that skiny wisp of a spandexed woman with a single carrot in her hand go through ahead of us, we go through the checkout at Whole Foods with our high priced organic-crap-that's-going-to-make-us-live-longer beeping across the scanner and riding the little conveyor down to be stuffed into our socially-responsible reusable bags, I can haughtily hold up my phone and get my membership scanned with a jaunty beep of its own, and then walk away secure in the knowledge that I have claimed my rightful savings.

But the jury is out on whether being a member of such an exclusive club is worth it.

In order to break even on the cost of being a PPM (Proud Prime Member) we will need to realize an average savings of about $2.30 per week at the Whole Foods checkout. I've set up a spreadsheet to track the numbers (and now I have to remember to check the receipt before shredding it because checking after shredding sucks!) and so far it's not looking good, but then again, as a neophyte it could be that I just haven't figured out how to work the system yet and am missing out on some of those Prime Deals.

And throwing the entire fiscal responsibility for my coveted membership onto Whole Foods isn't exactly fair either, after all, there are some 20 additional benefits to being a PPM.

There's the two-day "free" shipping. (Just how the hell is it free if I have to pay to get it? But I suppose calling it "included in the price of membership" just doesn't have the sort of ring that sucks us clueless rubes in as readily as "free" does.) In the past we've always just collected things in our Amazon cart until we made it over the minimum dollar limit for the other, the true, free shipping, then waited patiently for the week-and-a-half to two weeks for stuff to arrive.

That's been good enough for many years now, but it sure was nice the other day to order a low-dollar power-converter for the 12V TV that came out of The Van and have it arrive in a couple days on our Prime membership. I'm not sure how to value that convenience so for now I'll just track what 2-day shipping without membership would have cost, although, now that my account has been activated for Prime, coming up with the non-prime shipping cost is proving to be a challenge.

The other thing I've been threatening to do for a long time now is try out e-reading. With that in mind, and my new Prime Membership in hand, (and desperate to squeeze all the value I can out of my dues) I took a hard look at the various Kindles out there. Fortunately, during my poking around I discovered a free Kindle app for my phone and went that route instead.

It took a while since there is no obvious 'help' button to tell me that instead of touching the universal, but-non-existent-here, app-menu icon I should just tap once anywhere on the screen, but eventually I figured out how to download multiple books at a time and once a book is in the app a data connection is no longer needed which is great. Now, when hiking I won't have to carry a paperback with me, even in signal-less territory, because I always have my phone in my pocket. And it turns out reading on the 2.75 x 5.5 inch screen is a heck of a lot easier than I expected. Between the stark-white background and the screen-optimized font I don't have to take my glasses off and hold the print a few inches from my nose (I'm nearsighted) to read it like I have to do with some paperbacks with non-optimized fonts in faded ink on yellowed paper. (discount books tend to be old books)

In addition, when unexpectedly held up somewhere, such as in the long line at the Post Office the other day, or when The Wife suddenly decides she wants a haircut during one of our supply runs, I have reading material right there in my pocket without having to plan ahead and grab a book before heading out.

Through experimenting I've found that in the dark, like when reading before going to sleep, or in my camp-chair while watching stars and jumping at every monster-like noise out there in the pitch-black woods, I can turn the screen brightness down to about 5%, saving not only battery, but my night-vision too, without compromising the ability to read without straining.  Cool!

Prime Reading, one of those many benefits of Prime Membership, gives me access to a whole bunch of titles I can read for free. Granted, best-sellers are conspicuously absent from this list of titles but then again, I'm not exactly an elitist reader either.

Through what seems like a convoluted process to me at the moment, I can also grab one free book a month off a list of 6 hot titles picked by somebody over at Amazon that are not included in the Prime Reading list.

Since I never buy a book at full price, and almost never at even half price, I'll track my reading savings by valuing each title read at $1, what I normally pay for a paperback.

(by the way, I have no plans to give up paper books and go exclusively e-book, especially since I have nearly 100 unread paperbacks squirreled away on various shelves at the moment.)

Obviously there's a bunch of other"benefits" to Prime membership, such as exclusive Alexa deals, (I'll have enough 'home assistance' when I'm senile and crippled, for now I can manage to turn a light switch on by myself, thank you very much, besides, why the hell would I voluntarily invite yet one more thing that talks into my house?!) Prime Video streaming, (we don't have enough internet or data-plan bandwidth for that) or phone discounts. (so far I've averaged one new phone every 10 years so I don't see that helping out much) All stuff I've lived without so far and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

So now only time, and my spreadsheet, will tell if being a member of this particular club makes any sense for us.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Memories From The Road: The Witch in My Windshield

Back in October of 1977 I had just bought my brand-new canary-yellow Honda CVCC. Days later, at the checkout of some forgotten store, on a whim (I used to be a fun, whimsical guy. I wonder what happened to him. . .) I picked up a 99 cent Halloween toy,

a gumby-like witch, and hung her from the rear view mirror, turned so she could look down the road in front of us. (Back then rear-view mirrors were stuck to the windshield with a thin metal arm you could hang things from, and back then she had a broom in her right hand that hooked over that metal arm just fine.)

I couldn't bring myself to take her down when Halloween was over because - well who knows - maybe she was looking out for me while dangling there staring down the road with those unblinking eyes.

It wasn't long before the sun destroyed the thin plastic of the broom-handle and it broke off, eliminating her 'hanging point', and I had to prop her on the mirror by making her straddle the arm instead.

When the Honda went to Honda heaven some 200,000 miles later the witch came with me to the new vehicle and she has been doing so ever since, though somewhere along the line she migrated over to The Wife's vehicles.

Nowadays rear-view mirrors have all these fancy gadgets and sensors on them and the wires and such necessary to drive all these fancy gadgets we never knew we needed but apparently can't live without have made the thin metal arm a relic of the past, so, no mater how loose her morals, straddling is no longer an option. Now she's been riding on the dashboard of the last several vehicles instead.

Somewhat faded, a little worse for wear, and a lot grimier, she is still racking up the miles with that same wide-eyed grimace!

The face only a mother, or a once-fun-and-whimsical-guy, could love!