PUZZLE SOLVED

From: Meridian, ID:

The only good thing about decisions reached by a committee is that the blame for such decisions will be shared among the committee members.

***

(Four days' trapping.)

(Four days’ trapping.)

Back in early August, I posted a Blather that included a couple of paragraphs about my yellowjacket traps, and describing how one of the three simply would not snare any…well, no more than a handful, anyhow. It was quite a puzzle for me, and up until yesterday I could not fathom the reason. The traps, themselves, were identical…as was the bait. They were located very near each other in the back yard (one of the three remained in the front yard), and yet over a period of a few days, one caught ten or twelve of the flying varmints while the other caught hundreds.

(The "bad" trap after repair.)

(The “bad” trap after repair.)

Yesterday, I squirted some “refresher” bait liquid on the cotton wadding inside the interior of the bait cone. While doing so, I noticed – for the first time in many inspections of the device – that two small pieces of plastic had been chipped from the bottom edge of the large interior cone. I had never seen the damage, previously, and even if I had, I may have overlooked it as not being important. This time as I reassembled the thing, I noticed that the spots where the plastic corners had been broken off aligned with the small vents in the bottom of the trap. In so doing, two small “escape holes” were created. Tah Dah! Which meant that the bugs were going in through the four entrance holes on the bottom of the trap, but then almost immediately discovered the “escape holes” as they inspected the circumference of the bottom compartment.

I’m not sure why they decided it was important to get out of that area so soon…the smell of the bait, located directly above them, must have been nearly overpowering. Of course there were a few that kept going, flying (or crawling) up the interior of the large cone and squeezing out the hole in the top to the larger compartment. And once they did that, they were goners…never choosing to go back through the hole at the top of the cone. But, as I said, most made their getaway from the smaller, first compartment.

(One of the masking tape repairs is visible in one of the rectangular "windows" near the bottom of the trap.)

(One of the masking tape repairs is visible in one of the rectangular “windows” near the bottom of the trap.)

I used some masking tape to cover the corners where the plastic had been broken away and, after putting the trap back together, hung it near the other one. The difference was dramatic! From the first moment both traps were hung with fresh scent bait, they performed exactly alike. After two hours, six individual yellowjackets in both traps; this morning, an even dozen carcasses in both traps. When last I checked – about an hour ago – the newly repaired trap was significantly ahead of the other one, with twenty (or so) small corpses and another 15 or 20 still flying/crawling in the large compartment. The (previously) “good” trap had only a half dozen of the pesky things still moving around above (and among) their dead cousins. VOILA! Problem solved.

The more difficult question (to me) about these traps is, “Why do they work so well?” (When pieces aren’t broken off of them, that is.) It seems counter-intuitive, but evidently there is something in the thinking of a yellowjacket that makes them loathe to crawl down a hole. The entrance holes are flush with the bottom of the trap, but have walls perhaps a half-inch high rising up from the floor of that lower compartment. We now know hey will dang sure find their way out through holes in the side of the little room…but are apparently unable to do the same thing by going back down an entrance hole that they just used to get in the place. And it’s the same thing in the larger compartment, the one in which they eventually kick the bucket. Every bug in there came through the same little hole at the top of the cone, and many crawl all around – and over – that same hole. I have seen one actually crawl back down it, but in no time at all it had come back up and in to the death chamber. I’ve not seen another do the same thing. (I should mention, here, that I don’t spend all my days watching yellow jackets…certainly a number of them may have tried going back down the cone. But, judging from the numbers of dead ones, not many have escaped that way.) Obviously, who ever came up with the design of the trap knew something about yellowjacket behavior, but I still wonder why such an instinct would be a part of the bugs’ teeny-tiny brain. They even nest in holes in the ground quite often. To do so means they have to crawl down into the entrance to the hive, and judging by their summertime numbers there must be very few who won’t do that. Go figure.

At any rate, I was quite pleased with myself for solving the problem of the poorly performing trap. By the way, the brand of trap I use is “Rescue.” Part of the company’s advertising states that beneficial honeybees will not be trapped, and I can vouch for the veracity of that statement. In the years I’ve been trapping yellowjackets, I have never seen the body of a honeybee inside one.

***

Today I made a grocery-shopping trip. Janet had an appointment for a haircut and coloring and, since I’ve told her many times that I really don’t mind grocery shopping, she asked if I would go for a few things. She had clipped a number of coupons, and today being “senior discount” Tuesday at the store, she was anxious to get the trip done today. (She very much dislikes this household chore.) Usually, when it happens that I am making the trip, we go over the shopping list together, making sure I understand the “shorthand” she normally uses. This time, we skipped that step as I was doing something online and she was running a bit late.

Imagine my surprise, then, when at the store I discovered “panties” near the bottom of the list. Checking the coupons stapled to the paper, I found that, sure enough, one of the coupons advertised “Buy 2 Packs, Get 1 Pack Free,” good for three different brands of panties. The item on the list was not a mistake; it was not an abbreviation for plums, or pans, or pears.

So, grabbing the bull by the hornets, so to speak, I ventured into the “Ladies Apparel” section of the store. I had to ask a young lady employee where to find the panties and she was kind enough to show me without smirking. (I told her in no uncertain terms that, had I known that item was on the shopping list, I would definitely have declined the shopping job!)

Thankfully, she left me alone after she led me to the section of the store I was looking for. Come to think of it, her hasty retreat probably was sparked by a fear that I was soon going to ask her, “Well…I don’t know my wife’s size in panties. What size do you wear?”

I was at a loss. Too many different styles; way to0 many different sizes; an incredible array of different colors. So I did the only thing I could do at that point: I ignored that item on my list. But I did mention the quandary I had been in to the young man working the checkout aisle as I was leaving. He said I positively did the right thing. “It was a test,” he said, “…and there was no way you could have passed it! Buy something too brief, or in too small a size…you would have proven yourself to be dense…a complete idiot. Or worse yet, buy something too large…well, have fun in the doghouse for the next 3 years! Oh, yeah…you did the right thing! No question about it!” I thanked him for clearing that up for me and got the heck out of the store.

But before that, after leaving the women’s lingerie area, and while doing the remainder of the items on the list, I only had to ask twice for help reading Jan’s shorthand. My excuse? I had left my reading glasses in the truck. Both times, the employees were easily able to translate. Clpbd? Clipboard, of course. Dryon? Dried onion? “…in the spice department, sir.” Make a note, Bud: Never take a shopping list that you haven’t verified with Janet before you go.

***

We’ve had an unusual August here in southwestern Idaho. Unusual because we had only one day of 100+ temperature. On August 11th, it reached 102 degrees. (I was on my way to Vancouver, B.C. for salmon fishing when on that date. I missed it. Dang the luck.) I believe summer generally brings ten or twelve days over 100, and those almost always come in August. This year, they occurred in July. So we have gotten acclimated, now, to almost Fall-ish weather, with cool nights (in the fifties and sixties) and days sometimes not even breaking 80 degrees. It has been quite nice.

I hope you’re having good weather where you are, although based on the nightly news, there’s a good chance you’re not. Be happy anyhow…it will all pass.

Bud

 

 

TO THE WOODS!

From: Meridian, ID:

I’ve been patiently awaiting the wisdom of old age to descend upon me in my “Golden Years” but so far, all I’m really sure of is the multiplication tables through the number six.

***

Fall is nearly here, and a young (and old) man’s fancy turns to – what else? – hunting. Archery season for deer/elk is around the corner. This coming Saturday, as a matter of fact. But since I’ve never gotten in to hunting with a bow and arrow(s), it doesn’t mean much to me. Not that I bear any ill will to those who do. Quite the opposite, they are, by and large, much better hunters than I. They generally have more patience, they are better sneakers, and they pretty much have to be much better trackers. (That’s because one almost never knocks down a deer or an elk with an arrow…they usually are able to run off for 100 yards, and often more. The hunter has to be able to follow a blood trail through the forest.) I think the popular camouflage hunting clothing was originally created and sold to bow hunters…the ones who have to get within 50 yards of the animal they are after. Turkey hunters, nowadays, are also big into camo outfits. Of necessity, I’ve always assumed, although I must admit I’ve always thought of turkeys as some of the dimmest lamps in the woods. (I think the brightest ones must be wolves and coyotes…but, again, I don’t have a lot of personal experience on which to base my opinions.)

No, I’ve never felt as though I have a tremendous advantage over elk and deer because I use a rifle. Else how explain the fact I’ve never taken an elk? Well, for one thing, I am now of an age that I have better sense than to hike miles into the wilderness and look for them…physical limitations mean that I confine my elk hunting – and deer hunting, too – to places where a flat (or downhill) walk will get me back to the pickup within a mile. But the truth is I didn’t care for long hikes in mountainous terrain even when I was younger and in better shape. I may never get a wall-hanger trophy rack, but I figure the ones who come to the flatland first will taste pretty much the same as those old mossyback bulls.

(Winchester Arms Model 94.)

(Winchester Arms Model 94.)

In keeping with the approaching season, I went out to the desert yesterday with a neighbor to sight in my deer rifle, a 7mm Magnum (Remington). It is the only real high-power rifle I’ve owned, although before it came into my possession I was successful in taking several deer with my “cowboy” rifle…a 30-30 Winchester, Model 94. I don’t think Winchester makes them, anymore. That’s hard to believe, I know, given their status as an American “icon.” Or near-icon, at the very least. The rifle went out of production in 2006, but is now being made again in Japan and imported to the U.S. by a company in Utah. (There is something near sacrilegious about such a turn of events, don’t you think?) I was also surprised to learn that the Winchester company didn’t use the term “30-30” when they first started making the rifle…they called it a .30 Winchester Center Fire when they first made the version that would accept a cartridge. Or, .30 WCF. When the Marlin company came out with its similar rifle, it was the one that got the “30-30” designation, following the convention that the first number was the caliber and the second number indicated the grains of powder in the case, and as a means of differentiating it from the Winchester product. Over the years – and probably much to the consternation of the Marlin company – the term “30-30” came to be almost universally understood to mean a Winchester. Before it stopped making them in 2006, the company had sold more than 7 million. That’s quite a popular shootin’ iron, pardner.

As to the target plinking, yesterday, I discovered my Remington was very close to the proper elevation at 200 yards, which means that for the past year or so I may have been hitting a bit high on targets inside that distance. A surprise for me, since I normally zero the scope at 100 yards. I was also hitting a bit to the right, but that might have been due to a quartering tail wind from the left. Two hundred yards is quite a ways out there (especially when one has to walk there and back every few minutes to change target) and it doesn’t take a whole lot of wind to blow a bullet off course a bit. I don’t know how a scope can change from one hunting season to the next, but, believe me, they can. It is just plain foolish to go out hunting, thinking that the rifle was “shooting pretty good” last year…it must still be good.

I also shot my Ruger .17 HMR “varmint” rifle while in the desert. Again, it was very close to the perfect elevation at 200 yards, a strange thing considering it was last sighted in at 50 yards. All I can say is, “Storage does strange things to rifle scopes.” And before you pass it off by saying I was just probably holding too high on the bullseye, I’ll tell you that I shot twenty rounds…all of which struck the target at the elevation of center-bullseye. I’m not Davy Crockett by a long shot, but I’m not going to make the same “jerk” twenty times in a row. Guaranteed.

***

(Tanks have the right of way on pretty much any road.)

(Tanks have the right of way on pretty much any road.)

On the return trip from the desert, Todd and I met a short convoy of National Guard tanks and armored personnel carriers, en route from the base at Gowen Field to the training area south of town. We were glad the tanks were not after us…they make the very earth tremble. Which leads me to ask, “How can ground squirrels sleep through that kind of earth-shaking racket?” If you were trying to catch a few winks in your underground den, wouldn’t you be curious enough to poke your head up for a minute or two when a monster is approaching? Hmmm…well, come to think of it, maybe not, eh? I am continually perplexed at these little creatures. Four months above ground (during the daytime) and 8 months underground, night and day. It is just a strange, strange life cycle, isn’t it? I can hardly wait until they show up again next spring.

***

Our local boys, the Boise State University Broncos, take on the Ole Miss Rebels this evening in Atlanta, Georgia. The casino prognosticators have come out with a “mixed” spread…from about 9 points to 11 points, with Ole Miss the favorite. No surprise there. Still, over the past several years, BSU has whipped up on a few “powerhouse” favorites, and, naturally, we are all hoping it will happen again tonight. Unfortunately, we don’t have quite the same team we had in those “glory” years…or, maybe we do. And this will be the night they show us, eh? All I know is a win over Ole Miss would be quite the “kick-start” to our season. We’ll be watching. Go Blue!!

 

Bud

 

SO DO YOU SUDOKU TOO?

From: Meridian, ID:

(A Sudoku puzzle, "Hard" category.)

(A Sudoku puzzle, “Hard” category.)

I wasn’t a big fan of Sudoku puzzles from the beginning. Truth to tell, I considered them rather simple exercises, i.e., too easy for serious puzzle-solving. Of course Janet told me different, that they came categorized as “Easy,” “Medium,” “Hard,” and “Expert.” (Or “Evil,” or “Mind-boggling,” or “You haven’t got a chance!”) And she liked them from the beginning.

She had already influenced me to get into crossword puzzles, and before I saw the first Sudoku puzzle I had gotten passably good at that universal word game. Not an “expert,” mind you…and certainly not one of those people who works the New York Times puzzle, not concerned whether or not they will finish it successfully, but, rather, seeking to do it in record time! (I suspect nobody likes those people.)

But Janet had a habit of leaving her Sudoku books lying around in the bathrooms, and sure enough, before too long I was picking them up. Soon enough, I realized that my first impression (as to the difficulty…or lack of it) had been correct, at least with regard to the puzzles labeled, “Easy.” At the risk of coming across as a Sudoku-snob, they were but a very minimal challenge, suitable, really, only for children. They were not difficult enough to occupy my attention for more than the time it took to fill in the blank squares. But as I got in to the “Medium” category, things changed. In fact, on more than a few occasions, I found puzzles that required a second trip to the bathroom to finish. Oh…not all that difficult, still, but enough that I had to give them some thought. When I eventually got started on one labeled, “Hard,” I quickly came to the opinion that it was, indeed, “Hard!” Impossible, more likely.

But old guys have to find some way to pass the time on the pot, so I persevered. As time passed, I settled in to a “process” for solving, a system made up of a couple of routines I discovered myself, a few that I learned by reading the “Tips” in the front of most Sudoku books, and a few more that Janet was willing to share with me…after swearing me to secrecy. I took some pride in the fact that I could, given enough time to work on them, solve even the “Challengers” in most books.

I might easily have gotten a swelled head if not for the daily Sudoku in our morning newspaper. Like many other papers (I expect), the puzzle page contains word games, crosswords, and Sudokus that are graduated in difficulty over the course of a week, beginning with easy stuff on Monday and finishing with “killer” puzzles by Friday and Saturday. You can be sure I have no ego problems as a result of those puzzles; that’s because I have never completed one. Truth is, I rarely even start one of them, feeling nowadays my self-esteem is fragile enough without searching for new ways to pummel it. (Janet finishes those Friday brain-busters all the time.) But that’s okay; I enjoy the books that can still be found in and around our bathrooms.

What started me thinking about the subject was of a bit more serious nature. I think we’ve all read and heard more than enough about the big “A” lurking in wait for many of us somewhere down the road. Enough so that every stinking time our mind goes blank trying to remember the name of a best friend in high school, we wonder if it’s the first symptom, signaling the irrevocable descent into the awful pit of Alzheimer’s disease.

I’m getting better about shrugging off these little “brain burps,” but a few months ago I suddenly realized I was having more trouble than usual with the “Hard” Sudokus. (By the way, does any out there agree that is not a proper use of the word, “hard?” Shouldn’t the label be, “Difficult?” But whatever…) Occasionally, even a “Medium” would throw me for a loop. It was happening often enough that the inevitable worry about you-know-what was entering my thoughts much more often. I mean, it’s one thing to forget – for a moment or two – a name or acorn of information, or even information snippets that have been with a person for a lifetime. I think we all do that from time to time. But it’s quite another thing if one is suddenly beginning to have trouble with simple logic…or so I figure.

Happily, that period of doing not-so-well with Sudoku puzzles seems to have passed. I’m now working them again as well as I ever did. (Get thee behind me, big “A!”)

***

Have you heard on the news, recently, about how close the “techies” are coming to developing a car that can actually drive itself? It’s true, the research and designing has reached a point where governments have to think about how the technology would (or should?) be implemented. We’re talking about a time, and possibly not that far distant, when we will all be mere passengers in our vehicles. And in city traffic, too…not just on the isolated country road out to Grandma’s place!

I gotta be honest…I don’t care much for the idea, myself. Oh, sure, we’ve all grown accustomed to cruise control and most of us use that with no qualms. But handing over every aspect of driving to a computer chip? Well, that’s something else, again.

I’ll admit that computers and robots do a fantastic job at a lot of things. But here’s the rub: They DO make mistakes! They freeze up for no good reason. They initiate “job action” slowdowns at the most inopportune times. They will suddenly stop communicating with other computers…machines they have known and loved for years. You’ve got a home computer. Would you hand over control of your car to it? Would you feel safe and comfortable careening down the Interstate knowing that every speeding vehicle in view (and beyond) was being driven by a microchip?

(A woodscrew, created by a computer-driven automated process. Can you spot the defect?)

(A woodscrew, created by a computer-driven automated process. Can you spot the defect?)

And here’s an example. Like so many jobs in manufacturing, the making of a simple woodscrew is now automated. Without such automated production lines, every piece of work needing a woodscrew would come to a screeching halt. Modern machines, guided by a simple piece of silicon with memory, can produce millions and millions of the dang things…and done in good time. To have men produce the equivalent would require who-knows-how-many lifetimes. Worse yet, the products produced by the craftsmen would almost certainly not be of a uniform standard.

Yes, the machines and computers are good. But they are NOT infallible! Just the other day I bought a box of screws (made in China, of course, but that’s beside the issue). I think it was a box of 50…certainly no more than a hundred. They were all identical in their perfection…except this one. You can’t see it in the photograph, but the Philips head was done correctly. The problem, obviously, is that the “blank” was never turned in to a screw…it is, as you can see, still a blank.

So if the box contained 50 screws, we can say that the computer running the line functioned correctly 98 percent of the time. Or, giving it the benefit of the doubt and saying the box contained 100 screws, it was correct 99 percent of the time. Now if that computer were playing Jeopardy, I’m sure we would all applaud its performance. I know I would. But if we put that same computer in charge of our vehicle and drove across Los Angeles, that same percentage of “good behavior” would, in no time at all, get us surrounded by smoking hulks of wreckage. And that would be the “good” outcome. The alternate possibility would have us actually being one of said piles of wreckage.

On the other hand, I suppose one could easily make the point that even if the computers were but 99 percent reliable, they would still far surpass the reliability of humans. I can’t argue with that supposition. Can you? So let’s re-boot the family wagon, have the glove compartment robot hand me a gin and tonic — with a lime, thank you — and we’ll get on our way down the highway. Good luck to us all!

Bud

 

FLYING VISITORS

From: Meridian, ID:

I like honeybees – who doesn’t? – not only do we depend on them for food more the most of us realize, they don’t have a reputation for being viciously aggressive. At least not without good cause. Yellow jackets, on the other hand, seem a lot more…well…meaner. In truth, they probably accomplish a good deal of pollination, just like honey bees, but they haven’t done a very good job in polishing their image. Y’know? And wasps? I mean, who likes wasps? No one I know, and that’s for sure.

(Does this look like a friendly face?)

(Does this look like a friendly face?)

But back to yellow jackets. Every year around late spring, I put out the bright yellow traps one sees in the stores, making sure that I install fresh, new cotton bait balls. This year, it appears I did this way too early…after a month, one of the two traps I hung in the front yard maple tree caught a handful of some kind of lesser, black bees, and two yellow jackets. Queens, I think, both of them. Then it was zilch. For a month or more. I had also struck out with the trap I had hung in the back yard. Perhaps we weren’t going to have the multitudes that always come around in the summer, eh?

Not so. They have arrived. Because Janet and I spend more time outdoors in the back yard than in the front, I moved the empty one from the maple to a skyhook against the back yard fence. And I put fresh bait in all three.

(A wasp trap doing its job correctly.)

(A wasp trap doing its job correctly.)

With the arrival of the crowds of yellow jackets, the trap in the maple tree began catching them in earnest. And one of the two in the back yard was an absolute champion at nailing the little pests. The dead have piled up in the trap, but that doesn’t seem to deter newcomers. Perhaps it even helps attract them, eh? Think of Joe Yellow Jacket, flying from here to there and, suddenly, he spots a strange device that smells of yellow jacket ambrosia, and it’s filled to the gills with his cousins, packed in like gumballs in a penny fishbowl. “What’s up with that?” Joe thinks to himself. “There is something good in there…and those guys are eating up my share!” Gaining entrance is, of course, no problem. But once inside, he realizes something is amiss. Most of his cousins are not even moving, and those few that are, are simply flying in a tight circle around the plastic walls, searching for the exit. He can do nothing but join them in their futile search for a way out. They spend their breaks from flying inspecting the narrow slots in the ceiling of the trap, trying with all their might to squeeze through. It doesn’t work. Nothing does. The inside of these ingenious traps must get to temperatures significantly higher than a mere 100 degrees, and within some time period (2 hours? 3 hours?) they can fly no more, falling, exhausted and overheated, to the bottom of the trap to join the earlier arrivals in the “big sleep.” When I dwell too long on that process, I sometimes even find myself sympathizing with the little creeps. I’m betting that it is not a good way to die, even for a bug.

(A failed wasp trap.)

(A failed wasp trap.)

But the thing is, only one of the back yard traps catches any; the other one – placed only a few feet away, and using the same bait – has caught none! Huh? “How can that be?” I’m wondering. Standing a safe and sane distance from the two traps, I can easily see that both have up to a dozen yellow jackets buzzing around them, obviously interested. But as the one catches two dozen or more a day (I figure), the other can’t seem to close the deal. And believe me, I have inspected the bum trap. There is no blockage in any of the access holes located on the bottom. The bait cotton is clearly visible within its little “egg” in the center of the device. I cannot see any spiders, patiently waiting for a visitor. (Would spiders tackle a yellow jacket? I don’t know.) The only difference between the two one-way yellow jacket motels is that the good one hangs approximately a foot closer to the ground than the bad one. I simply refuse to believe such a slight difference in elevation is responsible for the extreme difference in the numbers of trapped yellow jackets. It just can’t be! Can it? Having nothing else in my bag of tricks, I suppose I’ll have to try lowering the bad trap to the same level as the good one, but then I remember that I’ve seen the little buggers hanging around the bad one…they just never go inside. How could elevation contribute to that behavior? It is a summertime mystery.

***

And speaking of your back yard fliers, is there anyone out there who is not fascinated by a hummingbird? I know I am. They are such different – and colorful – little creatures, and a bird that so many of us try to attract to our yards. With a very wide range of success, I might add.

We have always seemed to be at the lower end of that range, and not for lack of trying. Janet has tried commercial hummingbird syrup mixtures and a bunch of different recipes for home made juice. Three cups water to one cup sugar; four to one; two to one. Oh, there is a hummingbird again this year that comes around several times a day and sips at the feeder, but we have never seen its mate (if it has one), and I doubt we have seen another bird. There is the possibility, of course, that we are seeing several different ones, all coming by at different times…and all the same species. But I tend to believe there is only one.

(Hummingbirds sharing a feeder. Unusual, in my experience.)

(Hummingbirds sharing a feeder. Unusual, in my experience.)

Once upon a time, when we were living in southwest Washington state, we put out two feeders: one in the back yard and one in the front. The very first day the feeders were hanging, we thought we had found the perfect recipe, as well as the perfect locations (both for our residence and for the feeders). Why? Because within a very short time there were a dozen hummers, all vying for a spot at one feeder or the other. It was an iridescent flying circus, made up of the tiny creatures, darting and diving and swooping around the place. “How cool is that?” we exclaimed! We looked forward to a summer jam-packed with hummingbirds.

Imagine our disappointment when, just a few hours later, only one was left. Since then, we’ve read that the little buzzers are very territorial, and will aggressively defend what they have won in open competition. So the one that continued to visit our feeders was the one who had, in hummingbird fashion, beaten off all rivals. Evidently — and contrary to the photo above — sharing is not a popular concept amongst hummingbirds. The winner in our yard did, however, make one tactical error in that he claimed both feeders…the one in the back yard and the one in the front. He could not rest comfortably in either location, for fear that interlopers were violating the other one. Honestly, he soon became quite bedraggled from darting back and forth. He eventually stopped coming around. I’m told they are migratory birds, so I suppose he simply flew off when the time came.

One would think that a nesting pair would share, but I’ve never seen that, either. Maybe they take turns on the nest, but when it comes to sustenance you’re on your own, sweetheart?

I’ve held a hummingbird in my hand once in my lifetime. I was younger – around 11 or 12 years of age, I think – and I discovered a ruby-throated hummer caught in a spider web in my Grandpa’s large chicken coop/garage/shop building. (It had been a chicken coop, but was not at the time.) I imagine now that the little fellow would have eventually gotten free on his own…a spider wouldn’t try to poison and eat a hummingbird, would it? Anyhow, it was quite a magical moment, holding that tiny little thing in my hand. I let him go, hoping that he would consider me a friend for life and come back regularly to sit on my finger. That didn’t happen (the little ingrate!). Nevertheless, I felt pretty good about the good deed I had done.

I’ve seen pictures of people who have had the patience to get hummingbirds to do something like that, i.e., land on their hands to drink sugar water from their palm. Maybe I’ll try that someday. When I have the time.

(A "hummingbird moth." Really.)

(A “hummingbird moth.” Really.)

Did you know that there are species of moths that look and act like hummingbirds? Well, they don’t appear identical, of course, but really very, very similar…especially at a distance. Janet and I were taking a break in lawn chairs once several years ago, when we both spotted a hummingbird feeding at some flowers by the house. And then, as we watched the little thing buzzing and darting about, for all the world like an honest-to-goodness bird, we realized there was something…not…quite…right about it. We got up for a closer look, and sure enough, we could soon tell that our hummingbird was, in fact, a flying bug! A cruel hoax, perpetrated on us gullible bird lovers. I’ll tell you, I call a moth masquerading as a hummingbird an abomination! Since that day we saw it, we’ve never seen another one. Perhaps they’ve gone extinct, eh? And I say, “Good riddance.”

I hope you are all having a super day.

Bud

 

ON THE ROAD

From: Meridian, ID:

Where was I? It seems that blogging in the summertime becomes more sporadic, even, than it has become during the rest of the year.

Since last I posted, our grandson, Evan, has come to Idaho and stayed with Janet and me for a week. (Actually, it was only six days if one doesn’t count travel days, but I do hate to be picky.) Since the plan from the beginning was for us to hand deliver him, we two discussed keeping him for an additional two weeks – or perhaps two years – but his parents have grown accustomed to having him around and we didn’t want to start a family feud. Ergo, we are now in California and Evan’s parents have signed for the package we delivered.

If there were but one thing in my life I could change…a do-over, so to speak, it would be to make life decisions that would have our “golden years” taking place near to our sons and their families. But then, it wasn’t only my decisions that we’re paying for with the current separation situation…the boys made career decisions, too. So here we are. In Idaho, that is, while two of our grandchildren live in southwest Washington state and two live in Southern California. It is, in fact, a case of “chickens coming home to roost,” as I made the same sort of career decisions when our boys were young. We did live close to my parents for a few years (before moving away again), but after our first son was born in Michigan we never again lived close to Janet’s parents. Now – too late – I know that it is unnatural to be a long distance Grandpa or Grandma. Worse yet, despite having finally learned that lesson, we know that if we pull up stakes to move closer to one, the same move takes us farther from the other. The only answer is to have both our sons quit working and move lock, stock, and families to southern Idaho, eh?

We didn’t do much “entertaining” Evan while he was with us. Mostly, we just “hung out” together at home. For example, we learned the he and we all enjoy watching Jeopardy on television, and it was fun watching it together. We already knew, of course, that Evan is a terrifically smart lad, but we honestly weren’t aware he was that smart. He knows a lot of American and World history and geography (like us), but being a young man he also knows a lot of modern technology and entertainment facts, where Jan and I are being left behind in those realms further and further all the time. The boy will become a teenager this October, and we have been encouraging him to try the process of becoming a contestant for next year’s teen tournament. I’m sure all grandparents will say the same thing about their own grandchildren (even though most of them are but “average,” at best) but, seriously, Evan is truly a smart lad! I’m not saying that just because I’m related to him.

(President and Junior President of the Idaho Whistlepig Relocation Team.)

(President and Junior President of the Idaho Whistlepig Relocation Team.)

One activity Evan and I did get to do together was some target shooting. I took him our to whistlepig country, which, alas, is now devoid of the pesky rodents, to do some target shooting. He took to it like the proverbial duck to water. Using my .22 WMR and my .17 HMR, he easily hit the targets we set up at 35, 50, and 90 yards. And after seeing him shred target after target in our back yard – with my pellet rifle, not the aforementioned weapons – I naturally had to take him to Sportsmans Warehouse to pick out his own pellet rifle, along with an air rifle target/backstop. We don’t have a large back yard, but there was room to get a 33-foot distance between target and shooting bench, and that’s the distance the target manufacturer recommended. He never missed the paper…not even with his first attempt. And after becoming more familiar with shooting, he was nearly always “in the black.” In years to come, I’m hoping he will have the opportunity to visit us during whistlepig “season.” As it is, since I am the self-appointed President of the Idaho Whistlepig Relocation Team, I’ve waived the rule about having actually shot one, and granted him membership in the organization. In fact, I appointed him the Junior President of the team. He has the ball cap to prove it. I suppose I’ll have to get some membership tee shirts, as well.

***

 

We also took Evan to the Boise Zoo. It is certainly a far cry from the famous ones, like the one in San Diego, but it is a pleasant place to visit. It’s nicely laid out, and even more nicely maintained. I think the animals that find themselves living out their lives there could easily have had much, much worse fates. Oh, sure…they don’t have much freedom of movement, but then again, they never have to worry about where their next meal is coming from, and they never have to worry about becoming the next meal for their neighbors.

(A Black-Tailed Prairie Dog, one of 5 primary species.)

(A Black-Tailed Prairie Dog, one of 5 primary species.)

After being introduced to whistlepig plinking (ground squirrels, as you probably know by now) this past spring, I’ve been doing some research about prairie dogs…thinking that next year I might make a trip out to one of the Great Plains states in search of them. And while we were at the Boise Zoo, I discovered that one of the exhibits there was a black-tailed prairie dog community. (A smallish community, to be sure, consisting of perhaps a dozen or so animals. I didn’t actually see that many. I couldn’t imagine more than that living in the space available, but I could easily be wrong about that.) I’ve been to a few zoos in my time, but this was the first time I’ve ever seen a prairie dog exhibit. I’m sure you know, of course, that these creatures have no kinship at all with canines (except for being mammals)…they are rodents. And larger than most of the common ones. Like our own Idaho ground squirrels, they are considered a pest by all but the most ardent animal rights activists. They got their name – from Lewis and Clark, possibly – for the warning “bark” they make when and individual spots danger approaching the community.

I don’t believe they are a “protected species” in any state. And why would they be? They virtually destroy pastureland, are harmful to agriculture, and the fleas they host can pass along a number of nasty diseases. Just like whistlepigs. The only purpose they serve really well is as targets. (My opinion.)

***

(The Owens Valley in California.)

(The Owens Valley in California.)

Janet and I have driven essentially the same route back and forth to southern California for 18 years, now. Much of it is through desert landscape country…mile after mile of sagebrush and cheat grass. There is a beauty to the desert, especially when combined with the craggy, tree-less mountains that are virtually always in sight, but to be completely honest, that beauty begins to pall a bit after 50 trips through the same scenery. That’s not the case, though, with the section of U.S. Highway 395 from Carson City, Nevada down to, say, Bishop, California. We do complain, occasionally about the road when winter rages, but given the fact it reaches an elevation of over 8,100 feet at one point, it is rather a modern miracle anyone can drive it at all when the snow flies. The constant freezing/thawing/freezing/thawing cycle of the seasons is very hard on the road, itself (in addition to making the annual business of snow removal a necessity), making it a wonder that it remains passable as much as it does. And the scenery is absolutely breathtaking. Mile after mile – and every trip we make – we find ourselves catching our breath at the vistas presented for our viewing pleasure. Going southward, the view of the Mono Lake basin, comes up just after that 8,100 foot elevation I spoke of, and it is a sight that can make your eyes hurt it is so big and beautiful. And the view of the Owens Valley just after leaving the forests surrounding Mammoth Ski Area and the little town of Tom’s Place is only slightly less magical. South of Bishop, the road travels the length of Owens Valley, with the Sierra Nevadas to the west and the Inyo Mountains to the east. The valley opens up to the Antelope Valley in the vicinity of Red Rock State Park, and at that point, Jan and I know that we are only about an hour to our destination in Palmdale. At this time of year, the AV can be ungodly hot…hot enough to give us a heartfelt appreciation for whoever invented air conditioning in automobiles, I’ll tell you!

But it’s worth toughing out the heat (whenever we have to leave the comfortable interior of our vehicle) to see our son and his family. Being natives (sort of), they have learned that complaining about the temperature does no good at all, and we try our best to follow their example. Besides, we “natives” of southern Idaho are not altogether unfamiliar with summertime heat at our own home.

I hope this Johnny-come-lately posting finds you all in good spirits and health.

Bye for now,

Bud

PESTIFEROUS

From: Meridian, ID:

(An Elm Seed Beetle.)

(An Elm Seed Beetle.)

Does the world really need so many different species of bugs? Not if you ask me, for sure. I’ve been made more aware of the plethora we have, recently, as I’ve been trying to find information on a specific little #$%@#$ we’ve had around the place this year. Well…not just the one; he is accompanied by a million or so of his brothers and sisters. We were told that they are either Elm Seed Beetles or, possibly, Elm Leaf Beetles. Turns out there is also one called the Elm Bark Beetle. Sheesh! Who needs so many beetles devoted to the elm tree?

We have since definitely identified our brand of this pest as the “seed” variety. The good news is that they are not particularly harmful…they’re not poisonous; they don’t bite or sting; they don’t flit about and get in one’s eyes, nose, or ears; they don’t seem to harm our flowers. I don’t know what they eat, but haven’t found any of them in our own food stores. If there were only one or two of them crawling about outside occasionally, we probably would mind them very little. But that is not the case…they manage to make their presence known everywhere! Outside, inside, on the patio, on the screen door, on the table, on our clothes!

(The Elm Leaf Beetle.)

(The Elm Leaf Beetle.)

Our local garden store – a family business in these parts for decades – has told us they have no product that will kill them. We subsequently learned that other stores do. I think the reason the first outfit doesn’t is that they haven’t found a product formulated for complete safety regarding pets, kids, or plant life, and that sort of product is its specialty. The stuff we bought from another store — D&B Supply — is called Tempo. Quite spendy in the concentrate, but very potent, also, so the $40 bottle should last well into next spring and summer. I’m happy to report that it is very effective. The bugs don’t fall dead instantly, as I would prefer. (Don’t you just love those wasp/hornet spray killers? One drop, and those bastards drop like…well…like flies!) Nevertheless, the Tempo kills the beetles pretty quick…and continues to kill latecomers to the party for some period of time. (Don’t know how long it lasts, yet.) Our patio is littered with their corpses. This morning I noticed a couple of robins hopping around the patio, evidently picking up the dead bugs. I can’t say for sure that they were eating the beetles, but I can say that I’ve never seen robins so interested in the patio.

(The Elm Bark Beetle.)

(The Elm Bark Beetle.)

It’s a bit strange, too, how the various bug infestations come separately through the years. Since living here in southwestern Idaho, we’ve had bad years for yellowjackets, earwigs, wasps, spiders, and now Elm Seed Beetles. Thankfully, we’ve never had a problem with mosquitoes, despite the fact that some areas of the valley are thick with them. To my knowledge, neither Janet, nor I, nor any guest has ever been mosquito-stung even once in our backyard. I’ve never even seen one in our yard! Of course having said that, I think I may be able to predict what next summer’s infestation will be, eh?

***

One day last week, I did something different: I went fishing at Arrowrock Reservoir. I didn’t take the boat up, just plunked from the bank at Geezer Beach. I mention it only because it was, unbelievably, only the first time I’ve fished in Idaho this year! The first time anywhere this year, except for the trip to Grand Coulee Dam in Washington State in February. It was a nice day, although a bit too warm to qualify as perfect, and it was nice to get out. I wish I could add that I caught a mess of nice trout, but that would be “stretching” the truth beyond even the limits of fishermen. I caught none! My line moved ever so slightly a couple of times, an indication that something may have been nosing around, but there was only one time when I thought the movement was a serious bite. And even that may have been only a fishment of my imagination.

I was the only one at Geezer Beach, although there were a few boats on the lake. All were too far away for me to ascertain whether or not they were bringing in any fish. I suppose all were trolling for Kokanee…at least that’s what I would have been doing if I had been out there with my boat. We will be having one of our grandsons – Evan, from California – visiting next week, and I hope there will be an opportunity to take him out in the boat. His brother, Alec, spent time with us last summer and the two of us did pretty well trolling in Horsethief Lake, about 80 miles north of here. Ah, well…whether or not we get out in the boat, I’m sure it will be a busy and fun week. The all-time, worldwide, standard complaint of grandparents is: “We don’t get enough time with our grandchildren!”

***

Janet and I just returned from a store that has the potential to keep us pretty much broke the rest of our lives. But let me back up for a moment. As part of the patio remodeling job, Jan very much wanted a potting bench installed somewhere under the new cover. I did some surfing, and printed out a couple of recipes…er…I guess I mean “plans” for building one. Both were quite fancy, and would have taken some $$$ for materials, plus quite a few hours of work for me. Both would have been all right, actually, but sometimes having something that will “do the job” right now trumps something really, really nice that we would have to wait for. And this was, I’ve learned, one of those times.

So Jan never stopped looking for something that would “do the job.” We checked out a few garage sales, looked at our garden store, looked at “old reliable,” a.k.a., The Home Depot…but nothing tickled both her fancy and her pocketbook. Then she read about a store called, “ReStore,” affiliated with “Habitat for Humanity.” She learned there were two of them in town, neither of which was located very far away.

(The basic potting bench we found. It will be a "work in progress" for some time.)

(The basic potting bench we found. It will be a “work in progress” for some time.)

We saddled up in the pickup and hit the road. Well, I can tell you that the ReStore is Disneyland for do-it-yourselfers. Construction companies, builders, and (I suppose) private parties donate stuff, which the store then sells at discount in order to make money for the Habitat for Humanity organization. Much of the stuff has been used…things that were removed in a remodel job, for example. Some of it, however, is new…surplus material from either a remodel or new construction.

We found a homemade bench (which may have, in fact, been used for a potting bench) and a section of used kitchen counter top that could be placed over the rough finish of the tabletop. The entire lashup will need some work…painting at the very least, but Janet thinks it is perfect. And if Janet likes it, believe me when I say that I LOVE IT! And I love that it only set us back $25.00! I will admit, however, that I’m somewhat concerned that in days to come Janet could be spending too much time in the store. It was difficult for me to drag her out of there even after we found what we had been looking for. But the potting bench issue has been resolved to everyone’s satisfaction…and that’s something.

***

(A Black-Tailed Prairie Dog, one of 5 primary species.)

(A Black-Tailed Prairie Dog, one of 5 primary species.)

What with our local whistlepigs (ground squirrels) slipping underground for the remainder of the year and winter, I’ve been reading about prairie dog hunting in the Great Plains. I’ve learned that outfitters in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and other states have branched out from “traditional” hunting for deer, elk, moose, bear, etc., and now offer guided prairie dog hunts, as well. The term, “hunting,” is probably not the most appropriate. The guides know where the prairie dog “towns” are located, and the paying customer is simply driven to the spot(s), placed at a portable shooting bench, and begins shooting. Sometimes several hundred shots in a day. Furthermore, these larger members of the broader ground squirrel family normally come above ground for a greater part of the year than whistlepigs…even in to October in some places, I’ve read.

Yes, you might say that my interest has been piqued. The downside? (You know there is always that.) While my .17 HMR rifle seems (to me) to be absolutely perfect for whistlepigs, it probably is not for their larger cousins. For one thing, the cousins are often shot at ranges out to 300 yards and beyond. The .17 bullets will, of course, travel that far…but accuracy suffers a lot. For another thing, the small .17 bullet can be greatly affected by wind…and the prairies are noted for that. In other words, I need a different firearm if I plan to go out for prairie dogs. I’ve started to do some reading about so called “varmint” rifles. There are a number of them, and a number of different calibers, each of which appears to have its own champions. The .204 Ruger; the .223; the .243 Remington; the .22 Hornet; the .25-06, and more. Many more. The good news is that with the remainder of the summer being pretty well booked up for me, I won’t need anything until next spring. (If, indeed, I finally decide I need one at all.) Plenty of time to do more reading and thinking about the issue. But I would certainly welcome any advice you might have on the subject.

I hope each of you is having a great day. TGIF tomorrow…and then the weekend. I hope you have a great one.

Bud

SOCCER WEEK

From: Meridian, ID:

Yesterday was, essentially, a do-nothing day…all day. In the morning, I watched Janet take apart the drainpipe beneath her bathroom sink. She had detected a nasty odor wafting up from the sink drain, a smell that was nearly enough to make her gag…and she couldn’t rest – or use the sink – until she had found the source and eliminated it. As is the rule for bathroom basins, there was some yucky-looking stuff in the pipes, but actually not as much as either of us expected. The drain trap, itself, was surprisingly clear of hairballs and such.

(Typical sink stopper hookup.)

(Typical sink stopper hookup.)

When she also decided to remove the drain plug for cleaning, I provided a bit of assistance. I’ve dealt with those things before…taking off the mechanism connected to open/close device on the sink is a snap. Putting it back together (with no leaks and with the full range of movement on the up/down device) is…well…not so much. Nevertheless, between the two of us, we were able to get it back together without too much hassle. Which is to say, we are still married. Tah Dah!

Oh yeah, about the odor. She can still smell it, but only if she puts her head in the sink and her nose directly by the drain. My suggestion to her? “Don’t put your head in the sink!” Of course she had already tried Drano, among other things. But it didn’t seem to work that well. Strange business. At any rate, we now know that the pipes are clean. Also, since she cannot detect the odor from my sink, it seems we can eliminate the possibility that the smell is coming from something further down in the system. (Aren’t the drain traps supposed to guard against that possibility, anyway?)

Another positive thing to come from the work was, after our success in getting the drain plug up/down device working so well, I’m thinking I can fix my sink to function just as well. It hasn’t for a long time. Well, since the bathroom remodel job, I think. Actually, the faucets we chose prior to the remodel just barely worked at all in the new quartz countertop…it would have been better had there been an inch more room between the far edge of the sink and the wall. Next time, we’ll be more aware of any possible limitations in that regard. Chalk it up as just another lesson a homeowner must learn, eh?

***

(Official ball of the 2014 FIFA World Cup tournament.)

(Official ball of the 2014 FIFA World Cup tournament.)

Later in my do-nothing day, I watched the “runner up” World Cup soccer game between Brazil and The Netherlands. Quite appropriate for a do-nothing day, I’d say. I don’t mean to slam soccer – or I guess “futebol” is more politically correct these days – but c’mon, ninety minutes (and up to two hours, if overtime is needed) of 20 guys running up and down a large field just doesn’t seem the stuff of exciting spectator sports. Think about more scoring, FIFA! Rule changes…whatever it takes. If you want to really crack the U.S. market, you’re going to have to figure out something. Oh, and – probably even more importantly – you’re going to have to figure how to get 20 minutes worth of television commercials inserted within every 30 minutes of game time.

Even so, I watched the entire game, yesterday. The Dutch appeared to have it handled right from the start, and finally won it – in regulation time, thank goodness – 3 to nothing. Oops, sorry…I meant 3 to nil. The Brazilian boys just couldn’t get one into the net.

To tell you the truth, I was a bit surprised to see so many of the Brazilian players that had played in the Brazil/Germany semi-final game last week playing again in yesterday’s game. The way the announcers and fans carried on about that virtually unprecedented blowout, I half expected the team to commit seppuku, en masse. At the very least, you’d think the coaches would have done the honorable thing…and shot themselves.

I must say that while I find the game of soccer somewhat boring, I nevertheless have tremendous respect for the athleticism and all around fitness of the guys (and gals, of course) who play it. No 300 pound defenders on a soccer pitch, eh what? It wears me out to just watch them! I mean, we’re talking about an hour and a half of nearly non-stop running! Who can do that?

As to today’s game, my money – if, indeed, I were foolish to bet on such a contest – would be on Germany. Based on the offense the Germans displayed against Brazil, and considering the fact that Argentina couldn’t score a single goal against The Netherlands, I would think the odds would be in their favor, no? And, seeing as it is the final game, after all…I suppose I will try to watch some of it. Or at least catch the summary video of the scoring. (Which should take all of 15 – 20 seconds, providing it is a relatively high-scoring game.)

***

(Old letters.)

(Old letters.)

When I was cleaning out a garage storage area the other day – mostly to finally toss a bunch of business records I’m hoping are no longer necessary for tax records – I came across a sack full of old letters. As near as I can recollect, my mother gave it to me some time before she passed away in 2009. I’m embarrassed – and more than a little ashamed – that I had not looked through the bag sooner. Turns out, it is a treasure of family history, as chronicled by Mom and Dad (and a few others) in family letters over the years. I must assume that Mom (or Dad) was given the old mail when Dad’s parents, Ed and Mary Larson, passed away, since most of the letters I’ve read so far are written by one or the other of my parents to them. At this point, the oldest letter I’ve come across was written by Dad from Puyallup, Washington to his folks in North Dakota in the year 1938! (The big news in the letter was his recent marriage to my Mom.)

There are also letters dating from the two Pacific War campaigns in which Dad took part: Leyte, Philippines, and Okinawa. And later on, from Korea, where he served as a military advisor to a ROK engineer unit.

The task I’ve set for myself is to go through all the mail and file it in some organized manner. To begin with, I’m grouping letters written from different geographical locations…and, as you would expect, arranging them chronologically. It is rather a daunting job. Naturally, I must read each one before filing it. Perhaps one day I can get them all scanned to digital image files, or actually transcribe them to a digital text file. I know my siblings and other family members would love to have their own copy.

(A US Coast Guard C-130 "Hercules.")

(A US Coast Guard C-130 “Hercules.”)

I was thrown off a bit on my first dive into the pile because I came up with one of my own letters, written to Janet in March of 1966. (Later that year, August 6th, we were married.) The letter was written from a motel in San Antonio, TX. I don’t remember the reason for the flight as a crewman on a Coast Guard C-130 Hercules aircraft. Truth is, I don’t remember the flight, either, although I learned (from the letter) that we had made stops in San Francisco and San Diego. My best guess is that it was during the time of the Apollo space missions, for which the Coast Guard had been designated a “back up” capsule location and recovery unit. (To my knowledge, that never occurred. It certainly never occurred with me as a crewman on the CG aircraft.) Anyhow, I thought it was a pretty nice letter. Janet must have thought so, too, eh? How it wound up in a bag full of mail at my folks’ house, I have no idea. I wonder if there are others.

And as if finding one treasure wasn’t good enough, I also found a shoebox full of old photo slides. Janet had shot many of them before we were married, and after the big date we continued taking slides for some time. I haven’t even looked at any of them, yet, but we are hoping against hope that they have not been ruined by mold and/or heat. Some of them will be fifty years old!

***

I have to check to see what time the soccer game comes on. I’m back…looks like 4:00 PM Mountain Time.

I hope you’re having a great day. If so, keep it up.

Bud

 

 

 

AN UN-HANDY MAN

From: Meridian, ID:

I’m not real good at much. In fact, nothing comes to mind either immediately or after pondering the question, except…I may just be the doggone world champeen at turning an easy 15-minute job into a two or three-day work-a-thon. I do it all the time, and without even really trying.

For example, my wife suggested the 2 x 4 “kick board” beneath our sliding glass patio doors could use some paint…no, as bad as it looks it should be replaced. “No problem,” says I. An easy job…I’ll get after it tomorrow. And, contrary to my nature and my normal habit, I actually did. Get after it, I mean.

As expected, removing the old board was fairly simple. (Is there a name for those things? I used “kick board” above, but that doesn’t sound quite right…I may have just made it up.) Well…simple, yes, but in order to get at the nail heads I had to practically destroy the board. Any thought of cleaning it up, re-painting and using it again was out of the question.

The Home Depot beckoned…and I hustled off in my pickup. Had I taken another fifteen seconds to think about the project, I may have made a list of the other things I was going to need before the job was done, but of course that would have involved some planning. So I bought the stud I knew I needed and came home.

I cut the stud to the proper length…and even checked it afterwards. (I was quite proud of myself for thinking to do that, I’ll tell you.) Then I pre-drilled and countersunk the holes where the screws would go, and painted the board. Which was enough work for one day…gotta let the paint dry, after all. (In truth, in the 90-some degree temperature – and humidity in the teens – at the time, the paint was drying on the brush on the trip between the bucket and the board.)

Today, I allotted fifteen minutes to screw the board in place. (The old one was nailed…but what would you expect from builders trying to shave pennies wherever possible?)

I discovered the new board was not thick enough to be flush with the bottom of the doorframe when I mounted it. Don’t ask me how that could be…the old one was a 2 x 4; the new one was a 2 x 4. Oh, well, yes…when our home was built, 2 x 4s were still 1 5/8 by 3 5/8. Now, as you are no doubt aware, the industry has shrunk them again…to 1 1/2 by 3 1/2. Still, the problem involved more than an 1/8 of an inch; it was more like half an inch.

(The new board beneath the sliding glass doors. The putty over the screw holes has not yet dried.)

(The new board beneath the sliding glass doors. The putty over the screw holes has not yet dried.)

I had some ½ inch scrap material in the garage, so I used that for “spacers” behind the board. Which made the 2-½ inch screws I had purchased on a second trip to Home Depot just…that…much…too…short. Back to the store, this time for 3 ½ inch screws. Next, I discovered that the ½ inch spacers helped quite a bit, but something 1/8 inch thick would make the board even more solid. Your average guy doesn’t have much stuff of that thickness in the garage, and neither did I. Finally, I cut pieces off a wooden yardstick that did the trick. (And it was very easy to cut them all to the same length.) It worked! The board is mounted…and solid.

I think I’ve missed a couple of trips to the Depot in this tale, but, at any rate, I needed just one more: wood putty to cover the screw heads. Paint would have done the job just fine…if I hadn’t countersunk the holes so deep. (This winter, we will be exchanging Christmas Cards with the “greeter” at the store.)

(Font door "kickboard" needing work.)

(Font door “kickboard” needing work.)

The job is not quite done. I had figured the putty would dry as quickly as the paint, but it doesn’t. I think I’ll be able to sand it tomorrow…the next day, for sure. After that, another quick coat of paint and VOILA! A brand new, spanking white “kick board.” Easy Peezy,” huh? (A quick search online tells me that the board I’ve been speaking of may be part of what is called the “Door Buck.” Dunno, though.)

And Janet just told me the same board under the front door is looking rather shabby. Oh, my! But I must look on the bright side…I should manage to use some of my recent experience and make the new job go much more smoothly. (Now…what do I need at The Home Depot?)

***

Next Day: The wood putty isn’t dry yet! Sheesh! I can’t do the sanding (and subsequent painting). Ah, well, I can try to find (and fix) the leak in the back yard hose system. One thing for sure…there is never a time when a homeowner must ask himself, “What to do? What to do?” Never a moment when one can’t easily come up with the next chore to be done. And if, by some strange alignment of the planets at a given moment, he truly cannot think of what needs to be done…his wife can provide a prioritized list of the next dozen jobs.

***

We’re expecting a sprinkler repairman to come today and relocate several sprinkler heads in the back yard. Expanding the patio concrete deck eliminated 50 or 60 square feet of lawn that needs watering, and the result was the removal of three heads adjacent to the old deck…heads that sprayed outward into the lawn. (Well, you wouldn’t expect them to be watering the concrete, would you?) My thought was that the center-lawn heads could be adjusted to spray right up to the edge of the new concrete. A bad thought. Sprinklers cannot be adjusted to that fine a line, I now have learned. The fix? Relocating the center-lawn heads to the edge of the new concrete and replacing the present 360-degree heads with 180-degree heads.

Yes, I know…this is the kind of job I should do myself. I have done the same job (essentially) in different places on our lot. But I’ve never liked doing it, and – more importantly – I’ve never really known exactly what I was doing.

While looking online for a sprinkler maintenance service, I found a website called Thumbtack.com. Unlike Angie’s List, there is no membership fee for the user, although he/she is required to register. The company makes its money by charging the contractors and other professionals who will be displayed when a user enters a search for carpenters, landscapers, painters, and so on. Our sprinkler guy says his fee (to be on the site) is very reasonable…and is only charged when he actually gets a job from the referral.

Like Angie’s List, there are also customer reviews for the contractors listed. I don’t pay much attention to those, but I suppose there are a number of people who do. I’ve just never trusted them much…plenty of companies will write their own 5-star reviews, and plenty more will write negative reviews for their competition. Or have friends who will do it for them.

It seems to be quite a good deal for small service companies, too. My sprinkler guy told me that since he signed up with Thumbtack, he gets 75 percent of his work from that source.

***

The fire season is definitely upon us here in Idaho, but we haven’t had any big ones to date. There is only one, in fact, that is making the news outside our state…the “Hell Roaring” fire, in the Sawtooth range about 10 miles south of Stanley, ID. News reports have it now as 90 percent controlled, and having grown to something less than 500 acres. A small fire in area, certainly, but somewhat difficult to fight because of the terrain. A wildfire of any size is still a wildfire, and I’m happy to not be out there fighting them. Even happier to not be worried about having our home eaten up by one.

 

I hope you had a great Fourth of July!

Bud

THE SQEAKERS ARE GONE

From: Meridian, ID:

(Cinnamon/Raisin bagel, with cream cheese.)

(Cinnamon/Raisin bagel, with cream cheese.)

Some months ago, I began eating bagels for breakfast. Specifically, cinnamon and raisin bagels. Not every day, mind you, but several times a week, at a minimum. During most of that time, I used Philadelphia cream cheese as my preferred spread, although when we have bananas on hand, peanut butter with bananas sliced on top makes a great alternative. (Even “black” bananas work well, as long as they’ve been in the refrigerator.)

Recently, though, I discovered that Kraft makes the Philadelphia cream cheese with blueberries. And many other “flavors,” such as garden veggies, chives and onion, strawberries, and more. (I’m sure these products are not new, but I’ve never noticed them before.) This morning I stopped at the store for another container of the blueberry, and almost picked up the strawberry along with it. In the end, though, I decided I like the blueberry so much I just got two of those. Previously, I had made my own blueberry stuff just by sprinkling frozen blueberries (which our freezer is never without) on top of the ‘regular’ cream cheese, but this store-bought stuff is better. Oh, you don’t get near as many whole berries, but on the upside, what berries are in the mix aren’t constantly falling off your bagel. And, of course, the blueberry flavor is mixed throughout the cheese. Raisins are another tasty add-on for cream cheese…as are dried cranberries.

Breakfast has long been my favorite meal of the day, but when I say that I’m mostly referring to “real” breakfast menus: eggs Benedict, French toast, pancakes and sausage, steak and eggs, biscuits and gravy, hash browns. Alas, since becoming more “weight conscious,” (read: “fat”) I have pretty much given up on “real” breakfasts. At first, I mostly just went without. They say that’s not good for a person, but I didn’t find it all that difficult. In fact, on the days I skipped breakfast, I was often able to skip lunch, as well. (A double whammy to my system, I suppose.) By dinnertime, I was hungry enough to eat what amounted to three or four meals at one sitting. It’s not surprising, then, that I never did lose weight.

Since I began starting my day with a bagel and cream cheese (or peanut butter and bananas), however, I’ve been doing a little better on the weight loss program. Well, to be perfectly honest, any loss I’m managing is so slow as to be nearly un-noticeable, but at least I find it fairly easy to avoid gaining. (That’s important, too. Right?) Nevertheless, since January, I’ve lost some twelve pounds…not much as a percentage of my total weight, certainly, but the scale is going in the right direction, and I’ll happily settle for that.

***

 

(Yes, there really is a target out there.)

(Yes, there really is a target out there.)

I’ve been out to the whistlepig fields two days in a row. Janet and I went out on Sunday, primarily to try out a new .22 target I picked up at Sportsmans Warehouse on Saturday. But as you can surely imagine by now, I can’t go out there without hoping for a chance to plink a few of the little critters, no matter what the “primary” purpose of the trip might have been. On Monday, plinking was the primary purpose, as I was introducing a young friend to the popular pastime. As it turned out, I saw no more than half a dozen of the creatures on each day. And never all in the same place. It’s as if each squirrel community left one sentry above ground to alert the others in the event some unforeseen food bonanza were to fall from the heavens. The young fellow had a .22 rifle he had bought for himself in January and never yet fired, so we did do some target shooting as long as we were out there. He was glad for the opportunity to shoot the rifle, even if it wasn’t at whistlepigs. Truth is, without a scope on his new rifle, he would have actually hit precious few – if any – of the rodents. I tried to give him some coaching on the proper sight picture for an “iron” sight, but I’m not much of a coach.

The real point to make is that it appears the whistlepig “season” in this part of the country is over and done with for the year. The next time they make an appearance – at least in any numbers – will be early next spring, as soon as the blanket of snow leaves the sagebrush flats. I will miss them…I already do. But…the good news is that I can do some fishing, now. I went trout fishing in Washington state with friends in February, but that occasion is the one and only time I’ve “wet a line” this year. Uff Dah! Hard to believe! (But that’s how much I was in to shooting.)

***

To close today’s Blather, I had planned on saying, “Go USA!” to our futball (soccer) team playing Belgium at the World Cup tournament in Brazil. Instead, I took a break and watched the game (with Janet). Now it’s too late to say it. They did give it a game effort, I think. (Of course I know next to nothing about soccer, even though our older son played in school for several years. And our other son played one year before he decided to devote his energies to football…American football, that is.) There were definitely some thrilling moments in the game today, and I understand the USA team’s goalkeeper set a record for the number of “saves” in a World Cup game. The number was 16. Too bad he didn’t make it 18. Had that been the case, USA would have won 1 to nothing. Ah, well, there’s always 20??…er…how often do they have the World Cup?

I doubt, however, that even with all the hoopla of the past couple of weeks, soccer will ever seriously challenge the NFL to be “America’s Game.” For one thing, we get too impatient with low-scoring games. For another, it has to be difficult to find a sponsor for television soccer games…no opportunities during the game to run commercials. So there you go.

I hope you’re having a great week!

Bud

SHOCKING!

From: Meridian, ID:

As I have mentioned – once or twice – in previous postings, last October I learned from a cardiologist that I have a type of irregular heartbeat called, atrial fibrillation, generally known as “A-Fib.” At that time (and since) the doctor has continued to assure me that (1) it is quite a common condition, and (2) it does not necessarily shorten one’s lifespan. The primary “downside” is that the person who has it has a statistically higher risk for stroke. (I suppose there are other negatives, but I’ve never really noticed any of them in my day-to-day comings and goings.) Because of the elevated risk of stroke, he prescribed a blood thinner medication and I have been taking it ever since (Eliquis…you’ve seen the commercials, I’m sure). He and I have, since then, been trying to cure/eliminate the condition. The latest effort, which was done yesterday, was “electrical cardioversion.”

(Chart showing the result of  a successful electrical cardioversion.)

(Chart showing the result of a successful electrical cardioversion.)

Essentially, this routine procedure consists of the administration of an electrical shock to the patient, based on the fact that such a shock has a good chance of “re-booting” the heart to a normal rhythm. (Another of the possible results is stopping the heart altogether, but we don’t like to dwell on that one.) In fact, the outcome of the process is often successful. (The article at Web MD says that is the case in “most” instances. Another reference says, “90 percent.”)

Again, the cardioversion is considered a “routine” procedure. Still, it is serious enough – and painful enough – that the patient is nearly always given drugs to go to sleep. (I was assured this is not being “put to sleep” in the same sense that the Humane Society uses the phrase.)

I’ve actually been “operated on” only twice in my life. The first was a very simple case of removing a .22 bullet from my thigh; the second was an appendectomy, rendered somewhat more serious than is usual because my infected appendix had, unbeknownst to me, ruptured before I got to the hospital. Both of these trips to the hospital were many years ago, but yesterday it seemed to me that the preparation for the cardioversion was much the same as had been the preparation for both of those previous times. I couldn’t eat or drink anything for several hours before the procedure; I was hooked up to an IV for the delivery of fluids; I was hooked up to a heart/blood pressure/pulse monitor; and I was “put to sleep.”

I’ll admit it…I am pretty much a wuss about this kind of thing. I doubt that anybody likes going to a hospital or clinic, but my aversion feels a bit stronger than what I’ve observed in others. I really don’t like it, and this despite my rational self constantly reassuring my irrational self that, “…everything will be fine.” “The doctor does this stuff day in and day out…he has gotten very good at it.” Or, “Even if the worst happens, there you are, already in a hospital, and with a team of expert medical professionals standing by to handle any sort of emergency.” And, “Millions of people have had this done without making a big deal of it. You’re being a real scaredy cat!” (My irrational self almost always wins any discussion with my rational self.)

So all of the hospital people involved in my procedure yesterday were very good. They kept me informed of what was going on, what I should expect…all that stuff. “We will give you the sleep drug, and the next thing you know you will be waking up wondering when the actual shocking will start.” And of course they were right. I felt nothing for the short time I was “out” (something around 10 minutes, I was told),  even though the doctor had administered two shocks. (The first was one of 200 Joules, the second at 300 Joules. And, “No,” I’m not going to try to explain what a “Joule” might be. It’s technical talk.)

(An electrical cardioversion machine...similar to a battery charger, I think.)

(An electrical cardioversion machine…similar to a battery charger, I think.)

Before I went to the clinic – I should have already mentioned that Janet drove me there…and was required by the hospital rules to drive me home (Thanks, Hon!) – I had envisioned the electrical pads both being placed on my chest…like they always do in the television Emergency Rooms. Now I know that for an electrical cardioversion, one of the sticky-pads is placed on the patient’s left-side chest (above the heart), and the other goes on the back, directly opposite the one in the front. Definitely makes sense when you think about it…the positioning results in the heart being directly between the two electrical poles. Dr. Green said that after the first jolt didn’t work, he cranked up the juice a bit and even pressed down on the front pad in an attempt to reduce the distance between the two.

But to no avail…I went in to the room with A-Fib, and I left the room with A-Fib. Blast! Depending upon whom you ask, the success rate for cardioversion can be as high as 90 percent, so I definitely beat the odds in my case.

I was told that I would probably have some discomfort – similar to a mild sunburn – on my skin where the pads were placed, and that’s true. Happily, it was very minor, indeed…hardly worth mentioning. Now, as the healing process is underway in the area of the burn, I’ve got some itching. But that’s very minor, as well.

A-Fib has never been something that has caused me any discomfort, nor do I think it has been a limiting factor in any of my daily activities. (What limitations I encounter – and there are a few – I attribute to age, rather than A-Fib.) That being the case, it is not a crushing disappointment the procedure didn’t work, even though I truly would like to be done with it. On July 7th I will meet with Dr. Green again and learn what he suggests as a future plan. Another cardioversion attempt? A different procedure, in which the catheters are placed internally in the heart? A pacemaker? We’ll see.

***

When you get to be my age, you eventually realize that a lot of technology is passing you by. Know what I mean? Like smartphones. (For all I know, even those are now passé.) Like whatever the current format for what we oldsters once called “records.” (Music.) You get the idea. One such thing, although technically not a “thing,” but rather a process or “activity,” is Craig’s List on the Internet. Now I’m not so old or out of touch with modern stuff that I haven’t heard of Craig’s List…I have. But I’ve also heard a few nightmarish stories about buying and/or selling on the site. Crank telephone calls for the rest of your life; burglars “casing” your home; clandestine meetings where one or the parties gets mugged; etc. So I’ve never used the site. Despite my trepidation, though, Janet finally made me realize that she “really means it” when she tells me to get rid of the towbar we used to pull the Buick behind the motorhome we had a few years back.

I could have simply put it out beside the garbage next collection day…we’ve often gotten rid of out and out worthless junk that way in the past. I did ask a couple of RV dealers if they wanted it to sell it on consignment, like. (No dice, there.) Sooo, I thought again about Craig’s List.

(A Blue Ox "Aventa" towbar.)

(A Blue Ox “Aventa” towbar.)

Two days ago, I managed to work through the process of establishing an account on the site, and successfully posted a listing for our “Blue Ox Aventa Towbar.” During this process of listing, I kept looking for the part concerning the charges from the company. The subject never came up…at least not directly. In the User Agreement verbiage I notice a reference to “charges” being payable by a credit card on file…but no such charges were ever described, and I was never asked to enter a credit card number. “Perhaps they only charge when a listing is successful,” I thought to myself.

Still being as cautious as I could, I did not enter my address anywhere; I did not include my telephone number in the listing. As the means of contact, I entered my Hotmail email address, which I use specifically for entering a called-for address when I really would prefer not getting email from such a person or company. I should also mention that I gave an asking price for the towbar that was very low. Almost ridiculously low. (The whole point was to get the sonuvagun out of my garage…not to recoup the money we paid for it in the first place.) The things retail for over $600 bucks!

I had what appeared to be a legitimate “contact” within hours. And the prospective buyer included his telephone number in his query. I suppose I could have responded via email, and it would have gone through Craig’s List, as his email to me apparently did.

Instead, I waited until I was home from my cardioversion thingee and called the fellow. During our conversation (very short), I suggested we meet in the parking lot of the coffee shop, which I think was roughly halfway between our homes. (I was still being cautious, fearful of giving the mugger any assistance in learning where I live.) He quickly agreed. (And didn’t offer me the opportunity to come to his house, by the way.)

(This ball is where I should have applied some lubrication.)

(This ball is where I should have applied some lubrication.)

After I had completed the listing I spent some time in the garage, cleaning both the towbar, itself, and the “receiver” apparatus (“base plate”) that had been installed on the Buick. Both pieces looked good, although not so good that I used the words, “like new,” in the listing. I should also have thought of lubricating the moving parts on the towbar, because the dang thing was very stiff when I went to demonstrate the operation to the buyer. It also didn’t help that due to the three years that have elapsed since I so much as looked at it, I wasn’t all that certain how it was supposed to work. Happily, I was able – finally – to make it work, and the buyer concurred with my “needs a little lubrication” assessment.

(The base plate that affixes to the towed vehicle.)

(The base plate that affixes to the towed vehicle.)

When looking at the base plate that affixes to the vehicle being towed, he was a bit hesitant, knowing that it probably wouldn’t work on the jeep he would be towing. At this I told him, “Well, I can understand your reluctance, but let me put it this way: “If you don’t take the attachment, I’ll have to charge you more for the towbar.” “I’ll take it,” he quickly responded…and he had money in his hand in an instant.

Finally, then, after our deal was concluded, and after I got home, I logged in to my Craig’s List account and deleted my listing, thinking that perhaps that would be the point when I would be charged something for the servicer. But that didn’t happen, either, and I would be very surprised to get any billing from them now, being after the fact of the sale as it is.

Soo, given the fact that everything seems to have gone so swimmingly, Janet and I are looking around the garage for other unwanted, unneeded items (a.k.a., “junk”) that we might be able to sell and, by so doing, become wealthy. (I have to quickly add that the towbar didn’t fall in to the category of “junk.” It was definitely worth the price the buyer paid.)

Have a great weekend.

Bud