Saturday, July 31, 2010

Stuff Around The House #16: These Boots

I bought these boots in Texas, many, many years ago.  I wore them around off and on, but it's been years now since I put them on.  They were pretty comfortable, seemed to be well made and were especially useful for those occasions that I felt being 6'2" wasn't quite tall enough.  I suppose I should give them away or dispose of them somehow, but you know how us guys are. 

They'd definitely protect you from a snake bite.  Speaking of which, 2 days, no snake sightings.  Cool.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Snake Weather

Pickles the Dog & I almost stepped on a snake this morning.  It was a small thing, unwisely sunning itself on a sidewalk next to a busy street.  It must have had an extreme need for warmth, because the sidewalk was pretty hot.

I saw it at a distance, but I thought it was a stick.  As we approached it must have sensed us, and it's body kind of wrinkled up and it looked at us, oddly reminding me of the bible story about Moses turning a stick into a snake in front of Pharaoh. (Pronouced FAY-roe, btw).  I jumped.  I'm not sure Pickles noticed.  Last I saw it, it was headed into some grass, away from us.   Hopefully it made its way to some place a bit more hospitable for snakes.

This was a brown snake with what I think was a diamond shaped head.  To me, that screams copperhead, a poisonous snake.  Giftig auf Deutch, in case anyone speaks German out there.  But it wasn't as big as I would expect a copperhead to be.  I didn't exactly measure it, but it could not have been more than a foot long, probably less.  I don't know how to reconcile that, except I'm sure copperheads are not born full grown. Maybe it was young.

I've lived around snakes all my life.  Just about anywhere in the USA (except Hawaii), you will find snakes, many of them poisonous. 

In Kentucky, where I grew up, they were very common.   I encountered black snakes all the time, and usually they were on their way to somewhere else.   Once I remember my father and I came across one in the basement, and he killed it.  The snake had apparently crossed a line.  When I was young there were tons of black snakes and copperheads around where we live, and a few rattle snakes, maybe some water moccasins.  Now it seems the copperheads are few and the rattle snakes are many.

As a child, living where I did, encounters with snakes were fairly frequent.  What saved me was that snakes want nothing to do with a human - we're much too big to eat, in fact we're more likely to eat them as far as they are concerned.   But that being said, I've had to walk past them at times.  I once encountered a  curled up rattle snake half in and half out of some weeds, at the foot of an old swinging bridge while I was headed over my grandparents house just off Ball Creek in Knott County.  I froze for a second - I think it was asleep, it gave no indication of caring that I was there.  I gave it as wide a birth as I could, which believe me wasn't wide enough, and got past it.  But it was a long and careful walk up the creek to my grandparents house.  That was a big snake.

Here at our humble abode in North Carolina, I've seen black snakes & copperheads.  I've not seen any rattlers or water moccasins, though I know they are here.  At the bottom of our property there is a creek and a small pond, and what amounts to a small wetlands area - the perfect snake environment.  I don't change it much, because I figure it gives the snakes some place to go.  They can have their snake parties there, listen to their snake music and play their snake games, instead of up around the house.

Intellectually I know snakes are part of the ecosystem.  And they keep down the rodent population, and I'm all for that.  Emotionally though, they scare the crap out of me.  Part of that is the surprise of seeing one - it's unexpected.  Most likely I've walked past them without ever knowing it.  They're predators, and are very good at being stealthy.  They don't want to be seen, so when they are it's usually a surprise for all beings concerned.  Also, the poisonous ones have potential to be dangerous.  Most likely a normal human would survive a bite from a copperhead or rattle snake, but it would not be good.  You'd find yourself in a hospital & in a lot of agony.  And there is always the chance you wouldn't survive.

I don't like snakes.  I don't mind that they exist, but I prefer they not exist in my bubble.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Its an oven

It is surprisingly hot out. It's not that the temperatures are inordinately high, 90's, even high 90's are normal this time of year. But it is also very humid and the combination can be dangerous especially if you're old. Or young. Or don't drink any water. Or are alive. I walk the dog in the "cool" of the morning, cool compared to a BBQ pit maybe. It doesn't make much difference - the sweat rolls. Salty sweat stinging your eyes. Ummm, lovely North Carolina in the summer time.

Of course it seems to be this way everywhere these days.

I wonder how it is in Germany. One year when I was stationed in Germany, as far as I was concerned we didnt have a summer. I remember wearing a jacket on the 4th of July. I remember low gray thick clouds in June, and weeks of drizzle. I remember 2 weeks in August when it finally broke 80, and it felt really nice. I missed heat terribly, I missed a 100 degree day in the summertime.

Those days have passed. No more Germany, Augsburg & Munich are gone, never to return.

At one time, I was as familiar with Munich as I was any city in the world. I was familiar with different sections of the city, I knew my way around by foot, train, bus, strassenbahn & U-bahn. I didn't have a car most of the time I was there, so I experienced stuff a bit more intimately than I otherwise would have. Most people there spoke English, but it didn't matter - I knew enough German to survive, even learned some colloquialisms, which probably sounded funny coming out of the mouth of someone like me. Anyway, I could walk in anywhere and get some goulash soup, a big piece of hard bread & a beer, no problem. Very filling.

I dont know how a blog post starts out about the weather in North Carolina, and ends up about simple but filling German meal.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Computer Viruses: html framer & exploit; false positives?

The night before last something odd happened - we both got "Resident Shield" warnings on our computers, at about the same time.  Patti Anne got a warning about a virus called "HTML Framer", and I got a warning about a virus called "exploit". 

I'm extremely cautious when things like this pop up, based on my previous experience with rouge ware.  Resident Shield is a valid part of the AVG package, but it can also be mimicked, and if this was rogue ware, nothing good would happen if you clicked quarantine or fix or anything similar.  Although, if it was rogue ware, the very fact that it showed up probably meant that it was too late.

Patti Anne started a Malware-bytes quick scan, then an AVG scan, without replying to the prompt.  Malware came back clean, but AVG found two instances of html framer, both lurking in the temporary files somewhere.  It removed them.

I also started an Malware-bytes quick scan, just for s&g, and that is when Resident Shield popped up saying I had the "exploit" virus.  Exploit creates havoc in excel spreadsheets apparently.  I use excel a fair amount, tracking our eBay income & expenses, so that would not be good.  

By this time I was fairly certain that this was a valid warning.  I also had decided to run a full AVG scan so I clicked the ignore button.  The Malware scan came back clean, but the AVG scan found one instance of "exploit", again in a temporary file.  It removed it.

The next day Patti Anne got the resident shield warning for html framer again, but this time clicked on the quarantine button.  Neither of us has had any problem since.

Turns out, according to an AVG forum, "html framer" was most likely a false positive - and they've already put out a fix.  Don't know about "exploit" but it seems to be gone too.

So there we go.  More fun in computer land.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Intersections of Life

Well, its time for theory of life stuff again.  I'm not sure why I don't give this stuff up.

It's hard to represent yourself as a person, especially a person with a sense of humor while writing a blog post.  Just take my word for it, I am a person.  I do have a sense of humor.

I dont spend hours planning out these little diatribes.  I pretty much just think it up and write it down, and I'm sure it shows.  I may check spelling & grammar (believe it or not), look up the meaning of a word I'm not sure about, may make some other changes after I'm done, but normally I just sit down and write this stuff with very little thought to it, and I rarely go back to it at a later date.   In, out, done, mostly forgotten.  That's my writing motto.  I didnt know it was 'till just now, but it seems to be.

Theory of life.  Not orgins.  Theory.  Maybe theory of living.

I don't really observe people that closely anymore.  I used to.  Used to, I considered myself very good at discerning all kinds of defense mechanisms, mannerisms and affectations people put forth in order to deal with life.  I felt that if I concentrated hard enough, I could look right through a person.  Not in the sense that they weren't there, but in the sense that I could see at least a part of what it was that really made them tick.  A defense mechanism recognised, is not nearly as effective.  Just a slice of a soul, perhaps.  Maybe that was just part of the long term side effects of a rather high daily dosage of Wellbutrin speaking, maybe not.  I was in a different environment than I am now.  Now, I spent a lot of time porch sitting, walking the dog and listening to the birds.  Then I spent a lot of time under a lot of pressure, with a lot of people I didn't really like all that much.  Whatever the reason, I dont spend a lot of time observing people anymore.

Ok, now we've got that background out of the way.  Theory of life. Or living.

There is very private life, private life and public life.  VPL is what's in your head.  If you decide not to share it (such as in a blog post) no one else knows.  It's all yours.   Private life is in the home.  Your family, pets, things you like to do in your free time.  Public life is everything else.  Work, porch sitting, mowing the grass, or the most iconic of all, shopping for groceries.

Food Lion (the most feared place in Valdese, for me, anyway) is a good laboratory to observe the theory of living.  Everybody in there is engaged in public life, either working, or shopping for groceries.  There is a structured randomness about the place.  It has aisles. Check out counters.   When you go in, your natural tendency is to go to the right, and that is no accident - it's the way it is set up.   And there are people there, milling about, looking at things, making decisions, most buying what they always buy because it's comfortable.  Lives intersect there.  Most of the time you don't know the people there, but it's a small town so you're bound to run into someone you know every now and again.  The people who work there begin to look familiar, and you begin to look familiar to them after awhile.  Go there long enough, and they can predict what you'll purchase, if they had the time and cared.

Now, I'm not convinced I really know anything.  In fact I think there is a very good chance I know nothing at all.  The observer alters whatever is being observed.  If I stand in an aisle in Food Lion and stare at some little old lady trying to ascertain her defense mechanisms, chances are she'll stop doing whatever it is she's doing, and go somewhere else.  Or if she's an agressive little old lady, she might thow a loaf a bread at me.

And I'm not sure it matters anyway.  Peoples actions are misinterpreted all the time.  I still remember as a teenager a person telling me they thought I was "stuck up", because I wouldn't talk to them.  In reality, I was scare to death - I was extremely shy.  So whatever mannerisms were shooting out of me were completely misunderstood, and for the longest time I didn't have a clue.

But lives intersect.  People go to Food Lion, like snakes to a snake pit, get their food and leave.  It's like the building inhales and exhales people.  And while inside, these people interact with other people.  Personal histories collide.  Most people follow a set of socially acceptable guidelines, and they get though the ordeal of buying their food.  The intersection of their lives with others flows smoothly, not missing a beat.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Some Saturday Thoughts

Oh know, not these again.  I created a page called "simple thoughts" to take care of this stuff, but it doesnt seem to handle everything.  So I am compelled once again, to write stuff down.

I've almost finished reading "Children of the Arbat", which takes place in the Soviet Union of the 1930s - its a very good book.  I read it once 20 years ago, but I thought I'd give it a try again.  It seems impossible for a Russian to write a short book.  Even their short stories are long.   Anyway, here in the USA, if you're arrested for something, you have the right to know what the charge against you is, pretty much immediately.  When one of the "Arbat"  protagonist was arrested, he was never told why.  At his first interrogation he was asked "Why do you think we arrested you?".  He was eventually sentenced to 3 years in exile, without ever really knowing why he was arrested.   I had never really thought about the ramifications of being arrested but not knowing what you were charged with before.   

A violent storm blew thru last night, and our neighbor lost a good sized tree.  Last time we had a violent storm I tweeted about it & next thing I knew I had a couple of people trying to sell me siding.  I'll let this one slide.

At this very moment I hear a train whistle off in the distance.

My head has been hurting off and on all day.  The beginning of the end?  Or do I just need some aspirin?  I vote aspirin.

Our eBay business keeps rolling along.  I need to figure out how to increase our profits by about 10-fold.  Then we'd have something.

The Ms. Patti & Pickles Annes are snoozing on the couch.  It is a very warm and lazy Saturday afternoon.

We have a small gray metal table with folding leafs on either end.  It is in front of a window in our office, and is holding an 18 inch figurine of a late 18th or early 19th century soldier.  It is framed beautifully by my computer screen and the computer tower (which I placed on my work table, cause it was easier for me to get at things that way).  Anyway, I just wonder how that figurine got there.  I remember what it cost ($3.00), but I don't remember why. 

I've never owned a Mustang.  Or a Corvette.  Or a classic Buick Riviera.  I haven't owned a lot of cars.  You could fill a book up with all the cars I've never owned.  

Cars I have owned? I don't really want to get into that.

We have a menagerie on our front porch.  Birds have raised families in both our hanging plants, and hummingbirds seem to have taken to the feeder.  And we have a bird bath, frequently used by our feathered friends and occasionally a squirrel.

I don't listen to music very much any more.  I wonder why?  I should.

I also don't make up lives for people like I used to.  It used to be a game, to pass the time - random people I didn't know.  I'd give them lives and personalities based on whatever snippet I witnessed.

I'm worried about pore ol' Snowchief the Cat.  He's so old.

I think this is enough, time to walk the dog.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A trip the the doctor's office

Yesterday I went to the doctor's office.  It was routine, scheduled months in advance, but still it loomed on the horizon like an unseen Elvis ready to jump out at you.  I'm pretty sure I've never used the phrase "unseen Elvis" before.  But anyway, you get the idea.  There's a giant mountain sized Elvis Presley just out of sight over the horizon and he might jump out at you any minute.  It's unsettling.  That's what going to the doctor is like for me.

I suppose it's worth the $30 co-pay to have my weight checked, my heart & lungs listened to, blood pressure checked, answer a couple of questions about this or that, get some blood work done then make an appointment for a physical in a few months.  If we didn't have to pay close to $1,000 a month for the privilage of paying $30.00 for a doctor's visit I wouldn't mind it so much.  (Individual insurance plans are expensive, for those who don't know)

Normally, the office calls with the result of my blood work the next day, usually in the morning. So far they haven't called.  It means nothing.  I reckon.  I'm sure I'll find out.  Anyway, unless the blood says something different, it appears I'll live a while longer.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Dog Reflections

This is a disorienting picture of two dogs who would probably get married, if dogs could get married and if North Carolina allowed same sex marriages.   I took the picture through the glass of the front door, so you can not only see inside a bit if you look hard enough, but you can see outside as well, a mirror image of the view in the very front of our house.  And, in what is closest I've ever come to displaying myself in this blog, you can see me taking the picture. 

Pickles is the black and white "ticked up" dog in front, & Marley is the white dog in back.  Pickles will be 3 years old later this year while Marley is just barely out of puppy hood.   They ran around our field (the very one I have to mow, because it rains, and on this planet when it rains grass & stuff grows) on several different occasions, then spent a lot of time trying to steal rawhide bones from each other.  There's plenty for both, but apparently that's not the issue.  They tend to exhaust each other, much more than I could ever tire Pickles out on one of our walks.

I took this picture just after I took the picture of the hummingbird feeder in the last post.  Apparently I was a topic of girl dog interest at the time.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

We have hummingbirds

File this under sometimes things work.  A week ago we bought a hummingbird feeder.  We'd seen the little guys around every now and then, but not very often.  Last Saturday we found ourselves at Lowes in search of filters for the furnace & Patti Anne decided to buy a hummingbird feeder.  We got home and she mixed up a mixture of sugar & water ( see below),  hung it up in a what seemed like a good place (bright but shady, kind of in the open, & somewhere where the ants won't get to it, if you get my drift) and waited.   A week later we have humming birds feeding out of it. 

Hummingbird Food.

Mix 1 cup of sugar with 4 cups of water in pitcher or jar or something.

No need to boil the water ('less you want to)

Store in the refrigerator ('cause of ants & stuff)

Change the mixture ever so often, depending on how hot it is - when it's in the 90's, every 2 or 3 days.  If it's cooler it can go longer.

Patti Anne did not add red coloring to the mixture - the feeder itself is red with little red flower shapes and she figured that was good enough.

They's probably other ways, as I used to say before I went to school, but this worked.  For what it's worth, we can now look at humming birds every now and then.