Musings for November and December

Horse Drawn Sleigh

Horse Drawn Sleigh

It seems like a lot has happened since my last “Musing’s” blog. Some of those things have been very interesting to work on, others are a drag but have to be done.

We had our first cold front blow through a couple of weeks ago. Texas has the problem that there are no mountain ranges between it and the Great Lakes area so any amount of cold weather up in that neck of the woods and with the winds in the right direction, we get the tail ends of their weather some of which can be cold. Our one consolation is that it does not remain cold for more than a couple of days. Last winter we had three consecutive days of overnight freezing weather which is the most I have seen as long as I have lived here which is now going on 35 years. Wonder how long you have to be here to be accepted as a Texan. Is 35 years enough?

Anyway, back to the cold weather. I had a lot of preparation work to do in order to protect some of the plants and more especially, the various and different hose hook ups that feed the ponds and irrigate the garden. I have an area around the base of a large Elm tree that I have planted many different succulents. Some of them are freeze tolerant but I have a few that are not. What I did this time around was to build a wooden framework that covers the cactus plants and covered it with frost blankets. Hopefully, this will be enough to save those tender succulents. The dogs have discovered the structure which looks a bit like a tent and wander in and out in the hopes that some other furry creature may be making the place a home.

The special anti-chlorine filters plus all of the different timers and hose hook-ups are also vulnerable to freezing which meant breaking down the various units and then covering all of the stand pipes with heavy blankets to stop them from freezing. Luckily, I am able to unscrew various fittings that enables me to protect what I need and more importantly, put back together enough for me to wash filters on a daily basis.

One of the things that came to light after turning off the automatic pond fillers is a loss of water in the pond that has the two streams attached. As soon as the frost had passed, I hooked the filter back in to top up the pond and then turned off the water that feeds one of the streams. Needless to say, I chose the wrong one as it was holding up so I turned off the other stream and the water levels dropped very quickly. I at least have narrowed the leak down to the long stream enabling me to keep the pump and filter working on the short stream. I won’t bother with the repairs until the frost kills most of the vegetation and I can see what I am doing. Next year…

I love gadgets and I consider computers to fall into that category. I spend a lot of time in front of my laptop in order to fulfill my functions for the Coed league and TSSAS, the soccer organization for Texas-South. I am the Administrator for both organizations and stay pretty busy.

Recently, I wrote a blog on my efforts to install Windows 8 and the problems that I had with it which I eventually was able get to work. However, one by one, the three printers that I have began to get problems of different kinds so one by one, I took them out of the system. The final straw came when I could not get the last of the three to work over the network as it had done previously. No amount of effort on my part would get the stupid thing recognized so in the end, after much muttering and mumbling under my breath, I went to Best Buy and purchased a new printer. Even buying new was not without its trials and tribulations as the first one I bought was an HP and when I got it home and out of the box, I discovered that it did not have any slots to fit memory cards which I sometimes use when I print pictures and neither was it compatible with the new Windows 8. So, pack it all up and back in the box and back to Best Buy for something that would have all the things I needed. Best Buy has a really simple refund system and in no time flat, I was looking at printers yet again.

As I was trying to figure out which one would work for me, this sweet young thing stopped by and asked if she could help in any way. Turns out she was a representative for Canon and showed me a couple of their models. Not sure if it was the powers of her persuasive sales talk or that she was young and pretty but I walked out of there with a box containing a Canon printer.

Setting it up was a piece of cake as it recognized the network immediately. It will also allow me to print things over the internet from my smart phone. Go figure. What next I wonder.

Of course, life does not stop at buying and installing a new printer. Dear me no. That would be too simple. Would you believe that the network, which has no moving parts, began to get a little shaky and started dropping the connections. So, back to Best Buy as I believed that it was probably that the signals in the house needed boosting and if I installed a booster, it would do the trick. Setting up the signal booster was easy as it too recognized the network and joined instantly but I could not see any boost in signal and I was still getting dropped connections. Back to the computer and after much searching, I located the Manufacturer’s website and dialed the Help number. Surprise, surprise, as the phone was answered by a man with a very strong Indian accent. I spent almost four hours on the line with that guy. What was a little scary was watching him move his cursor around on my computer as he struggled to break into the code to unlock the program. He had asked me if I would allow him entrance and I had to do a couple of things to help make it happen but it’s amazing that he took control of my computer.

I used up the free time allowed per person which was like a couple of hours and then went on the clock. He installed a couple of programs to help clean up the computer and after much frustration on his part at not being able to get his fixes to work, he called in his Supervisor who almost immediately recognized that the original router was several years old and was not compatible with the new technology and that I needed to purchase a new router. It took four hours and cost me $60 for them to discover that piece of information but I did get a couple of Computer Cleaning programs out of it.

The next day, back to Best Buy to purchase a new router. I had the choice of three different ones and chose the middle of the line that would cover the entire house with its signal. Setting up the router was pretty slick and it recognized the aforementioned booster and I now have a strong signal that reaches at least to the bottom of my garden. I was also able to protect the network from possible hackers or even somebody who might want to use it for free. It is now password protected and works like a charm. No more dropped signals (he said with his fingers crossed).

The crashing network must have rubbed off on the garage door as it too began to give me problems. I installed the current one at least ten years ago and although it still goes up and down, it does not always do it on command. I tried all kinds of adjustments and repairs but many times I had to back the car out and park it and go back inside to close the garage door and let myself out the front door. What a bloody pain. The dogs couldn’t figure out what was going on as I would leave, come back in and immediately leave again. I even found myself walking back in and forgetting to close the garage and then letting myself back out the front door and locking it only to find the garage door still wide open.

This time, I went to my other favorite store, the Home Depot and selected a new door opening set, the cheapest I could find and threw it in my shopping cart. I did not plan on changing out the tracks nor the sensor beam that went across the bottom of the opening. Changing out the motor was easy but for some reason, it would not recognize the existing sensors so much to my disgust, I started work on installing the new sensors. None of the old clips would work with the new sensors so I took all of the old one down and installed the new one. I had just threaded the wires where they had to go wanting to make sure that everything worked just fine before stapling the new wires in place. I got careless and in my efforts to staple the cables, managed to put a staple through the wire in a couple of places. Of course, now the doors wouldn’t work because the sensor beam was no longer working. I guessed what I had done and found the damaged wire and the only way to get over it was to either completely change out both wires or cut and splice where it was needed. The perfectionist in me kept telling me to use new wire while the tired old man that I am opted to cut and splice using the argument that after all, it is only a bloody garage.

Needless to say, I cut and spliced using lots of black electrical tape to cover up my errors. This time, instead of stapling the wires back into place, I used electrical staples that required I drive them in with a hammer. The door worked again and after a few adjustments to make sure it went all the way up and down and would stand sufficient force to stop midway, I turned my attention to the clicker remote entry gadgets. The one that came with the unit worked just fine and the extra one I had from the original door re-programmed after several attempts so that gave me two working remotes. Good job too because try  after try would not get the remote buttons in my BMW to recognize the new signal. I got over it by clipping one of the two remotes to the sun visor. There is a certain amount of pleasure from succeeding in completing these sort of projects. It’s not that I am a tightwad but the way I see it, if  another man can do it albeit with a certain amount of training, then I can do it as long as I am prepared to get over any mistakes I may make along the way. It helps that I have spent a whole lifetime in construction and have worked on much of this stuff before.

I was walking around Sam’s the other day and stopped in front of a do-it-yourself video surveillance system that kinda caught my eye. I had been toying with the idea of installing one not so much to protect the house as to view what goes on out in the yard when I am away. For instance, I would know if the Heron had been around to eat the fish or that the coons and possums were visiting at night as this particular model has movement sensors that turn on the cameras which backs things up to tape. So, with nothing to lose and another project to work on, I purchased the kit and made my way home ready for more installation trials and tribulations. As it happened, installing the hardware was very simple and the two cameras that came with the unit were already paired to the control box. I installed one on the shed pointing across the yard and the other on the house pointing out across the deck and after a bit of adjustment, both cameras showed up on the monitor. The system has the ability link to the internet and I am able to tune and see the cameras in action on both my I-Pad and I-Phone. Pretty marvelous today’s technology. The camera on the shed was out of alignment by the next morning and I can only surmise that a coon was busy investigating and his weight moved the camera. I have already ordered two more cameras to complete the set as the monitor can handle four cameras at a time. I will put these inside the house to keep an eye on the animals. The cameras also have night vision and that is really interesting to watch.

The garden has that fall look about it. Here and there a couple of brave flowers are still struggling to be seen but the majority of it has gone into winter hibernation. That and the frosts will knock everything down and then my next big project will be to cut everything back and pile it on the compost heap ready for the spring. I was talking to my gardener neighbor and she has a theory that the stuff above ground should be left as long as possible to protect the roots. I reminded her that here in Texas, we go to the end of January and depending on the weather into immediate growth so based on her theory, we would be cutting things back in between new growth which makes things doubly difficult. Besides, when things are cut back, it is an ideal time to mulch the garden with nothing in the way plus make adjustment to the soaker hoses that I have strewn all over the yard.

Well, the treatment for the blood clot is still ongoing. I have a lot more feeling in my foot and my knee no longer hurts like it did before so it appears that things are on the mend. I went to see my coag nurse yesterday and the blood count is within the appropriate numbers. I now wear a what the manufacturer calls Medical Legwear which is an elastic stocking to help keep the swelling down. It’s a good job that I am too old to be vain about the way I look. Now I am more interested in comfort than appearance. I guess that is not entirely true as I have been on a self-imposed Weight Watchers diet for the past six months with the goal of trying to get down to my fighting weight when I was in my prime at the age of twenty. I have tried to lose weight before and have not had a great deal of luck but something about this program made it easy. I have the will power to not eat too much and only eat the right stuff most of the time. I am no longer a drinker and have not had any alcohol in seven years so that was no longer a factor. Long story short, I was able to get down from 177 pounds to 155 pounds with not too much change in my diet. As I live alone, I am able to control what and how much I eat. The hardest part was the last couple of pounds and now trying to maintain that weight is the next goal. I would recommend the program to anyone.

I lay down to take a nap the other day and as usual the dogs accompanied me with at least couple on the bed. I have to take my hearing aids out as they are too uncomfortable to sleep in and I put them on the shelf above the bed. Well, as usual, that is where I deposited them and then when I awoke ready to out and about, could not find them anywhere. I searched high and low and then I remembered hearing a loud crunching noise when I was half asleep and sure enough, I found the remnants of one of the aids on the floor. One of the dogs had eaten the hearing aids would you believe. Luckily for me, they are insured and this incident is covered, thank goodness. My world has been much quieter for the past three weeks and there is some good to that. That is about to change as I am on my way back to my Audiologist to pick up my new ones later this afternoon.

Christmas is almost here and the shops and stores are packed as everyone tries to buy expensive gifts for their family and friends. Things have changed so much since I was a boy growing up in rural England. I can remember back then that to have a roast chicken let alone turkey was a meal that was really fit for Christmas Day with homemade Christmas Pudding and if you were lucky enough to get the share that held it, a silver sixpence inside. If you weren’t already prepared, it would have been easy to break a tooth on the silver coin. If you got a present, it was usually one or two small items. We would hang up our Christmas Stockings and in the morning they would have fruit and nuts and maybe a couple of small trinkets inside and we would think that it was bloody wonderful to get so much.

We take so much for granted and our younger generations do not want for anything. I am afraid they are missing out not having experienced living in simpler times. They want and mostly they get and usually its expensive.

I am not advocating to turn the clocks back fifty years. Heaven forbid that I would have to write my blogs by hand with a pencil but it would be nice if Christmas was not  so much about material things but more about what it truly represents.

Happy Holidays to one and all.


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