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Sore Loser June 5, 2018

Posted by stuffilikenet in Hello Kitty, RV and camping, Uncategorizable.
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Lily wants a drink before the next hand

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Synchro de Mayo May 21, 2018

Posted by stuffilikenet in RV and camping, Toys, Uncategorizable, Uncategorized.
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is not really what it’s called, it is just when it happens.  A congregation of some of the 2600-odd Volkswagen Vanagon Synchros in the United States, it’s really a long camping party in Hollister State Recreation Area and the best place to see immaculately kept and/or innovatively modified Synchros:

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There’s one in every crowd, I guess.

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Why four wheel drive?

 

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Vanagon owner doing what they do most.

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The newest Volkswagen four-wheel drive: not for sale in California (or maybe the USA)

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Typical Vanagon in its native habitat.

There were other VW vans there, of course:

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Joshua Tree National Park February 8, 2018

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Mutants, Photography, RV and camping, Uncategorizable.
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Warning: foul language

JTNP is a dangerous place for the unwary naturalist or hiker.  Forget about scampering naked through the desert during a full moon; this place is populated by a truly bewildering variety of spiked, barbed,pointed and sharp plants guaranteed to impale an incautious passerby on the briefest hike, or trip to the restroom.

Take, for example, this beautiful specimen of Darwinian selection:

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This is known as the Spanish Bayonet, the Pointy Bastard or the Unwary Thighstabber. My wife says this is her least favorite plant, possibly due to unfortunate personal experience.  Spanish Bayonet is very stiff and the point is very hard.  I do not doubt this pointy bastard could be used as a bayonet.

Next a more delicate, elegant stiletto of a plant:

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Note the barbed thorns and tips. This herd-culling flora is known as the Lacerating Motherfucker, for good reason. Sometimes called the Wait a Minute, it grabs anything organic which brushes it and drags it towards itself in a series of painful spasms.  One presumes the plant benefits passively from the organic matter of its victims decaying around it, thus enriching the local soil. It is perhaps worth noting that many desert species secrete chemicals which inhibit the germination of other plants.  This helps explain why there are small bare patches surrounding most plants in Joshua Tree National Park.  Worth noting, too, is that the space is just large enough for small critters to pass, but not humans.

Ouch.

Then there are the more obvious instruments of torture, the standard cacti, some of which are exceptionally well defended1, such as the Malevolent Spiny Fucker:

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Closely related in terms of armament and disposition is That Dangerous Spiked Fucker:

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Not lastly (because I’m typing this in a very cramped camping chair and I need to go have a beer) is the Psychotic Rapier Clusterfuck.  Do not trip near this plant.

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As usual, the wonders of Nature make me sit back and admire her ingenuity from safely inside a locked room with air conditioning, a stereo system playing Vivaldi and powerful adult beverages to celebrate my narrow escapes.2

I would not have you finish reading this little note without understanding that the grandeur of the place is unparalleled in my experience. The Flintstonesesque scenery will make any visitor think they have landed on another planet designed by Irwin Allen, or maybe Ray Harryhausen.3:

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1.  The best defense is a good offense.

2.  I haven’t even talked about the night hikes through the Stabby Wastelands following an experienced madman to “my spot”, nor the boulder scrambling urges that demand to be addressed by the Flintstones’ rock formations here. Honestly, I don’t know what I was thinking.

3.   Seriously. Maybe Luc Besson?

The Flood of 2017 December 31, 2017

Posted by stuffilikenet in Photography, Uncategorizable.
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First, a little background:

Lois Ann and I moved to Greenville because we found the people so polite and pleasant, and for the considerable scenic beauty Indian Valley affords. We chose to rent [landlord]’s house based on the view from the back door/porch (no kidding).  Because we spent so much time moving the belongings from our large San Francisco home, we had boxes everywhere in the rental home and especially lining the walls of the dining room. Since our dietary requirements differ so much from each other, Lois Ann and I rarely share a meal and therefore didn’t use the dining room often for actually eating.  Mostly we stored things there before moving them into the house.  Critically for our narrative, we stored boxes along the north and east walls of the dining room. These boxes were fifteen gallon plastic containers (of which we have more than two hundred) and are (critically to our narrative) waterproof and odor proof.

Well, we hadn’t noticed that the carpet under those boxes smelled strongly of cat urine. We didn’t discover this until we had lived in the house for several months.  We kept the doors and windows open to enjoy the spring and summer (and early fall) air, and consequently a breeze moved any odors out before the could become noticeable.

Then came Winter. Winters in Plumas County are very cold.  The winter of 2016-2017 was also snowy and wet by turns, requiring us to actually shut doors and windows. We devoted our inside time to unpacking some of the boxes in the dining room and finally uncovered the smell. The smell was quite strong, so we cleaned carpets with our household carpet cleaner and complained to our landlady verbally for a few weeks, then in writing requesting carpet cleaning be done. She took no action for a month after our written request, so we hired and paid a carpet cleaner to deep clean the carpet.  He came around and measured the moisture of the carpets with a gizmo he had, and found the worst spots and tried to clean them. This involved saturating the carpets with strong cleaners and then drying the saturated areas with gigantic fans.  This is in November 2016.  Drying with fans during this time involves leaving the windows open to allow the damp air to escape.  The average temperature in Plumas County in November is often near or below freezing. We suffered miserable cold for three days.

Sadly, the carpet cleaning had little effect on the odor of cat urine. The carpet cleaner suggested that the carpet, IMG_20161108_114905 pad and floorboards were soaked in cat urine over perhaps years, and that the flooring needed to be replace entirely. His moisture gizmo confirmed it, pretty much wherever our noses suggested there was cat urine.

Well, replacing her carpet, pad and floorboards was outside of our budget.  Our budget, courtesy of the California Civil Code’s landlord-tenant law, consisted of one month’s rent which we are allowed to withhold in order to make repairs, or remediate livability issues [insert quotes from California code here], like cat stink.  California renters are allowed to do this twice a year.  Instead, we bought plastic sheeting and carpet remnants cheaply to lay over the smelly carpet. It worked, although opinions about the aesthetics are mixed.
Now, a little more background: 

We had beetles in the house almost since we arrived.  We complained about these verbally at first also, then by email and finally paid an exterminator when we had given our landlady a written request to do so without results.  This came out of the same November rent that we withheld for the noisome carpet.  As these are both livability issues, we filed a complaint with the Plumas County Inspector’s office (we complained about the mold smell at the same time, and asked for an inspection) which, pursuant to [insert California Civil Code] gives us certain civil protections (cannot be evicted for six months, cannot be harassed, etc.) from landlord retaliation.

As you may imagine our landlady became enraged and, given her self-confessed title of "Cruella DeVil", began a campaign of harassment involving multiple demands to move (in writing!) delivered by an embarrassed Sherriff’s deputy (during a dinner party) or pasted on the doors of the house.  Since none of these had anything like the force of law, we ignored them completely.

And then the atmospheric river hit the fan. On February 9th the rising waters from some very serious snowmelt flooded our rental. It was pretty serious and most people in Plumas County were affected by the highway closures due to flooding or road collapse and the frequent and prolonged power outages.  We were convinced at midnight that the rising water had stopped IMG_20170209_212158484 and went to sleep, but along about 4AM a neighbor let us know we were underwater. 

IMG_20170210_045141809 View out the front door at about 5AM.

I wouldn’t have slept through it anyway: the propane tank turned over and made a nasty scraping noise totally unlike all the animals whose nocturnal activities usually wake me. I looked outside and saw water, water everywhere. 

Well, the water came up to the bottom of the house’s floorboards and flooded the family room between 18 and 21 inches IMG_20170213_130755765 and up to the floorboards everywhere else with filthy pasture water and snow melt. It was bitterly cold and filthy, and I began to move our goods to the car (on higher ground) to abandon ship.  I called our neighbors Scott and Barbara, who rowed out to our house in their canoe at 5AM with coffee IMG_20170210_060415076

Scott and Barbara coming to the rescue

and helped us turn the propane tank over enough to shut off the gas, then helped us move our goods and cats to their house (also on higher ground).  They made us very comfortableIMG_20170211_192433372_HDR in their travel trailer and made us spend the night (and the next), and treated us like good neighbors ought, buying us a crab dinner at the Chamber of Commerce fundraiser.

When the waters subsided enough to enter the house, everything that could float had.  Dan and Sarah and Sam and Cassie and Scott and Barbara spent all day Saturday helping us clean up and dry out the stuff that could be salvage (a great deal could not be salvaged). The two grade school girls Addison and Abigail from down the street collected all the plastic toys we lost and carefully lined them up in front of our house. Dan and Sarah gave us some dry wood to get by with, since all ours was either soaked or had floated away.  The HVAC system in the house had been underwater (cold, smelly water) for 48 hours and was pretty much ruined, so we really needed the wood (remember, this is February and snow was still expected—see below, about a week later) to simply not freeze. IMG_20170222_071236971 We did try to contact our landlord at this time about the flood destroying the heater, and the drywall and carpet.  She never did respond.  We also tried to contact her brother (part owner of the house). He did not respond; in fact he blocked our number after we left a message telling him we needed to remove the carpets in the flooded room and the drywall, as the smell was pretty much unbearable. IMG_20170210_064505165_BURST000_COVER

Unable to reach either of them, we began to remove the odious, reeking mass of carpet, and the soaked drywall and insulation February 13th. We tore out the soaked carpet, using a neighbor’s trailer to hold the noisome mess until the trailer was full, then carted it to the city dump. 

IMG_20170212_154443155_HDR Repeat as necessary (it was).

It turns out there is a procedure that remediation people use, which was carefully explained to us by the County code enforcement guy. You test for moisture with a moisture gauge (from your larger hardware stores) and only cut when you hit dry drywall and insulation.  You remove the drywall and the insulation (because the water wicks upward, maybe forever) a little bit above IMG_20170213_130732716 your lowest dry reading.  And you document your work, carefully labeling the diagram of the room to show no extra was removed.

We did all this of course, except using a moisture gauge; the highways out of town were either underwater or washed away, so we couldn’t get one…and the place smelled awful. We needed to act quickly, and we needed help for all this, despite our neighbors pitching in (thanks, Scott and Barbara, and Dan), so we hired a pair of locals to help us out, at the reasonable rate of $15/hour.  They worked pretty hard and we emptied the room of soaked drywall, insulation and carpet pretty quickly.  We then bleached the whole room with Clorox and water, including the open wall areas, and waited for the whole room to dry using only the fireplace and borrowed wood to heat it (still winter, remember?).IMG_20170227_105209160   It took two days and most of the borrowed wood (thanks, Dan and Sarah!).

In the meantime, we determined that the most effective flood-proof wall would be some sort of wainscot attached with screws.  We bought cheap white paneling at Home Depot and cut it to appropriate height and started screwing it in place. The result was passable, but progress was interrupted by lack of funds (we withheld rent for this, and went far over $1100) so we stopped.  At least the walls were enclosed; but no trim was put up so our landlady will have to fix it herself.

During the several days this took, the folks at AmeriGas sent out a guy to help us put the floated propane tank back on its pedestal.  The ground was still soaked and his big ole’ truck got stuck almost as soon as it left the pavement.  Our neighbor Cassie pulled him out with her truck, and another neighbor used his tractor IMG_20170211_143716573 to upright the tank (thanks, Caleb!).

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Not everyone was a cooperative as our wonderful neighbors, though.  Particularly our landlady, who did not respond to telephone calls, e-mail messages or Facebook messages (from us. She did respond to our neighbor, so we know she was capable of receiving them). When she finally showed up a week after the flooding (when we had nearly completed remediation) she refused to speak to us except to tell us her attorney had advised her not to talk to us. Hmmm.

Later that evening I checked my e-mail and found a message from her attorney, one Charles Simonetti. It threatened legal action if we didn’t move in five days, since she had served us with a form telling us to move earlier, despite the Civil Code’s protection of us as rent withholders (a form of harassment specifically prohibited by the code).  We didn’t ignore Mr. Simonetti’s e-mail; we cheerfully had our attorney call him back and carefully explain the finer points of the relevant California Civil Code to him.  His final verbal negotiation with me was to demand that we move or he would file an Unlawful Detainer, the beginning phase of an eviction for cause.  I carefully did not laugh, but told him I would reply in writing (one of my favorite delay tactics) and did nothing for a few weeks.

IMG_20170301_104718108 In the meantime, our home was a deep freeze. There was still snow outside until early March, and really cold temps near freezing with no snow for quite some time afterwards.  We did not have quiet enjoyment of our rented home, nor heat nor even any promise of action by our landlady to provide the necessities of “the implied warranty of habitability” inherent in renting out a home. Copy of IMG_20170228_123359921_HDR_soaked__sagging_ductworkShe did, however, finally “inspect” the flood damage and assess repair needs on the 28th (two weeks and change after the flood)—she came and removed her personal property from the crawl space under the house…no repairs made or discussed with us at all. The alert reader will notice the soggy, sagging ductwork…it’s completely soaked.  See how much it’s sagging there?  The strap is holding several gallons of water in that duct…which groans piteously under its heavy burden, like a fat man on Thanksgiving night.

Then other true annoyances began; the landlady began harassing us in earnest. Firstly she demanded that we pay the rent withheld previously to make livability repairs (both forbidden by Civil Code). Then she “entered to make repairs” again, but actually did nothing at all towards repairing the ductwork for the heating system (March 14), when the lows were in the low forties.

So, we reiterated our dissatisfaction with her lack of response to our habitability needs (and legal requirements) along with our next month’s rent, and asked for heater repair (it’s still pretty cold at night in April). We got no response at all, but she did cash the April rent check. Meanwhile, our attempts to negotiate with her attorney kind of fizzled out, since we were interested in being compensated for lack of habitability repairs, lack of quiet enjoyment and landlord harassment and he didn’t seem to realize these were the issues at stake, rather than our “unpaid” (withheld) rent. Ultimately he bowed out entirely.1

The very same day the landlady served us with another harassing piece of paper telling us to cease and desist repairs to the house, saying we would be held responsible for any and all expenses, blah, blah, blah.  This was well after most repairs were made by us, and before she even began to consider repairing anything at all (for her tenants whose rent checks she was still cashing), like the heating system.  The lows for that night were still in the low forties.

[TO BE CONTINUED IF I FEEL LIKE IT]

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1 About three weeks later I tried to contact him by phone and he replied by e-mail (April 24th) "Please contact [landlord] directly.  I am not handling this matter anymore at this time, until further notice.  Thanks." From this I cannot tell if he was fired, or if he came to his senses and quit. Maybe she didn’t pay him. Perhaps he does not wish to be a party to illegal harassment, as the State Bar takes a dim view of unlawful actions by its members.  And then there are the fines; each instance of harassment can be punishable by a fine of between $100 and $2000. By our count she’s had fourteen actionable incidents, although a court of law may choose to differ about some of them. Were we awarded fines for each at the maximum rate we would be well ahead of our rent expenses. I bet Simonetti can afford more fines than she can, but probably is smart enough not to want to; after all, he did pass the Bar exam.

Absolutely Juvenile July 26, 2017

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Awesome, Geek Stuff, Mutants, Toys, Uncategorizable, Video.
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I enjoyed this immensely, but it is about one in the morning and I have been up since about five cleaning house and preparing for my next Great Adventure.

 

I am probably punchy.

That’s Enough, Sir; I Have to Ask You to Leave February 24, 2017

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from boinGboinG.net

My Next Hobby February 7, 2017

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White Newtonmas Eve December 24, 2016

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IMG_20161224_072254605 It’s Newtonmas Eve, and all the nuclear family is here.  Merry Newtonmas to all.

 

Don’t worry about the snow; it’s mostly gone already.  : )

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Newtonmas November 21, 2016

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Can’t get it on Amazon…can it be real?

Gluten-free Bread Machine Adventures 5 November 21, 2016

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Wherein we find Our Hero has found that Pamela’s Gluten-free Bread Mix can be had from Amazon Prime for $2.42/lb delivered, which is no small thing here in the Frozen North, where the only town bigger than 2,000 is an hour away…

See previous Bread Machine Adventures for correct use, misuse and abuse.

Too Much Science to Read, Let Alone Review November 15, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Brain, Brilliant words, Geek Stuff, Science, Star Trek Technology, Toys, Uncategorizable.
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It’s been a banner week for science geeks, nerds, and squints. The locked-in lady gets to at least shout from her prison quietlyGoogle has radar sensitive enough to not only find objects but identify them by their radar signature and perovskite is once again breaking solar-conversion efficiency records.

Ordinarily I would give you a breakdown of each of these nifty developments, but more are coming and I may want to return to these later when I am not pressed for time.  Follow the links above; there are others as well that you will find more well constructed than my chicken scratchings, I’m sure.

Brain-Computer Interface Now in Use at Home!!! November 15, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Awesome, Brain, Geek Stuff, Science, Star Trek Technology, Toys, Uncategorizable.
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A 58-year-old woman (“HB”) with ALS has had a functioning brain-computer interface (BCI) for a while now, and is able to communicate (slowly) with the outside world. She was facing total lock-in Real Soon Now, so any device which offers communication ability is welcome.

What it is:

A diagram illustrating the setup and use of the ECoG implant.

Electrode strips at the top laid across her brain like band-aids read faint electrical signals.  With training HB was able to “type” fairly quickly (words per minute, but still).  More work remains to be done on the interfacing software (I am imagining more inputs and a neural network to interpret her thoughts more and more efficiently), and HB is ecstatic to have a way t live in the world.  She would like to use the interface to control a wheelchair, for example, but that is a ways off.

 

Homework:  Vansteensel, Mariska J. et. al., Fully Implanted Brain–Computer Interface in a Locked-In Patient with ALS, New England Journal of Medicine November 12, 2016 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1608085

Update: New Scientist has an excellent writeup as well.

Breakfast of Champions November 11, 2016

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A friend gave this to my wife today (the egg mold, not the scotch). I couldn’t wait for breakfast to enjoy it (hence the scotch).  Turns out you can get them sent to your house by tomorrow if you have Amazon Prime.  Hurry up! We can all commune tomorrow morning with pirate eggs.

 

Exciting update:

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How I Started Every Morning This Summer November 9, 2016

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Jealous?

Vote for American Principles November 7, 2016

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I like Ike

I do believe I am an Eisenhower Republican. I like Ike.

 

I also apparently like dead heroes.

If You Leave it Open, They Will Come October 1, 2016

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…for breakfast:

…and dinner:

We were out for lunch, so no clue how he survived the Arctic Chill without us. Probably begged from the folks down the street.

Dinnertime When The Stars Are Right September 28, 2016

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Where I Live September 12, 2016

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is basically a forest meadow.  Even though I rent a house with a front and back lawn, a vegetable garden and a white fence, I still find bear scat in my back yard.  A fox lives under the tree in my neighbor’s yard.  Deer are so common that we hardly notice them.  My neighbor had a bear break into his pigsty and eat all the piggies’ food (but not the pigs: apparently a vegetarian bear).

Then there are the birds.  I have already described the flocks of black phoebes that colonized our front porch and took flying lessons behind the house (very cute; they practiced touch-and-go flying while the mother bird watched carefully from the mulberry). 

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They fully displaced the starlings, for whom I have frankly never cared. And, every morning a pair of sandhill cranes flies in, eats bugs from the meadow behind the house and then takes off in the late evening, making the most interesting cries on landing and takeoff. You can barely see them in this photo:

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Trust me; they are there.  Really they are.  We have also seen a solitary male sandhill crane, but he looks very sad. He may be a widower. Here is a slightly better shot:IMG_20160825_200358

Possibly my favorite bird is this little fellow, who often comes and asks for pumpkin seeds we keep in a jar for him:

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He has perched on my knee while I was seated on the back porch sofa but I didn’t realize he would hold still for a photo, so I missed my opportunity for a very cute photo.

Lucky S Mine September 4, 2016

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The Lucky S mine is actually quite close to my house as the crow flies…but we aren’t crows.  My wife’s Vanagon does not fly; it crawls, bumps, jounces and bounces over logging roads, Forest Service roads and four-wheeler roads (if you can call them that with a straight face) so that the ten miles to Lucky S mine is an hour’s ride (“ride” is rather more civilized a description than I had in mind, but this is a happy blog, dammit). We used the Beardsley grade road

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to get there which, if you stay on it long enough, will intersect the correct Forest Service road with a sign and everything to get you there.  I strongly recommend this route; the other way really does require skinny 4WD conveyances.

Do not trust this sign, however:

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We first came across the mine itself, which is a little ways from the town proper:

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There is a bog between the town and the mine proper. Do not attempt to follow the south road, as there is a large mudhole in the road even in summer.  I mean, my wife can drive through it in her Vanagon, but I wouldn’t trust anyone else to do it.

Bog pano

In the town, there is a store and hotel, although it’s challenging to tell one from the other.

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No pioneer ghost town would be complete without a relaxation center.  This one is particularly relaxed:

Gluten-free Bread Adventures III August 27, 2016

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Well, not exactly, except the yellow thingie below is a toast-cutter for punching

out bat-logoed bread, while the egg cup is, well, um, yeah.  Looks like fun.  It comes as a set from Amazon.