Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Bank of America Sucks More Than my Shop Vac

I am so irritated with Bank of America (BOA), I just had to post in order to keep from exploding! Of course, everyone knows about their debit card fee attempt that they had to roll back due to the consumer backlash. Just last week home owners were dumping trash at their door gathered off their foreclosed properties that they refused to clean up. My current issue with them is over a VISA credit card they issued.

I've had a VISA Gold card issued by BOA for at least 20 years. For at least the last decade it has been set up to pay, in full, each month with a automatic draft on my checking account. A month or so ago, I changed my bank account number for the draft and, without telling me, they canceled the automatic draft. So, here I sit thinking everything is fine, when I get a letter stating that my account is blocked due to non payment. I immediately get on the phone and discover the problem is that they canceled my automatic payment. By-the-way, we are talking about a lousy $70 here on a card with a credit line of $7,500. To solve the problem, I do a bank transfer, on the spot, while still on the phone with them, plus, restart the automatic payments and am told everything is fine now. A few weeks later, I go to use the card and the charge is refused. I call BOA and find out that my card is still blocked, even though it now has a credit balance since I paid a little extra when I took care of this the first time. They said I needed to make another call to apply to have it unblocked!

Needless to say, I am done with BOA and closed the account! No doubt, they have put some kind of stain on my credit report for late payment on their stinking card. Since, at my age, I don't use credit anyway, I don't really care, but can see how something like this could cause a young person a lot of trouble, over something completely caused by this "Too big to Fail" monstrosity.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Chicken & Spinach Enchaladas

Here it is guys. My soon-to-be-famous Chicken & Spinach Enchiladas.

about 8oz. fresh spinich (I sometimes use more, just depends on my mood)
about 1/2 lb of chicken, cooked and chopped
1 poblano chili pepper - chopped
about 1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups chopped onions
1 can of Rotell (drained)
1 cup of canned chopped tomatoes (drained)
4 or 5 cloves garlic
4 to 6 oz cream cheese (to my mood )
salt and black pepper to taste

Poblano Cream Sauce
1 poblano chili pepper - chopped
2 tbs butter or olive oil
3 or 4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup whipping cream
1-1/2 cup sour cream
salt & pepper to taste

1 dozen tortillas
Jack or Cheddar Cheese

Filling: Pour oil in skillet heated to medium, add chopped garlic, chopped onion, chicken and chopped poblano pepper. Cook until onions are translucent and chicken is done. Add tomatoes & Rotell cook until moisture is about gone. Turn down skillet heat and add spinach and cook until it is wilted, add cream cheese. (Keep stirring or cheese will scorch.) Stir until mixed and cream cheese is melted. Turn off heat.

Sauce: In a sauce pan melt the butter or add olive oil, chopped poblano chili peppers, garlic, chopped onions and cook until onions are translucent. Add cream, wine, and sour cream, salt and pepper. Simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently.

Poplano chile peppers have to first be roasted, the skin removed and seeded before you can chop them up. I roast mine on the gas burner of my stove by laying them on the grill and rotating them using tongs until they are blackened. Then cool them in cold water in sink. The skin falls off them when rubbed under water, get it all off. They are mild and very tasty chilies.

Warm the tortillas in the microwave. Spray bottom of baking pan and then spread some of the sauce in the bottom of the pan. Spread equal amounts of the filling on to the tortillas and roll them up. Put seam side down in baking pan. Then pour the wine sauce over the enchiladas. Put the cheese on top and put it into a 350 degree oven and bake about 35 min.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Cooling Assistance for RV Refrigerators

Anyone that uses an RV in the hot part of the summer knows that these combination refrigerators do not cool very well when it is hot outside. It is really just a problem with air flow. Open up your compartment at the rear of your refrigerator and just feel the coils during the hot part of the day. They are so hot they will just about burn you.

I solved the cooling problem on our Tradewinds motor home with a couple of 4.8 inch server cooling fans I picked up on eBay for $10 each, including shipping. I mounted them in the refrigerator roof vent, exhausting upward. Here they are mounted in a couple of brackets I riveted up for them:

Here they are mounted in the roof vent. This is standing on the roof looking straight down with the cover removed from the vent:

These fans only use about .6 amps each at 12V. I took power off the supply block for the refrigerator and put a 2 amp fuse inline. For the sake of convenience, I mounted a switch on the front control panel and just use these fans when it is above 80 degrees outside.

I am really happy with them and so is our refrigerator. We are sitting here in Austin, TX at 100 degrees in the shade and our refrigerator thinks it is in Canada. Easily holds a steady 39 degrees in refrigerator compartment.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Winter in the Rio Grande Valley

Well, we only have about 19 days remaining on our winter stay in the Texas Rio Grande Valley. This makes our 10th year to come here. This has been an unusually wet winter and unlike any I have seen since we started coming here. A neighbor up the street decided it was time to try his luck at a little fishing - note the rod and reel in the lawnchair and float in the water.

We have been awfully busy this year with teaching 4 days a week at the Pharr Literacy Project and playing gigs 2, sometimes 3 times a week. At this point, we are kind of ready to get home and rest a little.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Elixir Instrument Cable Review

Hey, check out this cool 20 foot instrument cable Elixir sent me to review. As much fun as it is to get free stuff, I am not going to let that influence me and will give my honest opinion.

First off, I have been a huge fan of Elixir guitar strings for a long time because, like most people, I like to save money. So what, if you spend a couple of bucks extra to buy the strings if they last three times as long as anything else out there? My personal favorites are the Nanoweb strings. They just don't wear out or lose tone and, I usually don't change them until I break one. I play a lot and gig at least a couple times per week and still get several months of use out of a set.

But, back to cables; this is a new product for Elixir and I want to see how it compares to the two cables I normally use - Monster and Century Music Systems. Just looking at the package, first impression is that this is substantial cable - a big fat, heavy wire with nice gold plated connectors that are large enough to actually get a grip on without having to pull them out by the cable.

Let's get this thing unpacked and see how it sounds. That's the bottom line anyway, now, isn't it? The unpacking is my first criticism - this sucker is welded into some kind of super strength, space age polymer that, I suspect, Elixir engineers somehow retrieved from the future in much the same way transparent aluminum arrived in Star Trek IV. Somehow I managed to unseal this vault without cutting the cable or an artery.

My second minor criticism is that the cable could be a little more flexible. You can forget about it every coiling up in a neat little circle like your Monster cable, nor is it going lie really flat on the stage. I got this cable yesterday and actually played a gig with it last night and wondered if I might hang a toe on it on stage but, it didn't seem to be much of a problem. It pretty much laid down after I walked around on it for an hour or so.

Now, packaging and flexibility are part of the picture but, the real test is sound. This morning I got the Elixir cable out along with my favorite Monster cable and Century Music Systems cable. I hooked these up, one at a time, between my Stratocaster and Fender amp. Without changing any guitar or amp settings I tried all cables. I admit, I had a preconceived notion that the differences would be very subtle, if any. Therefore, I got Peggy, our keyboardist, who has a much better ear than I, to listen as well. We were both surprised at the differences and both agreed that the Elixir Cable beat the others by a mile. I was not expecting this result and would not have believed it if I had not heard it with my own ears.

Here is the result that we both agreed upon: First was the Elixir cable, a distant second was the Century Music Systems cable followed closely by the Monster cable in third. Just to confirm the results I did one more test. I had Peggy, with the great ears (other parts are pretty darned good too), do a blindfold test. As I randomly changed cables, she was able to identify, with 100% accuracy, which cable I was using. This was a real eye opener for me!

As for price, I have not had a chance to compare prices yet but, I intend to start using these cables and would say, they would be worth something extra. I'm not saying they definitely cost more than say, Monster - I just don't know what they cost but, they are better, without question.

Update on Rio Grande Valley Gigs

One of the main reasons we come to the Rio Grande Valley every winter (this is our 10th year) is for the music and dancing. This year, we have really gotten busy! In addition to playing music at least two nights a week, we are teaching GED classes four days a week as volunteers at the Pharr Literacy Project. The teaching thing has made our schedule pretty intense but, it is very rewarding and we both have become quite involved with our students. Lloyd is teaching math and Peggy is teaching English. It is such a pleasure teaching adults who really want to be there.

Starting with about our second week here this winter, we starting playing gigs in the evening. Played the first one at the Cactus Club over at Victoria Palms and have been trying to play over there about once a week since. Most of those have been jams where we set up our sound system at had other musicians join us. Even have some audience members come up and sing some.

Two weeks ago we picked up a regular weekly gig at the Weslaco, TX Elks Lodge. We play there every Thursday night from 5-8 and, beginning Feb. 11, we will start teaching a free dance lesson at 5 just before we start our show. It will vary from week to week but, we will be teaching Two-Step, Jitterbug, Triple Two Step, East Coast Swing, and Waltz. Here is a photo from the other night at the Elks:

It is kind of funny but, we have really had to adjust to playing here in the Valley. This older crowd does not like loud. :( Back in Austin we can just blast it and, electric instruments are more fun to play when they are cranked up. Here we have this 800 watt sound system and only use about 5% of it. We have the mains barely cracked open and most of the house sound is just what spills over from the stage monitors and, trust me, if it was up to me those would be louder too.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Texas Rio Grande Valley

I've got to get back to posting this blog on a more regular basis. It seems that lately I have just been posting so much on facebook, there was nothing left to say. Anyway, here we are in the Rio Grande Valley for the winter. This is our 10th year to come down here and we have not grown tired of it yet - go figure. Nothing ever holds our attention that long! Here we are stopped for a few days on the way down:

We have actually been here for a month now, even though I am just now getting around to posting. We have been staying busy working at the homeless shelter in Harlingen during the day and playing music at night. Beginning January 4th we will be volunteer teachers 4 days per week at the Pharr Literacy Project. Lloyd will be teaching Math and Science GED classes and Peggy will be teaching English. The semester ends March 12th and we should be back to Austin right after that.

Here is a photo of one of our gigs from a few days ago: The other guitar picker is Shannon Phillips. The lady standing between us, whose name escapes me, was one of the dancers that came up to pose for a photo with us.

I just thought of something else I wanted to post about here but, I will wait until tomorrow. By-the-way, I hope everyone is following Jessica Watson's blog. She is the 16 year old Australian girl who is doing a solo circumnavigation by sail boat. Click here for the site.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

One more monkey off my back

Last Tuesday I arose with a long list of items on my list that I hoped to accomplish. Walked up to my shop and was sitting there checking email when Peggy walks in with the bad news, the washing machine had stopped working. So I now had a new, more urgent, thing on my list and all the items I really wanted to do got moved down in priority.

This is a Splendide washer/dryer combo like you would find in a motor home. As with most things packed full of electronics today, you just can not diagnose the problem unless you have a repair manual that gives you the expected voltages and resistances at various points on the circuit boards. A search of the manufacturers web site reveals nothing more than a list of service technicians. So, I spent an hour searching the internet and, in some forum, finally came across this repairman training manual that did the trick.

Turned out to be a DC Motor Control Module that cost about $240 with shipping. Expensive, but better than the $1,200 it would take to replace the machine. The part arrived Friday and everything is working fine again.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Would all you sick people, please die?

It sounds pretty harsh when you just say it but, apparently, many secretly feel that way. I can't quit thinking about an address to a group of people given by Senator Franken. One man in the audience commented to the Senator that, "If we let all these uninsured into the system, there will not be enough doctors to go around." No doubt, this selfish S.O.B. would prefer they just die! His attitude is, I've got mine and I don't want you sick people causing any problems. By-the-way, I could tell from looking at him that he was on Medicare and already getting government health care.

I've heard the arguments against "socialized" medicine. Let me tell you, I and many other ex-military members, are on the only true socialistic medical program in the U.S., the Veteran's Health Care system and, it works quite well. Many privately insured people would love to have the level of care we receive through the VA at virtually no cost, and it is truly a socialistic system. The facilities are government owned and all the doctors and nurses are paid by the government. On top of that, they offer us great care in friendly, modern facilities, with a level of efficiency that will never be matched by any private system. One of the smartest moves I ever made was serving a few years in the military although, I admit, I didn't know it was smart at the time.

Is Medicare socialized medicine? Only to a point - it is paid for with tax dollars but, uses private sector providers so, lets just say it is half socialistic. Even so, I don't think you are going find many seniors ready to give it up.

How about the so-called "Government Option" talked about in the current health reform bills. That is not socialized medicine in any way, shape, or form. It is a self funded insurance option that is forced to pay for itself in the same way as the USPS is forced to pay it's own way through revenues it generates.

Look, no other country on earth treats it's poor or uninsured the way this country does and, make no mistake, all the uninsured are not even close to poor. Many, many, working families can not afford the $1,400 per month it takes to buy private insurance if their employer does not provide it. It is a crime against humanity that these people are being forced to die or go bankrupt if they get sick or injured. And, just don't give me any of that crap about how anyone can get health care at the emergency room. Sure, by law, they have to treat the immediate emergency, then they will shuffle them out the door with instructions to go see their doctor, which they can not afford to do. Then the emergency hospital will come after them so aggressively for collection that they have to file bankrupcy. So, you say, why don't they just get on some government program for the poor? That is fine, if they truly are poverty stricken and have nothing. Does not work for most working poor who might have a fairly good job, a little savings, or maybe a little equity in a home. These people have to lose everything they own before they would qualify for assistance.

It is time for everyone to wake up and admit we have a serious problem. People need to quit worrying so much about what it might cost them, or whether they might be inconvenienced, and look at this as a national crisis that we have to solve.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dallas Nightclub reopens

Well, Peggy and I have a whole new attitude this morning. This has been one long, hot, dry summer here in Austin and, after a while, 105 degrees for two months straight just starts to PISS you off! Last night, not only did it rain (2/10 but we will take it) but, our favorite hang out for the last 28 years, The Dallas Nightclub reopened after being closed for over a year.

Last night was really a lot of fun and all the TV stations were there and we saw many of our old friends. Here is a link to the KVUE Channel 24 story. Watch and you will probably see someone you recognize, wink.

The new owners should be pleased with their opening. When we left, the place was already packed and people were just pouring in, on a Wednesday night. If you have never been to Dallas, and we know people in Austin who have not, you just owe it to yourself to go. Peggy and I dance in nightclubs all over the US and can say, without hesitation, that nondescript building up on Burnet Road known as The Dallas Nightclub is the best in the country. It may not be the biggest, and may not have the greatest floor, but you will see the best dancers ANYWHERE right there at Dallas and that floor flows like a whitewater river. Trust me, the tourists go clog up the floor at the Broken Spoke - the dancers go to Dallas. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Lake Travis water level causing problems

In case you have not heard, Lake Travis is getting very low and this is causing headaches for some dock owners. In fact, the lake is now about 50 feet below it's normal pool elevation and only lacks about 17 feet reaching it's all time low set back in 1952. It is losing about 1.5 feet per week and today is our 60th day this summer of triple digit temperatures.

In spite of the problems we had a great time about a week ago helping our friends, Bill and Jean Dunham, lower their dock which had reached the bottom of their stairs. Our job was to disengage the ramp from the stairs and allow the dock to float free so it could continue on down with the lake. Fortunately, they still have deep water under the dock.

Here is the crew, left to right: Bill (the rock climber and rope man), Jean (supervisor), Peggy (official worrier), Cliff (the only one with a clue), and taking the picture is Lloyd (the winch man). Oh, my job does not refer to anything shown in this photo, in case you were wondering.


This shows us getting ready to lower. You can see the ramp connecting the dock to the stairs is now very close to the end.


This next photo shows the ramp in the water. It was pretty exciting since the cable broke and it dropped the last 6 or 7 feet and landed with a big splash, but no damage. You can see the end of the broken cable hanging down from the stairs.


And here is the solution for getting down to dock until the lake drops to the point that the ladder will no longer reach. Come on tropical storm!!


All in all, it was a pretty easy job and everyone left with all the fingers and toes they arrived with. Plus, it was a fun way to spend a Saturday morning!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

I hink I need a new compuer!

M 10 ear old lapop is beginning o show i's age. Can ou guess which 2 kes have jus sopped working? I have acuall been hoping his slow piece of crap would craer for he las five ears so I could jusif a new one. I hink I jus go m wish.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Look what the cat dragged up

A few days ago our cat, Lucille, comes walking out of the woods with this baby deer right behind her so, we grabbed our camera and started recording. Of course, we were careful not to touch the deer and, a few minutes later, led it back into the woods and left it where it laid down.

Here is a link to our YouTube channel in case you want to see more of our videos, or subscribe: Our YouTube Channel

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Following up on the fasting thing

We made a blog post on about four and a half months ago about the benefits of periodic fasting with regard to life extension: Here is a link. It has now been about six months since we started this routine of fasting two days each week and we just wanted to do a quick follow up in case anyone was wondering if we stuck to it.

It has been surprisingly easy to keep it going and we have not missed a single day since we started. Lloyd has lost a couple of pounds although, the intent of this was not to lose weight. We still do the fast each Monday and Thursday and have no plans to stop. One thing we have noticed is that it helps to stay busy on the fasting day because you don't think about being hungry if you are continuously occupied. Feeling hungry has really not been that big a deal anyway.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Remembering Neda Soltan

 If you have not done so already, you might consider viewing the video of Neda's murder by the Iranian government. We are not leaving a link here but, you can easily find it online if you are interested. It is very graphic and you should only watch it if you really want to understand what the protesters in Iran are going through. Seeing it is very hard but gives some hope that this senseless act will be the undoing of this repressive regime.

We have been watching events unfold in Iran with great interest over the last week or so. Normally I would expect to refer such events as "student protests" but, in this case, it has come to involve all aspects of Iranian society. These protesters deserve the world's help in the only practical way it can be offered, moral support. And, that is why we are blogging about this today.

How an educated society such as Iran ended up with their theocratic mess of a government is something we have trouble understanding but, we think they now regret their mistake. Since the protest began, we have been messmorized by the ham fisted way in which the Iranian government has handled the problem.

Today President Sarkozy stated that the Burka had no place in France. He is absolutely right, this symbol of oppression of women has no righful place in any country.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

We are back in business!

I hear you ... some are saying you haven't seen us do anything productive in the last decade so what business are you talking about? I am talking about the business of ending my horrible neglect of this blog. You notice I didn't say one word about the business being "productive", although that could change at any second. We now happen to be bringing in about $1.00 per month off this blog, and it is all profit!! Wooo Hoooo!!!! Cha Ching!

We actually have quite a few things to update about. Been videoing the Grand Daughter while teaching her to ride her bike. Happy to say, she has it down pat now. Of course, I've been going through my workout routine (clearing cedar off this land) everyday. Peggy and I have been working on our music every day and looking forward to playing the jam sessions next winter in the Rio Grande Valley. We have trips planned for the Dallas area, Abilene, and Rio Grande Valley over the next month or so.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Grand daughter tells about the Wooly Booger!

What is the point in having grand kids if you can't fill their heads with a bunch of crazy stories that will make their imaginations run wild? I figure I have maybe two years, at best, before this one has me figured out, so I am not wasting any time. Here is Peggy interviewing one of our six year olds about the Wooly Booger, Bigfoot, etc.:

Here is a link to our YouTube Channel in case you are really, really, really bored and want to see our other videos. You can "subscribe" or "friend" us over there and make us so happy we might just pop.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Blacktop (hot mix) driveway paving

Well, we decided to do our part to stimulate the economy, whether we could afford it or not! The contractor, M. Carroll Blacktop Service was here in the North Lake Travis area doing a much larger job and had a few truck loads of hot mix left over and made us deal we couldn't refuse. He stopped by our place about 1:00 PM and by 5:00 PM we had 450 feet of driveway installed and they did a very nice job. You can see the whole process in the video below:

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Earth Hour - tonight - March 28, 2009 - 8:30 PM local time

Here is a symbolic gesture you can make tonight that is, essentially, casting your vote in favor of a more sustainable energy consumption policy. Tonight, beginning at 8:30 PM local time simply turn off everything in your home that is electrically powered; TV's, computers, lights, etc. and leave them off for one hour.

Some background from the Earth Hour web site: "Earth Hour began in Sydney in 2007, when 2.2 million homes and businesses switched off their lights for one hour. In 2008 the message had grown into a global sustainability movement, with 50 million people switching off their lights. Global landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Rome’s Colosseum, the Sydney Opera House and the Coca Cola billboard in Times Square all stood in darkness.

In 2009, Earth Hour is being taken to the next level, with the goal of 1 billion people switching off their lights as part of a global vote. Unlike any election in history, it is not about what country you’re from, but instead, what planet you’re from. VOTE EARTH is a global call to action for every individual, every business, and every community. A call to stand up and take control over the future of our planet. Over 74 countries and territories have pledged their support to VOTE EARTH during Earth Hour 2009, and this number is growing everyday."

Our plan is to put the hour to good use by teaching our granddaughter about the need for all of us to try to do our part to reduce energy consumption. Get our your candles and make a fun event and learning experience of Earth Hour for your children and grandchildren. Teach them about fuel economy, overly large houses, dangers of imported oil, global warming, excessive consumerism, polution, etc.