Friday, December 19, 2008

Ibanez acoustic/electric - hours and hours of fun!

I mentioned, a few weeks ago, that I had this new acoustic guitar that I wanted to talk about so, here goes. How about a photo to start off with?

It was about a three month search for this guitar. I have spent many many hours playing dozens of guitars at Guitar Center stores in Austin and Dallas looking for just the right combination of sound and playability. As you can see in the background of this photo, I like electrics. That is a Fender Stratocaster, a Peavey Raptor, and a Fender Precision Bass sitting next to a Peavey 212 XXL and Fender G-DEC 30.  I wanted the acoustic so I could have something to play quietly while watching TV at night. If you pay attention to TV commercials you are going to hear some great music. Unfortunately, I can hear some great riff or some awesome rhythm and, by the next day, it has evaporated from my head. Now, when I hear something, I can just sit and play it over and over and over until Peggy begs for mercy, but I remember it.

IMHO, there has never been an accoustic instrument that can not be improved with the right electronics. This one is no exception. There is a pickup under the bridge going through a battery powered pre-amp with three band equalizer, tuner, phase change switch, and notch frequency adjustment. The later two items used for eliminating feedback so, you can play it LOUD!! Run this through that big Peavey amp you see there in the background and you can blow out your windows.

One last thing I wanted to mention, because I just found it interesting. This guitar was one of the display models they leave out for everyone to play in the Guitar Center stores so, naturally, it showed a little wear from handling with a few light scratches. I sat and played it for about and hour and a half and just fell in love with it. So I told the sales person my search was over and I wanted to buy it and he said, "Hold on and I will get you a new one out of the back." So, he brings out the new one in a box which looks identical, except in absolutely perfect condition. So I tune it up and get ready to try it out. From the first note, I could not believe the difference in sound coming from this seemingly, identical guitar. I swear, it sounded like a cheap, $100 guitar and those dead notes could not hold a candle to those beautiful, mellow tones coming from that display model. Naturally, I said I wanted the one on display and they said, "no problem" and threw in an extra set of strings and I have been one happy guitar picker ever since.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Snow in Austin

Well this is something that you don't see very often in Austin. Last night at around 9:00 PM it started snowing. The temperature was about 38 degrees, so it did not stick but, it was still fun. By-the-way, the temperature dropped 47 degrees in 9 hours yesterday.

One of the grand daughters (Robin - 6), who has never seen snow, called last night from Abilene to tell us they were expecting snow there. She wanted to know if we were aware that you could stand outside with your mouth open and catch snow in your mouth? We will have to call her today and tell her we ate some snow last night. Unfortunately, they did not get any in Abilene.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Try to curb your enthusiasm

Finishing the gate leads logically into the next project - road improvements, and we might as well start at the new gate and work our way into the property. Here is what we have done, so far:

We have 450 feet of road to build in this first project and have decided to use a ribbon curb system. These 12" wide concrete curbs will line both sides of the road and be filled in with caliche up to within about 1" of the top. The final inch will be filled with whatever material we choose to make the final road bed, asphalt, gravel, crushed granite, etc. We are leaning toward crushed or, as it is more commonly known, decomposed granite. It makes a good, hard, relatively dust free surface, and is a nice color. The distance between the curbs is 13'9" and the curb on the right is set 3" lower than the one on the left to aid in water run off.

As you can see in the photo, the left side is already poured and the right side is formed. One thing that is interesting about this project is that we are using, what I call, caliche concrete. Rather than purchasing sand and gravel to make our mix, we are simply using caliche, which we can dig right out of the hillside with the loader. We then add 12.5%, by weight, Portland cement and enough water to make our concrete. It is finished off just as you would normal concrete. I have never seen concrete made this way before but, it seemed like a good idea. We made some test batches first and were pleased with them. It does not have the strength of regular concrete but, is more than adequate for applications that do not require extreme strength. I would guess it is 75% of the strength of regular five sack mix concrete.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Installing a new gate

I mentioned earlier that we were building some interesting things with concrete. This is not exactly the most interesting thing I was talking about but, we did make some pretty great posts upon which to swing a gate.

First, we started by forming the posts 9" X 9" square. Each has two pieces of 3/8" re bar running longitudinally in diagonal corners about 2" from the surface of the concrete. There is also a 3' piece of the same size re bar which is bent double to form a loop which sticks out the top of the post a couple of inches to form a lifting eye. Keep in mind, each of these posts will weigh about 400 pounds so, a lifting point is pretty important. One last internal detail is to provide for the gate hinges which are the through bolted type using a 3/4" bolt, about 10" long. We pre-made a couple of holes through the posts by positioning 9" long pieces of 1" square tubing laterally through the forms making very sure they were in the correct position for the gate hinges and that they would be in absolute vertical alignment when the post was set. They were poured right here on the floor of the shed where I park the Caterpillar so that I could work in the shade. Here they are after the forms are removed:

Living in the Texas Hill Country is great and it is very beautiful, however, there is one big draw back and that pops up any time you want to dig a hole. You don't use post hole diggers to dig a post hole around this part of the country. Those are only for cleaning out the debris which is, hopefully, loosened after you have pounded away with your rock bar. There are times you hit something you simply can not get through. I can recall a couple times using a skid loader mounted rock bit with carbide teeth and and turning for 20 minutes with the front wheels of the loader completely off the ground, without cutting one inch into the rock. Fortunately, stuff that hard is rare as it is mostly limestone.
Here is how you set a 400 pound post in the hole and a closeup of one the hinge holes:

Here is the way I like to permanently set a post. We dig this caliche right out the hillside with the loader and mix 5 shovel fulls with 1 shovel full of portland cement and dry tamp it very tightly in the hole. You just can't believe what a rigid post this makes!  Here are the photos in order - caliche, portland cement, mixing it all together, tamping it in the hole:
This is closeup of one of the hinges in place:
And here is the finished gate:

This is a 14 foot, 2" tubing gate purchased from Tractor Supply and it comes pre-painted. I would have liked to have built the gate myself but, you simply can not justify building one when they only cost $155 at Tractor Supply. There is about 100 feet of 2" tubing which would have probably cost more than the completed gate. By the time you add in hardware, painting, welding rod, etc., it is a no brainer.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Can Obama live up to expectations?

We feel as though we have just witnessed one of the most important historical events ever to take place in our lives and we are feeling pretty good about it. Now, we will see if we were correct in our assessment of Obama. Expectations are running extremely high, not only among the majority of Americans who voted for him, but among the rest of the world as well. Talk about carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders! Expectations are so high, I wonder if it is possible for anyone to live up to them?

I hate to say, "I told you so"  ...  not really, I actually love doing that because it happens so rarely. We may have been one of the earlier predictions though. Back on February 13th of this year, long before Obama got the nomination and while Hillary was still trying to change the rules to allow Florida and Michigan to count, we predicted Obama would win the nomination and "beat McCain like a drum."

A Canadian friend emailed me the other day and said they just elected their new Prime Minister after a 2 month campaign. That must be nice; two years is entirely too long. And, I shudder to think this starts all over in just a couple of years. I don't know what we are going to talk about now - probably just sit around and stare at each other.

Anyway, I am ready to think about something else besides politics. We have been building some neat stuff with concrete, I have a new acoustic/electric guitar I want to talk about, I am getting ready to build Peggy an electric steel guitar, and I am thinking seriously about building a curved top, hollow body electric. There may be a green house project in the works. Roads are under construction. Plus, we have to somehow work in our winter trip to the Rio Grande Valley. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Caterpillar Loader Operator

Check out our new loader operator. Best employee we have ever had - she works for ice cream! This is Alyssa, our six year old grand daughter, and it really was amazing how quickly she picked up on everything. She helped me cut in some roads here on our place and now she hops right in there and works those controls like a pro. It was cute last Sunday to watch her explaining to her four year old cousin how everything works. I was glad I had the key in my pocket because I had the impression she might have given a live demo.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Cutting Bush a little slack

Anyone who reads this blog might get the impression we don't like George Bush, and they would be right. However, that does not mean the buffoon has to be wrong 100% of the time. Here is an email that has been making the rounds since early last year and we wanted to share it here because it makes a point near and dear to our hearts.


HOUSE # 1:
A 20-room mansion (not including 8 bathrooms) heated by natural gas.
Add on a pool (and a pool house) and a separate guest house all heated
by gas. In ONE MONTH ALONE this mansion consumes more energy than the
average American household in an ENTIRE YEAR. The average bill for
electricity and natural gas runs over $2,400.00 per month. In natural
gas alone (which last time we checked was a fossil fuel), this property
consumes more than 20 times the national average for an American home.
This house is not in a northern or Midwestern "snow belt," either. It's
in the South.

HOUSE # 2:
Designed by an architecture professor at a leading national university,
this house incorporates every "green" feature current home construction
can provide. The house contains only 4,000 square feet (4 bedrooms) and
is nestled on arid high prairie in the American southwest. A central
closet in the house holds geothermal heat pumps drawing ground water
through pipes sunk 300 feet into the ground. The water (usually 67
degrees F.) heats the house in winter and cools it in summer. The
system uses no fossil fuels such as oil or natural gas, and it consumes
25% of the electricity required for a conventional heating/cooling
system. Rainwater from the roof is collected and funneled into a 25,000
gallon underground cistern. Wastewater from showers, sinks and toilets
goes into underground purifying tanks and then into the cistern. The
collected water then irrigates the land surrounding the house. Flowers
and shrubs native to the are! a blend the property into the surrounding
rural landscape.

HOUSE # 1 (20 room energy guzzling mansion) is outside of
Nashville,Tennessee. It is the abode of that renowned environmentalist
(and filmmaker) Al Gore.

HOUSE # 2 (model eco-friendly house) is on a ranch near Crawford,
Texas. Also known as "the Texas White House," it is the private
residence of the President of the United States, George W. Bush.

The reason I wanted to publish this has less to do with patting GW on the the back than with pointing out what a total, two faced hypocrite Al Gore is. Don't get me wrong, Gore is absolutely right on global warming and the solutions to the problem and is doing good work in getting the word out. He just wants those solutions to be everyone else's problem - not his! As environmentalists ourselves, we just have a huge problem with anyone using more than their fair share of the earth's finite resources simply because they can afford it. If we really want to make the world a better place, everyone needs to do their part, and no one needs a 10,000 sq. ft. home. When you get right down to it, it should not take any more than 500 sq. ft. per person to live comfortably and no one needs a personal vehicle that gets less than 35 miles per gallon. That's just my opinion and, I am sure, some might disagree on the numbers.

Of course Gore will tell you he put solar panels on the roof, buys green energy, and drives a Prius. As someone who lived on a 100% photovoltaic system for three years, I can tell you what a pitiful drop in the bucket that amounts to on a 10,000 sq. ft. home but, it makes Al feel better. As for green energy, electrons are electrons and, if they were not feeding his mansion, they would be going into the grid to reduce carbon emissions on a more worthy cause. Drives a Prius .... PLEASE! .... our Beetle TDI gets as good or better mileage.

Lest anyone think we are lecturing Gore without walking the walk ourselves, let me add this. We live in our approximately 400 sq. ft. motorhome and drive a VW Beetle. Between both vehicles, we average about 50 gallons per month in fuel, which is less than most use driving their car back and forth to work. When public transportation is available, we use it. We have some land which we use as our "home base" when in the Austin area and do have a heated and air conditioned work shop there. Other than about 10 gallons per year of propane for cooking, we get all the energy for our living space and work shop from electricity. On the worst triple digit Austin month, we never exceed 800 kwh in use and the year round average is half that. That translates to about a $45 dollar electric bill each month. All of our water, when in Austin, comes from roof collection to a cistern tank. If you think 400 square feet sounds confining, you should check it out for yourself because you will probably be surprised. We lived in a 3,000 sq. ft. home before we knew better but, now find this very comfortable. Plus, I have to say, we get a lot of personal satisfaction from not using more than our share of the earth's resources. We know we could do better and are always looking for ways to conserve.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Wasilla, Alaska City Hall

Here is where the "highly qualified" GOP Vice Presidential pick was a little over 18 months ago - running a laundry mat, apparently.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Sarah Palin for VP? LOL

Well, here we go again - we swore we were going to lay off the politics for awhile, even though it does happen to be topic numero uno around here. But, that pledge was before this latest comedy, courtesy of the GOP. Anyone who reads this column needs to understand exactly what this means and how to interpret the McCain campaign spin.

According to the spin doctors the selection of Ms. Palin, who prior to becoming Alaska's Governor in 2006 was a part time mayor of a city of 8,500, is a bold move designed to shake up the status quo and give the electorate a candidate eminently qualified to be a heartbeat away from the Presidency. Given McCain's age and health history, voters should consider that carefully.

If you believe the spin, McCain passed over Mitt Romney, who did very well in the primary, Tim Pawlenty, governor of Minnesota, a state they badly need to win, Tom Ridge, former governor of Pennsylvania, Sen. Joe Liebermann, and many other highly qualified candidates to pick Palin who's only two qualifications are she is a woman and she is pro-life. And when you consider all the other highly qualified women in the GOP, all you are left with is pro-life. And furthermore, women do not vote for someone simply because of gender and should be a little offended by the suggestion.

So, why did McCain really pass over all these exceptional VP candidates? In short, he didn't, they passed on him. Every last one said, "NO." Palin was all he could get in the face of a certain loss to Barack Obama. At first we actually felt a little sorry for Palin since she is in way over her head but, upon reflection, she probably sees it simply as a spring board to the national stage and, possibly, a ticket to the Senate.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

An Austin institution is back - "Kind of"

As many Austinites know, the Dallas Nightclub closed last Spring and left many of us who frequented the place over the last 26 years feeling like we lost one of our best friends. Honestly, Dallas was just the absolute best place in Austin to dance and meet your friends. It's absence over the Summer has been a huge let down to all it's fans. I don't want to over dramatize but, you get used to a great place like that when you go for a quarter century and you really miss seeing all the regulars. Also, Peggy and I have danced all over the country and I can say, without a doubt, we have never found another place with as many great dancers as you find at Dallas. I'm not counting yours truly in that group as we barely hold our own with those Dallas dancers!

Anyway, the good news is that Dallas opened up last night for one night and only for three hours, but it was a barrel fun and so great to see all the familiar faces. The impression I get is that they plan to do this periodically for an indefinite period. If you want to be notified, go to their web site and leave your email address.

I have heard so many differing stories as to why they are doing this odd schedule that I will not even try to explain. Who knows what the true story is? I just wish they could get back on their regular nightly schedule and start on their next 26 year run.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

A national vegetable garden

I came across this video, put together by Kitchen Gardeners International, and just thought it was a really neat idea. So, here I sit on a hot Austin afternoon giving you all the details.

We have all heard the benefits of buying all we can locally. Kitchen Gardeners International's purpose is to promote the cultivation of home vegetable gardens with a side benefit of reducing the distance food must travel from the field to your table, now an average of 1,500 miles. A nice side benefit is that you just might get some better tasting, healthier food at a reduced cost and, not only save the fuel cost of transporting the farm grown veggies, but reduce your own fuel consumption with fewer trips to the grocery store. I find it interesting that during the second World War the, so called, Victory Gardens, promoted by the government, were producing 40% of the nation's produce right out of the yards of it's citizens, thereby freeing up resources for the war effort.

It just goes to show what can be accomplished through education and leadership by example. At the time Eleanor Roosevelt had a Victory Garden planted on the lawn of the White House, I believe, the last to do so. This video makes the case for another vegetable garden on the White House lawn. No doubt, tomatoes out of that garden will cost a thousand bucks each ;-) but, that's not the point. It sets an example that could lead to something very helpful to many people.

No doubt, gardening is not for everyone but, think about it seriously. Peggy and I have been gardening, off and on, our whole lives and find it to be a lot of fun on top of all the other benefits. You will be amazed at the huge quantities of food you can grow in a very small space. Apartment dwellers can use pots on the patio. Our last garden we had at the RV Park where we stayed in downtown Austin was no more than 10' X 10' and we had fresh vegetables every day throughout the year. If you want to see what can be accomplished if taken to the extreme, take a look at Path to Freedom's Urban Homestead - 3 tons off one tenth acre!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Obama campaign buttons

Want a free Obama button? MoveOn is giving them away totally free--no strings attached. Even the shipping is free! We just got 45 of them, and wanted to share the opportunity with you.

Click this link to get a free Obama button:

Thursday, July 10, 2008

New family member

Yesterday, we got a new addition to the Morris family. Not the kid, we have had her for over 5 years, but the cat. Ever since our 13 year old cat died a few years ago, we have proclaimed that we would have no more pets because they are just so confining. However, here we are with a new one year old cat. I guess we just can't help ourselves - we like them and they are worth the trouble.

We have not named this cat yet and would appreciate any suggestions. Officially, this is Allyssa's cat when she visits the "farm," as she calls it. However, the only crop we grow on this land here on the north side of Lake Travis is rocks. Anyway, this is her farm cat. As for the name - Grandma, myself, and Allyssa have been thinking up names for the last day and half. Right now, Fredda, seems to be at the top of the list. By-the-way, it is a female cat, in case anyone out there has a suggestion. I kind of like Lucille but, Allyssa is not crazy about it.

Monday, July 07, 2008

A note to our readers

Although we try to provide posts on a variety of topics, some have noted that the blog is becoming quite politically oriented. The reason for that is that we are working for the Obama campaign and are doing our best to see him elected. However, even though we are working for Obama, we will never write something we do not believe in - it is possible that we could be wrong about something but, you can trust that we believe in what we publish.

Anyway, it will be over in November and we will be back to our regular weird ass stuff and, hopefully, give someone a laugh.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Which fourth do you belong to?

If you look at any large group of people, disregarding education, ethnicity, or gender there is a certain percentage of that group that will not think for themselves but will mindlessly follow the leader of the group. This is not referring to the ones that will pretend to follow because it is in their interest to do so but, the true believers. There are countless examples to illustrate this behavior but, all you have to do is watch a season of "Survivor" to see exactly what I mean.

What is that percentage of the population that will pretty much buy into anything their leader tells them is right no matter how wrong? I am not asking about the ones who can occasionally be fooled and eventually figure it out for themselves but, the ones who will follow the leader wherever he leads; the ones who will remain silent as he takes a country to war under false pretenses, who never say a word as thousands of their sons and daughters are killed and hundreds of thousands civilians die for nothing, who sit idly by and watch their own constitutional freedoms erode, who never blink an eye as they and their fellow citizens are wiretapped and spied upon without warrant, who defend their leader's right to use torture, who will stand by and sacrifice any personal freedom while their leader builds a police state, who truly believes the rhetoric of fear and intimidation, who support their leader's callus disregard for the the sick, uninsured, and elderly who can not afford health care, who cheer him on as the wealth of the nation is squandered on his needless campaign, who say nothing as the borrowing to finance his war leads the dollar to new lows and feeds inflation that robs them of their personal financial well being.

Still that question, "What is the percentage that will go along with anything?" I would suggest that the Bush approval rating (23% to 28%) gives you a pretty good idea. If you look at all Presidents throughout history you find an all time low of 22% for Nixon so, it is safe to say we have just about reached the bottom - let's just call it one fourth. In other words, one fourth of the population is so thick headed they can not be reached and the rest of us should just let it go. It is a hard thing to do but, it is better than beating your head against a brick wall. And, although you can not reach that particular one fourth, we all have an obligation to speak out and tell it like it is!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Sure has been HOT in Austin!

Well, I think it is time for us to update our resumes. We are now Heating and Air conditioning Technicians and masons. After 25 years in the building business (off and on) it seems odd that we have never had occasion to do one of these relatively straight forward tasks. We have just always subbed them out.

Anyway, we needed to install a heat pump in our workshop this week and decided to do it ourselves. Of course, you can learn to do any task on the Internet, so it was no big deal. I had watched enough of our subcontractors lay brick to know how to do that. Only had six blocks to set to build a platform to raise the outdoor unit about 24 inches off the ground. It was easy to do but, a bit of a challenge to get everything perfectly level. Just requires a critical eye on the level. The only reason I set it so high off the ground was to keep it in the shade of the eaves during the summer. We designed the overhang to place the shade right at the base of the wall when the sun is at it's most northerly position. Since we had to set the heat pump out about 10 inches from the wall, it had to be raised to stay in the shade. I don't know if that makes any difference in efficiency but, it seemed like a good idea.

Installing the heat pump was a little more involved than laying the blocks but, still a pretty straight forward job. Probably took us 7-8 hours of work but, if we had another one to do, could do it in four. Had to run wiring to supply power to the outdoor unit and had to install a disconnect and put the unit on it's own circuit. Then comes the wiring and tubing between the outdoor unit and the indoor unit. Here is the outdoor unit installed:

This system we installed is called a ductless, mini-split, heat pump. I have never seen one before because we have always installed systems in houses with many rooms, and these are not made for that application. The indoor unit just mounts to the wall and supplies heated or cooled air from that one point, although, you can buy these systems with up to four indoor units. Since our shop is basically one large room, this system works perfectly.

These are easy to install and come from the factory pre-charged with enough freon for up to 25 feet of tubing (we only used 8 feet since the outdoor unit is directly outside the wall from the indoor unit). You do have to have a vacuum pump and gauges to hook up to the service port to evacuate the tubing and indoor unit prior to opening the freon valve. That, and a flare tool are the only special tools you need. By-the-way, I set a new personal lifetime record on this install. Made six flare connections in a row without forgetting to put the nut on before flaring. Didn't have to cut off a single flare. Here is what the indoor unit looks like:

This 12,000 Btu system is very quite and cools this shop nicely. I don't really try and cool my tool room or the upstairs area of the shop but, the main work area and office is about 1500 square feet, and this is doing just fine on that. Today it is 103 degrees outside so, it is a pretty good test.

If you have the right type of space to heat and cool (not chopped up into a lot of rooms) this is the way to go. Plus, it was fun doing the install.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Republicans have lost their bearings

Just take a look at this pathetic crew and ask yourself if this is really the best the Republicans can come up with? We have never called ourselves Republicans but, will admit, we did identify with them a little more closely during the Clinton years. Although, let's be perfectly clear on this, we have never voted for one for President since Ronald Regan. In other words, we have never cast a ballot for a Bush! And, if you think that means we voted for Clinton, think again. We were forced to vote independent those years.

We are working hard to see Barack Obama becomes the next President and believe he will beat Bush's love monkey by a landslide. One of our weird South Austin friends sent an email today that we thought was hilarious but, right on target. Don't worry, he takes "weird" as a compliment just like we do. Anyway, here is a reprint of "A GUIDE TO REPUBLICAN PRINCIPALS" by anonymous:

Jesus loves you, and shares your hatred of homosexuals and Hillary Clinton.

Saddam was a good guy when Reagan armed him, a bad guy when Bush's daddy made war on him, a good guy when Cheney then did business with him, and a bad guy when Bush needed a "we can't find bin Laden"diversion.

Trade with Cuba is wrong because the country is Communist, but trade with China and Vietnam is vital to a spirit of international harmony.

The United States should get out of the United Nations, and our highest national priority is enforcing UN resolutions against Iraq.

The best way to improve military morale is to praise the troops in speeches, while slashing veterans' benefits and combat pay.

If condoms are kept out of schools, adolescents won't have sex.

A good way to fight terrorism is to belittle our long-time allies, then demand their cooperation and money.

Providing health care to all Iraqis is sound policy, but providing health care to all Americans is socialism. HMOs and insurance companies have the best interests of the public at heart.

Global warming and tobacco's links to cancer are junk science, but creationism should be taught in schools.

A president lying about an extramarital affair is an impeachable offense, but a president lying to enlist support for a war in which thousands die is solid defense policy.

Government should limit itself to the powers named in the Constitution, which include banning gay marriages and censoring the Internet.

Being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless you're a conservative radio host. Then it's an illness and you need our prayers for your recovery.


If you got the email too, you can see we edited down the list simply in an effort to be fair to the Republicans. We just left the ones in that were not even debatable.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

It is time - End aging now

One of our very favorite organizations and one of the most interesting web sites you will find on the internet is that of the Methusela Foundation. Here, you can find all the information you can absorb, and then some, regarding the emerging science of life extention. Check it out and, if you feel so moved, give them your support. You can make a tax deductible contribution or support the research in many other ways, as you will find out on the web site.

There is a very interesting article in COSMOS magazine on this very subject and it begins as follows: "Developments in a number of scientific disciplines suggest that we may soon be able to increase life expectancies from the 70- to 80-year range already seen in the richest countries to well over 100 and, perhaps, to over 1,000. We shall, in one sense, have made ourselves immortal.

We shall not be immortal in the sense that we cannot die; plainly we could still be killed in a car accident or by a cosmic event such as an asteroid striking the Earth. But we could not be killed by disease or age, our bodies would be immune to infection, dysfunction or the ravages of time. We would be medically immortal.

Some say this will happen quickly within, perhaps, 30 years with the first clear signs that we are on the right track appearing within the next decade. Others think we are at least a century or two away from attaining medical immortality. Some consider it completely unattainable. But the majority of scientists and thinkers in this area now consider life extension and even medical immortality possible and likely." To continue reading in COSMOS click here

Monday, June 02, 2008

Obama Makes it Official

Back on Feb. 13th, after Super Tuesday, we posted that the Democratic nomination was essentially settled. The prediction turned out to be correct but, who would have thought it would have taken to early June to be confirmed? Will this be the last we hear from the Hillary and Bill show? We can only hope.

Some say sexism was involved in Hillary's defeat - I wonder? It probably had more to do with CFS (Clinton Fatigue Syndrome) - misrepresentation, distortion, outright lying, and a continuation of the same old tactics that the country has grown sick of? How would Obama have fared if he had tried to change the rules on Michigan and Florida simply for the benefit of his campaign? What if Obama had decided to shed a few tears to garner sympathy? What if Obama had tried to show he was tested under fire by lying about sniper fire in Bosnia? How far would he have gotten with the "Oh, I was sleep deprived" argument? No doubt, being a woman is hard but, being black is harder.

Now comes the crucial VP decision and, hopefully, we will not have the so called "dream ticket" which in reality is the "nightmare ticket." It should be still fresh on Obama's mind that the Clintons compared his candidacy to Jesse Jackson; called it a fairy tale, could not quite remember clearly that he WAS NOT a Muslim, has repeatedly distorted the election numbers, and tried desperately to bring in Michigan and Florida after it became apparent that it suited their purposes. I doubt that he wants a Presidency tainted by the stench of the Clintons and all their flagrant self dealing. Nor does he want to go through a campaign answering questions about the Clinton scandals - travel gate, Rose Law Firm documents, Tyson Chicken, cattle futures, Whitewater, White House pardons, "donors" to Clinton Library, and a hundred other things I can't think of off the top of my head.

Who should he pick for VP? I really don't know - there are hundreds better than Clinton. I personally like Biden, Edwards, Richardson. At this point, I would say anyone but Clinton.

Peggy and I are volunteers for the Obama campaign. Not sure what we are going to be doing at this point - maybe just blogging but, we have offered to travel to work in battle ground states, if needed. I guess we will see - stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Watch where you stick your finger!

I am typing today with only 7 fingers (I don't count the thumbs since they only have one small task). So, forgive my typos. Wanted to show everyone this cool thing I made to help my finger get well. Also works well if someone needs a good lecture with a finger waved in their face. Here is a photo:

Pretty neat looking medical device, huh? Maybe I will sell them. I snipped the metal part out of a sheet of aluminum, which I bent around my finger. The foam padding is made from a foam paint brush. The purpose is to keep my finger from bending while it heals and, it works great!

Of course you ask ... why? Because Peggy told me I had to have stitches, or it would not get well. I showed her - taped it closed, made my medical device, and it is coming along nicely. I think it will be OK in a week or so.

As for the, how - a simple matter of an angle grinder that zipped through my glove like it wasn't there - skin on my knuckle offered little resistance - not sure the bone was faring any better but, I was awake by that time and decided to end the ordeal.

It was such a smooth cut it did not really hurt, at first. I continued grinding until I noticed my glove was getting wet. Boy, did I dread taking that glove off! So, a minute later, just before the knees buckle, I am lying on the floor with my feet elevated and Peggy going on about how I had to get to the VA and get this sewn up. So there I am in a semi-conscious fog, with the word "stitches" echoing in my head, and I come up with the tape-aluminum-foam paint brush medical device thingy. They say, "Necessity is the mother of invention."

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Eliminate most Adobe Flash problems

I know many people have been experiencing problems with Flash crashing and taking down Internet Explorer with it. You are sitting there with 12 tabs open and up pops the message, "IE has experienced a problem and needs to close" and you just want to sling you computer across the room. If you look a little further, you will find that the original culprit was Flash.

Today, I came across this nifty little free program called Toggle Flash that allows you to easily turn Flash on and off with a simple tool bar button. Now, you can just leave it turned off until you absolutely need it to view some Flash content on a particular page. A side benefit is that you will not see the ads created in Flash.

This little program really works great! It doesn't use up any system resources and just sits there silently on your tool bar until you need it. All it does is enable and disable Flash. If you like it, I am sure a Paypal donation to the creator would be appreciated.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The only good cedar tree .....

Last Tuesday was a nice rainy day around here and that made it a perfect day to teach a lesson to some lousy, allergy causing, cedar trees. You can see in the photo that these particular ones will not be causing any sneezing or itchy eyes this winter. This is one of the two brush piles we burned on Tuesday and I already have another, bigger pile, ready to light on the next rainy day.

The tractor is our new Caterpillar loader. If you have never driven one, you can not imagine how much fun it is. We had a Bobcat before this one and, don't get me wrong, it was a good piece of equipment but, the Cat will just work circles around it. It has a normally aspirated Caterpillar diesel that I seldom have to run much above an idle. Today I took out a cedar tree that was close to three feet in diameter and it came up with a root ball at least 10 feet in diameter filled with rock and dirt. The Cat just ripped it right out of the ground with hardly a strain. You control forward, back, turns, lift arms, and bucket tilt with small wrist movements through a little, short joy stick in each hand.

Monday, May 05, 2008

My South Austin Truck

Everyone with more than 10 acres needs a truck. So, when we got back from the Rio Grande Valley this year I announced to Peggy that I was looking for a truck and she said, "Sounds good to me."

Now, after 26 years together, I know what is going on in her head before she even knows and here is what was rolling around in there immediately after the words, "Sounds good to me .... Hmmm, I wonder what color we should get? Leather seats would be nice, we should consider that. Definitely want a large back seat. Really pretty wheels are nice too."

So here is the truck I found on Craig's List:

I showed her the ad and she laughed and said, "You're kidding, right?" Nooooo. "Do you want me to ride in it with you?" I hoped you would. "This is an April Fools joke, isn't it?" Nooooo.

Anyway, after some convincing, we went and looked at it and she liked it as much as I do. I bought it for $800 and it had brand new tires and $100 worth of gas in it. I runs great and the a/c is cold. Best of all, it has some character and is not one like everyone else drives.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Rio Grande Valley in the rear view mirror

Just to bring everyone up to date. Peggy and I left the Rio Grande Valley about two weeks ago, where we have been staying for the last couple of months. We are now slowly working our way East toward Mississippi for our Grand Daughter's 5th birthday on the 8th of March. Should be back in Austin by the middle of March. By the time we get back we will have been gone for 3 1/2 months and I am starting to get a little home sick.

Here we are stopped at a rest area somewhere along IH 10 in Louisianna:

At the moment we are at the Coushatta Casino RV Resort in Kinder, LA. This is really a great place to stop. At first, we were only going to stay for a day but, ended up extending for five. Been going dancing every night to some great cajun blues music here in the casino. This is a big place too. I have been going for a run every day and one lap around the casino is 3 1/2 miles.

I suppose we will be leaving here on Monday and heading on to Gulfport, MS for a week or so. Hoping to hear and, hopefully, play some good blues music while in Mississippi. This form of music has always been a big deal in Mississippi but, lately it is starting to be heavily promoted as a tourist attaction. The Mississippi Blues Commission has, what they call, a blues trail which features many sites all over the state which are noted for their blues heritage.

As usual, we had a great time in the Rio Grande Valley. I believe this was our sixth winter spent there. Met a lot of people this year that like to jam so, we got to play a lot of music and had a ball. Looking forward to next year.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Democratic Nomination - Essentially settled

Well, last night we watched another sweep by Barack Obama and it appears he will take this streak all the way to the convention. It appears that the gears have stripped on the Clinton election machine.

We believe Obama will be the nominee and are supporting the campaign financially and through our physical efforts. I would urge you to go to the web site and sign up for email updates and, if you feel so moved, make a contribution - you can help change this country for the better.

In a way I feel sorry for Hillary, even though I consider the Clintons to be the sleaziest couple of liars I have ever seen. I should not feel any sympathy for her but, I see this as the culmination of her life long ambition to be the first female President and to change history. She lost her chance by making the wrong political choice to support the illicit war in Iraq, reliance on polling rather than saying what she really thinks, and attempting to inject race into this campaign. I feel bad for her but, good riddance to the Clintons! And, by-the-way, Obama is going to beat McCain like a drum!

Aubrey de Grey on Comedy Central

I just came across this video and, although I would rather be watching politics on MSNBC, I just had to stop and post this. In case you do not know, Aubrey de Grey is our favorite spokesman for the anti-aging movement and is a Ph.D. Biogerontologist from the University of Cambridge.

You have to see this! Actually, it is a serious subject and Doctor de Grey is a serious scientist but, this is just hilarious. I know you will enjoy it.

Monday, February 04, 2008

My personal journey to hell

Until a week or so ago I had not been to a dentist in 20 years. Without question, I doubt that anyone actually enjoys going to the dentist but, here is how much I hate it. About 16 years ago I had two back teeth with large fillings that had the sides break off, leaving very sharp edges. Sure, I could have gone straight to the dentist to get this fixed, as almost anyone would. However, my solution to the problem was to get a file out of my tool box and file off the sharp edges, thereby, avoiding a trip to the dentist.

We have friend, who's son-in-law is a dentist, who has been assuring me for years that dentistry has changed immeasureably and bears no resemblence to the barbarity of 20 years ago and that I should just suck it up and go. Well, I have done that and can tell you, in no uncertain terms, it is exactly as I remembered it from two decades ago. I say this mearly as a fact, and not to take anything away from the extremely skillful dentist who is doing my work. In fact, I consider the man to be a real artist who is doing beautiful work. However, those needles still hurt like hell and the process is terribly uncomfortable.

OK, here's the deal - I am getting four crowns - the two back teeth that I filed on 16 years ago, plus my two upper front teeth which were broken 42 years ago in high school football. Actually, I was not very worried about those back teeth but, the front ones had me concerned. I have been through a lot with those two teeth - temporary crowns that kept coming off, eventually a permanent crown, broken bones in the gum, root canal, metal post implants. I think it actually makes it worse that I have gone through all this and have never even liked that stupid, lame ass, game of football which caused the problem. Can't even remember the last time I watched a Super Bowl game. I'm not even going to get into the broken fingers that now make it hard to play the guitar that I really do love. So there you have it; let's go to the dentist.

Back ones were first and not that bad. Sure, there were the usual 6" long needles jammed into the gum and jaw (Some Beach) but, I got through it. Before he started on the front teeth I asked how he would get the old crowns off. The answer made me suspicious, "We cut them right off in two minutes - no big deal - we do it every day." Here is how it actually went, and I am recalling this from about 3 hours ago: needles into the upper front gum followed by the roof of my mouth. By the time that was over with, I am sweating profusely. Then the grinding started so agressively that it was difficult to hold my head still, followed by a metal pick that still wouldn't free the crown. So, out comes the jack hammer which pounded so hard it shook me down to my spine. Finally, they came loose and my lot improved immeasureably at that point.

Honestly, I can't say it was all bad. I did have the hottest and sweetest dental assistant you could ever imagine. She did the deadening before the crowns came off and, while doing the injection, held my head against her left boob, which was pretty nice! Each time after she stuck me she would pat me on the chest with her right hand and say, "You poor thing, I am soooooo sorry." I have to admit, it REALLLLYYY helped! Then, while the jack hammer was running, she stood there and gently patted my shoulder. I will take her comforting any day over nitrous oxide.

All that is left is to go back and get the crowns glued in place. The worst is over and I am going to live through it but, don't let anyone kid you into thinking that dentistry is anything but an extremely brutal ordeal. But, aren't we all lucky to have these skillful, professional dentists that are working today? And, for goodness sakes, let's not forget those assistants!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Obama for President

I don't know about you but, around here it is all politics - all the time. We simply can not get enough of it. After nearly 16 years of Clinton/Bush we are finally able to get excited about an election that holds the promise of so much positive change. As all our Facebook friends already know we are supporting Barack Obama for President.

We think there is little doubt that the next President will come from the Democratic Party and will be either Obama or Clinton. Obviously most Republicans feel the same way as evidenced by the sorry lot they have fielded to counter the Democrats. The only real question now is, "Will it be Obama or Clinton?"

As for Clinton, I really don't think she would be a bad President, however, I am just sick of hearing about the Clintons and have no interest in rehashing White Water, Rose Law Firm documents, Tyson Chicken, cattle futures, etc., etc. It is time for that chapter in history to be closed and for us to move on to something positive. That positive being the candidacy of Senator Barack Obama.

I know many of our friends are going to email us and say they were surprised to learn we are Democrats. We are NOT Democrats, we are Independents and always have been. We support Obama because he tops all the other candidates by a mile. In all honesty, we think Washington works best when the Legislative and Executive branches are split between the parties. That is not an option this year because the pendulum has swung so far right, and the Republicans screwed it up so badly, it now has to make it's inevitable swing too far left. This needs to happen to bring things back into balance.

Barack Obama will be a voice of reason and of change, both of which are desperately needed. We will probably see a couple of Supreme Court appointments during the next eight years, which is also needed to restore balance. Science will again occupy it's proper place without influence for political or religious purposes. We will probably also have an Executive Branch that abides by the Constitution and forgoes the many ways Bush has contrived to subvert it. I guess I could go on and on but, if you are interested, I suggest you check it out for yourself.