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Welcome to Hermitville. Population One.

Jul. 15th, 2012

07:28 pm - Hot and Dry

It has been an incredibly hot and dry summer so far. Everyone knew it would be hot and dry, because spring was so warm. I think it rained once in June/July, and I believe May was pretty dry, too. Some of the trees are starting to show signs of stress. My oaks are doing great, but the leaves on the maple I planted a few years ago are wilting. My maple hybrids are doing fine, though. In the neighborhood, there is one big tree that is starting to lose its leaves. It has dropped so many brown leaves that you'd think it was autumn. During a drive home a few days ago, I noticed that some maples planted along the street 2-3 years ago look completely dead. No leaves at all.

I'm looking forward to some rain, but it doesn't seem likely to happen anytime soon. From what I understand, the corn crop is pretty much ruined and the soybean crop is at risk unless we get some rain soon. That's something the ethanol folk never considered: no corn = no fuel.

Jul. 13th, 2012

03:40 pm - Back on the Trail

I stopped cycling when I got Sadie. We went for walks, instead. We were hardcore about our walks for a long time. Hot weather didn't stop us, a little rain didn't stop us (but a lot of rain did).

Then, Sadie got lazy. And she learned that if she moved with reluctance, we would turn around. So now she's in control, to a large degree, and if it's a little warm or if she's just tired of walking, she'll make it known that it's time to go home.

It's been very hot recently, so I decided to buy a bike and hit the trail without Sadie. I've been out three times so far, and it's been fun. I don't go far; a 1-2 hour ride. The trail is flat, so it's not really the best exercise, but it's nice to get out. I saw a bunch of deer on the trail during one ride, including a spotted fawn which crossed just ahead and me, and a buck.

Bikes are expensive! The one I purchased was $350 + tax. At the first store I looked at, their cheapest bike was $550.

Couple of PhotosCollapse )

Jan. 22nd, 2010

07:12 pm - Book Recommendation

I have a book recommendation: The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue.

A brief overview of the book (don't worry, I won't give too much away):

The story is told from two points of view, in alternating chapters. The first narrator is a hobgoblin (a changeling) who steals away a little boy, and then assumes the boy's life and likeness. The second narrator is the human boy, and details his transformation into a hobgoblin and his integration into a hobgoblin tribe. The hobgoblins, as it turns out, are all stolen children. They are immortal, but they remain locked in childish bodies even while their minds mature. The hobgoblins yearn to return to the loving embrace of a human family, even though that means they will become mortal, but the only way that can happen is to steal another child, and take his place.

The Stolen Child kept me up late at night on more than one occasion. I just couldn't put it down.

Oct. 10th, 2009

08:21 am - 401k

I was thinking about moving around some of the money I have in my 401k account. Right now I'm 100% in equities. I believe the market may be set for a correction, so I'd like to move some of the money into a safe spot so I can re-invested it after the price decrease. Of course, it's a bit of a risk, because the market could continue to climb upward.

Continuing with the worst case scenario where the market continues to climb, the one thing I don't want to do is sell stocks for less than I purchased them. I decided to compare the current S&P 500 level to historical levels, to see how likely that would be. To my great surprise, I discovered that the current value of the S&P 500 is about the same as the Dec. 31 value from 2003. Wow! That is just stunning. It means that every dime I put in between in 2004-2007 is worth less now than when I invested the money.

Another thought... there are dozens and dozens of mutual funds I am eligible to invest in. I keep most of my money in the Fidelity S&P 500 Spartan index fund. The 500 index fund is considered a safe fund because it invests in 500 companies. If any one company fails, your investment will hardly be scratched. There are other mutual funds that invest in specific categories, and these funds generally have large stakes in a small number of companies. For example, there is a fund which focuses on the automotive sector. When I was looking around at the specialty funds, I noticed that a lot of them have produced tremendous returns this year. For example, the automotive fund was up 100% YTD when I checked a couple of weeks ago. I think natural gas was up 50%, even though natural gas prices are depressed right now. I have to wonder if the success the market has had lately is fueled by bubbles in many different sectors. What will happen if the bubbles collapse?

I've waffling about where to put the money I invested prior to 2003.

Oct. 6th, 2009

06:46 pm - Stupid Computer

My computer is giving me problems. Thanks to the internet I came up with a quick solution, but it involved resetting the CMOS jumpers on my motherboard. Apparently nTunes [software for Nvidia video drivers] can mess computers up.

I thought at first my hard drive had failed. I'm glad the HD is fine. I can't afford expensive computer equipment right now.

Jul. 20th, 2009

09:17 pm - Camera Shopping

I have spent the last 2-3 days looking for a digital camera to replace the camera that is currently in my wastebasket. Maybe I didn't spend the ENTIRE time looking for a new camera, but it feels that way.

There are too many choices. There's too many options. It's a bit overwhelming for someone who just wants a point & shoot camera. One of the real frustrations I had is that I would find a camera that received excellent reviews, only to find it had been discontinued because it was last year's model.

After a lot of research I decided I REALLY wanted the Canon G10. I want it so bad. Unfortunately it costs about $500. Also, it's a little too large to carry around in a pocket. There are a lot of good cameras in the $250 range, but I couldn't find one that both suited my needs, and also got an excellent review. Finally I settled on this camera:


It was $149 at buy.com. I hope I've picked a winner, but at this point I don't care. I'm exhausted from my (mostly online) shopping.

Jun. 27th, 2009

06:40 am - Goodbye, Yoshino

My house is surrounded by trees to the north, south, and east. Unfortunately there are no trees to the west, and as a result, summer sunlight hits the house directly and really heats things up! Earlier in the year I decided to remedy this problem by planting a tree on the west side. I had to be a little careful about the type of tree I planted, however. As it happens, there is little room on the west side to plant a tree. The driveway happens to be covering the best place to plant a tree. The second best place is in a little area by the driveway, but it's a spot that is close to my house and awful close to my property line.

I decided to look for a wide tree that wouldn't grow too tall so that I would be able to trim it myself, if necessary. The Yoshino Cherry Tree looked perfect. According to the nursery, the tree grows up to 20 feet high and 25 feet wide. My only reservation about buying the tree was that it isn't native to Missouri (it's from Japan). I ended up getting it anyway.

The tree did great for the first couple of months. It grew surprisingly fast. Then one day, I noticed a few of the leaves were dying. The green part of the leaf had been totally destroyed, leaving only the dessicated veins behind. The tree seemed healthy, otherwise. Then one day I came home to realize 25% of the leaves were destroyed or damaged. I noticed there were a couple dozen beetles on the tree, chomping away and mating. Last night when I came home, 50% of the leaves had been destroyed or damaged.

It turns out my reluctance to buy a non-native tree was warranted. My Yoshino is being ravaged by the Japanese Beetle. The beetle is a real problem for the Yoshino here in the United States because it doesn't have a natural predator. I guess the birds here don't find the beetle to be particularly tasty.

I don' t think the Yoshino will last the year. So this will be a lesson for me: don't ever buy a non-native tree.

May. 24th, 2009

05:10 pm - Ticks!

I took a walk with Sadie this morning in a conservation area I've visited a few times before. The trail was narrow but well maintained. The walk lasted an hour and a half, max. During the walk, I picked about two dozen ticks out of Sadie's hair. I picked off another half dozen in the car on the way home. Once home, I picked a dozen out with tweezers. I brushed four out of her hair (one was already dead). When I hosed her off, one tick (already dead) somehow got stuck to my leg. I figure there are probably another dozen still on her that I haven't seen.

24 + 6 + 12 + 4 + 1 = 47 ticks, and again that's not counting whatever is still on her that I haven't found.

Number of ticks I found on my own body: 1

It's dispiriting. I would really like to do a grand tour of all the parks hereabouts, but it's just not worth having to deal with the ticks. It's bad enough that ticks get all over my dog, but when I bring Sadie home, the ticks drop off and get into the carpet. Last week I caught two ticks crawling up my leg from the carpet. I've also discovered four ticks in bed (all dead but one).

May. 16th, 2009

11:04 pm - Bzzzzzzztt!

Earlier tonight I climbed into bed and invited Sadie to join me. She hopped up but instead of curling up, promptly started to root around the bed like she was searching for something. At first I thought she was a little nuts, but then I decided to turn on the light to make sure there wasn't a big spider in bed with me. I searched the sheets - nothing. I was about to go back to bed when OUCH!!! I felt a great stinging pain in my calf. I stripped off my pajama bottoms (try not to visualize this) and gave them a vigorous shake to dislodge what I assumed to be a nasty spider. Quite to my surprise a hornet burst from the pajamas with an angry buzz!

I think the hornet was in my pajamas the whole time - Sadie heard the buzzing when I couldn't.

So I learned a valuable lesson today: when you hang your pajamas out to dry on the clothesline, shake them out before bringing them back inside!

May. 15th, 2009

05:46 pm - Microsleep

Microsleep - this is from Wikipedia:

"A microsleep is an episode of sleep which may last for a fraction of a second or up to thirty seconds.... People who experience microsleeps usually remain unaware of them, instead believing themselves to have been awake the whole time, or feeling a sensation of 'spacing out'. One example is called "gap driving": from the perspective of the driver, he or she was driving a car, and then suddenly realizes that several seconds have passed by unnoticed. It is not obvious to the driver that he was asleep during those missing seconds, although this is in fact what happened."

I've experienced instances of microsleep since at least my teenage years, although it wasn't until today that I knew I was doing more than just spacing out. The first clear memory I have of experiencing microsleep is from high school. I found myself walking through the school parking lot, with no memory of either driving to the school, or even of getting out of the car. It was a little disconcerting! Since then I've "spaced out" many many times while driving. I wonder how many of those times when I thought I was simply spacing out, I was actually asleep?

The latest instance of microsleep while driving occurred just a couple of weeks ago, as I was coming home from lunch. I had the radio on, but it was turned down low because some annoying commercials had been on earlier. The DJ was gabbing about something, and he said, "wake up!". His statement abruptly ended my microsleep, and for about a second I was really confused. I didn't recognize the road I was driving at all. I thought maybe I had fallen asleep at the wheel, and had driving past my turn-off. Then I saw a stop sign ahead, and realized where I was. I found myself wondering, if the DJ hasn't ended my microsleep, would I have blown through the stop sign?

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