First Lawn-Mowing of 2014

Lawn; mowed


Some notes on the chore:

  • The Allis-Chalmers 917 ran like a top. A very noisy top that needed some 10W-40 first, but, other than that, just like a top. The deck’s drive belt is probably ready for a replacement.
  • I took a big chunk of the cheap-ass dog fencing down before I started; I can now mow pretty much the entire lawn in one shot.
  • There is quite the lawn scar where the fence used to be (but it rained the next day, which’ll help there). Also: there was a lot of litter hidden in the over-grown base of the fence.
  • Once mowed, the litter went everywhere. I had to run the sweeper to clean it up.
  • The mulberry and the two apples needed quite a bit of pruning. The willow, though, seems to have learned its lesson.
  • My phone fell out of my pocket near the willow (not that I noticed right away). Apple’s ‘find my phone’ feature got me headed in more-or-less the right direction, and Joanna helped by calling me (14 times in the end). The crazy part: I could hear it ringing when Joanna would call, but, being deaf in one ear, I couldn’t locate it. I had to play the ‘now it’s louder, now it’s quieter’ game for a while.

And, just like that, cricket is gone (from my DISH service)

There have been some changes lately in the ways the DISH satellite television service provides cricket to it’s subscribers.

It began when the IPL (“Indian Premier League”, a shoddy T20 tournament held in, usually, India) kicked off this year. Up until then, the DISH ‘cricket package’ included three channels: Willow, TEN and NEO for $19.95 a month. Once the IPL got going, NEO effectively disappeared by becoming a re-broadcaster of Willow (which had the IPL). So we were down to a cricket ‘package’ of two whole channels.

That was annoying, but, for one thing, DISH claimed that NEO would be back once IPL was over, and for another, NEO is a pretty terrible channel (even judging by the low standards of cricket channels; NEO actually sucks major donkey doodle).

The next change was that Willow became available in HD. I honestly cannot tell you when that happened exactly, because DISH is always, always terrible about letting you know when channels become available in HD. It may sound crazy, but DISH provides their HD offerings as a second version of the same channel — with the same number. And you have to go check for the new HD channels yourself, they don’t just replace the SD one when they become available.

I did manage to watch quite a bit of the recent England v New Zealand test series in HD, so that was nice. Better than nice, really; cricket seems almost made for HD.

I had actually been watching a lot of the TEN cricket channel during the IPL , what as they weren’t showing IPL (which I refuse to watch, thanks). But DISH has dropped the TEN cricket channel forever (as of today, I think). Just dropped it.

I called DISH (and ended up talking to someone in India, as it happened) to see about ditching the ‘cricket package’ ($19.95/month) and just adding Willow (HD) as a stand-alone. Why pay for three channels, but only get two (and one of them was only SD, on hiatus, maybe going away forever, and terrible)?

It turns out that Willow is not available as a stand-alone channel. Well, OK then. I told the nice, helpful phone rep to take the cricket ‘package’ off of my service. He obviously felt bad (even though he admitted that he was not a big cricket-watcher) and gave me HBO for half price for six months.

I hope DISH changes their setup and restores the original package, or at least offers Willow on its own, but until then I won’t be watching cricket on TV. That makes me sad.

I also hope that the person at DISH who decided that not enough people were watching TEN Cricket for DISH to bother carrying it anymore, but that DISH customers should, instead, pay the same amount for 1/3rd the number of channels, dies from a painful case of penis cancer. I hope he dies alone and forgotten with nothing to watch except Glenn Beck’s Blaze channel (in SD).


We are, now-a-days, constantly bombarded with new gizmos to buy (or consider buying). I consider most of them to be pointless and/or terrible, but there have been some good ones over my lifetime.

I will try and list them here. Not in any order other than the order I thought of them, though.
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Lost in the cacophony — there is no ‘deficit’ problem

If you are like most people and have been listening to the news now and then you will have heard it stated that the US has a deficit problem. This ‘fact’ is often presented as if it were as obvious as gravity.

Even if you listen to a lot of news, you would still be led to believe that the big thing we ‘all agree on’ is that we have to fix the deficit problem right now.

This isn’t true.

If you were able to ‘magically’ put the economy back on track tomorrow — and didn’t change another single thing — the deficit ‘problem’ would disappear. The current deficit is due, almost entirely, to the reduced revenues that are the unavoidable result of the current recession.

If you think that the current state of our economy is going to continue forever, you are either hopelessly pessimistic or repulsively sadistic.

So, how is our economy going to get out of the recession? With jobs. It is going to take a lot of them, but we’ve done it before.

If you hear anyone proposing a solution to the ‘deficit problem’ and you can’t tell how their proposal will increase employment, please ask them to explain it better. Perhaps more importantly, if you hear someone propose a solution to the ‘deficit problem’ that involves people losing jobs, immediately yell ‘bullshit’ as loud as you can.

The last time our economy had a jobs problem as big as this, we ended up with an interstate highway system and some great snapshots from the moon. And we managed that while ‘containing’ a superpower.

Further, all the government needs to do to create more jobs right now is to borrow some money and hire a bunch of people. It doesn’t really matter what you hire them to do, but having them do something useful for the rest of us would be nice. Like, you know, teach our kids or fix the bridges and highways that we built so long ago (with borrowed money — funny how that didn’t destroy our economy or our way of life).

There are people who freak out when anyone suggests that the US needs to borrow and spend right now, but they shouldn’t. First off, all the people with money to lend are willing to lend it to the government for nearly no interest. “But we’re putting our children in debt!” is the next complaint. Well, exactly who is it that our kids will owe all this money to? Our kids, mostly. Foreigners do invest in US bonds, but more than half of the debt is in US hands. And beyond that, we can either leave our kids with some debt (that they mostly owe to themselves) and a country worth inheriting, or we can ‘spare’ them the debt but leave a raggedy-assed country for them to scrounge in.

Here’s another analogy that is playing out in real time — maybe with somebody you know personally: When an individual citizen can’t find work in the US, they often go back to school to improve their chances in the future. How can they go to school if they don’t have a job? They borrow.

Aaron’s (delicious, according to him and some others) Burnt Beans

Presentation isn't so bad, actually.I used to work at a pretty fancy restaurant in Philadelphia back in the early eighties. We often served green beans as the ‘DV’ (Dinner Veg), and the usual way to cook them was to blanch them then sauté them quickly in some clarified butter. They were attractive and reasonably tasty.

When we would have a lot of orders to plate coming up, we would cook a lot of beans. Often too many beans, really, and the extra would sit in the pan for a while. Sometimes they’d sit (on a low heat) for quite a while and end up ‘burnt’ (or at least burnt looking). Those beans, we got to eat (and we loved them).

I have continued, for years now, to prepare — and enjoy — green beans this way. They do look kinda crummy and sad, but they taste great. Here’s how you can cook them yourself.
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First Warren/Brown debate was tonight

If you think that Brown revealed that he’s an asshole, a tool, or (ding! ding! ding!) both tonight, you can make your opinion known in a pretty simple way:

You can go to Elizabeth Warren’s campaign contribution webpage and make a donation.

$5. $20. Whatever. As of right now (9:56 pm EDT) that link is actually broken due to too much traffic, but your donation (when it goes through) will help Warren get elected AND will let the people who only pay attention to money know that your money is behind Elizabeth Warren.

(I’ve been throwing in $35 about every month since she announced.)

New (to me) camera — an older Nikon D200


An HDR of Tim Ferrel’s 1974 Honda CB360 that I took with my ‘new’ D200. I used Photoshop CS5.1′s ‘Merge to HDR Pro’ function, which is pretty impressive software, to merge 5 hand-held shots.

My D80 (which was also far from latest-and-greatest) was stolen (along with my camera bag and all my lenses) from my rental car in Orlando, FL, while I was on site.

The ($2,000) loss was covered by MediaSpan’s insurance policy, so I went shopping.

D200s are pretty easy to find on eBay, where they run in the $300-$400 range for a decent body. I got two (one for Joanna) with a mess of decent — and newer (yet unwanted) — kit lenses and other nice odds and ends for less than a grand.

People often list their old camera bodies on eBay along with lenses and other things in some sort of misguided effort to make them sell better (typically, these are the lenses that were included with their new camera). Nobody seems to want the extra stuff, so these ad-hoc ‘kits’ go for less than the sum of their parts. These throw-in lenses are, often, pretty good; the camera manufacturers usually want their kits to take decent pictures. But even if you don’t want the throw-in stuff, you get everything at a discount, and can sell the unwanted lenses back — individually — for more than what they added to the price of the ad-hoc ‘kit’.

I really like what the D200 can do, and would recommend one to anybody who, 1), doesn’t already own a better camera, and, 2), is ready to spend $300-$400 on a DSLR body.