Around the House

Stuff going on in the vicinity.

People who have visited our house will remember the doormat on our back porch. We picked it up at a pet shop in Florida years ago and it had started to show its age. We ordered another one online and it came today. Why talk about this doormat?
Well, the doormat is cool but even cooler was the warning statement on the back.

Important things you should know about your new doormat
warning: Do not use mat as a projectile. Sudden acceleration to dangerous speeds may cause injury. When using mat, follow directions: Put your right foot in, put your right foot out, put your right foot in and shake it all about. This mat is not designed to sustain gross weight exceeding 12, 000 lbs. If mat begins to smoke, immediately seek shelter and cover head. Caution: If coffee spills on mat, assume that it is very hot. This mat is not intended to be used as a placemat. Small, food particles trapped in fibers may attract rodents and other vermin. Do not glue mat to porous surfaces, such as pregnant women, pets and heavy machinery. When not in use, mat should be kept out of reach of children diagnosed with CFED (Compulsive Fiber Eating Disorder). Do not taunt mat. Failure to comply relieves the makers of this doormat, Simply Precious Home Decor, and its parent company, High Cotton, Inc., of any and all liability.

So my hat’s off to Simply Precious Home Decor, and, High Cotton, Inc., Humor will get my business nearly every time.

But there is more… We got a second package in the mail today that was another example of good business practices.

We have Cuisinart coffee maker and like it a lot. Recently it started having trouble with its automatic shut-off. It looked like the valve on the filter holder had somehow been damaged – probably in the dishwasher.

Jan found their website and asked about purchasing a replacement filter holder. In a day or so she received an email that the part was in the mail. When it arrived today I looked at the invoice. Cost: $0.00, shipping $0.00.

So I also want to say Way To Go! to the Conair Corporation and to Cuisinart. That sort of customer service is a rare thing nowadays. They will also get my repeat business.

I wish more corporations were like these.

Bald Eagle

For the last week or so Jan has been seeing a bald eagle as she drives to her morning exercise session. It tends to hang out in the same place so she has been taking my older Panasonic FZ-20 with her, in hopes of getting a picture. That camera has a great 12X zoom so it’s perfect for something like this. Today she got several good pictures. Here is the best of them.

Bald Eagle

Good shot Jan. I’ll have to try taking my D80 out sometime and see if I can do as well

Yesterday we got around 5″ of snow – the first significant amount for this winter. As a result many birds are unable to find food in the surrounding fields. This brings them flocking to our feeders. In the following picture I count over 50 birds, mostly Sparrows and Juncos, at the feeder or gleaning what the others scattered out.
Feeding 1

In the second picture they are lined up at the feeder like a bunch of drunks at the bar on Saturday night. There is lots of pushing, pecking and jostling for position among the small birds but when the Blue Jays or Woodpeckers show up, the little ones back off and wait their turn.

Feeding 2

We are half way through our second, 130 lb, load of bird seed. At this rate we will probably use over 500 lbs for the season, possibly more depending on snow cover and temperatures.

We got up to a rather dull, overcast morning today but had an interesting sight in the yard to brighten things a little. Here is one of several pictures I took.


The youngster seems to be determined to stay ahead of Mom! I find it amazing that these animals know hunting season is over. We saw none of them in-season.

Today (Christmas Eve day) we awoke to a bright and sunny morning with a delicate coating of hoar frost on nearly everything. Just after sunrise the light on the frost was magical. These pictures don’t quite do the scene justice but I’ll post them anyway.

Our garden Gargoyle has a nose fuzzy with frost.


These pines are just south of the pond.


Not exactly a White Christmas but about as close as we are likely to get.

One of my pet peeves is that nowadays hardware and software manufacturers don’t provide paper manuals with their products. I’m the sort of person who likes to flip through the pages to find what I need to know, not load up some .pdf file and scroll through it. A while back I found a web site about binding your own books. Then, when I got the new printer, I realized I could easily take those inconvenient pdfs and turn them into real manuals.

I made a clamp similar to the one described in the web site, though I used some scraps of aluminum angle that I had lying around rather than wood. So far I’ve bound three different manuals with varying degrees of success.
I didn’t have paper the proper weight and size for a regular cover so I just used a strip of gaffer’s tape to cover the spine.

I’ve had a few problems but all the manuals are serviceable. First, it’s important to spread the glue evenly, otherwise it leaves bumps and irregularities on the spine. It’s possible to smooth this after the glue drys but it’s an extra step.

The second problem is having the glue soak in too far near the ends of the spine. This can be dealt with by not applying glue to that last 1/8 inch or so.

My third problem comes from the need to dampen the spine before applying the Gorilla Glue. For some types of paper this causes the spine to develop a wavy distortion. I haven’t found a cure for this yet but I think it may just require care in how much water I use.

All-in-all this has been a fun project an I’m please to have manuals I can thumb through in the fashion I’m used to. An added benefit is that when a manual gets worn, torn or tattered, I can just make a new one.

The weather here continues unseasonably warm. For the last several weeks we have generally had near record high temperatures and little precipitation. It feels more like October than December. There may be a chance of snow later this week but it could just as well be rain. If I were a betting man I’d give odds against snowball fights around here in the near future.

I grew up in Michigan where a Christmas without snow was rare, to say the least. Even here in Iowa a bit of white stuff by December 25 has been the rule rather than the exception. I’ve gotten so I look forward to the snow covering up the brown and empty fields.

So, is this Global Warming or just the random variation of weather? My guess is a little of each. I know it’s not possible to decide when only looking at a small part of the Earth over a short period of time, but I can’t avoid thinking we’ve been having weird weather here lately. In ten or twenty years we’ll know, if we are still around…

After going for a while without a laser printer, I finally broke down and bought an HP-LaserJet 1320. It has almost all of the features of the old HP4P with around four times the speed and built-in double-sided printing.


It has nearly the same footprint as the the old 4P but is approximately twice as tall. It seems quite a bit quieter though, obviously, I can’t compare them directly.

For the last day or so, I have been testing out many of the features of this new toy. I like the ability to print manuals (including its own) in “booklet” mode. This allows a 172 page manual to be printed on 43 letter sized sheets in proper order for binding. Now I’m learning how to bind these manuals (more on that in another post).

It will be interesting in the long run to see if this printer has anywhere near the reliability as the old one. On an interesting note, this one cost less that 40% of what the old one cost 13 years ago.

Technology marches on.

Today my faithful old HP4P LaserJet printer finally gave up the ghost after 13 years of steady use.


This printer has outlived five different computers, going back to the days of Windows 3.1 ! For the last few years I’ve been expecting it to die but nothing seemed to phase it. Finally, while printing out a copy of my son Steev’s novel today, it sucumbed to severe paper jamming and finally the feed mechanism froze up completely. I think I have to find out how to give it a Viking funeral.

Now I am starting to look for a replacement. I doubt I can find a printer that will last for another 13 years – they just don’t make them like they used to. Anyone want to recommend a similar printer that can come close to the service I got from this warhorse?

RIP old pal.

Now that I’m feeling a little better, I decided to do more playing with the new camera. Here are a quartet of new pictures that, I think, are an improvement over the previous batch.

GoldfinchAmerican Goldfinch

Ground SquirrelGround Squirrel
This little guy thought he was going to get inside where it is warm. Either that or he was grabbing seeds dropped from the bird feeder.

Blue JayBlue Jay

Contrails Contrails at Sunset

I think I’m starting to get a handle on some of the features on this camera. The trick will be getting familiar enough to use them quickly and efficiently.