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Fuquay Varina, North Carolina, United States
A guy finding out if life really does begin at 50.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

December 31st

Today is one of those days you stop and look back. On this day a year ago I retired from IBM. When asked where I worked I've been saying I retired "at the end of last year." After today I can say "I retired over a year ago." Although I went back to work April 1st after being off for three months I still like to think that I'm retired, and just working because I want too. After the recent stock market down turn I suspect if I did the math I might find out I have to work. For now I don't want to know, and I'll just keeping working because I want too.

Another thing that happened 20 years ago today was I closed on my current home. I also made sure I paid off my house 9 years ago this month to avoid any Y2K issues. Funny. I have never missed having to make a house payment all these years, and I never missed getting up and driving to work this last year.

So to mark the day I built a new hand rail for my back steps. I figure I'll be needing it to help me up those steps sometime in the next 20 years.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

1st Annual Piedmont Green Gala

Jim was invited to display his S10 BEV at the 1st Annual Piedmont Green Gala hosted my TS Designs to celebrate the opening of Piedmont Biofuels’ retail biodiesel station and TS Designs’ newly installed 8.6kwh solar array. Jim invited me along and we had a great time on a perfect fall day under Carolina blue skies. Click the picture to see more and get additional details.

TS Designs believes in PPP "People, Profit, Planet" and each of us can help our planet in many small ways by simply taking a small step. They started by not using polystyrene cups for employees or visitors. Over the many years they have saved several 18 wheeled trucks full of cases of cups, and also all the land fill space needed to dispose of them. Those small efforts have lead them to organic gardens and solar and wind power for their use. Now the new roof top array will supply power to the grid through the ncGreenPower program. Way cool! Some of the power you are using today is supplied locally by business like TS Design and maybe even your neighbor.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Making holes from hedges

I moved to North Carolina in December 1988. One of the new friends I made in the first year or two was Larry. Over the years Larry and his wife Toni have grown to be good friends. Our friendship hasn't been the only thing growing in 20 years.
The hedges in front of Larry's house had grown to the point they needed to be taken out. Larry and I have often helped each other out over the years, but my first thought when he called to borrow my come-a-long and chain was he was nuts. Those suckers were big, and taking them out was going to be something Mama always told me I was allergic too... Hard work. After some encouragement from Larry, a commitment we tackle only one and if it was too much he would have someone come take them out, I reluctantly loaded up the truck with my chain, wire rope, 15K lbs tow strap, and the come ah-long and headed over after work Wednesday.
Well I was right pulling one of the bushes out was hard work. Took a good 45 minutes of winch, huff-n-puff, rest, winch some more, reposition the come ah-long, crank some more -But it was possible, and we got that sucker out. So we decided to finish the job on Saturday.
Well Thursday turned out to be perfect fall day. Clear blue skies, cool, and no humidity. So I called and Larry he said sure come on over. Ever since finishing that first one I had been thinking ... There had to be a easier way. I came up with the idea to hook the chain to the frame of the truck and see if it would snatch the hedge out. Well it did. Having 2500lbs of batteries rolling at 3-4mph provides a serious tug, and each hedge would pop out after 3 or 4 tugs. The beauty of the electric motor is there is no wheel spin since the torque starts at 0 rpm - there is no 'rev up', or clutch slip needed. We did half yesterday and finished the rest today.
I think it looks nice. Now the holes they left behind, well that's another sea story.
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Monday, September 29, 2008

EV on a Budget

Before I got my S10 EV back in July I had ordered a DX bike kit from Zap. It's been on back order since June and it finally came while I was in Boston. The DX is a dual motor 12v kit that you simply bolt onto your existing bike. Goes ~18mph with a range of about 15 miles depending on how much you pedal. It has a regenerative mode which is suppose to help charge the battery when you coast downhill. The motor will assist you as you pedal or you can just sit back and let it do all the work. Going up hill you have to pedal but the ad said... "Lets you take hills like an athlete." If the battery runs down you can just pedal like a normal bike.
As you can see the kit came with everything I needed. The black item in the center with the white "Zap" on it is the pouch for the battery. The motor is just below the pouch, to the left of the small black rectangle which is the battery charger. The silver item on the far left with the black stripe is the battery holder/mount. Inside of it is the motor control module - more about that later. The battery is the large gray rectangle in the middle. Notice the water bottle and cage on my old Cannondale. It has to go to make room for the battery mount. Bummer.
The battery is valve regulated sealed lead acid, so it is heavy. ~16lbs. Yuck. 18amp hours. There is an auxiliary connector that allows you to charge the battery while it is still connected to the bike. Or you can pull the Velcro apart and remove the battery pouch from the bike. The pouch has handles to make carrying the battery easier.
Here is it all installed. Simple. Took about an hour. The battery holder mounts to the frame using pipe clamps. The small black button on the gray battery mount is the on-off switch. The pouch has flaps that mate with the Velcro on the mount and a strap that loops under the mount. The battery is secure, and isn't going to fall out.
The motor mounts to the seat stay with a metal plate. Took a bit to get it adjusted so that the motor will try to 'climb' the tire as it pivots into the tire. This increases the motor's grip (friction) on the tire as the motor shaft rotates. If you pedal (or coast down hill) faster than the motor is turning the tire will push the motor away. Simple but effective design and seemed to work well. There is a lever to lock the motor against the tire if you want the motor to do all the work.

I wish I could say it worked 1st time, but it didn't. I hooked all the connectors up, charged the battery, but nothing happened when I pushed the handle bar mounted switch. Forward for high speed, back for low speed, and center(auto-return) for off. Took me about another hour to debug the problem.
The white/rust colored 3 pin connector in the lower left was shifted over to the left one pin. So only two of the three wires were mated to the pins on the control board. The 'root' cause was actually the large wire next to the 3 pin connector. That wire (spade) connector was flipped so that fat part was towards the 3 pin connector which prevented the white header from being able to slide onto the pin on the right next to the wire. Twisting the spade connector 180 degrees put the 'fat' part away from, and the thin part of the spade towards the 3 pin connector. This allowed enough clearance for the white header to slide over that first pin. No wiring diagram, and of course nothing is labeled. The correction is pictured here.

But after getting the 3 pin connector right, I when for a test ride and I have to say it easily pulled my 225 lbs along at a faster than I pedal normally pace and climbed reasonable grades (small hills) by itself. For sure I will have to pedal some to get up any real hill with the motor doing most of the work. Still too early to judge the range. But I have to say that this kit can take the hard work out of bike riding, while still giving you some exercise. If getting all hot and sweaty riding to work is stopping you from doing it this kit could solve that problem.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Boston's Big Dig

Wally and I made a quick trip to Boston on Monday the 22nd and then back home on the 23rd. Have to say it was perfect fall weather. Stopped by L.L. Bean and got me a nice jacket (no sales tax). While on the way to the airport Wally drove me around some and I was able to get some pictures of the "Big Dig".

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Hanna She's No Friend of Mine

I had looked forward to my first weekend watching football. I was in route last weekend back from the UK so I missed Alabama stomping Clemson. Alabama was not on TV here this weekend, which turned out to be a good thing since I ended up being busy. I didn't even get to sleep in on Saturday. I was up at 7am. If you click on the picture and read the comments you'll see why I didn't have time to watch much football this weekend.

Monday, September 1, 2008

My UK Vacation

I'm back from visiting Bob and Julie in Wales. I had a wonderful time and got to see Chris and Jen again. Plus I meet Imogen and really enjoyed getting to know her. Sweetie pie is what we call cuties like her over here - I think treasure was the word they use and I think that fits just fine. Had a pint or two with Geoff a former IBM colleague while I was over there and I have to say I still like those English breakfasts. For those who haven't see them here are the albums - I put comments in them.
Day 1-2, 3, 4, 5-6, 7, and the trip home. Hope you enjoy them and feel like you were there.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Life With An EV

I know I'm way over due on a blog posting and everyone has been waiting for a update on what it's like "Driving a EV". Well the best way for me to explain what it's like to drive my S10 EV is to tell you to imagine driving what ever car you have - just the way you do now - fast or slow - but you only have a one gallon gas tank. Which means you can only go say 35 miles before you have to stop and fill up. Lucky for you since you only have a tiny gas tank, is that you can fill it up anywhere your 30ft cord can plug into a 120v outlet. And best of all it only costs about a $1.50 to fill up.

What's the catch? You have to fill your tiny gas tank using a eye dropper. So getting that 1 gallon worth of energy into your car takes about 8-12 hours. Charging on 120V is slow and at best is only about 50% efficient, so there is a lot of waste heat. Since my garage is air conditioned I charge the truck outside. I put up a canopy so that the truck is protected from all the droppings from the trees. The canopy also lets me keep the windows down, and the EV out of the sun so I don't notice the lack of A/C as much.

Batteries don't like cold so I'll keep it in the garage this winter. The excess heat given off during charging will just keep the garage warm (it's heated). I can charge with 220V using a buck transformer I got off of eBay and that is much more efficient. Charges in 4-6 hours on 220V and is about 70% efficient.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Plug and Drive

Well I did it. I bought an EV - the truck I drove back on June 24th. Sammy and his wife dropped the truck off after work. I got the title transfered and a new tag earlier today. So far I've driven it into the garage! I got the computer booted and looked at the SOC (state of charge), pack voltage, etc. I decided not to recharge it tonight. Lighting and lights blinking. I'll let the bad weather clear up and charge it in the AM. Sammy suggested that I charge it while I'm home so I can keep an eye on it until I get used to it.

Click the picture to see the ones I took of my truck. More to come. I need to wash and give it a cleaning before I take the glamour shots.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

How I spent my 4th of July

A friend of mine, Dexter, invited be down to run in the 2008 Peachtree Road Race. He pinged me back in March , and I sent in my entry form in April. I pretty much had given up on getting picked in the lottery for one of the 55K out of state entries. But I was lucky, and the 1st week of June my race package and number (98411) arrived in the mail. So I drove down on the July 3rd.

I drove to Dexter's house north of Atlanta and met his family. Dexter's brother, Rick, came down from Baltimore to run in the race, so the three of us set out about 10PM for downtown Atlanta to spend the night with Dexter's Dad Roy. We got up at 5:45AM, and Roy dropped us at the MARTA station where we met up with Dexter's wife, Jan, Little Dexter, his fiancée Leila, and Cynthia at the station and rode the subway to Lenox Square which is where the race started. Rick and I had numbers in the same range, so we waited together. We started running at about 9AM , me with cell phone and camera in hand. By chance, Roy and I saw each other as I jogged by, but I missed getting that picture. My camera is slower than me :-(.

I was almost to the 1st mile marker when Dexter called to let me know he was done! He flew.. Sub 59 minutes for a 10K. His group when off earlier. I finished 1 hour 29 minutes 44 seconds... Slow.... 14:09 per mile average. Over a minute per mile slower than my already slow summertime pace. I did take a lot of pictures! I hope you enjoy them.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Driving My 1st BEV

I don't remember the exact date of my 1st EV (Electric Vehicle) ride. It was in San Diego. I was in the 3rd grade. The landlady of the apartment complex we lived in, which was just down the street from Adams Elementary School, had an Electric Cushman 3-wheeler. She used to drive me to little league practice after school. I remember zipping along in it and how quiet it was. The next EV I rode in was October 20, 2007 when Jim Bartlett took several of us for a ride in his 1998 Ford Escort which he had just finished converting from a ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) to a BEV (Battery Electric Vehicle).

Well riding in a EV is cool - BUT - actually driving one is even better. I got to do that on Tuesday. So June 24, 2008 will be one of those days I won't forget. (No I don't remebmer the date of my very 1st kiss but I remember the girl *Amy*). I drove a Chevy S10 convented by US Electricar in 1994. I of course forgot my camera, but the one I drove is similar to the one pictured. It's a 312v battery pack driving a 3 phase AC motor with regenerative braking (meaning the AC motor turns into a generator and charges the battery when slowing or stopping). These trucks are not backyard DIY conversions. US Electricar professionally converted about 90 of these trucks. Click the picture for specs.

Oh... So how did it drive? You ever drive a S10 pickup with an automatic? It zipped right up to 45 mph in a blink, and it does 70 mph down I40. The only difference is no noise, and the 'feel' of the regenerative braking when you take your foot off the accelerator. It has brakes, but the regenerative braking will actually stop the truck depending on which of the regenerative braking settings you use. In the most aggressive setting there is no coasting. You lift off the accelerator and it feels just like you applied the brakes. The other settings are less aggressive and the truck will coast more like an ICE powered vehicle.

Stay tuned for more news related to me testing the waters of EV ownership...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

My Snake is Bigger than Your Snake

FotoMom (aka Maryann) had a snake in her kitchen for a over night stay on Sunday. Luckily, on Monday, her guest left with a bit of assistance. A happy outcome for both her and the snake.

So as luck would have it late Tuesday morning I was going to the garage and I saw my new friend - Slim - a nice 4ft black snake. I see snakes from time to time, but generally not snooping around the house and garage.

Slim kept on moving and went by the door. It's a 36inch door so Slim is about 4ft tip to tip.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

ShopBot Buddy

JB came in from Maui Wednesday morning. We went to a ShopBot training class on Friday and Saturday. ShopBot is a company in Durham that makes 'personal' CNC machines. Their CNCs are inexpensive, some less than $10K compared to other CNCs costing >$100K-500K. ShopBot CNCs are for wood and not metal but they are amazing machines.

A PC or laptop is used to run the ShopBot. Click the picture to see the album of pictures with some of the neat things that they can do. The tool that cuts the wood is a 3HP router or a spindle turning a 1/4 to 1/2 inch shanked bit and cuts 600 inches/per minute. That means it can cut a dado from end to end of a 8 foot sheet of plywood in less than 10 seconds. They can move the same length in 3 seconds. The video does not do the speed justice. We were cutting at 3 inches a second (poky).

Monday, May 26, 2008

Start of Summer - Nothing new under the sun

Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer, and you might find yourself taking a trip by car even though gas prices are heading towards $5 a gallon. If you want to put $4-5 a gallon into perspective grab your lawn mower gas can and go fill it up. That little gallon jug will cost you close to $5 to fill up (if you fill it to the top). Don't do what I did and take a 5 gallon container. I about had a stroke! Over $20 for that! It's a totally different feeling when you can see how small that amount of gas is. Filling your vehicle doesn't have the same effect since you can't picture the tank hiding in your car somewhere. Seeing the tiny jug will drive it home.

While I'm on the subject of gallons of gas I'm reminded of a e-mail from my uncle in California. It was a chain e-mail worth reading. If you are one of those happy go lucky types that believe all men are good then just stop reading. If you are more realist and know that the rain falls on the good and the bad you should keep reading. With gas pieces all over the place and changing minute to minute how much does it cost to fill your tank with 13.23 gallons at $3.799 a gallon? Go on, do it in your head (hah).

According to Google:

3.77900 times 13.23 = 49.99617
More about calculator.

That's $50 worth of gas. If you really did that in your head then you can stop reading now too. But if you are like me and always in a hurry and thinking about other things while filling the tank (like when will the pump stop) doing math like is not going to happen unless there is a 5th grader handy. So to keep the math simple stop the pump at 10 gallons and the pump better read $37.79. If it doesn't show the correct price take a picture and leave. Call the state Agriculture Department and report them. If it reads right then continue, but know how many gallons should fill the tank. If you learn it takes 13 gallons to fill up at the quarter of a tank mark you remember that and start filling up at the quarter tank mark every time. No more between the mark fill ups. Get used to this as you fill up around home so that when you stop at that station beside the interstate you'll know their pump is cheating you when it gets to 14 gallons. Better they cheat you out of $5 instead of it slowly dawning on you after say 15, 16, or 17 gallons ($10-20). For sure you need to know how big your tank is. Look in your owners manual and write it on a yellow sticky and put it next to your gas gauge. Once you figure out the quarter tank (and/or eighth tank) fill up write that on the sticky too.

I'm being paranoid you say? Think about it... Looking at that pump is painful. Do you really focus or are you like me just in a hurry for the pain to stop and you get away as fast as you can? Around home you are probably safe and need not worry (much). But at that exit along I95 I wouldn't be so sure.

Memorial Day - a Day of Remembrance

Today is the day we remember those who gave the full measure for our country. I sit here with the freedom to type this blog because of the high price for our freedom paid by those men and women. I owe them all I have and I thank their families for their sacrifice love one. Freedom is not free.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Eye candy...

So it's Saturday, not just any Saturday but a PERFECT blue sky 75 degree North Carolina day. So what do you do on a day like that... Look for eye candy! I found some at the 18th Annual MADE IN THE USA - Car Show. Hope you enjoy the pictures. You'll wish you were here... SAVE UP!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Two cute 20 year olds together add up to one Maryann

Rick e-mail me an invite this week to a surprise birthday party for Maryann at 11am today. I was a little late so I missed the actual surprise part, but still got to have lots of fun and enjoy all the good eats Rick had. Patricia (aka Major Mom) did the cake and really did a wonderful job. She downloaded pictures of Maryann as a little girl and had them printed in edible form. As you can see she did a great job. I thought Patricia placing the pictures on the cake to form a film strip was very creative and a really neat way of decorating it. Maryann was emotional at seeing such a beautiful cake made just for her special day. Click the cake to see the the rest of the pictures I took today.

I wrapped the thumb drive I got Maryann in wrapping paper that I assembled from a old day at a time dog calendar. I also made the paper bow for her present using the instructions I found here. The paper bow was a hit and several folks ask me how I made it. It was fun and easy. If you have a paper cutter it would make cutting the paper into 1 inch wide strips a snap. I just used scissors. I suspect an razor knife would work well. If you use paper only printed on one side like I did I recommend not alternating the sides (A and B). I just used hot glue, but if kids are doing this use some other adhesive.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Day in Manhattan. . .

I started working for a small IT company April 1st and took a quick trip to New York to visit 2 clients. I flew up yesterday and stayed in New Jersey. My hotel room had a great view of the Manhattan skyline looking across the Hudson River. It was 2001 since I was in Manhattan. I had finished a contract August 31st and took pictures of the twin towers the day I left. 11 days later they were no more. So seeing the World Trade Center site today made me remember. My first meetings was in the Wall Street area and the other was mid town. Turned out the 2nd meeting was just across the street from the Empire State building. The client has some kind of view from his office. Click on picture to see the rest from my trip.
Two of the cabs I wrote in were Ford Escape Hybrids. I talked to the driver and they said they notice the improved gas mileage. One driver said it was a bit under powered. As a passenger I didn't notice that. The driver seemed to be able dash from one light to the next.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

If I heard it once I've heard it a thousand times...

Senator Barack Obama, Governor Bill Richardson, Senator Hillary Clinton and Ruth Harkin stand during the national anthem.

So how many times would be too many times for you?

Saturday, March 29, 2008


Well it's just after 9pm and Earth Hour has passed for the eastern US. The central time zone should be dark now. I know the amount of energy I saved during the hour was just equal to about one drop in the ocean. Put I did at least do my small part.

I unplugged everything but the refrigerator. I would have unplugged it but I didn't think about it until I heard it kick on. I did unplug 15 of those power packs. I only plugged back in the ones I really needed.

The UPS keeping the cable modem, the VIOP phone and adapter, and the router died after about 30 minutes. I was please that it lasted that long. Probably the biggest sacrifice was missing an hour of the NCAA Mens Basketball Tournament.

You can read more about Earth Hour here.


It's just after 8pm here in North Carolina. I'm typing this blog entry by the glow of a candle and the light of my laptop screen. The beep beep beep about once a minute of the UPS in the home office (I'm in the dining area/kitchen) is the only sound I hear. It's Earth Hour and I'm doing my part to help. I've unplugged everything I could. All the little power packs. I turned off the Heat Pump. It's in the low 40s outside so the house won't cool much in the next hour. But I'm wearing my heavy flannel shirt as a symbol.

The UPS that is keeping the cable modem and the wireless router going is now beeping non stop. I suspect that means it's about to die, so I best publish this post. I'll post again after 9pm.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Are You a Sunday Driver?

Well it took over $30 to fill up the xB today. I didn't even buy 10 gallons. Last fill up before today was February 29th. 4 fill ups totaling $108 so for this year for the xB. Since I retired I'm happy to say there are many days (4-5 days) in a row that I never drive.

Growing up a Sunday Driver was a driver poking along with all the time in the world and no place in particular to go. Why not, gas was cheap. Never understood why the Sunday was important. Daily Driver would have been more accurate. I was stuck behind plenty of them back then, and they are still out there on the roads today.

I started driving just before the oil embargo of 1973 hit. For a few months I experienced gas when it was cheap. I remember collecting a enough coke bottles to buy almost a gallon of gas. I got a quarters worth. Got me to work and back for a couple days. Anyone know how many bottles per gallon now days? Do they even make returnable bottles?

Since cheap gas didn't last long and money was always tight for a working high school student. Driving less had a positive effect on my wallet. I remember watching all the news stories on how to save gas during the embargo. I learned from the very start to plan my trips, check tire air pressure, and don't carry needless items in the car. After reducing my tool box down to a sack of tools, I could actually feel the difference. 1967 Fiat 850 sedans don't weigh much so removing 50 pounds made a noticeable improvement in mileage (and acceleration) from the 843cc engine (0.843 liter or 52 cu inches - 34 hp - hah). No tools was NOT an option when you drove a Fiat.

Driving around for the fun of it or entertainment was not something I did then or now. I planned my trips back then and I still do. I wonder, are you a daily driver? Just driving when and where you want with no particular reason? Hopefully not. But have you double checked lately to make sure some of your driving is really necessary? Saving one trip a week can make a difference over a month. Have you checked your tire pressure lately? Got any junk in your trunk? At $3.25 a gallon EVERYTHING you do will help and save you money.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Want to be Super Rich and Lose Weight?

As a type 2 diabetic, and one of the lucky ones that was told early, I've been able to manage my diabetes with diet and exercise. I test my blood each morning, but I don't have to take insulin. My 'sugar' is now normal. My A1C is 5.6 for the last two years, down from 6.5 at first. Granted I attended the 'Living with Diabetes' education, I lost 45 pounds by dieting, and started exercising. I still found this Men's Health article interesting. It talks about the obvious - that since carbohydrates raise blood sugar, then don't eat them. Eat a low carb, high fat and protein diet to 'cure' your diabetes. It does explain that the long term effect of a low carb diet is somewhat unknown. It also states that American Diabetes Association (ADA) worries more about heart disease since that is often the big killer of people with diabetes so the ADA is totally against a low carb high fat diet.
So why would the ADA (and the AHA) want you to go the low fat high carb route? Ask yourself why does anyone ever do anything? Money. It costs $2500 a year on average to 'manage' diabetes (I read that somewhere). 10 million Americans at $2500 each is a nice easy 25 BILLION dollar a year just for insulin, test strips, and syringes. Plus they’ve hit the jack pot "What once was 'adult-onset' diabetes -- a condition mostly of overweight, sedentary, middle-aged adults -- is now an epidemic in children under the age of 10." They used to just literally bleed us diabetics for the last 20+ years of our lives as they empty our pockets. With kids they have life long customers. They'll still be able to sell those kids supplies for 50 or 60 years.
I realize my conclusion seems over simple and sounds like a 'big business' conspiracy. But IF the ADA (and AHA) where truly interested in CURING diabetes and heart disease surely they would be objectively running long term studies to find out if a high fat diet low in carbs could help? The fact they are so strongly against it means they probably know something they don't want us to know. Like maybe it's TRUE! The LAST thing they want is to cure heart diseases and or diabetes. They'll be out of a job and will be tossing BILLIONS away. Your local health care professional will gladly prescribe insulin (shots or pills), syringes and test strips, along with pills for your blood pressure - all of which you will have to take the rest of your life. Yes they'll tell you to eat right and get more exercise too. And sadly most people won't or aren't able to follow that advice. So your local health care professional will be equally happy to cut off your foot, put in stints, let you be on kidney dialysis etc for the rest of you life. But they'll never consider telling you a high fat low carb diet might we worth a try. Worst they'll never prescribe a diet pill (amphetamine) because you could get addicted and have to take 'speed' the rest of your now much longer live - since you were able to increase your activity which helped you lose weigh on your high fat low carb diet.
What the ADA doesn't tell you is that a lot of people with diabetes still die of heart disease even with a 'low fat high carb diet'. Those who "Dodge early death and you could still end up impotent, blind, in kidney failure, or, most likely, minus a foot. (A gangrenous limb or digit is amputated every 6 minutes in the United States.)" Hummm. Die of Heart Disease (maybe) eating a high fat low carb diet or (maybe) die of a low fat high high carb diet. Or worse get not so lucky and avoid the early death of heart disease and you get die (poorer) slow death eating low fat foods. I've seen an uncle loose his foot, and a mother on kidney dialysis begging to just let her die. No thank you, I'll risk heart disease, and eat fat.
Oh. Almost forgot to tell you how to get rich. Invent a blood tester that does not use those $1 each test strips. Sell them for a few hundred bucks a piece. New customers are being born every day. Or if you can't do that just figure out how to make test strips for 2 cents each. The US only uses 50 MILLION test strips a day. You'll never have to work a day, or worry about producing them. Because you'll just call the ADA and tell them what you've done, and they'll make you an offer you can't refuse.

Friday, March 14, 2008

It's that time of year again. . .

I know Blogs are suppose to be upbeat and informational. Well this one is strictly informational. We've had a couple perfect sunny 75-80 degree days here in central North Carolina and I've been poking around in my attic and garage. I bet some of you have been doing the same. Getting out the summer stuff and putting away the winter stuff. Not really paying any attention to where I've been putting my hands. Well I got an e-mail from my cousin Mark today that was a graphic reminder that not watching what you are doing as you rummage around can be a real problem. Mark's e-mail warned of problems a Brown Recluse Spider bite can cause. I have a friend who lost her dad to a Brown Recluse Spider bite. I don't like bugs, be they software or the crawling type. So take a good look at the picture to refresh your memory about what a Brown Recluse looks like. Better yet go here to and read all the details.

FYI - I purchased their Brown Recluse Spider First aid kit a couple years ago. I figured it is cheap insurance so I never get bitten. I'm the type that believes that if your spare tire is flat you will get a flat. If your spare tire is in good shape you'll never use it. So if you have a first aid kit you never use it. You don't you'll get a nasty cut, burn, etc. Also I have no financial interest in that company. I'm just a customer. You might want to get a couple friends to go in on the order. You get a $10 discount on each when you order 3 kits.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Don's shared items

I can't believe it's been another week. Being retired is really hard work. I can't seem to find time to blog. I've still been running most every day and I am getting plenty of exercise. It's been near perfect weather here in North Carolina and the spring flowers have sprung as you can see from the picture I took while at Lake Crabtree Park.

Some of my time has been taken up reading blogs. I added a Don's shared items to my blog. It should be on the upper left. I'm really into EVs (Electric Vehicles) right now. The RSS feeds and Google reader let's me send links to that area with one click. You can just check my blog and see the shared items, or if you use a reader you add a feed . If you are really old school you can go to this url and bookmark it (add it to your favorites). I'll try to only put stuff there that is interesting, but I admit it will be techie stuff.

Well the book. I'm still plugging along but I have to tell you I'm over half way now and it is still boring. Mr King just spend 6 FULL chapters on college kids playing Heart's for 5 cents a point in 1966. Please just shoot me. Was college in 1966 that boring? Where is all the peace and love and "good stuff" that was suppose to be happening in colleges in 1966? I mean I was playing cards in 1966 but I was only 9!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Seeing the sites around Brea

My cousin Mark, drove me around the Brea area last couple days and I got some pictures to share. The rain here over the weekend caused the NASCAR race to be postponed until yesterday. The rain also left the air clear enough that I got some good pictures of the mountains around the LA basin. Brea is next door to Yorba Linda which is where the Nixon Library and Birthplace is.

Clean air eased my mind about running, so I've ran each day I've been out here. It is really sunny and I need to start putting on sun screen. 75 degrees and nice breeze and low humidity. My kind of weather.

After my run my other cousin Micheal came by and took me to lunch. I really enjoyed lunch and getting to catch up on the goings on. I was last out here in February 2001.

Well Mark a CIA graduate just about has supper ready. Nice to have a chef in the family. I don't ask what we are having. I just eat and enjoy it. You can see the rest of the pictures here.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

First Milestone

Well I ran today around my uncle's neighborhood out here in Bera, California and uploaded the data from my Nike+iPod and got a nice surprise so I'm going to brag about it.

Terminal D at DFW has some really neat art work. My connection was delayed, so I had a chance to explore it a bit. Take a look at the pictures from my trip out here to Brea.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

RSS feeds

You might have seen this type of logo on various sites and sort of wondered what it was. Basically the logo means the sites content is available in xml form. Think of xml as web site content that is 'computer readable.' That's a gross simplication but it's good enough for now. Why is a web site that is designed to be read by people (such as this blog) also available as computer readable? So you can read the output that the computer (actually software) created from the input RSS feed.

The output of the 'Reader' will allow you to just read what you want from all the web sites (and blogs) you are interested in. Saves you gobs of time. Here is a really good (and fast) video that explains it way better than I can.

I use Google Reader. It's free and if you have a blogger id (aka Google Account) you can just click 'My Account' and click Reader and you'll be already to start doing RSS feeds. Go here if you don't have a Google Account and get one. They are free. Yahoo also has a Reader. Some of my readers already know and are using a Reader (you PW readers know who you are). Something I learned in my 30+ year career with IBM is don't just assume everyone knows (what those acronyms mean).

I've known about RSS feeds for a couple years. But I never really cared enough to set up a reader. But since I retired and started blogging and reading other blogs I got to the point it was getting to be a chore to visit each site and check for new content. So since I found I already had access to Google Reader I set it up this week.

Being retired is A LOT of work. And I'm way behind on stuff. I still have not bloged about my Florida trip which was like 3 weeks ago! Not to mention I'm like 300 pages into that book! I might yet finsh it.

For those who don't watch Fox News . . .

Lizzie Palmer who put this YouTube program together is 15 years old. It was shown on Fox New a few days ago. She knows what is important, and tells it beautifully.

Monday, February 4, 2008

And the MVP is US!

I watched the SuperBowl last night and was happy that the Giants won. I'm not a New York fan, but I am a fan of Eli Manning. He had a solid game, and he simply made the plays that they needed and they won. I suspect no one guessed it would be such a low scoring game.

So I was very pleased to see Eli be named the MVP. Eli got a 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid as a MVP. That good for us. Assuming Eli drives 15000 miles a year and gets 12mpg driving the Hybrid Escalade instead of 8mpg of a non Hybrid.

625166.7 <-- Gallons Saved

Swtiching one person drving an Escalade to an Escalade Hybrid would save 625 gallons a year. Switch one person from a small car to a Prius would only saves 167 gallons a year. Let's ignore the simple fact that switching that same driver from a Escalade to a Prius would save 1541 gallons. After all our government does math like this all the time. No reason that GM shouldn't.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Mama always said …

I painted the posts Saturday night just before supper. So they were dry Sunday morning and JB and I fastened them together so they overlapped to make a 12 foot mast. We mixed the Sakrete and set the mast. Then after lunch we unspooled the 1000 feet of coax to form four 250 feet runs. We then set about trenching 190 feet from the mast through woods. We went behind the garage then through the foundation under the dining room cantilevered window. I just looped the slack in the crawl space near the fireplace which is in the center of the house. About 160 feet of the trench was in the woods. They should call woods - roots. Cause the woods are full of them. I cut & dug with the axe and JB placed the 4 coax cables, filled, and covered. The 30 feet across the back yard was a snap compared to the woods.

Guess Mama was right. She always said JB and I ended up digging ditches. But what's a little ditch digging when you get 70 HD channels on the new satellite?

Since I'm a day behind I can tease you with these pictures from today.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Guy Stuff

JB and I got metal sign post to use as the mask for the satellite dish. We got the Sakrete to set the mask. The Sakrete site has a handy calculator that tells you how many bags you will need. You tell it the diameter of the hole, how deep it is, and the diameter of the post/pole. No need to do V=πr²h for the hole and subtract the area of the post- ain't the Internet neat?

I did my usual run etc today, but we had a late lunch. When supper time came JB and I weren't that hungry, so I made sloppy Joes. Good thing about Sloppy Joes is they don't take much counter space to make.

See normally I only keep one cordless drill in the kitchen, but JB feels if one is good three are better. The drills along with drill bits, level, and tape measure take up most of my counter space now. I still have room for a dish towel and normal stuff like paper plates and munchies. Guys need Doritos, peanut butter crackers, and hard pretzels etc. Water bottles filled with tea to wash the munchies down. The tortillas are for JB's Shrimp Tacos. We made room for the fruit by putting the biscuit (plate) joiner on the floor (black box).

Our non work time like writing this blog is done in the den while piled up in a recliner. Here JB reading his paper, his laptop and library books close at hand. Since I'm a paperless reader mostly I only need my laptop. Gale our sister is a non computer person (lucky for us) so I'm safe posting these pictures. JD her husband will not rat on us since that would break the guy code. Right JD?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Appointments and Projects

I've missed a few days, so I'll get you all caught up. After I picked up JB at RDU Tuesday evening and after getting some Chinese food for supper we headed home. On Wednesday we didn't do much except for going to the Holly Springs Wal-Mart to stock up on groceries. That Wal-Mart is supposed to be the largest in the state and JB was impressed. I still think it's neat that the freezer cases light up go when you approach and turn off when you move away.

Thursday I had lunch with Mimi and Rollin in RTP and ran a couple other errands. I left JB at home asleep with the toaster (aka the xB), my library card, and 5o cents. Sure enough when I got home I found JB in his recliner wrapped in the electric throw, his computer in his lap, newspaper scattered around on the floor, and a stack of library books on the coffee table. Since I have two recliners, which of course is the minimum number one should have, I piled up in my recliner until supper time. For supper I cooked (gulp) my chicken strip fry and added some of JB's shrimp. Yummy if I do say so.

Today was project day. I've been having trouble for several months with one of my garage door openers. So with JB's help we replaced the faulty opener with one I bought on eBay. We had it working in an hour or so except for reprogramming all 7 remotes I have. Where's Chris when I need him. I got my exercise today by digging a nearly 4 foot deep hole for the mask of the new satellite dish. Tomorrow maybe I'll trench and bury the coax.

Last thing I did was hang the plaque that JB brought me. He got the plaque on it on his Africa trip in Mossel Bay which is on the east coast of South Africa. Mossel Bay's claim to fame is a mention in the Guinness Book of Records as having the mildest all-year round climate in the world, second only to Hawaii. JB being from Maui appreciates good climate. I suspect JB will finish his stack of books before I finish my book. I just cannot stay wake for more than a page or two.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Killing some time

JB is due in from Maui shortly. He's been in LA at our uncle's for the last week. Since I needed to pick JB up about 4:30, and I had a lunch appointment it RTP I decided I kill some time at Wally's house. I really didn't have time to go home and then come back to RTP to pick up JB at the airport. So I went over to Wally's and he showed me his newest accessory for his noise canceling headphones - an adapter that adds a microphone which allows him to use the headphones for the phone. Works with both desk phone and cell phone. Very cool.

I went for a run while killing time and set a personal best according to Paula Radcliffe who congratulated me after my run. Neat thing about that Nike+iPod - it gives you some positive feedback whenever you achieve a milestone. Lance Armstorng told me yesterday 'Good workout - you burned a serious amount of calories.'

Well in case you are wondering.... I did get the garage cleaned up. Here are the before and after pictures. Funny how things are. I have to clean up the house before my sister comes for a visit and clean up the garage before my brother comes. So if I could get them to come at the same time I have the whole place clean. Oh well.

Friday, January 18, 2008

It can't be dark already

I spent the night at Wally's and Carol's house. Staying over on a Thursday night is typical for me. I often do that during baseball season went we go see the Durham Bulls play. Chris is our designated driver so Wally and I get to enjoy refreshments at the game. If I enjoy a bit too much Wally and Carol let me stay in their guest bedroom. I've done that often enough that the guest room is now referred to as "Don's room". After sleeping over we get up and go to Cracker Barrel for breakfast. We did that today. It was nice to have Chris with us since school is out for a teacher workday.

Since I slept over I got to witness Carol's reaction to the TV. "Oh My!" She then said all the right praises us guys need to hear. She even commented on the no visible wires. She seemed to like it well enough.

On the way home I stopped by Lowes and Ace hardware. I got some of those new Compact Fluorescent Light (CPL) bulbs and a motion detector for Fluorescent lights. I installed the CPL bulbs in my new home office overhead light and installed the motion detector in the garage ceiling lights. I attached it to the fixture closest to the door. Opening the door will cause it to turn on two of the fixtures (of the 12 fixtures in the garage). I've tried this before with another detector (Leviton) but the two fixtures would not fully start and flickered badly. This motion detector (Cooper) starts the fixtures fine. Still a small amount of flicker but I can live with that.

I did my run and then cleaned up the toaster. The wet roads yesterday got it dirty but I used my California Duster and some spray car detailer to clean it up. Needless to say I'm staying in tomorrow - snow or no snow.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Practice makes perfect

Today was one of those cold rainy gray winter days. It never stopped raining and it never got out of the 30s. I was up at 7am hoping to see snow but I was disappointed. Most the snow was melted by the rain that was falling. It rained all day.

After I woke up from my afternoon nap I headed up to Wally's. Wally and Carol had a beautiful sun room built on to their home this summer. All it needed is a nice HD set in it. Only Wally and Chris are home. Carol is out of town on a business trip. She gets back tonight. So boys being boys we decided to install an HD set before she gets home and surprise her. Nothing like going on a business trip and coming home to see a 42 inch LCD hanging on your wall. For sure it's every guys dream!

Wally picked out a wall mount before he picked out the TV set. The mount needed to allow the set to tuck into the corner of the sunroom. Wally got an UCL Articulating Wall Mount at Costco a couple months ago and then started looking for a set to use the mount. Turned out he found a 42 inch LCD HD TV also at Costco and had it delivered today.

This is my third large flat screen install and 4th wall mount of a large screen set. I didn't like the 1st place I put my 50 inch set so I moved it. So by now I've gotten good at mounting these things. Of course Wally and his son Chris did most of the work. I was just the guy who drilled the holes in the nice smooth walls for those great big lag bolts.

Anyway I think we did a good job. Notice no wires… Also in the lower right of the frame you'll see the wall mounted heat pump Wally and I installed in October.

Boy is Carol going to be surprised!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Toaster gets new window vents

I installed the window vents on the toaster Thursday while I was cooling down from my run. The vents are 'in channel' type. I had to hunt for those. They fit in the groves that the window slides up and down in. The in channel design makes for a very clean seamless look. The vents stick on using 3m VHB tape which means there is no taking them off.

In the case of the toaster they are for more than just looks. Twice last summer I left the windows cracked and it rained. The 1st time the seats were wet I just figured the wind blew the rain in. But after the 2nd time having wet seats and a puddle on the floor mats I realized that the nearly vertical windows and the way the door seal is that any rain that comes off the top will just flow directly into the open window. The in channel design should allow the rain to just drip off the edge of the vent.

It takes me about 20 minutes this time of the year to cool off and stop sweating after I run. I heat the garage to about 55 degrees so it's a good place to cool off without getting uncomfortable during the in process. In the summer it takes like an hour before I cool off. The AC in the garage and the fan I have out there help the summer.

I use this cool off time to clean up whichever vehicle I drove last. I have a California Car Duster and it keeps them looking good between washings assuming I avoid mud and wet roads. I've been known to stay home and not go somewhere because the roads were wet. I really like a clean car and I have to say it pains me if my car gets dirty too quick after I wash it. I clean the brake dust from the rims also during the cool down time. I tried some of that wheel spray that is supposed to prevent the brake dust from accumulating. Nope still accumulates. I also spray the tire black stuff on then clean the over spray from the rims. That one cleaning takes care of both the brake dust and tire spray.

If by chance I have not drove either vehicle then I use the cool off time to put up tools and do general garage clean up. I'm way behind and I really need to be spending extra time cleaning the garage before JB gets here next week. 4-5 hours should put the garage right.

Monday, January 14, 2008

What is your Power Song?

I used my new Nike + iPod for the last two days. I have to tell you I LIKE IT! If you have an iPod Nano and you run (or walk) for fitness or training you need to get one. For $30 it's a winner. At first glance it you might think you need to buy a pair of Nike+ shoes. But after reading Nike+iPod FAQ you'll see any old shoes will work. People (and vendors) have come up with creative ways to attach the sensor to any shoe. Some folks can knit and Nike+iPod Shoe Hack made a little cozy to hold the sensor. Some floks used duct tape. You can see Nike+iPod Shoe Hacks and Accessories for the ideas others came up with to attach the sensor to their shoe.

Me? I used a coin wrapper, a couple staples, and some tape. The sensor just needs to be secure and not move around. You can always shell out the $$$ for a pair of Nike+ shoes which have a compartment designed in them for the sensor. But that takes all the fun out of it.

OK so it attaches to any shoe, but why do I like it? It's small, wireless, and just plain slick. That white stub on the end of my iPod is the receiver for the shoe sensor. It's also easy to use. Best of all it keeps you company by talking with a sexy female voice as you run. And that sure helps me run! She tells me how many calories burned, time, or mileage depending on the type of workout chosen. You can choose a male voice if you want. I already knew about how far I ran, and about how long I run, so I chose calories. I entered my weight and how many calories I wanted to burn and started running. After a bit she reduced the song volume and told me "50 calories burned so far." She then brought the volume back up so I could hear the music. She repeated the process again and let me know "100 calories burned so far." She keeps it up every 50 calories until the last 50. For the last 50 she cranks up the volume and counts out every 10 calories until I reached my goal of 600 calories burned. She then told me the distance, and work out time. You can get her to tell you then workout status at any time by pressing the iPod center button. If you hold the center button for a couple seconds she plays your power song so you get that extra kick to get up that big A$$ hill. NEAT! You can buy workout playlists and even training sessions from people like Lance Armstrong if you want.

After the work out you can dock your iPod and it will upload (for free using iTunes) to the work out data and you will get a nice graph. Here is the graph for my run today. Across the top is the workout distance, time, pace, and calories. The curve bents down at the end because I stopped running and left my iPod going while I took the pictures. The dots along the graph are the mile markers. If the mouse hovers over the dot it shows you the time for that mile. The red towards the right is when I pushed PowerSong. You can set goals and create challenges for yourself. Also you can have a private running club and see your others club members runs, and challenge them - "1st one to 100 miles this month gets a free beer" - stuff like that. It's all free and easy to use.

The iPod itself stores the last 1000 workouts. You don't have to use iTunes or You don't even have to listen to music while you run. It has a 'no music' option. You can even tell it that you are walking and it'll keep track of that activity. The only complaint I have is with the music blasting I can't hear the beep of my heart monitor watch. If you want to know how it works read EETimes article Runners get iPod virtual trainer.

So "Satisfaction" by the Stones is my power song what's yours?