I have been a homeowner for two years.

As of this past May 1st, I’ve officially owned a home for two years and we’ve lived in it for that long as of June 1st. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in that time it’s that I am not a great gardener or, for that matter, lawn up-keeper. I have a bad tendency of mowing the lawn once the grass has gone to seed which means that so far this year I’ve mowed it a grand total of three times. The lady we bought the house from was amazing at it. For example, when she was here our back yard looked like this:

So luscious! So colorful!

Today, our back yard looks like this:

Well, it’s at least green. Fortunately weeds are green.

The area behind the tree used to look like this:

Tidy-tastic!

And today it looks like this:

The opposite of tidy-tastic!

It’s probably for the best that I apologized to the neighbors the first time I met them. At least with all the rain stuff is relatively green compared to last summer when both front and back yards had a distinct brownness thanks to grass that had gone dormant from the heat. The front yard is still recovering from that and there are areas that are more weed than grass. The little kidney shaped flower garden has also lain fallow since we arrived.

Truth is, neither Anne or I are in much shape to be out on our hands and knees pulling weeds nor do I think we have the requisite skills to keeps things looking quite as good as the previous owner. I keep looking around to see if I can find someone I could hire to help whip things into shape, but you have to have surplus budget for that sort of thing.

You’ll note the difference in height pre and post-mow.

So, for now, I will continue to at least try to keep the grass at a reasonable height. I’m also trying to spray weed killer on the stuff growing in the cracks of the driveway and sidewalk, but I think I might have bought weed food instead of weed killer as it doesn’t seem to be having any impact. Frankly, I’m just glad we’ve made it through the first couple of years with the house still intact. The yard, not so much, but the house is still standing.

Someone is trying to steal my credit.

Received a letter from Credit One Bank today telling me the $435.68 payment on my credit card wouldn’t be accepted until I provided them with a letter from the bank the check was issued from on official letterhead stating that it was an authorized payment and with all this additional information to prove it was legit and in the meantime my account with Credit One was suspended.

Just one problem: I’d never heard of Credit One Bank until I got the letter today and I have never applied for a credit card from them. So, I spent the next hour on the phone with an “Account Specialist” who filed a report asking for the account to be investigated for fraud.

Turns out the account was opened on April 14th, which puts it around the same time as another attempt at opening a card with Capital One happened. That was only foiled because they used my old address in Canton instead of my current address and Capital One called to inquire about the discrepancy. I suppose I should take some comfort in that whoever this asshole opening accounts in my name is they’re at least trying to make payments on them with fraudulent checks? I’m also somewhat amused/annoyed that the amount of verification required for reactivating my “temporarily” suspended account is so much more than what is required to open the account in the first place.

Sneaky hacker graphic of Identity Theft by CafeCredit

I already knew I was part of the huge data breach of Equifax back in 2017 and I was wondering how long it would be before someone finally tried to make use of my data. I spent quite a bit more time today getting my free credit report which verifies the Credit One account having been opened and filing a dispute of it with both TransUnion and Experian. Fortunately, it doesn’t appear that any other credit cards have been successfully opened under my name. I’ve already put a freeze on my credit with Equifax, but still need to do so with the other two.

If it’s been awhile since you’ve looked at your credit report then now might be a good time to do so. You can check all three reporting agencies at once through Annual Credit Report.com which is run by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. You are entitled by law to one free credit report from each of the companies every 12 months. If you need to file a dispute you can do so online through their respective websites. You can also insure information about you is up to date. TransUnion, for example, didn’t have my current address. This is especially important if, like me, you are a victim of the Equifax breach.

Science literacy is important for more than not looking like an idiot.

A recent United Nations report warned that up to 1 million species are facing extinction thanks to the impact humans are having on the planet.

“The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever,” Watson says. He emphasizes that business and financial concerns are also threatened. “We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide,” he says.

The report lists a number of key global threats, from humans’ use of land and sea resources to challenges posed by climate change, pollution and invasive species.

“Insect pollinators are unfortunately an excellent example of the problems caused by human activities,” Scott McArt,an entomology professor at Cornell University, says in a statement about the report.

“There’s actually a newly coined phrase for insect declines — the ‘windshield effect’ — owing to the fact that if you drove your car at dusk 30 years ago, you would need to clean the windshield frequently, but that’s no longer the case today,” McArt says.

1 Million Animal And Plant Species Are At Risk Of Extinction, U.N. Report Says – NPR.org


There’s a very real danger at this point that if this high number of extinctions does to come to pass that we’ll end up going down with them. So the folks at Jimmy Kimmel Live went out on the street to ask people if we should save ourselves. Specifically, they used the scientific term for humans, Homo sapiens. These are some of the replies people gave:

To be fair, these segments only ever show you the clueless replies and the sample size here is very small, but humans being classified as Homo sapiens is a basic scientific fact that we were all taught (or should have been taught) in grade school. It’s similar to how a lot of folks don’t know that Dihydrogen Monoxide (H2O) is literally water, but that one is a little easier to understand folks not knowing if they didn’t take basic chemistry — not completely understandable as I never took basic chemistry and I know it, but a little more understandable.

I’ve ranted previously about the sad state of science literacy in America and things really haven’t improved much. Periodically the folks at the Pew Research Center conduct a survey to find out what Americans know about science. Their latest was done on January 7th to the 21st, 2019 and consisted of 11 fairly basic questions:

Americans give more correct than incorrect answers to the 11 questions. The mean number of correct answers is 6.7, while the median is 7. About four-in-ten Americans (39%) get between nine and 11 correct answers, classified as having high science knowledge on the 11-item scale or index. Roughly one-third (32%) are classified as having medium science knowledge (five to eight correct answers) and about three-in-ten (29%) are in the low science knowledge group (zero to four correct answers).

The biggest factor in determining how well someone does is the level of education that have managed to acquire:

Americans with a postgraduate degree get about four more questions correct, on average, than those with a high school degree or less education (9.1 of 11 questions vs. 5 of 11). Roughly seven-in-ten (71%) Americans with a postgraduate degree are classified as high in science knowledge, answering at least nine of 11 items correctly. By contrast, about two-in-ten (19%) of those with a high school degree or less perform as well on the scale.

And on each of the 11 questions, those with a postgraduate degree are at least 27 percentage points more likely to choose the correct answer than those with a high school degree or less.

There are also large differences between different ethnic groups which you would think could be tied to the fact that minorities often don’t have the same educational opportunities are whites, but it appears that may not be the case:

Whites are more likely than Hispanics or blacks to score higher on the index. Whites get an average of 7.6 correct out of 11 questions, while Hispanics average 5.1 correct answers and blacks 3.7 correct answers.4 Roughly half of whites (48%) are classified as having high science knowledge on the scale, answering at least nine questions correctly, compared with 23% of Hispanics and 9% of blacks.

Differences by race and ethnicity on science knowledge could be tied to several factors such as educational attainment and access to science information. However, differences between the racial/ethnic groups on science knowledge hold even after controlling for education levels in a regression model.

In a society that is increasingly reliant on technology and understanding the complexity of things such as the climate it’s more important than ever that folks have at least a basic understanding of science and the methodology of the scientific method. This survey suggests we have a long way to go. It’s no wonder we’re letting the planet burn.

You can take the quiz used for this survey yourself by clicking here. My own education level isn’t fantastic; I’ve had some college but I’ve never finished a degree. Yet I managed to get all 11 questions correct which is better than 83% of the public.

There were two questions I had to stop and think about before answering (and, no, I didn’t cheat and Google the answers), but the vast majority of these questions were answerable off the top of my head. That should be true for most people.

On the bright side, at the least I don’t have to worry that I’ll end up on one of Kimmel’s idiots-who-don’t-know-basic-science videos.

Today is my 18th wedding anniversary.

In addition to being the day Christians think Jesus took a 3 day nap and then vamoosed back to Heaven, today is also our 18th wedding anniversary which, to me, is a much more significant occasion. No one is more surprised that I’ve been married for 18 years than I am.

Here we see the judge pointing out how my receding hairline will only get worse.

To say that I was apprehensive would be to put it mildly. Not long before Anne and I tied the knot, two of my good friends — people who seemed to have their shit together way better than I had and seemed to have happy marriages — got divorced. Their marriages ended around the five year mark and I worried that I, someone not known for having his shit together, would end up following a similar path.

My mother, Mary, with my sister-in-law, Deborah, and my niece and nephew, Jasmine and Dakota. In the background is the back of my brother, Wes, a bit of my dad, Jay, my mother-in-law, Kathy, and my sister, Cindy.

To be sure, there were some rocky points early on were it seemed like things would not hold, but somehow we managed to keep it together. True to the vows, we’ve had our share of in sickness and in health and richer and poorer. There were days that we had no idea what we should do so we did the best we could and hoped for the best. So far that seems to be working.

I swear I haven’t fallen asleep in this pic.

I have nothing deeply profound to offer on marriage other than to remember what it was that brought you two together in the first place and keep working at it. Some days she’s going to need to lean on you and on others you’re going to need to lean on her. I think that’s part of what marriage is all about. Finding your way though life with the help of your best friend. (Note, replace him/her with appropriate pronouns for non-hetero marriages.)

My daughter, Courtney, and my father-in-law, Aral.

It’s weird how it both does and doesn’t feel like it’s been 18 years. I love you, Anne, and I’m so happy we’ve had all this time together. I’m looking forward to many more years to come.

I actually watched an old-timey coffee grinder being restored.

I often surprise myself by being fascinated by things that, had you told me I would be fascinated by them, I would tell you you’re out of your mind. I blame PBS’ This Old House for making me like this.

You see, for three years or so I worked for a fleet tracking/stolen vehicle recovery service called Teletrac here in the Detroit area as part of the graveyard shift. It was part tech support and part service job. Not only did I keep the computers that ran the system up and running, but when calls came in or a car was stolen I was the person who interacted with the customers and police. The system was pretty stable and calls were infrequent so there was a lot of downtime where my job consisted of breathing and trying to stay awake.

Fortunately we had a TV available to us. Unfortunately it was only over-the-air broadcast capable and at 3AM there wasn’t a whole lot on the big four networks worth watching. Hence my first real appreciation for PBS in general and TOH in particular. Keep in mind, this is a good 30 years before I would actually own a house and I and my co-worker had no real home maintenance experience, but it wasn’t long before we were offering our critical takes on the floor tile choices the people on the show were making. I don’t make a point of watching the show anymore, but when I did I really enjoyed it.

Which brings me to this YouTube video by the folks at My Mechanics which I stumbled across over at Boing Boing. It’s simply 26 minutes of some guy who bought a nasty old metal coffee grinder refurbishing it to pristine quality. That’s it. No real narration other than the occasional bit of text.

In this video i’m restoring an old coffee grinder. A few weeks ago I bought an old bench grinder to restore on eBay. The guy who sold it was actually selling more antiques, he had a room filled with old items. I took a look at his other stuff and this unique coffee grinder caught my attention right away. So I ended up buying it for $35. The one thing that really impressed me on this coffee grinder was the metal body, usually they’re made of wood. I also liked the colour very much. The restoration itself turned out to be a lot more challenging than I first expected. I’m very happy with the final result of this coffee grinder. I really like how the handle turned out.

I don’t know if it’s the fact that I have neither the know-how or the patience to do something like this that makes it so fascinating, but I watched the whole thing and was impressed with the results. The video doesn’t cover every single second, but it does appear to cover every step and meticulous is definitely a good word to describe the process. There is a part of me that wishes I could to this sort of thing, but another part that knows it’s not something I’d actually enjoy. Watching someone else do it on YouTube? Yeah, I can get into that because what was likely days — if not weeks — of work was compressed down into a mere 26 minutes. Me doing it myself? Probably not a good idea.

New study shows dubstep disrupts mosquito mating habits as well as annoying your parents.

A study on mosquito feeding and mating habits published in the journal Acta Tropica says that the bitey little bastards have a hard time eating and/or fucking when exposed to the song “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” by Skrillex. Apparently the low-frequency sounds common in dubstep not only drive your parents up the wall, but cause havoc with the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti.

For the experiment, researchers created a “music-on” and “music-off” environment in which they studied the Aedes aegypti and came to some conclusions.

Mosquitos in the music-on environment were less likely to feed on the provided host and were less likely to reproduce than mosquitos in the music-off environment. Researchers believe that these findings can be used to help develop more ways to control Aedes-carried diseases.

SCIENTIFIC STUDY FINDS “SCARY MONSTERS AND NICE SPRITES” BY SKRILLEX STOPS MOSQUITOS FROM HAVING SEX – EDM.com

I can’t begin to imagine why this would bother mosquitoes, your mom.

So the next time your parents try to tell you to turn that shit down, just explain how you’re protecting yourself from yellow fever mosquitos and ask them if they’d rather you got sick and died.

April 1st is dangerous for the credulous on the Internet

It’s that day again. The day of pranks and mischief where everyone tries to pull one over on you. Tech companies in particular really seem to enjoy this day and go to extra lengths to put forth almost believable fake products.

Companies like nVidia and their new R.O.N. AI Personal Assistant for Gamers:

I could totally use one of these for the RageConverter™ technology alone. The Troll Destroyer would also be nice.

Then there’s Newegg with their announcement of their entry into hardware production with their first CPU for gamers that continues the current trend of putting RGB lighting on everything. The Newegg iBrite RGB CPU:

It’s not clear how you’re supposed to see the RGB lights once you put a heatsink on it, but the specs of this processor more than make up for it: Cores: 100 — Threads: 200 — DDR5 RAM support: Sure, probably — Base clock: 1.4 PHz — Overclock capable, but doing so might create a small black hole inside your CPU (and void your warranty).

ThinkGeek goes all out for April 1st with a number of fake products that are often things people would really want. So much so that in the past they’ve actually turned some of them into real things you can buy. This year they’re “offering” up the Burned Bread Toaster by Banksy for the low low price of $1,370,000.00, the Flame Jam Hoop for all your Boomshakalaka needs, the Captain Marvel Universal Pager for a mere 1¢ (with $9.99/month 2-year service contract), the Roomby: Kirby Robot Vacuum that’ll suck your carpets clean, the Marvel Thor Mighty Mjolnir Mailbox because your mail is worthy, a Motion-Controlled Mimic Package to stop those porch pirates, the NERF Nuke to end all those NERF gun wars once and for all, the Power Wheels Desert Drifters so your kids can live out their Mad Max dreams, and — my personal favorite — the Bean Bag Onesie for all you lazy millennials out there.

Logitech has given in to demands to rename Wireless Mice to a more appropriate mammal considering that they lack “tails.” Announce they will now be called Hamsters:

Google is excited to introduce their newest product: Google Tulip! Decoding the language of flowers has been a decades-long challenge. But that changes today. Thanks to great advancements in artificial intelligence, Google Assistant on phones and Google Home is now able to understand tulips, allowing translation between Tulipish and dozens of human languages.

If you want to try for yourself, set your Google Assistant on your phone or smart speaker to the English language and say “Talk to Tulip Translator”. Yes, they went through the trouble to add this to the Google AI. I tried it. It works. This is some serious above and beyond for the sake of a joke.

Gotta admit, the amount of work some of these companies put into their pranks is impressive and I do look forward to this each year. However, I can imagine that for some folks the day is a nightmare.

Wow! You really can order anything from Amazon.

Did you know you can buy mannequins on Amazon.com? I didn’t until I read a follow up news article about the guy who is protesting a city order to lower the height of his fence. I suppose I should explain how this particular revelation came to me and why I give a shit.

So this guy by the name of Jason Windus in Santa Rosa, California built a six-foot fence around his yard so that he could let his dogs outside without them running all over hell’s half-acre, but he lives on a corner lot and his city has an ordinance that says you can’t have a fence that blocks the view of drivers at an intersection and one of his neighbors complained so he had to lower part of his fence to 36 inches. It’s probably worth mentioning that this wasn’t a chain-link fence but a wooden slat fence, hence the obstructing the view of drivers issue.

Dude’s pissed so he did what any red blooded American would do to protest government overreach and busybody neighbors: He set up a Naked Mannequin Garden Party in his yard:

Then things took a dramatic turn overnight as someone(s) in the neighborhood stole two of the naked mannequins from Windus protest scene!

Late Wednesday night, Windus heard what he thought was “some kids having fun” outside his house on Peterson Lane. Those revelers, he believes, made off with a mannequin who’d been outfitted with a blond wig, leopard print eye mask and nothing else.

The following morning, a second female mannequin was missing. In their haste to get away, the thieves apparently jostled the life-like figure, whose right leg fell off. The wayward limb spent the night on the sidewalk.

Source: The Press Democrat

What kind of America do we live in where a man can’t have a Naked Mannequin Garden Party without some of the guests being kidnapped?? (Mannequinnapped?)

So all of that led me to this article at the Sacramento Bee titled: “Man orders more naked protesters from Amazon as thieves snatch two of his mannequins.”

Windus blames the thefts on the city order to lower part of his fence to 36 inches, KGO reported. He had outfitted a mannequin with an army-style helmet to serve as a guard, but that apparently failed to deter the thieves, Windus said.

Despite the mannequins gone missing in action, Windus says he’s not giving up on his protest, The Press Democrat reports. He replaced the lost partiers with three other mannequins he had in storage, and has ordered two more from Amazon.

Source: The SACRAMENTO Bee

My first thought was “What the shit?? You can buy mannequins on Amazon?!?” Whereupon I immediately went to Amazon and searched for “mannequin” and — HOLY SHIT! — not only do they have them, BUT THEY’RE CHEAP TOO! $50 for a complete mannequin?? I may have to start my own garden party!

This is relevant to my interests because of Ralph. Ralph is my Security Mannequin. I picked him up way back when I did a stint as a part-time retail worker at a Meijer store for a second job in my early 20’s. They were going to toss him into a dumpster and I stepped in and gave him a proper home. It’s got to be at least 30 years now that he’s been a constant presence in the background of my life. When I moved into the apartment in Canton back in 1998 he sat on the half-wall that separated the stairway up from the front door from the living room area. He wears one of my old Les’s Place BBS t-shirts and one of my many hats. His job there was to stare with dead eyes down the stairs and startle folks coming up from the front door, which he did often.

*Knock Knock*

“Maintenance… GASP!!”

These days he sits on the bar in the basement wondering when someone is going to pour him a goddamn drink. Amazingly enough, in all this time, I’ve never taken a direct picture of him. I have tons of pictures where parts of him are visible in the background, but the best I can do is this heavily cropped shot from the Christmas before last:

Still wearing the same shirt that hasn’t been washed since it was put on him.

As you can see, Ralph lacks arms and, more importantly, anything below the waist. That hasn’t stopped him from loyally guarding my home from intruders by lurking in the background and being a little creepy. I would really like to have at least gotten him some arms by now, but I’ve never taken the time to actually do so. I’ve also thought about trying to find him a female companion and, thanks to Amazon, that reality is within reach! Why, I could have a whole mannequin army now!

Now that I think about it, my wife might object to that idea so I guess it’ll have to wait. The world is safe from my legions of fiberglass minions… for now. In the meantime I’ll have to take a proper picture of Ralph when I get home tonight.

I may never take advantage of Amazon’s offerings of cheap mannequins, but the fact that I could is somewhat amazing to me. When I stop to really think about it, this probably shouldn’t be so surprising to me. I’m sure this has been a possibility for a long, long time. I mean, you’ve been able to buy a 50 gallon drum of lube from Amazon for years now, so why wouldn’t you be able to buy a mannequin? (I just know that search query is going to cause no end of amusing emails from Amazon on “things you might be interested in!”) The only reason I didn’t know about it before was because it never occurred to me to search for it. All these years of loneliness for Ralph and all I had to do was check on Amazon.

Surely my house will have good fortune now.

I came home to an unexpected delivery from Amazon yesterday. I originally thought it must be something Anne had ordered because she orders stuff all the time that I have no clue about, but she pointed out later that it was addressed to me. Puzzled, I opened the box and found a solar powered Maneki-neko or Good Fortune Cat.

A lot of folks think these are of Chinese origin as you will often see them in Chinese restaurants in America, but they are actually a Japanese lucky charm. I have a couple of porcelain figures in the house already, but I’ve always wanted one with a moving arm and so I put this fellow on my Amazon wish list.

Ignore the clutter in the background. I hastily took this pic with it on the dining room table.

I’ve no idea who sent it to me. The note that came with it simply read: “Hi Les, I’ve read your blog for a long time. We seem to be on the same page on just about every issue. It’s a small token, but wanted to say thanks. You’re a good dude. From – Just some Canadian guy living in the U.S..”

No, thank you, Some Canadian Guy! I’ve wanted one of these for a very long time and being solar powered means I don’t have to replace batteries in it all the time. I’d probably still be blabbing away on here even if no one was paying attention, but it is always gratifying and humbling when I realize folks make a point of seeing what nonsense I’ve spouted recently. It’s been almost two decades and that hasn’t changed for me. Thank you for dropping in.

A short lesson on getting what you want in 6 pictures.

Our two cats, Cuddles and Jasper, are reluctant housemates. At best they tolerate each other’s company when it’s absolutely necessary. Such as in the morning when breakfast is served in side-by-side dishes or when the sun is shining through the doorwall making for excellent solar recharging opportunities or even when there is a noise outside and the front window is the only good spot to investigate it. Otherwise they don’t like to share things. Cuddles, for example, has laid claim to our king size bed. If he’s on it then Jasper will generally demur and go elsewhere.

The basement tends to be Jasper’s domain and when I’m on the computer he can often be found curled up in the kitty bed sleeping. Cuddles used to dominate my computer time back when we were in the apartment and my setup was in the second bedroom and he often looks put out when he comes downstairs and sees that Jasper has claimed the kitty bed. Every now and then, though, he gets an opportunity to hang out with me and claim the bed for his own. Jasper, being a master of logic and reason, will sometimes have to convince Cuddles that it’s Jasper’s turn to sleep in the kitty bed. Here is how he accomplishes that goal:

First, establish what it is you want.
You may find someone has already laid claim to your objective and may complain that “they were here first.”

Gently explain to them why they should shut the fuck up and get out of your spot.
“Fuck you, I’m not moving.”
Claim victory via calm reasoning and superior argument.
Relax in your newly claimed objective.

There is little need to resort to (much) violence when you have a well-reasoned argument in favor of your position. We could all learn a lesson or two from this.