Note To My Fellow Dinosaurs

I was at my veterinarian’s office and I quipped that if they were an airline I’d be getting frequent flier miles as often as I find myself going in there.  The lady behind the desk said, “We have a rewards program.  You need to be on it, it will save you a lot of money.  Just go to our website and download it.”

I went looking for Cedarwood Veterinary Hospital’s rewards program.  I found it and was sent to the PetDesk web site where I found:
.      What devices does the app work on?
.             PetDesk is available on IOS and Android devices (Mobile or Tablet).

Not available for a Windows laptop.  Rats!  I felt like lodging a complaint for discriminating against us dinosaurs who don’t have a smart phone.  I decided instead to gripe about it to my best bud: Electro-Man Mike.

Mike is a retired network engineer who knows computers, networks, and security stuff inside and out.   Mike told me that Android emulators are available to run Android aps on a windows machine.  He even gave me a link to a web page that listed and reviewed a fair number of them.  I went with BlueStacks, the top rated emulator.  Top rated and free … can’t beat that!

I installed BlueStacks, booted it up, went to the Google store from within the emulator, located the PetDesk ap, and installed that.  When I booted up PetDesk it asked for a small amount of information and WHALA: my veterinary records were sitting there in front of me.  It was kind of spooky how easy that was.

So if you encounter any other of us dinosaurs who don’t have a smart phone but want to use one or more aps made for an Android phone, tell them to Google “BlueStacks Android Emulator”.  And try not to get stuck in a tar pit.

Ground-shaking News

In the news feeds this morning is a report of another earthquake here in East Tennessee.  This time a 3.0 magnitude quake centered in Knoxville.  That’s not far from us.  I didn’t feel anything, but it gets me to wondering about the frequent earthquake reports I’ve been seeing:  is Tennessee about to tear itself to pieces or is this normal and we just haven’t noticed it before?   Let’s ask the experts.

www.Eartquaketrack.com says East Tennessee has had: (Mag. 1.5 or greater) Continue reading “Ground-shaking News”

The Swarming (of Ladybugs)

Huge numbers of ladybugs are swarming as they seek shelter from the coming winter cold. But these bugs are more than an annoyance: they are invaders from another continent.

Every fall since we’ve been here we have experienced an increase of activity in “lady bugs”.  Early on it was so slight we barely noticed but in recent years it has been increasing in intensity.

Why Do They Bite?

My guess on this is that because all forms of ladybugs feed on aphids and the larval stage of several insects (thus earning them the status of beneficial garden insects) at this time of year these large concentrations of ladybugs cannot find enough to eat and turn to biting other creatures (like me) trying to obtain sustenance.

Actually the American Lady Bird beetle is not known to bite, but the Asian Ladybug does.  It is not toxic,  but not only is the bite painful, some people are allergic to it.

What’s the Difference?

Visually, the two are very similar and the untrained eye may be fooled. Both are similar in size (though the Asian beetles tend to be a bit larger than the American) and shape.  Both can be from yellow to red in color.  Both have black spots.

But there are some consistent differences that make it possible to tell them apart.

  1.  The Asian beetles have variable spots: anywhere from 0 to 20.  The American beetle has 9: 4 on each side and 1 spot just behind it’s head that is centered and bisected by the split in its elytron (wing covers).
  2. The Asian beetle has a black and white “head” with the black part forming an “M” or “W” shape.  The American beetle’s is primarily black.
  3. The Asian beetles are known to bite, the American beetle is not.
  4. The Asian beetle seeks shelter by invading our homes in fall, the American beetle is more reclusive and seeks shelter by clustering in sheltered locations outside.

Why Are Asian Beetles Here?

The Asian ladybugs were brought into the United States by the USDA and Forestry Commission to relieve the hardwood forests of many disease carrying aphids, mites, and scale insects.  But, the Asian species of beetle proved to be hardier and stronger than the American species.  The two compete for the same food sources, and the Asian species carries a parasitic fungus that kills other species of ladybugs.  Now the American Lady Bird Beetle is on the endangered species list as, once again, something imported is killing off the native species.

And from the looks of things lately, they’re gunning for us next!

The Airplane That Flies At the Edge of Space

There are only a few airplanes (that we know of) that can fly at 70.000 feet or above. The SR71 Blackbird has logged at least one flight at just over 85,000 feet (July, 1976) [1] and the The X-43A flies at 100,000 feet while still using an air-breathing engine (not a rocket) [2].  But only one plane routinely flies to the edge of space and back, and it’s actually a relic from the 1950’s.   Although each plane is periodically stripped completely, x-rayed, and refurbished, the design has remained essentially the same over all these decades.  Why? Because it works. Continue reading “The Airplane That Flies At the Edge of Space”

Using Epsom Salt in the Garden

Most people are aware that Epsom salt makes for a soothing bath if you have itchy skin or sore muscles, but did you know it’s also beneficial to some of your garden plants?

Why Epsom salt?

Epsom saltEpsom salt (magnesium sulfate) is high in magnesium.  Magnesium promotes the uptake of nitrogen and phosphorous from the soil.  Magnesium also promotes the creation of chlorophyll, the stuff that gives plants their green color and is essential for photosynthesis.  By improving photosynthesis the plant feeds itself better and stays healthier.  Magnesium also aids a plant in the production of more flowers, which in turn become fruit.  Boosting photosynthesis also boosts sugar production, so fruit trees and vines will produce sweeter fruit.

Before using Epsom salt it is recommended to have your soil tested for magnesium content; amending it may not be needed.

What Plants Benefit?

Most flowering plants can benefit from the use of Epsom salt.  This includes flowers such as roses.  But my focus is the vegetable garden, so I’ll confine my discussion to those plants.  The primary benefactors are the nitrogen hungry plants like tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumber, squash, and zucchini.  Do not use it on beans (which are nitrogen fixers) and leafy greens like lettuce, spinach, chard, and kale.

Signs of Need

Continue reading “Using Epsom Salt in the Garden”

Apple 1: A Home-brew Computer

Here’s an interesting bit of computer history: the Apple 1 home computer.  This was the brain child of Steve Wozniac, who later became the co-founder of the Apple Computer Company.  But that came later.

Steve Jobs (left in image above) and Steve Wozniak both worked for Atari at the time and met in a friend’s garage in the late 1960s.  The two of them bonded over their shared interest in electronics and practical jokes.  Wozniak was a wizard at designing compact, efficient circuitry.  Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs debuted their prototype Apple 1 at the Homebrew Computer Club in 1976. Continue reading “Apple 1: A Home-brew Computer”

The Tax Reform Bill: What It Really Says

For some time now I’ve been seeing some folks gnashing their teeth and tearing hair over this tax reform bill that just passed.  All manner of apocalyptic scenarios are being painted.  There are three issues that I see lamented most often.

Charitable Giving

One is charitable giving.  Some (even some news outlets) are saying that charitable giving is no longer income tax deductible, so people will stop giving.  First off I think that concept is just silly: people don’t give to charities solely to avoid paying taxes on that money.  But, getting that deduction is a nice perk for being generous.  Curious about what the real deal is, I started searching for credible reports on what the new tax bill says about charitable giving. Continue reading “The Tax Reform Bill: What It Really Says”

Smile: Simple Giving to Favorite Charity

If you are a regular reader here, you know I serve as a foster care provider with Steele Away Home – Canine Foster and Rescue.  Being a charity, we are (always) raising funds to keep doing what we do.  We have a new way for you to help … and all you have to do is — SHOP!  You like shopping right?  Do you shop on Amazon.com?

Steele Away Home is an all-volunteer run 501(c)(3) and is now GuideStar accredited and registered with Amazon Smile.  If you select us as your beneficiary, Amazon will donate a percentage of THEIR profits from your purchase to us as your chosen charity. Continue reading “Smile: Simple Giving to Favorite Charity”

Being Busy vs Being Productive

More and more I encounter people who talk about how much they’re involved in and how many things they do.  Quite often this is delivered in the form of complaint.  I have to wonder, who is it that puts these burdens upon them?  Is it not they themselves who choose to engage in so many activities?

I also note that some of these people are not especially good at some of the things they do.  Some seem to be forever working toward things they never actually achieve: chasing after something that eludes them because they’re weighed down with too much detritus not related to that goal.

too many projectsOur modern world sets this scenario as being the norm and anyone who is not over-burdened is lazy.  I see sayings like, “If you want something done, give it to the busiest person you know.”  At first glance that seems to make sense, but upon deeper examination it falls apart.  Is that person “busy” because as soon as they finish one task they take on another or because they accomplish little: just trying to keep all the plates spinning?  Too often it is the latter. Continue reading “Being Busy vs Being Productive”

Social Security Shell Game: File Early or Wait?

social securityThe Social Security program in this country has undergone many changes over the 82 years since it’s inception, but I’m not here to decry manipulation or the theft of public monies by corrupt politicians.  I’m looking at whether I should “retire” at age 62 or wait until full retirement age of 67 (yes, it’s 67 now).  To run the numbers I used:

Retirement Calculator

This calculator gives you a personal estimate of what your average monthly Social Security benefits would be, based on if you retire early (age 62), at full retirement age (age 67) or at the latest age of retirement (age 70).  This one accesses your S.S.A. data to give you an accurate payment amount.

And

So. Sec. Benefits by Year of Birth

This chart uses “average” numbers to help you make a decision without going into your personal info.  Here’s how it shakes out for me.

Continue reading “Social Security Shell Game: File Early or Wait?”