Thursday, July 30, 2009



We in the Pacific Northwest are used to cool temperatures. Our "hot" weather in the summer might get up to 80F or maybe occasionally 84F. It is rare to ever see 90F. I think another record has been set today, after one from yesterday. Only once since they started recording daily high temps in Seattle has it ever reached 100F. That was in 1994. Yesterday 103F was recorded and that was the 5th consecutive day of 90 or above which tied that record. Until today. It isn't likely going to beat the 103 but it is certainly over 90, for the 6th day in a row, another record.

These are records that I don't like to see beaten. I'm ready to get back to normal, maybe even for a little rain. You know, Seattle is well known for its rain and when it is here the weather is from the southwest off of the Pacific Ocean and it wouldn't be anywhere near that hot. I think most of my readers here know that we built a sunroom onto our house last year. We and the cats have enjoyed that room most of the time since then. But, yesterday it was a bit warm out there. This photo was taken about 17:37 looking out through the window in the door from our bedroom into that sunroom. No way was I going to open the door. And this was with the sliding glass door from the sunroom outside open and a large box fan pulling in the outside 100 degree air.

Hot sunroom
Enough said.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Old Coots Club on Patrol again

There is a group of us old school buddies who have been getting together each summer in Spokane, WA, where we all grew up, just to stay in contact, find out what all has been happening in each others lives and just plan have fun. This summer the group, which we loosely call "The Old Coots Club," decided to take a road trip to the Seattle area from Spokane for a couple of days rather than the Seattle area bunch going to Spokane. That trip was this last weekend and on Saturday, after a breakfast in the Kirkland area, four of the group came up to Skagit County, my home stomping grounds.

We met at our house which was an opportunity to show the place to them, three of whom had not been here before. Then we went to lunch together at the Garden Cafe inside the Skagit Gardens retail sales greenhouse, followed by a tour of part the area.

Old coots 01
Our tour went out the Fir Island Road to La Conner. This is a scene looking down the channel toward the Rainbow Bridge. The eagle is an example of some of the public art that is on display in this town. It is very tourist oriented and has some nice things on public display as well as many galleries.

Old coots 02
Another must see place is the waterway known as Deception Pass. Here is found some very fast tidal flow when the tides are moving into or out of Puget Sound. All of the water does not go through here but enough does to make this somewhat hazardous to boat traffic, especially if you are trying to go against the tide flow. Don't try this in a canoe or sail boat under sail! You won't make it as you can't go as fast as the tide. This is one of the two Deception Pass bridges, the longer one that goes from the small island in the middle of the channel to Whidbey Island. The only access for autos to Whidbey is via this bridge or one of two Washington State Ferry System boat routes. The island is long, extending south to where the other end is just off Mukilteo, where the ferry goes out to the town of Clinton.

Old coots 03
This is the shorter of the two bridges, the one that goes from the mainland to the small island. The photo has one of our Old Coots Club walking back from the bridge where he went to take a photo. The traffic was very heavy on this day. With beautiful weather on a Saturday, lots of people were out and about both in autos and boats.

Old coots 04
We finished the day off with a dinner together at Grazie, an Italian restaurant in the north Bothell area, between Mt. Vernon and Seattle. We prevailed on our waiter to take this photo with my small Sony camera and he did a nice job of it. Pat went along to lunch and dinner, but stayed home puttering in the garden rather than going along on our tour. I drove the Smart Car on the Coots Tour and three of them got a ride in it but since Pat doesn't want to ride in it on the freeway, we took our big car to Bothell, the VW New Beetle.

Our group does a pretty good job of staying in contact via email. I think we are finding that it is good to stay in contact with old friends as we grow older. We are all retired now so have more time to travel. One of us comes all the way from New York, two from California, three from the Seattle area, one from Vancouver, WA and three are in the Spokane area although one of them is a full time RVer so does move around. They will all have to change my email address after this next Saturday as we are changing our ISP. But they will figure that out.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009


I joined the 21st century

My brother has used an ebook reader for some years. I love to read and in fact probably have nearly half of the storage unit I still rent full of books, but I recently decided that it was time to join the 21st century. I bought one of these:
Sony Reader 01
This is a Sony PRS-505 eBook Reader. I debated over this VS the Kindle from but in the end I thought this one would work better for me. The Kindle requires the user to only download books from and while I like their service and am even a stock holder in the company, I think I'd rather be able to have the options that this reader gives me.

I picked one in what they call blue color but it is very dark, pretty much a Navy blue color. I know it is easier to look at photos that are against a dark background and figured the page of the book would work the same way. It does seem to.

Sony Reader 02
Here is the main menu and as you can see, I currently have 105 books loaded. It says that it can hold about 160 books but that depends on the size of each book. I can also use either an SD or Sony Memory Stick memory card to expand that considerably. In fact, I was able to buy a bunch of 2gb SD cards from Costco for only $5 each so am well set for quite awhile.

Sony Reader 03
Here is a photo of the reader beside a standard pocket book so you can get a feel for its size. Its page size is just slightly smaller than the paper book but I have the option to select from three different text sizes. I've found that I generally like the mid-size one best. By the way, the paper book shown here is a great read and the author has half a dozen or so published with this character. They are set in New Mexico.

Sony Reader 04
The text shown here is in that mid-size option. The screen is what is called ePaper and very easy on the eyes to read. It's much easier to use than a back-lit computer monitor screen and is even easy to see in bright sunlight. The battery is good for something like 5500 page turns before recharging and anytime you have it hooked to your computer, via USB port, it is charging those batteries. The USB port is also the way I download books to it. There is no built in light but Sony makes a cover that includes a lighted wedge that I bought and it works great. In addition to the USB connection charge I have chargers that plug into the wall (AC power) and one that connects to the 12v outlet ("cigar lighter") in vehicles, so we can recharge it from our solar panels in the motorhome. The list price is $300 but I bought mine online at about a 10% discount for $270. Amazon just lowered their Kindle price to that same $300 but you won't find it discounted any lower as they are the only source to buy one from, except perhaps on eBay.

There are many places where eBooks are available to download for this device. Sony has a store of their own and I've bought some there. Barnes & Noble owns Fictionwise which has many thousands of books, many of which are free. I do have to be careful to not download copy protected books that are not in one of the two protected file formats that I can use but there are a lot of unprotected formats including plain text and PDF files. The screen of the reader is not in color so photos are rendered as black & white and not real detailed, but it can be used that way. Many eBooks have covers that are from the printed versions and they look okay.

Any book that was published before 1923 is no longer protected by copyrite and many of these have been digitized and are available to download from many different sources. Google has over 500,000. Many of these are some of the real classics. For example, I have Tom Sawyer, Gulliver's Travels, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, The War of the Worlds plus others. I have bought a few new books. I am a real fan of books by Nelson DeMille and have read all but his latest which is still only available in hard back format. But it is also available from Sony as an eBook for $11.99, less than half the price of the hard back. I recently borrowed a book from a friend that I really enjoyed ("The Unforgettable Minute") and I found it from Sony for the same $11.99 price. They download in just seconds, even these full current books. Mysteries are my favorite genre and as you'd guess that is where I have the most books, currently 33.

Many authors are now publishing only in eBook format. It saves trees, is less costly as there are no books to print and I understand that authors actually get to keep a higher percentage of the cost of eBooks than they do from standard publishers. That sort of sounds like a win-win kind of thing to me.

If you have any questions that I might be able to answer, go ahead and ask. I am far from an expert but I am enjoying this device. It is a great way to be able to take a lot of reading material along on a trip in a very small space!

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Thursday, July 02, 2009


A new kind of mulch for your garden

What my brother found at the Spokane Costco store is a mulch for garden and playground use that is made of recycled tires. It is a rubber product that is a little darker than the cedar bark sold around here for garden use but offers a lot of advantages. The cedar product is beautiful when new but it quickly fades to a gray color, after just a couple of months and fairly soon turns into dirt. You have to renew it every year. It has small slivers that will get stuck in your hands unless you wear gloves always around it and are pretty lucky.

The rubber based product is a little darker brown but that color is guaranteed to stay that way for 12 years. The product doesn't break down into dirt, in fact it is a pretty good barrier to grass, weeds, etc. growing through it. There are no slivers to get stuck in your hands and it is even easy to walk on. Are there any negatives? Well, maybe in the short term as the cost is higher. Our gardeners told us our area would need about a cubic yard of bark which would cost about $50 and probably another $50 or so for them to deliver & spread it. A cubic yard is 27 cubic feet. The rubber mulch comes in 1.6 cubic foot bags for $19.49 so it would take 17 bags of it for 27 cu ft at a cost of about $331. But it doesn't have to be done every year and really doesn't have to be quite as thickly applied.

We have bought 13 bags and still have one unopened and another with a bit left. I think these will work for us for this year and next year we may want to buy two or three more to top off any thin areas. After that I don't think we will need much over quite a few years.

Fence 08
Here is another photo of the garden area showing the mulch. Notice the cat planter? I found that at a Hallmark Store for Pat as part of her gift for our second wedding anniversary. So I guess you could say that we now have four cats.

Fence 09
This shows the mulch a bit better, being a closer view. We have had it now a few weeks and really like it. I've been told that it is available from Walmart but they carry smaller bags, so if you need very much then probably Costco is a better place to look. This photo also shows the stump for the other large bush that I called a bumblebee bush that we took out after the cold winter killed them.

Fence 13
Another view of the arbor we placed just inside the gate in the fence.

Fence 10
A better view of the white post top light that is just inside the gate. In the background you can see part of our park's clubhouse. This side of it has the indoor swimming pool inside. There is also a good library with many books.

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