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Wednesday 2020.2.19

Mechanical Aptitude

Did I ever mention that I used to fix typewriters back in Connecticut before I moved to California? That would have been before 1975. I could never get the hang of mechanical adding machines. They used cams. Typewriters used fulcrums and levers. I'm more of a fulcrum and lever sort of guy.

All those years of fixing typewriters came in handy this week. My Juki overlock/serger seized up on me. Keeping it oiled is not a problem. The outside case pieces are easily removed, exposing all the fulcrum points inside. I oiled everything I could see, but no go. The machine was still stiff.

However, there is one little black panel that I never noticed before. There are two screws holding it in place. I could remove only one of them, but the other screw I could loosen to slide the panel to one side. Inside there were more parts to lubricate. Oiling those did the trick. The machine started spinning like a top again.

I mentioned it to someone and he commented on how the old "classic" machines only need a bit of oil to keep them running. When something goes wrong inside the modern electronic machines, it usually requires replacing a chip or circuit board. So true.

With all the covers off, I took the machine outside and gave it a good cleaning with compressed air. And now that I know about that little black panel, I'll be sure to oil the parts behind it in the future.

Here is what the machine looks like with all its clothes off:

One advantage worth mentioning is the total lack of plastic inside. It's all steel, and therefore the machine is heavy. It weighs 20 pounds. By contrast, my new Brother sewing machine weighs only 11 pounds — twice the size, half the weight. An odd feature are those strings toward the right inside. Those are wicks. By putting a lot of oil on that little cake-like pad at the top the oil is supposed to wick down to lubricate parts deep inside. I'd rather remove the covers and oil all the fulcrum points myself.

Here is what it looks like with all its covers on and threaded:

I ran a short length of dark blue fabric through the machine so that you could see what it does. It overlocks the edges, preventing fraying. It's also a good stitch for knits because it stretches.

Should I Worry?

Monday evening I heard an alarming prediction on the news. It said the corona virus would eventually reach a pandemic stage in which 40% to 70% of the world's population would be infected with the virus. Not everyone would be symptomatic. Because of world travel, isolating the sickness and preventing its spread is impossible. At best, maybe the spread can be slowed down enough to allow time for a cure or a vaccine to be developed.

I will be 70 years old in about a year a half. I feel vulnerable. And then I saw in yesterday's news a study that suggests the corona virus is more fatal in men than in women. I'm hoping a vaccine will be found soon.

Sunday 2020.2.16

Tailoring a Remnant Shirt

Those of you who have read this blog for a while know that I tailor the shirts I wear in my videos. The challenge when looking for men's shirts is color. I've used the following photograph before. These are some of my "show shirts", of which I now have nearly 40.

What should I do with the leftover pieces of fabric, the remnants? I saved them because I've had an idea for a while — a remnant shirt. Stitch together some remnants to have large enough sections to cut the various pieces that make up a shirt — front, back, sleeves, etc. I decided to try it on Wednesday afternoon.

This is not something I've done before. As expected, there was a learning curve. Just to have one piece of fabric from which to cut the back section, it took three tries to get it right. However, given a few more mistakes, I nonetheless had the largest pieces — back, left and right fronts, and two sleeves — cut by bedtime. I can normally lay out a pattern and cut all the pieces in a single day, and maybe have time to start some of the assembly. I knew this was going to be a challenge; so I accepted it and worked slowly.

On Thursday I finished cutting the remaining pieces and started the assembly. I put together the body and started the collar.

On Friday I completed all the assembly in the morning. During the afternoon I finished the shirt with buttonholes and buttons, sewed with my new Brother…

Oh Brother!

One part of this project is a new sewing machine — like I need another one (I already had three). However, I rationalized it successfully. The machine was on sale $40 off at Costco online and this month I will receive a credit card reward rebate. The amount is more than enough to pay for the machine. It's like getting it for free. So, I bought a Brother XR3340.

There are two functions I really wanted: A buttonhole feature that automatically sizes the holes to the buttons I am using, and a feature for using the machine to attach buttons. I really dislike sewing buttons on a shirt.

One thing worth explaining: I won't use the machine for garment assembly. I have an old industrial singer (Model 31-15) that works well. It's a solid metal machine without a single molecule of plastic in it. It's nearly 100 years old and it will still last longer than that Brother.

There is one feature on the new machine that I like, but it wasn't important — sewing letters. I like putting my last name on the locker loop sewn into the back of my shirts. Here's a photo:

That little strip of fabric (I used my scissors to help you appreciate the size) will go into the back of my remnant shirt. I never hang my shirts by their locker loop (I use wooden hangers), but it's a neat accessory to have and a good place to put the name of the designer.

I did a Kitchen Vlog video of the unboxing, and at the end of the video I show the shirt I made with remnants. You can watch the video with this link:


As for the Brother sewing machine: There is a lot of plastic. I can't recommend it for someone who does a lot of tailoring or other sewing. So far, it works fine. How long it will last, I don't know. I am planing to use it a lot during the next few weeks. If it fails in any way, I will return it to Costco for a refund and then look for something else.

Wednesday 2020.2.12

Monopoly Time Again

It's that time again. The Albertons and Safeway stores (among many others) are handing out game pieces for yet another Monopoly game. The grand prize is $1,000,000. There are 13 lesser prizes, all the way down to $5 instant cash. I never win anything.

I suspected the game might be rigged when I heard a checker ask another checker, "Can we give out extras of these?" I thought I heard the other checker say, "As many as you want. Those aren't the winning pieces." Maybe he meant the winning pieces would be released later in the contest.

I did a little research on line to learn whether or not my suspicions were correct. I didn't find a definitive yes or no. There was no surprise when I learned that each game category included one or two rare pieces — so rare, the odds of winning might be as low as 1 in more than 550 million. In past games I had collected every one of the common pieces. Only the rare pieces were missing.

I don't diligently separate each game tile and glue it onto the paper game board they give you at the store. I go on line to learn which pieces to watch for. Create a simple little spreadsheet and set it aside. Here is my guide for this year:

The yellow numbers are the rare ones. I don't bother with the prefix and suffix letters. Only the numbers matter. The grayed boxes are game pieces I already have. I'll update those as I get more pieces. It helps when discarding duplicates.

As I said above, I never win anything, even when others help me by giving me their game pieces. I've looked at hundreds of pieces in the past.

And, finally, I suspect someone behind this game is superstitious. Notice there is no 666, the Biblical number of the Wild Beast, the image of corrupt human governments. I could say something about Trump. Maybe next time.

More About Gophers

This week I started using gopher bait rather than cat poop in my yard. It's easy. I can lift one of the sandstone pieces near a gopher mound to expose the tunnel underneath. Sprinkle some gopher bait pellets in the tunnel and then lower the stone back into place. The stone keeps the bait safe where my neighbors' pets can't get to it. I'm using an AMDRO product that works okay. It's available at Home Depot.

There is another product that is supposed to be more effective, but it cannot be shipped into California. It contains strychnine. The AMDRO product uses something called Zinc Phosphide. It can take days to eradicate the gophers, but it does eventually work.


I received an interesting message from my YouTube channel. Someone commented on my video for Mom's American Chop Suey, which is a simple macaroni dish made with a beef ragù sauce. It is known by other names across the USA. The woman who commented makes it for her family. Her recipe was handed down by a Massachusetts family that "was adamant about using only Campbell's Tomato Soup" for the sauce, "not an Italian sauce." I didn't respond.

It reminds me of my mother's Beef Stroganoff, which was very different from the recipe on this web site. My mother mixed cooked chopped beef with Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup and served that over noodles. As kids, we liked it.

My mother also occasionally made hot dog and potato soup. I don't know how she made it and I never tried to duplicate her recipe. I think it was something like a can of tomato paste in a pot of boiling water. The cubed potatoes were cooked until tender, then cut-up hot dogs were added. Again, as kids we liked it.

I mention all this because I didn't know what to do about that comment. Should I leave it or delete it? I decided to leave it. None of my recipes are cast in concrete. People are free to cook their food the way they like.

And, Finally, What Did We Learn From New Hampshire?

In a predominantly white state located next to Vermont, Bernie Sanders' home state, it was a close race between Sanders and Buttigieg. Sanders was expected to win. He did. No surprise.

Andrew Yang suspended his race, as did Michael Bennet. Expect others to drop out soon. Super Tuesday on March 3 will winnow the field a lot. Where will Joe Biden rank? If he isn't first or second, there might not be any reason for him to remain in the race. He was ranked in first place in the national polls for many months, but now he's in second place.

Do I care? No. As I keep saying, I don't care who wins the nomination, as long as he or she can defeat Donald Trump in November.

The one feature I looked for in the New Hampshire primary was turnout. It exceeded the turnout of the 2016 and the 2008 races. A large Democratic turnout might be an indicator of the voters who will flock to the polls in November to defeat Trump.

Sunday 2020.2.9

Status Report

In Wednesday's blog I wrote about stuffing cat poop into gopher tunnels in my yard. If you did not read that blog, the odor is supposed to alert the gophers to the presence of predators and drive them away. Did it work? In a word, no.

New gopher mounds are popping up. Some are in areas I treated. Maybe I have gophers that don't care about cats. So I'm back to putting gopher poison pellets down the tunnels again. It works, albeit temporarily. And supposedly the odor of rotting gophers underground drives away the living gophers. So, if using traps, it's better to stuff the dead gopher in a tunnel rather than throw it in the trash. I have yet to try traps.


In a recent discussion among friends we wondered what it would take to defeat Trump in November. We all agreed Trump might defeat himself. One idea came to my mind. Maybe after four years of Trump being mostly at the top of the news everyday, people will be so tired of hearing about him they'll vote for the other candidate, any candidate.

Another bit of speculation is what Trump might do between now and November, feeling more emboldened by his impeachment acquittal. Believing more and more he's above the law, how many more supporters might he alienate by actions unbefitting of a president?

Of course, his dedicated base will remain loyal to him. They believe everything he tells them, even the untruths. If Trump told them the orb that gives us light by day is the moon and the orb that gives us light by night is the sun, they'd wear sunscreen at night.

The problem for Trump is that his base is not large enough to win the election. He needs the swing voters. And this year he might not win enough of them.

And Speaking of Speculation

Pundits are wondering if Trump's actions dismissing Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and recalling Gordon Sondland, Ambassador to the European Union, are the latest expansion of The Great Purge. The removal of Maria Yovanovitch, Ambassador to Ukraine, might have been only the tip of the iceberg. Give abject loyalty to Trump, or "You're Fired!" Ask James Comey, former director of the FBI. Trump seems to delight in retribution.

Meanwhile, I just started reading Amarosa Manigault Newman's book, Unhinged: An Insider's Account of the Trump White House. I've had the book for a while, but never got around to reading it.


I am beginning to loathe the mention of polls in the news. On TV Friday evening the news journalists claimed they put no faith in the polls, and then they spent the entire segment talking about polls. The problem is: Too many voters remain undecided (or if decided, unwilling to admit it) until the day they vote. And some even change their mind after they vote. Note this headline from The Hill:

Buttigieg supporter asks to take back vote after learning he's gay

She didn't know. Which brings up another pet peeve of mine — too many voters cast their votes without being informed about the candidate they're voting for. Which brings up yet another pet peeve of mine — many voters vote against a candidate, not for one.

Alan Abramowitz, a professor of political science at Emory University, popularized the concept of "negative partisanship," the idea that voters are more motivated to defeat the other side than by any particular policy goals. And that is why Rick Wilson in his new book, Running Against the Devil, promoted the idea of the single most important referendum for Democrats being "Defeat Trump." Capitalize on that motivation toward negative partisanship.

We'll know more in the autumn. First we need to get through this long slog of caucuses and primaries. Super Tuesday is still more than three weeks away. That day will, I hope, define a clear frontrunner.

Wednesday 2020.2.5

The Wind That Wasn't

Sunday night's major wind event was nothing but a puff of air here. I looked around outside in the morning. The ground beneath my juniper tree wasn't littered with debris from the tree. The road wasn't strewn with leaves. There was nothing to indicate it had been windy during the night.

I'm grateful. I slept soundly. High winds would have kept me awake. However, the powerful winds buffeted other parts of Southern California, causing damage and power outages.

The freeze watch changed a little. Monday night was still predicted to be 31°F and the watch was changed to a warning. Last night's temperature was upgraded a little to 33°. Yesterday I moved my potted herbs back outside on the deck. All is well.

The Caucus That Wasn't

Did you watch? I did. Did you see anything? Neither did I.

The Iowa caucus was a major debacle. At best, it was amusing. I had a Real Clear Politics web page open on my computer — "Live Results". The only change during the evening was the percentage of precincts reporting. It changed from 1.93% to 1.87%. The following morning the page hadn't changed. Nothing.

Here we are two days later and there are still no final results. 71% of the precincts are in. My favorite line of the day:

You can imagine Putin asking one of his spy generals: "Did we cause that debacle in Iowa?"

"No sir. The Americans messed it up all on their own."

Two possible takeaways I see coming out of this mess: Iowa might lose its status as the first voting state, and next time their system could be a standard primary — go in, vote, go home — with early and absentee voting by mail.

Most Popular Recipe

I don't know that I ever reported this web site's most popular recipe page. Lately I've been getting a monthly report from the Google Search Console Team. I don't know why. I must have signed up for something that was free.

The January winner: Air Fryer Marinated Chicken.

Normally my web site gets hardly any notice. But for some reason this one recipe was clicked 520 times during January. Maybe several people received an air fryer for Christmas. I will say this: That chicken is some of the best air-fried chicken I ever tasted. It looks like it was cooked on a barbecue grill. And with Easy Corn on the Cob and air-fried Seasoned Potato Wedges — delicious!

By contrast, December's most popular recipe was Bailey's Irish Cream. It got only 39 clicks. My web site is not a significant source of recipes on the Internet.

Cat Poop

I have a gopher problem. Actually, the entire trailer park has a gopher problem.

During the summer I look for gopher snakes, but you can never find one when you want one. Many times while biking home from work I would see a gopher snake near the side of the road. They're easy to catch because they are practically tame in the wild. I would just grab the snake and hold it gently. It panics a little at first, but then it calms down. Gently lift it up and maybe take it home. No gopher snake has ever bit me or even hissed at me.

Here is a picture of my yard. It was taken on Monday.

This is only one small area of my yard. I feel so discouraged, I don't even want to work out there, pulling weeds. I spent about $6,000 on materials to make my yard look nice and be easy to maintain. I did all the labor myself. It took two months. I did not spend all that money and energy to provide a nice place for a gopher village.

I do know this: gophers like a hard surface to tunnel beneath. Sidewalks, driveways, foundations, or in my case, sandstone provide a hard ceiling that won't collapse on their tunnels.

I mentioned my gopher problem at Saturday's news discussion group. One person said he has a friend in Los Angeles with the same problem. He has several cats and cleans their litter boxes daily; so he brought his friend a bag of cat poop to stuff down the holes and into the tunnels. As he explained it, the poop alerts the gophers to the presence of a predator. Urine clumps of kitty litter work well too. The gophers will quickly leave the area for a safer place to build their village.

I checked it on the internet. It's true. And cat poop is a lot easier to get than a snake. And I have more than one friend with cats, a ready supply of free poop. So it appears I have a plan to eradicate these pests from my yard. It might take a while. There are several tunnels all over my yard, but I have an endless supply of cat poop when I want it.

I treated the area in the photograph above yesterday. I checked it this morning and there were no new gopher mounds. Later today I'll open more tunnels in another area and stuff them with cat poop too.

And Speaking of Poop

Did you watch Trump's State of the Union Address? I did. I gave up counting the lies after 24. Evidently Nancy Pelosi wasn't impressed either. Afterward, she tore up Trump's speech. And later today the Senate will vote to acquit Trump of all charges in the Articles of Impeachment. Ho-hum.

Sunday 2020.2.2

Let the Voting Begin

Tomorrow is a date for which I have been waiting patiently. It's the Iowa caucuses. I'm not actually sure what I am hoping to learn. One thing I will be watching for is turnout. If one party's voters show a statistically significant large number at the polls, that could be an early indicator of voter turnout in November.

Although Bernie Sanders is expected to win in Iowa, I hope he doesn't. It won't take much to encourage him to remain in the race until the bitter end, and that bitterness can turn voters away from the Democratic nominee as it did in 2016. If Sanders does win in Iowa, he'd better win all the way into June.

I am not behind any one candidate. I want someone, anyone, who can un-seat Donald Trump, but I don't think Sanders has the stamina to stand up to Trump's bullying. I don't think Biden has it either, but I think he'd do better.

I don't know what Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer stand for, other than "defeat Trump," but I wouldn't be disappointed if either of them won the Democratic nomination this summer (which is highly unlikely). I'm too unsettled right now.


Those who read this blog (all nine* of you) know that I kept my expectations low regarding the impeachment trial in the Senate. An acquittal was all but guaranteed before the proceedings even began.

I watched almost none of it on TV, although I did see some of the news commentary at the end of each day. Probably the best statement and most telling decision came from Lamar Alexander, retiring Republican senator from Tennessee. He wrote a conclusion affirming that Trump is guilty of the charges, but Alexander voted against witnesses and additional evidence in the trial, believing they were unnecessary — the Democrats already successfully established Trump's guilt. He passed the buck to the American people, basically saying the Republicans didn't want to decide (for fear of either the president or the voters back home, or their potential earning power after leaving Congress).

That is actually what I wanted and expected all along. If the Republican congresspersons want to hide, let them do that. They're good at it. Let the voters decide in November whether or not to remove this president from the White House — if they have a fair election. With Trump now free to do anything he wants "in the public interest," is he free to ask Putin to help him win re‑election because he believes he is the best choice for the American people?

I suspect the failed impeachment might benefit the Democrats this fall. In their campaigns they can warn the American people, saying a second term for Trump would be too disastrous to this nation; therefore, to save America they must vote Trump out of office. Playing the fear card worked well for Republicans in the past; let the Dems use it now.

*I say "all nine of you" because this blog was the only place I announced my latest video, Split Pea Soup with Ham. I monitored the views on YouTube. It was watched nine times. Thank you. And to those of you who read this blog but never watched the video, many thanks to you as well. It's good to know I don't write these solely for my own benefit.

And yesterday we assembled for another meeting of our news discussion group. The impeachment was topic number one, but no one actually watched much of it. They all had the same conclusion I have: What's the point? We knew the outcome weeks ago when the House of Representatives was debating articles of impeachment. As of this writing, Trump hasn't been acquitted yet. I believe that happens on Wednesday. Meanwhile, I will be watching his State of the Union address.


Having finished A Very Stabe Genius on Wednesday afternoon (sitting outside in the pleasant warmth of some unusual winter weather), I was left wondering what to read next. I started Rachel Maddow's book, Blowout, but it didn't capture my curiosity. I also looked at Trump and His Generals by Peter Bergen. That had me slightly more interested, but I could tell it wouldn't be a favorite. I finally settled on Unmaking the Presidency: Donald Trump's War on the World's Most Powerful Office by Susan Hennessey and Benjamin Wittes.

And, of course, there are many more books to come. History books will be describing and explaining this presidency long after he is out of office. I can only hope this is Trump's final year in the White House.

Rough Night

It's going to be a difficult night tonight. The National Weather Service issued a High Wind Warning. "Winds 30 to 45 mph with damaging gusts to 70 mph. Isolated gusts to 80 mph possible. Power outages are likely."

I can't sleep when it's really windy. I might move my mattress to the living room because there is one bit of metal roof that buckles noisily in the wind. It's right above my bedroom. I also worry about damage. Will the wind tear an awning off my home? Will it break a window? I'll move my potted plants and deck chair indoors for the night. Meanwhile, I brought my storm lanterns in from the shed and prepared my oil lamps in case I need them.

And it ain't over yet. I just saw there is a for Monday and Tuesday nights.

I will probably have more to say about the weather in Wednesday's blog.