Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Garden Prep

We had a freeze warning last night, and it's supposed to be in the 70s over the weekend, so you know it's May in New York.  I'm going to turn over the garden beds this week so I can (hopefully) plant this weekend.

I was taking a picture of the rabbit, but you can see before/after of the winter mulch cleanup too
The plans for this year are tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, cucumbers (pickling & eating), cabbages, popcorn, and pumpkins.  The pumpkins are entirely planned as a potential deterrent to raccoons for the popcorn, but I started seeds for both pie pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns, so hopefully I will get some useful pumpkins, too.

I'm hoping to use the patio space more this summer, and I've planted zinnia seeds in all the large pots in hopes of attracting more butterflies.  I've got some swamp milkweed seed to go in the large planter by the fence, too.

 Back in mid-March, the week before they decided on work-from-home and the lock-down, we ordered a second shed so I could keep the car garaged year-round.  It eats up a bit more patio space, but now all my garden stuff is in it.  Hopefully we can use up some of our wood stockpile this summer.  I have s'mores stuff.

Patio is mostly cleaned up
So last year, the east side of the apple tree bloomed/made apples.  This year it looks like the west side is.  I have suspected for a while that one trunk is the grafted trunk, and the other is shoots from the root, and that they're different varieties, but I'm really not sure.  Either way, I need to start making the tanglefoot fly traps and see if they help with the apple maggot flies.

Need to get the fly traps ready soon

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Of Cars

So in June 2018 I totaled my Fit.  The accident itself was pretty non-dramatic; I rear-ended someone at around 25 mph.  It was wet, and I was coming around a blind curve, and they had stopped to make a left.  So I slammed on my brakes, slid on the wet road, hit their bumper with my grill/hood, did minimal damage to their car, and took out my radiator and a/c and folded up my hood.  With labor, the repair estimates were around $6k.  The insurance company gave me about that much for it.

I hadn't been planning to replace the Fit for another couple years; it was still in decent shape, and I liked not having car payments.  I had been looking at the CR-V for when I did replace it, since I wanted more cargo space and a car big enough for my husband to be comfortable in on road trips so we wouldn't have to take his car.  The CR-V is all of that, has all-wheel drive for the winter, and is well-reviewed.

I've been in a 2018 CR-V for about two years now; I've put 40k miles on it.  We've taken it on long road trips (to my parents), a medium road trip (Toronto), and I commute in it daily (when we're not in pandemic work-from-home mode).  I'm getting about 32 mpg average in the summer and 29 mpg in the winter. Based on this past December's unseasonably warm weather, I'm pretty sure the difference in mileage is entirely related to air temperature.  Warmer weather = better mileage.

I don't like it as much as the Fit.  Ultimately that's okay; the Fit was really fun to drive, and it had a great dash layout and storage (cup holder) options.  The CR-V is not as fun to drive; I went from a sport-suspension manual to a bigger, all-wheel-drive CVT.  It doesn't corner as well, and I'm still (two years later, still) readjusting to an automatic.  I also can't pick it out of a group of similarly-colored SUVs in a parking lot; I've had to acquire a magnet for the back to help it stand out.

As someone who likes to drive, and does so a lot (24k miles in a year), the Fit was a lot of fun.  But it was not a great family car - the one you take on trips and load up with groceries.  It has a ton of cargo space for its size (I have crammed as many as 5 bales of hay into one), but loading it up with groceries would frequently require using both the trunk space and the back seat.  The CR-V has more dedicated trunk space, and it's rare we have to use the back seat in addition to the back.  It also takes two full-size suitcases in the back; when we drove the Fit down to JFK, those suitcases had to go in the back seat with the seats flipped up (a great feature, but not ideal for a trip where you'd rather have your car trip stuff in the back seat). I also overloaded the Fit when I'd buy dirt (or manure) in bags for the garden; I think some of the rear axle work I had done can be directly traced to that.  At this point, we have fit a snowblower, a chest freezer, and a medium-sized refrigerator in the CR-V with the seats folded down (not all at the same time).

Besides the roominess, there are other things I like about the CR-V.  The Honda sensing system is great; the only time it has trouble is in very heavy weather or if the sensor gets iced up.  Now that I know where that sensor is, I can easily clear it so that it works again for the drive home.  The infotainment console works pretty well with Android Auto, and I am making good use of our unlimited data phone plan.  It has a really good default sound system at the EX trim level.  Having heated seats has been great for both winter and my lower back pain.  I had wanted to get a more fun paint color when I replaced the Fit, and the CR-V doesn't really have "fun" paint colors, but the dark gray I got is fine for now.  ("Modern Steel," or some such; the Fit was "Storm Silver Metallic.")

I'll probably replace the CR-V with another CR-V; there's a hybrid out now, and, although it likely won't do anything for my commuting mileage, it will probably save some gas for running errands locally.  The local dealership is generally pretty good for service, and they were really no-pressure when we were buying this one.  (They also do so much volume that they cannot keep used CR-Vs in stock, so if you need one that day, they may not be able to accommodate you, which is part of why we bought new and not year-old.)  Hopefully next time I am buying we will have a more forgiving timeline, and I can get a blue one.  (Or, if I am lucky, they will have it in green.)

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Cheap & Free Ebooks

A while back there were news reports about a free ebook repository that is basically flouting copyright law.  While I love a free book as much as the next person, I also want authors to be paid for their work.

So!  Here's where I've been getting free/cheap ebooks recently.

The free:
  • The library.  This should be a no-brainer, but if you have internet access, or can go sit in a parking lot or something to download them, a lot of public libraries offer ebooks now.  Most loan periods seem to be 2 or 3 weeks.  Look for Hoopla, Libby/Overdrive, or just ebooks on your library's website.  If you don't have a card yet, check and see if your library is allowing signup via email.
  • The New York Public Library.  If you're in New York state, you can get a card from NYPL.  Then download their SimplyE app.
  • Project Gutenberg.  This is your platform for public domain ebooks.  This is where I got the Jane Austen I've been reading, among other things.  You can download the epub or mobi version and upload it into your Google Play books or Kindle if you want to read it on those platforms.
  • Google Books.  If you're looking for public domain stuff, you can often find a scanned version in Google Books.  When I was researching piano production, a lot of the works contemporary to my piano were available here.
  • Tor's ebook clubTor gives away a free ebook monthly, usually (in the short time I've been getting them) tied to an upcoming release.  It's kind of a standard book marketing thing, give away the first book in a series to get you to buy the rest, but if you're not familiar with the author, it can be a nice way to try them out if you can't get them through the library.  (Other publishers may offer something like this, but Tor's catalog generally aligns with my reading interests.)
  •  Amazon shipping deals.  If you're buying from Amazon anyway and can pick the deal shipping option, recently they've been doing $1.50 of digital credit.  Combined with the cheap options below, I've gotten some stuff free recently using the credits.
The cheap:
  • Book Riot.  One of the mailing lists you can sign up for through Book Riot is a daily ebook deals email.  It's a selected list of ebooks on temporary markdown, usually $.99 to $4.99.
  • Ebook sales.  Google Play has an under $5 this week category in its ebooks section, and Amazon has an ebook sale section, as well, but it's harder to find.  This is usually a mix of popular and obscure stuff, but sometimes I find interesting things buried in here.
  • Stalk your wishlists.  I use Google Play's wishlist for this:  I add stuff I'm thinking about getting to it, or that I want to get with points when I have enough, and then I check it regularly (a couple times a week) to catch sales on stuff I've been looking at.  I've gotten six or seven books for $2.99 this way that were already things I wanted to get.
  • HumbleBundle.  The book bundles range from programming to comics, but they're usually a good deal.  I've gotten a couple different sci-fi/fantasy and comics bundles from them.  (There's a D&D one up right now that's basically all of R.A. Salvatore's Drizzt books, but we've already got them.)
I still buy some ebooks at full price (or pre-order) if I'm impatient enough to read it not to wait for a sale (hello, Their Bright Ascendancy series and pretty much all the Sam Sykes stuff I've gotten), or if I have some Google Play credit to use.  I do still get stuff in print, too, but with seven full bookcases (and the paperbacks two deep), I'm a lot more selective about what I get in print now.  (At least until I win the lottery and can get a bigger house.)

I have definitely been feeling the pain of the public library being closed - I want to pick up the second season of Star Trek: Discovery, the rest of the Sailor Moon books, and the next Sebastian St. Cyr book - but I am totally willing to wait until it's safe to do so.  It's not like I'm lacking for books until then.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Pandemic vs. anxiety

I'm in a weird headspace nowadays.  I realize that's probably true for most of us, given the pandemic, but it's generally not a bad headspace.  It's just, like, the feeling that this kind of situation is why anxiety hasn't been eliminated from the gene pool.  This is why it survives.

So one of my primary anxiety mitigation behaviors is over-preparing.  Pre-searching driving directions to new places, looking at the street view to see what the building looks like, figuring out where parking is.  Looking at menus ahead of time to not get hit with the surprise of not wanting anything to eat at somewhere I haven't been before.  The whole mom-purse thing without being a mom.  I mean, heck, you can see it in my D&D characters' inventory lists.  It's like taking the Boy Scout motto to the next level.