Showing posts from February, 2007


A little over a year ago, Westmed took over ambulance service in Monterey County, having submitted a substantially lower bid than longtime provider American Medical Response (AMR) for the contract. At the time I wondered if it was reasonable to expect more service for less money, but the county supervisors assured us they knew what they were doing. So on January 1, 2006, a different wail began speeding by our house uphill to an emergency situation. For awhile Westmed ambulances announced their presence with a multi-pack of sirens that sounded like a whole armada of fire trucks, police cars, and ambulances screaming through the neighborhood. It was really annoying. Worse, when driving it was impossible to figure out if the sound was ahead, behind, or somewhere else altogether. Westmed has since toned down its sirens somewhat. Probably as a cost saving measure. For now we are learning that Westmed got in over its head financially, promising the moon and delivering a hunk of green chee

Woe is ME

My computer uses Windows ME. It came that way. It works OK. Not always great, but good enough for me right now. But some people don't think I should be OK with it. Bill Gates is one of them. Microsoft stopped supporting Windows ME several months ago. That's OK, I don't need their support and there's no good reason why I need to spend money to upgrade just now. I went to install TurboTax this week. Intuit has been sending me a CD every year. I didn't ask for it, it just came every year. I liked the product so I installed it, entered my payment information, and away we go to taxland. Not this time. This time when I put in the CD it said I needed to upgrade to Windows XP or Vista. Not now, I can't afford it. Its not worth spending a hundred bucks to put XP on an older machine, nor am I about to put up $700-800 on a new computer to get Vista. Not right now. I just want to get my taxes done! I have no intention of upgrading my computer just because two software c

Not too bright

In my February 10th post I talked about the benefits of switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs. I learned today that Assemblyman Lloyd Levine has proposed legislation banning incandescent light bulbs and forcing everyone to buy compact fluorescents. Though I am a hardcore advocate of compact fluorescent usage wherever possible, I cannot support making them mandatory. Despite their efficiency they do have limitations, and can't realistically replace every incandescent light bulb. For example, compact fluorescent bulbs do not work on circuits with electronic timers or photocells (those "electric eyes" that turn lights on at dusk and off at dawn.) Their electronic ballasts interfere with the electronics of the other device. They are also not suited to some decorative fixtures, such as chandeliers where the bulb shape (such as a candle flame) is part of the design. Furthermore, most don't work with dimmers. There are so-called "dimmable fluorescents"

Firefox it is

In my last report I was in the process of trying different browsers. I tried Netscape 8.1, but it turned out to be pretty buggy. So I've settled on Firefox, which is steady and faithful. I like its ability to add additional features I want without cluttering it up with things I don't need. Like Netscape, it also has interchangeable themes to customize the look of things, but Firefox has a lot more to choose from. Maybe sometime when they get the bugs worked out I'll try Netscape again. It did do a couple of things that Firefox doesn't. But for now, its Firefox all the way. Click here to get it for yourself. Its free! I've also been very pleased with Firefox's cousin Thunderbird, for handling the e-mail. Its also very free. You can import your address book from Outlook with no trouble at all. Happy upgrading!

Replacing AOL software

As AOL has become more web oriented, I have found less and less use for AOL's proprietary software. I started on AOL in 1997 with version 4.0, and worked my way through five different upgrades. AOL software is still darned easy to use. One of its best features is the ability to enter e-mail addresses into your address book once and have them available online from anywhere in the world as well as offline on your own computer. But it has problems. For starters, it can be unstable. And for cross pollination purposes, the address book cannot be exported to other e-mail programs. Nor can the "favorites" list be exported into other browsers. I started using the Mozilla Firefox browser and Thunderbird e-mail program recently. It took awhile to configure them the way I wanted, much longer than it took to configure AOL the first time. Then I had to hand type every e-mail address into my Outlook Express address book. From there I exported it directly into Thunderbird completely

Bright Idea

While everyone is wringing their hands over greenhouse gas emmissions and our dependence on foreign oil, I did something about it. ThisChristmas I gave several members of the family four packs of compactfluorescent (CF)light bulbs. Each CF bulb uses 75% less energy than acomparable incandescent (plain ordinary) light bulb. We've been using CF bulbs at our house for over a dozen years.As they've become smaller, lighter in weight, and cheaper we've beenable to replace half of our light bulbs with CFs. They're in our porchand driveway lights, table lamps, kitchen lights, bedside lamp, desklamps, and bathroom. In fact, the only lights in our house that don'thave CF bulbs now are either on dimmers (which also save energy) or areused so rarely that it doesn't make much difference. If everyone did this, replaced half of their bulbs with CFbulbs, this country could cut its total lighting bill by 37%! Imaginethe implications of that. The energy savings would be enormo