May 16, 2013

Those Who Do the Right Thing

... almost always get kicked in the teeth.

In February I wanted to know exactly how much longer I could work without losing my Social Security Disability.  (Yes, it's legal.)  So I called them.

I wanted to know not because I was going to quit my job so I didn't lose my benefits, but because I needed to find a better job before the disability payments stopped.  I knew it was coming up soon - this month or next.

Of course, the government being what it is, they apparently think my reason for wanting to know was, in fact, so I could quit my job in time to avoid losing my benefits.

I received a huge packet of forms in the mail today.  They're going to review my case to see if I can continue to get benefits.  They're not supposed to do that; because I was working, I was exempt from medical reviews.

Now they want my medical records.  They want my work history.  Which they should have because, as required by law, I've kept them apprised.  Apparently those phone calls never got entered into the system because they're claiming they didn't know I was working.

They want the name of somebody who's not my doctor, but who's "familiar with my disability."  Presumably so they can catch me in any lies.

Folks, I know there are people who milk the system for every dime they can get.  I know that a "mood disorder" as a disability is hard for some people to swallow.  But I've done the right thing all along.

Now I have to spend hours proving it.  And I still might lose my disability. And Medicare.

I'm thinking of emigrating.

May 13, 2013

Who Are These People? Where's Hoss?

Two of our neighbors, whom we hadn't met yet, came by on Wednesday on their 4-wheeler.  They were out looking for their lost horse, Hoss.  He's a beautiful brown quarter horse and somehow he went through a closed gate hung on a 6" post to get out.  The post is now at a slant. The gate's a mess. (We speculated he was being chased by coyotes.  Who knows with horses.)

We hadn't seen him, but we had a great conversation with the neighbors, T. and F.  The next day, when Hoss still hadn't come home, I put up a Craigslist lost & found ad and by golly one of the neighbors down the road (quite a ways, actually) had him.  Hoss came home safely.  Whew!  T. was very upset and I was, too, on her behalf.  Just imagining if my little guy got out and disappeared gave me heart palpitations!

"These people", T. and F., turned out to be kindred spirits.  We were invited over for dinner Saturday night to celebrate Hoss's return.  We had an absolutely awesome time.  We have new friends.

Jeff and I are loners, always have been.  To have friends you have to be friends, and that's hard for us with all our focus on the farm and our produce business (check out my farming blog here).  We made time to go visit, though, and thanks to T. and F.'s beautiful back yard, we're now motivated to make our own little piece of paradise even better.

I'm talking about the R&R area we've started down by the lake. We took these pix last year when we had a get-together.  Obviously the screen room and the tent aren't left up all the time.  (Actually, the tent bit the dust.  Turns out it was dry-rotted. Dammit.)  Wouldn't it be nice to have a little post-and-beam screened room for the food?

The area is private, so we can raise a ruckus if we want.  But we're still missing some very important (to me) things:  a firepit, a permanently located grill, landscaping.  Gravel under the picnic table and the swing so the boys don't have to move them every time they mow.  Tiki torch holders.  A fish cleaning station.  We need to put in a swim dock and a sand beach. The dock needs replanked.  The swing needs painting.  Aargh!

We need a rack to hold the two john boats, the canoe and the pirogue.  (The other john boat is hiding.)

We've put in horseshoe pits with hope that the horseshoes don't end up in the trees:

As you can see, it's a huge area.  We could put in tent pads, or even a couple of RV spots.  Don't think we will, though.  Dad doesn't like too many strangers on the place.

Because we had such a great time outdoors on Saturday at F. and T.'s place, we decided to cook out at the lake on Sunday to celebrate Mother's Day.  It wasn't as fun without T. and F. there, and especially since we had to lug food and charcoal and a grill down there from the house, but the guys set up an outdoor fireplace (the regular kind) for me and we had a great time, just the three of us. Me, Jeff and our friend Doug.

But back to T. and F.  Like I said, they have a beautiful back yard.  They have the coolest fireplace ever.  F. built it out of a dryer drum and a piece of chimney pipe.  F. even had an extra of each lying around and just gave them to us so we can build our own!

They're our age.  T. is blonde, compassionate and funny.  F. is wiry, generous and clever.  They're smart, big-hearted, warm, good old-fashioned country people just like us.  They seem eager to be friends, as are we.  Sometimes it seems like bad things happen so good things can come along behind them.  If Hoss hadn't got out, we'd never have met T. and F.  Cool, huh?

January 06, 2013

Software Review: AnVir Task Manager 7.0.4

I don't generally post software reviews because what works for me won't necessarily work for you.  And I've stayed away from this kind of program in the past, mostly because I'm afraid I'll muck up my system by stopping or preventing something that's necessary. (I did that once with CCleaner, what a mess.  Not the program's fault.)

But because of the good reviews from users at Giveaway of the Day and the fact that my Windows 7 system seems to be gradually slowing down, I thought I'd take a deep breath, cross my fingers, and give it a try.  Hey, I have backups, so if I screw something up I'm covered.  Right?  Right??

Anyway, I installed this program and started tinkering with things.  I was amazed.  The GUI, which looks terribly busy when you open the program, is actually easy to use.  (That's "Graphic User Interface", or what you see when you start the program.)  After installation you're taken to AnVir Software's site where you can watch a video on how to use the program though I wish they had more in-depth videos on some things.  Normally it pisses me off to be taken to the developer's site upon installation because I've already been there or I wouldn't have chosen the program, but in this case I was pleased.  The video was helpful.

Because it's so easy to use and so comprehensive, I decided to review the software.  What does AnVir Task Manager do?  Here's the developer's description, with my comments in red:

Monitor your system and replace Windows Task Manager:

  • Information about processes, startup programs, services, internet connections, drivers  
  • Integrated database with Descriptions for 70 000+ startup programs, Internet Explorer toolbars and services
They're not kidding.  I was able to get comprehensive information on every single thing my computer is running, wants to run, isn't running but will/might run, and - I think you get the idea. Company name, file name, file location, in some cases a description of what it actually does, what other processes rely on it, you name it.  I've often wondered what some of those processes are and now I know. 

I was also able to stop some things from running at startup.  I found a couple of updaters for software I (supposedly) uninstalled weeks ago.  I found some stuff I don't use.  Stopping them from running was a right-click, left-click.  Simple!
  • Icons in the tray that indicate CPU, disk, network, memory and battery
Installation of the icons is optional, but in Win 7 they aren't intrusive because they reside in that pop-up box on the taskbar.  Although I can't verify this (I don't run other monitoring programs), I've seen posts from other users saying the temperature readings are a bit off.  That doesn't bother me because I've never monitored the temps before so for me it's a "Who cares?".

Get rid of viruses, Trojans and spyware that your antivirus missed:

  • Security risk rating for each active process and startup program
This is a terrific feature (though not unique to this software).  The only thing I don't like about it is they don't explain why something has a high risk rating.  All of the high risk things currently running on my system checked out as completely safe (meaning, virus/malware/spyware free).  Oh, well.  There weren't many and it didn't take long to look them up.
  • Get notification when any program tries to add itself to startup
Oh, yes!  I needed this because I'm always opening email attachments (it's part of my job, can't avoid it).  In the past I've picked up malware that wasn't caught by my antivirus program.  Although I'm not about to deliberately infect my computer to test this feature, I believe it works like it says it does.  And this comes in very handy when your browser (read: IE) tries to sneak in an add-on or two without asking.
  • Right click on any suspicious process or file and check it on with 30+ antiviruses
This is how you look up something to see if it's actually a threat.  How simple is that??  No more copying file names and Googling them. 

Enhance and tune up XP, Vista or Windows 7:

  • Tweaker that gives access to hundreds of XP / Vista settings
I'm running Windows 7, so I haven't checked these.  They're not kidding when they say "hundreds", though.
  • Click on the title of any application to minimize window to system tray
OK, you know what the system tray is, right?  It's the part of the toolbar where the clock is.  Minimizing to the tray saves space on your taskbar, but Win 7 takes care of this for me by overlapping file icons of the same type anyway.  And I don't usually have more than 2 or 3 things open at once.  I can see how it would come in handy for people who have lots of windows open at once, though.
  • List of recently used folders in Open / Save dialogs
  • Drive’s free space as a colored horizontal bar in Windows ‘My Computer’
Again, Windows 7 does this already.
  • Last launched and favorites programs and folders in tray menu
Again, meh.

Speed up your PC and Windows startup:

  • “Delayed Startup” lets you set up any startup program to run few minutes later after Windows startup
I love this feature.  Outlook was taking forever to load, presumably because everything was trying to load at once on startup.  I set it at a 30 second start delay and voila!  It pops right up.  You can customize the time delay, and you can even check a box to "Run as Administrator".   
  • Run startup programs minimized to system tray, or as a floating icon
I guess I'm dumb.  I just don't see the benefit of the floating icon thing.  But it's cool.
  • Balance CPU usage
I haven't tinkered with this yet.  I don't think I plan to, at least not until I educate myself about it.  It kinda scares me.

Would I get the free version or pay $29.95 for the basic version?  No.  You can't save changes to the process run priorities, and you can't permanently block undesired processes.  This was a "WTF?" for me.  If those settings aren't saved, what's the point of including them?  Plus, they don't do other things too.  Here's a comparison of what you get with each version.

Would I pay $49.95 for the Pro version?  I might.  I'd have to think about it, especially since there are free programs out there that do a lot of this, plus I could just learn to use my Windows Task Manager.  But because I got it for free from Giveaway of the Day, it's a keeper.