Monday, September 19, 2016

Slowly Apocalypsizing

I haven't posted for awhile here. A situation has come to my attention that I felt I needed to warn everyone about:
Climbing Turtles

Yes. You heard me, climbing turtles. It started as a small, even funny happening. A couple of children walking home from school came across this bizarre and troubling sight:

"That's cute!", you say. That's what everyone said. And it was; as long as it was only one seemingly innocent turtle. However, as the days passed, more and more turtles began climbing fences, and trees, and who knows what else?

Well, I know what else! Before long they were reaching even higher!

  And higher!

It was only a matter of time before they began flocking, even roosting!

It's becoming a common sight. And, notice, they are targeting microwave towers especially! 

I know, I know. You're saying "that's ridiculous"!

Well, I say it's the beginning of the end. A scourge worse than the zombie apocalypse. Tell the truth now, haven't you noticed your internet signal getting slower? Your cell signal getting weaker? This is just the beginning.

Before you know it, it will all shut down from turtle overload! I'll be right here, okay, maybe not right here, but somewhere I'll be saying "I told you so!"

Take warning before it's too late!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Review: Camber of Culdi

Camber of Culdi Camber of Culdi by Katherine Kurtz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is actually a re-read of an old favorite. The Culdi series by Katherine Kurtz is a wonderfully rich historical fantasy. I love every installment I've read. i consider it a must-read. Set during the time of the Inquisition, Camber is the patriarch of one of several families of alien origin who have integrated among humans. This story involves how he and his family survive in an atmosphere of growing discrimination and paranoia from The Church and Establishment.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Best Knife

    There is a truism that answers the age old question "What is the best all around knife to have." The answer is "the one you have with you."  The thing is, it doesn't matter what knife you have, fancy or plain, expensive or not, if, when you really need it you aren't carrying it for whatever reason.
    The one I rely on most is one like the one pictured above. An inexpensive Kamp King knife made by Imperial.
    Please note, the one above is not my knife. I took the easy way out and filched a photo from online. It's a good pic, but somebody did a really bad job of sharpening that blade!
    I'm not sure of the genealogy involved, but Imperial also made several types of Boy Scout and Cub Scout knives. This model is almost an exact copy of the official Cub Scout knife I once owned. The official Scout knives were a bit pricey for a poor country boy to own, but I did have a few. For some reason they were also easily lost. They were very good knives. Imperial sold the Kamp Kraft for a fairly low price at numerous outlets. I seem to remember this exact knife being offered at Walmart in a blister pack for around three dollars back in the '70s and beyond.
    What I've found is that the cheaper knife compares favorably with the more expensive ones for everyday carry. And, at the cheap price, I didn't mind losing one so much, therefore, of course, I stopped losing them! There seems to be an inverse square law about these things. Those things you can least afford to lose you are more likely to, and vice versa.  Nowadays, though, they have fallen into the range of "vintage" and go for a bit more when you find them. Not exactly rare, you can expect to pay five dollars and up for one on eBay. 
   The steel is good. It holds an edge well. For a handy person like myself, the few extra tools included are very welcome. The scales tend to break with age, and the joints get wobbly over time with mis-use. Used responsibly though, you can get a lot of mileage out of one. One of these resides in my work pants all the time. I tend to carry a smaller, sleeker more modern version of this in my "town" pants.
      You must remember, I said above, "country boy".  I suspect it's much the same now, but a country boy of my generation especially just did not ever go anywhere without some sort of pocket knife in his possession. It was a tool in constant use all day every day for uncountable chores. Therefore, whatever I'm doing I always have at least one pocket knife on me.     
    I'm retired now, but I usually wear some form of work attire. Bib overalls, jeans, coveralls or cargo pants, since I am often repairing things, doing woodwork, gardening or whatever. At this moment I'm sitting here in my bib overalls, my Kamp King knife in my pocket and a larger lock-back knife clipped into the long tool pocket on my leg. 
   I had a career once and worked in an office. Of course I had a small pocket knife, of the "penknife" variety in my pocket. A city bred co-worker who had been raised in Florida remarked seriously that I must be some sort of hoodlum, since I carried a pocket knife. I and others were quick to counter with the facts of life, Texas style. 
   Even in grade school, it was a sure bet that every male student, and some of the female ones, carried a pocket knife. It wasn't viewed as a weapon at all. As usual I saw many fights during my school days, but I don't remember anyone ever pulling out his knife. That was a serious breach of etiquette! 
    I like knives, I even collect them. My collection consists of pocket knives, lock-back knives, sheath knives, and even a couple of swords. I only collect inexpensive ones, though. I never paid more than twenty dollars for one, most fall in the "under five dollar" range. The few more expensive ones were gifts or inherited. I like the variety, and ingenuity of design. I even have at least three of the above mentioned Kamp King knives.
    I have no official Scout pocket knives, though. Alas. I do also have an authentic Swiss Army Knife by Victorinox, and a couple of copies of same. I don't carry them. The copies aren't that good, and as for the actual Swiss? See the passage about always losing expensive knives above! I don't risk it. I can MacGyver just as well with my Kamp King.
    If you ever wind up in a survival situation you can make almost everything you need to live with the aid of a good knife. If you don't have one, perish the thought, one of your first chores is to make a blade of some sort. 
    Don't leave home without it!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Literally a Milestone

   Things are not always what they seem. Memory isn't either. 

   When I was young I lived at a place called Seward Junction. Literally a crossroads. We lived upstairs over a Texaco (later Exxon)  gas station at the intersection of Texas Highway 29 and U.S. Highway 183 in Williamson County somewhat between the towns of Leander and Liberty Hill. The location is now, I believe, within the Liberty Hill City limits, for whatever that is worth. 

   My father's family, the Sewards, had owned the property surrounding the intersection since sometime in the 1860's, hence the name, Seward Junction. It was pretty rural. For most of the time I lived there the nearest non-family neighbor was about a quarter-mile away in any direction. The piece of property my grandparents owned was about five acres at that time, including the service station and some land around it. Dad, (my grandfather) ran the garage and he and Mom (my grandmother) ran the store with some help from me as I got older. 

   We did some mowing from time to time. A little ways behind the store we had an overhead water tank made of stone that stored our well water. The water often had oil in it, so the overhead tank gave it a chance to separate out before the water went to the house. Every time we mowed we always had to steer around a large triangular flat rock lying on the ground near the water tank. Therefore, almost every time we mowed back there I heard the story of that rock and how it came to be there. Realize, now, that this is in limestone country, rocks are not rare. But a solitary large rock lying in the way like that on top of the grass seemed out of place. 

   It seems that the two roads were there in one form or another for a long time back into history. Highway 29 led from the Junction to Georgetown to the east and Burnet to the west. Georgetown was, and is, the county seat so it had some standing as a destination. Highway 183, on the other hand, ultimately ran from Refugio, Texas (almost Mexico) to South Dakota. When both of the highways were expanded and paved in the '30's signs were erected. There was an old stone standing near the road to Georgetown that said something like "Georgetown, 12 miles." The story went that the words were carved on the face of the stone. The road crew put it aside and my  great grandfather asked for it. Ever since then it had lain facedown near our water tank and we mowed around it. 

   In my senior year of high school, 1968, Mom and Dad sold the store and we moved to the other end of the property where there was a house. We built a new garage for Dad and of course we had to move a lot of stuff. One day we got a couple of strong guys to help and we went to move that old milestone we'd been mowing around. We used a crowbar to raise it up from where it had sunk into the ground and flipped it over. There was nothing on it on either side! All this time we had been protecting a plain piece of rock! Dad was stumped. I felt a bit cheated.

   Thinking about that I am often led to think of the impermanence and frankly untrustworthiness of memory. My son turns 40 today. Talking to him sometimes and remembering things in the past it often strikes me that we often remember the same events quite differently. This isn't about which is right. (Though of course I am. This is my blog, after all, he can be right in his blog! Lol!) What it is about is that we each have our own realities built from our own memories of events that may vary widely! 

   When I was very young I remember my grandmother singing and chanting children's verses to me. One was "This Little Piggy" playing with my toes. I'm sure everyone has heard some variation. Mom's was almost the same as the one in my Mother Goose book I had at the time. "This little piggy went to market, this little piggy stayed home, this little piggy had roast beef, this little piggy had none, this little piggy cried "wee, wee, wee all the way home!"

   Fast forward a generation to when my son was a baby. Mom played with his toes as well. All of a sudden, her poem was "This little piggy says 'want some corn', this little piggy says 'where you gonna get it', this little piggy says 'master's barn', this little piggy says 'I want some', this little piggy cries 'wee, wee, wee, can't get over the door step!"

   I was confused. I asked her "where did that come from?" Her response? "I've always said it that way!" I was puzzled. When I recited the way I remembered it she professed to have never heard that version. Now I was absolutely floored! Was she right? Was I? I now have no idea. There were other similar instances where she recited a children's song or poem I remembered from childhood but one or two verses were greatly different. I stayed confused. 

   I guess it all comes down to the fact that our experiences shape our realities, and our experiences are not the same, even if we shared the same ones and we think they are engraved in stone.

   And I'm always right!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Review: Playing with Fire

Playing with Fire Playing with Fire by Tess Gerritsen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It was a pretty good read. I was a little disappointed by the ending. It was a little abrupt and didn't quite live up to the beginning in my opinion.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Review: X

X X by Sue Grafton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A new Sue Grafton novel is always cause for celebration. "X" is a welcome addition to the list. Kinsey Milhone is a great character and it is always exciting to follow her through her paces. Thank you for a great read!

View all my reviews

Monday, December 1, 2014

Further Computer Notes

A recent addition to my computer arsenal here is a new iRulu 7" tablet. 

I must preface by telling you that I had grown quite addicted to our 2nd generation Kindle reader that was increasingly showing its age and finally, with the help of one of our kitties, bit the dust. 
It was charging on the dresser and someone of our menagerie decided to see if it would bounce. The screen did not survive. For so many of these devices, a broken screen means the thing is toast. To replace the screen on one of these older Kindles is about tantamount to buying a new one, so I was looking for alternatives. I do use the Kindle app on my iPhone quite often, and I do like it a lot. However, the small screen can be tiring at times. I wanted another option.

Being on a budget, and admittedly a cheapskate, I went looking. A new paper- white Kindle, comparable to the dead one, runs about $70. Used ones were only a little cheaper on Craigslist and elsewhere. That would have been adequate, but I was really pining for a Kindle Fire, with its color display and ability to watch movies, et. Those run for roughly twice as much. I looked around for a similarly sized tablet computer and found on Ebay an iRulu 7" Android tablet for about $35. I saw a reasonably good review on iTunes about it and decided to order two so my lady could have one as well. You can see what I got in the above picture. The tablet came with a handy keyboard/cover as well which I thought made it well worth the price. Especially since I was getting two tablets for the price of one basic Kindle.

The tablet accepts a micro SD card to add storage, so I immediately ordered a 32 gb card for it. It only has 8 gb out of the box. I also ordered a different adapter cable. As you can see in the first pic above, it came with a white adapter cable to attach the keyboard that sticks out at an awkward right angle from the tablet. I found a different black one online for a couple of bucks that attaches along the top and looks much better. 
I like the looks much better now. 

I like the iRulu tablet. It's a fun little device. There are drawbacks. This is my first Android device, so I immediately loaded it up with free apps from the Google store. Some of the apps have the capability of being moved to the micro SD card which saves onboard storage, however, the more apps you have the slower everything operates. The tablet can be pretty slow at times. I pared back the apps until things started running better. 

I decided to not use the tablet for social media like Facebook, etc. It was pretty slow on those things and my iPhone is much faster and usually more handy. After some frustration I decided to reserve the tablet for mainly what I got it for, reading ebooks and the occasional movie. With some strategies it works quite well for that. 

One of the apps I got quite soon was Clean Master. It clears out junk files and other clutter that compromises storage and memory on the device. It has a one-touch optimizing function that does a quick job of clearing the memory cache and other things. Each time I use the tablet I run the Clean Master, make sure other apps aren't engaged, and I'm good to go. Otherwise, the Kindle app takes a very long time to load and videos will not play. 

I'm not adverse to devices taking a bit to get going, but one thing that needs improvement is a better indicator that the tablet is updating itself. I've learned to turn it on well in advance of when I want to use it so that it has time to do whatever updates it needs before I need it. Obviously those things need to be done, but it really gives you  little notice of what it is doing. A statement of "updating device" and perhaps a status bar would be helpful. Basically it just starts off slow and eventually gets faster. I use the wifi to sync and read online, but put it in airplane mode to read offline. The battery lasts a bit longer that way, and takes a bit of load off my wifi setup at home.

Battery life isn't great. I can't watch a full movie without recharging, but sometimes running a movie with the charger plugged in gives rise to heating problems. It's a balancing act. I can get about two evenings of reading done before a recharge, but I basically tend to recharge each morning.

The screen becomes fairly illegible in direct light, such as outside in the sun. This is common for backlit screens and a point in the favor of the standard Kindles with their e-ink screens. However, the majority of my reading is done indoors, and in fact late at night in bed, so the ability to see the screen without a separate reading light is a big plus for me, and less likely to disturb my partner. The same can be said, of course for reading on the iPhone, but the increased tablet screen size is much better.

The onboard speaker is fairly bad. Much like the old transistor radios of the '60's. I have earphones, or a separate bullet speaker that works quite well with it.  The keyboard/cover works well. I sometimes have to unplug and replug the adapter for the tablet to recognize that it is attached. I suspect a delicate adapter plug on the tablet.

The second tablet? My lady Cat Dancing finds it much too slow in starting and has decided she prefers reading on her iPhone. It is much more convenient for the reading she does anyway.

What's the summary? If you don't mind a few minor annoyances it's a good buy. Don't plan on doing any major computing on it, but it really isn't intended for that anyway. For email, ebooks and online reading, and minimal surfing it's not bad at all. I do miss the 3G capability the old Kindle had. I'm glad I got it, though the second unit was perhaps a waste. I might dedicate it to videos and the first strictly to reading, if that streamlines things.

Have a Happy!