Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Life hacks?

So the current theme that seems to be running through social media are things called 'hacks'. There are life hacks, cooking hacks, winter hacks,  etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. (I've just always wanted to write that out instead of the abbreviation).

I read one this morning that was about making your home more comfortable for the upcoming winter months. I suppose it's nice that someone takes the time to give these tips to everyone. Of course I would hope they didn't put too much time into them, because by reading them, I can tell they didn't.

Here's one; don't leave your exhaust fan running. It will cause your furnace to run longer. Wow! Really? Here's a tip from me, don't leave your windows open either on a winter's day. It will make your furnace run longer. Turn off your air conditioning. It will make your house cold, and then you'll need to run your furnace.l

Another tip was to get your furnace tuned up. Gee, I would never have through of that, to have a major piece of equipment in your home looked at that has gas and a flame professionally tuned before you put a match to it to light it. Another, put a piece of toilet paper in front of your windows to see if they move. Okay, I would assume you could feel the damned cold coming through the major gulfs in your home if it is moving any kind of paper, thin as it may be.

I suppose that since I grew up fixing things and learning how to repair my house and cars and just about everything else I ever had, these types of articles speak to the lack of common sense in the populace. I've never had the money to just go out and buy something to replace something that broke. You had to try and fix it first. I believe the lack of common sense is often in direct relationship to the fact that most people don't know how to fix nearly anything they own. The older I get the more and more I see this same lack of skills in the younger generations.

There are exceptions of course. People who live out from the cities often have much more skill than the city folk. If you live on a farm or simply in a rural setting, or the mountains, you have to rely much more on your own skill set.

Here's my own winter hack for you on this day before Thanksgiving: shut the door, you'll let the cold inside and it will take longer to cook the turkey. And, if you are one of those who feels the need to deep fry your bird, OUTSIDE people .... OUTSIDE.

Happy Thanksgiving to all. Enjoy, I'll be at work...not that I'm bitter or anything ...

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A world away

Our world is still spinning, still turning beneath the sun. It is a constant. What is no longer a constant is the security of the world beneath our Sol. But, it never was. In my lifetime our country has almost always been at war in some form or another. At fifty-seven years old, I was born shortly after the Korean War which was five years removed from the largest military conflict the world had ever seen. I've lived through the Vietnam War, the Cold War, the First Iraq War, the Second Iraq War that really hasn't ended, the invasion of Afghanistan and so on and so on.

The difference in the latest conflicts is critical. We no longer fight against a government with a land mass. We fight against an ideology, one that is foreign to me. I am one who abhors the taking of life under nearly any circumstances, however to let a thief come into the night to wantonly slaughter innocents is one of those circumstances that must be defended against.

Radical extremists rape the world through fear. They have no grounds to defend, only an ideology. That in itself is part of the problem when confronting them. Where do you strike back? At whom do you strike? Whether you believe in that ideology is up to you. I for one do not. We as civilized nations describe the attacks against Paris as perpetrated by barbarians. In that context, I agree.

How does one then defend themselves against an enemy that has no borders? As a people that has restricted their military actions in the past it is time the United States and their allies take the gloves off, and unfortunately fight as they fight. If innocent civilians are targeted by extremists, they must run the risk of facing the same reaction. Surgical strikes are no longer an option. Bombs must fall wherever the radicals reside. Unfortunately, if that means innocent people die, that is a risk they must take. We can no longer let our enemies hide behind the skirts of innocents.

We must protect ourselves before we worry about protecting others. If enough of the innocents get tired of dying, perhaps they will stand up to the bully in their neighborhood. Me? I don't see it happening. Isis hates simply that we exist, yet they strive for the same reasons, to have economic power over what they claim. We can no longer afford to take a knife to a gun fight and expect the results to change.

And may God have mercy on our souls.

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Crap Show

Hello everyone. I'm back from a very rare weekend off from work. Yup, it doesn't happen very often. It's been a long year. So, what did I do? I went with My Beloved to a local craft show. I have a friend who calls them crap shows.

I haven't been to one in several years, although My Beloved has. In my line of work I'm usually engaged on the weekends. I don't get out much. This particular show is rather large in the area and draws a good amount of people. They have everything from the standard woodworking entries to the goat-milk candles and soap and all sorts of sewn goodies. It's interesting walking around seeing all the handiwork. Many of these folk are very talented.

And that's where one of the rubs comes in. How many times do you find yourself at one of these types of shows and overhear someone saying, "that's too much. I could do that." My answer to that is, well, go ahead. Take the time, take the effort, buy the materials, the paint the cloth the wood the iron the nails ...
Don't disparage another persons time and effort because you think you can make one better or cheaper. If you won't buy it, nod and smile and move on.

It's the same thing as writing a book, a short, a poem. The author puts themselves out there for everyone with an opinion who wishes to criticize every little hick-up, plot twist, scene or character flaw they work into the story. Most of the reviews I see that aren't the five star kind pick apart the little things without offering constructive crits, or they read a book and find it distasteful due to some belief they hold whether it is religious or political. Hey folks, it's the authors story, not yours. If you want to put your thoughts out there for the world to criticize, please do so. One must have a thick skin for this business.

I did find out something about my own tastes. I found I tend to walk past booths where the color schemes are pastel or lend themselves to jewel tones. No matter what the product the artist was offering, those tones did not influence me to even look. I found I am drawn to darker and richer tones. Those were the booths that drew me in even if I had little or no interest in the products.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Second

The Second Amendment (Amendment II) to the United States Constitution protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms and was adopted on December 15, 1791, as part of the first ten amendments contained in the Bill of Rights. The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that the right belongs to individuals, while also ruling that the right is not unlimited and does not prohibit all regulation of either firearms or similar devices. State and local governments are limited to the same extent as the federal government from infringing this right per the incorporation of the Bill of Rights.

Above paragraph is from Wikipedia.

I am not a firearms person. Yes, I have shot guns. No, I do not own them. We have a situation in this country. It is guns. We are the most heavily armed nation in the world not including our military. We also have one of the highest, if not the highest murder rate in the world, civilized or not, and I use the term civilized loosely. These are the facts, not an opinion.

So here's my question. What the hell do we need all these guns for? I hear the argument, protection. Okay, protection from what? What are truly the odds that someone is going to barge into your home? Who are you trying to protect yourself from? If you are that afraid, are you wearing your weapons 24/7 inside your home? Why not? In most areas of America, the average person could walk outside their home at any hour of the day or night, look up and down the street and not see a place where there was a crime committed, likely in more than a year. So I ask again, protection from what?

If you want to have a gun for protection, go ahead. Does anyone in this country need a so-called assault rifle? Do you expect to be holding off the Russians or the British? How about the Iranians? Any group out there roaming around your neighborhood? Not likely. How about a random person? Okay, that's a possibility. The Second Amendment gives the authority of the government to regulate those firearms. It's time they do so.

There is no need for the citizenry to possess any type of weapon that is military or para-military grade. If you want to own a pistol, rifle, shotgun, that's fine. Automatic weapons have no place in this country. The cry of if I give up my gun only the criminals will have guns is not a valid argument. Let the police handle the criminals. Most people that come into harms way from criminals are there because they choose to be. They have put themselves in a situation they shouldn't be. Sure, there are neighborhoods where violence is a fact of life. This isn't a perfect society. There isn't one and never will be one.

The spate of school and public shootings in recent years points to how this is a failed system. In the past, killers were secretive. Few that I can remember in my lifetime before the recent decade put themselves out there for public consumption. Why the change? Society and how we communicate has changed. It is a look at me society from the news cycle to the phone in your pocket. We can no longer permit anyone to have their fifteen minutes of fame for this type of crime, a crime caused by weapons no citizen needs to possess.

Do we need more regulation? Probably not much. Likely all we need to do is enforce the laws already on the books. Is the system bogged down? Sure, but issuing a permit and weapon to someone because four days is too long for the system to work properly is turning a blind eye to the problem. If the person is not properly vetted, they don't get the weapon, period. Background checks need to be finished, not stalled.

We have a problem in this country and the status quo is no longer acceptable. As is often quoted, the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result. We can no longer wait for a different result. Do I have all the answers? No, I don't. But it's time for those who govern this country to pull up their bootstraps and face the situation. It's time our leaders stare down the barrel and do what needs to be done.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Take away the picture ...

... and what do you get?

As a writer, one needs a support group of sorts to gather information, learn about trends in the writing world and find out what works for other authors. Who better to gather this info from than other authors?

From that, as I have mentioned a time or two before, I am a member of an online writing group. But what are we really? As I was thinking about them the other day, it occurred to me how different and far-flung this group is.

If you took each of the author's self photos off, all you would have is a group of names. What can you distinguish just from that? Not much really. One can tell gender mostly, but not much other than that. Even if you think, 'that is an Irish, or German, or Russian name', that means nothing. Any of those names could fall anywhere within the United States or anywhere across the globe. We are a mobile society.

As it is the group numbers near ninety members. We range in age from early twenties to those in their seventies (perhaps older). We are men, women, sexually straight, gay and bi-oriented. We are truly a global collection as we live in places as diverse as Japan, Ireland, Spain, France, South Africa, Mexico and many others. We have names that would be recognized in the public outside of the group, and others few would recognize. The one thing we have in common is the writing and publishing world.

So what does that mean? What it means to me is we can learn from each other no matter what our background or nationality. We are a couple years old as an 'organization' and I have learned a tremendous amount from being associated with them. I do not place any of the members in a preconceived pocket. I don't read a comment and say, oh, that's from one of the gay guys, or the Canadian, or the Texan (of course there are a lot of Texans in the group. Maybe they just need more help than the rest of us).

If you were to put all of us in a room, I think it would be a magical place. We've grown to know each other because we share a love of writing, of authorship, of striving to become successful in the same vein. We celebrate each others success. No one disparages another because they are more successful. We are different yet we all share a common bond.

Unfortunately too many in the real world close themselves off from others because they are different from themselves. When that's the case, they have failed in the world at large. It's time to look for what brings us together instead of the differences we have. If all you can do is label, you will never be able to open the door. I challenge everyone who reads this to open the door to the world. I think you'll be surprised at what you'll find.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Four eyes again

I am once again, able to see. I have a love / hate relationship with wearing glasses. I assume most who are forced to wear them have the same relationship. I broke both my glasses several months ago and have not had the time to get them replaced. I've been forced to rely on reading glasses to get by. Not ideal.

I did try contacts many years ago. Hated them. Tossed them after six months never to return. But I digress. I now have my new glasses. They're progressive lenses. My last pairs were such. I thought it would be difficult to get used to but it didn't take long. I was surprised, but after relying on readers for a couple months flat surfaces are warped a bit. I remember when I got my first pair some thirty-mumble-mumble years ago. I was working in a grocery meat department. I was sure I was going to cut my fingers off trying to get used to them.

The blessing is, I no longer have to put my phone into camera mode to read a restaurant menu. Glasses are a difficult lifestyle. I am an active person and they bounce all over the place. That's how I broke the last two pairs (at work). Maybe I should bill them for it. Na, they'd just say no.

I see fine at a distance, close, not so much. I keep a pair of readers in my car, a set on my work bench and a pair next to my bed. I might be able to ditch the ones in the car now. Well, maybe just save them for restaurants.

Now, I look around the store where you buy them and I see all these pictures of fantastic looking people wearing glasses; wide frames, dark frames, bug-eyed glasses, etc. They all stand out. But, those styles aren't for me. I would rather have a pair that someone really doesn't notice on my face. I also don't like thick frames at my periphery. I don't like to look to the side and see the temple arm of the glasses. I want to see where I'm looking. My Beloved has glasses that have thicker arms. What I don't like about that is she has beautiful eyes and from the side, I can't see her blues because of her frames.

With all that said, I am the proud owner of two new sets of glasses. My world is again in focus. I can even write at the computer without adjusting every five seconds. Oh well, it's nice to be able to see again.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Star Eagle Six

Once again I have stepped out of the bounds of my past writings. My current work in progress, (WIP) is a science fiction tale. It is the struggle of a small confederation of home world planets engaged in a bloody and consuming ten year war. The following is an excerpt from the book. I hope you enjoy it.

“So, what do you need from me exactly?”
“Practicality, captain. Practicality.” She pushed her fork into her food one last time before pushing the tray away. “I can look up the specs on the Talon all day long, but what I can’t look up is real-world scenarios. Any piece of equipment should live up close to design specs, but what does it really do? How fast does it turn; do its engines cycle hot? You know, that sort of thing.”
“I don’t know what to tell you, Andren.” Turner lifted his fork, pausing as he thought for a moment. “The Talon is simply the best fighter I ever flew. It’s design specs run right down the map like they’re supposed to.” He lifted his hand, taking his first bite. He raised his brow at the unexpected flavor. “This is pretty good.”
“Humph. I think I just lost all respect for you,” she replied.
“In all seriousness, there hasn’t been a better fighter built by any of the home world planets.”
“Then why did they replace it?”
“For the same reasons engineers replace everything, no disrespect intended,” he said as he looked up to her. “Someone has a better idea or technology improves to such an extent that it allows for evolution.” He dipped his fork again into his plate. “That doesn’t always mean it’s better though.”
“Have you ever piloted the Harrier?”
“Never had the chance,” he replied. “Besides, I couldn’t do it for long.”
“Evolution, by dear Andren. Evolution.” He shoveled another mouthful, letting it slide down gently. He leaned back, letting his hand come to rest on the table, the fork gripped tightly. “Fighters now are all tied into your brain. They react to your reactions, to your thoughts. It’s instinctual, but that comes with a price.” Turner crossed his arms and stared down at the table. He seemed lost in thought.
“What kind of price?”
The pause in the conversation hung in the air. Turner continued to stare, his eyes unfocused.
“A loss of humanity.” He blinked and looked back up at her. “We are in danger of becoming what we abhor. This mechanized society where we become one with our weapons, one with our ships all in the name of saving ourselves.”
“If we don’t save ourselves, what is the point of this war, Frank?” She leaned forward planting her elbows firmly on the table, her posture rigid. “We must survive, damn it. I won’t be wiped from the face of the universe without a fight.” Her faced reddened as the passion in her voice began to climax. I will not let my planet die in vain.”
“I’m sorry,” he replied. “I didn’t mean …”
“Of course you did!” She pushed herself away from the table. “Maybe this was a mistake.”
“Andren no, please.” He leaned forward reaching his hand across the table, his touch falling short. “We’ve both been through a terrible ordeal.”
She sat silent staring, her blue eyes burning with a renewed fire.