Weekend Drive [The Rainy Season]


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It’s been a rainy few days here in central Texas. Flash flood warnings abounded and last Friday we got hit by quite a storm. Saturday was pretty wet, too, but Sunday turned out to be very nice indeed. It was time for a drive and a find a place with water features.

I drove down to McKinney Falls State Park and took a bunch of pictures. I managed to get a couple of shots of a cardinal (possibly two, maybe four, but I’m pretty sure it was the same one), a lizard I hadn’t seen before, and some mushrooms.

I had a fairly interesting thought as I was cruising down SH130. It was about people doing something that people tend to do. I don’t remember what it was now, of course, because I was driving and didn’t have a way to write it down. But I was pretty sure I would remember it long enough to write it down when I parked. Not that I’d need to, because it was such an extraordinary thought that it would stick with me forever. I totally forgot about it until I got back home and started writing the blogs but I only remember about needing a way to remember it, not what the actual thought was. 
It may be time to leverage Siri and my iPhone for taking notes on the road. The funny thing is that I feel uncomfortable talking into a device to record my own thoughts. However, I have no problem talking to inanimate objects or even yelling at them. Or pleading with them. Or patting them on their tops and letting them know that they have done a good job. I guess I’m getting old enough now, though, that if I don’t start recording my thoughts in some form then I’ll lose a number of them. 
I am pleased, though, that I can say “Hey Siri, plot a course to Starbucks on West Anderson Lane” and the phone will bring up Maps with the route mapped out and ready to navigate. Siri will not, however, “engage” and that saddened me a little. Speaking of Apple’s Maps — it still has a few rough edges. There have been many times when I will need to make a right hand turn to go East on a road and Maps will tell me to make a right hand turn to take Whatever Highway West. It’s the correct directions, but it gets East and West confused easily. If you don’t know the area it can totally screw you up. 
In total, Sunday I walked 6.25 miles. I thought I’d be in a whole lot of pain this morning considering that I was in a whole lot of pain yesterday evening. I seemed to have recovered quite nicely, though. 

Junior went in to have his ear checked very thoroughly.  So far, everything is okay. It doesn’t, at least, look like cancer. The stuff taken from his ear is being sent to a lab to be checked out, though. 
He has surprised me by being in a good mood when I got him home. He’s actually acting like he hadn’t been put under anesthesia, had a camera put in his ear, and had a good saline ear washin’. 

Computational Saturday [Beast of Birden]


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Having birds is a lot like having a children. Maybe not a lot, but there are certain similarities. Right now, Tooka (the cockatoo) has been pretty quiet, chewing away at one of his toys. I suppose this prompted Zoey (the CAG [I’m assuming she’s a CAG]) to start making a lot of noise. So, of course, Tooka has to make some noise. Immediatly after he makes a peep Zoey yells out, “Shut up!” This has been going on all morning. 
Tooka isn’t a talker. He used to say his name, but he hasn’t done that in a long time. Currently he’s big on ‘hi!’ He’ll say that when I try to get him to say ‘nite-nite’ or when someone knocks on the door. When the washer repair guy was here that’s all he said but the guy never acknowledged his friendliness. 
Last night, though, while I was washing the dishes Tooka flew over onto my shoulder and whispered “[something something] good boy” in my ear. I couldn’t make out the first part, but it definitely sounded like ‘good boy’ at the end. Then he grabbed my ear without tearing it off and made a bunch of ‘smoochie-kissy’ noises before flying over to his cage. 
That’s not to say he’s always cooperative. When I change his food in the mornings before I leave for work he used to grab the disc that holds the door closed in the open position. I thought this was great, because it made it easier for me: flip up the disc, he holds it, I swing out the door and grab the bowl, close the door, and he dropped the disc. It was great. He won’t do it now. 
Today is Saturday. It’s a nice day out there but I won’t be able to take advantage of it. I’ve got a few errands that need to be done and, really, I’m having a late start. Or, I guess, I’m enjoying a lazy start to the day drinking my coffee, answering emails, and putting off doing what needs to be done. Either way.
Lately I’ve been feeling that I’ve been on the Apple defense. Anyone that knows me would find this a pretty strange place for me to be. But, here I am. For instance, along with the Apple Watch, Apple also announced a new laptop. It’s small (but with a full-size keyboard), light (lighter than the Air), and has two ports: a headphone jack and the new USB ‘C’ connector. 
A lot of people on the Internets are up in arms about this because it’s the dumbest thing they’ve ever heard of. People are complaining that, for it to be useful, it needs to be loaded down with USB hubs and dongles galore. I read these comments (why, why, WHY do I bother to read comments?) and think… No, you’re just an idiot. If you need to carry all that crap around with you to use a laptop then this just isn’t the laptop for you. It isn’t one you should even consider buying. You need something like the MacBook Pro or a Dell or something. 
I’ll be honest. My MacBook Pro has become my main computer. And right now it is hooked up to the power, an HDMI connector, a Thunderbolt to Ethernet adapter, my headphones, a USB hub, and a DVD reader/writer, and an external USB 3 drive. The thought of unhooking all of that to bring it around with me is daunting because I’d have to unhook all of that. And it’s kind of heavy. I don’t need to bring all of that with me, either, just unhook it all. That’s why I don’t bring it along with me most of the time when I go out taking pictures, even though my camera bag has a spot for a laptop. It’s gotten to the point where I seriously wish I could just buy a desktop Mac and use that so I can free up my laptop.
When I’m out and about, I use my laptop (when I have the courage and energy to bring it) for using the Internet and writing. Neither of which require twenty pounds of dongles and devices. The thought of having an ultra-light laptop that I can just pickup, toss in a bag, and bring it anywhere is kind of attractive. In fact, having a laptop that I couldn’t do anything but write on seems kind of attractive. Maybe that’s the kind of customer that would be in the market for a laptop like that. 
Of course, less people are making a stink over Google’s $999 laptop that does nothing but run a web browser. It’s loaded with all kinds of ports so I guess that’s the difference. It’s a shame, though, because the Pixel is a really nice laptop, hardware-wise. And fairly inexpensive when you think about the touch screen it comes with. I won’t make much of a stink about it, though, because obviously I’m not the intended customer for an expensive web browser.
So I’ll just go back to complaning about Apple’s lack of a mid-range, monitor-less, desktop computer. I’d really like something more powerful than a Mac Mini, and less over-the-top than a Mac Pro, and without a monitor attached to it. Although that 27”  5K Retina iMac would be really nice to edit photos on… 
I guess I’m just old. Old enough to not want to complain about Microsoft (I like Windows 8 and if T-Mobile hadn’t had an iPhone 5s that day I’d probably be wielding a Windows phone right now), Google has come in handy multiple times, and I like the stuff that Apple has and I don’t see why everyone complains about Mavericks and Yosemite. 
It’s weird for me, come to think of it, to realize that the Big Three Players right now are Microsoft, Google and Apple. It’s even weirder to realize that when it comes to trying to play along nicely with the others, it’s Microsoft that’s in the lead. Ten years ago I would have thought the future would have been an all-Microsoft affair. I’m happy about it, though. I like diversity in the computer world, which is something that ended a long time ago. The only thing that could make me happier now is if Atari came back with computers based on entirely new technology. Like some sort of nanoscale computing device.

This Day [Ham Sandwich For The Soul]


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I took Junior to the vet to have his ear checked for infections. He’d been on the special food for many weeks so this trip would be to see if he had any wax and infection problems and also to find out if his left ear had cleared up enough to peek inside.
At what time Junior seemed to enjoy going to the vet. Maybe not enjoyed, but he didn’t seem to mind very much. Now he hates it. He won’t come out of the carrier so I have to take it apart. Even then, he won’t leave it until he’s forcibly removed from it. 

I brought along a toy this time in case he felt like taking a bite out of something. He didn’t go for it. He didn’t get quite so upset when poking at his ears, though, so I and the vet took that as a good sign. 
She looked in his right ear first and was happy to report that it was clear, the ear drum was fine, and there was no infection. Cheers all around.
Then she looked in the left and the news was not so good. All the wax had been cleaned out but, instead of revealing ear drum, it showed a bloody mass situated in his ear canal. 
It seems, then, they’ll have to go in and do surgery. Either to remove the mass to biopsy it, or to remove the ear canal altogether.
I’m not happy with this news. It’s not the vet’s fault, of course. And, really, she went out of her way to try and make me feel better, even down to saying I did a very good job of getting the ear drops and ear wash in his ears. Still, I can’t help but feel like a bad pet owner. Worse, a bad friend. 
What’s good for him, though, is he’s allowed to have his old food. So he’s eating now. He’s also staying very, very far away from me unless he needs something. I’m getting the feeling that he’ll get over this right around the time I take him in for surgery. In two weeks. 

I was feeling pretty low about all this and that’s when I heard that Terry Pratchett had died. The first Pratchett book I read was The Light Fantastic that I found in a bookstore. It had a wacky looking cover and I was bored so I bought it.
I have to admit that I didn’t like it very much. I liked pieces of it, like the bits that made fun of Dungeons & Dragons spell names and wizard levels. I decided that maybe I should find the first book, The Colour of Magic and re-evaluate.
I managed to get my hands on Equal Rites. I enjoyed the little bits of information that he threw in the books that came from old legends or physics. But it was Mort that cemented my feelings for his books. Mort has been, in a way, a comfort to me through all the losses I’ve gone through over the years. 
It wasn’t long before I was one of those poor Americans who waited years for a new book from Terry Pratchett. What made it worse was that I knew there were more books, they just weren’t making their way over to the States. His writing has been a huge influence on my own, despite the fact that I’ll never have an audience larger than whoever reads this blog. But that’s okay. I’m still happy to have him as an influence.
Good Omens is one of my favorite books and that’s why I was genuinely sad when I finally realized that I just didn’t like The Long Earth. I still have Dodger around here, somewhere, that I haven’t gotten to. But I will.
I can’t even begin to express my sympathies to the Pratchett family, and all the other fans around the globe.

As Normal As It Gets [Ramble On]


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I’m enjoying my new job. Even though it’s still early and I haven’t had much to do yet, I can tell I’m in with a pretty good group of people. The guy I interviewed with gave me a training session today. At the end of it he said that I was a quick learner. This is what I’ve been trying to get all the other people I interviewed with to understand. Their loss, though, is my new boss’ gain.
Since the time switch happened again a bunch of people are complaining about having to turn clocks forwards and backwards. I’m sympathetic and think the practice is a little outdated, but if they do away with it then I have to buy a bunch of new junk that won’t change its own time twice a year. Some things could be fixed easily (computers, phones, and the like) but others (microwaves, coffee makers, car stereos) would be hard to do. 
Speaking of which, Apple has announced the Apple Watches price and availability. It just so happens that I’ve been looking to get something as a ‘congratulations you have a job’ present. I had thought about an Apple Watch, but I don’t know that I really need one. Or would use one for whatever its inteded purpose is. 
One thing that I find amusing are the People of the Internet blowing their gaskets over the $10,000 gold Apple Watch. They’re acting like this is the most ridiculous thing they’ve ever heard about. I’m no millionaire, but I have it on good faith that people with a lot of money tend to spend a lot of money on truly stupid things. There are clubs that offer bottle service well in excess of $10,000. There are even foods served in restaurants that top the $10K mark. Buying a ‘smart’ watch for $10K, in that light, seems almost responsible. I won’t get into buying a watch for $25K or more just because it’s not really a fair comparison. There’s no telling how long a ‘smart’ watch will be relevant, what with being based on technology and all; a regular watch will always be relevant just because it’s never going to stop being able to tell time. Unless it’s broken, but it’ll still be accurate two times a day (rimshot, etc.). For the most part a watch is a style accessory that just happens to be functional. The point is, though, that a $10K gold ‘smart’ watch is not meant for your average McDonald’s employee, it’s meant for the über-rich who can lose multiple thousands of dollars in a seat cushion and not even realize it.
Other than that, the Internet has been getting on my nerves. I don’t think I could stand to see another headline that reads like this: [Some Person] [Did Some Action] and what happens next will [Ridiculous Hyperbole Involving Incredulous Reactions]. I won’t even read those stories. As soon as I see one I just want to flip off the Internet switch.
I also need to stop reading comments on news stories because I see the things that people write and I feel like I’m ready to induldge in some [Ridiculous Hyperbole Involving Incredulous Reactions]. 
Back when I was in school, the big thing with computer nerds was computer shaming. You know, like how Atari computers were better than Apple computers because they had built in color capabilities and didn’t rely on monitor artifacts, or it had sound built in. And Commodore 64s were better than both of them even though the hard drive was slower than a tape drive, and if you had a PC jr everyone felt bad for you and called you “peanut”… All that crap. Surfing around the Internet you realize that it never ends. Android is better than iOS, or Ford is better than Chevy, or Chrome is better than Internet Explorer or whatever. It just goes on and on and on and on. 
We never really grow up. 
I’d like to think that’s a bad thing but I’m not so sure. I guess it keeps people on their toes, somehow. Or, at least, keeps their brain functioning on some level. If you’re going to fight about something I suppose you need to come up with reasons to defend your position rather than just skating along and saying, “Oh yeah, man, that’s an idea.” 
I have the day off today. My new employers were kind enough to recognize that I needed to take the day to bring Mr Junior to the vet to have his ears checked again and to figure out if he’s allergic or if he needs to have his head scoped. I’m hoping to any deity out there that I can put him back on normal food. I love my cat just as surely as I’ve loved any human in my life and he knows this and he exploits it just as much as he can.
On a good day he’ll eat what he’s fed, but that’s pretty rare. On a middling day he’ll run over to his bowl, sniff the hypo-allergenic food and then sit there looking at me and I can just tell he’s thinking, “Oh yes, very funny. Now where’s my real food?” On a bad day he’s brushing against my legs making pitiful mewling noises before he plops over on his side, feebly waving his paws in the air, because he’s going to die of starvation if I don’t give him his regular food right now
If you want to reduce a giant bear-like man to tears, that’s just how you do it. But I’ve been strong. I’ve wrestled him to the ground to put the drops in his ears. I’ve resisted his pathetic moments and not fed him his regular food. So, today I hope, I can know something for sure. But, boy, do I wish I was dating a vet. It would make everyone so much easier making her the bad guy.
Dealing with vetrinarian places is kind of weird, though, isn’t it? When I call them for something I’m always saying, “Yes, I’m calling on behalf of Junior.” When I walk in everyone is like, “Look! It’s Junior!” and then they ask what my name is because, you know, I’m just the owner. I don’t mind all that much, really, because it gives me the impression that the health of my pet is kind of important to them. When I go to see a doctor for me I feel like I’m going there to treat my wallet. “Look! It’s Walter’s wallet! And it’s here with that guy that pays us!”
All right, it’s not that bad. And I’ve gotten lucky with my dentist and the doctor that treated my face when it blew up. And really lucky with the clinic that I went to when my face first exploded. But there were others…

Almost Employed T-2 [Highway Blues]


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Saturday comes around. I’m a bit tired of Ruby and Swift programming. It’s not raining, but it is overcast. Mid-morning comes around and I can’t take it anymore. I pack up the camera and hit the road.
Just for the fun of it, I stopped by the Dodge dealer to see if they have a Hellcat Challenger on the lot. I’d like to get a look at one because I haven’t got a hope in hell of getting one. I get there and a sales guy thought they had one, but it turns out they didn’t. He asked me what I was going to do for the rest of the day.
“Well,” I said, “I had planned on going out to take some pictures but it’s so overcast I don’t know how good it’ll be.”
Warren, the sales guy, gives me one of those sideways looks. “I hear there’s a cold front coming next week.”
“Yeah, I guess that’ll mean more cold and rain.” 
I get another look from Warren, this time with a raised eyebrow. “I hear there’s a cold front coming next week.”
“So, uh, I better get out there and take some pictures?”
“Sounds like a good idea,” he agreed. “Have a good day.”

In the car I go. With no idea of where to go. Various things pop out at me: Crawford, Waco. Okay, just those two things. Oh, and Colorado Bend State Park. None of them are close by. It’s already 10am. I end up doing the worst thing I could possibly do: I35.
Now I don’t know what I35 is like in other states, but around here it’s a turd. Traffic is backed up both ways. On a Saturday. Morning. And somewhere around Salado it’s under construction. It’s always under construction. I don’t think the section from Salado to Temple (if not further north) has ever not been under construction. It wouldn’t surprise me if, when I35 was declared complete, they entirely forgot about this section and never stopped the paychecks. There are probably generations of highway construction workers receiving paychecks that are still being sent to the original crew members.
It was in this traffic, and trying to avoid the numerous pot holes, that I decided to go to Waco just so I could decide to turn around. Turning around wasn’t very easy, what with a lot of the exits being closed and simple turnarounds being full of detours. It was in one of these detours I decided that Crawford might be a good place to go, after all. 
I got as far as Moody before I turned around, again. This time I set the navicomp to Home. It decided to take me through Belton, which looks like quite a pleasant town. So pleasant, in fact, that I found a little park that I turned in to. I took out the camera and took pictures of ducks. And, I think, a goose. And some pigeons. If I hadn’t had to take a leak so badly I would have walked around the town.
As it was, I bid farewell to the ducks and headed south on I35 and headed home. And got stuck in traffic. On a Saturday.
Anyway, I got some pictures of ducks. You can see them all here if you’d like to seem them.

(Not Really)Unemployed — Day 6


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I’m glad I made the decision to go out and do some road tripping. It’s assured cold and rainy weather for several weeks now. If we get out of these drought conditons you can thank me. I wouldn’t have said anything about it but I wanted to use the new banner. That’s what my life is about now. Making banners.
According to the fine weather predicting people, there won’t be a good day to drive anywhere for quite a while to come. 
Strangely enough, today, the day that was proclaimed to be an Iceypocolypse, is a pretty nice day. The sun is out, anyway, and that hasn’t been seen in these parts for weeks. Unfortunately, it’s still pretty cold (currently 34˚F)

If you’re paying attention to titles you may be wondering what it means. Basically, I recieved an offer letter and decided to take the offer. So, I’m not really unemployed. I haven’t signed any paperwork, though, so I’m technically not employed. I’m now in that state of quasi-employedness.
I did have one final interview to go on, though, so I made the trip on a road that’s alternately known as 360 Loop and/or Capital Of Texas Highway. 
If there were no else in the state, it would be a pretty road. It’s got turns, it goes up and down over the hills, and has a lot of really nice views. It’s also loaded with stop lights and people who steadfastly refuse to learn how to drive. It is always traffic-laden. 
I was driving on this road when I passed this sign:

The active portion of my brain acknowledged the sign but didn’t pay much attention. It wasn’t until I was waiting at the next stoplight that I found myself thinking: “How the Hell do I watch for wind currents?” It’s not like they keep colored gas canisters on the side of the road, and I don’t usually travel with them. 
After I start my new job and all the paperwork is signed I’ll go more into job searching and interviewing. I won’t do it now only for superstition reasons. 

In general I’m in good spirits, I think. The weather should start getting warmer so maybe then I’ll be able to get out and about with the camera in tow. 
One thing that is bothering me, though, is the bedroom. I feel like it’s time to re-position all the furniture again. This is not a simple task. There are a multude of things that need to be unplugged and moved around. Also, my bedroom is quite tiny. And Junior will get all confused again. 
It’s at times like this when I wish I did have an iMac or some other all-in-one computer. That way I could disassemble all the computer crap in here, take the time to set things up neatly (I have tie-wraps!), and still have a computer to use when I need one. But, I suppose that’s what I have a laptop for.
I’m also rapidly approaching the point where I want to get rid of everything in this apartment and start over. I just don’t think it would do me a lot of good. 
A lot of people don’t know this, but I’ve always had this desire to be normal. That includes having a bedroom, for example, that isn’t covered in computer equipment but does have things like a normal bed, a dresser, maybe even a night stand. And have a dining area would be nice. A living room with a coffee table. 
Adding to that, and I’m really going off the rails here, having stuff hanging on the walls. Like pictures or something. 
Alas, this is a dream I will probably never realize.

Unemployed — Day 88 [Brain Drain]


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The unfortunate part of having an iPhone and using mostly default settings is that everytime a TV character gets a call or a text I have to look at my phone. 

I’m always told that when one is unemployed one must make sure to keep one’s spirits up. As day 90 rapidly approaches I’m finding this to be harder to do. The weather has been pretty lousy, what with the freezing rain and all. One day, when it rains freezing water, they’ll open the toll roads as big toboggan tracks. That would be a lot of fun if they weren’t so high up. High enough that at least two motorcycle riders have died after being flung off of them. I wonder how much it would cost to put some kind of netting underneath them?
To keep my spirits up… In an attempt to keep my spirits up I’ve taken to learning Ruby. I’ve been having a lot of fun with it. Almost as much fun as when computers came with BASIC built-in and I spent a lot of time learning that. Soon I’ll be seguing my way over to Rails with the ultimate goal of creating a gnarly website that will be bought for billions of dollars.
After I recieve those billions of dollars I will begin my Life of Leisure, right after I buy a new pair of underpants because, let’s be honest, if I saw a check with that many zeroes on it I’d probably lose control of my lower body functions, briefly. Then I will buy a large house with a room full of cat-specific playthings, an aviary, a guest house, and a massive garage. Then I’ll hire someone to keep an eye on the pets and clean that house while I go travel. Maybe even galavanting. 
I will get into my car and fulfill my dream of driving to all the historical markers in Texas, taking photos, and writing about it so I can complete my coffee table book.
That is my plan. I just need a great idea for a website. 

Until that day arrives, however, I need to find ways to fill up my time. Besides sitting in a dark, too small apartment learning computer languages. The obvious choice, of course, is to actually get in the car and drive until I find a place that looks suitable for saving to digital film. I have a list of places I want to visit. It’s about four years old and I’ve gone to exactly one place on that list (hello, Dimebox!). I feel bad about that. I also feel bad that, if this unemployed stint goes on much longer, I will have to sell or trade the Challenger. I love that car, you see, and it will be a definite blow to my mental well being to get rid of it. The Challenger has been the best road trip car I’ve ever had. 
I had plans, you see. Plans of driving to Big Bend to take a picture of the star laden sky; to visit parts of what used to be Route 66. To see that ranch where  Cadillacs are buried butt-upwards. As their old tourism commercials used to say, Texas is a whole other country and there is so much area to cover it very well could keep me occupied for the rest of my life if I were stupid wealthy. 
To be honest, I am not in a good place at the moment. I only mention this because my readers are lovely people and I like to be honest. But I’ll get through it and I’ll be fine. I’m always fine. It’s a curse.

You might notice that I’ve been having fun creating new banners. Pixelmator can be a lot of fun. 

I think I’ll make a list of commercials and what, exactly, I don’t like about them. By the by, I’ve also noticed screaming sheep are being phased out in favor of barking dogs. Both Suburu and Buick are using them. 
At this moment I’ll also mention that Buick thinks you are an idiot. Buick things that if there’s a gigantic SUV right in front of you that has a giant Buick logo right there, smack center of the grill that you’ll still be so brain addled that you won’t realize it’s a Buick. That’s how stupid they think you are. 

Not long ago I said that I wish Apple would come out with a computer that fits between the Mac Pro and the iMac. After spending a couple of minutes thinking about it, I’ve decided that I’d really like a computer with the Mac Pro case but with an i7 processor (as opposed to a Xeon), a single or dual desktop level (as opposed to workstation) video card, and regular old memory (as opposed to the error checking the Xeons are able to use).
That should bring the price down a bit. Maybe they could call it a Mac Amateur or something. I’m sure they wouldn’t use the same trashcan case, though, which is a shame.  It’s all wishful thinking on my part.


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