Fresh Ideas

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Sometimes I get an idea that just seems, well, really good. For instance, I have two cars. One of the cars has the stereo controls on the steering wheel. Pretty handy, right? The other one does not. It just has the cruise control stuff on there.

If I drive the new car long enough, sometimes I forget which car I’m driving and I’ll try and adjust the stereo volume with controls on the old car’s steering wheel. This means speeding up when I want turn up the volume, and then slowing down when I’m trying to lower the volume because I just hit the car in front of me.

I replaced the stock radio in the old car with a slightly newer one. It can’t give me control via the steering wheel, but it does come with a remote control. It took maybe a whole two seconds of thinking that I could mount the remote onto the steering wheel.

So I took a minute to look around and saw that the ony place that had enough room to hold the remote would be the center. So I got some super strong double-sided tape and taped that baby right smack in the center.

I took it out for a spin to see how much new life had been given to the Battle Wagon. I got up to cruising speed, put on some Starland Vocal Band and then tried to crank up the tunes!

What I got was a lot of horn honking. I tried to turn down the music so I could find out who was honking at me (should be everyone, right? Who doesn’t like Starland Vocal Band, right?) but that just brought on more honking. So I tried to turn it up! More honking!

After a while I noticed a police car behind me with his bubble gum machine going. I pulled over and this trooper stalks up to the car and tells me to turn down the music. There was more horn honking. He told me to stop honking. I said, “What?”

“Turn down the volume! Stop honking! Turn down the volume! Stop honking!” Finally he reached into the car and slapped my hands away. Then he started hammering on the remote until it flew into a bunch of pieces. That’s when the air bag went off.

He was a little annoyed. Annoyed enough that he decided I needed a cavity search, right there on the side of the road. For drugs. Or something. I don’t know.

In the end, if you’ll excuse the phrase, I realized that the center of the steering wheel was not a good place for the remote. Turns out, with sufficient pressure, I could honk the horn as I tried to change the volume. Go figure. Not that it mattered, anyway, because the remote needs a line of sight to some magical spot on the radio to work. It wasn’t going to happen with it pointed to wherever the wheel was turned, but upwards. Although, if I had turned the wheel to the right every time I wanted to do something…. No, I’m better off not messing with it. Besides, I’m not going back out to the car because I walk funny.

Life of Cities {Now It’s All Parking Lots}


     New Jersey rarely gets a fair shake. The majority of people get their information about the state from movies and television. This means they see the cities and, usually, power plants, dumps, generator farms, and not much else. Some people only know what they see when they fly into and out of Newark Airport. Which is cities, power plants, generator farms, and maybe a dump or two. New Yorkers don’t seem to look past Hoboken.
     What fewer people see is that once you get past the cities and past the suburbs there are farm lands, hills, swamps, and the odd mountain. There’s also rivers and bays. Even an ocean, if you know where to look for it.
     There is one thing in my life that I do, truly and deeply, regret and that is not having the foresight to write things down and photograph things when I was a child. I won’t beat myself up about it, though, because what kid really thinks about that kind of thing? An open field with horses and trees will always be an open field with horses and trees. Until it gets paved over for condominiums. Or a Wal-Mart. Or a Home Depot. Or another named subdivision. Then it’s gone in everything but memory.
     When I left New Jersey, those open fields and farm land and all that were still there. I don’t know if they are, now. I just wish I had paid more attention when I had the chance (and that’s going clear into my twenties).
     All this was going through my mind when I was traveling around Austin the other day. We were on a minor highway and then went off to a smaller road. The GPS showed a straight line through a field of gray. There was nothing around but fields, horses, and the occasional house. But we weren’t that far outside of Austin and, eventually, the city is going to catch up. The land will be bought and all of it will be replaced with more named subdivisions, strip malls, probably another Wal-Mart and Home Depot.
     Letting the mind wander it’s not unreasonable to think that in five years, give or take, the area I drove through might be a large parking lot. What about ten years from now? Or fifteen?
     Just like it’s changed how some people watch TV, the Internet has changed how we shop. Malls, once the mighty shopping king of the 1980s, devoured the competing smaller stores by having everything in one place. And now they are turning into dinosaurs, dieing where they stand with slowly emptying innards.
     It’s not inconceivable that the current dinomagazi, such as Wal-Mart, Target, (maybe) K Mart, and the like will die off. After all, if Amazon can deliver product to you on the same day (and the others, if they can adapt) then is there any real reason to go out to a store to buy something? Yes, but I think more people will decide not to go shopping in a building and just have it delivered.
     If going out shopping ends up becoming rare then what will happen to these big buildings scattered around? I suppose they’ll be torn down or re-purposed. I’m assuming a lot of that land will be sold and turned into more subdivisions. Or, maybe, they’ll be left standing.
     Buildings from the 1800s and early 1900s have a tendency to disappear whether from catching fire, falling down, being moved, swept away in floods, or taken down so the materials could be re-used. Today’s buildings are more likely to be used as crack dens than to disappear into history.
     That’s kind of sad. It’s probably also the last time we’ll get any kind of ‘ghost town’ for some time, if these structures do stand abandoned even though I think it’s unlikely.
     From what I can tell, the life of a ghost town goes like this:
  • Settle down somewhere
  • Put up with a group of people deciding to live near you
  • Petition the government for a post office and hope they don’t turn down your name six times
  • Go through a period of growth where more people move in and set up shops
  • Open a school
  • Build a church (school and church as switchable since people did have services in schools until a church was built and also had classes in church until a school was built)
  • Encounter one or more disasters: major road does NOT get built near your town; railroad does NOT get built near your town; you lose the bid for county seat; major fire; get washed away in a flood; lose crops to drought and/or bugs; major company leaves or gets bought; end up on the wrong side of a dam
  • Close the post office
  • Have the schools get absorbed in the next town over (probably the county seat)
  • Leave the church(es) and cemetery (sometimes)
     Sometimes a town just gets annexed by a nearby growing city. One day your mail is addressed to Smithville, USA and the next your address is Metropolis, USA, and it’s business as usual.
     It’s unlikely, then, that any current town or city will become a ghost town. We’re not tethered by roads or railroads anymore and we sure don’t have to rely on going to the post office to get our mail, especially since regular mail is on the way out thanks to email. It’s far more likely that a smaller town will get absorbed by a larger, growing, city.
     It’s the lost cities that I’m interested in, though. Maybe you drive down a road call Three Points Rd. and one day wonder why it’s named that and find out that it used to lead to a settlement called Three Points. Or you see a cemetery that has a name that doesn’t appear to have anything to do with anything nearby and find out that it was named after the thriving community that once was nearby but is now quite gone.
     I’m a sucker for old buildings. I drive past them and I wonder what they were for, who used them, what happened to them. Around here it’s not too difficult to find them and I always assumed they had been part of the ranch upon whose land they were sitting. I’m finding out, though, that’s it’s likely that the buildings were a part of a town that had grown up on a piece of land and were just incorporated into the parcel when the land was bought, sold, annexed, or whatever.
     Unfortunately, sit a lot of them are sitting on private land it’s not possible to go poking around in them. At least, not without the possibility of being arrested for trespassing. Or shot.

On The Air {Kill Your Television}

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     There is something to be said for knowing that, around the country, nearly everyone is watching the same show on television that you are. That tomorrow you’ll all have something to talk about. In a couple of days or so there will be another show that everyone watches and discusses. Maybe there’s something about the entire family gathering around the tube on Thursday night at 8 o’clock (7 central/6 mountain). It is family time, together time.

     I’d like to say that the Internet ruined that but it was starting to break down long before that. It started back when VCRs came along with the ability to program a time and date to record a program. Then people realized that maybe they didn’t want to sit around home on a Friday night at 8 o’clock to watch a TV show. No, they’d rather be out getting drunk. There wasn’t any reason not to have fun when you could go back and watch the show later. You couldn’t save having fun with people.

     The Internet didn’t start it, but it’s making it way easier to get people to realize that they’d rather do things on their own schedule rather than a broadcaster mandated time and date. Unfortunately, broadcasters are a little slow to catch up to the times.

     I think it’s great when CBS, or whoever, starts to do things online instead of, or along side of, their over the air broadcasting. I don’t even mind watching commercials if I don’t have to pay for the service. I also think that the networks can get a better idea of which shows are being watched and which aren’t. Most of all, though, shows that deserve to succeed aren’t saddled with a bad time slot.

     Sometimes I wonder how many shows would have had a longer run had people been able to choose when they watched it rather than having to be in front of a TV when it wasn’t quite convenient for them. How many shows in FOX’s “Friday Night Death Slot” would have stuck around longer?

     Television, as I knew it growing up, is definitely on the way out. A part of me remembers watching M*A*S*H and Sledgehammer, and The Cosby Show with family and knowing that friends were watching the same show and having that knit us together just a little bit tighter. I guess I miss that, but it’s a new world. A different world.

Speaking in Chirps {As We Get Older And Stop Making Sense}

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     When people get a bird that mimics human speech they tend to sit around for a long time trying to get them to repeat whatever word or saying people think is cute or funny. Or, in other cases, disgusting and horrible.
     I, on the other hand, tend to pick up the chirps, clicks, and whistles that the birds make. I’m sure they’re amazed that a simple creature without wings can manage to mimic their noises.
     Unfortunately, it’s become a sort of habit. There are times when, say, I’m at work and notice that I’m making odd noises when I’m thinking, or frustrated over something, or see something neat on Amazon or ThinkGeek. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if my co-workers thought I had lost my mind.
     Part of me doesn’t think it’s all that weird. I spend a lot of time with them and, surely, I’m bound to pick up some kind of mannerisms. But then I think of all the people I know who own dogs and think, “I can’t remember the last time they growled at something. Or barked. Or even begged for food.”
     Maybe it is a little odd of me.

Science! {She Blinded Me With}


Normally I don’t use WordPress’s web thingy to write blog entries. I usually use Blogo. But, since I can’t have my damn paragraph indents I guess there’s no point in not using it from time to time.

I like paragraph indents. I see them and I feel like a real writer. When I look at web sites that separate paragraphs by using a blank line and all text is left-justified, well, all I see is amateurish children-like writing. I guess it’s too damn difficult to hit a ‘tab’ key these days.

Anyway, getting on with things.

I used to think that a transporter, such as used in Star Trek, would be a pretty nifty thing. Step on the pad and poof, you’re somewhere else. No security lines, no turbulence, just appear in a new spot.

And then I started thinking about it and decided it may not be that great. I looked at as getting on a pad, being torn to pieces down to the component atoms, and then being re-built somewhere else.

You might say, “What’s the big deal? You start one place, you end up in another. Badda-bing!” While, to everyone else, you’re fine and dandy and being ‘you’ what happens to the original you?

The best way I have to explain it is like this: Imagine you’re put under anesthesia. While you’re sleeping someone comes along and makes a clone of you. When that’s done you’re wheeled off to a room and kept in an induced coma.

Meanwhile, your clone wakes up thinking it’s you. Then it goes off and visits tiki bars, dances, sings some karaoke,  gets in a limo with Liam Neeson, jets off to Paris, etc.

To anyone else, you’re having a great time. But to you, the you you know and love, you’re asleep. You’re not experiencing any of that.

The kicker is, if someone were to suggest doing the procedure to the clone they’d agree with it. After all, they remember falling asleep and then waking up and hanging out with Liam Neeson. If the procedure is repeated then that clone will end up joining you in that room in an induced coma. The new clone will have a grand old time.

And on and on and on.

Wow. That is just… so freaking ugly. Okay, so I fixed part of it.

I suppose I could go into the HTML editor part and put in my indents but it’s not really the same.

Nature {When You Comin’ Home Now, Son}

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When I took Junior to College Station I was hoping to come away with some kind of idea about his condition. What I got was a bunch of A’s and B’s. That is, he could have cancer, but he might not. Treatment might help him, but it might not. Most cats are OK with being left in a hospital for a month, but some aren’t.
They only thing they would give me a straight answer for was that it was my decision and whatever decision I made would be the right one; there was no bad decision here.
That was the one thing they were very wrong about. As far as I’m concerned, I can’t make a right decision. Anything I decide now will be wrong later on. That’s the way I am; that’s the way it is.
I put a lot of thought into it, though. In the end I decided that I would let Nature take its course. I don’t want to subject Junior to the stress of being alone, being put under anasthesia every day (Monday through Friday) for a month, of having the radiation treatments which may (or may not!) affect him negatively. It was a difficult decision because, even though I want him around forever, I don’t want him around and miserable. I know this is the right decision, but I also know it’s the wrong decision. At some point I’m going to wish I had done things differently.
Right now, he seems happy enough. He’s active, he’s playful, and he can be a serious pain in the butt. I wouldn’t have it any other way. But that can change. Will change, one way or another. The only way I’ll get off the hook is if he doesn’t have cancer.

When Fallout 4 was announced I knew that NaNoWriMo wasn’t going to happen for me. FO4 comes out in November; NaNoWriMo happens to occur in November. I’ve been waiting years for FO4. But, maybe, I can use it to my advantage. In the sense that anything I do is to my advantage. But, if I tell myself, “You can play Fallout if you write 1,667 words that day” then maybe I can finish this year. I can also stomp off to my room yelling, “Aw, man!” And then complain about what I jerk I am for making me write some stupid stuff before I can have fun. Then I can get into an argument with myself and say, “As long as I’m living under my roof I’ll have to follow my own rules!”
When the men in the padded wagon come offering me a jacket with too-long sleeves I’ll just tell them I don’t know what they’re talking about.
Last year, if you remember, was a bust because my face expanded thanks to some kind of gland infection. I was way too miserable to write anything down, mostly because I was in a lot of pain. And I certainly wasn’t going to any write-ins looking like I had the space mumps.
This year I’m hoping to keep my head’s dimensions more or less the same as they currently are. I just kind of wish the doctor had taken my suggestion and installed a spigot in my head so I could drain it at will.

Frustration {Let It Go}

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Usually it’s on the weekends that I’ll look at the apartment and all the crap that somehow accumulates and I’ll start to feel real frustrated. Not just with bric-a-brac, but with everything. Life, junk, annoyances… Everything. I’ll want to put everything I own in a trash bag and chuck it out. Start over. Get a new apartment, get new (and attractive) cooking stuff, buy real furniture.

I never knew, really, what my life was going to be like. I guess I had thought it would be kind of normal. Meet a girl, get married, have kids, live in a house, worry about family stuff.
None of that ever happened, though. I mean, I was married (twice), I had kids (not of my gene pool, though), lived in a house and, boy, did I worry about family stuff. It still wasn’t was I was expecting my life to be about.
The end result is that I feel mostly frustrated with life. I’m not exactly doing the work that I thought, or hoped, I would be doing. My personal life doesn’t actually exist. People ask me what I do for fun and I honestly don’t have anything to tell them. I go to parks to take pictures. That’s all I have.
Yet, somehow, I have an apartment that’s cluttered with a lot of crap. A lot of it is old crap; stuff that should probably be thrown away but it’s too difficult to part with. Objects contain memories and I’m not ready to let those go. It may be that I never will.
Some of it is new crap. I can’t explain how it got there other than it seemed like a good idea at the time.
And I look at it all and wish I could work up the enthusiasm to just get rid of it all. I realize the best way of doing this would be to hire someone and tell them to get rid of everything. Don’t even ask me if I want it; just take it and put it in the bin.
Which would be an incredibly bad thing to do on account of there being things I would just like to keep, obviously. Like the TV. And the XBox. And stuff like that.
Maybe one day I’ll take out an ad on Craigslist or something and see if I can find someone to haul off a bunch of stuff. It sounds like a good idea as long as nobody comes back to take the stuff I didn’t want to get rid of.

Anniversary [World Keeps Spinning]

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     Nine years. That’s how long I’ve been writing this blog. Since 2006. Mind blowing. Some years, of course, were a bit leaner than others when it comes to amount of posts. And probably quality. But, wow, nine years. That’s almost a decade.     I suppose this post should be an extravaganza, but I think that’s best left for the ten year mark.

 

     Where I am in Texas (possibly other places, too) there are trucks. Trucks that carry rocks. Gravel or granite or something, I don’t know. These trucks, you see, drive around with a full load of rocks. On the back of these trucks are signs that read “Stay 500ft back — Not responsible for broken windshields,” which is weird, because I think their primary purpose is, in fact, to break windshields. 
     Yesterday I ended up behind one. I heard something hit my windshield but, luckily, it didn’t shatter. But I noticed this roundish bit of discolor that had what looked like a drop of water underneath it. It wasn’t bad, but I was already mentally tallying up how much it was going to cost to repair when it got too bad to see out.
     On the way home my eyes kept getting drawn to it. I half hoped it was water, but there’s no way a drop of water is going to hang around all day in the sun with a temperature of 97F. 
     In the mornings the air is cool and the windshield has a lot of moisture on it. One of the first things I do after starting up the Battle Wagon is to run the wipers. I did this. Then I looked at the spot from yesterday. It was gone. 
     There was nothing in that spot but clear windshield. Now I’m wondering what kind of liquid I had on my windshield that doesn’t move in the wind generated by moving at 80 MPH (hurray Texas speed limits!) and doesn’t evaporate in nearly 100 degree weather.

     Last week I took Junior the cat to College Station to get checked out by the vets there. From what I was told they have the best radiation machine in the state so if he’s going to get treatment, he’s going to get it there.
     The treatment consists of having radiation applied Monday through Friday for four weeks (or three). 
     The big problem is that College Station is either 95 or 101 miles away from where I live. A daily drive there and back just isn’t going to happen so I’ll have to leave him there and visit on weekends. 
     That may not sound too bad, but you have to remember that it means five days of being under anesthesia. Five days of having radiation pointed at his head. Five days of not being home, comfortable.  For a month.
     It would be a no-brainer decision if I could get an answer to one question: Is it the best thing for him? But nobody will give me a definitive answer. Instead, I get a lot of dual-answers. It might. It might not. He may have cancer. He might not (it could be healing tissue). He could be dead in a year or he could live for quite a few more. 
     The only thing definitive I was told was that I could not make a wrong decision. And they’re wrong. The way I see it, any decision I make will be the wrong one. If he doesn’t get the treatment and ends up dying in pain, it’s my fault. If he does get the treatment and still dies in pain, well, then I wasted a month of him feeling good. If he gets the treatment and lives for a few more years than maybe he didn’t have cancer after all. 
     He’s been with me a long time. He’s my buddy, my friend, my companion through difficult times. No, there is no way I can make the right decision regardless of the outcome.

     In other news, smart people are spending a butt-load of money looking for aliens. The outer space kind, not the kind Donald Trump is having trouble with. 
     As a side note, though, I should add that, while I don’t care about Trump, I read his controversial speech and noticed that he specifically mentions illegal aliens. Any time I saw it referenced in the news the ‘illegal’ part was never mentioned. Strange.
     Anyway, smart people spending money I could use to find aliens that they aren’t going to find. I’m in favor of finding alien life. I think there’s life out there, somewhere. It may even be intelligent. I’m just not convinced that we’d be able to find evidence.
     I’m sure I  mentioned this before but it was probably nine years ago so I’ll mention it again: scale. The universe, as I understand it, is a pretty big place. We can only ‘see’ a small fraction of it. We’re surrounded by universe. If we’re not looking in just the right spot, we’re going to miss any evidence. There is also the time scale to think about.
     If an alien race started exactly when we did, evolved at exactly the same pace that we did, managed to invent all the same things we did when we did, then we’re not going to find them for, what? A few thousand years? However long it takes for a radio signal to journey over here. If we started maybe even two hundred years before they did then they’re just getting started with radio. If we’re even a hundred years behind them, well, there’s no telling what they’re working with now but it’s probably not radio.
     What if the radio signal was disrupted by pulsars or something? Does that happen? I don’t know, but I suppose it’s possible for some kind of stellar event to make a hash out of some sort of communication. How would we know what to look for? An alien is… alien. They may not think like us, may not find the same thing important, might think backwards. What if all their communication is encrypted or compressed? 
     There are an incredible amount of variables involved and none of them seem to be in favor of finding a signal from an alien intelligence. 
     However, they will also be searching for laser-based communications and that makes me a bit more hopeful. It’d be even better if the alien lasers were always on or, at least, pulsing on and off quickly enough that it’s effectively always on. Even if they found just one laser beam going off that would be a pretty good indication of intelligent life even if we can’t decode the message. The article I read said they might find the equivelent of our Internet being broadcast out there on beams of light. If that’s the case, then it’s probably a bunch of aliens complaining about something they don’t know much about.

Seeing as how this is the anniversary of this place I feel like I should commit to doing something new. Maybe something different. Something like promising to write something in here every day no matter how banal it might be. According to the WordPress stats I have 344 followers (give or take as I don’t know how they’re counted). I have no idea why because most of the people that read this never say much to me about what I post. Not that I blame you; most of this stuff is gobbeldygook. But, you know, if you have something you’d like to see, let me know. If I have to research it, so much the better. Chances are I’ll spout off in ignorance, anyway, but you never know.

Marketing [Blockbuster]

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When I was a kid it didn’t take much to get the imagination going. Put on a ring with Spider-Man’s face on it and, bam, suddenly I was Spider-Man. Wearing a bucket on my head and carrying a stick suddenly transformed me into a badly equipped astronaut. I imagine this made it easy for marketing people because all they had to do was toss a cheap trinket into a cereal box and then kids would do what marketing people could never do: bug the hell out of parents until they bought whatever it was that had a cheap trinket in it. Because any piece of junk can be a costume to a kid.
A kid can tie a towel around his neck and “fly” around the grocery store. Adults will either look at you in digust and wonder where your parents are or in mild amusement wishing that they, too, were young enough to act like a fool. However, be a six-foot tall man running around Sears waving a sledgehammer over your head yelling, “I will smite thee, in the name of Odin!” and you won’t be doing it for very long. As least, not once the authorities show up.
What you don’t see, then, are media-tie ins targetted towards adults. When the Thor movie came out you didn’t see Stanley have a tie-in with their sledgehammers.

So I was surprised to find something marketed to adults. Now, I don’t know who generally does the cleaning around the house these days (I know it isn’t me): men or women. I suppose it could be evenly split between both genders now, but I have a hard time believing that the advertising people have quite gotten up to understanding that. That means, correct or not, I think most cleaning advertising is pointed at women.
This, then, leads me to believe that women secretely desire to have their house cleaned by small yellow men wearing glasses and speaking gibberish.
I’m referring, of course, to Minions.

Are these Swiffers being marketed to women? To people in general? To adults hoping they can get their kid to sweep up if a Minion is on the package? I have no idea.

Temp Title [Decisions, Decisions]


There is no better way than speeding up time than by having a deadline looming over your head. Need the weekends to hurry up? Make sure you have a project due on Friday. Want the summer to breeze by? Go schedule a vacation week late in the season. Whoosh! Time is gone, just like that.
I mention this because I have a decision to make and I’m running out of time to make a decision. Sadly, I’m still terribly undecided but not for the reasons most people would think.
I haven’t felt much like writing lately. Even this is an effort. It just hasn’t been a good time, lately. One of the things I have been doing is distancing myself from the Internet. It seems like nobody is happy unless they’re bitching about something (like me! right now!). And who needs that in their life?
There are two stories I should be writing. Sometimes I work on them but it’s mostly scrapping the old stuff and starting over. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve done that. It’s a damn shame, too, because at least one of these two would make a nice story.

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