Friday, August 30, 2013


As we mentioned before, Walter and myself enjoy playing the game Go.  If you haven't heard of it, it's probably because it's much more popular in Asia then the United States.
If you are from Asia, and still haven't heard of it, it's probably because you folks call it igo, baduk, or weiqi.

Traditionally it is played on a nineteen line board called a Goban.  Walter and I like to play the less common thirteen line board for time purposes.  The problem is, no one makes nice thirteen line boards, and if they did, I probably couldn't afford it.  So I'm making one.

I'm looking for the finished product to use, not bragging rights.  Any corners that I can cut, I will.  I started by looking at cutting boards.  I found many that would suffice, but I kept at it.  Eventually I found the perfect board.  It is 1' by 1', which is just big enough to hold the grid.  It even has legs.  I couldn't believe my luck.

Drawing the grid in pencil was easy enough.  I might have a couple of extra lines to fix up, but I'm confident they will come right off with some soap, water, and possibly a magic eraser.

Then another stroke of luck.  TheDuddha2, a Go related Youtube channel, started making his own Goban.  I like him, because he's warts-and-all.  He's not perfect, and doesn't pretend to be.  He did some experimenting, and I got some good ideas watching.  He tried a wood burner, which I was considering.  He confirmed my fear that it is hard to make the lines consistent.  It might be good for a rustic looking board, but not for me.

He eventually made his lines using a knife, and did a decent job.  I was thinking along these lines as well.  I suspect, but haven't confirmed yet, that this is the perfect tool. 
It's a Tungsten Carbide Scriber made for metal and glass.  I'm pretty sure it can handle some Oak. This tool puts all the presser on one fine point allowing for maximum control.  I'll let you guys know how it goes.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Walter Enjoys being a Techie

The techie in me is really pretty excited about the Windows 7 operating system:
  1. I can speak to it
    • I can command it to do what I want at both the interface and application levels
    • I can dictate to it and it creates editable text
  2. I can “pin” to the Task Bar
    • Applications, so they’re always just a click away, whether running or not … and in the same location ( i.e., “pinned” to the Task Bar )
    • Data files for the applications that are pinned can be pinned to the application – a right click on the application provides single click access to frequently used files
    • The pinned application, when right clicked, provides a long – at least 15 items – recently used file list for just that application
  3. I downloaded and installed a utility that enabled me to move application icons around on the Windows XP Task Bar and system tray; built into Windows 7
  4. I downloaded and installed a utility that enabled me to move applications to the corner of the Windows XP screen via the keyboard; built into Windows 7
  5. I downloaded and installed a utility that enabled me to start applications with simple key presses. The search function in Windows 7 is at least as good
  6. In various versions of all operating systems, I had frequently ( when looking for one of them ) wanted my data files organized by type ( Word, Excel, PowerPoint ) rather than by my used for creation ( Home expenses, Business Expenses, templates, letters, blog posts, poems, … ). The Library function in Windows 7 provides something like this possibility — I am still learning about this, but it’s exciting.
I continue to use my computer for much of my work while simultaneously I try to learn about the features of Windows 7 ( to say nothing of learning about Office 2010, compared to 2003 on my recently departed machine ). It’s slow, but the techie in me still loves it.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

MN State Fair

Minnesota has a pretty amazing state fair, with permanent fair grounds.  Why we only use them a couple of week a year is a mystery to me.  I'm pretty sure I could go everyday for the entire fair if cost wasn't a factor.  Also my waist line, because the number one reason for me to go is the food.

The only thing new I tried are the,
Portobello Bites
They are marinated in wine, grilled, and served on toast with shredded parmesan and herbs.  They will be making an appearance in my belly next year.

Other than that, I had to save room for the Classics:

Deep Fried Candy Bar
This is a candy bar, dipped in mini-doughnut batter, deep fried, and rolled in powdered sugar.  Bring milk.

Tom Thumb Mini-Doughnuts
Very tasty, but I skip them in lieu of the deep fried candy bar.  I can't handle both, but if your going multiple days, get this.

Foot Long Hot Dog
They make amazing skin on beef hot dogs, with fried yellow onions.  Make sure you go to the white booths, because there are imitations.

Corn Dog
This is important, but again, I can't do a foot long and a corn dog.  I'm not even sure which ones are the good ones.  I'll need to research for next year.

1919 Root Beer Float
Now you could get this any time of year, but you don't.  So go buy one now.

Salad on a Stick
It was new last year I think.  This is a very good salad, but in hindsight it's not worth the stomach space or fair prices.  I'm taking it off the list for next year.

Deep Fried Slider
This is not so much a slider, but a good hamburger.  Then they batter and deep fry it.

Deep Fried Cauliflower
I didn't get them this year.  Last year they weren't serving the chilled marinara sauce.  The sauce is critical, so I wouldn't order it if they don't have both.

Did I forget anything important?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Techie - Writer / Writer - Techie

I am both a techie and a writer ... and these intersected for me in the last week.


My faithful computer crapped out. It had warned me ( faithful as it was ) of this impending doom several times. Bravely ( or, perhaps, foolishly, you decide ) I ignored these warnings.

On one occasion it went into this 'crap out' mode immediately upon completion of the desktop after a restart from being in this mode. This scared me, but I tried another restart and all was normal once again.

Benjamin said, "You've got to do something about your computer." He had found a seller of refurbished computers ( of which he had already purchased more than one ) for a very reasonable cost. And nice machines. He and I went there, and I brought one home. This time into office, my old computer was in Blue-Screen-of-Death mode.

I immediately disconnected my old computer, connected the new one, and got to work figuring out what to do next. And I began what has become, for me, another lengthy process of enjoying the techie experience.

  • I needed to learn this new PC’s operating system
    ( Win7 ).
  • I needed to set up Office 2010 for the way I like to work.
  • I had to dig through backups, created 3 different ways, with some overlap in what was backed up.
  • I had to download and install many little utilities that I had made nearly indispensable to how I work.

We techies live for this sort of thing; I was deeply involved and loving it.


My time to post came up and I wasn't ready. I was enjoying the effort to “make the computer in my image,” and simultaneously use it for some of my other activities, and I wasn’t ready. Not only was I not ready to post, I didn’t have anything I was working on.

“What about the story of my new computer?” I wondered. “Would that make a good story?”

So there you have it … the excuse for my late post this week and the story of my new computer. They are one and the same.

I'm Going to Bangkok

I've never really given much thought to travel.  Sure it's something I want to do, but not so much that I was willing to make the financial commitment.  Then about a year ago, I started thinking about where I might want to retire, and Thailand came to mind.  The more I thought about it, the better it sounded.  Of course I'd want to visit the place first, and that's been on my mind ever since.  Now I've decided to go for it.

This is a big deal for me, so I'm planning it well in advance for early 2015.  I'm going for two full months because I can, since being there costs less than getting there.  My cousin is a flight attendant, and he'll be coming too.  We'll have a lot of fun together, but he'll only be going for a couple of weeks.

As for the money,

Missing Pay
If a penny not earned is a penny lost, then this is by far my biggest expense.  I don't have anywhere near that much vacation time.  However, every minute I'm not being paid for is a minute I didn't have to work, so it's hard to deny that it's worth it.  I haven't had more than a week off at a time since I became an adult, so this will be a new experience for me.

This will be the second biggest expense for sure, even if my cousin the flight attendant can get me a deal.  If he can't, I'm confident I won't be paying more than $1,500.

I will still be paying my rent here at home, but I was going to do that anyways.  I've really only started my search, but I've already found some reputable extended stay hotels in the neighborhood of $250 a month.  I might end up paying a little more to be within walking distance of public transportation and attractions.

Fun Times
The conversation rate there is amazing.  I could live like a tourist on my normal disposable income here.  That having been said, I'm planning to spend a couple of hundred extra a week living it up.

In total I will be spending about 30% of my yearly take home pay on 16.5% of the year.  I think I can live with that, but if anyone asks, I'm there planning my retirement.

Walter's life in 50 words

Last month I said our writing instructor asked us to write a 200 word, 50 word and a 6 ( yes, six ) word autobiography. I posted my 6-word effort. Today I am posting my 50 word effort. I will likely share the 200 word effort at some point, as well. But for now we have this:

We lived in Baltimore, Maryland. We believed but religion didn’t impact our life.

Later, I realized my life should reflect my spirituality. She didn’t. I worked with people trying to change the world.  She disapproved. We divorced. Working to change the world, I met a woman and married again. Alleluia!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Fringe Festival

I had not heard of Fringe Festival until Walter and myself started taking writing classes.  I did think about checking it out this year, but ended up deciding to put it off til next year.  We'll, plans changed.

I ended up going to four shows this year.  All were well done.  I had a slightly different experience than some, because I was attending the performances with one of the performers.  It felt like we were part of a special club, and maybe we were.

As I said, all four were good, but there is no test to get your show in, and all are amateurs.  I do plan to see more next year.  I don't think I would recommend it without an unlimited pass.  I think the point is to check out a bunch of new things, and be ready to see a few less successful attempts.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Benjamin and I meet

We were there to gamble. They had set the hall up with long tables, eight people on a side. There were ten to fifteen tables, two across, with an aisle between them, down the hall. Most were at least half full. Marge, and now her family, were the only people at all familiar to us. Our group comprised all the people at our table. We would soon be playing Bingo for an Easter ham, or cash.

I was sitting between the generations ... Ellie and our friends on my left and Katie with her friends on my right. Her friends included Jean and husband Andy ( I remembered his name only because it’s also the name of one of my step-sons ) and their rather recently born daughter, Makenzie; a single young man whom I remember nothing about; and Benjamin, sitting on the other side of the long table from me, kitty-corner to my right.

I am pretty shy, but manage it quite well. Managing it includes making small talk; I did it that night as well. I spoke with Jean about Makenzie; a little with Andy. I found out lots about Katie. She was single, nearly done with school, studying environmental engineering, in love with a young man named Christian, and she loved to play sports — especially ice hockey, which Christian also loves to play. Managing my shyness with her was easy; she’s young, cute, and a bundle of energy.

Benjamin was diagonally across from me, a male, and, therefore, theoretically easier to talk to. In fact, though, it was harder to talk with him. He seemed much more reserved than Katie; and when he spoke he reminded me of the speed talker that did television commercials for Federal Express. He spoke with a speed that suggested he was afraid he was going to be snatched away any second and he wanted to be sure to say everything he had to say before that happened.

My ears were unable to keep up with the speed of the words out of his mouth. That sounds insulting now; I thought it sounded so at the time, didn’t have a less insulting way to say it, and so chose not to share it with him. Rather, I found myself frequently saying, “huh?”, “What?”, “Sorry,” “Say again,” and looking quizzically at him. Fortunately he had a good sense of humor and a smile that he gave away quite readily.

Most of what he said was rational, logical, well thought out, and all was eminently reasonable. He spoke as though nothing happened in the world that did not have a rational reason to happen. He certainly had one for everything he said. ( Reminded me of me at his age. ) We managed to communicate and I learned we share many traits. He was nearing the end of technical school ( I graduated from Engineering School ); he was studying to be a computer support technician  ( I was making my living doing computer support ); and he needed an internship in order to finish school and get his degree. He chose his words carefully as he told me about this ( I often choose my words very carefully ). He struck me as uncommonly bright ( ahem ... ).

My manager had told me, just that day, that she had just opened three personnel requisitions. It seemed very probable to me that Benjamin could fill one of those requsitions. I didn’t know though; I hardly knew him. I wondered, do I tell him about this? Do I offer to provide him my manager’s email address? ... I had never had occasion to suggest a name to a hiring manager before, nor had I known anyone looking for work whose background and skills seemed to match an opening that I knew existed. ( Various reasons for this, but that’s another story. )

“Benjamin, you’re not going to believe this,” I opened.


“No, perhaps something better, for you.”


“I don’t know the requirements for your internship,” I began, “and I don’t know what my employer things about interns or internships ... ”


“My manager told me, just today, that she opened three personnel requisitions.” My armpits were getting a little moist. “If filling one of them interests you ... we can talk about what to do next, where to go from here.”


“Say again, please.”

“I’d ... love ... that ... !”

The words were out of my mouth, he responded, and the die seemed to be cast. We exchanged email addresses. I promised to send him the email address of a hiring manager and contact the hiring manager in an attempt to make sure his initiative received a fair hearing. We were bonded; we were colleagues. Becoming friends was next.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Gambling on a Saturday Evening

It was a typical Saturday evening, and I was off gambling at a local Catholic church.  Last year at this time two bingos had netted me a full ham.  It was enough to make a guy wish he knew how to work an oven, but such things are best left to the professionals.

I was not a member of this church, or any other.  I am of the belief that a person should only believe things that they have reason to believe are true.  However, in a small community such as this everyone is a friend of a friend, and I soon found myself being introduced to new faces, including a man named Walter, and his lovely wife Ellie.

He sat toward the middle of the table on the half with those he was already acquainted with.  I sat close by, but on the side that my friends were seated.  I took little notice while making polite greetings, and went back to the important task of winning ham nine boards at a time.

The competition was fierce, and after several hamless rounds of bingo things were looking grim.  It was then that my friend Jean, who's always looking out for us and cooking our ham, turned the topic of conversation toward my search for a technical internship.

At the time I was five years into a two year degree in computer support.  I was ready to graduate, and was only missing my internship.  I explained this, and my fruitless search.  In response, Walter's and my mutual friend Katie spoke up, and changed my life forever.

"Walter does tech support."

This had my interest.  After years of academic pursuit, I had come to the realization that I had little idea where my degree might take me, or where I wanted it to.  I was not strictly concerned with finding an internship.  Instead I was more interested in taking the opportunity to pick this man's brain.

I asked him about where he worked and what sort of things he does there.  He seemed hesitant to talk about his job at first.  I would later learn that this was because he wasn't prepared to be call upon to speak about himself in front of a group.  Or perhaps he was merely hesitant to be distracted from his own dreams of ham dinner.

He did however do a good job describing his occupation.  He made it sound like his was the type of job someone like myself could use to get his foot in the door, and gain some experience.  He gained an assuredness as he spoke, and ended his summary by explaining that he does all of these duties as an employee that an Indian company has outsourced to America, which was received by chuckles from both sides of the table.

I was grateful for this information, and feebly tried to convey that.  The lull in the conversation that followed was broken by Jean, who asked a question that I was not bold enough to ask a man who I had just met.

"Maybe Walter could put in a word for you?"

I wanted to say, "No, no.  I couldn't expect you do such a thing."  I wanted to say, "Could you, please?  It would mean alot to me."  What I said was nothing, and waited for his answer like everyone else.

Walter was clearly not expecting this, and began to answer while he was still collecting his thoughts, as he is aught to do.  He then began again giving a clear "Yes" before concern crossed his face.  He then asked for my assurance that I would call the contact he gave me.

He did not say that if he put in a word for me, and I did not follow through, he would look foolish.  He didn't have to.  It was a real, and practical concern that revealed a deeper portion of his character.

I had already decided that he is a technical person, a helpful person, and he had then revealed that he is a practical person.  It was that moment that I realized that this is a man like myself; a man on the same journey I am, but further along it.

I got that job, and more importantly a good friend.  Ham dinner, alas, was not to be.