Thursday, June 26, 2014

What kind of blog is it, anyway?

"Give us a forum, and we will!" I promised.

Our most recently constituted writing class had just adjourned. Benjamin and I walk out of the building in a group that includes our instructor.

“I think it’s really cool that you guys have kept up your blog,” she was saying. “Last year you were just getting it started.” This was our first experience with taking a class from an instructor from whom we had taken a class previously. I remembered her clearly. ( Last summer, in her class, I wrote biographies of six-words, fifty-words and  two-hundred words, from which I learned a lot, and I was looking forward to more of the same. ) The implications of her remembering us hadn’t occurred to me. She was dragging us into one of them now. “I want you to tell us about it.”

“What kind of blog is it?” someone asked? “Technical?” The suggestion may have been made because of my interaction at the end of class with one of our fellow students. She is an engineer, as I am, and I had asked her if she knew anything about ‘entropy,’ a concept that I not only failed to master in school ( so long ago ), it’s one I still fail to get even as a concept. I had asked if her work touched on it.

“Well, no, it’s not technical,” I believe one of us responded.

“Well, then … ?” The question lingered in the air like an inquisitive hummingbird; by the time an answer was required, we were going our individual ways and I made the promise to tell about the blog if our instructor provided the forum.

“Yes, but what kind of a blog is it?”

I have said that writing for our blog is like public speaking without the speaking. Public speaking requires preparation, a certain amount of courage, the ability to put an argument together and speaking before a group. Writing for the blog requires the same but when nobody comments on the material it’s like not delivering the speech. That’s how writing for the blog is like public speaking without the speaking.

“Yes, but what kind of a blog is it?”

Benjamin and I share an interest in writing and I have shared in this space what I hope to get out of writing for the blog. With each of us committing to posting weekly we figured we’d have the required spark to write on a regular basis.

“Yes, but what kind of a blog is it?”

The blog is flexible in the extreme. It is a space to try out new material, to say something needing to be said, to share an attempt at a writing homework assignment, to share something about ourselves, to plug the website of a friend. has hosted all of this for us.

“Yes, but what kind of a blog is it?”

Writers, a hundred years ago, when writing about anything and everything, wrote with pen and ink. Prolific writers needed a lot of ink … an Ink Fountain. Viola! This named our blog. It’s a writer’s blog.
And Benjamin and I will carry on the tradition.
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Monday, June 23, 2014

Learning to Share a Mouse

A tech columnist once wrote that we all have Ferraris idling in our driveways.  He meant by his analogy that we all have very powerful computers that we're not using to their potential.  I agreed with him.  It was certainly true for me.  Then I started using a computer for my job, and I found the one I had wasn't enough.  I needed more computing power; more screen real estate.  The simple solution was to add a second computer, but controlling both with the same mouse and keyboard has been been anything but.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Is Good Customer Service Really so Rare?

"I regret to inform you that you will have to replace the unit; it is no longer in warranty."

Thus the saga of the wireless indoor/outdoor thermometer and efforts to resuscitate it came to an end. Both the remote sensor and the indoor base unit made an unsatisfactory, "wshhsh," as they dropped through the loose paper in the trash.

For reasons long since forgotten, I had a time ago gotten an indoor/outdoor wireless thermometer for our house.

"What do you want that for," Ellie asked when I picked it up at the local hardware store.

"I dunno, for sure," I replied. "I like, though, to know what the outdoor temperature is. And this one has two indoor units … I'd put one in the den and one in our bedroom."

"We have thermometers outside," she said.

"Yes, but they're hard to read," I said; "and we can't even see them from our bedroom. And I'm especially interested in this for winter mornings … getting dressed."

"And we have TV/radio/the internet … ." She would have said more, but I had put the package  in the cart and was rolling it down the aisle. "Well, OK," she said; "let's get 'em."

To the surprise of both of us, we read the temperatures much more than either of us imagined. For example, it was very common for me, coming into the dark bedroom to slip into bed, to use a flashlight on my dresser and note the temperature indoors as well as outside. "What's the temp?" Ellie, who seemed to be sleeping, would ask.

"Sixty two," I'd reply.

"I meant OUTside."

"Three below."

"Hurry." And I did.

Wanting to dress appropriately, Loretta was always asking us what the temperature was when we'd stop by. When Christmas came, a wireless thermometer seemed like a perfect stocking stuffer.  

But we neglected to consider one thing: Loretta is a technophobe. We have no evidence … truth be told … of this causing the problem; but the device did not work at her place. The remote unit, when outside, sent the wrong temperature to the base unit. It was not even close. Ever. We'd bring the unit inside, put it next to the base unit, and it would send the correct temperature. Put it outside, and it would be wrong again. And wrong different from how it was wrong moments previously.

I brought it home; it performed flawlessly. I left it in our screened in porch for weeks; not a glint of a problem. Took it back to Loretta's: failure again and again. I forgot about it. Recently, Ellie asked me if I wanted the thermometer that we gave Loretta. Sure. "I have plans for it."

Only now it didn't work for me, either. The remote unit displayed a temperature of LL.L and humidity of "- -." The base unit read 59.6 degrees and "HH." I changed to new batteries; I waited. Nothing changed. In desperation, I wrote to Customer Service asking for advice. Customer Service responded quickly, suggesting a procedure. I tried the procedure; no change. I reported this result; Customer Service responded with the news that the unit is out of warranty, I'd have to replace it.

This whole experience impressed me; I wrote back to Customer Service telling them so. Later, I wondered, "What's impressive? Is not responding in a timely way to an inquiry what these people are getting paid to do?"

The answer is clearly, "Of course," but I have had plenty of much worse Customer Service experiences. This experience was so positive that I wrote back and told 'em that next time I'm buying, I'd consider their company just for the good experience they had given me.

More sober now, I really wonder if this is, indeed, such good news.

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Monday, June 16, 2014

Gold - Round #2, Fight!

And the results are in.  My ring weighed about 17 grams with the stone, and about 17 grams without.  The stone is surprisingly light, and beautiful.  Now that I have the stone out, I'm happier than ever that I decided to sell it.  I realize that the stone has all of the sentimental value that he ring did.

As for The Gold Guys?  Well, it turns out that they were not underestimating the weight, they were underestimating my intelligence, and only offering 55% of the value of the gold.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Why the blog? An Interview.

“What do you hope to get out of writing your blog?” The question was a razor; it hurt, kind of burned.

In our last writing class of the spring quarter, we paired up, then interviewed each other. I paired with Michael, my initiative. While I am sure he is quite capable of taking care of himself, I am not sure how much room to say, “No,” I gave him.

After what, in retrospect, seems like a rather pedestrian opening question of him, followed by some conversation, it was his turn: “What do you hope to get out of writing your blog?”

I didn’t respond that I had written, and posted, a reflection on why I write last year, when the blog was only four months old.


  • I enjoy it
  • I have the ability to articulate realities of the world
  • Before actually trying it, writing seemed like "simply" a medium different from conversation
  • Writing now seems more like public speaking without the speaking
  • Sharing stories with classmates taught me that sharing my story is enough.

    “That’s a question I’ve been asking myself quite a lot over the last year,” was my actual reply. “I don’t know … I want to improve my writing.”

“Technically improve it?” he asked.

“Yes. But much more to better communicate what I’m writing. And to better convey it. And perhaps to more easily write it – to need only two revisions instead of six or seven, for example.”

I mentioned the homework assignment from last summer’s class. Three autobiographies, of two hundred, fifty, and six words, and my classmates detected a spiritual movement in mine. “This is my six word autobiography,” I said:
“Marriage. Divorce.
Marriage again.
Deo Gratias!

“I realized that I want to convey that spiritual movement; and I realized that sharing my story is enough.”

After the exercise, when reporting the results of our interview to the class, Michael added his own take, so labeled, “He wants to leave some of himself for after he’s gone.”

This is insightful. The blog says I want to shed some light in readers’ lives; making them a little brighter. My original purpose – method, rather – to do that was via personal essay, like one of my first posts What's your attitude toward "dhimmitude", responding to an inflammatory email. A personal teaching essay now seems less important than sharing my story … both as my story occurs and as I think of things that have already occurred.

I would like my story to touch you. I hope things about my story connect in some way, consciously or no, to things in your story. And I hope your life is a little brighter … even just a little bit … for having read a little piece of mine.
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Monday, June 9, 2014

Adventures in Mining

The moment I learned how Bitcoin works, I knew it will forever have a place in our society as long as there is a place for money.  It's anonymous, unreproducible, easily transferred, and backed by it's own scarcity.  It's like gold that teleports itself wherever you need it.

A lot of people get caught up in the mining aspect.  Most people will never mine it, and that's the way it's meant to work.  The same is true with gold.  That having been said, if given the opportunity to make money mining for gold, or Bitcoin, who am I to pass it up?  It's currently too popular, which makes the profit margin is too low for an end user like me.

The other day a friend of a friend told me about a second chance.  He told me about other crypto-currencies that are catching on, and that he is making money on the side generating them.  I asked a few questions, and here's what he told me.

He is making $10 a day.
He is mining several different coins, whichever is most profitable at the moment.
He is using a dedicated machine that he spent $1,300 on specifically for this.
He is using two video cards.
He's preforming 1500 kH/s.

His info, plus a little research, was all I needed to know.  I already have a well ventilated, water cooled computer, and I was just about to spend $200 on a video card.  I consulted a hardware comparison chart, and found I could get two video cards "like new" for $515 that should do slightly more kH/s than his, or play a mean video game.  With a start up cost of $315, I'd be stupid not to get involved.  I'd make my money back in a month, and I'd have some awesome video processing power as a bonus.  I jumped on it.

We'll, to make a long story short, my friend of a friend wasn't entirely honest, and I didn't check up on his numbers.  He now says that the days of $10 a day are behind him, and he's making more like $2 a day.  I did check his numbers this time, and find there are unfortunately accurate.

If that's my experience, I'll make my money back in a little under five months, so it's still an amazing investment if you factor in the free video processing upgrade.  Even if I never make it back, those two cards are worth what I paid for them.  Heck, maybe I'll get lucky, and one of the types of coin I generate will go through the roof like Bitcoin did.

As always, I'll keep you informed.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Round 2 with Windows 8.x

“I can’t get my email!”

An elderly friend called me in a panic … needing help, once again, with her new Windows 8 based email. “I can’t get my email,” she repeated.

Patiently, I asked her what happens when she tries to get her email. “I can’t get it.”

“Can you walk me through it?”

“When I click the Windows Mail tile a window pops up telling me to add my account. When I do so, it tells me I already have that account.”

“I’ll stop by tomorrow morning, everything will be fine,” I tell her.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


I'm not sure what got me thinking about gold.  Maybe it was my impending Mr. Gold impersonation.  But I got to thinking that my class ring might not be the waste of money thought it had been.

It's a 14 karat white gold ring with a black onyx stone.  I think black onyx is a classy looking stone,
but it's not precious.  Gold, on the other hand, is.  In fact it's tripled in value since I got it.