Saturday, April 29, 2017

License Plate Woes

“They’re not standardized?”

For the first time in years, when renewing my license tags, I got new plates. Old, unpleasant memories of struggles with rusted screws flooded back. And I recalled getting, at some point, nylon or plastic screws so I would not have that problem again.

But I had not replaced the plates on my current vehicle even once, and, although I had noticed the screws were rusty, I’ve never done anything about replacing them. And I recalled that either the front or rear plate was attached with bolts, meaning my socket wrench would easily get that job done.

Nearing the end of the expiration month, I resolutely gathered a Philips screwdriver ( moderate sized head ), my sockets, a socket wrench and the new plates. 

Approaching the car from the rear, I put the screwdriver head into the rusted screw on the right side … and could not turn the screwdriver. Its handle was too small. In addition, I feared the head was too small. I retreated to the house for a screwdriver with both a larger handle and a larger head.

I could readily grab this handle, and the larger head fit the screw better. Turning the screwdriver, however, only netted some screw shavings around the screwdriver’s head. The screw turned not a whit. The screw on the left side of the plate wasn’t any better.

I returned to the house. “I might have to go to Toyota and have them change the plates!” I rather disgustedly commented to Ellie, my wife.  I brought some WD-40 and squirted all around both screws. I opened the trunk so the screws’ heads were pointed to the sky and the draining of the WD-40 would be into the screw holes.  I waited; I tried again.

Shoot!” Frustration was mounting.

Wanting to taste some success by replacing the front plate, which was bolted on, I backed the car out of the garage a little. My smallest socket didn’t grab the bolt. “Shoot,” again. As the lighting here was poor, I obtained a flashlight from the house and took a better look. Screws. “At least they’re Philips-head screws.”

The plate I remembered as attached with bolts is on my wife’s car … I had noticed this when approaching my car, not realizing that that one plate is the only one we have that is bolted on.

Hoping, I pushed the screwdriver into the head of one of the screws, turned it for all I was worth, and … viola!, the screw turned. Within minutes, I replaced the front plate. “Would that it were as easy on the rear,” I thought.

I tried the rear plate again. “That WD-40 has had some time to work.” Apparently not.

I returned to the house and came back with my vice-grip, thinking I could point the tool at the screw as if it were a screwdriver, grab the head of the screw and turn the vice grip like a screwdriver. The vice-grip slid off the screw.

Ah, how about grabbing the screw head inside the vice-grip, the way the vice-grip was designed to work?” There was not quite enough screw to get an adequate grip.

If the license plate weren’t there,” I thought, “there would be more screw to grab.”

Aha!” The screw holes were close to the edge, the plate was thin and bendable. “I can tear the plate around the screw holes and remove it.” For a better grip on the plate I returned to the house for a pliers.

Long story short, slightly skinning one knuckle, I pulled, pried, bent and, finally, tore the license plate around both screws and removed it. I could now close the vice-grip around the head of the screw and turn to remove it

I attached the new license plate and returned to the house with many more tools than I initially brought out. I also had a slight battle-scar on my right hand.

Shortly, taking my wife’s car to gas up, I also stopped at my local hardware store to buy some non-rustable screws.

“ … so I’d like four nylon or plastic screws of that size that won’t rust. Can you help?”

“Well, sure, but what size? Those are not standardized.”

The hell you say!? Not standardized?” I said, “Really? They’re not standardized?”


We walked to his inventory; many options. “I’ll return later, bringing a sample of what I want to replace.”

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Monday, April 24, 2017

New Plan Progress #3

Time for my monthly progress report.

I've been eating cheaply and healthily, while making most of my own food.  I am completely failing at documenting any of it, which I know is the key to making real progress.  The truth is, I've been extra short on time because of moving, and am just now getting to the point where I have extra extra time because of that move.  But, I am only 20 pounds overweight, which is half the extra pounds of the average American.  Plus I finally upped my game to 50 pushups a day.  I do want to buckle down and get to "height weight proportional," but I'm absolutely not about to start beating myself up for doing good instead of excellent.

Speaking of things that are "good," have you seen my credit report?  I believe for the first time as an adult my credit report has me above 700, which is the cut of for "good".  Part of that is the credit agencies noticing all of the money I've paid off of my credit cards.  Part of it is that I finally succeeded in fixing an error that I've been working at correcting for some time.  And this isn't even factoring in my credit card payments this month, which were more than a $1,000.  Again, there's room for improvement, but I'm very happy.

I'm less happy here.  I have been concentrating on speaking more clearly when interacting with my customers at my job, but that's about it.

Thursday, April 20, 2017


“I found it!!”

In a recent post I told you my wife is a reflective person and, as such, using an application on her smartphone, she captured her memories of living with, caring for and laying to rest our dear friend Loretta. When we got new smartphones, she entrusted caring for those memories to me, her reflective but also techie-geeky husband. And I failed. Shortly after we got another ( the second one after the one on which she collected her memories ) smartphone, she asked if I could retrieve those memories for her. I was unable to do so.

Writing about that failure, and sharing it with you, helped some, but it didn’t help Ellie. Her memories, as she captured them in real time, were gone. Forever. That grated on me. Not only my failure as the person she trusted to secure them, but also it hurt to see her missing them, mourning them, knowing how I’d feel if some material I had poured my soul into had ‘gone missing.’

Because of that I was unable to go to my office and just do my work. I had to put aside the failure to find Ellie’s memories and work, and had to keep putting that failure aside, as it kept coming back to me … as its own memory, if you can stomach the unintended pun.

I searched again, my email files, my backups, Ellie’s email files, the various ways we had at the end of 2015 to share files between our smartphones and more conventional computing equipment. I did this very unsystematically … befitting a desperate search.

I realized at some point that my searching took me into mail files that were 2014 vintage and before, and into backup sets that were at least that old. “You idiot,” I thought, “the file is not even two years old! The data were created in mid-2015 and ported to somewhere else late the same year. Less than two years ago!” Realizing I was failing to find a file that I had stashed somewhere less than two years ago affected me in an unusual way … I was appalled that I was unable to find such a relatively new file and I was sure that it must be easy to find.

Yesterday I again searched my email … only this time, I did not search electronically, I scrolled a list, visually inspecting it. Ellie prodded me to secure her memories when we secured our new phones in the latter part of 2015.  I found the archive file that included the last four months of that year, and, starting earlier in the year, began scrolling the list. September … nothing of note. October … same. November … suddenly, there it was! An email with an attachment that seemed to be what I was looking for.

I excitedly opened it. As soon as it opened, I was reading what I knew were the memories Ellie had written almost two years ago. I quickly saved the file in a location I knew I would not lose it again. “Be still, my heart!”

Ellie was not home; I couldn’t immediately share the joy of finding this with her, but I could surprise the bejesus out of her.  “Won’t she be thrilled,” I thought. I went to her computer, opened Word, navigated to the file and opened it. I left Word open on the first page and returned to my computer in my office. “The moment she looks at her computer, or moves her mouse to unlock the computer, she will see that and be thrilled.”

I began writing this story; Ellie returned home shortly. “Hi, I’m home!”

“Welcome back … love you!”

I knew it likely she’d greet then feed the cats, sit in her chair and, using her phone, check and reply to emails, respond to moves in Words with Friends and Boggle with Friends, and perhaps not look at her computer for a long while.

I couldn’t stand it; we exchanged texts:

I: “You there?”

She: “Yes, why?”

I again: “Check your computer.” I didn’t add, “I found it!!”

Soon enough she called to me and we were together, talking about my redemption. “That’s all I could think of when you told me to check my computer, but I couldn’t dare hope.”

In my defense, the file is not what I ever looked for when searching electronically. The subject of the email and the filename of the attachment is memoires.docx. The file does not contain her memoires; ‘memories’ is what I looked for.
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Monday, April 17, 2017

Am I Ready to Go?

I guess that depends.

I'm writing this from my desk at home while working, five days before my move, and that is part of the problem.  I couldn't really pack up my computer equipment and home office before I worked tonight.  But the moment I log out in the morning, I'll be ready to break it all down.  Not only will I not work from this home again, but I'll not be working from home much at all going forward.  It will be a lovely walk to work from my new place, so there will be no reason to, except for contingency planning.

Currently I have about 1/3rd of my belongings ready to go, and my home office and computer equipment make another 1/3rd.  I do have Wednesday night off, and I'm sure I'll have everything of importance ready by the time I leave for work Thursday night.  And I did plan for a friend help with a few boxes the next week when I inevitably fail.  Moving is hard.

I certainly have some mixed feelings about the move.  I moved into half a duplex with friends a little over two years ago.  I was surprised to find I felt like I was sort of part of a family.  Not a close member with responsibilities, but a small part of it.  Then last summer I received a very serious injury from the new four legged member of that family.  And the thing is, life moved on for that family.  It barely skipped a beat.  It didn't for me.  I never felt welcome on their side again.

Today I can look into the mirror, and the scars are not all I see.  I see them, for sure, but they're no longer all I see.  What remains is permanent, but minor.  I pride myself on being a logical person, and it's obvious that no one else really sees them the way I do.  The physical damage has mostly passed, I'm physically moving on, I know it's time for me to do so mentally.  Not seeing him everyday will help.

And on a brighter note, those friends are happy meet me on the way to bowling.  After the move, it's reasonable to make it half way there, but the other half wasn't really doable.  But my friends agreed to meet me halfway, and bring me with them the other half.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Humble Pie

“The file is gone forever.”

My wife is a reflective person … as such, she wished to capture her experience caring for our dear friend Loretta; during her stay at Loretta’s, their stay at Hospice and Loretta’s funeral and burial. Beyond pencil and paper, which she was loathe to use, the only tool she had available was her smartphone. She found an Android application, appropriately named ‘Memories,’ which she perceived as nearly if not actually perfect for the task.

This was like a diary, or at least enough like one to suit Ellie’s needs and wants. She begins her reflections after Loretta is admitted to Hospice; there are numerous entries, each with its own title, so Ellie can go back to specific times/events/feelings when reviewing it later.

Two or so months following Loretta’s death, and about that long after the last entry in the diary, both Ellie and I got new smartphones.

Before that happened, “How can I take this with me?” Ellie wanted to know, about the memories. I am the geek in the family and she entrusted this very serious matter to me. I took it.

“Well … hmmm … let’s see.” As a techie, I relished this sort of real-world problem-solving. At the time, either the application lacked backup capability or neither of us knew how to use it.

I copied the entire set of notes, pasted them into an email, and sent them to myself and to Ellie. When looking at the notes this way, Ellie’s reflections were not arranged quite as neatly as in the original application, but there were no extraneous smiley characters, Sanskrit boxes or other foolishness in the document; only the same text that was in the original. To further insure we didn’t ever lose this material, I also copied the email into a special folder, which I created and called ‘Special Saves’ or some such name. “Even if everything else goes to heck in a handbasket, we’ll always have this folder,” I said to Ellie. Her memories were safe; we were set.

Neither of us thought much about Memories in the last while, probably since before we got those phones. We didn’t “get” those phones, though, we just rented them; at eighteen months we had to decide if we wanted to keep them ( i.e., pay the rest of the retail cost ) or swap them for something else. The eighteen months was up just recently. We went into the store to discuss our options, so I thought, and came home with new phones.

A few days later, “Hon, you know my memories from being with Loretta? Can you retrieve them for me?”

“Well … “ I supposed so; hoped so. I had thought about them, very loosely, in the last while, but thinking about the topic is as far as I had gone.

It was while trying to retrieve them that I realized how little I actually remembered about safeguarding them eighteen months previous. I searched all the current and backed up email files I have and found nothing. Beyond emailing, I’ve thought about the possible ways available to us to share files between her phone and one of our desktops: Evernote, Google Drive, Sky Drive, DropBox. Nothing. Until I found a file called Memories.SPD in my Evernote notes; “Whew.”

The SPD extension suggests it’s a Samsung S-Note file. I had no idea how it might have migrated from being a ‘Memories’ file to an S-Note file, but the filename is ‘Memories,’ and the Section Titles I can see are those Ellie would have created.

“Not sure, Bub, what application you’ve got loaded here that might open that file,” Windows politely said to me ( not in exactly those words ) when I tried to open it from inside Evernote.

I saved the file to my computer’s drive. Nothing on my computer would open it; even Word, using its ‘Recover text from any file’ capability, would show me only header information and the same Section Titles I had seen for this file while still in Evernote. Somewhat panicky, I did more research. I discovered an application called S-Note for Windows. “Dodged another bullet,” I exhaled. 

The only problem is that when opening the file using S-Note for Windows it showed only the same Section Titles I had seen in Evernote; the same Titles I saw when opening the file in Word. “Oooh, ewww,” seeped through me.

I had another SPD file in Evernote that I know I had created with S-Note. As an experiment, I opened it with S-Note for Windows. It displayed the file’s contents faithfully. The only thing left to conclude is that the file memories.SPD contains only Section Titles. I had failed miserably in safeguarding Ellie’s reflections about her final days with Loretta. My stomach contracted.

I had to admit to her, “Your memories are exactly that; I’ve failed to protect the data. The file is gone forever.”

Humble pie, indeed.
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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Theological Skepticism #6

I find it so strange that most Christians don't know, and don't care to know, much about the Old Testament.  And what they do know is often wrong.  A good example is the Devil in the Garden of Eden.  The snake was never called the Devil in that story, and that story predates the Devil's invention by more than a thousand years.  But what comes up more often, and Christians are prepared to stand by, is the ten commandments.  So here's the truth behind them that anyone can learn by reading the story.

First thing to note is Exodus 20.  This is a list that people generally refer to as "the ten commandments."  If you think this is what was written on the tablets, keep reading.

Then there's Exodus 24:12.  This is where Yahweh starts making the tablets.  The timeline is not specific, but he takes like a month or two.

In Exodus 32:9 Yahweh finishes making the tablets.  He then immediately tells Moses that he's decided to kill every Jew exodusing Egypt except for him for worshiping another god.  Moses talks him into letting him handle it instead.

Exodus 32:19 is where Moses smashes the tablets that Yahweh spent more than month making.  What did they actually say?  The story has not said yet.

Exodus 32:27 is where Moses has only the people who worshiped the other god killed with swords.  Not false god, mind you.  In Exodus the other gods are real.  At this point, you might be asking, "Isn't killing against one of the ten commandments Yahweh just spent a month down?"  No.

Exodus 34 is where the contents of the tablets are revealed for the first time.  Moses goes back to get another copy.  Although it never said what was written on the first set, Yahweh is very clear that he is dictating an exact copy for Moses to write down.
They are as follows:

  1. Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.
  2. Do not make any idols.
  3. Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread. For seven days eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you. Do this at the appointed time in the month of Aviv, for in that month you came out of Egypt.
  4. The first offspring of every womb belongs to me, including all the firstborn males of your livestock, whether from herd or flock.
  5. Redeem the firstborn donkey with a lamb, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. Redeem all your firstborn sons. No one is to appear before me empty-handed.
  6. Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest, you must rest.
  7. Celebrate the Festival of Weeks with the firstfruits of the wheat harvest, and the Festival of Ingathering at the turn of the year.
  8. Three times a year all your men are to appear before the Sovereign LORD, the God of Israel.
  9. Do not offer the blood of a sacrifice to me along with anything containing yeast and do not let any of the sacrifices from the Passover Festival remain until morning.
  10. Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the LORD your God. "Do not cook a young goat in its mother's milk."
You might be asking why there are two lists.  There aren't.  The old testament contains many commandments.  The top ten were written on the tablets, and this is it.  That other list is just a set that people latched onto.  It seems more universal to folks, so they put the title "ten commandments" above it after the fact.  The funny thing is, the other list isn't great either, but that's another post.