Thursday, November 1, 2018

Hiatus Claimed

"Want to see it?"

I was speaking to a friend of mine about the current POTUS and the apparent inability to speak civilly to those who disagree with us politically. We seem intent on winning rather than finding truth.

"Character matters," she said simply; "Character matters."

I started a blog post on this topic when life happened.

Ellie and I had loosely been talking about moving to a townhouse; we don't enjoy yard work like we did, Ellie's arthritis is an obstacle to yard work even if she still enjoyed it, and the steep steps in our house, even to get in from the outside, are an issue.  We had decided on a realtor to both help us look for a townhouse and to sell our house. She was the woman who managed the sale of the property Ellie was the executor of three years ago. Though we had decided to wait until after Ellie's surgery ( early January ), Ellie had recently contacted her, just to stay in touch and let her know our real estate adventures would, in the "near future," be warming up.

"I have a town home right now that seems to meet your requirements. Want to see it?"

We made an offer on the place, which was not accepted, which broke our hearts ... and this experience both began our house hunting activity
in-earnest and super-charged it.

For no particularly good reason, I have been lackadaisical about posting for a while, and house-hunting has introduced more activities that have further pushed me from posting. All of this introduces the formal hiatus I am announcing. You see, we found another wonderful townhouse...and bought it!

This is very exciting, and driven in large measure by finding a place with most living space on one level. Ellie will no longer face fourteen steep steps just to end her day in the evening, or to begin her day in the morning. But it also means Ellie and I have four or so weeks to gather the thirty-six years worth of stuff we've acquired while in this house, evaluate it and implement the evaluation decision. All the while not renigging on other commitments, such as parish volunteer jobs, tutoring second grade math, helping Ellie get ready for her hip replacement surgery, prior social commitments with friends and the like.

S0 ... rather than feeling badly about not posting ( I will continue to so
feel ) I am explicitly saying I will not post again until 2019, hopefully January. There is nothing to be gained by pretending life is normal and posting as part of it will resume before that. Please keep us in your prayers ... for the sale of our house, our move, and Ellie's surgery.

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Thursday, October 18, 2018

Spanish is Easy...ier #4

When I was 13 I got my first pair of glasses.  My mother told me to pick out the pair I wanted, so I wisely picked the biggest pair, the one that covered the most of my peripheral vision. Suddenly walls had textures, and the trees became 3 dimensional.  It changed the world.  Then the other kids saw them, and laughed at how ridiculous they looked.  So I promptly took them off, and never wore them again.  My mother told me that I was the one who had picked them out, and she could not afford to purchase another pair so soon.  My vision journey would not continue until I became an adult.

I was reminded of this the other day when I overheard someone making a comment on the price of an item at Walmart... in Spanish.  I hear people speak Spanish several times a week.  It's something in the background, like the texture on the walls.  It's there, but not for me... until now.  The experience was not exactly the same, mind you.  Glasses correct my vision immediately to better than 20/20, while it took me 100 hours of study to piece together one comment in Spanish.  But it was the first glimpse into a world I have never experienced before.  It was a glorious taste of things to come.

When I first started studying I began with a multi prong approach.  I stand by that, but I realize now that order does matter.  I'm beginning to understand that learning a language is so confusing because it is like a pile of puzzle pieces turned upside down.  It just means nothing.  But if you could turn those puzzle pieces over, they would start to mean something.  "This pile is part of a boat", and "this pile is part of the sky"; for example.  Your not done, but you have begun.  Knowing what the words mean is like flipping those puzzle pieces over.  You still have a puzzle, but it's a puzzle you can understand.

To maximize my effort, I now believe step 1 should be memorizing the most commonly used words in Spanish.  I have changed my approach to prioritize Anki.  It is easy, low stress, and can be picked up whenever I have a moment.  And it is the most useful thing I could be doing now.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Getting my Act in Order

I remember when I was young someone told me that the angles have infinite willpower.  That if you look at the stories from the bible, they seem to do everything deliberately.  They may decide to do what they are told, and they may decide not to, but it is always a choice.  It is never out of weakness.  As a lazy man, it really made me think.

I did give up eating animals.  It wasn't even hard.  My diet is healthier for it.  I would say I eat a healthy diet... and then I eat a ton of sugar.  The next step is to give up sugar, and I am making progress.  I'm doing really good, actually.  Normally I eat a dessert everyday; sometimes two.  I have only eaten dessert two of the last seven days, and one of those was a special occasion.  I really do see myself giving up dessert except for special occasions; maybe once a month.

I'm also committing to cooking more in the new home, and my plan is to cook more vegan food.  I'm not committing to become vegan.  That's not just a will power thing.  Eating food, and the eating experience, does bring me happiness.  That might be giving too much up.  But I think cooking more often, and making more of that cooking vegan, are reasonable goals.

I do think a maid will help with that.  Not that she will be doing the cooking, although that is a possibility.  I have a friend who had a maid for a few months, and she learned a lot about cleaning.  I think I'll learn a lot too, and be motivated to accomplish something myself.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Movin' Right Along

"I haven't moved in a year and a half."  That was my witty come back to a friend's crazy accusation that I seem to move quite a bit.  Okay, maybe I do move more than most.  I don't have the numbers, but I suspect my average stay at a given residence is about 3 years.  The fact that I would have to guess is probably a sign as well.

When my roommate and I moved into the place we're at now, we decided to spend a little more on a place with lots of amenities.  These are amenities that we never use.  We weren't inclined to use them as much as we thought; that's true.  It's also true that this place was sold right after we moved in, and went downhill rapidly after that.  So these amenities became less appealing.  We also found out pretty early on that the utilities, and associated fees, were higher than we expected.

So, we're moving, and I'm excited for a number of reasons.

1. I will be saving $150 to $200 a month.  Part of this is fewer amenities, but also rent prices have gone down in my area.

2. We have decided to spend some of that saved money on a cleaner.  So many people have said, "you're that lazy..."  If their homes were perfectly clean, then they'd have a point.  They way I see it, I'm paying for cleanliness, and they choose not to.

3. I'm even closer to work.  I'm literally down the street.  It will be maybe a 10 minute walk.

4. I'm getting a new bed.  I've had a queen for I think 17 years.  What I really want is a loft bed.  It's going to come with more space.  But also, I think it will be easier to control the climate and lighting in the enclosed area.  Plus there has been some advancement in mattress technology in the last 17 years.

5. It's time for a new office chair as well.

6. Finally, there are a few changes I have been reluctant to make to a place I'm renting, but I'm just going to go for it.  Changes like hanging hand sanitize and paper towel dispensers.  I might even spend a little on sound absorbing panels.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Necessary Lies

Months ago I listened to a podcast where the topic discussed was, "Necessary Lies of Civilization."  The idea is that we collectively and subconsciously agree that society is better off if we tell ourselves, and each other, that certain things are true, when they are not.  We lie to ourselves.  Lies like, "Crime never pays."  Lies like, "Hard work pays off."  It can, and often does, but there are certainly people who work harder than I who are worse off; and many better off who work less hard.  Hard work is one factor; one resource.  But what kind of message is that?  Since then I've kept my eyes open for these lies as one more veil to lift to see the world as it really is.  That led me down a really unexpected path.

Start with all American adults who are of sound mind who have formed an opinion about when a person becomes a person.  I'm ignoring everyone who has not formed an opinion.  I'm ignoring everyone who is repeating what their religion tells them.  Look at everyone who has used logic to determine when they believe a person becomes a person.  It seems to me something like 99% would agree that a person become a person at birth.  Does this make sense?

It never has to me.  Imagine explaining to a robot that this adult human is a person, and that adult pig is not.  You could easily point to a superior intelligence, abstract thinking, an appreciation of art...  This would not be a hard task.  But that robot would immediately use your criteria to determine a new born baby is not a person.  So you'd add, "And everyone who can be expected to develop these traits."  Great, but now the robot would tell you that any unborn human is a person.

What I'm getting at is, how does anyone use logic to determine that a person become a person at birth?  And it finally hit me, they don't.

There is a huge cost to placing that point of demarcation at any point after birth.  There is a huge cost to saying, "these humans are people, but these humans are not people."  I think every atrocity in human history has started with that idea.  And there is a huge cost to putting that point before birth.  Pregnancy has huge costs.  Financial, of course, but the cost of time, and effort; the effects on a person's body and life.

So the majority of people tell that lie, but it is a lie.  If a new born baby is a person, then he or she was a person ten minutes earlier.  And if its not its not.  And I get it.  We tell ourselves each life is priceless, but that's just one more lie.  We all decide how much we are willing to give up for our safety, the safety of the people we love, and the safety of people we will never meet.  This isn't a call for action, if anything it's a call for transparency.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Influencing Politics

With apologies to Benjamin ...

It's the rules …

In a prior blog post, I shared what was to be a letter to the editor but what turned into a commentary … too long ( too wordy, would you believe? ) for a simple letter to the editor. My paper failed to publish it.

Perhaps I don't blame them. But I'm not giving up. I have trimmed the nearly 450 word article to a mere fraction of that. It's below; I believe it's still hard-hitting.

It's the rules, buddy,

As the economy has been a major factor in many nation-wide elections, so too should the rules of the United States House of Representatives be this year. For it is those Rules, and some practices that have evolved due to them, that have precluded even consideration of common sense bi-partisan legislation. Legislation doing what is supported by an overwhelming majority of voters and which would pass easily in both houses. Think Health Care; DACA; Immigration; Roads and Bridges

The Problem Solvers' Caucus, consisting of forty-some Republicans and Democrats, with the Support of No Labels (, a bipartisan citizens group, proposes a series of specific changes to the House Rules that would break these barriers to consideration of bipartisan legislation. New rules could be implemented in the next Congress, as the incoming Class chooses its Rules in January. The old rules are usually rubber-stamped and the Caucus aims to change that.

Communicate with your favorite candidate for a Congressional seat, or a member of her or his Staff; talk about the proposal to change some of the House Rules. GOOD: Ask for support. BETTER: ask for a pledge of support. BEST: communicate that your vote hinges on such support.

With enough citizens leaning on elected officials this way, change can happen.

It's the rules, buddy,


What do you think?
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Monday, September 3, 2018

Unexpected Consequences

When I sold my car years ago, I started taking the bus.  And I always intended to purchase a backup bus pass.  I'd like to think I would have, but after dragging my feet for a couple of months, a friend took the decision out of my hands by giving me one as a gift.  That back up buss pass was not used often, but I was always glad to have it when it was.

The other day I was out at the mall with my mother and aunt, and sent them home on the bus.  I couldn't just pay for them with a bus pass and walk away because they needed to transfer.  Good thing I had my trusty backup.  I told them I'd pick it up next time I stopped by.

Now you might expect that to be the end of a very boring story.  My mother and her husband each have their own bus passes, my Aunt was only in town for a couple of days, and my uncle has been a shut-in for years now.  I'm not sure if I'm using this term entirely respectfully.  He has been dragged out to get some clothes, and he does mow the lawn and such.  I think he may have even walked down to the corner store once in a while.

If someone gave him a bus card, the chance of him using it would have been around zero.  But it turns out someone else's bus card laying around was some kind of temptation.  He has used it, a couple of times.  I don't know where he went, but anywhere is better than nowhere.  As for me, I told him to hold onto it, and I'll get it from him later.  Much later.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Fallout 4 Downloadable Content

Having sunk hundreds of hours into Fallout 4, I figured it was time to buy the DLC pack.  Quite a bit of that DLC just added stuff you could build.  It's not something I would pay for, since mods do that much better.  Here's my take on the rest.

The story line was short, but fun.  I loved that they added some Silver Shroud lines at the end.  The ability to upgrade robots was probably something above and beyond what mod authors could be expected to do, so that has value too.  I could see myself spending $15 on this alone.

Nuka World
One of the big complaints about Fallout 4 was that you were railroaded into being a good guy, even if how you went about helping was questionable at times.  Nuka World does add story and game play, but it seems like it is mostly there to let you be a bad guy.  If you just start killing all the slavers when you arrive, you'll miss out on some of that game play.  So, it's really not for me.  I don't fault them for creating it.  I will play it through, but would not buy it on its own.

Far Harbor
Now this one is interesting.  I loved how you just became a detective.  Nick and Ellie just start referring to you as Nicks partner.  You even have a couple of opportunities to introduce yourself as a detective.  It feels organic in a way that nothing else in Fallout 4 has before.  You have worked with him long enough that it makes perfect sense that you would just fall into place as this detective's partner.

I like the new area it added, and the completely different Scooby-Doo island feel it had.  The fact that most of the island was unsafe for habitation actually made it feel more populated.  One issue I had with Fallout 4 was how people treated you like you were a nobody long after you accomplished much more than any one person realistically could have.  The things you do in Far Harbor feel like something one person could do, and the people seem to notice.  If you're carrying a big gun they'll say, "With firepower like that, no wonder you did X, Y, Z..."

And I even liked the moral questions they gave you at the end.  It was thought provoking in a way that the main story line of Fallout 4 wasn't.  It even kind of rewrote that main plot by implying that you were an android all along.  Which is super interesting, but too much to get into in this blog post.  I would have totally paid $50 for this expansion on its own.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Will This Pencil Work?

"I was … heartbroken."

Last time I wrote about both the iPad that Ellie and I each got, and my rekindled interest in an Apple Pencil for my iPad. My finger is so fat and flat when I think of using it to place the insertion point in a document, or to highlight a specific bit of text, my stomach turns over. Using it to hand-write text is beyond imagining.

Writing with my finger yields text that is WAY TOO BIG to be of much use.

The S-pen for my Samsung Note solved all those problems, and the prospect of solving them with the Apple Pencil that Benjamin had let me experiment with on his iPad Pro got me salivating … remembering my S-Pen … mourning the loss of the S-Pen when moving to my current
( native stylus-less ) smartphone.

I wrote to Benjamin, "Please bring your Apple Pencil to dinner next week."

"Just so you know, it works with the iPad Pro, and nothing else," he replied.

I was, as I said, heartbroken.

Undaunted ( or foolish beyond belief; you decide ), I took my iPad to dinner and Benjamin brought his Apple Pencil. Benjamin, who keeps up with technology much more than I ( he's still working in it for his livelihood, I am retired from working in it ) recognized my iPad: it is a new device from Apple, one that Apple was more or less just introducing when he bought his iPad Pro.

The pencil's connector, where the eraser would be if it were a lead pencil, plugs into its own charger or into the iPad Pro's power input port. It connects with the iPad Pro via blue tooth. My iPad's power port is the same as that of an iPad Pro and, of course, my iPad also has blue tooth. Both Benjamin and I wondered … "will this work?" We plugged the pencil in, and, viola, it connected to my iPad! I wrote with it, it works. Alleluia!

I almost immediately sent a text message to Ellie: "Good news: the Apple pencil works with my iPad; better news: my birthday is coming up pretty soon."

Last time I ended my post on a heartbroken note; this time I end anticipating an "Apple Surprise" for my birthday.
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Thursday, August 23, 2018

What the Meaning of the Word "is" is

Taking Spanish #1 9 times, I remember learning how to conjugate "to be."  At no point did I ever connect that in English "to be" is a version of "is."  It was a huge breakthrough for me.  I told Walter about that, and he suggested I write about that.  I told him I didn't think I could write a whole blog post about that particular revelation.

He explained to me that "being" is an important philosophical concept.  And the fact that I have been throwing around this important concept under the guise of "is" and "are" is huge.  Learning about that should teach me something about myself.  I told him I would give that some thought.  Now that I have... I got nothing.

So, let me tell you about...
Spanish is Easy...ier #3

News in Slow Spanish.  It's a podcast where they read the news... slowly... in Spanish; only using the present tense.  It's amazing for an adult trying to learn Spanish.  A lot of people start with children's programming because it's easy.  It's like that, but relevant to my interests, which helps a lot.

And it comes with a transcript.  I'm thinking I can listen through it once, then use the puzzle method on the transcript, then listen to it again.  The puzzle method I described last time.  It's basically just manually translating something word for word, then doing my best to translate the meaning of it.  I liked their free trial enough to pay $40 for 6 months of their service.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

An Apple a Day

"it works with the iPad Pro, and nothing else"

My blog partner, Benjamin, has written about getting an iPad Pro, and raved about it personally to me. My sister-in-law and her husband were here for a couple weeks earlier this year and they each had one. Ellie and I experienced similar raving from them. And, of course, we saw and experienced the amazing display and saw how snappy the whole thing was.

"Gee, those are nice," Ellie sighed. "Big, clear, bright. Fast."

"Yes, but do we really need another computing device here?" I asked.

"Well, no, of course not."

She was, and remains, as aware as I am that we have had our share of techie electronic gear. Plus, we are seriously thinking about moving, which means downsizing rather than upsizing our "stuff" inventory. Adding a couple of iPads would not mean adding much to move, of course, but, still, if it's not necessary ... however, none of our computing power was built by Apple.

"You know, a lot of what I like to read on my phone is hard to read, it's so small. I'd sure like to see what that would be like on an iPad," she persisted.

Enter "Score More Rewards," the loyalty program for our credit card.

"Shop your Rewards," the email said. "Click here to see how many reward points you have."

We had had the card for many years, used it a great deal, and rarely checked the. Curious, I clicked on the link and found that we had lots of points. "Boy, honey, we're rich!" I exclaimed when I saw the point total. I had already begun scrolling through the catalogue to see if they had anything we couldn't possibly live without, which I doubted.

"Think they have iPads?" Ellie asked.

"Well, I haven't seen any … haven't really been looking, either. They do have technology stuff, though," I replied.

"Why don't you check?" she said, insightful woman that she is.

I did … and I found an iPad Pro, several of them. Their cost varied depending on screen size, whether they offered a cellular connection and the amount of memory. They were among the items commanding the most points in the catalogue. Neither Ellie nor I would consider getting only one. The cheapest iPad Pro was close to our total Reward Points budget; two of them was out of the question.

"What other tablets do they have," we both wondered, aloud, simultaneously. While searching for an answer to that question, I came upon an iPad whose price was less than half our total budget … clearly two of these were a possibility for us. There was not a technical description of the device ( remember, I'm a techie ), but it did say WiFi or Cellular, 32 GB, 9" screen or so.

"I want one of those," Ellie decided. "It might not have all the bells and whistles of an iPad Pro, but it's an iPad and I'd like to experience one. What do you think?" She paused, then landed, "It's not like we're spending a lot of cash!"

Two of them, Gold and Midnight Black, came less than two weeks after we ordered them. They are sweet. We are in love with them. Compared to our fairly up to date smartphones, which have become our mainstay computing devices, they are faster, possess bigger and brighter screens, and are generally more responsive.

"Oh, an iPad Pencil!" I thought. My last smartphone was a Samsung Note, with an S-pen, and I still mourn the loss of that S-Pen when getting my current phone. I re-experienced that magic when Benjamin let me try his iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil. They worked gloriously together. I wondered if that Pencil would work with my newly acquired iPad.

Wanting to surprise Benjamin with my iPad, but wanting to try his pencil with it, I wrote him a cryptic request prior to our having dinner the next time we were scheduled: "Please bring your Apple Pencil to dinner next week."

His reply: "I carry my iPad Pro and the Pencil with me pretty much wherever I go, so you did not really need to make your request. Just so you know, it works with the iPad Pro, and nothing else."

I was heartbroken.

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Monday, August 6, 2018

100 Push Ups #2

The plan was 100 push ups, and that is a fine plan.  I was doing that for a while; 100 vanilla push ups.  Then I branched out into doing half of my push ups near the center of my chest, and varying the angle as I went.  I lowered the total number of push ups at that time, planning to work my way back up to 100.  The funny thing that happened along the way was an odd type of success.  I started developing muscles, but in a slightly odd proportion.

 This is probably really obvious to anyone into fitness, as most people do a variety of exercises for a reason.  But I'm still learning.  So, my legs are fine.  I do walk more than most.  My forearms are actually fine too, developing a little during my time in pizza.  The current issue that is only starting to develop is that my biceps and chest are starting to look out of proportion to my triceps and shoulders.  So a little research, and it looks like the exercises I'm looking for are pull ups and chin ups.

There are actually a huge variation of pull ups and chin ups, depending on where you are gripping, the position of your legs, and even the muscles you use to pull yourself up.  Figuring out which ones are right for me will a step, but not the next step.  Step 1 was buying the pull up bar, which will be here in a couple days.  Step 2 will be negative pull ups, because I can't actually do a pull up yet.  A negative pull up is like a pull up, but where you only lower yourself.

It looks to me like push ups and pull ups can work every muscle from your glutes on up.  So I'll will continue to do push ups, but I'll probably never return to 100 a day again.  Partially because I don't want to spend more than 10 minutes per day exercising, and partially because I don't want giant muscles.  The push ups I do might be deep push ups, since that is another use of the pull up bar I bought.

Which brings me to learning the ways of the hoop.  That was where I bought a children's hula hoop, and failed to learn how to use it.  That was supposed to work all of my core muscles.  Step 2 was where I bought an adult's weighted hula hoop... and failed to learn how to use it.  My rhythm sucks.  The extra weight came with extra momentum, and it also had a little more grip.  None of that seemed to help.  I've heard gaffer's tape is one more thing I can try for even more grip, but I think I'm gonna put that on hold.  Maybe I can find a teacher one day.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Red, Blue? Conservative, Liberal? Democrat, Republican? No Labels!

The No Labels organization, of which I am a member and of which I have spoken before, in conjunction with the Problem Solvers' Caucus in the US House, released a significant initiative designed to break the partisan logjam in Congress. I am committed to helping, and, in so doing, I've written to a TV station that is getting the candidates' positions on various issues, asking them to find out their position on this initiative. Another thing I planned to do is write a letter to the editor, but I made it too wordy for a simple letter. It's long enough to be a commentary and looks something like this:

The U.S. Congress has become, or seemed to become, completely dysfunctional. The Republicans are in charge and the sole thing they've managed to do is enact a tax cut for the very top of the economic class. In the prior administration, the Democrats still resorted to, for example, passing the Affordable Care Act in such a way as to shut out the Republicans. Virtually no legislation makes it to the floor with broad ( i.e.,
bipartisan ) support.

Do you ever wonder why?

A significant contributor is the rules governing the House of Representatives. These rules make it virtually impossible for bipartisan legislation to make it to the floor. And, each time these rules are considered, members rubber-stamp them for the coming session.

Two rules stand out …

Members of the Tea Party, several years back, ( re ) discovered an old House Rule (  the "motion to vacate" rule ) that allows any individual member of the House to call a vote of no confidence in the House Speaker. Any. Individual. Member. No speaker wants to face such a vote. The practical effect of this rule is that no bipartisan legislation, however popular, has a chance for consideration

Another significant problem is the ability of the Speaker to control which legislation is considered using "Regular Order" and which not. ( You might recall Senator John McCain complaining about the failure to use Regular Order at the time of his NO vote on the repeal of the Affordable Care Act in 2017.  ) When Regular Order is used, ordinary members of the House can suggest amendments, debate the merits of the bill, and hearings can be called. Almost no legislation today is considered using Regular Order.

A bipartisan group called No Labels was born ten years ago. It spawned a recognized caucus in the US House, the Problem Solvers' Caucus. This caucus, its history, constituent members, and rules are beyond the scope of this letter. Suffice to say it is made up of approximately 40 members from both parties, and is committed to addressing the problems faced by the U.S.

The caucus proposes a set of House Rules changes aimed at the problems mentioned as well as others. The House considers its rules right after the mid-terms and the caucus's changes could be made then.

I urge everyone who considers voting for members of the House of Representatives to be aware of the Problem Solvers' Caucus initiative, to educate themselves and other voters about it, and, especially, to tell all candidates for the House that your vote is contingent on their backing the proposed changes.

The No Labels web site has details of all this, see

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Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Spanish is Easy...ier #2

This is just a boring update to my efforts to learn Spanish because all I've done in the past week is to try to learn Spanish.

The Rosetta Stone and Anki have been going great, but that's not even half the battle.  I'm still looking for the right source to "teach me" the grammar.  One interesting source is a guy who teaches what he calls Gringo Espanol.

He has an interesting approach.  For example, in English, you wouldn't say, "I eated the apple."  That's because "Eat" is an irregular verb.  But the thing is, if you did say, "I eated the apple," you would be understood %100 of the time.  He says that's pretty much true in Spanish as well.  So learning irregular verbs should be your very last step.  Learn enough Spanish to start speaking it poorly, then worry about not sounding like an idiot. 

Do you see why he calls his channel Gringo Espanol?  He talks about children, and says they're not better at the skills it takes to learn a language, or the memorization involved.  They're great at learning languages because they jump right in, and aren't afraid to make mistakes.

He has also explained what he calls the Puzzle Method.  That's where you look at a something written in Spanish; something you might be interested in.  Then start translating each word manually.  This part is easy, anyone can do it.  The hard part is the grammar.  The interesting part is, if you know the words, and understand the subject, you can usually figure out what they are trying to say.  That way you are figuring out the grammar, and learning how it works as you do.

He's a weirdo, but so am I, and he has some good videos on Youtube.  He has some more stuff behind a pay wall, and I am thinking about it.  I'm sure I'm describing his thoughts poorly.  If you're a native English speaker trying to learn Spanish, I definitely recommend checking him out.

Friday, July 20, 2018

I Can Hear you Now

"What, I'm sorry … what did you say?"

Ellie, my sweetheart and the love of my life, and I spend a lot of time in our den. We are perched, each of us, on a lift chair, controlled by pushing buttons on a wired remote control. Pushing the right button for long enough will practically stand the occupant up and push him/her out of the seat. Similarly, pushing a different button long enough will lay the chair flat, perhaps even making the head slightly lower than the feet, inviting the occupant to nap.

Ellie's arthritis had bothered her enough that the simple act of getting out of a chair became difficult. This persuaded us to look for a lift chair to ease the difficulty. When we found one, I, of course, became jealous, so we got two of them. We now have His and Hers chairs, as I, noticeably taller than she, need a bigger chair.

Pretty independent of one another, we read, watch TV and use our smartphones. We play competitive games on the phones ( against each other, against others ), games of skill against the phone, and almost always at least several brain games at the same time ( these pit us against the material, but we do them at the same time ). There's plenty of interaction and there's plenty of quiet time as well. 

Ellie would commonly punctuate this time my going to the kitchen to perform some cat-spoiling activity. It was during these times that the issue began rearing its head.

"Honey, did I leave my water bottle in the den?" she'd ask, as she was spooning some ocean whitefish from the can to the dish of one of the cats.

"Yes, it's here; do you want it?" I'd respond.

"No, just making sure I know where it is."

Every now and then, as she was running water to rinse the dinner plate belonging to one of the cats, she'd ask, "Honey, did I leave my coffee in the den?"

Having heard her voice but utterly failing to understand, I'd call back, consciously making myself heard above the running water, "What? Could you turn the water off and repeat the question, please?" Which of course, she did, and everything was cool.

Until it wasn't.

She'd frequently forget that running water drowned out her voice
( enjoying the pun ) and she began suggesting I wasn't hearing her adequately. It didn't help that, when we were both in the den, both enveloped in our individual activity, she'd ask something with no intro. "You know that play we were talking about? How did the homicidal maniac get into the bedroom without anyone noticing?"

I would not realize she was talking to me until about, "into the bedroom," by which time it was way too late to know the totality of what she had said. "What, I'm sorry … what did you say?"

It didn't help that I would frequently say something to her and she didn't hear it, either. She accused me of mumbling. ( And, truth be told, I do that more often that I'd like to admit. Perhaps way. ) And I noticed I heard things and asked her about them and she didn't hear them at all … like her shoes making odd squeaking noises on her desk-chair mat. I was sure I could hear better than she, she was sure I suffered from at least some hearing loss, and I was afraid that that was true.

"FREE HEARING SCREENING," the coupon said. "Let's go do this, both you and I," Ellie said.

We did. Guess what?

I do hear better than Ellie does, I do have some non-trivial hearing loss, and so does she. Our hearing loss is compatible with people our age, and I am now the proud owner of a set of hearing aids. As is Ellie. What a pair we make!

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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Spanish is Easy...ier

“Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.”

Is there anything superhero movies can't teach us?  When I returned from vacation I was ready to be productive again, so I dove into Spanish.  And I was ready to apply what I learned studying Japanese.  No, not what I learned about conjugating verbs.  I'm talking about what I learned about learning.

For starters, I'm back on Anki.  Anki is an amazing tool for simple memorization.  But this time I'm memorizing words, instead of alphabets.  I'm starting with a list of the 5,000 most used Spanish words, as compiled from movie subtitles.  Most of these are prepositions, conjunctions, and such.  In a few weeks I plan to add in common phrases.

Then there's Rosetta Stone.  I gave my Japanese subscription to my cousin, and got a Spanish subscription.  Last time I studied what it was teaching me, and that was all wrong.  I was doing one lesson a day, if that.  The benefit of the program is to make you practice it as often as you can.  It kind of simulates immersion, or as least the best you can without other people.  This time around I'm spending less time thinking it through, and more time doing it, and getting that practice in.

Most speaking is done subconsciously, and these two methods are great at that angle of a new language.  But I am 36, and it's too late to just absorb a language like a child would.  The third method I'm using is old fashion studying.  I'm watching youtube videos explaining how the grammar works, and taking notes.

I have some other ideas for the future, but this is a great start.  There is some commitment involved, but it's not pulling teeth.  It feels good to learn, and I'm still very enthusiastic.  Plus I am bundling my enthusiasm for my upcoming vacation with that studying.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Convergence 2018 Wrap-up

I'm going to start with "the ugly."  Yeah.  It was not my best vacation.

The Ugly
As predicted, attendance was definitely down, and it was definitely the party crowd that sat this one out.  Many party rooms didn't happen.  The ones that did closed pretty early.

I don't really have an explanation for this next part, but even though more people paid than attended (because no refunds were given), they seemed to be very strapped for cash this year.  No snacks in the movie rooms, and instead of soup, they had packets of ramen.  The opening "comedy" production was something you would expect any random high school class might through together in a half hour.  And it turned out to be just a thinly veiled lecture on how men should not take advantage of women.  The punchline was literally that harassment is something men do to women.

The Bad
Speaking of which, they wasted quite a bit of my time going over how to not harass women, what our preferred pronouns are, and things like that.  A panel on meditation and mindfulness turned out to be a panel on how you can use meditation to overcome extremely stressful situations, like when the candidate you would prefer become president doesn't win.

The Good
Well...  Lower attendance meant they had the AC situation under control.  And it was easier to get into panels.  The Skeptchick people stayed away, so that was a plus.  And I really enjoyed a panel where two of the creators of Gargoyles talk about making it, and hopes to make more.

Plus, this new crowd was less drunk, less wild, and wearing more clothes.  Which is bad for me, but kids and parents seemed to take advantage of that.

I am very over the excitement of Convergence.  It once seemed like a chance to hang out with people who are like me, and share my interests.  I know now the average person there does share some interests, but they are nothing like me.

And this sounds a little silly, but being next to the Mall might be a factor too.  I think get a lot of my fill of people watching and the unique items for sale from there on a weekly basis.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Volunteer's Lament II

Advanced Math with love
I as volunteer, three boys

Summer comes, I go home.
copyright Walter R. Jost

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Thursday, July 5, 2018

New Watch

When smart watches first started showing up, I thought they were pretty cool.  I love new gadgets.  I just didn't see a need for one.  Then the other day my bank account equaled my credit card debt.  So, I paid off one of the cards, and purchased an Apple Watch.

The Good
It is fantastic at being a watch.  You can have many faces to switch between depending on what you are up to.  For example, I use the Mickey Mouse face when I'm in bed.  It lets me clearly display when I have an alarm set for, without any other clutter.  And Mickey reads the time if I tap it, without having to open my eyes.

Plus Siri is really good at setting alarms and timers.  That is very handy in a watch.  And just in general, more features than I've ever had in a watch.

Another important function of a watch is to look good.  I specifically got this because I had a really flashy watch band that needed a flashy watch.  My grandmother had a men's gold watch band that she found more comfortable because her wrists were a little swollen in later in life.   I got it when she died.  I do think they look good together.

The Bad
It is not super functional as a cell phone peripheral.  I had hoped it could control my phone some, and it's really not good at that.  I can't start music or podcasts.  It doesn't display the artwork of the music that's playing, although it does say the track info.  I can play and pause the music, but I could do that already with my headphones.  And there have been several times I have asked Siri to do something, and she did understand me, but told me I'd need to ask again on my phone.

I have some hope that functionality will increase.  Google certainly could make an app for it that lets me control my music more, for example.  Or Apple could.  Also, Apple teased a lot more powerful Siri automation that is supposed to be coming in the next few months.  So, we'll see.

The Ugly
The most disappointing feature of this watch has been the charging situation.  I have charged it every day for a few minutes since I got it, and it seems like I needed that.  I think it would be dead if I ever let it go 48 hours without a charge.

And the charging cable is... odd.  It connects magnetically, but not super firmly, so I have unplugged it by bumping it.  I could get peripherals that would help with that.  But my thoughts were to find a different kind of cable, so I would have a couple of options, and a spare.  It turns out these cables are start at $20.  That's a lot for a cable.

 I did have to buy the watch at full price, because I couldn't find any good clearance or refurbished deals on it.  Knowing what I know now, I would not have payed $350 for the watch.  In a way, not knowing a good thing, because I'm really glad I have it, and it does make me happy.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

A Volunteer's Lament

Our learning time together,
three boys and me,
is  somewhat accidental,
but still
special, fraught, loving.

The school year ends,
our time does, too.

We gather together
as usual,
each of us knowing
this won't happen again.

I give them special problems,
they return effort;
we enjoy the struggle
for truth, and solutions.

When the time is up
we bravely share goodbyes.

I pick up the pieces,
leave the school, drive home.
Deep melancholy is
an unwelcome guest.

Dare I believe I'll find
a special set of kids
next year?
I do. I am comforted.

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Convergence 2018 #2

Convergence is a week away, and I have done... nothing.

For starters, I did get my diet on track, but far too late to be relevant for the convention.  Which makes me much less interested in a new costume.  I do have a couple of older costumes after all.  But there is the booze issue.

A big part of the convention has always been the room parties.  They have taken a hit in recent years when they made it harder to get both a room for a party, and a room to stay in.  That made it a lot harder for the people.  This year the new rule is no booze unless you pay some fee, and hire bartenders from the hotel.  That's just not going to happen.

Now you might be thinking that it will be just like last year, with fewer drunk people.  The thing is, there are a lot of people who just won't come.  And when enough people like that don't come, it will completely change the demographic.  This is just my opinion, of course.  I can tell you that there were so many people asking for refunds they had to issue a public statement that there will not be any.

As far as the actual room parties, I don't think there will be any less booze.  There's nothing stopping people from bringing their own booze.  I'm sure I will, just because I can.  Sharing will we social and neighborly.  But I think this will be a low key event.  I will be there, but taking a more relaxed stance this year.

Next year they are switching to a bigger venue, more centrally located, with none of these room party issues.  Or so they say.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Weeding the Garden, 2018

"Is that a case of the older we get the better we were?"

In past posts (  Jane helped me here and weeding in front ) I discussed my enjoyment of working in our yard, on the parts of it that are not grass. Summer has begun and our property is once again in need of some tender loving care … only the weed situation is far worse than ever. Perhaps due to all the rain we've had here. And the warm weather. Two images will demonstrate.

The first is a before picture of the west side of our peace garden last year. You can see there are some weeds among the hosta plants.
Figure 1: West side, weeds among the hosta plants a year ago.
The second image is one of the same location this year.
Figure 2: West side, weeds among the hosta plants currently.
You may be able to see there are some hosta plants among the weeds.

The east side of the garden was as overrun with weeds as the west side, and that is where I chose to begin weeding this year. The task was far more arduous than I recalled from prior years. I was able to use the long-handled tool to uproot the weeds without bending down, but there were so many of them that the next step, separating them from the woodchips and dirt within which they were growing and tossing them into my yard-waste bag, required frequent getting down to ground level. Knees hurt, back hurt, and getting up and down was grueling and demanding. It was hot, sweaty work, and the headband I wore to keep sweat from dripping into my eyes was quite wet, though not saturated so that sweat ran from it.

Perhaps, I thought, if I got down on my hands and knees, pulled the weeds from there, put them in a temporary container, and transferred the contents of that container to my yard-waste bag, I could minimize the up-down motions I had been doing. That worked all right, but I'm not sure it was easier than weeding standing up and working with the weed piles created from that position.

Even though both the temperature and humidity were reasonable, I was unable to finish the task without sitting down on the bench in the garden and taking water. There were plenty of weeds within reach from my seat on the bench, so I took advantage and pulled a bunch, as many as I could reach.

Eventually I was back on all fours, pulling weeds at their level. As I was bagging the last group, my wife came out and stood on the stoop fronting our front door. "How are you doing?" she asked.

"Oh, I'm all right," I replied as I wiped my forehead with the sleeve of my short-sleeved shirt. "I'm tired, and hot, but OK." There was a long
pause … and I added, "You know, I am not enjoying doing this as much as I did last year."

Ever the philosophical type, she responded, "Do you suppose that's a case of 'the older we get the better we were'?"

In spite of myself, I chuckled. "No, I don't think so. I think it's the thickness and height of the weeds this year." I returned to the task.

When I finished up, the Peace Garden looked pretty good:
Figure 3: East side, Peace Garden, after weeding this year.
The border with the lawn needs attention and some wood chips need to be added. While I'm glad to report the weeds are gone, I am aware that the hosta bed on the west side ( Figure 2 ) needs attention, as well, not to mention the two flower beds in the rear of the property and that eighteen inch strip of land bordering our parking slab. There truly does seem to be no rest for the weary.
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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Letter from Grandma

I never really knew my father's mother.  In my experience, you choose your friends, but family are people you know because they are around.  I was raised by my mother, and was never really around my father's side of the family.

In a twist of fate, I ran into a cousin on the way to visit my mother's mother in the hospital.  I found out my father's mother was in bad shape too, but mostly from old age.  She was in her 80's.  I ended up getting a chance to visit her in the hospital, when I would have had no way of knowing she was there.  The 15 minutes I spent visiting her amounted to something like a 25% increase in the total time I had spent with her.  She died a short time later.

At her funeral my cousin gave me a note in a thick envelope addressed to me.  He said she had dictated it to me in her final days.  I couldn't imagine someone who didn't know me, writing so much.  I told him I was a little surprised by that.  He told me she dictated many letters in her final days.  It made me uncomfortable.  Because we never got to know each other, this was a letter from a stranger.  I held onto it, and never opened it.

Then about a year ago I lost some stuff.  Nothing I was using, but I thought the letter might be one of those things.  It wasn't, but it got me thinking.  It's one thing to not open it "today".  It's another to never open it at all.  I told this to a friend, and he encouraged me to open it.  The contents were quite a surprise.

First, the letter was very short.  Just a couple of sentences tanking me for visiting her in the hospital.  It was in fact, a letter to me.  And the reason it was thick were photos.  The photos of me that she owned.  Mostly of the weeks following my birth.

I was quite wrong about it.  I would say I was a fool to wait 12 years, but it really worked out for the best.  It means much more today than it would have then.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Last Day of my First Year: the Day

They saluted and said thanks.

I had spent some time getting ready for the last day of being a Learning Buddy for the first time. Upon greeting the kids that last day, it was immediately apparent they knew it was the second last day of school this year, as well as the last time we'd be meeting together. One of them, the first to arrive, fist-bumped me. And then he saluted, humming the Star-Spangled Banner. The four of us spoke briefly about this being our last time together and I said I'd like to give each of them a special puzzle to work on. Not necessarily math but brain exercisers. They thought this fine.

I gave each of them a sheet with his puzzle, got them separate spaces in which to sit/work, and left them be.

"I can't do this!" almost immediately from Fred ( name changed ), about the logic puzzle. I took him off to a corner, we chatted, he understood what the puzzle's question is, but had no idea whatever how to solve it. I gave him a clue and a light bulb seemed to go on. He began working on his "documentation" while I went to check on the other two boys.

They were struggling, too. I gave them permission to work with each
other … which didn't seem to change very much behavior. Neither of them clearly asked for help from the other and then explained his problem. Pretty soon Fred came … eager to share his solution with everyone.

Jumping on this opportunity for order, I suggested we all work on Fred's problem. Everyone agreed. "Whew!" I gave a copy of the problem to the other two boys, and all three of them read it together. Chaos ensued almost immediately, everyone both talking and wanting to write on the white board at once.

Eventually we had a reasonable facsimile of the problem on the whiteboard; everyone was puzzled. "Can I give them the solution?" Fred asked.

"Not yet … be patient," I said.

I eventually gave the same clue to the boy who was my SPIFF pal this year as I had given to Fred. A similar light seemed to go on over his head and he gave voice to a solution. Fred either didn't have the exact solution or was unable to verbalize it completely … my failure to not know which. He agreed, though, that the just-verbalized solution would work.

We worked together, rather quickly and perhaps too quickly, through the other two problems and it was bordering on time to let them go. "Just a moment," I said. "I have something more." I got out three envelopes with carefully lettered names on them, each envelope containing a hand-written note.

"Oh, cards," one of them said, excitedly ( though maybe I imagined that part ).

I gave each his card, told them that, although we had had a few rough patches, I very much enjoyed working with them this year, and it was time for them to go. They saluted and said thanks; my SPIFF pal hugged me, saying "Maybe I'll see you in a store around here."

Doubting it, as I do not live in the immediate vicinity, I said, "Yes, maybe. I'd be with my wife and I'd like her to meet you."

The other two warmly shook my hand and they all returned to the classroom.

The teacher came to shake my hand and say thanks. "Did the boys keep their Continental Math League booklets?" I had not given them the booklets.

"No," I replied, "I kept them between our meetings and had not gotten them out this time."

"I think they might like that," he said.

"Well, sure."

Before I finished my reply, it seemed, the three boys were swarming in search of their booklets. I gave them to them, and they returned to the classroom. I noted they left behind all the sheets I had so carefully prepared with today's problems and solutions.

I gathered that material up, put away the white board and its markers and eraser, and slowly left the area. Melancholy accompanied me to the office. It was with me still as I arrived home.

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Monday, June 11, 2018

Waking Up on the Floor... Again

Almost two years after the last time I woke up on the bathroom floor, I find myself there once more. Last time I ended up there it was the result of seeing quite a bit of my own blood.  I fainted.  At least I think that's how I ended up there.

About a year before that, I bumped my knee while taking a seat at McDonald's.  It might seem like quite a different experience, but it felt very much the same.  I felt light headed, dizzy, and sick to my stomach.  In addition, I also felt prickly all over, and became a sweaty ball of mess by the time the feeling had passed, maybe 20 minutes later.

Yesterday, I bumped my knee again.  This time it was while taking off a pair of pants to take a shower.  It wasn't even powerful enough to leave a bruise.  I tried to put the pants back on so I could go lie down, and the next thing I knew I was waking up on the floor.  I woke up, and successfully made my way to my bed this time.

I really didn't want to go to a hospital, but it would be crazy to ignore a problem that leaves me passed out on the floor once in a while.  I did a quick search, and came up with Vasovagal Syncope.  It's medical jargon for people who faint easily when their blood pressure drops.  Often this can be caused by the site of something that makes them squeamish.  But bumping a funny bone, causes a drop in blood pressure too.

So the short answer is, I'm just a fainter.  If I feel that way in the future, I need to sit down, or lay down, before I fall down.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Last Day of my First Year: the Plan

"This sounds great.  See you Wednesday!"

As the school year approached its end, I approached the end of my first year of being a DARTs Learning Buddy. ( For background, see Me, a Reading Buddy?, Becoming a Reading Buddy, My First Learning Buddy Assignment and My First Day with my Students. ) I had developed a real affection for my three students and I was fairly sure they had similar feelings for me. The big question, then, "What are we going to do on the last day?" I am rather old-school, all about rules and such, and, left to my own devices I most likely would have anticipated the last day being like any other day ( in terms of activity ), but more emotional.

Several people in my life spoke about this, but in a way I would say was "sideways," suggesting I might want to do something out of the ordinary, but only suggesting and being vague. A grad student, Irene, who had been observing me with the boys and whom I was planning on having there on the last day asked, "So maybe you would like to be alone with your students on that last day … No? If so, that would not hurt my feelings and I'll be done as of this week." Bless her heart.

Of course I had wanted to make the last day memorable … that thought had been rolling around, rather unformed, for some time. It included giving a good-bye card to each of the boys but it bounced against my "of course we'll have our regular math agenda" instinct. Irene's suggestion focused the question for me … and I took her up on that offer, thanking her for both focusing the question and being willing to leave me alone with my students that day. All that was left, then, was the hard part: figuring out what to do.

As is my custom, I took these ruminations to prayer and was rewarded with an inspiration. I was reminded of three puzzles ( logic, math, trick ) that I could take to the last class and somehow work with my students. These puzzles are old ones, possibly over the head of my kids, but, I thought, it would still be fun to work on them with my kids. As a group, the puzzles were only loosely related to what we had been doing, but it did work the brain and I thought it would be all right for our last time together.

"Don't you think you should clear that with your teacher?" my wife asked me.

"No, I'm sure I'm on solid ground." As sure as that answer sounded, her question worked on me.

I found each of the puzzles on the internet, sparing my having to create the text to set up the problem. I sent an email to the teacher, including the URL of each puzzle, so he could check them out if he wished. I told him my plan and asked both if that conflicted with his plans for that time and if he had any other thoughts. He responded very quickly, "This sounds great.  See you Wednesday!"

I was more relieved than I want to admit that he thought this a good idea. My plan evolved: I would make three copies of each puzzle, three copies of each solution, give each boy one of the puzzles and have him work on it, alone for a while. Then I'd allow them to work with each other, freestyle, on the puzzle of whichever boy was able to get the most help. Then I'd work with them. We'd talk about the puzzle and its meaning. And its solution. Eventually I'd give all boys all three puzzles and their solutions. I looked forward to the class.

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Thursday, May 31, 2018


A letter from m' bro
arrived today.
Quite unusual
arrived today.
Neither holiday nor birthday
arrived today.

My fingers trembled
suppressing fears.
I saw three typed pages
suppressing fears.
'My wife's got cancer'
validating fears.

Oh, and a broken hip
a gut punch.
Replacement surgery
a gut punch.
An afterthought, 'hope you're good'
a gut punch.

Not seeming much
to care
about us
or our life,
he spent
three pages telling his story,
nine words hoping we're fine.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Japanese is not Easy #5

It's so very not easy!  I've given up.

At the beginning of February, I was so engrossed in Japanese language an culture.  Learning about it didn't take commitment.  It's what I wanted to be doing.  So I went for it.  I studied everyday for like ten weeks.  And then my enthusiasm fizzled out.

So it was time to commit, and push myself to obtain what I wanted.  But I just couldn't.  In my ten weeks, I felt like I was accomplishing so much, because it was so different, and so hard to do.  But in reality, I learned so little.  And like I knew from the start, learning Japanese doesn't have a huge payoff.  It is only spoken in one country.

So if I'm going to push myself to learn a new language, it should be Spanish.  That's a language that would be useful.  And I already know so much more Spanish than Japanese, despite all of my hard work.  I already know their alphabet, for example.  And I can count to 100.  So I bought Rosetta Stone for Spanish, and it's waiting for me in the mailbox.

As for my trip to Japan, I think it's off.  Japan would cost over $1,000 to get to.  I'm thinking I'll want to try my Spanish somewhere instead.  When I went to Costa Rica, it was because Colombia looked dangerous to me.  Now I've been around a bit, and I feel a little more confident.  Colombia's murder rate is only about twice that of Minneapolis, and even less so if I stick to a tourist area like MedellĂ­n.

I told my cousin this, and he thinks I can get tickets to Japan in the $500 range if I wait til we're 3 months out.  I told him I'm still in if that's true.  I don't think it is.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Wasteland Calls!

It was the winter of 2015 that I played Fallout 4.  Can you believe it?  I loved the game, but there were issues here and there.  When I put it away, part of me was really looking forward to playing it again years later after mods have fixed those issues.  Is today the day?  These were my issues:

1. Let's call my first issue "baggage"
This is the first game in the series where you were handed a character with a whole life.  That's a problem with an immersive game that centers on you playing your role, your way.  It was even voice acted.

Now, I could have removed the voice acting, but I went a different way.  Start Me Up is a mod that changes your roll.  You are now some neighbor of the murdered parent, and kidnapped boy.  Just not telling us we're the spouse, and swapping in some, "A baby boy..." lines, instead of, "My son..."  It's really just that easy.  And so many more motivations make sense.  I am free to be who I want to be.  Who knows?  Maybe I won't hate Shawn with a passion this time around.

2. Companions Go Home
The title of this mod says it all.  It broke my heart every time Piper walked by saying, "Nice day.  Where we headed?"  All our helpers languishing at our settlements when they have lives to lead.  This mod simply lets you dismiss them back to those lives.

3. Needy settlers.
So the easy one is No Offscreen Settlement Attacks.  You obviously can't know about them if you're not there.  And it's too much to drop everything to run to them every time.  I'm using a couple of others, but they've been hit and miss so far.  One fun one adds an Immersive Fast Travel option.  It's balanced with costs, and you do need to build it in advance.  But it lets you move between settlements in much the same way you can travel between town in Skyrim with carriages.

4. Carry Weight
It just doesn't make sense to haul several typewriters into battle.  I'm on the new Survival option this time, and have a limited carry weight.  Not a real life limit, but something close enough to see reality off in the distance somewhere.  Salvage Beacons helps with this.  With it, you can assign a settler to coordinate supplies.  Then when you drop a craftable salvage beacon in a container, he will send someone to pick it up.  Also one to add backpacks, for esthetic roll playing purposes.

5. Survival
So survival mode isn't a mod, but it was added since I played the first time.  It add a huge element of immersion when you actually need to survive the wasteland.  However, I did need to tweak it.  Smokeable Cigarets lets me save between fights, and gives me a reasonable cost for doing so.  And I did need to add the console back to fix errors.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Theological Skepticism #7

I like Penn Jillette's biweekly podcast.  He's full of interesting ideas.  To be clear, they're not always good ideas.  He has a ton of interesting anecdotes, stories, and metaphors.  So I end up bringing him up in conversation from time to time.

This annoys one friend quite a bit.  He finds Penn to be an arrogant #$@&%*!.  Now, I don't see how he can be considered either of those things, but it's the arrogant part that really confuses me.  This is a guy who wrote a best selling book on how he lost over a hundred pounds, and spent the entire foreword explaining how stupid you would have to be take advice from a juggler on anything; casually equating a Las Vegas headliner with some juggler.  And it doesn't end there.  He's constantly joking about the mistakes he's made, and highlighting what he got wrong.

But it doesn't confound me like it would have years ago.  In my old age I've realized that most people expect everyone to give certain ideas the same respect they would a person.  Those ideas are religion.  He absolutely doesn't do that.  He has actually stated several times that you must respect people, but you can't respect ideas.

This is probably the one thing he's said consistently that I would agree with the most.  I have never heard him elaborate on that, on why it might be true.  But isn't it obvious?  Some idea are goods, and some are bad.  If you respect an idea, you can't criticize it.  You can't tell which are which.  I don't believe in censoring bad ideas.  I believe in discerning them from the good ones.

As for me, I walk the line.  As important as I think it is to move us all toward enlightenment, I also value friendship.  I offend my friends a little with my criticism of religion, but try not to offend them a lot.  That means showing religion more respect than any idea should get, but much less than they think it should get.  You might say giving this respect is a disservice to my friends.  But would they even be friends otherwise?  And aren't they better off having my halfhearted dissenting view because of it?