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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