Thursday, May 2, 2013
For most of 2012 I was kept pretty busy with mending fences (quite often) and minor automotive repairs (okay, once) and otherwise maintaining house and home while we lived in Great Falls, Montana. Yes, I was a domestic technician, though from September of last year to February of this year I was employed as a Teacher Aide for Great Falls Public Schools at my kids' elementary school. With Mrs. Astro Chicken being a professional in the retail sector and being exploited in the wonderful world of overworked and underpaid salary employees, work, home and children kept me fairly busy, not to mention the hurried and scrambled mess of moving back to Spokane, Washington to keep her employment with the company. Since moving back and not being employed as of yet, I'm finding myself with an abundance of free time.
So what's the deal? I like to write. I'm not too bad at it. Sometimes I think I'm actually pretty good, occasionally, those times when I feel inspired and make the effort to fire up NeoOffice or open a browser and direct it to Blogger. Yeah, I've been a bit lazy since the move back. I felt like my back and knees were going to go on strike for a while, but that shouldn't have stopped me from writing. It's a simple thing really, just a few clicks of the mouse, or lately, taps on a screen. Since no one needs to be subjected to a deep self analysis by me, I'm choosing to blame my tablet.
The newest computer I have regular access to, I mean a traditional personal computer, is a 1.42GHz G4 Mac Mini. Yep, we bought that baby refurbed direct from Apple just before they were switching to Intel. Don't even get me started down that road. It's a bumpy one full of potholes filled with diminishing Apple fandom, perhaps the subject of a future blog post, if I get around to it. Anyway, as much as I like Safari, and it is a great browser, version 4.1.3 isn't really all that well equipped for modern web surfing. Also, the kids are accustomed to playing on various learning websites they discover at school, so it was either use my G3 iBook with it's nice but limited 800 x 600 display and chain it to the wall with a power supply or find another alternative. Enter the tablet.
Last year I considered myself fortunate enough to finally get an Android tablet. Since I don't have a smartphone and wanted something that would kind of fit the same bill yet be a little bigger, I figured the 7 inch display would work really well, and it has. But I'm not a touchscreen person, at least not when it comes to typing. Oh, I can fling tweets like flapjacks off a griddle, but when it comes to really formulating thoughts into words, especially where more than 140 characters are allowed, I likes me a keyboard. Don't get me wrong, I actually find myself trying to drag web pages using the mouse without the scroll bars, giving the page content a nice light blue highlight, but still, at heart, I miss my trackball most of the time.
The Blogger app for Android actually works really well for me, when I've used it, but there's something about typing on a touchscreen, for me, akin to driving over a spike strip. It just isn't conducive to helping me retain my train of thought and, when that train derails, no amount of The Fugitive train jumping is going to help that conversation get back to where it was originally headed. I love using my tablet for everything from checking email and tweeting to reading the news and watching Netflix and anything between, but I just need a tactile response that tells me I actually pushed a key. It's similar to using the manual shifting feature on my wife's car. I can bump the gears up or down, but it's just not the same as working the clutch and getting the satisfying feel of a manual transmission.
Do I ask for spousal permission to use some tax refund money and buy a new computer? That would certainly help with my recent fondness of playing the DayZ mod for Arma II on my son's PC, but do I really need a new computer? I'm really trying to employ the KISS principal as much as possible. I've got my Raspberry Pi and a hip deep pile of retro-computing history to keep me satisfied with trips down nerd-stalgia lane, and I wouldn't mind a newer PC for doing some A/V projects I have in mind, but I really only need a computer that can handle composing email and writing, whether it be for my blog or more creative projects.
So what to do? My tablet functions really well for watching Netflix and Youtube, shopping and casual web surfing. As appealing as a new notebook sounds, it turns out my 366MHz Indigo iBook G3 with its 800 x 600 display, Airport card and an impressive 320MB of RAM running Mac OS X 10.4 actually works really well with Blogger and Appleworks 6, and while I could easily purchase a descent notebook for under $500, I can get a new battery from OtherWorld Computing for under $60. Keep it simple, stupid...
Saturday, August 11, 2012
Then I had this thought. What if we only had a limited amount of resources for thought? I'd be running out of CPU cycles long before my body reached its own limits and ceased to function. I'm sure my autonomic functions would persist, but the rest of me would be a listless bag of meat and bones with an organic storage medium that had met its capacity with no room left to buffer or shift things around to make more efficient use of space. That's a scary thought.
Imagine living in a world where we all know roughly how much free storage our brains had remaining, or at least had a way of guesstimating how much was left. How many people would still go forward, eager to experience life to its fullest, knowing that at any point their capacity for retaining new knowledge could suddenly cease? Would people be more careful about how much detail they exposed themselves to? How would this effect the arts? How many people would find themselves scrutinizing their choices for entertainment? Would there be a home for people who can't take care of themselves because their brains are reliving seasons of Big Brother or Real Housewives?
I wonder how people would attempt to cope with this newly discovered reality. Would people be trained at an early age how to filter input? What do you remember and what do you forget? Would there be people who, due to their self imposed criteria for data retention, simply choose to filter out color, brightness, or hue? What about removing sounds from experiences all together? Imagine a sector of the population that had been raised with a monochromatic filter, knowing only shades of gray and going to school to be mindless worker drones. What about differences in tone? Imagine the masses of people that avoid works of fiction, because it clogged the mind with artificial memories of events and places that never occurred. I find that disturbing.
On the flip-side, though, if the human mind is able to delete items it sees as non-essential, I suppose that leaves a lot of wiggle room. I'd like to think that all of those memory engrams are permanently stored, and that we just lose the little bits that tell which synapses to fire in order to follow the complex branches to reach minutiae like the color of the eyes of the checker at the grocery store, or that golden apple that is Junior's third word, rather than his first, which will hopefully always be a retrievable memory.
Well, screw it. I'm just going to keep thinking. I can't shut it off anyway. Perhaps I have some sort of thought disorder. Am I in a minority, a small percentage of people who are subject to thinking about things they don't want or need to? I'm pretty sure most people I know just shift gears, but I find that difficult to do. Hmm... I should probably stop thinking about this so I can think of something else to post later.
If you have your own thought about this, or thoughts if you are more daring, feel free to share in the comments, even if it's just to tell me how crazy you think I am or to offer your mental health services. Again, it's all just my random thoughts.
Friday, August 10, 2012
Well, it certainly has been a while since I last made a blog entry. Life is very full of, um, stuff right now. I am hoping to start making more posts in the near future. Since I have some varied interests, I've started a couple of other blogs. None of them have any entries yet, but I am hoping to use them for more specific topics of discussion, mainly a retro-computing blog and one for traditional gaming, maybe some boardgames, but more of a focus on pencil and paper RPGs. I'll still be using this blog for general topics, but anything in those areas of discussion will be on their own just to keep things less crowded. So keep an eye out as I will be tweeting posts as they happen. Oh, and one last thing, I'm going to be using my tablet to post from time to time, like right now, so please forgive any crude formatting or touch screen typos. The Blogger app for Android is convenient, but not great.
For now though, I need to get back to looking for a job and making sure the house is kept up. You may now return to more interesting pursuits.
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Thursday, February 16, 2012
In the four months we've been here we've had probably about four weeks of school missed between two kids. That's not good. Most of it is just cold symptoms. Some of it may be psychological, just a case of the kids getting used to a new environment, but last week was serious. Two ruptured eardrums in the same week! First our fourteen year old had a ruptured eardrum last Monday, then his four year old brother had a ruptured eardrum in the same ear on Friday. While at the ER, my wife was told that they have seen quite a few ruptured eardrums in the last couple of months. What is going on here? Is there some mutant strain of germs that is rampaging through Great Falls, MT? Our oldest is no stranger to ear infections as he got them somewhat often as a little one, and the doctor at the time said it was probably better to let it heal on it's own as he hadn't been exposed to antibiotics yet, and he never had a ruptured eardrum then. So what is happening here? Is it the fluctuating weather? The wind? The elevation? Whatever it is, it can leave us alone. We've had more than our fair share.
And my next question is why can't antibiotics be purchased over the counter? I would assume most of us are only going to buy them if we are familiar with the symptoms of an infection. Why are they treated on par with narcotics? Is there some nefarious way to misuse antibiotics that I am unaware of? Do weird people take them for the diarrhea rush they can potentially cause? Are they a popular recreational drug among the colitis crowd? I have a sinus infection right now. I haven't gone to the doctor because I know how my body reacts. It hurts. My sinuses fill, creating tremendous pressure. So I usually take something like ibuprofen for pain and swelling and something else to help my sinuses drain. It's effective somewhat long term, but I think it would probably be a bit easier if I could just throw some antibiotics at it, but I tend to avoid going to the doctor unless I have to. Most of my immediate family is prone to sinus infections. I've grown up dealing with this. Why do I need to pay a co-pay for insurance, plus my deductible, just so a doctor can confirm what I said when I went in and write me a prescription?
The healthcare system in the US is obviously not efficient. I don't need all my favorite drugs available over the counter, but I would like to avoid having to go to urgent care in order to get medication I know I need. Why isn't there a more immediate level of healthcare that we can have access to? The health care laws passed requiring all of us to buy health insurance is a joke. Perhaps some of our tax money could go instead to immediate care facilities that can confirm the more simple ailments and dispense medications for them. I don't want a free clinic necessarily, but why can't a nurse practitioner who works at the pharmacy swab someone's throat to test for strep or give me antibiotics for my sinus infection or dispense drops for my child's pink-eye? All of these are pretty minor ailments that if we could avoid an $85-$115 office visit would make life a little less complex. I'll quit whining now and get back to blowing my nose.
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
This month was not a fun one, for the most part. Not only have I been looking for a job, and dealing with various other normal adult obligations, but I have been trying to keep the fence from falling apart. The wind here... CURSE YOU WIND!!! At least one section of the fence has been repaired more than once. Several other sections blew down during the 74mph gusts we had a week or two ago. Some of them are now so rotted and falling apart from multiple repair attempts that I am going to have to start adding new wood. And the newer section of fence, well, it's crap too. It looked pretty when we moved in, but it apparently wasn't built well enough to withstand the high winds in this area.
Back to my project. This shouldn't have been a hard one, if I were a kid still living in my parents' house and hiding in my room, coding until the wee hours of the morning, just because I wanted to and could. Being a father, husband, responsible adult, what have you, I have decided that my time is not my time. Oh, there was plenty of down time in which I could have added up to a decent amount of project work, but I don't work that way. My brain won't let me switch gears very well, especially on intellectual projects such as this. However, I also think I could have planned this a lot better. I didn't even pick up my Apple II from the old house until a week before starting on the Retrochallenge, and didn't give it much thought before starting except for, "Wow, this is gonna be so cool." I'm still hoping to finish this project eventually. I did a fair amount of planning on paper, figuring out what functions and procedures I would need to write, which were necessary and which seemed like extra fluff to make it more cool, and even wrote some pseudo-code.
Will I take part in the Summer Retrochallenge? I would like to say yes, given the right amount of time and planning correctly, I would love to, but I may not do a programming project. I'm starting to like the idea of playing through some games on the Genesis, or maybe documenting helping my kids play through an Infocom game or something like that. I also have a couple ideas for implementing alternate storage methods on an older system, but I don't want to say too much on that until it looks like I may go that route.
Until the Summer Retrochallenge, I will continue to be my nerdy self and play with old hardware and software. I may even mess a little with programming in Pascal, since I do enjoy the creative process with programming on older systems, but I don't see myself doing anything crazy cool, unless the stars align and "The Old Ones" return or something like that.
In the meantime, I look forward to making some more random blog entries, taking note of oddities I see, commenting on life after moving two states away, or just mentioning how cool my kids are from time to time. I'm also going to try to make a more dedicated approach to my writing. I've got several really nice story ideas that I've had back-burnered for quite some time, and I'm hoping to revisit those soon and hopefully make some progress on them. I may try my hand at podcasting too, not because the world needs another nerdy podcast, but because I think it would be fun. But right now, I'm gonna finish eating my chili.