Jotting Down Notes

Google Keep is my favorite note taking app. I’ve tried a bunch of different ones, but Keep google-keep-01has several things going for it for me.

1. It’s fast in, fast out. I used Evernote for quite a long time, but it was so cumbersome to get in and drill down to the actual entry point for the note. Evernote has a widget, which does simplify things quite a lot, but it always felt like a workaround. And Evernote ended up having several other negative features for me that pushed me away. But that’s another story for another time.

2. I’m pretty well vested in the Google ecosystem. I use Google Drive extensively, and also Google Docs. I like the cohesive feeling of using everything from the same camp, though of course that’s by no means necessary for daily functioning. I just like it.

3. Recent improvements. Google has at long last brought sharing to Keep. My wife can make a grocery list, and I can step in from my phone (or desktop) and add junk food to my heart’s content. It’s been a long time coming! There has also been a big improvement in search capability, now allowing searches by list, by audio, by image, by reminders, and by shares. It’s also possible to search by the eight different colors that can be assigned to notes.

4. Reminders. Granted, this feature is available in many note taking apps, but remember what I said about the Google ecosystem? On my Android phone I have Google Now running, with its widget on my home screen. Since Keep feeds into Now, I get my reminders in full glory on my home screen every time I look at my phone. You can set reminders by date and time or by location, which means that whenever I go to the grocery store, my list of things I absolutely can’t come home without presents itself to me. Sweet!

One day something better may come along, but until the integration into my lifestyle is as complete as it is with Keep, I’ll stick with Google on this.

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Happy Thanksgiving

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Our phone contract expired in October, but I knew the amazing peace of not being tied to a contract couldn’t last. My son Cody has been itching for a new iPhone for months, so this morning we trekked down to ye olde WalMart and got him a 6+. That’s it on the far right in the picture there.

Now, I’m diehard Android…the whole walled garden philosophy Apple revels in rankles me considerably. But I’ve got to say that Cody’s new phone is a pretty sweet ride. Pret-ty suhweeeet.

You’re welcome, son.

On another note, I’m not an apocalyptic end-of-the-world-is-tomorrow kind of guy, but I do think it’s a personal duty both as a father and as a United States citizen to be prepared for whatever disasters may come. Not a year goes by that we don’t have tornadoes blowing through. Some hurricanes have even made it this far north from the Gulf. Not to mention the snowstorms we’ve had over the years that have knocked out the power for days on end.

To this end I subscribe to many prepper blogs. Not to partake in rabid paranoia, but to learn the many, many shortcuts needed to establish a good disaster preparedness plan on a budget. I have no Rockefellers in my heritage.

On a certain site, one fellow in particular does a good job bringing up good deals on equipment. I saw that he had noted a Black Friday sale at Lucky Gunner dot com where they had 25 round banana clips for my Ruger 10/22 rifle for $5.99 each. Now, you probably haven’t priced magazines for that rifle, but I’ll educate you: that’s super cheap for a Ruger 10/22 magazine, so I figured I’d pick up maybe four of them. I picture them resting in backpack strap ammo pouches until needed in order to take down onrushing hordes of zombies.

I be-bopped over to Lucky Gunner, and sure enough, that was the deal. Four nice clips for $24. Great! But then I went to the checkout, and shipping was going to be $18…huh? Dang. Forget that. I guess I’ve gotten used to free shipping from Amazon.

And of course Amazon has nothing like that whatsoever.

Have a great Thanksgiving weekend, and I hope to get back to the posts I mentioned concerning prepping equipment very soon.

Be well, be happy, be aware.

All Hail Chromebookius Maximus!

Before I go whole-hog into the mechanics of prepping over the next several posts, I’d like to take a moment to talk about my Chromebook. I posted a long while back not too long after I had bought it, and I was singing its praises all the day long. I still am.

Since that time I have upgraded the RAM to 4GB, which immensely improved the number of tabs I could have open at one time, but other than that I’ve not felt the need to do anything at all to the little gem. There really hasn’t been anything else I felt I needed to improve.
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A neat phenomenon with Chromebooks is the fact that it’s always new. What does that mean? I’ve had the thing over a year now, and in fact my particular model isn’t even being produced anymore. How can it be new?

Because ChromeOS is always evolving. Features are constantly being added, updated and improved. Efficiency is always being bumped up and the user experience is constantly being tweaked. And I don’t have to even think about it. As soon as Google’s developers produce an upgrade, it’s released into the wild and automatically downloaded and installed in my Chromebook. The next time I start it up, changes are real.

I was debating online last night about the merits of Chromebooks, and I’ll tell you, you’re always gonna’ have your haters. People are so vocal about the most mundane things. One guy expressed a desire to pile up Chromebooks and burn them…just because he likes Windows machines. He’s not even tried a Chromebook, much less used one for an extended time. Pfffffft!!!

I currently use at different times a Windows desktop and laptop, an Android phone and tablet, a Linux laptop, and my Chromebook. And when it comes time to do most anything from pay a bill to reading the news, I grab the Chromebook.

A couple days ago I found out that during this holiday season up until midnight on December 31st, anyone buying certain Chromebooks will qualify for a pretty sweet deal. Google is offering a full 1 terrabyte of Google Drive storage for FREE for TWO YEARS! That’s pretty awesome, considering it costs $10 per month for a terrabyte if you follow the Google subscription plan.

Think about that…$10 times 24 months is $240. That’s worth more than the base price of an Acer Chromebook at $199!

But, you may think, after the two months is up I have to start paying. What about all those pictures and videos and documents I’ve stored there, that now I will need to pay for? Is it all going to disappear if I don’t? Nope. Whatever you store in Google Drive is yours and accessible forever. But nothing else can be put into that area. You won’t lose a single thing.

So now, if you’ve even thought about a Chromebook at all, would be a great time to really decide. That deal has actually got me scanning the sale ads myself…

Time, it do fly.

It is amazing to me that it’s been over a year since my last post. I knew I’d been pretty busy…

Way back in 1993-ish I began to be drawn more and more toward a survivalist mindset. I don’t mean that I stopped bathing and began building explosive devices. I simply took a good look around our great nation and realized that we are 9/10ths living on the edge of any of several possible catastrophic situations.

I’m not saying some cataclysm will happen tomorrow. I hope flowers always bloom and doomsday never happens. But what else can you think when you see a seventeen TRILLION dollar debt, massive dependency on the government for social welfare, and the general malaise of our economy? Not to mention all of the strange environmental signals we’re getting nowadays…

Bear in mind that I really started thinking about all of this way back in the early years of the Mideast conflict. Back before the housing bust, and the recession that has seemingly turned into a slow-motion train wreck. Back before Katrina. I didn’t go looking for a disaster. They came and found me.

Y2K had gotten my wheels turning back in the day. And as usual, I was drawn to the systems involved in surviving an apocalypse. All the mechanical things needed to keep the food, water and shelter in abundance.

And I thought about self-defense.

Don’t think for a minute that if SHTF, you and all the folks up and down the street you live on will join hands and sing Kum ba yah. You may have a few folks who’ve got enough presence of mind to have prepared for eventualities. The neighbors on the other side of you have a big garden and some livestock. The family just down the road do a lot of hunting all year round.

But the vast majority of modern-day America is living day-to-day, eating packaged foods, has no emergency readiness at hand, and will find themselves looking around for a way out. You’d better be ready with some way to keep you and yours alive and safe when the Zombies come knocking.

I didn’t establish this blog in order to have a philosophical soap box to stand on. This place is all about mechanical systems, and that’s where the focus will remain. But every house needs a foundation, right? Everyone has ideals that drive them.

My ideals I’m talking about here are three:

  1. Prepare for assorted disaster scenarios that are reasonably possible for me and mine to have to wade through.
  2. Enter into that time in an informed and ready way so that my peeps and I will not only survive, but thrive, and come out on the other side unscathed.
  3. Be able to look back a few years from zero hour and if not laugh about it, at least be able to say that we were victors, not victims.

For that victorious outcome to become reality, I must prepare. I need an infrastructure of systems that will carry me through the valley. Everybody’s requirements will differ somewhat due to variations in locale, in the local culture, in such things as even the funds they have at their disposal for preparation purposes. Renaldo White Collar may have much more disposable income than Johnny Blue Collar, yet they both must find a way to survive. Don’t worry. Wherever your foot is caught in the rungs of the ladder of life, you can live to tell the tale.

Let’s look at the requirements of my situation.

First of all, I am not a white collar employee. I am in what’s considered a predominately “thinking” industry…I work as an auto parts counterman, and that job requires quite a bit of hard-won knowledge in order to diagnose problems and provide answers. But I’m still definitely a blue collar worker. I calculate my life to be somewhere just south of the absolute middle of the middle class. I’m not broke, but life is for me a constant strategic balancing of assets.

That being what it may, I can still thrive in a disaster scenario, even though I’ll never be able to afford the latest and greatest whiz-bang gear that all the cool kids are playing with.

So…what sort of disasters am I really talking about? Chechen rebels in the back yard? A dirty bomb exploding at the mall? Flight 604 crashing through my roof? Well, not that those things couldn’t happen, but the chances are pretty durn low, don’t you think? Priority-wise, I think we should list potential disaster scenarios in a greatest to least threat order. For me, I might list:

  1. A tornado. I live in what meteorologists and other happy folk endearingly term, “Dixie Alley”, a strip of real estate here in Alabama and assorted nearby locales that draw tornadoes almost as well as “Tornado Alley” does out west. It’s the lay of the land, stupid. Out of the last ten years I’d say we’ve had to seek shelter at least once during the Spring and/or Fall in seven of those years. It’s a normal way of life here. We look at old storm cellars in people’s yards like some folks look at Civil War tombstones in the cemetery. They’ve been there so long that they’re starting to blur.
  2. A hurricane. You’d think that living six hours from the Gulf Coast that I’d never have to think about such as that. You’d be wrong. Hurricane Ivan a few years ago was particularly lively. I spent the night in a church basement that time, and it stormed so hard I thought God had left the building. I also think about getting caught in a hurricane while vacationing on the coast. Who can forget Katrina? If you think someone won’t kill you for a candy bar to feed their starving kid after the third day or so of no power, no food…no cops…you better think again. It happened then. And I bet a lot worse than that happened too.
  3. Ice and snowstorm shutting down the interstate system. Happened last year in Birmingham. People freaked. Froze to death in their cars. It was not holly jolly. Quick…what’s in your vehicle that you could survive off of in case you were stranded in icy weather?
  4. Car accident. Last time I checked, I don’t live in Montana or Nebraska or some other place devoid of long, painful drops off the side of curvy highways. There’s one downhill curve a few miles from my home that I hate negotiating because all I can picture is careening through the guardrail and role-playing a Kamikaze all the way to the scene of the explosion a couple hundred feet below. But in the event that I did survive, it’d be really nice to have some water, maybe a little food, a flashlight, some rope, and heck yeah, a flaregun! The way the kudzu grows all over around here, people above might just never see you.
  5. House fire. You wake up to the smoke detector bleating at you at two in the morning. Smoke everywhere! Most people end up on the lawn in their jammies (if they weren’t au naturale), with nothing else. No money. No clothes. No shoes. Nuffin. Wouldn’t it be cool to grab a pack you had sitting behind the bedroom door, not even realizing it because you’d drilled doing it enough so that it was habit? And later as your mind finally cleared, you realized you had three days worth of clothing, some emergency food, maybe a hundred bucks, and copies of your important papers like birth certificates and such. Really, how hard is that to do?

Many people look at preppers (people who prepare for disaster) as being at best a little nutty, and at worst as being a threat to “normal” people. Does it sound so crazy to be a prepper when you think about that house fire? How about when all that’s left of your million dollar house is the bathtub you rode through the tornado?

We could name a thousand scenarios to justify preparedness. Many of them are common in the normal lives of people everywhere. We haven’t learned to control the weather yet. We may never have even known the mouse was there that chewed through the house wiring and started the fire. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that you could wake up tomorrow to a world completely different than the one you live in today. Because of a disaster. Why not take simple steps to prepare for life’s carnage?

Of course, there’s a way to go overboard with anything. I know that a nuclear reactor somewhere could melt down at any moment. Fortunately there’s none near me, so I can leave that off my list, though you might need to make it number one on yours. I don’t feel I’m a candidate for being near ground zero of a nuclear bomb explosion because I don’t live in a high-value metropolitan area. You might live in spitting distance of Washington, D.C. or any of a hundred other potential targets. Your list of possible disasters will be your own.

What I’m saying badly here is, don’t waste money on preps for disasters you most likely will never have to deal with. Very good to have N95 masks if you live in the shadow of Mt. Saint Helens. Probably never going to have to filter out volcanic ash living in Rhode Island.

Masks, of course, can come in handy for many other things, like pandemics. But you get my point…buy preps that are needful for high-probability disasters. Once you’ve fully-prepared for the likely stuff, you can knock yourself out getting every other conceivable item you can lay your grubby hands on. Prioritize!

I’m calling it quits here for tonight. Now that I’ve sort of highlighted the reasoning behind my prepping, I’ll get to the mechanicals of the matter next time. We’re going to talk about the necessities first: water, food, clothing, shelter and defensive weapons. Until then, be kind, be safe, and be vigilant.