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.

Happy Thanksgiving

iphone-6-mockup-edit

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.

I’ll give you a dollar to buy a toy…

There was a pre-WalMart, WalMart-type store in my town when I was a boy way back in the seventies, and it was a child’s entertainment mecca. Why?

First and foremost, when a youthful patron (myself) entered the establishment, an immediate left turn took him straight to the toy department, the back wall of which was covered for its entire length and for a height of about six feet with…fish tanks. Cue the calliope music!

Fish of all kinds! All shapes! All sizes! Oh, the countless hours of entertainment to be had observing the cornucopia of marine life from the air side of a ten gallon tank! To watch their little life cycles from the roe drifting around, to the half-eaten skeletons of the very recently dearly-departed drifting around…practically a private glimpse into Davy Jones’ Locker to a seven year old boy! There just had to be sharks in there…

Once one grew weary of this feast of flesh (about five minutes), an about-face brought one intimately in touch with Christmas in July. Aisle upon aisle of toys of all kinds…more varieties than the fish, even! And so the traditional cadence would begin, once I had relocated Mom in this fantasyland of pleasure: “Mama, can I have a toy? Mama, can I have a toy? Mama, can I have a toy?” Guantanamo had nothing on me.

Wearily, digging through the limitless nether regions of her purse, Mom would usually (if I had otherwise been pretty good) come forth with a dollar. A dollar! Willy Wonka never printed a more valuable ticket to ecstasy. With eyes larger than the fifty cent pieces everyone spent like nickels back then, I would grasp my prize and head back into the heathen pleasure house to make my mark upon the world of childhood treasure hunting.

I remember Tonka trucks and little green army men and all the plastic weapons they could use. Cowboys and Indians and books of punch-out fold-ups that would turn into city buildings and police cars and smiling happy citizens. I even snagged a goldfish or three over the years.

Ah, so many wonderful toys to a child! A mere pittance to an adult but a wonderland of fun to a youngster! But do you know what was my favorite favorite favorite toy as a youth? Actually, there were two, but in my mind their disparate forms were as integrated as peanut butter and jelly. I never thought of one without the other.

The most fun I ever had was with my magnet and my magnifying glass.

You give a kid those two items and they’ll create and manipulate and destroy whole worlds. Such simple machines bring out the creator and the destroyer in anybody under puberty who wields them. How is this so? Oh, it’s joyously simple.

To you and I a magnet is something we hang homework on the fridge with. To a child it’s a tractor beam. It’s a repulsor field. It’s an anti-gravity machine.

To me and you a magnifying glass is something our eyes need as we get older in order to finish the Sunday crossword. To that same child it’s God’s wrath on the puny denizens of a puny world known as an anthill. It’s a nuclear Armageddon to Paperville. It’s Jim Kirk’s phaser. It’s Luke Skywalker’s light saber (after a few second’s work on a weed stem). Alderaan? This Alderaan you speak of is a cloud of cosmic dust now, Princess.

They wielded the power of the Force in a tangible way to me, and Hollywood has still not come close to the special effects those two little playthings caused my mind to generate to support my imaginings.

Thanks for the dollar, Ma.

ChromeOS Freed Me!

ImageA couple years ago I bought my first android tablet, a Coby MID7122. It’s a 7″ unit, and my idea was to get something I could read ebooks on, but also be useful on the internet when out and about since at that time I didn’t have a smartphone. I had looked at Kindles and Nooks and other big-name e-readers, but as nice as they were for actually reading, I wanted to do a lot more that they just couldn’t accommodate. I may have thought differently if I’d known about rooting and such.

Shortly after I got the tablet, I found a neat little combination keyboard and case for it that I reasoned would allow me to do what I’m doing right now, blogging, a whole lot easier. I ended up with mixed feelings about that particular purchase.

I’ve discovered that no matter how those case/keyboards are marketed, no matter what brand or price point, they were all basically the same, and on closer inspection appeared to be identical, other than for colors or little cosmetic details like leather stitching. Meh. FYI, I saw prices on the same unit from less than ten dollars to over fifty.

Once I had the piece and actually used it, I knew that it would NOT be the answer I was looking for. Basically I wanted to transform my tablet into a netbook, but using that clunky, ill-designed Chinese keyboard was more akin to texting with a phone number pad. It could be done, but it was mistake-prone and very, very slow.

Not too long after that the keyboard actually stopped working. First it had begun to randomly stop, and I’d unplug it from the tablet, plug it back in, and it would go back to working. Then one day nothing would fix it. So at that point I just had a rather thick tablet case. Not long after that, my wife changed phone contracts.

I’d been using a pay-as-you-go phone, with Terra and the kids on a family plan with other family members. When one of those contracts was due to expire, Terra decided it was time we had our own contract so we could control things more, so she and the kids went to the AT&T store and signed up.

She got a slider keypad phone, my daughter Kara got an LG P870 Escape android phone, and Cody got an iPhone. The full spectrum! I was happy with my PAYG phone, an LG900, which was Blackberry-ish in appearance, though it was by no means a blogging device. I wasn’t interested in a smartphone at that time, but one night I idly asked the kids to let me mess around with theirs for a while, and suddenly the usefulness of 24-hour internet access in my pocket really hit me.

I had some preconceived notions about the iPhone from talking to people and reading reviews and I really didn’t think it would be for me because of the very closed environment Apple forces on users. Same reason I don’t live in Beijing. On the contrary, Kara’s Escape seemed to bring everything I wanted to the table: customizable the way I wanted it to be, a much bigger screen than the Apple for these tired old eyes, and a side benefit of having an sd slot and removable battery. So two weeks into their contract, I got myself added on and got an LG for myself.

The phone came with a 4GB microsd which I soon replaced with a 32GB, the maximum usable size. A while later I upgraded the stock battery to one which was the same physical dimensions (no large camel hump on the back of the phone!) but which had 50% more power reserves. Rooting the phone made me absolutely free.

The phone has been great, and by using it I’ve learned IMMENSELY about Android and “the way things are done” within that ecosystem. It’s been a LOT of fun. I enjoy trying apps of all kinds. I’ve loaded and tried out so many that I couldn’t begin to list them all. But the problem still remained…it’s not a good blogging solution. At least for me.

A side note here to clarify future statements: Over the last several years I’ve been a browser junkie. At one point I had ten or twelve different browsers on my desktop and just as many on my phone. Why? Because someone is always coming out with THE NEXT BIG THING, and I loved being able to instantly compare new features as they rolled out. Over time my desktop preferences slowly wound down to the point where I only have IE, Firefox and Chrome now. On my phone I have Chrome, Boat and Dolphin. I’d have Dolphin on my desktop too if it were available…it’s awesome.

Because of my interest in browsers, I noticed when Google came out with ChromeOS a couple years ago. I didn’t really get into it much, but I did like the concept of a machine stripped down of its software to only the browser to perform all day-by-day functions in the fastest way possible. Recently I saw a picture of a Samsung Chromebook and I was intrigued. No vents. No noise. Very thin. So different from the 17″ Acer laptop I bought July 4th before last to do…you guessed it…mobile blogging, which I quickly found to be far too bulky and short-lived for daily outings.

What hesitance I had toward actually buying a Chromebook was come by honestly. A few years ago we’d given Cody an EEE-PC netbook for Christmas. It was a Windows machine, based on XP, and it was tortuously slow. It had a ten inch screen which probably contributed to my needing reading glasses. It was terrible. And that’s all I could see as I looked at the pretty picture.

But…I kept reading reviews. I discovered that there are many Chromebooks from many different companies, so I examined each one. And I saw the Acer C710. Now, when you look at price comparison charts you’ll see that the specs for the C710 are very similar to most all other Chromebooks. It uses an Intel Celeron chipset, has a 16GB SSD and an 11.6″ screen. What immediately jumped out at me was that its keyboard is a standard PC layout keyboard.

See, most vendors have adopted what’s become known as the “ChromeOS layout” keyboard, where certain keys like the DEL key and the CAPS LOCK key are gone, along with the function keys. With their units you have to use two-step keyboard shortcuts to perform the function that one key used to do. Wha? That’s a shortcut???

That was the clincher for me right there. Other things that drew me toward Acer was the easy upgradeability. One screw underneath and you can upgrade the RAM (officially to 4GB, but I’ve read on forums that at least one person is running 16GB) and the hard drive. Oh, and by the way, the Acer is the least expensive CB also. $199.

So I did it. Two weeks ago I drove forty miles to the nearest Walmart that stocks them and bought one. I HAVE LOVED IT! I finally found my perfect blogging machine. I bought that $199 wonder, and since it comes with just 2GB of ram, I will soon upgrade it to a much larger amount. More ram means more tabs open at the same time.

The only, and I mean ONLY, limitation that can’t be changed is that it’s wifi with no data connection. There are some units out there that have 3G and even 4G, but guess what? That means a cell plan. Since I have wifi at home and there’s a gazillion wifi points out in the wild, why would anyone need data? A netbook isn’t like your phone…you’re not going to whip it out on the subway or while walking in the park to check some obscure reference on the net. You’re generally going to be using it for a larger purpose when you use it, so you’ll probably have no issue with going to where the wifi is.

The great thing is that developers all over are recognizing the cloud method of computing, and are designing great apps that run in ChromeOS. Soon there will be literally nothing you can’t do on your Chromebook. At moments like this I always see Mel Gibson in Braveheart attire, raising an arm and yelling, “FREEEEEEEEEDOM!!!”

Because that’s what it is.

Even the best machines have breakdowns

the human machineWell…little scare yesterday. Deviating from the primary topic of this blog, mechanical things, I still manage to speak of the most amazing mechanical thing on Earth…the human body. I have a case of cellulitis in my right leg today, and it’s a bothersome, scary thing.

When I was eighteen I joined the National Guard, and the summer after high school graduation I arrived at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri (Fort Lost in the Woods, Misery, for all you fellow sufferers out there, lol). Somewhere around the seventh week my company was out one night doing the “Baptism by Fire” stage of training where the troops have to make their way in the dark across hazardous terrain while live ammunition thurumps by overhead. At some point out there I cut my knee on something, probably a rock, and even with me cleaning it up later, infection had set in and I contracted a staph infection.

So near to the end of basic training, when our final running/pushups/situps tests were going to decide if we graduated or failed, I elected to stick it out before going on sick call. Reporting an injury then would have meant doing all of my tests alone when I returned to duty later, since all of the other boys would have completed theirs while I was absent. And all while surrounded by seven drill sergeants. Ugh! So, I ended up running the best time I ever had because I was so scared I would fail, even though by then I couldn’t bend my left leg more than a few degrees. It was red and inflamed from my foot to my hip.

As I finished the run, I went up to my Senior Drill, pulled up my sweat pants leg and told him I needed to go on sick call. He hustled me over there, and the physician, an Army Major, told me if I’d waited another day or two they’d have had to amputate my leg due to nerve damage. He lanced my knee, and putting his hands around my leg, squeezed out the infection. I remember how amazingly good it felt after that when I stood up and could bend my leg. It felt almost as good as new! But it wasn’t over. Nine days later I finally left Fort Leonard Wood General Hospital after constant I.V. drips of antibiotics. So that’s how it all began.

Flash forward to about three years ago, and I had ended up in the hospital after a night of body aches and three horrible fevers rising and breaking. I was so dehydrated the nurses almost couldn’t get an I.V. in, and after three days they released me without any sort of official diagnosis. But there was a large red patch on my leg, which finally faded and I got better.

Spring of last year I got very sick, and went to the local Urgent Care. At first they thought I had the flu, but when I pointed out the hot red area on my leg (in exactly the same place as the previous breakout), they decided it was cellulitis, and began a round of antibiotics treatments. I got two painful rump shots that day, and had to go back out there every day for a total of eight shots, but it finally knocked the infection out.

Now…I’m sleeping night before last. Feeling good. Suddenly at about 4:15 a.m. I woke up with chills. Hard chills. Began shaking so hard I was shaking the bed. Soon I began feeling the usual precursors to my body going through the process of breaking a bad fever…lightheadedness and severe nausea. Eventually I broke a small fever and dozed back off. I woke up before too much longer, feeling bad again, and went to the couch in my living room. My wife Terra was up, and we had decided I may as well go to the hospital because of the similarity to what had happened the last time.

She was telling me she was going to go get dressed and all, and I was looking at her and listening and then she was fading out on me. It was no different than when I go to sleep normally, and I do remember thinking how tired I felt, and I began to dream. Suddenly from far off I could hear her screaming at me, and something suddenly pushed me back into consciousness. She was calling my name and crying and my daughter Kara was on the telephone. They said I was sitting there when my eyes suddenly rolled back in my head and I went out. Terra couldn’t get me to respond. No movement. She couldn’t tell that I was breathing. She called for Kara, and Kara called 9-1-1 for an ambulance.

They say that after a couple minutes I suddenly sneezed and coughed and came around, and for all of that I really felt pretty good. Terra didn’t want to wait on the ambulance, so Kara cancelled that and they loaded me up and we left. On the way, Kara’s fiancee, who works for the ambulance company, told her he’d like to at least look me over before I made the fifty mile trip to the hospital to where we were going. They left it up to me.

Terra didn’t want to stop and be delayed. But I had this gut feeling I ought to take that ride, so we did. James came around to my side of the car and as I worked to swing my legs out I suddenly felt it all coming over me again. He said, “You really don’t look good at all. You need to ride in the ambulance”. I didn’t even hesitate. I said, “Let’s go”, and they loaded me up and we were on the way. I had a couple of bad moments in the ambulance, so I’m really glad I took the ride.

They got me to the hospital, and I got put on an I.V. for dehydration. They took me for a C.T. scan on my brain to see if I may have had a seizure. They ruled out a stroke, the C.T. came back clean, and they gave me an I.V. antibiotic for the cellulitis. He finally sent me home with a prescription, but it was only for amoxicillan, so I’m not really confident that’s going to knock this stuff out. I’ve got a call in to my primary physician to get a referral to a specialist. We’ll see how things go.

The human body is an amazing machine, but I’m always more amazed at how quickly it can shift from all systems go to total breakdown. What bothers me is that the Keflex antibiotic that wiped out the infection when I was eighteen won’t even touch it today. The bug is mutating, and there are reports all over the web of staph “superbugs” in the hospitals now. So I have to wonder…will I ever be free of this millstone?

It’s all about steam, punk!

Steampunk intrigues me. If you haven’t delved into this fork of science fiction already, it means taking a given piece of technology, and reimagining how it might have been developed back in the days when steam was the primary heavy power source.

For authentic steampunkiness, a prerequisite seems to be to encase everything in some sort of brasswork, give each and every dial and indicator some sort of antiquated curly-que treatment, and put a rivet on every single exposed surface.

And the outfits. Competitions revolve around the level of enthusiasm and detail invested in each participant’s ensemble, and as expected, the more extreme the better.

The end result in what you’re presented with in steampunk is machinery that is at once very industrial, yet very sophisticated in appearance, always leaving me with a sense of, “Gee…maybe it could have really happened that way if only this one little development had taken place”.

Perhaps the greatest forerunner and best role model of the entire steampunk phenomenon is Jules Verne’s Captain Nemo and his Nautilus. I see the work as an inspiration of a way of presenting advanced devices under the cloak of antiquity. The same might be said of some of Verne’s other works, like, “From the Earth to the Moon”. A distinctly Edwardian atmosphere with high-tech accoutrements.

For those of you who were watching television in March and April of 1982, you might remember an interesting but short-lived show called, Q.E.D., which you can learn about here and here. As the Wikipedia article states, “the series had a smattering of what would later be called steampunk”. I actually remember thinking in my twelve-year-old mind that the ramifications of modern tech in Edwardian England could be a treasure box of story material.

But getting back to Verne, could he be considered the father of steampunk? In my mind he just might be. What do you think? Comments welcome.

Welcome to my world

As one among thousands and thousands of blogs, this little island in the big sea of cyberspace isn’t of much consequence to anyone out there tonight, but it’s serving a vital purpose for me. See, I love mechanical things, and I really love talking about them. Discussing them. Dissecting them.

It’s a cliché nowadays to have a blog, so I shan’t numb you with self-importance. This is simply a place for me to air my thoughts and ideas, whether anyone ever stops in or not. Call it therapy, if you like, but it works. And it’s existence highlights my purpose very clearly.

My point being that the whole reason I’m able to have a platform here is because of something very mechanical and almost alive…the internet. At no other point in history has mankind been able to touch so many other minds so incredibly easily. We are literally completely unfettered in the scope of our interaction with others. I see the beginnings of a hazy sort of hive mind.

But what do you think? How has the internet affected…how is it affecting your life? I’d like to hear from you.

I’ll let that simmer for now. Later on I’ll let you into my head a little more. We’ve got so much to talk about.