Monday, April 30, 2012

Z is for Zingers

The letter "Z" means it is the end of the A to Z Challenge. Hope you've enjoyed the ride.

When speaking, "Always leave 'em laughing!" is a good motto. I thought it also would be a good way to wind up our month of A to Z Challenge.

My warped sense of humor and my curmudgeon reputation means that I like zingers, those often insulting throw-away one liners. Enjoy these (or not).

  • He says he has a mind of his own. He's welcome to it-- who else would want it?
  • He has a one-track mind, and the traffic on it is very light.
  • He paid $500 to have his family tree searched, and found out he was the sap.
  • His neck reminds you of a typewriter -- Underwood.
  • A traffic judge asked him, "Have you ever been up before me?" And he said, "I don't know, what time do you get up?"
  • He called it quits when his fourth child was born, because he read that every fifth child born is Chinese!
  • He's so dumb, he thinks the St. Louis Cardinals are appointed by the Pope.
  • He jumped off the bus backwards when he heard someone say, "Let's grab his seat when he gets off."
  • He believes in a balanced diet -- a beer in each hand.
  • In Las Vegas, he even loses money on the stamp machines.
  • He saved for years to buy an unbreakable, waterproof, shockproof watch - and lost it.
  • He always takes his salary to the bank. It's too small to go by itself.

Oh, my ears! I can hear the groans from here, despite being hearing impaired.

Luckily, this is ZZZZeee end of the A to Z for this year.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Y is for Yes, Dear

The A to Z Challenge is drawing to a close.

When in doubt, two words may bale you out: "Yes, Dear!"

She says, "Dinner will be ready at 6."

You say, "Yes, Dear. I'll quit typing on the computer and will be there."

She says, "We're invited to mom's for Sunday dinner."

You say, "Yes, Dear." You don't say, "Oh, God, do we have to?"

She says, "I am not going to the mall with you wearing your old paint splattered shorts and that horrible 'Code Naked' t-shirt."

You say, "Yes, Dear. I will change before we go."

She says, "Can you open this jar of pickles for me?"

You say, "Yes, Dear."

She says, "Can you stop on your way to work and put $100 into my checking account?"

You say, "Yes, Dear."

There are, of course some exceptions to the Yes, Dear mantra.

She says, "I have a headache."

You say, "Sorry, dear, I didn't hear what you said."

Friday, April 27, 2012

X is for eX

Doing a tricky letter this time for the A to Z Challenge.

This is dedicated to all of you with ex's.

This will be short since my grandpa taught me that if you don't have anything good to say about someone, don't say anything at all.

Enough said.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

W is for Wheels

The end of the A to Z Challenge is in sight!

I have been writing the posts for the Challenge ahead of time. I left W and Y for last. Last night, I was in Tampa for an event and during a smoke break, I jotted down "W is for Wheels" as a topic for "W". Little did I know that it might be on omen -- my 1995 Dodge Custom van with 139K miles on it started running very rough on the way back across the long causeway and I barely made it home. I may need new wheels.

If (that is a very big word for only having two letters!) money was no object, I would definitely become a car enthusiast -- not of the magnitude of Leno, but I sure would like a large garage with the following in it.

  • Mercedes SLK 350 hard top convertible. A fun car that the wife can drive.
  • Hyundai Equus. Great luxury car for the family auto.
  • Dodge Ram pickup truck. Have to have something for hauling once in a while.
  • Mini Cooper S convertible. A DC plaything.
  • Classic bug eyed Sprite or Sunbeam Alpine
  • Class A RV -- about a 38 footer
  • Cabin Cruiser -- okay, the only wheel it has is one to steer the boat, but it does have a wheel, right?

What set of wheels would you like to see in your garage?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

V is for Varoom

V-day for the A to Z Challenge.

Outside of the centerfold in Playboy, nothing makes a male's heart pound faster than something that goes Varoooooom!

Add a motor to anything with wheels and almost every time my eyes will light up and I'll utter, "Ohhh, I like that! I want one!"

Even the contraption above looks like it would be fun to ride around town.

I've owned and driven my share of motorized vehicles. Can you top this list of some of my more unusual varoomers?

  • A Cushman motorscooter (when I was in high school)
  • An old English Ford and a 1960 English Ford Anglia
  • A 1963 Sunbeam Alpine sports car
  • A 1963 Pontiac convertible with a big police V8 in it
  • Farmall, John Deere and Allison tractors
  • Caterpillar bulldozer
  • Snowmobiles
  • Boats with big outboards
  • Riding lawnmowers (even though I had a very small lot to mow)
  • Motorcycles - big and small (like a Honda Trail 90)
  • A 1963 VW bus (where I used a brick on the accelerator for cruise control)
  • A 1995 Dodge Custom Van (which I still own and drive)
  • Owned a late model stock car (but never drove it in a race)
  • Gocarts (love zipping around with my butt only 2 inches off the ground)

I've seen a bright yellow motorcycle with yellow enclosed sidecar a few times in the neighborhood recently. Awesome! Even the motorized bicycle I see once in a while looks like it would be a blast to ride. At the car show in January, I fell in love with the Hyundai Equus. What a car!

I really only need one thing: to win the Lotto. Then I can buy a place with a ten-car garage and fill it! Come back tomorrow for a list of what I'd like to have.

What kind of things that goes Varooooom have you owned?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

U is for Umbrellas

The end of the A to Z Challenge is in sight!

Umbrellas are a curse on modern man!

  • They are never with you when you need one
  • They are not wind friendly
  • They pinch your fingers when you attempt to open them
  • They pinch your fingers when you attempt to close them
  • They keep only the top of you semi-dry
  • Even large ones aren't big enough for two people to share without one person getting soaked
  • They drip on the floor when you bring them inside
  • Companies insist on putting their ads on them and then sell them to you for you to walk around advertising for free with them

Last, but not least, umbrellas are misnamed. My youngest daughter called them what they are: "rainbrellas".

Monday, April 23, 2012

T is for Tents

Time Ticking with T for the A to Z Challenge.

Tents. No, I'm not talking about dresses in large size or bloomers. (As a kid, I teased my grandma when she hung her bloomers on the clothes line by calling them tents. I was a curmudgeon at a very early age.)

When I was in France, I bought a big, bright blue tent during the May 1968 riots. It was a "just in case I have to get out of town" purchase. We didn't have to leave because of the riots, but we used that tent a lot.

Why is it that whenever you buy a new tent and go camping, the first time you use it, you arrive at the campground after dark? And struggle to get the damn thing put up. I guess it does serve the purpose of providing slap stick comedy for the other campers.

The tent had poles for the awning and poles for the skeleton and poles for the poles. After a few times, I could put it up in my sleep (aided by color coded tape that I'd added), but the first few times were traumatic.

In France, we camped next to the Med and in Biarritz next to the Atlantic for Bastille Day. That one was a potential disaster, in that a wind storm came up while we were away watching fireworks. Luckily, other campers took pity on us and anchored the tent with cement blocks so it wouldn't blow away.

We brought the tent back to the states and used it in Minnesota, Massachusetts, Michigan, Virginia and Florida. Even watched a couple of Shuttle launches from Jetty Park in Cape Canaveral. It lasted for years.

Tent camping was fun. But, we were younger then!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

S is for Serenity

We slide along the slippery slope to the letter "S" for the A to Z Challenge.

Serenity? Such a nice concept, sure wish I had some.

Everyone has heard the Serenity Prayer. I'd like to take this post to explain it to you. First, here it is:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

Simple, eh?

Now, here it is with DC's explanation in parens...

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
(You cannot change other people, places or things!)

The courage to change the things I can,
(You can only change yourself!)

And the wisdom to know the difference.
(DC jabbing finger into your chest: Damnit, I just gave you the wisdom!)

Are you serene yet?

Friday, April 20, 2012

R is for Rattlers

Onward, A to Z Challenge, Ho!

Florida is home to lots of critters big and small including black bears, deer, gators, wild hogs, raccoons, panthers, bobcats, armadillos and more.

Florida is home to some 46 kinds of snakes (not sure if that includes the pythons that are now inhabiting the Everglades), of which six are poisonous.

In the six decades that we've called Florida home, I've never come across the timber rattler or the copperhead since they are normally only found in north Florida. I have come up close and personal with the other four: the eastern diamondback, the pygmy rattler, the water moccasin and the coral snake.

When my parents moved from Indiana to Tampa, Florida in 1953, they lived south of Gandy Blvd. Our mailing address was Rattlesnake, FL. The post office was a block east of Westshore on Gandy. There used to be a rattlesnake cannery in that area. And, there definitely was plenty of rattlers in the area to can. A year later, Tampa annexed the area and our mailing address was Rattlesnake Station and then a short time later, we got zip codes.

When they were clearing the scrub to build the large subdivision between us and Port Tampa, I was killing four or five rattlesnakes a week in our yard and doorstep. Overrun, indeed. You literally couldn't step outside without checking that it was safe to do so. About the same time, a couple moved into the rental house next door one day and moved out the next. We found out that when they opened the cabinet doors under the sink, they found a 6-foot rattlesnake looking back at them.

A little while later, my folks owned the last of the tourist trap type shell shops on Gandy Blvd. Complete with a snake pit out front. We'd pay $1 a foot for live rattlers to dump into the pit. One time, a guy brought a big glass jar with about a dozen little 4 inch baby rattlers, I paid him a couple of bucks for all of them and dumped them in the pit. The next day, I looked and couldn't find any babies at all. Hmmmm. Ah ha, I had forgotten to put the plug in the half inch water drain hole and when I looked, sure enough, I could see where the little critters had wiggled out of the pit. We found rattlesnakes in the darnedest places around the gift shop for months after that.

In Melbourne, my wife got up one night to get a drink of water. She saw a ribbon on the dining room rug as she went to the kitchen. On the way back to bed, the ribbon moved and darted under the buffet. So there is D.C. at 2 a.m. on his hands and knees looking with a flashlight under the buffet. And finds a 2-foot pygmy rattlesnake angrily looking back. Armed with a yardstick and a large wastebasket, the rattler was captured, taken outside and killed. Our youngest daughter had just moved out and a couple days later we were moving stuff around in her old room and found the rattler's skin behind her dresser. So the critter had been in the house for a while without us knowing. Yes, that is a bit scary.

Rattlers don't really worry me. They are more scared of you that you are of them normally. So they'll scurry off if given a chance. Water moccasins, on the other hand, are aggressive. I threw a rock at a moccasin one day as it was swimming in a lake. That darn thing came after me and made me retreat to my car!

Florida is built up and the snakes and other critters have lost a lot of their habitat, so they are not as many as there used to be. It does behoove you to be aware and to understand that even if there are fewer now, they still do exist. And, no doubt, you'll come across one when you least expect it.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Q is for Quid

A Quirky subject for Q in the A to Z Challenge.

I love to read and once in a while will pick up something that has an English setting. You know, UK as for United Kingdom.

But I am always puzzled by their slang term of "Quid" for money.

Way back in 1968, I spent three weeks in London. I was supposed to be relocating there for six months after my year's stay in Toulouse, France. When the company realized that I would have a rather large bonus coming due if I spent more than 18 months in Europe, they sent me back to the states rapidly. *sigh*

London felt more foreign to me than France did. I don't speak French, but I found out that I couldn't understand the English taxi drivers with their cockney accents any better than I could French drivers with their french accents.

And, I was driving a French rental car on the wrong side of the road in London. When walking, I looked the wrong way for traffic. Dangerous place.

While there, I didn't learn what the hell a quid was though.

I am somewhat familiar with quid pro quo, a Latin phrase meaning this for that, but that doesn't relate to money.

When all else fails, go to wikipedia, right?

Finally, I now know that a quid is slang for a pound sterling. At the current exchange rate a quid equals $1.59.

Wait! There's more. Wikipedia says that a quid is also Irish slang for the Euro or the Irish punt (what ever the hell that is!).

Also, a quid is a piece of chewing tobacco. Never heard of that. I thought it was a "chaw" of tobaccy. Makes you wonder what the English term for spit is, doesn't it?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P is for Pig

A Perfectly Pugnacious P as we march onward with the A to Z Challenge.

Pigs are cute, in a chubby oinky way. They are also good eating -- pork chops and bacon are tops on my food list.

Swine, as the family is called, have many names. Farmers will recognize all of these, but you may not:

  • Pigs
  • Hogs (another generic name for pigs)
  • Piglette (little pigs)
  • Sow (mother pig)
  • Boar (father pig)
  • Gilt (female pig)
  • Barrow (male pig that's been castrated)
I raised two Hampshire barrows for 4-H one year.

I showed the hogs at the Fayette County fair in Connersville, Indiana in August. I was disappointed that my folks wouldn't let me stay overnight in the fair's hog barn like many of the other 12 year olds. My grandfather promised to be there when I showed my hogs. I arrived at 6 a.m. that day and found him already brushing my hogs for me! Amazing. He had gotten up, milked 8 cows, fed the hogs, fed the chickens, had breakfast, got cleaned up and drove 15 miles to the fairgrounds all before 6 a.m.

I could only show one of the two hogs in my 4-H class. Which one to pick? The breeder that I bought the pigs off of, pointed to one; my grandfather and I favored the other. I naturally went with my grandfather's pick and took second in my class.

To settle the which one is better question, I entered both of them in the large open class the next day, going up against all of the big hog breeders. I showed the 4-H second place one and my grandfather showed the other one. Mine took 5th in open class and the other one didn't place. So our selection decision was good.

However, it is a wonder that I got a ribbon in open class. While showing the hog, he got away from me and starting fighting with another entry. That pig's owner whacked my pig on the snout with his show cane and my pig spun around and ran right between my legs. As a kid, I was a runt. Picture a 220 pound pig running between my short legs. Now, picture me stuck on the back of the pig, riding backwards at a dead run for a complete circuit of the show ring. I finally managed to fall off sideways and regain control of the pig and placed 5th. Whew!

I don't know if it is good or bad that they didn't have video tape back in those days.

This isn't my pig, but it is a Hampshire barrow.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O is for Obnoxious

Oh, Oh time during the A to Z Challenge.

It is with some trepidation that I broach the subject and word of "obnoxious."

I haven't used the word in a written form publicly in over 40 years. I did back in 1969 and I got raked over the coals for the effort. I'll share my experience so you can learn from it and have a good laugh at my expense probably.

While I was in training at Digital Equipment (DEC) in Maynard, MA, I pitched a humor column to the local weekly newspaper. The pitch included three sample columns. The editor immediately pounced on the idea and offered me $5 per column.

One of the samples was about businessmen's lunches. The take-away at the bottom was that although the businessmen might stay a bit too long and drink a tad too much at their lunches, it did add to the economy and also provided waitress jobs for "obnoxious and otherwise unemployable women."

The editor used that column for the first of mine to be published. And, he got an earful from women and one husband of a local waitress.

He told me he picked that one because it caused him to picture this one particular waitress in one restaurant in town. We compared notes and laughed when we realized we both were picturing the same woman. Since it was a small town back then, he knew the waitress's name and, yes, it was her husband that called the editor!

There were absolutely no identifying features for the waitress in the column -- no age, no hair color, it didn't say if she was skinny or fat. Yet, the husband just knew we were targeting his wife. I wonder how?

Word of mouth about that first column made my (sometimes obnoxious) column a must read in the following weeks.

Monday, April 16, 2012

N is for Nattering

N is the letter of the day for the A to Z Challenge.

I have never heard a single person use the word "nattering" in conversation.

However, Spiro Agnew, the only Vice President of the United States to resign from office due to criminal charges, is also at least as famous for uttering "nattering nabobs of negativism".

Agnew relished criticizing opponents with mind blowing comments. Try saying these three times fast:

  • pusillanimous pussyfooters
  • hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history
  • an effete corps of impudent snobs who characterize themselves as intellectuals

Of course, Agnew had help from speech writers William Safire and Pat Buchanan for those gems. Safire takes credit for the more famous nabobs quote.

I taught computer software for Univac for two years. It was fun. My boss always accused me of buying my critiques that the students filled out at the end of my classes. Yes, they were that good!

One of those critiques, I fondly remember. An older gentleman who had struggled somewhat in my 3-week Assembler/Exec 8 class wrote: "I thank you for your compassion and help which allowed this nattering nabob of negativism to grasp this demanding course."

This pusillanimous pussyfooter hopeless and hysterical nattering nabob really appreciated that comment.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

M is for Management Speak

The A to Z challenge marches relentlessly on with the letter "M".

I hate management speak. If you're going to talk about a shovel, call it a shovel, not a "portable dirt placement tool."

I worked for large companies during my 50+ years working career. None of them could write and publish a memo without management speak. They all were consciously incapable of being honest in their communications. The more obtuse, the better.

I was a maverick when writing business letters and memos. I said what I meant. In easy, short sentences that anyone could understand -- even my managers. That means that on the rare occasion that I got drafted for some proposal activity, I was forever getting comments like "that's too specific" or "expand that paragraph out so that it is three pages long."

I gave presentations at conferences on bar codes for a couple of years. One compliment I received came from a gentleman who said, "I must have two dozen conference proceedings in my office. Your presentation is the only one in all of those that I ever read all the way through." Ah, that meant I succeeded. I wrote the paper to inform and educate, not to throw obscure terms out to prove how smart I was.

I turned down multiple opportunities to become a manager. First, my skill set is such that I function best in a support role. Second, I hate meetings -- they waste too much time and accomplish little due to management speak. And, third, I don't like to lie to people. You'll get an underling that comes to you and asks about the rumors of a layoff and asks if it is safe to buy that new car. Even though you know he's on the layoff list for next week, you'll have to smile and say, "No layoffs are planned."

There is one particular word that's used by management that sets my teeth on edge: synergy. It means two things working together to form a greater whole. Mathematically, that can be expressed as:

2 + 2 = 6.5

In practice what it really means is that management doesn't have a clue why they are buying the other company and have no other logical explanation, but they're going ahead with it anyway.

If you see synergy in some communication, put on your hard hat and flack jacket, run for the hills and take cover.

Friday, April 13, 2012

L is for Laptop

Pull up a chair, sip a cold drink, it is going to be an "L" of a day in the A to Z Challenge.

When I was in high school, you could tell the nerds (we were called 'square' back then) by the pocket protector stuffed with colored pencils and the big K&E slide rule on their hip. My, how times change.

When I started working in 1960, the only calculator was a Friden. It was a monster that went kurchung, kurchung when doing multiply or divide.

The first computer I worked on was an RCA Model 301 that took up two six-foot tall racks and had 4K of magnetic core memory. I later worked on the super computer at that time, the CDC 6600. My Android smart phone has more power and memory than that "super computer" had in 1968.

My first "portable" computer at work was a Compaq portable. It weighed enough to be a boat anchor. It had 168K of memory (note: that is Kb, not Mb) and two 5.25 inch floppy drives. No hard drive, although we put a voice recognition card and a 10Mb hard drive in an expansion box on the back of it. I programmed the voice card using the C language and it took over 3 hours to compile the small program.

Fast forward to today and the wife and I have a couple of desktop computers, two Acer laptops and I have a small netbook for traveling. What a difference a few years (decades?) make. I love my Acer laptop. It normally sits on the workbench in the garage so I can smoke and surf at the same time.

Once in a great while I do use the laptop on my laptop. But, have you noticed that while the laptop computers get more powerful and a little smaller, that your laptop to sit them on seems to be shrinking at a faster pace as the waist line expands?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

K is for Knees

Kriminey Kristol, we're up to K in the A to Z Challenge.

You may kneel on bended knees at church or dramatically in front of your beloved intended as you pop the question, but knees never rate a conscious thought -- until they don't work the way they should.

My knees aren't giving me trouble, but it seems like I know more than my share of people with knee problems. The latest is Stu McNicol, the husband of dear friend Donna McNicol. Stu, a retired firefighter, had two knees replaced during the same operation on March 27. In a word: Ouch!

Stu's operation by all accounts was a big success and he's undergoing a couple of weeks of strenuous rehab.

I was surprised to learn that firefighters often have knee problems. Climbing ladders with the weight of all their equipment must take a toll.

I read a lot of mysteries and thriller/suspense novels. I can't think of one that I've read that hasn't used a knee as a weapon. Somewhere with that book, the hero or heroine is going to be attacked and BINGO the bad guy gets a knee to the groin and our hero escapes. Works every time.

Now, I have to wonder if the heroes will have to have knee replacement surgery.

Be sure to read about Donna and Stu's adventures as full-time RVers on her blog and her cute fiction for the A to Z Challenge on My Write Spot.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

J is for Joker

This is the second week of the A to Z Challenge. Are you ready for the letter J?

Okay, I'll admit it! I am a joker. Through and through and in the flesh, a joker.

I love to laugh. At jokes and at myself. And, I have pulled some outrageous pranks over the years.

For over five years, I sent out the Morning Message humor newsletter daily to email subscribers. It contained clean jokes only. I got so many dirty jokes sent to me in response, that I started the Castaways, a dirty joke newsletter. The wrestlers in the World Wrestling Federation loved that one!

Life is too short to be a grouch.

One of my favorite pranks was pulled on friends in Bradenton long ago. I mailed in an ad for the Thursday shopper that read "Pigs $5; chickens 75 cents" and gave Maxine's beauty shop number for day phone contact and their home phone for night time contact. Maxine was shampooing some gal's hair when the phone rang on Thursday morning. She wiped off her hands and answered. "Do you have any pigs left?" the caller asked. "Pigs?! I don't have any damn pigs!" and she hung up. She just gets her hands back in the shampoo and the phone rings again. "Are you sure you don't have any pigs?"

After about the fourth caller that morning, Maxine called the shopper about the ad. They read off the $1 ad that I had sent in -- complete with Maxine and Tommy's home address. They soon figured out who was to blame. So, they started giving the callers my phone number and told them that the shopper had made a mistake and that my number was the correct one. I, in turn, then gave them another friend's phone number and he then started giving the callers yet another phone number of another friend. Can you believe that they got over 50 phone calls for those $5 pigs and that people will go to any lengths and phone calls to get them?

Leave your (clean) jokes and pranks in the comments.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I is for Ideas

Onward we march to the letter "I" for the A to Z Challenge.

Everyone was ideas. It is what you do with them that make them a good idea or a bad idea. Of course, you can ignore your ideas and they'll become fleeting ideas.

One evening in high school, family friends had a medical emergency and I was pressed into service to baby sit their two tweens. They slept the entire time. I opted to scan the books on a shelf and settled on an electronics textbook to read. I loved it. Thus, an idea of possibly making a career in the electronics field was planted.

After high school, I didn't have the money to go to college and worked briefly for the Clerk of Circuit Court doing photography work. When I became unemployed, I looked for another job in the photography field and happened to interview with someone that had a friend in the state rehabilitation office. I confessed to him that I was interested in electronics, so because I had a bad arm from polio, he set me up with an appointment with state rehab for testing. I passed the tests with flying colors and they paid for my tech school training.

The school was a glorified radio and TV repair school, but I managed to get enough basic knowledge (in vacuum tube theory!) to land a job as an electronics technician for a defense contractor. Five years later, I got laid off and I found a job at RCA working on computers. After three years on the hardware side of things where I had to learn to program the computers in order to be able to fix them, I switched permanently to writing software.

My computer career spanned 45 years. Despite conventional wisdom that you are washed up and over the hill in computer software by the age of 35, I was still programming and keeping up with (or ahead of) the youngsters at the age of 70.

All, because one night in high school I had an idea.

Monday, April 9, 2012

H is for Honesty

We start the second week of the A to Z Challenge trying to be honest.

I belong to a twelve step program that has a concept of "rigorous honesty." Many have accused me of being brutally honest, however. I guess it is just the curmudgeon in me that comes out when least expected.

Being honest does take practice. Sometimes being honest without being a dingbat is more difficult.

For instance, it is a no-win situation to answer the question from your wife when she asks, "Does this make me look fat?"

Just yesterday, I dropped a quarter when I got my change at Starbucks. A boy, about 7 years old, was standing behind me with his dad. He quickly bent over and picked it up for me and handed it to me. I handed it back with the comment, "Here, you keep it. Thanks for being honest." He beamed as if I had given him a $5 bill, not just twenty-five cents.

This post is short. Now, it is your turn. Leave an honest comment below. Go ahead, I'm prepared -- I have my helmet and flack jacket on.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

G is for Gadgets

The end of the first week of the A to Z Challenge brings us to the letter "G".

I'm old enough to remember that the one and only nerdy gadget I owned in high school was a 12 inch K&E slide rule. Yes, I had a pocket protector with all different colored pencils stuffed in it too.

My, how times change. Our household consists of just me and the wife (both in our early 70's), but we have enough chargers and gadgets to stock a section of Best Buy. It takes three 5-outlet surge protectors in the home office, another one for the living room TV and accessories, plus miscellaneous things plugged into the outlets in the bathrooms, kitchen and elsewhere. For fun, let's take inventory...

  • An old HP XP desktop that my wife still uses
  • My wife's Acer laptop running Windows 7
  • My Acer laptop running Vista
  • My little XP netbook that I use when traveling
  • An XP desktop and older laptop are in a bin and no longer being used
  • An old HP printer that is tied to her HP desktop
  • A new Epson wireless printer for all of the portables to use via WIFI
  • A 2-year-old Kindle
  • A new Kindle Fire
  • Cable modem (of course)
  • WIFI router
  • Ooma VOIP box
  • A Captel captioning telephone that is connected to our router for internet access and to our Ooma VOIP box. This is my phone so I can view what the other person is saying.
  • An UPS for the cable modem, wifi router, Ooma box and Captel phone
  • An Android Droid smartphone so I can send text messages and email
  • The wife's cell phone that I can send text messages to
  • An electric razor and an electric beard trimmer in the bathroom
  • Five TVs -- two of which are flat screens
  • In the garage there are chargers for the battery powered drill and the string trimmer/edger
  • In the living room, there is the HD settop box, the 52" flatscreen TV, a DVD player, a sound bar and a WII.
  • In the master bedroom, there is a 42" flatscreen TV and a DVD player.
  • There is a portable DVD player somewhere that is AA battery powered
  • There is a portable CD player somewhere that is AA battery powered
  • There are two digital cameras (his and hers -- she stole his, he got hers in return)
  • Can't forget the Garmin GPS in her car
  • Last, but not least, in the kitchen there is the coffee maker, toaster oven, microwave and can opener.

Whew! That's quite a list for two old people. And, what do you want to bet that I forgot to list something?

Friday, April 6, 2012

F is for F-bomb

Day 6 of the April A to Z Challenge so it is time for a topic starting with F.

What is it with the younger generation that causes them to make such frequent use of the F-bomb and other profanity?

I mean, I'm no prude. I've been around enough military and ex-military types to be able to cuss like a sailor, marine, army or air force guy and maybe even give them a few lessons. But I don't do it in public and I don't write it except for fiction when it is called for.

My public display of my profanity proficiency is pretty much limited to a rare damn, hell or Oh shit!

In private, I do let go once in a while. For instance: I always called a spade a spade until I hit my toe with one the other day.

One guy on the net goes overboard with F-bombs, in my humble opinion. Paul Carr is an excellent writer, but he is stuck on the profane shock-jock type of writing. In moderation, it would (maybe) be okay, but he overdoes it. Like a parrot that has been taught to cuss. He uses the F-bomb in his tweets. He used it all of the time in the two books that he has written. He used it in his TechCrunch items - which were even labeled NSFW (Not Safe For Work). He uses it on his new writing gig at Pando Daily. He uses it on the videos he makes. And, his new start-up in Vegas is even called NSFW Corp. and when you go to the site to sign up for the beta of his new publishing venture, the biggest word on the web page is the F-bomb.

Paul Carr's two books were about personal experiences of creating, running and getting kicked out of a publishing business and about his various escapades living strictly in hotels. (He found it cheaper to live in hotels than to rent an apartment with all of its utilities, etc.) Those experiences were really just one drunken foul-up after another. Funny, but sad too because you could see that he was living on the edge with alcohol. They are filled with F-bombs.

Paul wrote a small e-book last month and publicized the hell out of it. It is one of Amazon's singles. Is a fun read about how he managed to quit drinking without AA. And, he tells you the steps he took. Thankfully, he also is starting to show some restraint on using F-bombs. I did a search and only found two in the 45-minute read. Maybe, just maybe, sobriety is having a positive effect on his language.

I hope Paul puts the F-bomb out to pasture. As I used to tell my kids: Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

E is for E-book

The first week of the A to Z Challenge is going by quickly. We're already up to E.

I love to read and e-books, along with Kindles and Kindle apps make reading a pleasure.

I have a two-year-old Kindle, a new Kindle Fire tablet and also have the Kindle apps on my Droid smart phone and on my PC.

And Amazon keeps all of those devices synced, so that I can easily read my e-books that I have for the Kindle where ever I might be.

The Kindle itself is great! It is black and white only, but it is readable any where except in bed with the lights turned off. It is easy to read in sunlight, so it is perfect for the beach.

The Kindle Fire tablet is in color. But it is impossible to read in sunlight. You can enjoy it in bed with the lights turned off. The same holds true for the Kindle app on my Droid smartphone.

I think I've only read an e-book on my laptop PC once. I just don't like reading long form stuff on the PC.

E-books are available from Amazon (and others) for free up to whatever the market will bear. Amazon frequently runs specials for good books for $.99 or $1.99 too. And, they're also publishing "Singles", which are longer than a magazine article, but shorter than a book for those same prices. (They are typically about a 45 minute read for me.)

When I got my Kindle, most top tier novels were $9.99 on the Kindle. Then Apple got involved with their iTunes and let the publishers set the prices. Amazon had to follow suit or not carry those books. The book publisher's greed took over and now most e-books are priced in the $12 to $15 range. Often you can get the hardcover book for within pennies of the e-book price. If that is the case, I typically buy the hardcover because 1) it means the publisher makes less profit on it, 2) I get free 2nd day air delivery because I'm a Prime subscriber and 3) I can then donate the book to a friend or the library.

Maybe I should have saved this post for "K" for Kindle. LOL

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

D is for Disks

Letter D time for the A to Z Challenge.

Slow down technology! We can't keep up.

One of the first home computers that I owned was a Radio Shack TRS-80. Which, if you are old enough to remember, was lovingly called the Trash 80. It had an 8 inch floppy disk drive.

At work, I used a Compac "portable" (at 40 lbs, it was more like a boat anchor) PC which came with two 5 inch disks. It had an expansion box on the back of it and we purchased a 10 mb hard drive to use with it. The other expansion slot contained a voice recognition board. Yes, Virginia, Siri voice recognition has been around for almost 30 years!

In 1994, I purchased a 486 DX 2 for personal use and to get on the internet. It had the 3.5" floppies -- in the hard case. And only a 20 mb hard drive.

Then we progressed with CDs and DVDs. Where will it end?

All of the hundreds of 8", 5" and 3.5" floppies containing software and personal files have long gone into the landfill. The info lost forever. Even we'd have kept them, there is no way to play them and use their files.

Movies and pictures are the same way. Luckily, we have many shoe boxes of old photos dating back to the 1930's. They are fun to look at once in a while. I pitched my hundreds of 35 mm slides a couple years ago because I didn't have any way to view them.

The wife kept all of her 8 mm movies, however. And, she just spent $56 to have two reels put onto a DVD so we could see her travels in Japan and Hong Kong when she was a skater with Holiday on Ice. I foresee another $300 investment to get the rest of her 8mm stash converted.

That's expensive for memories, but that isn't what worries me. How much will it cost me in 5 years to get the DVDs converted to the next technology? How will you convert the thousands of digital photos that you have taken? That's the $64 thousand dollar question.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

C is for Compliment

Day three of the A to Z Challenge. Quick! Someone compliment me for getting to letter "C".

Everyone likes to get a sincere compliment. It literally makes your day.

And even the one giving the compliment will get good vibes from doing so.

It is easy to do. Just observe and reward good behavior with a compliment.

I go to McDonald's for a sausage biscuit, hash browns and large black coffee nearly every morning. McD's is close by -- just two short blocks away. Most of the staff are quite friendly. And, I've found that by smiling, saying polite thank you's, and saying things like "I appreciate your good service" or "Your smile in the morning makes my day" pays dividends. Now, if any one of a half dozen McD's employees see me park my van, they'll have my order rang up as I approach the counter. And, one even told me how to place the order so that it costs me $3.21 instead of $3.73.

If I order a sausage biscuit meal with large coffee, the total comes to $3.73. If I order a sausage biscuit, hashbrowns and a large coffee, the bill is only $3.21.

Of course, you need to be careful with compliments. Telling the sweet young thing at work that her dress is sexy is probably not a good idea. An innocent remark, regardless of its good intentions, can get one in a lot of hot water. Especially in the work place. My advice is to lower your sight lines from the neck line to the feet. Complimenting a woman on her nice shoes will always be welcomed.

I bought a new cowboy hat at a consignment shop. It has a wild purple hat band on it. I wore it to the mall one day and I got at least five "nice hat!" comments as I was walking around. That made my day.

I had thought about writing about being a curmudgeon for the letter "C". I definitely am one. Heck, an Orlando Sentinel columnist was calling me a curmudgeon before I turned 50. Being a curmudgeon means that I have to be very careful when I dole out compliments for fear that they will be left handed compliments. ("No, dear, that dress doesn't make you look fat.")

Maybe we'll explore those when we get to the letter "L".

Monday, April 2, 2012

B is for BASIC

This is the second day of April's A to Z challenge, which brings us to B.

Oh, how I miss BASIC! It was a good little programming language that came with all of the personal computers back in the 1980's. Simple. Easy to learn. Handy for those little quick and dirty programming tasks. It was a perfect first programming language for kids (and adults) to learn.

BASIC was created at Darmouth in 1964 by John George Kemeny and Thomas Eugene Kurtz and some grad students. It was an acronym for Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code. It was the main language used for time-sharing on minicomputers and then was packaged (normally in ROM firmware) on nearly every microcomputer.

Three of the grad students went from Dartmouth to the Ford Motor Company in Detroit. At Ford, they found some labor lawyers who provided venture capital and they started a time-sharing company called Cyphernetics in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

I worked for Digital Equipment Corp (DEC) in 1969 as a Customer Engineer on their site and they taught me BASIC. It's not often you get to learn from the creators.

For those newer to computers, time-sharing allowed multiple people to use the minicomputers via teletypes to access the computers via modem over the phone lines. No punch cards. Input was by paper tape or keyboard entry. Output was typed on the teletype's paper or paper tape. It was real progress in 1969.

In the mid '70's, I did some freelance BASIC consulting a minicomputer in Tampa. The company sold printers and some of the first VCRs available. I redid their software accounting system in a variant of business Basic. (Mainly to allow them to hide their income from copying porn movies on six VCRs they had in a back room.)

When PCs first came out, everyone was having fun with programming in BASIC. There were all kinds of simple games available. The PC magazines used to print programs that you could, in turn, type into your PC.

When Florida started their Lotto, I wrote a small program so that I could input the weekly numbers and it would display the frequency for each of the winning numbers. It was a fun task. But, alas, I still haven't won the Lotto.

BASIC taught you to program. Its replacements such as Microsoft's Visual Basic amd .NET, teaches you how to click, drag and drop. It is too complicated for most people to grasp.

Maybe it is time to get back to BASIC.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A is for Apple

We are joining the A to Z Challenge for the month of April. A letter a day will keep the cobwebs at bay.

A is for Apple. Not the kind you polish and give to the teacher, but the tech behemoth that offers iEverything in exchange for your hard earned dollars.

I am not an Apple fanboy, as their vocal followers are called. Apple makes great gear, but it is way overpriced -- as their company coffers with its billions of dollars in reserve can attest. Their profit margin on their gear can be characterized in one word: obscene.

I have never been able to justify the cost differential, thus I buy Acer laptops for $300 vs Apple laptops for $1K+. I am not a Micro$oft lover either, but I can live with their Windows OS and don't have to buy any of their other software products.

Sure, I would love to have an iPad. If you want to send me one, I'll gladly accept it. I have an Amazon Fire and I find the 7" screen is too small for any meaningful internet surfing. The iPad's 10 inch screen would be welcome and the newest version's screen is supposed to be awesome. But the iPad's price that is three times (or more) of the Fire's and it keeps the iPad as wishful thinking as far as my wallet goes.

My smartphone is an Android phone; my tablet is an Android based Fire; my PCs (all five of them) are Windows machines. Would I become an Apple fanboy if I ever owned a piece of Apple gear? I don't know. I'd be willing to find out. Just send me a new MacBook, an iPhone and an iPad and we'll see. (Address for UPS to deliver them is available on request.)