Tuesday, September 30, 2008

G-g-g-Google Phone? Going App and other news

Since we re-upped our 2-year sentence, er term of service with Verizon in December of 2007, we're out of this fray for a few more months. But, I've been following with some interest all the dust flying and dirt flung in the redesign and technology laid bare in the mobile phone industry doings of late. This new upstart (and I use the term rightly) sounds like it might have a leg up on competitors.

I know everyone isn't at all interested in using their phones for more than phone calls to family and friends (of course the old saw of "well, I only have it for emergency use on the road" has been laid to waste for all those having seen less than about 70-80 summers on this planet), so I offer this link and chance to comment open only for those who DO use their phones for more than the wire-line equivalent.

What really brought this to my attention was an off-the-cuff comment by a person that the killer app for this phone might be to use the camera to read bar codes put in front of the lens, then process the bar code, then look on-line for other local (or remote) retailers' prices to allow comparison shopping wherever bar codes are in the clear.

What say? The comment line is open.


This started out when I was wandering around in the middle of YouTube, sampling things that came to mind. I was looking to compare a modern, ukelele version of "As My Guitar Gently Weeps" against both the 1980's Concert for Bangladesh recording and the 1992 recording, both having the principal players of George Harrison (who sang them both) and Eric Clapton.

As I told the friend who'd suggested the uke version was better, I said it was more complex, but the fellow who wrote it sang the other two versions AND the title suggested it was the guitar, not the uke, that was weeping.

Then I was reading last Sunday's post on "Keep the Coffee Coming" blog by Kat that mentioned "Blue Shadows on the Trail" with a mystery singer. I couldn't identify the singer, so I ignored her requests not to wander over to YouTube to figure out who it was. I couldn't identify it, but came up with more fun there. One of the first singers I sampled was Roy Rogers, who had a hit with it in 1948.

My mind and hands continued wandering and one thing led to another. I wound up listening to The Sons of the Pioneers sing "Cool Water". Then I listened to Eddy Arnold do it justice. Just as I thought I'd exhausted the versions YouTube had to offer, up popped this one with, of all strange duets you could imagine, Joni Mitchell and Austin's own Willie Nelson! Worth a listen, all of them.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Throw I Frisbees whilst I can

I still can't find any locals in Mathis, TX to throw Frisbee with. //double sigh// This is the 50th year of my doing that pastime, and I hate to have it pass with no major or even much minor activity in that dimension. One day I will be unable to throw them, so I'll adapt the "gather ye rosebuds while ye may"* by saying "throw I Frisbees whilst I can."

My first Frisbee was termed a "Pluto Platter". The inventor is shown above and an article about him and his invention is here.

* Quoted from: Robert Herrick, b. London 1591, buried Devon 1674

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying,
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

"Until the rights to you are sold"

Civil disobedience
I just finished reading a riveting story of how a California man is doing something that is making many governmental entities upset. He is purchasing and putting out governmental codes for all to read on the Web. Those codes are being sold to the very people who need to know them for quite a bit of money. I wish someone would do this for Texas!

As Frank Zappa said in his song, "I'm the Slime":
You will obey me while I lead you
And eat the garbage that I feed you
Until the day that we don't need you
Don't go for help...no one will heed you
Your mind is totally controlled
It has been stuffed into my mold
And you will do as you are told
Until the rights to you are sold

View from afar: When is a poem not a poem?

A journey across the US in song

A good friend sent this link tonight. In it, the BBC correspondent, filling a position as a stranger in a strange land, details how far one can be in knowing the meaning of the words in a song lyric from knowing the meaning of the song itself, as expressed by that lyric. Although he removes himself from the poetry he finds, the words he uses to tell his short post is itself a kind of poetry. The imagery of the song lyrics he discusses is mixed with images of how they are misunderstood by someone young or old AND if that same person is from another English-speaking country.

Worth a read, I believe.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tom Paxton: Standing astride the decades

There isn't much to be said about folk music that hasn't already been said. I like it. Maybe you do and maybe you don't. But Tom Paxton was in there with the Folk Revival of the 1960 era and remains an active part of the genre. Heck, he has a Web site, is touring and is still actively writing and selling his music. And if you want to hear what he's got available, you know what to do.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Happy trails to you

Today is the beginning of the fall season, with the equinox happening during this day. A time-honored tradition of fall is getting out to see the changes in familiar views on the world. In that regard, I offer this information. While you are out on the major roads in Texas, check out both the rest areas in Texas at
and some suggested road tours of Texas, along with weather for major cities and other details at

Happy motoring!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

FALLin' in on me

I can't tell ya how nice it has been to have the last couple of days seem like fall. The blistering heat and blast-furnace air when I walk outside the house in the morning was replaced by a hint of chill. Couple of nights ago, we went to a house in the country for a "cottage meeting" of folks from our church. It was 'way out there in the hills (I'll bet you didn't know there WERE small rolling hills on the Gulf coast.) with the moon shining brightly on the way back in. When we left town, the dust was boiling up from the cars in front of us, who were going to the same destination, so we ate their dust all the way out.

But, once we got to the destination, we were all wowed by getting to sit on chairs on a LARGE porch in the style of the early 20th century for ranch houses. It went all the way along the front of the house and part way down the northeast side. We sat in rockers and chaise lounges and comfy chairs, having conversations and enjoying the cool breeze passing over us. We discussed the HUGE palm tree in the front yard of the home, planted many years ago by the current owner's mother, to the upset of the owner's father. Now it sits, recommended to be cut down by many, full of woodpecker holes, home to birds and roaches. Who knows when it will fall on the ranch house? But it certainly IS a conversation piece.

After pie and coffee, we settled down to discussing the future of our church with the folks who direct that future as parishioners. Although I didn't think I'd like it when these meetings began, this is truly my favorite part of the get-togethers, surpassing even the tasty morsels of food. Finding out about folks' origins, abilities, wants and needs. What shapes their ideas, as well as how well they can discuss them, along with the terms they use, all are part of the conversation that I don't miss out on at all.

When we got home and got out of the car for the short trip into the house from the driveway, I thought again of the delicious nature of fall and cooler weather. And I waved at the moon as I went inside; a perfect end to a perfect day.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

iPhone too far

There are just some things that shouldn't be done IMHO. The idea of avoiding the learning of a few color-number ties by using your iPhone to call them up may be a step over the edge. Carrying a resistor color code card around with you or learning some mnemonic sentence that will recall the relationship to you is a time-honored tradition. They are both just steps until you quickly learn the values you need to proceed on your building or repairing of electronic devices or projects.

Tilting at windmills

Living in a small town on the coastal plains of Texas in a rural county, there are more things here than meet the eyes and happenstance of the average city dweller. One of my ham buddies here, Fred, has a small spread out in the country. He recently told me about his almost finished plans to erect the aged windmill tower he'd purchased. At first I thought the plans were for the tower to hold antennas for his ham activities. But, Fred said he had also purchased a similarly aged mill to go on top of the tower and was in the middle of refurbishing the gears inside the mill and cleaning up the housing. He used his machining tools to remake pieces needed to get the blades back in shape to spin again.

Fred disappeared from the ham scene for a while in late summer, working on this and many other parallel projects. So, I was surprised when I received a call yesterday, telling me I only had twenty minutes to get over there to his house (about ten minutes away from mine) in order to take photos of the final rigging and raising of the windmill.

I grabbed my camera and an extra set of recharged batteries to dash out the door. The job turned out to be much longer than either of us had anticipated, but that is the way of all projects, I fear. I got there while he was still getting the several gallons of diesel fuel needed to power the combination front-end loader/backhoe that would be one of the mainstays of the project.

I had asked if I could photograph the project as a means of documenting it. I'd always been curious about windmills and had never been present at taking one down, putting it up, or even been close to the mechanisms that surmount the towers that, well, tower over Texas ranches and farms, doing their work in a way that never failed to lull me to sleep as a kid. That sound of creaking pumping of water, the taste of water out of a tin cup usually placed on a wire hook at the bottom with a faucet ready to supply water fresh from the well...those memories came flooding back.

Almost three hours later and over 150 photos later, he put the finishing touches on parking all the vehicles and closing down the project as I wended my way home. What an afternoon! I surely will never forget that event. And I got to play Sancho Panza, besides!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

3-D image available of the Iwo Jima flag raising

Now, that subject is just one that I never thought I'd be either typing or uttering. How can technology go backward in time to bring such an image to fruition? Check it out. And don't forget to dig up those 3-D glasses you tucked away for a rainy day.

Each time we think that we've wrung about all we can from some situation or that we have all the information gathered into a definitive bundle, science and human ingenuity come forth to bring a new basket full of goodies to grandma's house!

When I was in high school, reading science fiction short stories at the library in about 1963, I recall reading one where scientists had figured out how to solve murders by being able to recreate the scene of the murder if they did so within a few hours of the crime, the scene remained undisturbed, and it occurred indoors. If you keep up with criminology science or (if you're not scientifically inquisitive in your reading) if you watch any or all of the current CSI crop of crime shows (or the new Bones) on television, you will just be boggled by all the science that has flowed together to create a 21st-century approximation of that step. Careful detective work by enough police technologists, enough thought on the part of the detectives, coupled with good writing of the show's authors, lead us to a logical conclusion and the solution of the crime.

As in another science fiction story I read not too long ago, the society's images will more and more be present to all on the worldwide web of computers connected together, making such images more common. Any big event will have multiple photographers recording it, side by side and from different angles, making 3-D and quasi-solid images viewable from all around more and more possible.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

In search for old Ike

So, what is the deal with projecting where Hurricane Ike will hit the Texas coast? Dart boards full of cheap darts thrown by folks in bars have a better history of sustained aim, it seems. The forecasters have succeeded in throwing panic into everyone on the whole Texas Gulf coast, all the people who live hundreds of miles inland in almost every direction, and now the projected path is getting near the Louisiana coast!

Those of us in the Corpus Christi area are heaving large sighs of relief, while the ones who don't have access to the Internet to follow the latest projections are still buying up plywood and hammering, hammering sheet after sheet of it onto the outside wood of their homes. I went by a dollar store today where the company had hired a glass company from Corpus to drive all the way over here and screw sheets of plywood (not very well it seemed to me) into the aluminum window frames of the storefront. The manager was busy painting over and over again across the (now) plywood front of the store, "WE ARE OPEN."

I guess Sunday will show us who was right and who was wrong about where Ike will pay a visit and where folks just spent hundreds to thousands of dollars per building in vain on shuttering and labor. The economy of the area will take a while to recover from panicked days out of school, days off of work for already stressed parents who have to take care of their children and worry about hurricane damage and whether they will have a job next week.

But, when it is all over and done with, some of us will have the chance to meet Ike. Good luck in surviving the handshake and the slap on the back. We'll be praying for ya.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

New ePaper news distribution: difficult in family use?

We suffer from lack of adequate materials recycling in our rural, coastal county in Texas. There was news today of an advance in technology that (should it come to fruition and wide distribution) would no longer require daily paper printing for news we read in textual format. It would, however, allow readers to use it in a portable fashion, carrying about a device about the size of a standard copy paper page.

Hmmm. This "advance" would just kill our family reading time, where we swap sections of the paper as we read. Sometimes, one of us meanders off to another room. We frequently save one day's crossword or other word puzzles for later solution. I use an eReader on my Palm E2, but I think even it would find it difficult to save just one segment that would be able to be used for word puzzles at a later date. I wouldn't like serial news reading, with the wife twiddling her thumbs while awaiting the use of the reader or vice versa.

Imagine a family of parents and 4 reading-age kids. Would they be expected to spend a kilobuck so they can all read the morning paper before they leave for the day's happenings? This would be plus the cost of the distribution/subscription of the publications read by the owners.

I'm thinking no. But I don't have a clue what the solution is that doesn't involve killing lots more trees on a daily/weekly/monthly basis.


Saturday, September 6, 2008

Gollywhompers: Don't bite down and swallow slowly

I thought I was doing okay today...until I ran into the story on this newfangled thing that you can swallow to do surgery inside your body without having to have holes cut though your skin to do the job! Now that both makes me happy AND makes me afraid. What if something goes wrong and the surgeon has made a mistake in the direction this lil fellow takes off to inside you?

Well, to rein in my active imagination, well suited and honed to science fiction images by decades of practice, I will say they say it is set up to take ONE little bite of you before continuing its path through your alimentary canal. I'm guessing they have some other device coming down the pike to work on those places they might need a biopsy that aren't along that useful and strategic canal's banks.

WRONG: It doesn't matter to me-e-e-e-e-e!

After brief reflection, I agree with the sentiments of this article.

There are folks who will argue till the cows come home (and keep arguing until they leave in the morning) about this topic. Of course, there are people around who simply will argue forever about just anything. Most of them are called lawyers or engineers.

But, just like our forebears argued about Chevys versus Buicks versus Fords, we of the 21st century argue computers and software. Since software has to have an operating system, as does the computer, these are BIG topics of discussion.

If after reading the article, you feel strongly one way or another about the issue, please feel free to comment on this post.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Twisting arms and tearing pages off the calendar

I love to read about tilting at windmills, obsessions, success and failure. Today, I found a link to this strangely attractive tale of surging hope, failure, perseverance. This bears reading, I think, but who am I?

I've had dreams of scenes from somewhere. Nobody knows for sure where our dream scenes come from. They can be scenes from our past, maybe with a dollop of imagination painted over them. Take the paintbrush of hopes and dreams and shake the paint of needs and wishes to form drops of love and togetherness. I can figure that I might be in some scene like the one described in the story, though who knows what I'd be doing there? I'm awake now. Maybe tonight, when the covers close me in and dark reigns supreme, I'll find out.


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Street blaster: BOOM box

In our tiny village not too far from the Gulf, we DON'T have any of these going by in the middle of the night. In Austin, I recall a number of vehicles who must have been a chip off the ole block here. At least in this version, the speakers are aptly designed to deafen the public. The ones I can't figure out are the ones designed to both enrage the public AND deafen the occupant(s) of the vehicle. Comment if you know the reasoning behind those versions, as I've failed in my attempts to comprehend the need or desire for 120+ dB of sound inside a vehicle cabin, be it "music" or the sound of a large jet engine ready for takeoff.


Plagiarism: Makes me squirm

Gosh, this is my first week as a blogger and I read this disturbing article. Being new, I have not a clue how to find out if the system is still broken. Not that I have much in the way of original material that would interest these nefarious folk, but still...

It seems that, as more and more things go digital, it becomes harder and harder to figure out that is real and original, and to keep whatever it is real AND original! There seem to be folks who find their lot in life only to copy the works of others and try to make some believe THEY were the originators.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Sculpture: you can't get there from here

I'm a fan of mind boggling, whatever its roots. So, when I discovered this sculpture of a triple Klein bottle, I directed my attention its way. See, a Klein bottle is one of those impossible things that gets your mind rattled until it doesn't know what happened to it. It can't be created reasonably in three-dimensional space. Evidently, this British sculptor didn't know that, because he not only created ONE, he created one inside one inside one for a triple threat of 'em!

Political satire: be very afraid

An Austin friend sent this the other day:
Be very afraid: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IoXgRtDysLY
Well, I watched it and marveled at how smoothly the editing went on inserting the fellow into the President's news conference out on the lawn. [Now, wait, that fellow WAS inserted after the fact, wasn't he? I surely hope so!]

New favorite beverage

My new favorite beverage is Sonrisa Mango nectar...
but I drink it from 200 ml bottles that sell for only 25¢ at the local HEB store.
Can you believe that in 2008 you can get ANYTHING to drink for 25¢ that has even a smidgen of something that came from a growing THING in it?

But, alas, even though I searched, I cannot find an image of my 200 ml bottle on the Web, so this larger can will have to do to represent it to you. Try and find some. If you like mango, this is yummy!

(And, did I tell you?, it is only 25¢)

Monday, September 1, 2008

Home automation

Here is one fellow's state of home automation control about 10 years ago!

I started with the X-10 standalone controller in about 1986. It was even before I owned an IBM PC, so I had to take the controller with me to work when I wanted to modify the standing program to control front and back porch lights, lamps scattered about my bachelor pad to make it look lived in when I was away. Here is what the humble CP-290 controller looked and looks like.

I still own it, but haven't run it in several years. Maybe it is about time to dust off the device.

Chasing a golden anniversary: Frisbees

This year celebrates fifty years of chasing those round things for me! I bought the first one I ever saw, which was in a plastic bag, had the name Pluto Platter, and would be worth about $300 if I still had it intact today! It was made by the same Wham-O company that brought us the hula hoop. The admonition on the under side of it was the same for all the years.

In the photo, which is slightly blurry due to the speed things were moving, I am throwing the disc to myself. That's how I started with them, since no one else in my home town knew about them either. I found a good, steady breeze from the south and learned the correct angle to throw them to make them come back to me. After 50 years of it, I'm pretty good at that.

In the small farming town I live in now, I can't find any takers on throwing them back and forth. Anyone anywhere near my age says they're too old for that or have to go watch television or drink beer. Anyone very young says they don't know how and that's it. So, I'm in a pickle and waiting to find someone adventurous enough to teach. I've taught hundreds of people to fling them over the years, but I am having a hard time in the new century finding takers for that knowledge. It may be because exercise is involved!

Nixies from the Nixon era: for your profound messages to the world

A fellow electrical engineer has created what he calls his "Nixie Shoutbox" for those in the know to shout their profound statements to the world. They only run for a little while, then the display goes back to date and time. The plasma gas display tubes were designed for a stock market display back in the 1960's. I've enjoyed interacting with the owner and his cat (who are sometimes visible in the videocam from which you view this engineering wonder) as well as having conversations with other ham radio operators on the nixies, treating them like radio conversations.

The builder got his impetus for building the device from this page, which is filled with nixie devices. He was kind enough to send a very long list of similar devices in a mail today.

If you poke around on his site, you can see a photo list of how he built his device and you can look around his place, which is out in California, using the site's remotely controlled video cameras for looking at his sleeping cat or through the windows for a nice night view of nearby buildings.

Cough, cough: battery virus, er, virus battery...I'm confused

Guess there won't be much soldering on these:

I'm having a hard time imagining these batteries. Note the giant tweezers in the photo.