Saturday, December 31, 2011

How to smash your head against a desk

    Well, I made my decision. I took the shorter path, maybe. I have decided to work through the book "Mastering Xcode 4: Develop and Design." The book is very well written and comprehensive. Instructions and examples are all very clear, just make sure you look very carefully at the provided images of various parts of the Xcode software to see what "view options" are selected. If you are not familiar with Xcode, and I am not, some of terminology will take a little getting used to.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Teaching yourself to write software

    I have been programming off and on again for around twenty years now. There is just something that I really find exciting about making a machine do exactly what I tell it to do. Of course that is often a problem as well. A computer cannot guess at your intentions or motives. Right or wrong, it will do exactly what it is told, nothing more. For the most part, my experience has been primarily in Microsoft Windows.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

USB Video, Fact or Fiction?

    In my last post I wrote about ordering myself a USB Video Display Adapter. Well, as it happens, it has arrived and I have taken the plunge and opened the box. In the next few paragraphs I will attempt to go over both the pro's and the con's of such a device.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas is the time for wishes to come true ...

    Today, a decision was made for me. Well, that is to say, a solution presented itself. Just in time for Christmas too. First a word about using the word Christmas.

    I am not Walmart. I am not Amazon. I do not even call myself "Christian" and my beliefs are my own. I do, however, say "Merry Christmas." Christmas is more than a religious holiday, it is an American Cultural holiday and has been for a very long time. So, I will not say things like: Merry XMas or Happy Holidays or any other such nonsense. If this offends you, then that is your problem. Deal with it.

Lessons learned

    This is not a typical blog post. Well, maybe for me it is. Then again, this isn't a typical blog. When I first started this particular blog I had some fairly high hopes for it. It is fair to say that I have let this blog down a bit. So, this post is all about the lessons I learned from trying to blog.

    Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction. This blog has been very deficient in purpose and direction. No matter how motivated or driven I was to write something, it never really felt like any one post was the "defining post" or that one post should naturally follow the previous post. Most blogs have a "theme" or at the very least a rather broad topic. This blog, lacking any real purpose or direction has become more or less a dumping ground for things I occasionally found interesting or happened to be bored enough to write about. Not something that will keep people coming back to read your latest post.

    Being personable without being personal. This is a balancing act that most people who write for public reading often wrestle with. While in a "blog" it is quite normal to write about your personal opinion on a given subject, it should never be made personal. Recently in the news a blogger was sued for some $250 million dollars. She used her 100+ blogs to slander a man and accuse him of everything from tax fraud to embezzlement. Try as she might, she was unable to use the protections that are afforded to members of the press. Bloggers are, generally speaking, not journalists. The judge decided that since she (the blogger in question) had no journalism training, had shown no means of fact checking, had often posted the same story re-written across multiple blogs and under different pseudo names that she was in fact liable for damages, and thus not protected as a journalist. I think this is an important distinction that many bloggers just don't or refuse to accept. If you are going call yourself an independent journalist, you need to hold yourself to the same standards as a "real" journalist. If you want to find out more about the case mentioned, Google is your friend.

    Editing counts. I cannot tell you how many blogs I follow.  I really don't know. However, what surprises me the most is the misuse of words. Incorrect spelling is on the decline, but I do think people should actually read what they have written. Auto correct can kill it for me. One blog in particular has finally driven me away. While it was a good source of tech news, the sheer number of misused words made each "article" not only annoying to read, but forced me to focus what the author was trying to say rather than just read the article and be done with it. The biggest is offenders are"to, too and two;" with "by, bye and buy" coming in a close second. Personally, this really drives me nuts. If you are going to write for public reading, at least have more than a tenuous grasp on your chosen profession.

    Style is nothing without substance. There is no way to count the number of blogs that have a good or bad style. It really is rather subjective. However, there is such a thing as too much. Bright neon pink should never border lime green. I am sure you have seen them. It's not just blogs that are guilty of this, many "legitimate" sites do this as well. I myself played around with the templates here on blogger.com. In the end, I settled on the current "template" because it was easy to look at allowed me to focus on the content. Granted, the content is more of a mashup of random ideas that would and could easily be seen as a feng-shui nightmare, but it is what it has become.

    With all of these lessons learned I now have to make a choice; reshape my current work or start fresh and try again. Blogging requires commitment, focus, direction and skill. Well, to do it correctly it does. I have many demands on my time, and many more that I should put ahead of a "hobby." Then again, everyone needs a hobby. That's their one escape to forget about the rest of the world, at least for a little while.

    This then, is the end.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

I am so done with Windows

    I got up early this morning thinking I was going to have a really good day. Yes it was raining and a bit chilly, but it was also the start of my five day weekend. Longest paid weekend I have ever had, I love the holidays.

    Before the clock showed seven this morning I got a call from a frantic co-worker. Apparently he inadvertently installed a driver for a keyboard with the wrong language for yet another co-worker. At this point I should mention his job is working on Windows based computers. The normal solution is of course, just uninstall the driver and install the correct version. Of course if was that simple I wouldn't have anything to blog about.

    The uninstaller removed the files but not the registry entries. Now every time he tries to install the correct drivers it just asks him to uninstall the old one first. He even tried to re-install the first set of drivers in an attempt to re-run the uninstaller again. Now he has to spend his day manually scanning and searching through thousands of registry entries in an attempt to find the one that is holding things up. I do not envy him at all.

    I have been in his position many times and I remember the countless hours of frustration and stress I spent on various Windows machines trying to get something to work the way it was suppose to. Driver issues are probably the worst. This is especially true when working with hardware from a smaller, less-known company that may or may not have the best quality driver programmers at their disposal. These smaller companies usually cannot afford to offer the best support and the user base is either nonexistent for help or so overly technical that any help they may offer is rendered useless.

    While I do pity my co-worker and I do genuinely feel bad for him, I can't help but look upon this as a reminder as to why I switch to a Macintosh. I have not had to restart my computer (as of this writing) for 11 days and 19 hours. Not too bad. While I do not consider myself an Apple "FanBoy" (I love my Android phone) I do really like the fact that my computer just works.

    I hope my co-worker can fix the problem and get his friends computer working before the weekend starts. I am just glad that, for once, its not me in the hot seat.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Changing habits

    I have been using computers for as long as I can remember. My first computer was a TRS-80 Color Computer II. It was good for what it was. You could plug it into a TV and write simple BASIC programs for it. It was a lot of fun. My first "real" computer was an IBM XT with a clock speed of 4.77 Mhz (Not Ghz) and had 64Kb (Not Mb) of ram. It had no hard drive and only a single 5 1/4 inch floppy disk drive. In order to use the other side of the disk you had to cut into the disk casing (there used to be a special tool for this as well) and actually flip the disk over. This was not unlike an old fashioned record player. It came with MSDOS 2.1 and could display text in four colors. It was a powerhouse for its day and was the machine that got me into low-level "assembly" language programming.

    I have been coding in various languages for over twenty years now. In the last few years my actual time writing programs has taken a dramatic fall. I have relegated myself to keeping track of developing software and trying to stay on top of the latest trends in software development.

    I blame this on my Apple Macbook Pro. Why? Because it just works.

    About a nine months ago my wife and I switched from PC to Mac. We did it all in one day and haven't looked back since. Usually we would by a new (or upgrade an existing) PC around every nine to twelve months. We had to do this one person at a time for cost reasons and so we had developed an "upgrade cycle" that was nearly never ending. I managed to convince my wife that an initial layout for higher priced Mac's would be cheaper in the long run because we would be able to break the upgrade cycle.

    It was a tough fight that took a few years, but finally she relented. She had concerns about applications she used on the PC and the total cost of switching over. These are justified and I did my best to assure her that everything was going to be fine. So far that has held true.

    For me at least, I am still forced to have Microsoft Windows. This only due to a single program that I "must have" for work; the IBM Workplace Forms Viewer. There is no alternative to this application and it is Microsoft Windows only. I also need to be able to digitally sign these form and the software for windows that does that prevents me from using such applications as "Wine Bottle" or other methods of virtualization. So I use Parallels Desktop and now I can run this one application that my employer forces upon me on my mac desktop. If I could find a way to get rid of this one application I could dump Microsoft altogether.

    My wife, on the other hand has already dropped Microsoft from her radar. Her only regret is that we didn't make the switch sooner. She loves her 21" IMac, and I must say the display really is beautiful.

    No, we have not become "Mac-O-Lites" although I do frequent the "Cult of Mac" web site. We just really like that our computers just work. It even found and setup our network printer on the first try. No installing drivers, or setting up network configurations. It found everything on the network and it took less than twenty minutes to get everything up and running.

    It is also because everything "just works" that I really have no interest in writing software anymore. I think my MacBook Pro is making me lazy. Yes, I can re-write the IBM Workplace Forms Viewer for Mac, but I really don't want to. I started to at one point and even got to the point that i could open and edit a few of the forms and save the data back to the file.

    But alas, I have found an easier "more Mac Friendly" solution. Adobe Acrobat Pro. You see, Mac's can natively print to PDF. I can then use Acrobat Pro to make a "blank" form not only fillable but also digitally sign-able. I even found "ezPDF Reader" for my Android phone that lets me edit these PDF's right on my phone. Once I get a tablet (I hoping for a new Kindle Fire for Christmas) I will be able to load that app on the tablet and continue to work from the tablet using PDF's.

    Mac, has once again, screwed me by "just working". Thanks.

    So what now? Now, I am in that transitional phase between developer and user. I am sliding away from writing my own software and just using what works. Its amazing how much is really available. Oh, I also haven't had to restart my Macbook Pro in 18 days, 14 hours and 31 minutes as of this post, but that's just bragging.

   

Monday, November 21, 2011

Self publishing

    You know, our world just keeps getting better. Today I discovered something that, while not exactly new, seems relatively unknown. Perhaps its because it is a niche market thing. I don't know. Let me explain.
   
    You see, for a while now I have been an avid fan of a piece of software called Scrivener. It was originally a Mac only product, but has recently been moved to Windows and Linux as well. If you do any kind of writing, this thing is awesome. I am not sure what I can compare it too, but take my word for it. This thing is great. And, it just got better. Well for me anyway.

    Amazon sells books. Well they sell a lot of things, but books are a major part of that. In fact, any Amazon customer can (and probably already has) sign up for Kindle Direct Publishing. This is a free service that allows (would-be and other-wise) authors to self publish their work for free and Amazon will sell their work in the Amazon book store.

    The catch? Well, none really. Amazon will give you 70% of total sales of whatever you publish. They list it on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and a couple of other countries. You can receive your payments via old fashioned cheque, or by Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT). You can even specify the currency to be paid in. It really seems like a fairly sweet deal. After asking a few questions in some writing forums online I found more than one author who uses this services exclusively and they make a fair amount of scratch for their work.

    So how does Amazon selling your stuff for you involve software? Scrivener now has a feature to "Publish" your latest creation directly to Kindle format. (Free software plugin download from Amazon required) You can choose your cover art, build a table of contents (or let Scrivener do it for you), and more. Basically, with a few tweaks you can have your novel or whatever ready for primetime in no time.

    Once you're happy with the way it looks, you just upload, set your price and wait. No more agents, no more publishing houses. Now, you go strait to your target audience with your creation. A few simple clicks and you are a published author. Of course, you still need to write something first. In any case, it is option for new aspiring writers that can't seem to find a home with an established publishing house.

   So, if you have tried to pitch your novel and have more rejection letters than you shake a stick at, give it a try. What do you have to lose?

Friday, November 11, 2011

A new look

    I decided to change the layout / template of this blog for various reasons. The main being I really was never happy with the old one. If you look to the top left you can choose how you want to view this blog, my way of giving something back ... enjoy.

Amazon's, Apples and Google's ... oh my!

    Tablet, eReader or just move some stuff around for a while? That is the question.

    A while back I was trying to decide to whether to develop for Android or iOS/osX. I have since decided on the latter. Not for any altruistic reason, mainly because I just like the way Apple products work. Then, when I wasn't looking, Amazon introduces the Kindle Fire. A "sub" tablet like device intended for media consumption. The competition on the field seems to be getting better.

    Since my initial decision to learn Xcode I have started to setup my "development environment". Not just the software I use, but my workspace as well. A few surprises have struck me in the way I work. First, I have decided that whenever possible I will get the electronic version of any book I buy. I already have more books than my house can store in any reasonable manner so this was an easy choice.

    What I haven't counted on is the way I access such material. I have the Kindle app on my Android phone and my MacBook pro. I have purchased a couple of books (in Kindle format) to help me learn Xcode and Objective-C. What I didn't count on was how inconvenient it was to have to switch from my Xcode screen and my Kindle application. I really like running the Amazon Kindle application full screen as it get a full page view that is easy to read at a glance. What I need is a way to move my eBooks off of my desktop that I am also trying to do work on. The screen on my Android phone is just too small to get the job done. What to do?

    I have a few of options to play with, but neither the time nor money to explore every possibility in practice. So, as I usually do, I research the problem to death until I can find a solution that will work for me.


    Solution #1:
    Use a USB to VGA adapter to setup a second external screen, rotate it into portrait mode and just leave it for things like the Amazon Kindle application or viewing PDF's. Since the frame rate of USB video is usually unusable for gaming (with I rarely do anyway) it would be just for simple documents or web pages. This would free up my desktop and still allow me to easily have my eBooks open at the same time.


    Solution #2:
    Get an eReader.

    The Amazon Kindle Fire looks to be a great choice, at least at first glance. The problem is that I know it can do so much more than Amazon will allow. So, I will probably end up rooting the darn thing to make it do more. I will spend so much time on that I won't get any real work done. Also I am not sure how well the display will look in direct sunlight.



    The Apple iPad or iPad2 is a great choice and I would get one today if they weren't so expensive. After using an iPad2 that a co-worker has purchased, I really like it. I just can't justify spending that kind of money on something I won't be doing my primary work on. Call me cheap, but I don't think I would take it to work either. I would be in too much fear of scratching and/or breaking the thing.

    Getting a "real" Android tablet is also out of the question. The ones that are worth anything cost as much as an iPad2 but Android just isn't refined enough yet to compete for a quality user experience. Besides their cost, the sheer size and weight are a major deterrent. Some of these feel like a laptop with the lid flipped over.

    Of course, there is also the basic $79 Kindle eReader from Amazon that would do the job. In fact it's currently the forerunner of the eReaders I am looking at. It's cheap, reliable, small and light weight yet large enough to "look" like a real book. However it is in black and white, so color pages may or may not display correctly. My wife currently has a Kindle 3G (the one with the keyboard) and has many medical books on it. While images look just fine most of the time, there are those rare occasions when you get an error like "image size to large" or some such. While not a perfect solution, I could just as easily toss it in the car and read it when I am my lunch break and not worry to much about damaging it. That alone makes it a very attractive option.

    Solution #3:
    This one will require a complete re-arangment of my work area. You see, I currently use a "Henge Dock"( http://www.hengedocks.com/ ) which stands up my MacBook pro on end when docked. That means the lid is closed and I use an external display, hence Solution #1. Basically I would drop the dock, and go back to plugging in and unplugging some four or five connections every time I leave my desk with my laptop. The dock is great for just grab and go. When I return I just drop the laptop back in and I am ready to go. Easy peasy.

    Of course, this is also the cheapest option as I do not have to purchase anything else, but would do away with my dock that I have already spent $60 on. This is actually the most complicated option really. Mainly because I have a smallish work space as both me and my wife share a room that we both use as an office. It's not cramped, but doesn't really leave room for expansion either.

    However, since it is in fact the cheapest solution, and the holidays are coming up fast, I think it will be the one I at least try first. Who knows, maybe Santa will be nice this year.

Google+ and Blogger

    No one who uses Google+ and Blogger.com can argue that better integration would be a good thing. Currently Google owns both of the services and they are both great at what they do and serve their respective target audiences well. Many users of both Google+ and Blogger.com have been Google fans for years. Even if you don't consider yourself a fan, per-say, you have to admit that most people use Google products in someway on a regular basis. 

    Since its launch, Google+ has faced an uphill battle for acceptance. Early adopters tended to be more "tech" minded and not afraid to try something new. It is the users who make up the culture of any service, not the service itself. Those early adopters (myself included) have gone a long way towards developing that culture. For better or worse, Google+ is what it is today because of those who are not afraid of change. 
    
    Blogger.com users are also a niche group. Not everyone will start a blog, or even read one. For those of us who do decide to start a blog, only around ten percent will stay with it or try to make anything out of it. The ones that remain however, tend to be snappy and witty while trying to appeal to their particular target audience. 

    While the types and topics of Blogs are as varied as their users, most try to stick with a single focus in the hope of regular visitors for each new post. Sadly I am still trying to figure out what exactly this particular blog is suppose to be about. It seems that the randomness of the topics is the only constant. I digress, I am losing focus. Something I seem to be good at. 

    So here are my top five ideas for better integration of Google+ and Blogger: 
  1. Have a setting that can be turned on or off by the user that will auto post the title and first paragraph of the newly published blog post on your Google+ page. (Link to the blog of course)
  2. Allow people to "theme" their Google+ page to match their blog for a more seamless user experience. 
  3. Have a page or tab on blogger that also shows your Google+ posts. 
  4. Include a circle for your blog (see item#3) on Google+
  5. View other blogs on Google+ (like item #1) by adding it to a circle.  
    This of course is assuming that we don't get "total" integration. That is, all of the Blogger.com functionality right inside of Google+. That would be good, except for those (again such as myself) that try to monazite their blogs by including advertisements. If you could park a domain on your Google+ page while keeping your source of revenue that would be just about perfect. It would give you all of the benefits of Google+ while keeping the personalization of Blogger.com 
    
    Of course, I don't see this happening anytime soon, but it would be nice. A user could have one portal that would allow them to follow all of the social feeds they want, allow others to follow you, and still monazite your site. Almost sounds to good to be true, which is why it probably won't happen. 
    
    Still, the way we use the internet is always changing and will continue to change for a long time to come.


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Zombie Defense ...

    Halloween is fast approaching and I feel its time to discuss zombies. Not everything about them, that would take (and has taken) an entire book. Indeed the horror movie sub-genre of "zombie movies" has a wonderful following around the world. This post will not go more in depth to "zombie lore". What this post will cover is some basic survival information should the Zombie Apocalypse ever occur.
    Specifically, I want to talk about weapon choices and planning. The army has a saying, "Always remember your five P's". Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. There are others like, "Luck favors the prepared" or even, "Blades don't need reloading". All very good pieces of advice.
    Bladed or even blunt, bludgeoning weapons are an important part of your Zombie defense arsenal. I am not denying that at all. Just don't go looking for a sword if you have never handled on before. Instead look for a "peasant weapon". These are anything you can get your hands on. Axes, machetes, knives and even picks or baseball bats. Anything that you can swing repeatedly. Remember, zombies don't get tired but you will.
    That's why I am concerned with ranged weapons. I don't want them getting close enough to use a lead pipe. Bows and crossbows are always a good choice for two major reasons. First they make little to no noise that can attract other zombies to your location. Second the arrows (or "bolt" for crossbows) can be recovered later and reused. The downside is of course the strings can, and do wear out so finding replacements can prove problematic. If you do decide on one of these as your primary weapon make sure you have extra strings and other parts and that you are familiar with their use and maintenance. This is of course true with any weapon or tool.
    My personal choice is High Point Firearms 9mm Carbine. I don't personally own this weapon, yet. Getting a 9mm carbine past my wife and into the budget takes some work. I won't go into detail about that here, but rest assured I do plan on getting one. I digress.
    This weapon is a good choice for a few reasons. First, it uses standard 9mm ammunition that can be obtained from just about anywhere. Most military, law enforcement, and security people use the standard 9mm ammunition that this weapon uses. Now I know what your thinking, what good is a pistol bullet going to do? Plenty. With the longer barrel length accuracy ranges should be nearly tripled over a hand gun. Besides, the popular MP5 submachine gun uses the same ammo but costs around $4,000.
    Using the same ammunition as your side arm means keeping track of fewer items. 9mm ammunition is very small and you can carry a lot of it in a fairly small space. I do recommend having a 9mm pistol as a side arm for when things get really close, say less than 20 feet.
    It also has a wide array of attachments that can be added. While the laser may not be that useful in most situations, the flashlight most certainly would be. Given the right "tactical" light and you can have an on/off switch moved to the forearm or forward grip of the weapon. This lets you control the light without letting go of the weapon.
    Of course it would be better if the High Point Carbine would also accept a standard magazine, such as those made by Glock or even Beretta. This would give you the added advantage of reusing magazines in multiple weapons. But, it doesn't. Still, using the same ammo and saves you a lot of worry about accidentally trying to load the wrong type into your weapon.
    9mm rounds can also be made mostly silent by means that I won't cover here. This would make it as useful as a crossbow or other such weapons in not attracting other zombies to your location. It is much lighter than most "assault rifles" and is easy to operate, even by a novice.
    That is my pick for my "Primary Zombie Defense Weapon". The High Point Firearms 9mm Carbine wins out on more than enough features to push it to the top. While not a perfect choice, a starting price of only $274 makes it very compelling. The money I save now I can use later for other items, such as a better first aid kit, which is a good idea to have anyway, or even more ammunition.
    Until next time remember your five "P's.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Some interesting stats ...

    I was just looking at my statistics for my blog and I got some interesting numbers. Keep in mind that most of the time I never look at these things as I really don't have any idea how to effectively use such information. I am not an analyst. Yet the information is available so I looked anyway. Blogger.com keeps track of all these numbers automatically so I haven't really had to "do" anything to get them, besides look at the page they are on.

    For "Web browsers" that visit my blog, Safari ranks number one with 58% of all visitors using it. Firefox came in second with 26% and Microsoft Internet Explorer came in last at 14%.

    For Operating system Apple Macs won out again by a lot at 54%, while windows was only at 22%. Linux came in third at 17% leaving Blackberry and the Apple iPad to get 2% each.

    Well that's all great, but what does it mean? Not much really. Even though I myself use a mac, none of these "page views" are from me. There is a setting in blogger.com that prevents it from counting a view if I am logged in, which is always. So none of these are from me. I don't have any iOS devices so those are out as well. I don't even know anyone who uses a Blackberry.

    For one thing, I noticed that it separates iPad and Mac, but I am sure that iPhone uses safari as well, and it doesn't show me those. Also, I am not sure if Googles Android OS would show up separately or as Linux.

    I think it is because I talk so much about Mac's and Cocoa programming and generally a lot about Apple that just more people with Mac's tend to find my blog. Not that I really care how or why a person gets on the internet, but it is nice to see that people do actually read this stuff from time to time.

    Still, it is a good reminder that companies do track this sort of information. I suppose I could read into this that my "target audience" should be Mac users running "Safari". I don't think I will.

    For whatever it's worth, these are my bog stats for that last month. I won't post actual page visits or any "real" numbers, there really is no need, and I really don't care enough about actual numbers to put it all down. Still, these numbers are fairly interesting and I often wonder who are all these people that actually visits my blog. I guess anonymity is worth something. Until next time ...

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Its been a very busy time ...

Work, work, work ...

It's all I seem to have time for these days. From employee health issues, to staying on top of paper work it has been a very busy couple of months for me. The upcoming holidays don't seem to be helping much either.

At one point I wondered if I would have time to stay on top of a blog. As I said in many of my early posts, I didn't know if I was up to it. It does require a certain amount of persistence. It has been over two months since my last post and I do apologize. I have decided to recommit myself to this blog and try to push through till the end of the year.

Stress management is more useful and not nearly as scary as one might think. When most people think of stress management they tend to get visions of yoga classes, or meditating. Something that is generally relaxing and peaceful. Not always true I have discovered.

This month, I, the man with an admitted fear of large bodies of water, went scuba diving. Not for very long mind you, but I went. I started off by holding on to the side of the boat of just holding my face under the surface to get used to breathing pure oxygen while trying not to panic. Just getting that far took me almost an hour of practice. I was ready to dive, or so I thought.

The instructor was very friendly and encouraging. He took me some fifty to sixty feet down a guide rope to the ocean floor. After more than a few panic attacks I was at the bottom, clinging to the guide rope for all I was worth. I would panic, and force myself to breath regularly about every 15 seconds. The instructor went back to the surface to get another member of the dive group and bring them down. I was alone at the bottom the ocean. It was spectacular.

The water was amazingly clear and I could see everything. The rocky cliff a few hundred feet away, the school of tropical fish swimming by, the giant sea turtle that had decided to swim circles around me, and even something that looked like an eel making its way across the ocean floor.

For what seemed like an eternity I was completely entranced by this strange and beautiful new world. In reality it was less than five minutes. I tried to look up and my mask came loose, water flooded my vision. I started to panic. Somehow I managed to remember the steps to clear the mask and I did. I started to calm down again.

I looked for the giant sea turtle again, but could not find it. Then, without warning, the respirator (the part that allows me to breath) came out of mouth. I frantically forced it back in to my mouth and tried clearing it as I had been instructed only an hour or so before. I swallowed what felt like a gallon or more sea water before I got it clear. But, the damage was done, and so was I.

I met the instructor about half way back up the rope and used the hand signal he had taught me to indicate my distress and and that I was going back up. He followed me up to ensure I was ok before handing me over to another instructor already on the boat and heading back down with the other members of the group.

Only one person (who shall remain nameless) also chickened out of the dive. The rest enjoyed nearly forty minutes along the ocean floor and even got to play with a friendly octopus. I was happy for them and glad they had a good time.

I have been deployed with the United States Army to both Iraq and Afghanistan. I have been shot at, mortared, had rockets and RPG's fired at me, and more. None of that scared me to anything close to the levels of fear I felt at the ocean floor. I was terrified. And I liked it.

The adrenaline rush was stronger than anything I have ever felt, ever. I am not sure when I will get the time or opportunity to do it again, but I will do it again. Hopefully very soon.

On a side note, one member of the group was an eight year old boy who successfully did his first solo dive and gained his solo diving certification. Yes, an eight year old boy was braver than me that day.

It wasn't until my next day at work that I realized how much stress I had let go of that day. I was in a much better mood than I had been in a very long time. As I feel that stress returning I think of that dive, and the ocean. I am wondering when and even "if" I will be returning to that magical place at the bottom of the ocean. That place of such intense beauty and fear.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Learning the ropes

    So as you may remember from my previous post last Wednesday, I had chosen to develop for Mac OS and iOS rather than the Google Android OS. I also wanted to see if someone could be self taught to do this and actually become a capable programmer.

    Before we get too far down the rabbit hole I should bring you up too speed on my current knowledge of computers, programming and generally all things electronic. First, I am a gadget geek. I love gadgets. I don't really own a lot of a gadget's, but I do like to follow tech news and try to stay on top of what is out there and what is coming soon. Part of the reason for this is just good old-fashioned consumer information. As a good example of one of my blunders, three days after I purchased my Macbook Pro Apple released the newer model. It happens. I could have returned my Macbook, the Apple Store where I purchased it included a 30 day unconditional return policy, and then re-purchased the new model. It may have even been the smart thing to do. Fortunately for me Mac's tend to last for many years.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Of books and electrons ...

    I love books, all kinds of books. I can read a user manual the same way I read a good piece of fiction. I love to learn new things as much as I like to get lost in my imagination as I am swept away on a galactic quest to save the universe. Books can inspire, teach, inform and even change opinions. Books are a very powerful thing.

    Books are things. They can be held, burned and even torn apart. The feel of paper against your fingers is a very real sensation. Seeing words printed on a page gives them a sense of finality that is hard to explain or quantify. Most of us have been reading books since before we can remember, from the earliest days of our youth.

    I own many books. Nothing rare or exotic, but I do own a lot of them. They take up more space than I initially imagined. Whenever I get a new book, I look at its small size and think nothing of where to put it when I am done with it. I just buy it, read it and if the book is lucky I will take the time to find a nook to cram it into on one of my many book shelves. More than likely it will get moved from coffee table to the end table, from there to the headboard, then on to my desk, and finally back to coffee table more times than I can count. Eventually, it will most likely end up in an unlabeled cardboard box in the storage shed. It seems like a semi-tragic end for a thing that, at least for a time, brought me some small semblance of joy. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

XCode and Apple ...

<Warning>
<Nerd Speak Ahead>

    In an earlier post, I discussed my thoughts on whether or not I should learn to develop applications in Java or Apple's proprietary version of Objective-C known as Cocoa. At this point I feel I am obligated to at least re-cap some of the arguments for each.

    In favor of Java: There is a mountain of resources for learning the language. It is fairly well known and cross-platform (meaning you can get Java applications on just about anything from PC's to smart phones). It is well understood by the development community and has a very wide install/user base. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Some changes

    I am still in the process of learning how to use all of the tools available to me on this blog, and this time I have made some changes to the Template. I will be making more changes as the week progresses, but for now I feel it is important to start building towards the "look & feel" that I am after. I would like the time readers spend on here actually reading my blog to enjoy themselves.

    This is actually fairly involved, more so than I have time for tonight. It includes everything from color to font selection. The myriad of choices is a bit daunting, however I am working my way through them and hope to have a well planned and laid out blog by the end of the week.

    I also began my day job this week. Yup, back to work, vacation is over. Phooey. Oh well, at least it pays the bills.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Blogging takes times

    Blogging, I have discovered takes a bit of time. It's not just taking the time to actually sit down and write a post, and hope it is at least mildly entertaining. It also includes taking the time to publish, publicize, design, set layouts, choose fonts and so much more. While this is not my first blog, it is the first one I have actually tried to keep going for more than five posts.

     Today I hit 100 views on this blog. Not really a high number considering it has been going for more than a month. Still, the blog is new, and I am new to it.

    I think I am starting to work out what this blog will be about. Recently I started to "tag" my posts to make them easier to search, and find things. Really, the only tag I have used more than once so far is "Android". I have used that one 3 times. Does than mean that I am going to make this yet another "Android" blog? No. Not at all. What I mean is, I think I am starting to get a feel for what it means to blog regularly. It takes time.

Android vs iOS ... it's not what you think

    Android or iOS? That is the question that confounds my thoughts.

    Not which is better, or more popular, or even easier to use. What I am looking for is which platform do I learn to write software for? I seem to be good at putting my time into the wrong one. I have already wasted years learning to develop on Microsoft Windows and Windows Mobile. Part of the reason I did nothing special with either of them was a decisive lack of joy.

    Yes Windows will get the job done, most of the time, but that doesn't mean you are going to enjoy getting it done. The user experience for most Windows users is one of constant updates, clearing of caches, deleting of cookies, scanning for viruses and installing yet more software to make some piece of mundane hardware work until then next Windows update renders the drivers obsolete or unstable. My years with Microsoft and their operating systems dates back before Windows, before all of this WYSIWYG computing. I remember using computers before Microsoft ever released DOS 2.1 to the public. Yes, I have been using computers since the days of CP/M machines. For those you who are too young to know what a CP/M computer is, consider yourself lucky.

Timezones suck

    OK, I went on a bit of a rant with the last post, but sometimes you just need to get stuff out. I did, however, appear to make a minor error in the last post. Apparently the date on the post had rolled over to the next day on me. I am assuming that this is because I am way out in the Pacific Ocean and the Google servers are somewhere on the mainland. I hate timezones.

    I ran in to the same thing, only worse, in Afghanistan. Afghanistan has a weird 30 minute time offset from regular time zones. What I have learned (From this wiki article) is that times zones are messed up all over the place. Most of them have been set for one arbitrary reason or another that has no real world value.

    So, what does all this mean. Nothing really. I just find it really annoying that for the better part of the last five years I have been in timezones that are way off from anyone that I actually know, or have any reason to contact. Outside of my immediate family that is. Even my son (when he is in school) is four hours ahead of me.

    I have decided that I don't like timezones. There. I said it.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Week 6 ... and I have not killed anyone yet

    That is correct, its been six weeks and I still have not killed anyone. Yeah me! Wait, maybe some background would help.

    Six weeks ago today was Father Day, the first day in many that was smoke free. Yes, the day before Father Day was the last day I smoked a cigarette, or used any other nicotine product. After six weeks, I can now proclaim that I am smoke free! Yeah me!

    Well sort of ...

    Before I get to deep in to this, yes I am breaking my promise not to get too personal on this blog. I know you are also (probably) wondering why I need to devote an entire blog post about it. I am sure you are asking why even put that kind of information out there, or why not just make it a Google+ or Facebook snip-it, or even worse a Tweet! Well I don't have (and hope I never have) a twitter account. I will hold back my feelings about Twitter for now. That topic could be it's very own post, or even a web site.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Its been a while ...

    Yes, I have been away from the blog for a few days and I do apologize. My birthday was over the weekend and I enjoyed it immensely. There was no cake, no ice cream, no fanfare. No, instead I chose to just have a really great day with my family. But I digress, I promised I wouldn't get too personal on this blog. So there it is, I am a year older now. On to the post at hand.

    While I was away from the blog I found a great way to take screenshots of my Android phone. With one tiny app that requires no additional software on my Mac I can now take screen shots with my web browser like this one:

 
    The Android app is called PicMe and is available in the Android Market. It does require "root" to use. Their are other "non-root user" ways to take a screen shot, even get live video of your phone working. I merely had no intention of installing the Android Development Kit and other pieces of software on my Mac to get it done. I wanted a nice simple solution, and this is the one I have found that works for me.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Google Search Links Highjacked, and how to fix them





 
    It has come to my attention that Google Search Results can be highjacked. This has apparently hit the military community as well, redirecting traffic from the link you click to a web page that will attempt to steal your data. Google searches for the problem (ironic eh?) showed this to be a fairly large problem.

    First, some background information. This is not a Google issue, it is yours. Google did not get "hacked" or "hijacked" or anything of the sort, you did. If this happens to you, it is because your system is infected with a very malicious piece of malware that you managed to pickup.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

My Review: Google+ Android App

Greetings,
    Once again I bring you another review. This time, it is the Google+ Android Application available on the Android Market Place. Its free, so if you have an Android phone and a Google+ account, feel free to give it a spin.

    I really wish I could take a screen shots of my phone, but at this moment I cannot. I looked into it and I would need to install a lot of software that I don't need and would never use in order do it. So for now anyway, that option is not available.

    On to the app. The app itself is fairly small at 7.87Mb and only using 7.97Mb of space on the phone itself. It does however require quite a few permissions. It needs access to: Your Personal Information, Default, Your Location, Network Communication, Your Accounts, Storage, Phone Calls, System Tools. Most of this I understand, and there is not too much to worry about. The part about "Your Personal Information" is for reading contact data. I would assume this is so it can offer you more "suggestions" for people to add to your circles, but that is just an assumption. The reason for the "Phone Calls" is to (from the app) "read phone state and identify". This is probably so it doesn't interfere with calls and to "identify" the phones owner (gmail.com address) so it links to the correct Google+ account. Again I am assuming here, and you know what they about assuming anything.

    I have a first generation Motorola Droid phone, on that screen the widget is full width, so make sure you have space on a desktop for it. From there you can launch the Google+ app, post messages, take and share photo's, or review photo's already uploaded.

    The main feature about the app that I really like is the "Auto Upload". What it does is upload photos as you take them to a "private" library on your Google+ account. No one can see them yet. You can still Select photo's to share from your phone end even leave comments about them, but the "Auto Uploaded" photo are not shared by default. This is great just in case you snap that really embarrassing one.

    From the app itself you can view streams, photo's, your profile, circles, and even start a huddle on your phone or join one already in progress. The app really is smart for the most part. Once again however, Google+ drops the ball on notification. For some reason I am forced to acknowledge the same notifications four or five times before it goes away. Since this is the same problem that I was concerned with in my post about Google+ (the site), I am once again being forced to assume it is a notification problem with the site, and not with the Android App itself.

    For the most part, even on my now venerable first generation moto-droid, the app is very responsive and the simple interface doesn't feel at all cluttered. In fact, at times it actually feels like they are going out of their way to use space. There really is a lot of room for more "stuff." Then again, if your phone is even older than mine, you may have a bit of a problem. I really wouldn't think so, but stranger things have happened.

    I did have one issue that may or may not be related to the app itself. When I got home to plug in phone to my MacBook Pro, the application was still uploading the last photo. I made the mistake of mounting the SD Card to gain access to the pictures via my laptop. Rather than the app just quitting, or otherwise stop what it was doing, the app forced a rather rapid restart of the phone. No warnings or nice shutdown screen. Just a blank screen, then a clean boot screen animation. I gave the phone a few moments to complete this. It is getting on in age and it can take some time to get going. Sort of like me in the morning.

    Overall I give the app four and half stars. There is definitely room for the app to do more than it does, but then again I like the clean interface. They also need to fix that darn notification issue. Ack!

Monday, July 11, 2011

What would it take for you give up cable tv?

Today I made a very large decision, I turned off my cable TV. I did not switch to satellite or some other paid medium, I just shut it all off. My house phone was through the cable company so that went also. All I have left is a 15Mb/Sec connection to the internet and three smart phones, and I couldn't be happier.



My bill from Oceanic Cable (Time Warner) here in Hawaii was $165.83 per month. Now its $49.91. That is a savings of $115.92 per month. Really the only shows we watched were True Blood on HBO and Criminal Minds. That's it really. We just couldn't justify paying $115 for access to two serialized TV shows we can download from the internet that we are already paying for.

Of course the big question is now what? I have this really great entertainment system, surround sound and everything, and no High-Def cable TV. What do I do now? Well, a few things.

First, I have had a Netflix account for quite some time now and most of the movies and TV shows that I watch are already streaming in HD. I even find shows I would have never found otherwise with Netflix. It really is great.

Second, I purchased a Roku player. My biggest worry about dropping cable TV was live news. Sure there is a lot of News Feeds via the internet, but for some reason I am hung up on live news. Maybe its a generational thing. Who knows? Roku solved that with a few options. The live news feeds I can watch currently are CNN International, Aljazeera, RT (Russian News) and BBC Word Service. While more are always being added I also get CNN, Fox News, CBS News, ABC News, and even news from KJCT in Grand Junction, CO. as pre-recorded feeds. They are never more than a couple hours old so I am not really missing much with the time zone changes anyway.

Also, since I have switched to Mac over a PC I can stream my entire iTunes library (music, video, hd movies, whatever) to my XBox, and thus to my TV from my MacBook Pro.

If all of this is so great what about the two shows you gave up for this savings? EhhemTorrentsEhhe, cough. That has been worked out as well. There is always a way to gain access to media via the internet.

If you want to save a whole lot of money ($115.92/month * 12 months = $1,391.04/year) you may want to take some time and re-evaluate what you actually take the time to watch on TV and decide for yourself if the cost is worth those few shows. Of course this option is not for everyone, so chose wisely and really look at your own situation before deciding.

Running like a ... cool breeze

I went for a run today, and I enjoyed it. It has been a very long time since I went running and I was surely feeling it, especially at the end. The run lasted for two miles and took me about seventeen minutes. I would like to cut a full two minutes off that time. It's not a question of "if" i can, its more of a question of motivation. You see, I hate physical training. It is boring for the most part. I have been trying to find ways to make it fun, I really have.

The closest I have come is by using a program called "Cardio Trainer" for Android. I plug in my head phones and start running. It plays music and gives me spoken time and distance while I run. I even have a playlist just for running, though I have to take "Turn Up The Radio" by "Autograph" off of it. The beat just isn't fast enough for the pace I need to be running at.

Honestly I would like to get my two mile down to around 15 minutes or less. For those people who think in terms of marathons, 2 miles is just shy of 5k and is about 1/8th of a full marathon. My best run time ever for two miles was 13 minutes 47 seconds. I puked at the end; wasn't a good look for me.
It is strange, but every time I quit smoking, I go slower on my runs. At least this time I have some time to get ready before the next PT Test. If it wasn't for the PT Test the Army would be the easiest job I have ever had. Anyone can do this, it's easy.

Still I am working on making myself better. Of course all this comes after months of doing nothing besides just lounging around. Its going to hurt for a week or so, but I will get back in to the grove.
My Current "Run Music" Playlist
  1.  Turn Up The Radio - Autograph (Getting Deleted and replaced later)
  2.  Back In Black - AC/DC
  3.  Rag Doll - Aerosmith
  4.  Smooth Criminal - Alien Ant Farm
  5.  Takin' Care Of Business - Bachman-Turner Overdrive
  6.  Mobile - Avril Lavine
  7.  No Rain - Blind Melon
I would appreciate any suggestions for a good running music. Thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Post #6

Yup ... I did it. I made it past five posts. That's the normal life span of any blog I have ever created. Ever. This is officially post number six. Yeah me!

In all honesty I never expected to make it this far. I am still not sure how much further I will go with it, or what I plan to do with it. I have read a few "guides" on blogging. You know, "What makes a successful blog...", "How to blog ... " and such crap. Most of them have some of the same advice you found when the internet was young, and dialed into. It was the same advice for creating home pages. "Link to as many ...", "You should ...". It was all crap. I even found a blog on how to blog. How sad is that.

I do not consider myself a "blogger". I am just a guy who needs an outlet for writing. Note I didn't say good writing. I just like to write, and sometimes I find what comes out interesting, kind of like going to the bathroom. You know you need to do it, and sometimes you look at the results and say, "huh ... I wasn't expecting that ..."

I am no novelist or poet, no journalist or biographer. I am just a guy who likes to write about the random stuff that crosses my brain. Sometimes it isn't complete crap, sometimes it's even bearable. Once in a great while I even like what I write. If not the exact words, the premise and the ideas that made the words I enjoy. I guess you can say I am introvert trying to be an extrovert. Of course you can say that. Your not me, so really you can just about anything.

I have a few things on my plate, and lately I have had little time for myself. Well, that's not entirely true. I have slept a lot. A whole lot. What I should have said was I haven't had much motivation to use my time well. That is a much more true statement.

The fact is, I'm lazy. I work hard so my family doesn't have to, but mainly so I don't have to once get home. I like to be lazy, it has its moments. I really shouldn't be lazy but I am. I am trying to get better at not being lazy.

I have begun to fill my life with tasks and hobbies. I have my family, I also have Netflix and the internet, but then again I have had the last two for a while now. What I have added is a second dog, a garden, a workout schedule, a hobby (photography), a hobby (blogging), a hobby (writing, kind of goes with the last one), gotten promoted at work and placed in a management  position and following my interests. These include muscle cars, tuner hatchbacks, art, music, science and engineering, space travel and colonization, and even alien life.

The one thing I forgot to add is time management. I am sure I will get better at this, but for now each day is just a guess at what will happen or what I will be interested in doing, if anything.

This is probably the most personal post to date, and probably will be for a while. I tend to talk about things I like or don't like, or subjects that interest me personally, but I try to stay away from getting too personal. Guess I missed in this post. Oh well, take or leave it.

One last thing, these Google adds on this blog are placed here by me. Clicking on them will get me some spare change. Maybe even enough to get my own dot com for this blog. Please click them.

One more last thing (Last one I promise). The background Image for this blog is a stock photo that came with the template. If you want it (or anything) about this blog changed, just let me know and I will see what I can do. Oh yeah, the day before fathers day was the last day I had a cigarette. I really want one ...

Google+

So, I got myself an invite to Google+ (Google Plus). This post will be about what I like and don't liek about Google+ and how it compares to FaceBook. If you don't know what Google+ is then this post isn't for you. Ask around your friends, I am sure someone has it and they can send you an invite. Otherwise, you can look me up on FaceBook and if I know you I will probably send you an invite. Now for the review.

What I like about Google+

  1. I really like the "Circles" idea. This is a much easier way to keep friends and family organized into groups. You can add people to multiple groups or just one group. You can even make new groups, such as the "Army Buddies" group I made for those that I have served in the military with. Also, you can add anyone with a Google+ account for easy access to there Google+ page. However, if they do not put you into a circle, then you can only see public posts and you cannot write on their wall, or page, or whatever Google+ calls it. I really like that idea a lot. This way you can keep family arguments out of the public eye, if you want to. 
  2. Hangout, it looks promising, but I am taking a "wait and see" approach to this one. Basically its group video chat. I think we all remember chat roulette. 
  3. Instant Mobile Upload. This is great. With my Android Phone I can auto upload photo's I take on my phone without actually going to the app to do it. The great thing is they go to a private folder and won't actually be shared until I choose to share them. This keeps me from accidentally posting that really embarrassing one with the lampshade. 

What I don't like about Google+

  1. Too FaceBookey. The simple layout is very bland and seems to use the same "format" or layout as FaceBook. Granted Google users have always had a penchant for the simplified UI, but this is just too close to call "A Unique Experience". 
  2. So far, I can find no blogger.com auto link. It would be nice to post a status update when new blog posts are made. Granted I have been very busy and not tending to this the way I need to, but then again I am not even sure if it will survive once I get back to work in a couple weeks. This vacation can't last forever. 
  3. "Circles", again. You can add anyone with an email address. Even if they do not have an account. Makes it simple to add contacts, but then again, I already have GMail for that. 

What I would like to see in Google+

  1. Better UI. Yes, I know Google+ is still in active beta testing, but it could be cleaned up a lot better and not be so ... facebookey. 
  2. Better Alerts Notification. I have an alert on mine that I have acknowledged at least ten times, and it still shows up as a new alert each time I close my browser and reopen the page. This really needs to get fixed or I am going to start ignoring these things and that will make them useless and redundant. 
  3. A little more customization of the site. Don't get crazy with it like MySpace, but allow a little something to make it your own. Something like iGoogle would be nice. I use iGoogle as my web browser start page and I love it. Perhaps Google could add a widget for iGoogle to check updates without actually loading the page. Maybe. 
As was stated before, Google+ is still very much in Beta Testing but overall I like it very much. While I won't be dropping my Facebook page anytime soon, I can see the possibility of that day coming.  Only time will tell.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Sammy - The Cardio-Trainer

Sammy
This is Sammy, my new dog. He is part Dalmatian, part Rhodesian Ridge Back and part mutt. I recently rescued him from the Honolulu Humane Society and I couldn't be happier. While he is very energetic and keeps me moving (usually to keep him from chewing on everything) he is not very smart and only partially house broken. There have been "accidents" in that last area. He reminds me a lot of that dog in the movie "Over The Hedge", "Plaaay?". Over all I couldn't be happier, he is a very loving dog and has taken to his new home with zeal.

Later today I will be taking Sammy for his first distance run. We got him two weeks ago tomorrow and we have been giving him time to integrate into the house and neighborhood. Taking him for walks has given him time to get used to the sights and smells of our area so when I do take him for a run, it won't be such an "exploration" and we can just go run. That's the plan anyway.

I think a short run, only two or two and a half miles will be a good first run that I can use to gauge his fitness level and see if this will be a regular thing or not. I hope so, because I do enjoy running. When I get off my bum and do it I enjoy it. The hardest part is getting going, once I start I have a really good time.

Lately however, I have had a lot of demands on my time that have been getting in the way. I got a new dog, my grandmother pasted away, I recently returned from Afghanistan, my son is home from college, my wife is kind of glad I am home from Afghanistan, I have started to blog again and I have started to plant a garden. Busy busy busy.

Now that things are starting to settle down a bit it is time to start working out on a regular basis again. I find its better to workout with someone there to help motivate you. I hope Sammy can run, because he sure can sprint. I am not expecting great run times on this first run, since I am sure he has never run for distance before. I would like to say I will go easy on him, but I think he will wear me out before I can wear him out.

Hopefully later today I will post the results of the run. Until then, I have stuff to get done.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Morituri te salutamus

We who about to die salute you.

What an interesting thought that is. We know we are going to die, and yet we are proud. Proud of our heritage, proud of our people, and proud to sacrifice all that we are so that others may live. Its a very nice sentiment, but a bit of an over statement for this post. What we are facing is the end of an era, the closing of a chapter, the turning of a page. 

In this new era of a slow economy, high fuel prices, and relearning how to live within our means we also serve as  witness to the slow death of the performance automobile, the muscle car, and all they stood for. In an age of "clean-deisel" and hybrid technology the fuel guzzling V8's of the past will only be a show piece for "custom" cars and private enthusiasts. Ford has even announced they will be dropping the V-8 as an option for the Mustang except for "higher end applications". 

This is by no means a call to arms, a last rebel cry into the darkness on a rainy night to inspire and rally the forces of ... something .... against ... something else .... 

Nostalgia is nothing more than foggy memories of the past with all the bad parts stripped away. We like to remember the good times, they help when we are forced to relive the bad times. We like to look back and say "Yes! We did that!" 

What we don't say, especially in front of the younger generations, those that grew up on these stories, is what it was really like. How we spent rent money foolishly, or had to use the money for the electric bill as bail money. We tell them that it was hard, but we leave the hardest parts out. We neglect the bad and cherish the good because we have too, because we are human. We are trained from birth that we should not dwell on the past. Yet we are compelled too. 


http://www.allfordmustangs.com/photopost/data/500/1967-Mustang-Fastback.jpg

The image above is a 1967 Ford Mustang Fastback. It has been updated, repainted and reinvented many times since it was born some forty four years ago. Adjectives used to describe this car include iconic, beautiful, fast, sexy and many more. Even to those who have never owned one, simply seeing such a car instills an nostalgic emotional response, that longing for the good times of yesteryear. Even those that are far to young to have even been conceived look upon this car, and others like it, with a sense of wonder and excitement. They have heard the stories, talked to those who've lived the legends, or at least claimed they have. They know that this car is special and it should be preserved. If not by them, by someone, anyone. Just so long as the legends and stories don't fade away. Sadly some do.



This is a 1972 Ford Maverick. If it had been safety orange it would be a dead ringer for my first car. I remember that car well, nostalgically. I remember pulling it from a field with a SAAB and drilling out broken bolts that had rusted away to make it run again. Most importantly I remember the friends and the shared experience of getting that heap running. That is what we are really looking for when nostalgia hits. Those are the memories we seek most. We don't think of the betrayals, the lost loves or the arguments. We remember the good times that we shared. The time spent with good friends, cheep cars, bad food and fast women. We remember the brawls. The ones we won mostly, and that one we lost that hurt so much. You know the one I mean. 

Adjectives used to describe the Maverick include "eh..", bucket, cheap, junk and "really" (usually accompanied with a look of confusion). You can buy these cars for anywhere from $50 to $200 that run, sort of. A good one will set you back the better part of a grand and the truly great ones go for as much as six thousand. Thats it. Just $6000.00 and you can have your very own top of the line Maverick, even with custom paint. A good restoration could easily run as high as $60,000.00, ten times the maximum financial worth of the car. The fact is these cars are not as desirable to the average person as the Mustang's, the Cobra's and the Camero's of world. 

The death of the Maverick has been a long time coming, and still continues. There are those that try valiantly to keep the remaining few operational, even desirable. They are losing. 

What makes one car more desirable than another? It can't be numbers, there are fewer Maverick's than Mustang's. It can't be cost, Maverick's are cheaper, by far, than any Mustang. So what then are we looking for when we place desire upon on a object like a car. We are looking for nostalgia. Even if the car is new, like the BMW One Series, the latest Porche or even the newest Charger. If we are too young to think about the memories of yesteryear, we are still old enough to have heard the stories and it is now a new generations time in the sun. It is their time to make memories of their own, and mistakes of their own. 

To an American a car still represents freedom. If we are not free to make bad decisions then are we really free? Life is about bad choices, it is the drama that makes the memories, it is the engine of our lives. 

For the last few years my wife and I have been debating on starting a "project car". Something that we can both get behind and build for fun, and to create a little nostalgia for ourselves. The problem of course is car selection, there are many of the greats to choose from. And that is the problem I now face. 

I live on an island in the pacific ocean. Car selection on the island is sparse at best. This means that more often than not I will have to buy a car from the mainland and ship it here, then ship it back when my time on the island is done. That adds around $3k to the equation. Some say we should wait until we get off the island. Then again, we have waited already. For a deployment to end, for a move to a new duty station to be completed, for my son to finish school. We always have a reason to wait, and so we do. What we need is a reason to stop waiting, I am still looking for that reason. 

Is waiting the smart choice? Probably. Is it the right choice? I have no idea but I suspect not. 

What I have decided is that despite the grumbling, the logic, or even common sense, I want to build a Maverick. The car I had back then probably had a lot less potential than I remember, and probably was worth less than I paid for it. (It was free for removing it). All that really doesn't matter though. It really doesn't. 

All people everywhere make choices everyday. To buy or not to buy an iPod. To buy or not to buy a fuel efficient car. Most of these decision are the balance of logic and emotion that we have settled on as our "comfort zone". That middle ground that allows for inspiration to grow without hurting us financially. That is what is meant by the "safe bet". Its the deal that has more good than bad, and it is a decision we can live with. 

Sometime though, you have to get out of your comfort zone and just do it for yourself. Because you can, and because you want to. Not because you need to, or because it is the "right thing" to do. I have been down many roads in my life. Some of those roads are better left forgotten. Some are worth revisiting. None are worth the future. Once again I seek a balance I can live with. Once again I find myself in this place, seeking truth in the fog of nostalgia. Once again, I must wait. 

I know what I want. I even know how to get it. I am waiting for clarity on "should I" get what I want. It is fast approaching the time of "put up or shut up". Men often reach this point, and we usually will react in a predictable manner. We will "usually" react the same way each time we get to that place. One way or another, all men get there many times in their lives. This time though, I am not sure I can predict what I will choose. 

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Posted via Mail

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Fronti nulla fides ...

No reliance can be placed on appearance.

Today was a good day. I spent the day with my Wife Kelly driving around our little Island, really its a rock in the middle of the ocean, but I digress. It was a good day.

Today I learned to not judge a book by its cover. Rather, not to judge a grocer by its sign. I went into an "Organic" grocer today, the name of the chain is not important. (Whole Foods in Honolulu, HI). What is important is what I found inside.

Their was the normal assortment of organically overpriced wares; everything from flannel shirts to burlap bags. Walking around the edges of the store I was unimpressed. I found it bland, stereotypically snobbish and filled with the normal types of folks you expect to see in such a place. You know the kind. The lady who looks 40 and weighs in eighty pounds. Really she is in her mid-twenties, but years of no dairy, no fat, no cholesterol and no life has managed to put some mileage on her. Yup, I was in an organic grocer. Yippie.

Then we made our way to the back of the store, where the smell of rotting seafood made me want to vomit. Well, maybe not rotting. I just hate seafood. I don't think most people realize just how much I hate seafood. It is really really really really really gross. Blehk.....

Once I was firmly in the back middle of the store I was greeted by a young man in a flannel shirt and a knit cap. Oh joy, more of the same I thought to myself. Ok hippie, lets see what ya got.

"Greetings" I said. "This is my first visit to an Organic Store. Can you give me any advice?". The way I see it, in for a penny, in for a pound. (Thats a reference to british money ... )

As it turned how he ended up being very knowledgeable and very well spoken. Impressed my conversation lasted longer than I had anticipated, around two whole minutes. He even offered to give me a free sample to taste of anything in the store. Anything!

I couldn't do it though. Then I would have felt guilty about trying out a hormone free burger or a free range chicken egg without actually buying anything. They did however have a great scottish lamb stew, and an "Organic" lemonade. I am not sure how "Organic" lemonade can be, but I got a bottle anyway. It tasted like lemonade! Imagine that.

Over all I think on my next payday, which is in a few days, I will be returning and buying a lot more than a bottle of lemonade. I am not going "Veg" or "Organic" or anything like that, but the chicken sausage looked and smelled great. I can't wait to try it on the grill.

So while yes, most of the items in there are the typically overpriced crap that vegan snobs buy, they also had some really great food and at reasonable prices for us normal people too. Besides, eating hormone free meat might actually be good for me.

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Chris Lyons
Posted via Mac Mail

Monday, June 27, 2011

First Post ... sort of ...

This is my first post, sort of. A very long time ago I created a blog on blogger.com and I managed five entire posts before I forgot about it. It wasn't a bad blog, but looking back on it now I have to wonder: What I was thinking? At the time it seemed like a great idea to have a blog. Everyone was doing it.

Since then I have been to war, twice. I have gotten married, once. A lot has changed. I recently started to look back into starting a new blog. At first I was excited about getting my own dot com domain, and I still am in many ways. However, after looking at it really hard for a few days I decided to try another free blog first. To see if I will really stick with it. Good thing I did.

I rediscovered blogger.com. My old blog was still active, and my original five posts where still there. It was amazing looking back at it. Now that I think about it, It has been almost fifteen years since I made that original blog. A long time to change. Sigh ...

Anyway, I deleted it. It was really bad. I hope this one does better. This is the test you see, too see if I have what it takes to be a "blogger" or if I am just looking for yet another way to kill time. So here goes nothing, or something. I guess we'll see.