Visual High Tech Elixir

Feeling down? One thing that might help is a large computer monitor. Despite the trend towards smart phones, smart tablets, and more, you are still seeing the world in miniature. For me, nothing beats seeing things large.

After years of feeling guilty, I finally asked for and received a 24″ rectangular monitor at work. The brand/model is an Acer V243H. It’s a thing of beauty and frightening enormity. Now, almost my entire computer world including mistakes, pestering email requests, software-under-edit, and more can appear at once on my screen just like musical theatre.

So my reality might not have gotten better, but I have been able to dupe myself safely into thinking everything is big and rosy.

It is great living large.

The Prius’ Driving Modes

I learned to drive in a Chevrolet. I took a Ford Cortina to my driving test; I passed. Since then I have driven tractors, a 1926 Rolls Royce Phantom I, with rod brakes and manual steering, and large Chryslers. I have always preferred maneuverable, smaller cars, but can drive just about anything. That is until my wife bought a Prius.

My wife usually does not get sucked into trends. She avidly recycles, but is not crazed about it. She tries to combine multiple trips in the car to conserve on gasoline, but if an extra trip has to be made, it is not the end of the world. That is until the Prius came along, because it seems to be exercising mind control.

It is no longer about how to get from point A to point B; it is all about how you drive there. If you perform a ballet of releasing the accelerator and braking a certain way, you get points, as in miles per gallon at the end of the trip.

I strongly recommend if you buy a Prius, do not use any of the special modes — EV, ECO, or Power — at all, at least not until you are used to the car. From the description of EV, you are only supposed to use that at night around the neighborhood, so you do not disturb your neighbors. It is silent. I thought if it is silent, burglars might like the Prius, too. Well, at least they would be robbing your house environmentally.

I have never used Power mode, but imagine doing so would be recorded in some log stored in the universe where at the end of my life, I would be lectured for using power when I did not have to.

ECO mode seems to be the trickiest of all. I am actually feeling badly if my mileage is low, having traversed up and down hills in my town. Fortunately, I do not drive my wife’s Prius often. Maybe I won’t get too programmed.

End of Summer Flight

When the hot weather arrives in the Spring, our house sounds like this, well not quite like that, but more like sounds of a hot summer.

We keep our home cool with two window air conditioners and fans. The birds need just enough indirect cool air, so their room does not reach 90 degrees, and our main goal is to keep the house dehumidified, if not below eighty degrees.

I often think that at the onset of hot weather, our house begins its annual long distance flight to who knows where. And now, midway through August, I see the landing strip off in the distance. Pretty soon, our air conditioners will be put away; and the fans will be cleaned, packed up, and made ready for the next flight, next year.

21st Century Togetherness

My wife, Mrs. Highpants, and I could always use more togetherness time, which is hard to find in modern life. Well, we have more of it.

Do you know how some public service announcements talk about sitting around the kitchen table to socialize? Well, Mrs. Highpants and I are sitting at the dining room table. We are sitting at the table, along with our computers. It is so cozy.

I wonder if we left the table and did not “suspend” our computers, if they would just keep each other company. Do our computers really need us? Will couples like us need to be here at the table some time in the future? Who knows.

At least now, we can glance over our laptops, and commiserate about this or that, or how I’ve tweeted the Terminix Fan commercial for the nth year in a row, because the advertisement reminds me of the fans on in our house during the summer.

Thanks, Bobby

Many years ago when I was a freshman in college and going out with a wonderful woman who lived about three hours away from my university, road trips then were common and anticipated with happiness. Gasoline was $0.32/gallon for premium.

When she graduated from high school that year, I was invited and waited along with parents and friends as each senior got a diploma. When it came time for one of her classmates and good friends to receive her diploma, Jennifer, who was not a shrinking violet, bounded across the stage, shook the headmaster’s hand, and said “Thanks, Bobby” to loud applause.

I’ve never forgotten the day, because it contained a bit of acceptable mischief, and produced a memorable moment.

So, happy graduation to everyone graduating this season.

And, thanks, Jennifer, for Thanks, Bobby, wherever you are.

Assembling An Office Chair

For those of you who are mechanically inclined, I salute you. For me, even Gary Larson’s School For The Mechanically Declined could not help me. I still marvel at what I learned from the ABC of Tools, a film I was required to see many years ago before becoming an electronics mechanic.

Today, I assembled an office chair, and thankfully, Staples had excellent instructions and all parts packaged and labeled by step.

Before Assembly

Still what gets me is reading the diagrams. But I made it.  I just took a deep breath, assembled the chair in private, so no one can hear the commentary, and eventually succeeded.

After Assembly

Calling All Polymer Chemists/Material Scientists

Many, many people have computers. That is a fair assumption, isn’t it? Some people have more than one computer, and some number of those have full, non-wireless installations. Non-wireless installations implies at least one pedestal computer, with cables that connect things up. There are even some of us who have more than one computer that share one monitor, keyboard, and mouse using something called a KVM switch, where K=keyboard, V=video, and M=mouse.

Connecting those computers are cables, made out of synthetic material that looks and feels like rubber, but is more durable and flexible. Ethernet, land-line telephone, and monitor cables come to mind, along with USB and parallel printer cables. (Yes, there are still a few parallel printers out there.) And, if you have my installation of two pedestal workstations and a laptop, KVM cables. It is very nice the cables do their job, but they do more than that. They start to take over.

I believe those of us who have computers, keyboards, mice, USB devices have a shared experience. The cables act like an organism. They cling, intertwine, and glom themselves together, almost like kudzu. They are by any other name a big pain.

Somewhere out there is an enterprising polymer chemist or materials scientist just waiting to make a big discovery and a lot of money. How about inventing flexible, strong cables, that don’t get stuck together. Who knows that by inventing that, you won’t discover a cure to a disease or find cheaper, greener, less expensive fuel.

The Pie Wagon

Some time ago, when he was in college, a student named Tom worked as a bus boy in a well-known inn, north of Boston. It was one of those upper-crusty establishments at the edge of a school’s campus. And even though the town, school and inn celebrated our New England heritage, they did so not too loudly or tastelessly.

The inn’s menu included fancy names for appetizers and entries, and there were not mere desserts, but a dessert cart which would be brought to your table upon request.

Tom worked with a waitress, whom we will call Josie. Josie was a little more spirited than the stately inn would normally hire, but she was hard working, and patrons liked her.

Commanding the whole operation was a very stayed gentleman, whom we will call Mr. K., who believed in a well run operation, and where everything was taken very seriously, especially the names of dishes, including desserts. He had the distinct air about him of a well-oiled Swiss watch.

So imagine, a night in this high-end restaurant in the upper-crusty inn, where the food, service, and your satisfaction were taken very seriously, when at the end of one patron’s dinner, Mr. K. directed Josie “Please take the dessert cart to table six.”

And Josie, far enough out of earshot from Mr. K., turned to Tom and said:

“There’s goes that knucklehead again telling me to take the pie wagon to table six. Why doesn’t he call it by its right name?”

A pie wagon, let alone plain pie might exist in a less grand establishment, but never in the well heeled inn North of Boston.

This story has stuck with me for over thirty years, because Josie created equality for all desserts, fancy desserts and a humble slice of pie and perhaps for all food. One person’s Battle of Bunker Hill Beef could stand next to a diner patron’s open-faced roast beef sandwich, and Crème Brulee could sit next to grape nut pudding.

If you go to a restaurant, I hope you enjoy yourself. If you still have an appetite for dessert and a dessert cart is available feel free to indulge. But as that cart rolls towards you, please don’t forget that by any other name it’s a Pie Wagon.

Bon Apetit!

Big Yellow Keyboard

Big Yellow Keyboard

2012 is my year of change. After learning of newer, more ergonomic keyboards, and newer keyboard layouts like Colemak, I purchased a new keyboard from TypeMatrix . The keyboard was well-built; the company was excellent to deal with; and I recommend them highly. However, I just could not adjust to the layout, let alone learning a different key map. Most, but not all, of us use the traditional Qwerty keyboard.

Then my wife, the financial brain trust of our family, had seen an infomercial about a big yellow keyboard with large keys. So, I bought one with my own money, or two to be exact. So far, so good. One key sticks when struck very hard, but the problem is passable.

When these keyboard(s) arrived at work, my boss said a co-worker would have to spray paint the keyboard black, so people would not be temporarily blinded by the yellow keys, and also indicated — jokingly — that I would be in hot water, if any big yellow keyboard requests came in. Another co-worker started laughing, and said she could never bear to look at a keyboard like that.

So, yes, I purchased two keyboards from one of those infomercials — “So don’t forget, order before midnight, and we will throw in this set of steak knives with your keyboards.” — the keyboards are of reasonable quality, and they have bright yellow keys with black lettering.

So, they remind me of bees, and I’m quite fond of bees.