New Things

Posted: 25th September 2017 by Cheap in Fiction, Music, Sewing, Technology
  • Well, my earlier misgivings about Longmire have been surpassed by the unfolding story and its depth.  The build-up of season two was quite good in setting up several layers of suspense, and the finale was excellent.  Each season after that contained a wonderfully evolving story.  They’ve still made a gaping mistake here and there (don’t learn about the Castle Doctrine from this show), but the quality of the story makes it worth tolerating the screw-ups.  I have binge-watched through all five seasons now, and the finale has me salivating for more.
  • My desktop computer, on which I do all of my video and photo editing, was built in late 2010.  The motherboard has always been screwy, with symptoms that come and go.  I have been living with that and putting off an upgrade for years.  Well, today I have upgraded my computer with a new motherboard, CPU, and RAM.  I have also upgraded to Windows 10 (it was running Windows 7).  I wasn’t expecting a huge step forward in performance, but video renders are taking about a third of the time as before.  I’m eager to try some 3D ray tracing.
  • While I was spending money, I purchased and installed ESET NOD32 anti-virus software.  I have been running AVG for years, and I just got tired of it annoying me with things to buy.  I decided I was willing to pay for software that doesn’t harass me, and I wasn’t going to reward the makers of AVG for their bad behavior.  I had never heard of ESET before I started to research the question, but it reviews well in terms of effectiveness and performance, and it supposedly has a simple and well-mannered user-interface.  I guess we’ll see.
  • Another change I am considering is not installing iTunes.  It is such a bloated piece of software, and I’m sure it will screw up my collection if I try to reinstall.  I only use it for the store anymore, and I’m aggravated that the only format they offer is one that my car stereo doesn’t support.  I’m thinking about switching to Winamp and buying my music from Amazon.
  • It is surprising to see that a clearly more powerful computer draws less power at idle.  When I measured the power consumption of my last computer, it idled at 114 watts.  My new computer idles at 85 watts.  On the other hand, the old computer drew 193 watts under load (video rendering), while this one averages 240 watts doing the same task.
  • My brother and I have watched the two-part pilot episode of Star Trek: Discovery, and it was pretty good.  The visual style is very different from any Star Trek television series before it.  There are hints that it will be more character driven, and darker, but it is too early to know for sure.  I could have done without the re-imagined Klingons, who look more like the aliens in Prometheus than the usual (1979-2005) depiction of Klingons.
  • I am binge-watching season five of Elementary on Amazon so that I can begin watching season six episodes as they are released on CBS All Access.  I’m ticked off that I had to pay Amazon to watch season five because CBS All Access doesn’t have them.  Elementary is made by CBS, but all they had was “recap” paragraphs of each episode, and a few behind-the-scenes interviews.  CBS hasn’t really graduated to the streaming age.
  • It seems like I have been doing a lot of sewing, but somehow I can’t name off hordes of projects I have completed.  I’ve made five pairs of lounge pants.  Three sets of custom-fitted sheets for my hide-a-beds.  I made a storage bag in which to keep all the pillows.  I can’t think of much else, which defies logic, given how many times I’ve been in the fabric store recently.  I own a serger now.

Endings and Things Past

Posted: 7th September 2017 by Cheap in Fiction, Technology
  • I have watched the last episode of ST:TOS.  This means I have watched all of Star Trek.  I am fully prepared to begin watching ST:DIS when it begins.  Well, prepared except for access to it.  I have discontinued my cable television service.  I assume I pay to subscribe to CBS All Access, and I assume my Roku can do that natively.  I’ll have to check it out.
  • Speaking of discontinuing my cable television, the cable company has now targeted me for a telephone harassment campaign.  The same woman called three times this week, and each time I was in the middle of something.  This last time, it was driving.  I pulled off the road and parked so I could hear her out.  She didn’t listen at all.  I told her that I canceled my television and telephone services because I almost never used either.  She continued to offer deals and other things I won’t use.  I finally had to hang up on her.  I fully expect to get these kinds of calls incessantly.  I may have to block them.
  • Speaking of media company salespeople, AT&T sent a solicitor around yesterday.  He didn’t have a solicitor’s permit, and I called the police on him.  I plan to start doing this on a regular basis.  I really hate door-to-door salespeople.  Many years ago, I lived in an apartment complex that prohibited solicitors, and I learned to call the police on them.  I have lived here for more than three years, and I was delighted to discover that this city has an ordinance requiring a solicitor’s permit.  No one ever gets one.  If you demand to see a solicitor’s permit and they don’t have one with them, they are breaking the law, and the police are obligated to investigate.  If these companies are going to make the effort to bother me, then I’m going to make some effort to bother them in return.
  • I finally gave in and started to watch Longmire.  I had seen parts of a couple of episodes, but now I’m watching from the beginning.  Katee Sackhoff is all the justification I need.  However after watching a few episodes, I find much of their police procedural to be naively inaccurate, and Lou Diamond Phillips’ portrayal of a Native American to be more than a little stereotypical.  All I’m currently watching now are Longmire and the new Twin Peaks, and Twin Peaks has allegedly concluded.
  • Where do the miles go?  In 5½ months, I have driven 8,300 miles in my truck.  I work from home, so zero of those miles are related to my daily commute.  About 3500 of those miles came from my recent trip to Montana.  However, that’s still about 200 miles per week, which I find surprising, especially when I frequently don’t leave the house for days at a time, and many of my errands stay within the confines of my local town.
  • Perhaps I should start watching Back.  I’ve become a Louise Brealey fan since listening to her performance on the audiobook for The Girl on the Train.  Back is a new British comedy, and it looks like she has the lead role.  I’ll have to figure out how to access the show.
  • My Savage Model 16 Lightweight Hunter has arrived.  It really does seem light.  The optics should arrive on Monday.  I’m eager to get it ready for hunting, but it seems a little unlikely that I will manage it in time for this year.
  • I have decided that I need to work on my grammar in regard to the past tense of the verbs “boot” and “reboot”.  Somehow, decades ago, I picked up the idea that the past tense is “boot” and not “booted”.  For the life of me, I can’t figure out why I thought that.  So, I have decided that I need to make an effort to include the -ed suffix whenever I am using the word in the past tense.
  • Starting explanations with the word “So” is an even worse habit I have.  Long ago I noticed that pedantic speakers start explanations that way, and several years ago I dipped my toe in the water.  It sucked me in, and somehow it become an instant habit.  I’ve been trying for a while to avoid it, but the word usually escapes my mouth before I think about it, and then it’s too late.
  • It makes me irrationally sad to read about fires in Glacier National Park, just weeks after I was there.  I didn’t go to Sperry Chalet, though I had considered it, and now it’s gone.  I know that fires have passed through areas to which I have definitely been.  It’s irrational because I may never go back there again and see the damage.  I am lucky to have gone before the destruction, rather than after or during.  Still, I have fresh, fond memories of those places, and now I know that they are gone.

Badlands National Park

Posted: 25th August 2017 by Cheap in Camping, Travel

Perhaps two decades ago, when I was still married, I was a subscriber to National Geographic Magazine.  I occasionally succumbed to other purchases from the National Geographic Society, mostly maps, which were very good, but we once ordered a book of all the national parks in the US.  It was a coffee table book, with lots of great photos.  My wife, tending toward warm temperatures, was interested in all of the deserts, and I the opposite.  However, the one place on which we could agree was Badlands National Park.  In the photos, it was simultaneously beautiful and desolate, and being in South Dakota, I felt sure it wasn’t unbearably hot.  A decade later, I found myself in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, during which time we had occasion to drive past the badlands, and I was struck by the beauty of the savanna in October, with twisted and scraggy trees, seemingly dead and in such isolation.  For a very long time, I have wanted to visit this national park and explore the badlands.

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I left from home in Missouri early in the morning, having finished packing for my trip the day before.  The drive was accurately estimated at thirteen hours.  The route was west on I-70, north on I-29, and west on I-90.  I passed the monotony by listening to an audio book of A Gentleman in Moscow.  Because I enjoy the solitude of “dispersed” camping, I had planned to camp in the Buffalo Gap National Grassland outside of the park.  In fact, with the aid of a Forest Service map and Google Maps “satellite” view, I had picked out the exact location I wanted to camp, next to a little pond formed by Church Dam, far enough from the highway to be quiet, but close enough to the entrance of the park to be convenient.  It was about an hour before sunset when I arrived, and almost immediately my truck was swarmed by little mayflies.  There wasn’t a square inch of surface that didn’t have a mayfly or two attached to it.  I set up camp quickly to get away from them, but they died down (literally) by sunset.  It was a clear night, with plenty of stars, and a half moon came up after midnight.  I briefly heard some cows and some coyotes, but most of the night was very quiet.  In the morning, a thick fog rolled in, which stayed around until late in the morning.

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The main part of the park runs roughly east to west, with a road winding through it.  There is a series of eighteen overlooks along the road, which is about twenty-five miles long.  I stopped at most of them, and I took quite a few photos, but the views were largely variations on the same theme.  The badlands are evidently a plateau of hard clay, eroding rapidly where the grass gives way.  The clay was deposited in layers which vary in color, and these are exposed together by the erosion.  Before I explored, I assumed that visitors would be discouraged from walking and climbing on the formations, but it is quite the opposite.  A “trail” exists, winding right through it.  The terrain is so transitory that there is not a worn path; instead, there is a series of numbered sign posts to lead the way.  I guess the erosion is so rapid that it far outpaces any damage made by foot traffic.  Among the sights to be seen is the Roberts Prairie Dog Town, which is a big field filled with prairie dog holes.

Smoked Turkey

Posted: 21st August 2017 by Cheap in Cuisine, Fiction
  • On the reading front, I’ve been trying to stick to pulp by known authors, things I know I’ll be able to get through quickly.  I’ve read Field Gray, which wasn’t the best Bernie Gunther novel, but it catches me up to Prague Fatale, the first novel I read in the series.  I also read The Vor Game, which was pretty good, though not the greatest thing to win a Hugo award.
  • Perhaps instead of casting about for other television shows to watch, I should use the time to watch Lynda.com courses.  I am paying for the subscription, and there are several things on my list.
  • My first attempt roasting and smoking a turkey breast on the grill was an astounding success.  I made a cajun rub using my creole seasoning blend plus some sugar and salt, and I smoked it with the rest of the mesquite chips.  I may have had the temperature a little low, because it took 2½ to reach 165°, but it was very tender and juicy.  I know what I’ll be making when Thanksgiving comes around!
  • Speaking of Thanksgiving, this year will be the first year that it is just my brother and I.  My mother, who has moved away, had always been the driver of Thanksgiving.  The meal items were always very traditional, although changing dietary restrictions frequently led to recipe variations.  I suppose my brother and I could do whatever we want, but aside from the aforementioned smoked turkey, I am inclined to stick to the traditional menu.  I suppose this means I need to investigate and settle on recipes for items I normally don’t make, such as stuffing.  And should I make lactose-free versions of these things?  And does my brother eat cranberry sauce?
  • During my camping road trip this month, I listened to three audio books.  All three were alright, but a little disappointing, and all three had the same two weaknesses: not much of a plot, conflict, or story goal, and spanning far too much time for a novel.
    • I expected A Gentleman in Moscow to be more serious than it was.  It wasn’t exactly comical, but the protagonist was a little bit of a square, and spent most of the book being remarkably unconcerned about the things happening to him.  Hardly a high-stakes conflict.  As the book progressed, there were numerous portrayals of life under the Soviet regime, but they didn’t strike me as being particularly enlightening or authentic.  The story spans about four decades, most of the protagonist’s life.
    • A Canticle for Leibowitz was completely different from what I expected.  I had assumed it was going to be real science-fiction with a Jewish slant to it, along the lines of Pi.  Instead, it was mostly humor that happened to take place in a post-apocalyptic future with a Catholic slant to it.  The story is told in three periods of time, the first spanning decades, with several hundred years between each part of the story.  Each of the three parts have their own characters and goals, and none have anything directly to do with the point of the story, and I’m at a loss to say what the actual story goal was.  This is considered classic science fiction, but I can’t recommend it as either.
    • The Time Traveler’s Wife was pretty much exactly what I expected it to be, and yet I was still disappointed by it.  This one spans a little longer than any one character’s lifetime, and I guess you could say the story goal was learning to cope with this strange condition.  The non-chronological nature of the time travel lends itself to a relative lack of structure, and a significant amount of the story is told as an unordered series of vignettes.  It’s not chick lit, but it is certainly all about love and marriage and foreverness and fate in the way that women think about such things, and rather naively at that.  If it wasn’t an audio book and I hadn’t been been trapped in a car with it, I might have put it down part way through.

In 2008, I ordered and purchased a Kimber rifle. I wanted a compact, lightweight rifle in a caliber suited to slightly smaller southern deer. I agonized over the choice between .260 Remington and 7mm-08, and I ultimately chose .260 Remington. The Kimber 84M Classic is a beautiful rifle, and with a 2-7x33mm scope, it handles like a dream. Unfortunately, Kimber’s accuracy claims are hype, and I never got the thing to shoot better than 1½ MOA.

I never did get over my feelings for the 7mm-08 Remington cartridge, which promised to have just slightly more recoil than a .243 Winchester, but capable of lobbing substantially bigger bullets.  For a while now, I’ve told myself that my next big game hunting rifle would be in this caliber.  I have had my eye on a few rifles, including the Browning BAR, which I figured I would get in 7mm-08.

A couple years ago, my brother and I had a fantastic experience still hunting in the rain.  That season had been marked by long, steady rains.  Knowing that deer do not move much during the rain, it didn’t feel productive sitting in a stand all day.  We both enjoy rain, we had good rain gear, and we knew of an easy trail nearby.  I realized that the rain had softened leaves and twigs on the ground, which would quiet our movement, and the sound of the rain itself would mask any noise we did make.  I donned my rain gear and brought my most weatherproof rifle, a Winchester Model 70 Classic Stainless in 7mm Remington Magnum.  We moved slowly down that trail for hours.  It was necessary to carry the rifle at the ready, rather than on its shoulder strap.  Consequently, I found myself wishing I had an all-weather rifle that was as light as my Kimber.

I haven’t forgotten that experience, and I have added a lightweight all-weather rifle to my wish list.  Kimber, of course, makes some very lightweight rifles in this category, but they are very expensive, and the frustrating accuracy of my previous Kimber has not made me want to repeat the experience.  Outside of that, the best choice seems to be the Savage Model 16/116 Lightweight Hunter.  It is their standard pattern rifle, but with many weight-saving features, including a 20″ barrel with a narrow profile, a skeletonized receiver, and a spiral-fluted bolt.  It is stainless steel with a synthetic AccuStock.  The Model 16 is the short action, and it is available in 7mm-08.

I haven’t ordered it yet, cash flowing being what it is, but I have decided to do so soon.  In the meantime, I have been tooling up to make 7mm-08 ammunition.  I’ve ordered a set of Lee Precision dies.  I just snagged 200 pieces of Starline brass, which should last me a lifetime.  I have always been quite fond of Starline brass for pistol calibers, but this will be the first rifle brass I have bought from them.  I have chosen the 139 gr. Hornady InterLock BTSP as the initial bullet with which to experiment.  It is a bullet with good, no-nonsense construction, respected accuracy, and quite reasonably priced.

Dougieeeeeeeeee!

Posted: 23rd July 2017 by Cheap in Cuisine, Fiction, Firearms, Fitness, Philosophy
  • The Arnold City Library has removed all of their signs prohibiting firearms.  The signs in the parking lot, which had no legal standing, have been replaced with visually similar signs declaring it a tobacco and smoke free campus (after all, there must be signs prohibiting something).  Given the conservative, gun-friendly electorate of the city, it is not surprising to see this change, and in fact it was unexpected to see the signs in the first place.  I will have to look for a similar change the next time I go to the headquarter branch elsewhere in the county.
  • I had decided some time ago that I was going to avoid reading anything except pulp for the foreseeable future.  I wanted to read only things that would grab me and hold my attention, and which I would naturally get through in just a few days.  Mainly, this meant sticking to known authors in series I have already started.  Unfortunately, I’ve been doing a bad job of that.  Things on my reading list intrigue me, and then I start reading and they don’t engage me.  So, I have reworked my reading list, to contain only things I’m fairly certain I’ll be able to get through quickly.  It basically means I will be alternating between hard-boiled detective fiction and science-fiction or fantasy.
  • I finally had an opportunity to use the rotary hammer I bought months ago.  It was amazing.  Drilling half-inch holes in concrete was trivial.  It was like drilling holes in hard wood with a dull bit.  I spent more time running the extension cord.
  • I now own a bathroom scale.  I weigh a little more than I thought I did, but I should have known.  I’m at the high end of the “normal” body mass range for my height.  My exercise could of course be better, but really it’s my diet that needs to be reined in.  I’m eating too many carbs, and too often.  I really need to think about high-protein snacks.
  • I am starting to read Trauma and Recovery by Judith Herman, M.D.  I picked it up as research for a creative writing project, but I can tell already that it is going to have a profound effect on my world view.  So far, it hasn’t told me much that I didn’t already know, but I am astonished by the relationships between things I didn’t previously think of as related.
  • I’ve finished watching through season four of Elementary, which is all that’s available through Netflix.  I’ve really been enjoying it.  This means the only television I’m watching is ST:TOS, of which I have only fifteen episodes remaining, and the new Twin Peaks, which trickles out an average of an episode a week.  It seems like I should be looking for other things to watch, yet at the same time I’m highly skeptical of television.  I actually tried watching Supergirl; hot character, awful writing and low production value.  Before that, I tried watching Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which turned out to be a musical.  Maybe I’ll give Longmire a try, and of course ST:DIS is coming in a couple of months.  Maybe I should blitz through the movies on my queue for a while.
  • Speaking of television, I finally made the effort to cancel the television and telephone service from my cable company, keeping only the internet access.  I should have done this a long time ago, because Charter/Spectrum has had the gall to charge me more than $150/mo for the most basic of these services.
  • Our heat wave culminated in 105° temperatures yesterday.  The air conditioner in the house couldn’t keep up, and it reached 79° indoors.  The air conditioner in my truck cut out worse than ever, and I finally took a look at it and concluded it was overcharged.  The japanese maple is looking decidedly scorched, and so are my “tropical” rio dipladenias.  Both will receive some remedial watering today, though in fact I’ve been watering my lawn a fair amount the past few weeks.  I’m looking forward to a high of only 97° today.
  • I made the effort to learn how to properly make ribs on my grill.  I don’t know why I hadn’t learned about indirect-grilling before.  It will open many new possibilities for using my grill.  I also bought and used a smoker box, and it was pretty amazing.  My brother has stated the desire to eat more turkey, and I’m thinking about roasting/smoking a small turkey, or perhaps a large boneless turkey breast.

Don’t Let the Bastards Grind You Down

Posted: 3rd July 2017 by Cheap in Cuisine, Fiction, Hiking
  • I briefly thought that hiking or biking every day to train for the hikes I’ll be making in August would be a good idea.  And it is.  However, my next hike was five days later.  Nevertheless, I have been hiking more than I usually do, and already I can tell it’s making a difference.  I hiked a difficult, rugged trail, and my legs were barely fazed.  It was actually a good trail to train on, because it included 1440 feet of elevation gain.  Unfortunately, my respiratory capacity is my limiting factor, and it will only be worse at altitude.  At my age, my Maximum Heart Rate should be 174 bpm, but at one point I measured it at 184.  Perhaps I should do a little research about how to improve my respiratory capacity, but I’m sure it is going to involve more aerobic exercise.
  • Yelp’s page, “The Best 10 Hiking in Jefferson County, MO” contains ten hiking destinations, none of which are in Jefferson County.
  • I’m about halfway through ST:TOS, and I am able to have an informed opinion about it.  I don’t care for it as well as I did the others, mostly because I don’t care the characters.  Spock, sure, but he is too inconsistently Vulcan.  I can also see how TOS, and ultimately all of the Star Trek television franchise, owes its format to The Twilight Zone.  Most episodes are some clever, brain-teasing situation.  So far, there has been no character development in any modern sense, nor any kind of story arc.  There have been several variety acting episodes (which I despise), just as in the other series.  Earlier this year, it was thought that Star Trek: Discovery would launch this year in May, but it hasn’t.  IMDb has information about a pilot.  CBS has a trailer up, which says the series is coming this fall, and I’ve just read that they plan to begin airing September 24.  Maybe I’ll be finished watching TOS by then, but it hasn’t inspired me to binge watch.  I think a Star Trek series that was more character-based and clearly followed a story arc would be much more desirable than usual format, but I doubt anyone else sees it that way.
  • Things are going well with my new job.  I am beginning to feel more confident in my abilities as a leader.  It’s nice when my boss or the other people above me recognize and tell me that I’m doing a good job.  However, it’s even nicer when workers thank me for taking charge of their situations and organizing their projects.  I didn’t really appreciate how valuable a skill that is until I came to this part of the organization which has such an obvious need for it.  The one drawback is that I’m putting in a lot of hours, 65 or 70 hours per week.  I am determined not to let that be a permanent thing, and after the migration projects, I’ll need to assert a more normal limit on my hours.
  • A couple weeks ago, I picked up Better Homes and Gardens’ The Ultimate Cookie Book, and yesterday I attempted the first recipe: Honey Coins (pg. 97).  They were very good.  They didn’t taste particularly like honey, but they had a very fine and delicate texture, which made them very addictive.  The powdered sugar coating didn’t hurt either.  Not a particularly difficult recipe, and the dough can be prepared in advance and frozen for up to two months.  This is probably going to be one of my favorites.
  • I have many friends who live in the City of St. Louis (within the actual city limits).  Consequently, I frequently hear about my friends being robbed.  One has been robbed for a third time since moving to her present location a few months ago.  All of them live in the south part of the city, which is supposed to be the nice part; the safe part.  None of them want to hear from those of us living in the surrounding county, where crime rates are completely different.  St. Louis has among the highest crime rates in the nation, despite also having among the highest police per capita rates.  The main reason I don’t live in the City is the crime, and I’m very tempted to say I told you so.  Whether they realize it or not, those friends of mine have knowingly chosen to set themselves in the path of crime, and it seems delusional for them to complain about it.
  • Another thing I don’t have to deal with because I don’t live in the City is jury duty.  I have never, in my lifetime, been called for jury duty.  My friends in St. Louis get called on average about once a year.
  • I finished reading The Handmaid’s Tale.  It was very well written in the sense that the author skillfully captured and portrayed the emotions of someone in that situation.  It frequently amazed me that it even occurred to the author to think of those things.  However, now that I’ve finished it, I am left wondering what the point of the novel was.  Was it simply to demonstrate what right-wing extremists’ sexism would be like if taken to the extreme?  Did there really seem to be, during the 80s, some risk that such ideological thinking could take control of the country?  It did not really seem to be an effective indictment of men or the forces that resist feminism.  I’m disappointed now that I didn’t finish in time to discuss it with the book club.

May Updates

Posted: 5th June 2017 by Cheap in Fitness, Hiking, Technology, Travel
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  • I succumbed to temptation and bought a smart watch.  It is the Samsung Gear S3 frontier, which is really the first one that caught my eye.  It’s gorgeous, full-featured, has good battery life, and integrates well with my phone.  After discovering it, I researched many others, but ultimately I came back to this one.  I avoided this watch at first because it is based on the Tizen OS, rather than Android.  A couple of the apps I’ve wanted to develop for the Android would actually be better suited to a watch, but with Tizen that would mean I would have to learn development for yet another platform.  However, now that I’m getting into it, I’m finding the learning curve is quite easy, and I’m already up and running with my first app (a watch face).  When I first looked into Tizen, I found that app development is generally in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.  I thought that sounded kind of kludgy, but now that I’ve gotten into it I can see that it’s actually quite sensible and even almost elegant.  I’m definitely looking forward to more development.
  • I have a new camera day-pack, which I plan to use primarily at Glacier National Park this summer, and I’ve been planning what I can fit into it.  On my list of things I’d like to pack are binoculars.  I’ve been hiking with binoculars in day-packs for a while, but because half the space of this pack is taken up by camera gear, there is less space available.  My binoculars are full-size 10x42mm binoculars that I use for hunting.  The large objective is useful for low light conditions, which are common when hunting, but I don’t need such massive optics if I’m only using them in daylight.  Compact binoculars are common, and I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me until now to get some for backpacking.  I went to Cabela’s and tried out a few pairs, and I settled on a pair by Nikon, their Trailblazer 10×25.  They are much smaller, 40% of the weight about about that much smaller dimensionally.  They aren’t as bright as my larger binoculars, but in normal light they are plenty bright enough, and the clarity is excellent.
  • I checked out Don Robinson State Park and hiked the longer of the two trails.  It is a new state park, having opened sometime this year.  There’s an old cabin, which looks like it might have been turned into a museum, and a big patio with a scenic view.  However, the hiking trails are the main attraction.  Several little streams that join together to form a deep canyon in the sandstone, and it is both interesting and beautiful.  I went on a wet day, having had storms the previous day and night, and apart from mud on the trail, it was a really gorgeous experience because the streams and waterfalls were fully active.  The longer Sandstone Canyon Trail is a moderate 4-mile loop.  I will have to return sometime to check out the shorter 2.4-mile LaBarque Hills Trail (also moderate).
  • My new favorite grilling food this summer may be meat on a stick.  It appears that my local grocery store has replaced the in-house butcher with some meat packaging company in Canada.  The packaging is rather robust, and I don’t like that it feels that much more industrialized.  However, there are some interesting products, and several of them are meat kabobs: chunks of meat on skewers marinated in various flavors.  However, the interesting thing is that they are individually packaged.  They come in four-packs, but they are packaged in such a way as to seal each kabob individually.  Using scissors, I can cut out just one, peel it open, and place it on grill.  And the purpose of the industrial-strength packaging is to preserve it for a long time, which means I have a couple of weeks to eat them all.
  • Some time ago, I bought Payback on Blu-ray as an upgrade from the DVD.  I either didn’t notice or didn’t think much about the fact that this was a director’s cut.  Recently, I brought it over to a friend’s house to watch, and … ugh.  I’ve never seen a more badly butchered edit of a good film.  The theatrical release includes a really tight montage during the opening credits that is an impressive example of characterization.  Gone in the director’s cut.  The start of the film was all turned around, apparently to avoid the flashback later, and it lost a lot of coherence.  Kris Kristofferson’s character is cut out completely, along with the torture scene and the nice, tidy wrapping up of the conflict.  He is replaced by some woman who we never actually see.  The “fat boy” scene is gone.  The last quarter of the film is a purposeless foot chase where Mel Gibson shoots a couple dozen anonymous bad guys, all footage that never made it to the theatrical release.  The climax is evidently that he ran out of anonymous bad guys to shoot, and he’s not completely dead.
  • If I’m going to Glacier National Park, it seems reasonable that one of my goals should be to see and stand on a glacier.  However, I am beginning to question whether it is even a possibility.  The easiest glacier to reach from a road appears to be Sperry Glacier.  However, it is evidently a 10.7 mile hike (each way), climbing 4800 vertical feet, at altitude.  As a day hike, that would be impossible for me.  To do it practically, I would have to plan to stay at Sperry Chalet and make three days of it.  However, I have only allocated two full days at the park.  I’ll want to see other things than just one valley.  I think I need to go back to the drawing board.  In any case, I need to train harder.  I should start doing some sort of hiking or bicycling every day between now and August.

Like Shooting Hammers at a Bear

Posted: 5th May 2017 by Cheap in Cuisine, Fiction, Firearms
  • There is evidently a release date (November 14) for Oathbringer, the third installment of Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive.  The first two were excellent, even if the world is a remarkably weird one, and I am a little sad that I have to wait a couple years between each book.  It’s still seven months away, but it’s nice to have an actual date now.
  • When I was in Denver for a week, I actually suffered Man Men withdrawal.  So now that I have finished watching the series, I am probably going to experience the same thing.  I am still somewhat at a loss to explain why it connected with me so well.  Though I didn’t actually live like that, perhaps I identified with all the cheating because I did think like that.  They started jumping the shark in the last several episodes, so it’s not surprising that the series ended when it did.
  • I finished Hyperion, and I can’t decide how I feel about it.  It’s not very good as a stand-alone novel.  In it, six characters tell their bizarre stories of how they came to this pilgrimage.  All of them are fascinating and inventive, and they all served to increase the mystery and suspense about the overall story goal (one or two were perhaps a little long-winded with unnecessary monologue).  However, having successfully raised the reader’s interest, nothing was done with it.  The story ended at a convenient stopping point, and we’re expected to read the next installment.
  • Primarily in an effort to cut down on my soda intake, I have made a conscious decision to develop a taste for tea.  To that end, I have spent a bit of money at a local Teavana store, buying a few varieties of tea and tea paraphernalia, and picking up a little free advice.  I figure I’m more likely to grow to like tea if I start with a high quality product.  I find it easier to tolerate hot tea than iced tea, so I’ll start there, but ultimately I will want to drink iced tea more often than soda.
  • I read Convergence, C. J. Cherryh’s eighteenth volume in her Foreigner series.  It was really disappointing.  It’s right to say that there are two protagonists in the later books, and this is the first one in which Bren and Cajieri have completely separate stories.  However, Bren’s story was completely uninteresting, because there was never any conflict introduced.  At one point I reflected that I was just reading a depiction of any manager’s routine work.  Cajieri’s story introduced a conflict, but it was missing the pressing danger and urgency I’m accustomed to reading in works by Cherryh and especially in the Foreigner series.  Furthermore, that conflict was not resolved by the end of the book.  The book just ended.  The author has frequently left unresolved problems for later novels, but prior to this there has always been some kind of satisfying resolution at the end of each book.  Not so this time.  It was clear that Cherryh was signalling the end of the series with the fifteenth book, Peacemaker.  Yet more books continued to be published, and I thought maybe the publisher was hoping to exploit a cash cow for as long as they could.  The previous two books were about the kyo, which was a legitimate loose end, but now I’m thinking we should have listened to the author when she was trying to tell us it’s time to stop.
  • I found a .44 Magnum load I’m happy with for brown bear defense.  It is a 320 grain hardcast  WLNGC bullet from Grizzly Cartridge Company.  I bought three boxes and tested with one box at the range.  The accuracy is good, with low muzzle flash.  The bullets have an extremely wide meplat, and if I have to use them, they will be like shooting hammers at a bear.
  • I’m fitting well into my new role at work.  The migration project is making good progress.  I am keeping my head above water, and the team is getting its arms around management of everything.  I haven’t failed at anything serious yet.
  • Flooding again.  The situation is very similar to the flooding 16 months ago.  Water close to the property line.  All the bridges were closed for a couple of days and I was cut off.  My UPS deliveries are delayed.  It doesn’t seem like it took that much rain to make this happen.  I suppose this means the city park will be closed all summer for sterilization.

I had a brilliant idea in the shower this morning. A couple of them, actually. I was thinking about my idea for a robot lawn mower. Think Roomba for your lawn. I was thinking about how there are several components needed, requiring innovation from several areas of expertise: mechanical, motors, energy storage, computing, sensing, etc. The first brilliant idea I had was to enlist the open source community, divide the challenge into separate design tasks and let people volunteer according to their expertise. The reward is obvious: they would contribute a piece of technology and get a full-functional whole for their efforts.

However, as I was thinking about this, about how it would work, and about the impact on society if it were successful, it reminded me of my previous thoughts about the Automated Economy (which I should write about).  In short, an automated economy is one where labor is largely replaced by automation.  Robots, if you will.  People don’t have to earn a living because their needs are provided by the automation.  Instead, people can focus their attention on organization, scientific advancement, academic study, art, or simply leisure.  The problem with the Automated Economy is how to get there from capitalism.  In a capitalist economy, the innovation required to develop automation is regarded as intellectual property.  The innovations are not shared, they are sold.  The economic benefit of automation’s output is channeled back to the owners and creators of the automated systems.  It does not benefit the economy as a whole, except in the sense of contributing to economic production.

Worse, automation replaces jobs.  As automation increases, more people lose jobs, and the people who lose their jobs receive none of the benefit from the automation.  If automation continued unchecked, eventually everyone’s job would be replaced, and the benefit of automation would controlled by a handful of owners.  This is bad for capitalism, because capitalism needs workers to also be consumers (who can pay for what they consume).  We have survived so far because progress toward automation has been very slow, and because the operation of automated systems has created some new jobs.  Finland has begun to experiment with the idea of a basic universal income to offset these job losses.  It remains to be seen whether this will catch on.

Open Source is different from Intellectual Property.  Open Source creates and innovates without expectation of direct compensation.  The reward is the creation itself, and the benefit that the creation provides.  Open source developers derive satisfaction from contributing value to the whole world.  What if open source developers contributed their efforts toward automation?  Automation of the most important necessities, such as food production?  What if, rather than demanding and hording the lion’s share of the reward for their innovation, the automation was free for anyone to adopt and utilize?