Category Archives: Gadgets & Technology

Here There Be Gremlins

gremlinsI may need to call in a Shaman or go get to Whole Foods and get some sage to burn or stop by the local church for some holy water. Our house seems to be infested with technological gremlins or gerbils. They are furiously busy mucking things up around here. The first gadget to go down was my main computer. It unceremoniously croaked and there was smoke coming out of it, filling up my office, so we had to take it to the computer hospital. $200 later it returned home.

The next thing to go was the lamp on the Big Screen TV in the den. I whispered a secret “yippee” until I found out that the replacement lamp and a backup was $300. Not so funny after all.

And now our refrigerator decided to stop making ice. I don’t really care because I rarely use ice at home. Mr. Husband does though. To him a soda just isn’t a soda without ice in it. We foolishly assumed this would be a simple fix so I called up the Sears repair department to send out a man to fix it. $500 later we still don’t have ice and are waiting for a replacement motherboard for the fridge to come. Then we call them back out to install it.

A motherboard for a fridge??? Who knew? There is all this noise out there in the Hi-tech world about having a “smart house” and everything controlled from your computer or phone. I shudder to think what would happen if the mother board for your house went out. Would everything malfunction at once? What would happen during a power outage? Would you be locked in or out of your house? Could you house catch a computer virus and start spying on you or broadcasting images of you in the midst of your daily hygiene routine?

I know I can get a little out there when I start thinking about possible scenarios, but I’m leaning towards not having a house that is smarter than I am.

Download Nirvana

att_uverse_modemI took a break from scrutinizing my inner workings, exercising or contemplating the colors in my new art kit yesterday. We spent freaky Friday in a technological orgy, one of my favorite pass times. The long awaited day of U-verse installation finally occurred. I’m a geeky kind of girl, what can I say? When Mr. Husband asks me what I want for Christmas, birthday, etc. I don’t want jewelry, handbags, shoes, oh no. I want new technology. Bring it on! The newest gadget that I don’t even know what it does let alone how to use it? A challenge! I’ll make it work or die trying.

We’ve gone from a measly download speed of roughly 5 megabits per second to over 17. That’s 3 times the speed, oh yea. The installation guy showed up about 9:00 am and spent the entire day either up a pole at the end of the block or crawling around in our attic to install Cat 5 cabling in the walls. I don’t envy him, it was an extremely hot and muggy Texas day yesterday, rain in the morning, and then the sun came out and turned the day into a steam bath.

I’m glad I was there for the installation because after he got it all hooked up my wireless router refused to talk to the new set up so my 2 laptops, Netflix on the TV, Kindle Fire and all the other stuff was dead in the water. The installation guy was kaflemped and didn’t know what to do. I finally got it all sorted out. I have pop-up windows blocked on my internet browser so a window wasn’t opening to tell us to set up a U-verse account. This was blocking internet connectivity. Got past that and it’s all good. Boo ya!

What to Wear to an Apocalypse

For my lazy media entertainment I’ve been watching a cornball reality series on Netflix. It aired back in 2008 and it’s called The Colony. A “reality” show posed as an experiment where they put 8 people together from different backgrounds in a compound after a global disaster apocalypse and see how they get along and thrive…or not.

I always have to laugh at myself when watching or reading post-apocalyptic media. As much as I hate the kitchen, I suspect that I would probably end up on KP duty, first aid and laundry if the stuff hit the fan. I’m not going to be much good on the protection detail, hauling water or butchering a hog. I seriously doubt that I would be able to cobble together abandoned car engine parts to make a generator either.

One of the women on the first season really cracked me up. Of course I know this is all staged and directed, but I had to wonder just the same. She found a bolt of red satin, which just happened to be lying around in the abandoned warehouse/machine shop they were holed up in….yeah right.  She fashioned the satin into a sort of sarong dress that tied at the neck and wore it and a pair of high heels. She also put on makeup every morning. Was this an attempt to hang on to some sense of stability in the face of an apocalypse? Or did the directors want to portray her as the blonde air head of the bunch? Who knows? She was an ER nurse so there had to be a bit of brains in there somewhere. But the ER is a place where you patch people up and send them along elsewhere for further treatment. Wonder what would happen when the buck stopped at her. There is no place to send an injured person for further care in this situation.

These survivors show up in the warehouse after being kept awake for 30 hours to simulate the shock and exhaustion one would experience in the face of a global catastrophe. The warehouse had a 3 day supply of food and little else. Everything else they had to arrange for themselves with what they could salvage from the compound. Food and water, fire, shelter, shelter and security they all had to provide from materials at hand.

The participants had a sit down talk every night at a communal dinner. It was interesting to see which of the basics they thought the most important priority was. They all pretty much agreed that drinking water was the most important and organized an expedition to a nearby heavily polluted inner city river. They then devised a filtration system using layers of charcoal and sand in an oil drum, then boiled the water as a last step. For the fire they used pallets found in the yard and broke them up for firewood.

After the water was taken care of the people who wanted to build a shower won out over those who wanted to focus on security first. So the easily breached areas of the compound were left while they built the shower. Of course the producers of the show arranged for a break in from marauders who trashed their fire pit and stole 2 days’ worth of food. So now they are all freshly showered but out of food. Well, duh! I think I would have been one of those who was more concerned about security than getting a shower, but that’s just me.

I found the show interesting because I have a fascination with post-apocalyptic scenarios. I’ve lived through a few myself in real life. The worse was the time I lived in Guam and we got hit by Super Typhoon Paka. The island got slammed head on leaving us without running water and electricity for 2 months. You really find out what you’re made up in a situation like that. I managed to get through it, but I had no choice. I left the island for good not long after that.

Upper Body Strength is Important for Women

exercise equipment

My Personal Gym

This post is sort of a public service announcement for women based on recent events and things I learned. If you’re a guy reading this, you may want to put your fingers in your ears and say “la la la la.” But then again, you may just want to pass it on to a female you know and care about.

As mentioned recently, my daughter had a scare with an iffy mammogram. It turned out to be a false alarm, thank God. But as a result of this I decided in solidarity with her to go and get a mammogram myself. A test I’ve been putting off for years. Not out of fear of the results really. I just don’t enjoy having my breasts smashed flat as a pancake. They always say “this may be a bit uncomfortable.” Well….Pafiffle! It’s quick, but it does hurt, just go ahead and say it and get on with it. Don’t bullshit me, I don’t appreciate it.

The test turned out fine, but the technician commented that one reason the test was good one was that I have good upper body muscle definition. “Me???” I thought. She explained that if a woman has good muscle definition there is a clear line of muscle against the chest wall to go by to make sure that all of her breast tissue got scanned in the test. She added that few women she tests have good upper body muscles. I asked her why that is and she told me that many women exercise by walking; outdoors, or on a treadmill or elliptical machine, and that doesn’t do much to develop upper body muscles.

I got to thinking about this and realized that I have been working on upper body strength for years because of my neck problems. I have a herniated disk in my neck and developing strong upper body muscles and the resulting better posture helps keep the pain away. I can always tell when I’ve been neglecting my exercise because I start to get neck and shoulder pain.

You don’t need an expensive set of equipment or lots of space to achieve this either. In the picture here I’ve included my entire set of exercise gadgets; a foam roller to lie on, a pair of 2 lb weights, and a broomstick. I purchased the foam roller and the weights at Walmart, spending maybe $25. The broomstick was free. I just sawed the head off of an old broom. My foot is in the picture to show the size scale. The purpose of the foam roller is that when you lay on it to do arm and other upper body exercise with light weights, you have to also balance on the foam roller. This helps strengthen that persnickety set of elusive core muscles.

The broom stick is excellent for keeping your shoulders strong and limber. All you have to do is grasp each end of the stick in front of you, lift it over your head and then down your back, without letting go of the broomstick. The first time I saw this done I thought “well that will dislocate my shoulders!” But it doesn’t. You may not be able to do it at first, but soon you will.

One thing I like about the broomstick especially is that you can usually find one anywhere you go. The broom or mop head can still be on it. Just be careful not to knock over someone’s lamp or heirloom vase while you’re doing it.

So there you have it. Upper body strength is important to women especially as we age. It keeps us from getting all hunched over and makes for a good catch on mammograms.

The Tide Turned – A Short Story


illustration by Ethan Bloch

Nobody is really sure when it happened. People just stopped what they were doing, put down their arms, or their reports, schedules, phones, parked their car, or walked away. It started as a gentle stirring of the breeze, or the caress of the master’s hand on the piano keys, a soft slow peaceful melody coming to life.

The event wasn’t on the news, people didn’t panic. There was no run on the stock market or the bank. No looting or rioting. People still went about their business to some extent. Children played, school happened, dinner got cooked, the laundry got washed. The necessary things happened. It happened so gradually that it almost went on unnoticed for quite some time.

It may have gone unnoticed for a while longer if it hadn’t started in the late fall, before the Christmas rush. What did come to the attention of those who track such things was that there was no Christmas rush. There was a small uptick in sales, but what was missing was the frenzy. No one maxed out their credit cards, took out usurious payday loans or careened around town in a mad lemming’s rush to purchase, purchase, purchase.

At first, as usual, businesses stayed open late nights or even all night in anticipation of the shopping rush that didn’t come. What little shopping people did happened in the afternoon or evening and then people went home. After a week of this the employees gave up and for lack of customers went home also. Left with no customers or employees for these longer hours, stores closed earlier, no more late night, 24/7 frenzy.

The December holidays found people off the street, dining with family and friends. Restaurants and bars, usually jammed with lonely people escaping the holiday madness found themselves bereft of customers. By the last week before Christmas small shops and eateries threw in the towel, declared a holiday and sent employees home to their families.

December came and went. In January the talking heads started to panic. Since very little shopping went on in December there was no rush to return or exchange gifts. People weren’t in the store so the January “slashed prices everything must go” sales never quite got off the ground. The nation failed to meet its quota of consumerism.

By February, the talking heads came to a startling realization. No one was listening to them except other talking heads. You can’t con a con; the heads were starting to figure this out too. How you use shock and awe…and fear to sell the news when no one was buying, no one is watching their “news?”

No one heard or cared about their sage instructions saying “now is the time to buy” that new car, buy that spring wardrobe, and buy a better house, although the house lived in now is fine and dandy and holds many happy memories.

March came and a new trend developed. Driving around any neighborhood and it was obvious. Instead of buying things people where giving away. Something more profound than the usual spring cleaning was going on. Garages, storage sheds, and packed quest rooms emptied out. Piles of items, furniture, clothing, knick knacks and gadgets, grew on the curb and overflowed the charity bins at the local grocery store. Thrifts shops were inundated with donations.

By April, manufacturers were in a panic. How are we going to sell all this stuff if no one is buying, what will our stockholders say? Production, sales, prices must always go up, must always improve. That is the way of business. If sales and prices go down then we are in a recession and must buy our way out it at all costs. They calmed down somewhat when they realized that with all the improvements and “just in time” manufacturing and inventory policies, there really was not as much of the huge mounds of unsold inventory as they initially feared.

In May the trend watchers heaved a premature sigh of relief. Ah, it’s vacation time, people will buy clothes, and summer gadgets, and gas, and plane tickets, and on and on. People will begin to consume again in a “normal” manner. Everything will be fine; the stockholders will clap their hands and count their beans, except it didn’t happen. Families decided to have family time at home instead of hauling the family and half their possessions elsewhere, only to ignore each other at their destination.

June came and it was just the summer lull. The economist decided to stop freaking out about it for a month. July came and went without much fanfare.

By August it was becoming painfully obvious that something, only who knows what had happened. It all happened so gradually that the average Joe and Jane didn’t really notice it. They were too busy living their lives.

Wouldn’t it be nice?

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