Monthly Archives: January 2018


I surrender.

I still am not thrilled with WordPress and their dictatorial attitude. After ten years of using WordPress in one fashion, having to change is disconcerting.

You see, I try to have interesting content which means my thinking is applied to the ideas in the blog, not on how to adjust to a different writing style. I’m not a total Luddite, but Microsoft Word has more options and is easier to use. At my age, black type on a white page or screen is easy to read. WordPress, however, thinks that a slightly washed out blue is what I should be using.

I get tired of self appointed elites thinking they know what I should use or what I should do better than I do.

Okay, my rant is now complete. Next time I’ll try to write something interesting.



WordPress has “improved” their system so it no longer works. Their solution is for me to jump through a whole lot of hoops.


If I find another blog provider, I’ll be back. Otherwise, if you enjoyed my ideas, and would like to see more, don’t tell me, tell WordPress.

The CES and Other Illusions

Every year I read about the great new products at the Consume Electronic Show, this year held 8 – 12 January in Las Vegas. The products are marvelous. They’re amazing. They’re introduced amid a glamor of models, cosplayers, and celebrities. They represent the cutting edge of technology.

Unfortunately, most of us will see, much less be able to use most of them. Like, where are the flying cars?

Driverless cars, domestic robots, virtual 3-D that’s adult—NOT porn (I’m not kidding, that’s what they say), and (wait for it) the ability to see INSIDE YOUR HAIR! Now, given that I have much less hair than I did in my younger days, that just might be important to me. Can I stop by WalMart, BestBuy, or even Brookstone and pick one up? Not so much.

There are the latest video games (yawn)—but—wait! Here’s something special— a smart kitty litter box! Something practical—but it’s for the show, not the store.

Oh well.

I’d write more, but I need to go sweep up around the plain, old-fashioned, low-tech kitty litter box.

Freedom of the Press

In a discussion with my wife, I had one of those Eureka moments.

The Constitution speaks to “freedom of the press,” although we apply it to all media. What struck me today is that there is a significant difference between the press—or the written word—as opposed to other communications methods.

On television, we have twenty-ish minutes of “news” presented by anchors, or as they are commonly referred to as “talking heads.” With more than one newsreader on television, it is virtually impossible to dispense with the small talk when moving from one story to another. This injects the attitude or even the opinion of the newsreader into the message. In many cases—choose your network—the news is much closer to (or, indeed) commentary in support of an agenda rather than the news.

The press isn’t perfect, but a news item in print has durability, and that includes an extended time to challenge it. A printed version must be able to stand on its own today, tomorrow, next week, and perhaps into the next century. That is why the press is unique. In addition, in most major cities, anonymous comments are not printed the way they are online. If you have something to say, then you identify yourself as Thomas Jefferson, not “mount76”. Acknowledging authorship requires a whole different dynamic when responding. The press has far fewer—if any—trolls compared to online sources.

Journalism isn’t a lost art, but it’s best seen in print. The old story rings true:

A young reporter had submitted his story to the editor, who called him in. “This is good,” the editor began, “very good. However, you mentioned that Alderman Johnson responded angrily. How did you know he was angry?”

“Because he was shouting and his face was red!” replied the reporter.

“Then,” replied the editor, “that’s what you write—he was red faced and was shouting—but first you need to find out if he doesn’t always shout, and his face isn’t always red. If that’s his normal demeanor, then it is not worthy of mention.”

Another Snowstorm on the Way

In Virginia, rain, snow, or certain astrological occurrences invite-or perhaps compel—people to drive as though they have a death wish (for the person in the car beside, in front, or behind them). Interpretation of traffic laws is subjective; when the law says that a malfunctioning traffic light is to be treated as a four-way stop, that really means, when you come to the traffic light that’s broken, floor it. The goal, apparently is to drive your car right straight up the tailpipe of the car in front of you.

Of course, the official vehicles have to get into the fun too. Last week, with snow covered streets—packed down, like driving on a washboard—I watched snow plows driving over the snowy streets with their snow blades up in the air. To foolish me, if you only have a few snow plows—as often is the case in the south—and that plow is on a major street with snow, it should be plowing. However, that does not seem to be the case.

Today’s snow won’t start until about 9:00 AM. The schools are closed, but I have to go to work; we’ll probably get an early release just as the snow builds up. I think various high-level management mucky-mucks have family in the collision and dent business. I can’t prove it, but it makes sense.

If I survive (picture theatrical pose with the back of my hand to my forehead and a resigned look on my face) I’ll try to write tomorrow.

Happy Birthday, Ben!




















Tomorrow is the birthday of Benjamin Franklin, who, as the Firesign Theatre put it, was “the only president of the United States, who was never president of the United States.” Born in 1706, he invented the Franklin stove, bifocals, and with his (illegitimate) son, discovered that lightening was electricity. His son probably thought it only appropriate that when Ben was busy as one of the “founding fathers,” the son became the Royal Governor of the State of Pennsylvania. Next time you think of electrocuting one of your children—even if they are adult, as Ben’s son was—think twice. It might come back to haunt you.

As a printer, he expressed ideas—much as a modern blogger (ahem) might do, through his newspaper, The Philadelphia Gazette and Poor Richard’s Almanac.

Ben was the governor of Pennsylvania, US Minister (Ambassador) to France and later Sweden, created the public lending library, and by virtue of being an effective postmaster for Philadelphia under the crown, he became America’s first postmaster general.

While early in his life he had owned slaves, by the 1750s he had become a firm and outspoken abolitionist.

And, yes, he was quite the ladies’ man, which, we must assume would entail attitudes, if not activities, that would not be tolerated today. However, for what it’s worth, I like to think that this means that society has advanced in the last 250 years and will continue to advance. If old Ben were half the genius we believe and lived today, he would be a proud proponent of that advancement.









The Virginia Blizzard of 2018

Okay, I must admit that even I—who grew up in the snow belt south of Lake Erie—am appropriately impressed.

Schools are closed. Most businesses and government services are shut down as well.

Normally I report to CoCoRaHS, a National Weather Service sponsored program—the acronym stands for:

The procedure is to measure the depth of the snow on the ground, then to bring in the measuring cylinder, let the snow melt, then pour it into the rain gauge to measure the actual water content. Out west, in the high plains or the mountains, this is critical, since it is required for the weather service to predict the snow pack. When this melts in the spring, it flows into the rivers the following spring and summer. That water is carefully controlled as to who gets how much. Agriculture needs a lot, which competes with people, so it is important information.

Too much snow, so I’m staying indoors—I have my day carefully planned:

Coffee and writing


Working on the class I start teaching Saturday


Finish a few radio procedures I’ve been working on.


Hmmm, there should be room in there somewhere for at least one more nap.


Here in Virginia we’re under a blizzard warning!

Of course, as a major military town, many—if not most—people are not originally from around here. Many are from up north and know what a REAL blizzard is like; I grew up in Northern Ohio, so although Erie Pennsylvania and Buffalo, New York usually got more, we routinely experienced lake effect. Lake effect is when cold air from up north (the “Alberta Clipper”) flows over a large, unfrozen body of water (e.g., Lake Erie), sucks up all the moisture from the warm lake, then passes over the cold land, after which that moisture dumps on the ground as snow. Up there, blizzards mean that snowfall is measured in feet.

In Virginia, on the other hand, a few inches of snow—or even the threat of a few inches—creates havoc. Some people believe that because they have a four-wheel-drive vehicle, they can drive 60 miles per hour on the interstate. Of course, four-wheel-drive will get a car moving on a slippery surface, but does nothing to prevent those 360-degree spins on ice. Others, just forget how to drive.

So right now, we wait FOR THE BLIZZARD. I saw at least a hundred snowflakes earlier today, but so far that’s it. So we wait. All of us wait. Some of us blog while waiting, but we still wait.


Hey! It’s a new year!

Or is it?

We have all kinds of versions of time. We have lunar calendars, solar calendars, Julian calendars, Gregorian calendars, Judaic calendars, Islamic calendars, Chinese calendars, and, of course, the Mayan calendars—just to name a few.

So, what does 2018 mean?


Today, GPS satellites keep time on earth synchronized, but there’s nothing mystical, magical, or monumental about that. It’s more like the stacks of papers that I create when preparing to file my income tax paperwork. Just an attempt to make order out of chaos. It’s 2018, because we say it’s 2018.

Nevertheless, for a new year, or a new day, or a new moment—whatever your measure:

  1. Count your blessings.
  2. Help someone important to you.
  3. Help someone you don’t know (through a blood drive, a food pantry, or whatever).
  4. See yourself as an agent for changing things, no matter how tiny, for the better. Imagine if 1 percent of the 7.53 billion people on earth each made a 1 percent improvement. Wouldn’t that be a great start?