Saturday, August 19, 2017


There are certain misused phrases that drive me crazy. These are not my pet peeves, these are feral peeves, untamed and unconstrained.

Almost every day I hear an anchor or reporter on television news say "Authorities are still honing in on the problem." Honing in is not what authorities do. One does not hone in on a target. One "homes" in. Gunners home in on their targets, bombadeers home in on an enemy base and authorities home in on a problem.

We hone knife edges. We hone our skills. We belabor the point.

Another phrase refers to a business floundering or a ship floundering on a reef. When a horse gets down in the mud and struggles but can't get up, the horse is said to be "foundering." I suppose one could say one was "floundering" and be correct if one was being a fish. I don't know why one would be a fish. Foundering is the correct term for anything struggling, but failing. This argument is foundering.

Recently, I saw the phrase "the protesters were from diverse groups who had to ban together." I've heard that before. I don't know what they are banning, but brothers band together. There are bands of roving troublemakers and bands of musicians.

I could rant and rave about mixed metaphors and other offences against the grammar politic, but I will settle for correcting just these three chronic abuses. For now. Someday I will draw up my manifesto of proper English, but first I probably ought to clean up my own usage.

Stephen P.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Again With Irritating The Old Man

Everything is a video these days. I have a friend that I exchange memes with several times a day. Good memes are hard to come by so I stockpile when I find extras. Lately I can't find any memes that aren't in GIF format. Okay, you're saying that's not video, it's GIF. It's still video and no matter how short, I don't have time for videos and my friend (we'll call him "Larry") wouldn't watch them anyway. He doesn't have time, because he is very busy using his time efficiently. Seriously, "Larry" crams more into a twenty hour day than anyone I know.

I read constantly and I subscribe to a number of magazines and their e-zine counterparts, email newsletters, blogs and web sites dedicated to organic gardening, homesteading and self-sufficiency. There are plenty of weblogs on YouTube that I could follow, but I just can't slow down to their speed. If I had to watch videos instead of reading the material, I would learn a lot less.

When it comes to making a repair on my car, I'll take time to YouTube it and I'll watch it over and over 'til it makes sense. I also read that section in my auto repair manual over and over, but a given repair may only have one indistinct photo, while the video goes step-by-step. Sometimes that isn't even enough and I have to call a lifeline. But auto repair is the exception.

And I don't do audio books. I had a couple of audio books on cassette tapes years ago and I thoroughly enjoyed them, but I had to stop what I was doing and actively listen. I do like the occasional podcast, and I enjoy Science Fridays on our local NPR station, when I remember to turn it on. Radio was still a big deal back on the farm. I always listened to the livestock reports and the news, and talk radio wasn't just about politics. I don't remember what it was about. There've been plenty of airwaves across the old antennae since then.

It's not that I'm technophobic, I carry an iPhone, which doubles as my camera, calculator, calendar, clock and any number of other words that may or may not begin with "C." I would rather text than talk on the phone, so I've evolved that far at least. As a matter of fact, all this high tech reminds me of all the futuristic stuff I read about in science fiction when I was a kid. If I understand it, the whole point of all these things is to save time. Video doesn't save mine.

Stephen P.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Corn Is Evil

Corn has an agenda and it isn't good. Thousands of years ago, corn as we know it didn't exist. Back then it was called maize and had only small ears with uneven rows of little kernels. So how did corn get to be the big, parallel-rowed, golden, juicy nuggets on a cob that we've all come to crave in the summer and the shorter cobettes we always order with our fish at Long John Silvers? By brainwashing and enslaving the human race. Yep. Maize used some kind of mind control to trick prehistoric people into cultivating it and selectively growing it until it became the massive world power that it is today. I was tempted to say "primitive people," but as we all know, the ancient Mayans had a sophisticated society with cars and airplanes and computers and the internet, until corn reduced them to mere agrarians, scratching in the soil to please their cornly overlords.

In order to prevent rebellion, corn made itself tasty and used its addictive qualities to keep a hold on its servants. Anthropologists have discovered that tooth decay didn't exist among the native people of the Americas until they began eating corn. The combination of rich sugars in the corn and grit from using stones to grind dried corn wore away at the enamel of their teeth the same way it had worn away their free will.

As Europeans easily invaded and conquered the powerless addicts, they too discovered what corn could do--and it wasn't pretty. In Spanish dominated areas, corn began to be used as tortillas, tamales and even cooking oil. In North America, the formerly sophisticated settlers from the British Isles were overtaken by the diabolical corn whiskey.

Always unsatisfied, corn continued to develop itself through the labor and at the expense of humans. Selective breeding gave way to hybridization, hybridization has been replaced by genetic modification. Corn, in its drive for immortality, has given itself immunity to herbicides and strives to be tolerant to drought and disease. It increases its addictive nature and spreads dependence through its high fructose syrup, its sweeteners and its meals and flours as additives to almost everything. It promotes itself as "gluten-free."

If you doubt that you are addicted, think back to the last time you were in a Mexican restaurant with a basket of tortilla chips and cups of salsa and queso in front of you. Did you eat until you barely had room for your entre? Case closed.

On the other hand, there is corn's harmless cousin, popcorn. Popcorn has changed little in a thousand years. It has only one use: producing the most fragile and delicious delicacy known to man. Popcorn has resisted all attempts at modifying its genes and remains true to its legacy. We always eat popcorn at important life events, such as movies, ball games, family night, Friday at the bank depositing our paychecks, stopping at 7-Eleven, being at home, breaks at lunch, getting gas at a truck stop, winter evenings in front of the fire, summer days at the beach, popcorn Tuesdays at some elementary schools, and others.

Plus, popcorn isn't addictive. I eat it all day everyday and I don't have a problem. I can quit anytime I want to.

Stephen P.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The End Is Nigh

The future seems a little iffy right now. President Trump keeps provoking an already dangerously paranoid and delusional leader of North Korea. While I admit it's tempting to consider doing something drastic about that whole annoying Kim Jung Un regime, I don't think a nuclear war would be good for our fragile planet.

Meanwhile, the Yellowstone caldera has experienced a huge swarm of earthquakes the last month or so. Ordinarily this wouldn't be a big deal, but Yellowstone is a giant volcano just itching to blow and it sits on an ocean of glowing magma. If it erupted, people all the way down in Florida would have problems with the pumice from volcanic ash scratching their sunglasses. Then, a month later, they'd be in the market for firewood, heavy parkas and ice skates as nuclear winter sets in.

I have two words for you: pyroclastic flow. That's the boiling mud that floods out of the volcano at like 300 miles an hour in a tidal wave fifty feet high. I'm much more afraid of pyroclastic flow than I am of lava. Have you seen video from Hawaii? Lava moves so slowly you can outrun it at a walk.

We've finally reached the point where almost all of us believe in global warming, we just disagree about the cause. Wheat crops are failing worldwide, corn harvests are way down in the big corn growing states and unusual weather patterns have affected any number of other food crops. Dozens of species of plants and animals have died out in just the last few years. Scientists have discovered a number of new flora and fauna right before they went extinct. Biodiversity is being destroyed by monoculture agriculture and genetic modification. The oceans' fish populations are so depleted that many peoples in the world are having to seek other sources of protein and other means of earning a living.

Let's not forget all the recent flooding. California is washing away. Texas is washing away. South Carolina is washing away. Then there are the wildfires all over the southwest and northwest and yes, even Florida. Most of the country that isn't flooded is on fire. Some places the flooding is making it hard to fight the fires.

Zika virus, Lyme's disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, West Nile, e coli, ebola, salmonella, listeria, cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, hepatitis C, bed bugs--we don't have a chance. Water. Our water is full of terrible things like benzene, mercury and Viagra that can't be filtered out. The air quality in the national parks is as bad as L.A. in the Sixties and smog is back with a vengeance in all of the world's major cities.

The strange weather patterns have Oregonians suffering under triple digit heat, Alaska as balmy as the Bahama's and Siberian's wearing short shorts. Storm surges from tropical storms and hurricanes are much higher than in the past, Arizona has Sahara Desert inspired dust storms and Tornado Alley has moved to Saskatchewan.

If all of that isn't enough, our odds of getting smashed by an asteroid increase every other day.

The outlook for human survival is bleak.

I seem to remember a line from the old 1950s movie The Blob: "Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die." But maybe not.

Stephen P.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

In Doubt

This is the second time I've brought this up in about a week, but it's preying on my mind. Why did CBS cancel Doubt after only two episodes had been broadcast? They paid for and produced a full thirteen episodes. Two episodes? Really?

The show had a great cast, including Dule Hill, Katherine Heigl, Laverne Cox, Elliot Gould and Judith Light. The plots were solid, the storytelling was well-structured and smooth. As courtroom dramas go, Doubt was a good one.

CBS has been running NCIS and its various spin offs for eons and they are crap, in my opinion. Well, okay, NCIS: New Orleans is not too bad, but I only watch it when there is nothing else on and my internet is down. The various CSIs were good and ran for a respectable number of years. Criminal Minds could go on to become the longest running series in television history if the network doesn't screw it up, which they've tried repeatedly to do.

Bull is a pretty good show, but it seems a little fantastic that anyone could afford to hire a huge consulting firm to help them manipulate a jury. Once was great, like Leverage--twenty-six times strains my credulity. Still, I could watch it.

Sure, there is a bit of formula about Doubt, like Elliot Gould as the eccentric senior partner, but as Shakespeare said "there is nothing new under the sun." I think Shakespeare was getting a little tired of  NCIS also.

I know it's tough being a broadcast network these days. HBO, Showtime, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and cable channels like TNT are grabbing all the best scripts and the biggest audiences. I read recently that the pay channels are killing off broadcast TV. But then I read that Millennials are killing off pay channels by rediscovering broadcast and antennas. I've rediscovered antennas, because I live out in satellite television hell, but I'm still waiting to rediscover broadcast. A few good shows like Doubt would help.

What's killing broadcast television is a dependence on reality TV, game shows, talent shows, prime time news features, awards shows and an endless number of sports events that preempt scripted programs. Don't get me wrong, I have my favorite team, but thirteen college football games a year should be enough sports for anyone.

Out here on the fringes of civilization we watch a lot of reruns on ION television and we stay up 'til two a.m. to see our two episodes of Psych a night. It's possible that broadcast TV might make a comeback and start giving us some good dramas again, but I have my doubts.

Stephen P.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

My Fried Chicken Recipe

When I was a kid I didn't start sentences with "when I was a kid." Now I do it all the time. Back in my childhood ("when I was a kid...") chickens had ten pieces, plus miscellaneous extra parts like a neck, heart, gizzard and liver. And sometimes the feet, but that was an old man thing. There were two drumsticks, two thighs, two wings, two breast parts, a wishbone and a back. The back was my dad's favorite. At sixteen I got a job at a steakhouse. Part of my job was cutting up chickens. They still had ten pieces. Now days chickens only have eight pieces. The breast is only cut into two pieces, splitting the wishbone. The back is discarded or used to make stock. Ducks aren't cut into pieces at all in my world.

I still love fried chicken, but I only make it a few times a year. My mother always pan fried it, but, thanks to a garage sale bargain, I have a deep fryer ($2 for a 6 quart Presto). When I was a kid they were called deep fat fryers. Here is one of my favorite fried chicken recipes.

Stephen's Infamous Spicy Fried Chicken

1 cut up chicken
3 qts. peanut oil
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 eggs lightly beaten
1/4 cup milk
1 Tbs. black pepper
1 Tbs. poultry seasoning
1/2 Tbs. garlic powder
1/2 Tbs. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. paprika

In deep fryer, heat 3 qts. of peanut oil to 375 degrees.
In a large bowl combine the eggs and milk. Place chicken in the bowl, turning to coat each piece with the mixture. Leave chicken in the mixture to soak, turning frequently.
In another bowl, combine dry ingredients, stirring with a fork to mix thoroughly.
Remove two pieces of chicken from egg mixture, allow excess mixture to drain off, place in flour mixture, turning to coat well. Let sit for a few minutes. Gently shake off excess flour and place chicken into fryer. Cook for ten to twelve minutes, until golden brown. Check with a meat thermometer for an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees F. Repeat with remaining chicken. Discard leftover egg and flour mixtures (I like to use some of the leftover flour mix to make country gravy).

Warning: Spicy.

Stephen P.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Kitchen Chronicles

Cooking is one daily chore I really enjoy. I usually prepare breakfast and dinner and occasionally lunch. By some stroke of luck, we have a great kitchen. It has plenty of counter space (there is no such thing as plenty of cabinet space in any kitchen). It's small enough to have everything within reach when I'm cooking alone, but it's big enough we've had four people working comfortably at the same time cooking Thanksgiving dinner.

Having the right tools makes cooking a pleasure.

I love cutting boards. I would collect them, but Kathy discourages hoarding behavior. We have a nice large maple cutting board, a large plastic cutting board, a glass one and a small plastic one. I really like the wooden one for chopping and dicing vegetables. We use the large plastic one for cutting meat and then clean it with a bleach solution. The glass one is mostly for carving roasts, chickens and turkeys fresh from the oven, and the small one is for slicing cheese, making sandwiches and general use when we don't need a large one.

Good knives are essential. We got rid of all but three of our knives when we moved out here. The ones we kept were wooden handled and had been my mother's for most of my life. One is a short paring knife, one is a long paring knife and one is an eight inch slicing knife. The blades are thin and I don't know about the quality of the steel, but they sharpen easily and hold an edge very well. Shortly after we moved here we bought a set of two cheap kitchen knives at Dollar General Store. One is about four inches long with a wide blade, the other is a short, very pointy thing. They both come in handy for specific tasks and do a good job. I found a Miracle knife out in the pump house and cleaned it up. It is ten inches long, has scalloped serrations and a fork on the end. I think it was intended as a carving knife, but I like it for slicing bread. The most important knife in the kitchen is a good quality chef's knife. I have two. One is an eight inch Kitchen Aide that my brother Randy gave me and the other is a Swiss Victorinox I bought on Amazon. Both are extremely good, professional quality knives.

With all of those knives, using a whetstone is impractical. I bought an expensive Chef's Choice XV electric knife sharpener. It re-bevels blades to fifteen degrees, rather than the thirty degrees standard on most knives. After sharpening my knives with this machine I had to buy a Kevlar glove and a stainless steel finger guard. Aside from the bandaids on my fingers, good sharp knives are a pleasure to work with.

I also have four cast iron skillets in different sizes that were my mom's and I use them constantly. Cast iron may seem like a cult thing, but I wouldn't be without it. I've tried non-stick skillets, but I always go back to my cast iron.

Something else we got rid of when we moved were our Revere Ware pots and pans. At the time it was about down-sizing and uncluttering our lives. Bad move. After two years of nonstick pans, we tossed them and I bought thirty-six pieces of antique Revere Ware on eBay. We now have multiples of pots and pans from 3/4 quart to twelve quarts with lids for each and every one. It makes for a storage problem in the cabinet, but there's nothing better for most cooking.

We also have a variety of utensils and small appliances, but they are too numerous to list here.

When you cook as much as I do, it's nice to have a kitchen that works with you.

Stephen P.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Hot, Hot, Hot

The heat of summer has gripped Oklahoma for the better part of a month. Now I don't want to be one of those guys who complains about the weather all the time. Instead, I'll express my appreciation for how good I've had it.

People always say "it's a dry heat." It's not. This summer has been extremely humid--but that's okay. The past year has been great. Last summer, if memory serves, was really mild compared to a few recent years.

It was a warm, mild fall. Most of the time we didn't even need coats. Then the winter came and was very pleasant. There were a couple of cold weeks, but by February we were having nice spring weather--most of the time. Sometimes it was hot. Sometimes it was cold.

When spring really arrived, it wasn't a typical Oklahoma spring, dry and dusty with temperatures in the nineties. No, it was a real spring like we used to read about in books. Not too warm, not too cool, just right. And then the heat. But not terrible three digit heat.

It has been my good fortune to have spent almost my entire working life indoors. For most of that time I worked in drafty shops with inadequate heating in the winter, so I had to dress in layers, and inadequate air conditioning in the summer, so I dressed in shorts and tank tops and kept a fan blowing right on me.

That is why I've been so fortunate. So many of my friends worked outdoors through the coldest, iciest winters and the longest hottest summers, often twelve hours a day.

For me, a snowfall is a delight--a winter wonderland. A hot day is a welcome break from the howling wind of December. Rain is welcome to ease the drought and freshen the air.

I've also been fortunate that I haven't suffered the loss caused by hurricanes, tornadoes, hail and ice storms.

It has been hot, but I won't complain. The bitter cold will be here soon enough. And I have a good coat.

Stephen P.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Evasions, Fibs and Whoppers

We live in a post-truth era. Nothing is certain. You can believe whatever you want and the other guy is always wrong.

There was a time when I believed in ideals such as truth, justice and the American way. Now it's hard to tell what any of those things are. Truth used to be an absolute, but now it's gotten very subjective, distorted by preachers, politicians and propagandized by pundits and news outlets. Justice used to mean something. Now it just refers to which side won in court. Prosecutors ignore proof of a defendant's innocence, insisting that a jury's verdict outweighs everything else. As for the American way, there are simply too many factions with too many opinions. I won't even try to name all of the different isms.

Nothing can be counted on. Photographs and videos can be altered through Photoshop or even simple phone apps to create whatever false narrative the editor wants. Audio can be faked with Auto-Tune and other pitch shifters so that even those without an ability to sing can sound good. Fiction passes as non-fiction, legend passes for history, and even history can be tweaked to fit an agenda.

Social media tells me my favorite actor or musician has died, but the person in question insists it isn't true. Who do you trust, Facebook or some dead celebrity? Memes can be completely fake, but no matter how often they are fact checked, they come around again and convince a whole new group of people of their validity.

The Earth has been proven round any number of times over the centuries. By the time of Columbus, the "Round Earth" was an accepted fact. Now an entirely new flat Earth movement has taken hold, along with "proof" that the Moon landing was faked. Unfortunately, the truth of both positions seems clear from direct observation. Only scientists can figure out the truth of the matter and nobody trusts scientists anymore.

Global warming, which causes climate change, is another one of those elusive truths. There are too many subtleties. We can predict a lunar eclipse, but accurately predicting how many hurricanes we'll have, how much ice will melt and how high the seas will rise this year is impossible. Scientists can do computer models and pick the most likely one, but if they are wrong, then their credibility is shot in the eyes of those who are skeptical or have an agenda.

I could go on and on, but the point is, these days, the truth is what you choose to believe is the truth and no one will ever change your mind. If facts can be faked, then you believe anyone who supports what you already believed.

As Fox Mulder said on The X Files, "the truth is out there." Trust me. I only tell the truth, present the facts and support the American Way.

Stephen P.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Vast Wasteland Report

It seems as though I rarely have any good news about the current state of television.

Sitcoms have been off my viewing list for decades now. I'm happy for people who love Big Bang Theory. I'm not interested, but that's just me. I don't care for anything with a laugh track. By the way, I'm sorry to predict that Young Sheldon will be cancelled mid-season. And I won't care.

Let me apologize for being harsh, but I'm bitter over the cancellation of Rosewood. It was a great crime drama with a great cast chemistry and I will miss it greatly.

Bones has finally ended. It was time. I've enjoyed the show, but I think it had run its course and keeping it on life support would have just been cruel. I like David Boreanaz, but I doubt that I will watch Seal Team--or any other military/Middle East war dramas. Some things are just too real and too dramatic for me. I don't need to punish myself by watching reenactments of a conflict that makes me very sad.

Survivor is still on, I don't know why. I've never watched more than fifteen minutes of the show and I don't understand why anyone would. Reality television has never caught my attention for very long. Pawn Stars, Gold Rush Alaska and American Pickers were entertaining for awhile. I might still watch Gold Rush, scripted though it is, but I got rid of cable.

All of the medical dramas kind of run together in my consciousness, so that I can no longer tell them apart: Code Black, Night Shift, Chicago Med, Saving Hope. I'm not saying they aren't good, they just aren't very distinctive. The strong female leads are probably the best part, but all four have them. I still miss the short-lived Monday Mornings. Now that was an original series. I've still never watched Gray's Anatomy, although I used to have a copy of the book.

Pure Genius, APB and Scorpion were all shows about very smart people and I never missed an episode of any of the three. Scorpion is the only one still on. Katharine McPhee is the highlight of a really good cast. The plots all follow a very structured formula and Scorpion is more fun than intense drama.

Bachelor and Bachelorette are two more shows I have no interest in. I haven't watched soap operas since I worked swing shift back in the Eighties. I don't watch dance shows, either. However, I do respect people who watch these shows, I mean, what else is there to watch.

Fargo and Better Call Saul are definitely worth watching, but I got rid of cable, so I don't. Okay, I do, on Hulu/Netflix, but I've already bitched about internet providers limiting me to a few episodes of each per month.

This past season of Criminal Minds was a mess. Firing Thomas Gibson was a mistake, but the show can still go on. The whole Spencer Reid goes to prison mini series within the series went on way too long. They can catch a serial killer in twenty-four hours, but they can't get Dr. Reid out of jail? While Criminal Minds has been going on for twelve seasons, I see no reason it can't keep going. Penelope Garcia is the thread that holds the fabric together. Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders was a dumb idea.

Doubt was a good show. Why they cancelled it after two episodes is a mystery to me. If they had aired the remaining episodes sooner, the ratings might have improved.

Another dumb idea was ABC's drama/comedy The Catch. Mireille Enos was brilliant in The Killing, and it's nice to know how beautiful she is when she let's her hair out of a pony tail. The Killing was so good, I used my precious data allowance to download and watch the entire series twice. The catch was awful. If you are going to do a ripoff of White Collar, at least make an effort. While the show had a good cast and some interesting fragments of character complications, it seemed like the actors knew it wasn't going anywhere and didn't make much effort. Enos deserved better.

Supernatural still won't die. There are things I like about the show: the cast, the characters, even the original premise, but I'm not really interested in vampires, demons, zombies, fallen angels or any of that, so no matter how good the show is, I'm not likely to watch. I hope it keeps making its fans happy for years to come.

Super heroes. I was a big fan of Marvel comics for decades and I was bummed that there weren't any good comic book series on TV. Now there are too many and it waters down any novelty there might have been. Enough! Stop it!

Mysteries of Laura was entertaining. I'm sorry it's gone.

Chicago Fire is mostly good. The cast is great and I will keep watching, but as usual, I'm interested in what the characters do for a living, not how their lives are going at home. Is that so wrong?

Chicago PD: don't care. Game shows: not interested, but I'll watch if I'm desperate. How to Get Away with Murder: don't care. Quantico: not even. Secrets and Lies: nope. Scandal: don't think so. All of those time travel shows: try again, Quantum Leap had a good gimmick.

Blue Bloods is the only thing in that Friday night time slot and I still don't watch it. If I'm going to watch Tom Selleck  brood, give me Jesse Stone.

Zoo is too convoluted for my taste. Primeval did it better.

That's enough. It hurts my head to think about it anymore.

Oh, wait. One more. I love Steve Harvey, but I'm starting to get an overdose. Take a break, Steve, six shows is enough.

Stephen P.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Fast Lane Blues

The world seems to be changing fast these days. Or maybe it's just me getting old.

This planet has always seen bursts of rapid development, from hunter-gatherer to agrarian--okay, maybe not that, but aviation between 1914 and 1919, for instance. So many things have happened since World War II. Television has gone from limited availability analog black-and-white broadcast to unlimited high definition digital satellite-direct, interactive. Computers have gone from massive mechanical devices, to analog vacuum tube monstrosities, to analog transistor monstrosities, to digital microchip handheld devices. One iPhone now has more computing power than all of the computers in existence in 1968 combined.

Sadly, human space travel hasn't gone very far in the last forty years, but unmanned exploration has discovered amazing things--few answers, but lots of new questions.

Many "advancements" in chemistry and biology have been ill-advised and potentially disastrous, but the world of physics has made great new discoveries--few answers, but lots of new questions.

Now here is what really put a burr under my saddle. It started with home computers. Every time I got the latest, fastest model with the biggest hard drive and the most ram, software developers came out with a new version of their program, which my computer was only marginally fast enough to run, which took up most of my hard drive, and which required a ram upgrade to run. Fine. When I could, I bought the latest, fastest new computer with an exponential increase in ram. Bingo. The new programs made my computer seem like a snail.

Then came the internet and the problem was modems. Each time I got the fastest modem, websites became more graphics intensive and I had to have a newer computer to run a faster modem. WiFi came along and modems seemed to become irrelevant, but I needed a newer computer with a faster graphics board, or whatever. Every time I upgraded my computer, web developers added more video to their sites, higher definition and anything else that would exclude my computer from full participation. Fine.

So computers get faster, with more ram and higher definition video capabilities and what happens? Internet providers limit my data usage to a maximum twenty gigabytes. If I'm lucky my internet works for a week out of every month. Not fair.

Most of the time when one advancement is made it makes something else obsolete. Now we have a technology that throws a big wrench into the usefulness of all these other technologies. One of these days maybe everything will work together, but for now I'll avoid watching videos, Facebooking or downloading music. My favorite technological advancement is having a massive library of information and imagination at my fingertips. From my point of view, that's a great change.

Stephen P.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Remember When

Nostalgia is one of those things I always associate with older people. In the interest of full disclosure, I am an older person, but I've always had a fascination with things from the not too distant past.

When I was growing up, at least half of the adult males I knew were World War I veterans. I loved listening to their stories about the Great War. You might say I was a bit of a history buff.

Where I grew up, we were less than an hour from half a dozen or more Civil War battlefields. The school, parks and most city buildings in my hometown were built by the WPA (Works Progress Administration), a program of the New Deal that provided jobs during the Great Depression.

My favorite books were about the flying aces of WWI and I still love the old biplanes. The Golden Age of Aviation fascinated me: the air racing, the aerobatics and the barnstormers.

The modern milking machines and stainless steel milk tanks of modern farming never interested me as much as the wooden stanchions, Dutch doors and hand cranked cream separator of our old milk barn.

Recently I've subscribed to a couple of farming/country living magazines, Grit and Capper's Farmer--revivals of publications from the past hundred years, that have a mix of current articles and nostalgia features. While I gain useful information for my own gardening and homesteading efforts, I'm really enjoying all the glances back at a different time. You notice I didn't say simpler. I believe that all of our modern conveniences have been a result of trying to make life simpler, even if it wouldn't seem like it for someone from the past.

Would I go back to the old days? I'm more realistic than that. There are a few things I might like better, but I realize that life was tough then and always is. On the other hand, I might like to travel back in time and buy a nice big piece of farm land with today's money at yesterday's prices.

Stephen P.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Writing Space

Last year I was offered an opportunity to co-author an episode of a new science fiction series. I have to say I was honored, since the series was created and is co-written by T.Y. Carew and the first episode is co-written by Jess Mountifield, one of my favorite contemporary authors. The series, published by Red Feather Writing in the U.K., is titled Adamanta. My contribution, the second episode, is subtitled The Shafts of Kudos.

In the series, Earth has been destroyed and all humanity is threatened by an army of drones and their controllers, the Beltines. Humanity's first best hope rests on a telekinetically controllable metal and the ship's crew trained to use it.

Writing my episode was great fun. The Shafts of  Kudos is my first old school science fiction piece and I hope to do more. Maybe I'll write another episode of Adamanta.

Stephen P.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Spring Fever

Spring began at the end January this year--and again in early February, then again later in the month and every two weeks after that. The temperature even reached 90 degrees in February. It's been great weather for working in the garden, but a little too confusing for the plants. May and June were pleasant, with very civilized temperatures, and now July is somewhere just east of hell.

When we have to go into town we stick to shady back roads as much as we can, but sooner or later we find ourselves in the blazing sun of the concrete desert. I see new housing developments going in, moving closer to our rural refuge, and I just don't understand how anyone can live in a neighborhood without trees. Out here the abundance of trees keeps the temperature several degrees cooler. We have to move our chairs once in awhile, but we can always manage to sit in the shade.

Our house sits hundreds of feet from the road, so dust isn't a problem for us. I feel bad for all the people who built their houses thirty feet from the dirt track. Whenever I drive by I try to slow down to spare them some dust, but I'm not sure it helps.

All winter long I look forward to warm weather, but I'm already looking forward to the cool of autumn.

Stephen P.