Sunday, June 26, 2011

Gaza or Bust(ed)

Biking those pounds away!

A good title for this picture would be; ‘After I lose twenty more pounds, I bet I’ll make it past that next driveway’!

Seriously, losing weight is a huge pain. Losing weight after sixty is an even bigger pain, and yes most of it is on my ass! (I’m a big ass in real life too). If rear tires could scream, I’d be deaf now. But, I refuse to go to the heavy man’s bike complete with the reinforced steel tires. This Sedona DX made by Giant will just have to suffer right along with me as the pounds slowly drip off.

Having stated all that, I am pleased with my progress after just a few outings. When I began, I made it as far as the red line before going back in shame. This was augmented by the neighbors who watched me and then began placing bets on how long I had left to live. Last time I asked the odds were not very good.

After just a few days, however, I was able to make it around the block as denoted by the green line. And it was not just once either! I found out that muscles seem to have a memory concerning their role in life and de-atrophy pretty quickly. After just one week, I am now motor around the larger course of .7 of a mile on a daily basis. At this time, I still have to dismount at one small point (yellow line) where the grade becomes pretty steep. My hope is that after another week or so, I will be able to make the entire trip in the saddle so to speak. The great thing about bicycling is that no matter where you go, the trip is evenly divided between uphill and downhill segments. It’s those downhill times that are fun as all my weight allows me to really fly!

As is my habit, I’ll try and follow up this blog from time to time with a progress report.

The rise of the extremophiles!

Extremophile (from Latin extremus meaning "extreme" and Greek philiā (meaning "love") is an organism that thrives in physically or geochemically extreme conditions that are detrimental to most life on Earth.

My friends, I feel we may be poised for a biological invasion and aberration of our environment which could drastically affect life on earth as we know it. Insects which now number in the hundreds of billions and which fill every earthly niche may soon mutate into new realms heretofore unavailable to them. I bring you the rise of a new class of bug able to tolerate both extremes of cold and heat. Bugs that can exist in fine style inside your home refrigerator, freezer or oven, eating whatever they can find. Termed psycrophiles, these bugs will have developed metabolic enzymes that can work at temperatures as low as zero degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures so low that not even the freezer will be out of their ravenous reach! Just think of the physiological shock of opening the refrigerator door one evening in search of a late night snack only to find the shelves filled with cockroach sized bugs scurrying here and there!

But wait! It gets worst, far worst. For I also prophesize the advent of the thermophiles. Bugs that have forsaken a carbon based life for one centered on silicon. Yes, my fellow doomed hominids, bugs essentially made of glass that will enable them to easily withstand temperatures in excess of 400 degrees Fahrenheit! Holy hot muffins! Imagine such critters invading your food as it’s cooked on the stove top or, God forbid, even in the oven! In a world gone completely mad, humankind may soon be forced into a pitched battle with only metal and glass canisters offering them safe haven. Sadly, even that will be short term as some may develop gastric acids that will break down even these barriers. There's only one hope for humanity. Eat like there is no tomorrow! Yes, that’s the solution! If we eat all the food, well why then, there will be nothing left for those critters from hell to consume?

And that, I swear to you doctor, is why I’m so damn obese!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A TV viewing odyssey: From Cable to Local to FTA - Part 2

Garbled Instructions

After making a decision to buy a home satellite system I would like to make a few comments about the people you select to buy from. In my case this was Perhaps not the best choice of companies to do business with. There is at least one site that do not speak favorably of the business practices of the owner, a Mr. Jamal Sadoun. According to some of the complaints, this is a business best avoided and that’s putting it kindly. That said, I did get my merchandise and everything apparently worked, thank God. The dish setup, however, was not without some interesting challenges.  I would like to submit the instruction page into evidence exhibit A. These instructions were either written by a two year old or by an ape, I’m not sure. In either case, I got my dish assembled only by completely ignoring them. This was accomplished after first repairing damage that was done to the dish while it was still at their warehouse. (I can say this because the shipping box showed no signs of any sort of trauma).

Dish pointing for dummies

Next came some fun and games with the unit that powers the dish. Once again, you are better off to just ignore what the pamphlet says. I aligned the assembly by setting the latitude on the motor bracket and then by aiming it manually at a satellite that was closest to due south. In my case this was Galaxy 19. Time spent on this was about four hours. During that time, I tried calling Sadoun only to get a prerecorded message that they would return my call…which they did not. This task was accomplished when I went to Sadoun’s site where you can get a visual on the actual azimuth and elevation of the satellite you are trying to link up to. Once I was able to get some hits that way, I was able to ‘fine tune’ the dish by making some small adjustments until I got a good signal. A process that is a pain in the butt, I’ll tell you.

The Open Box Manual
The next bit of fun was in trying to figure out what the manual for the Open Box satellite receiver was trying explain. This was another case where you get the impression the booklet was written by someone with only a limited grasp of English. Also, the pictures (see example) left a lot to be desired. Hey guys, this is the 21st Century! Fuzzy photos are so nineteen hundreds! This was another case where you are better off throwing the manual into the BBQ while you figure everything out yourself. By running through the menu items numerous times, I was able to get most everything to work. Still, a lot of frustration could be avoided by a well written preamble with concise ‘how to’ dialog. Just another reason to possible look elsewhere for your sat purchase.

Right now I am still in the process of deciphering it all. I have had success with acquiring a couple of satellites, even though they were obscured by trees. The picture quality from the HD receiver is excellent and in part three, I hope to go into more detail as to the nature of the programming available in part three. For now, I would tell anyone who is considering a purchase like this to go for it, but to do their research prior to making the jump!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A TV viewing odyssey: From Cable to Local to FTA - Part 1

In a recent blog, I related to making the decision of dropping my fifty plus cable TV in favor of local broadcasts through an antenna on my roof. In doing so, I went from many channels to just a few, eleven to be exact. Now to be fair, with cable, I only watched four channels with any regularity. They were Fox News, the Sci Fi channel, the History channel and very occasionally the Comedy channel. All the others were basically ‘flip throughs’ or channels that I’d watch for some comic relief like MSNBC. Yet surprisingly, when faced with only a few local broadcast channels to watch, I found that my sense of viewing enjoyment actually increased. Who would have figured? I also discovered something that took me back to the sixties when I was faced with a similar dearth of programming. That is, when there was nothing to watch, I’d go outdoors and play! This worked out pretty well, for a week or so.

Now, not being one to leave well enough alone, I’ve decided to dabble a bit in the area of ‘free over the air TV’ or FTA (Free to Air). These are channels that are broadcast by satellites that are in the clear, meaning that anyone with the proper ‘equipment’ can pull them in. I had heard that there are literally tons of channels (even some in HD format) that can be had free for the watching. So, throwing caution to the wind, I ordered myself a bundled sat system after doing some research first.

Turns out, there was a lot I didn’t know about satellite TV. I won’t go into detail here, but suffice it to say that selecting a receiver that will fit your needs will take a bit of Googling. In my case, I selected a web site that has been around for awhile called Sadoun Satellite Sales and ended up purchasing a SatHawk PVR800 CI HD DVB-S/S2 FTA receiver bundled with a 31 inch Offset KU Band dish and DiSEqC compatible motor. What’s that mean? It means I will be able to view crisp and clear channels on multiple satellites without having to bother moving the dish. It will move itself. This whole mess is due to arrive at my door next week, so please follow my satellite adventures in future blogs.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Shifting viewer habits and dwindling home budgets steer some to HDTV!

Free HDTV that is! As inflation begins to take a stronger hold on the American economy, more and more people are trying to find ways to cope. According to one article I read, “Core prices, which exclude more volatile food and energy costs, advanced 0.3 per cent (in May), the biggest increase since July 2008.” 

While the Federal government continues to look for ways to get more of its citizens back to work, millions are living with the realization that they will have to make cuts in areas once considered sacrosanct. The cuts may be for a short or long term. Who’s to know?

One saving being realized by some is the migration from TV cable and satellite services to free local TV services. Contrary to what some would have you to believe, local stations near where you live still broadcast over the air. The only difference now is that they do so digitally. Another myth is that you will need some special hi-tech equipment to receive those broadcasts. Actually, even if you have a pre-2007 TV that is analog in function, you can go out and purchase a digital to analog converter box at locations like Radio Shack for just a few dollars. If you have a newer Flat screen TV, chances are there is already a digital decoder installed in it. At that point, even an old rabbit ears antenna may work in some cases. Otherwise, there are HDTV antennas for sale that, once install on a roof, can bring in stations that are thirty or more miles away.

What’s the bad news? Well, you usually can receive only a few channels this way, although they will be in high definition. At my location in Forsyth Missouri, I get a total of ten channels including KYTV/Fox, KSPR and OPT to name a few.

For me, that is more than enough entertainment. The fact that the TV cost is zero could make this a big consideration for anyone living on a fixed or zero income basis.

Sunset or sunrise?

Is this the sunset of us
or is it a new day?
So many have fallen
on shores far away.
Wars then and now,
fought in death's grip.
That our children might have,
a happier trip.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

My battle plans for the Japanese Beetle!

It’s early June and now is about the time that the Japanese beetle is due to make an appearance in southwestern Missouri. The green and gold colored beetle comes out of the ground in great numbers and likes to dine on over 300 species of plants. One year they ate an entire stand of flower right down to the stem!

Organic ways to combat them include growing non-attractive plants, using netted covering, and hand-picking beetles from your garden and drowning them in a bucket of soapy water. All of which are labor intensive exercises that often end up in frustration. Even covering your plants up for most of the month can be of limited effect if they come out of the ground underneath the cover! However, take heart. There is one proven way to combat these pests, although it will not make you very popular on the block where you live.

My solution came about when I noted that the bag traps which contain bug pheromone lures can actually cause the problem to get worst by attracting the bugs from neighboring yards. (Ah, I thought to myself, but what if I was to buy and place some traps down the block in a vacant yard? I could add some additional lures at that location to help amplify the effect). Now I only have to ask myself, do I have the nerve!