Archives For November 2014

Screenshot_2014-11-10-12-32-58I use a Samsung Galaxy S4 and have AT&T as my provider. I am, for the most part, satisfied. But when I’m not satisfied, I’m truly annoyed. Two cases in point are auto network switch and auto connect to AT&T WiFi hotspots.

The reason I dislike auto network switch is that it interferes with any attempt use WiFi in a non-standard manner, such as using Olympus’ Image Share with my E-M10, or any WiFi connection that the software deems is “unstable.”

The reason I dislike auto connect to any AT&T WiFi hotspot is that there are so many out there and they are now so poorly maintained that the link is dead, killing the wireless connection when it connects. Or else when you do connect you have to “log into” or “agree” to lawyer weasel-words that remove all liability from the WiFi provider, which is not AT&T, but some other company. In Orlando FL the best example of this is McDonalds’ and their so-called free WiFi.

In both cases I went hunting all over the phone’s configuration menus, trying to find where in the menus I could disable both features. I finally found them with the following steps:

  1. Pull down the notification bar by dragging down from the top edge of the screen.
  2. Touch the gear on the upper right, bringing up Connections.
  3. Touch WiFi on the left. This brings up the list of all known WiFi connections.
  4. Touch the menu key on the lower left, next to the single physical button at the bottom.
  5. Touch Advanced on the menu.
  6. You’ll see the screen shown at the top left. If Auto network switch and Auto connect have checks, touch both to uncheck them and turn them off.

SpaceShipDesignThe past week has been tumultuous. First was my personal life that was almost turned upside down due to a misdiagnosis of my wife’s health condition. That was a Monday. Tuesday was the mid-term elections with the unfortunate political outcomes that I feared would happen, the loss of the Senate to the crazy Republicans as well as a further entrenchment of those same types of Republicans throughout the South, especially in Florida.

The week before that there was the explosion of Orbital Sciences Cygnus Orb-3 just seconds after liftoff on 28 October, followed two days later by the in-flight breakup of the Virgin Galactic Spaceship 2 on 31 October. It was the SS2 loss with the loss of one of its two pilots that caused the greatest personal hurt. No, I didn’t know either of the two pilots, but I had a lot of personal hope tied up in SS2. My hopes and dreams went up every time it did. When it crashed the only way I could have felt any worse is if I was personally involved.

All of that finally reached through to me and made me mad.

A Little Personal History

When I was a kid growing up I lived through the 1960s, watching every Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo flight. I knew every astronaut’s name and statistics the way other kids knew every major league baseball player. I new statistics on every rocket that flew, every capsule that carried astronauts. I even followed the X-15 flights because they looked so totally cool. And I had the models, from Revell and Monogram and AMT. And I have some of them still, sitting on a shelf, waiting for the day in retirement when I might pull them down and finish them.

The Monogram Apollo CSM, very dusty and still wrapped in cellophane.

The Monogram Apollo CSM plastic model, very dusty and still wrapped in cellophane.

As I was growing up through elementary and then high school (Georgia had no middle school), I dreamed of being a space “constructor,” a guy living and building structures in space, from orbital space stations to bases on the Moon and Mars. I figured I’d spend the rest of my life building the future. Unfortunately for me it didn’t turn out that way. Apollo stopped at 17 instead of going on to 20. What was left was used for a joint Soyuz/Apollo flight in LEO and Skylab. The rest of the Apollo capsules were used on Saturn 1Bs to send three manned crews to Skylab. All the rest of the funding went into the Shuttle, a design that was fatally stripped down to a bare minimum by Richard Nixon before he resigned from office over Watergate. By the time I graduated from high school and headed off to college there was essentially nothing left. All the really big dreams were dead, mine with them. I finished college, became a typical American citizen spending money, getting married, buying a house, and raising a family. I didn’t try to fight for the future; it was too hard. What little was left of the manned space program limped along, doing little more than going around the Earth for an awfully long time for an awful lot of money with very, very few humans to experience it.

And Then The World Got Weird

9/11 was the spark that set alight all the bad things that had been gathering in our country with regards to rights-violating all-pervasive surveillance, weaponizing the Internet to do it. We didn’t know how bad until Edward Snowden disclosed how bad a little over a year ago. Since that time the idea of NSA, as FBI and other three-letter government organizations, have been hovering up information from everywhere and holding it in various databases that they all tap into depending on whatever whim strikes them. That goes hand-in-glove with the overcriminalization of nearly everything in this country, led by the Department of (In)Justice.

What You Can’t Do Anymore

When things got crazy like this in the past (and I’m looking back at the 19th century and earlier) you had the possibility of just pulling up stakes and going somewhere else in the world. It was one of the great motivators for moving first to this country as a colonist, then later further and further west, until we hit the Pacific.

But you can’t do that anymore. About the best you can do right now is to move to Berlin in the hope you can stop the constant NSA surveillance. The problem with that is that is so narrowly focused; the over-surveillance is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to problems you want to get away from. Further, Berlin is just one city, with limited size, and it won’t stay a haven from surveillance forever. If someone moves there that the great surveillance state wants to spy on then they will, no matter what. There needs to be a better solution.

Rolling Your Own Solution

Since we can’t go out to another frontier on Earth, we have to go up. Or we wind up dying, either quickly by trying to fight against the forces of evil, or slowly from the inside out by just giving up. Personally I prefer a third solution, one that involves extending space flight to the point that mere mortals can achieve not only the ability to move away from the Earth, but to other places in our solar system, starting with the Moon and then Mars and then, who knows where?

That’s why I want to build my own personal space ship, or at the very least, design one that others can help me build. And that’s what that little diagram at the top of the post is all about. That little sketch, if you will, of a system-of-systems approach to an all-in-one space craft, a single stage to orbit space craft that can rise above the Earth and return to it without throw-away staging or other wasteful practices.

I’ll start using that digital sketch to talk about what I need in future posts. And these posts will start coming at a fairly rapid pace. I’ve been withdrawn these past few months, not writing or photographing or doing anything creative. I’ve been withdrawn and letting the world’s bullies push me into a corner. I’ve decided to come out of the corner. I’ve decided to get to work on my ultimate personal solution. One way or another I’m going to find a way to leave this country, and this Earth, and I hope I can help a lot of others leave with me.

…the more i love my labs

November 9, 2014
watching his big back yard

My big boy Max in his big back yard

It’s a quiet Sunday. It’s overcast and cool, the kind of late fall day we all love here in Florida. The Labs love these days as well, especially for staying out in the back yard. We still have the same house and the same back yard we raised both our girls in. When we moved into this house nearly 30 years ago, we needed that big back yard even then for Rhett, my wife’s first yellow Lab. Over the years we’ve had a multitude of Labs live and play out back, up to and including our two current residents, Max and Ruby.

Max is a good 14 years. These days, he doesn’t run about the back yard nearly as much as he once did, preferring to just lie in certain spots and watch the world do its thing. His favorite objects to watch are the butterflies about the flowers, which is why we tend to refer to him as Ferdinand.

she's still a big puppyOn days like today Ruby prefers to rest indoors next to my wife. And even though she’s now six, she still has something of the puppy personality about her, including her puppy-like face. You can tell she’s a little girl with her long eye lashes.

resting quietlyAfter spending his morning out back, Max mosey’s on back in for his mid-morning nap. He builds his strength up for his evening walks, which are still a good one to two miles long. Not bad for a 14-plus year old yellow Lab.

With all that’s happening in the world right now, I’m so thankful to have my quiet back yard, the Labs, and most importantly, a wife who understands all of this.


I’ve long since given up talking photo technique, but these are special enough to me to mention. I’m using the Olympus E-M10 exclusively these days with either the M.Zuiko 1.8/17mm or 1.8/45mm. These were taken with the 45mm. Post processing is with the Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 pluggin in Lightroom 5.6. I’ve been playing with toning, vignetting, and moving the sliders for contrast to the left to decrease contrast, especially in the shadows, for a softer, more romantic look. Exposing to get close to the look in camera is vital, but post processing gives me the final look I saw in my mind’s eye when I took these photos.

lucy’s under the weather

November 8, 2014

looking for solaceNot only has my wife been under the weather, but Lucy decided to join in as well. After all, misery supposedly loves company. Lucy has been having stomach upsets over the last two weeks, with three incidents (at night) of vomiting; in her case ballistic vomiting. So I get to wipe up the chunky mess (thank goodness for our all-tile floors in the house) and then mop everything.

Lucy has also been coming over more often to look for comfort and rubs from me, her Person. The photo above is typical of Lucy putting her head down on my midriff and looking up for rubs. She purrs like a motor boat while I rub her. Her favorite rub spots are around her ears. Note that these are slow, gentle rubs. Cats are not dogs, such as our two Labs.

peeking out of the carrierToday I took her to the vets for her annual shots. I also took Ellipse to check the weight. Surprise, surprise, both cats showed noticeable weight gains, even Lucy. So while Lucy might be throwing up occassionally she’s keeping enough down that she’s gained about a pound and a half, which is a lot for a little cat.

As is so typical both of them meowed all the way over to the vet. Once there, they stayed quiet and in their carriers (or very close by). Cats are smart and have long memories. The vet is very good and gentle, but cats don’t like to travel and they are supper cautious around the vet and his assistants.

peeking up out of the carrierI came home with a new cat food (Royal Canin vet diet) formulated to be easier to digest as well as having less odd-ball ingredients. We’ll try this out for the rest of November and see how Lucy reacts. So far she seems to like it. But I know one thing, no more Purina Fancy Feast. It seems to cause more upsets with Lucy and Ellipse than I want to clean up.

a long strange week

November 8, 2014

emergency roomThis past week started with my wife driving herself to the emergency room from what started as a routine doctor’s visit. She’d been ill for a week, and seemed to be getting worse over the weekend. She suspected an infection, probably a urinary tract infection, but it wasn’t responding to the normal treatments. So she went to go see her doctor.

waitingFor whatever reason the doctor decided it might actually be a heart attack. I’m certainly no doctor, and my wife told me later that some of the symptoms she was showing could be construed as a heart attack (rapid heart rate, weakness, sweats) as well as her dehydration she also seemed to be suffering from. So she drove herself to the ORMC emergency room while techs checked her out (blood, an IV to work on the dehydration, another ECG). It was while she was checking in she called me while I was at work. That’s when I closed up and bugged out.

When I got there we were met by a mutual friend. I left after about a half hour to grab a bagel for a late lunch. On the way back I was asked by a someone I’d not met before what that camera was I was carrying and it if was mine. I was already annoyed that this was an unnecessary visit, so I told the person it was, and this was the second time I’d walked in with it. I then turned and left.

While sitting in the room with my wife and our friend one of Orlando’s Finest came in an read me the riot act about having a camera in the ER. Something about HIPPA (which I knew about) and if I took any photos they deemed improper that they would make me erase them. I bit my lip (literally) and let idiot law enforcement do his thing. When he was done blustering he turned and left. I stayed about a half hour longer, and then left to go home and look after the animals as well as get the house straightened for my wife. She finally drove herself home about 5pm.

The next day was the first Tuesday in November, Election Day. We’d both filled out our mail-in ballots but hadn’t mailed them in, with the idea we’d drop them off that morning at our polling place. Unfortunately for us the rules had been changed such that we couldn’t have done that. Since Judy was still ill, I took both sealed ballots with the idea I’d drop them off. Instead, I had to drive away from our polling place and drop them off in downtown Orlando at the Supervisor of Elections on 119 W. Kaley. I dropped them off on the way into work. For all the good our votes did in the long run.

final ballot deliveryAll these little events, my wife’s ER visit, the cop’s belligerence, and the arbitrary change of the voting rules, have all contributed to my growing unease with society in general.

When I was a kid in Atlanta I grew up with a much healthier attitude towards the police. They were seen as a vital part of the community and to be trusted. But over the decades, especially after 9/11, I’ve come to view the police as increasingly adversarial, to be avoided if at all possible. They have grown increasingly more armed and more powerful as a consequence, with overly broad discretion when to use it. That’s supported on the legal side by district attorneys who push the law way outside and beyond any reasonable boundaries. An excellent example of governmental legal overreach is the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 being applied to a box of fish (literally) that was dumped by a fisherman, and whom the federal government wants to prosecute under Sarbanes-Oxley because the fisherman, who poured undersized red snapper back into the ocean, supposedly destroyed a “tangible object”, in this case the fish, that was used in a federal investigation. I personally think it’s pure unadulterated bullshit because Sarbanes-Oxley was originally meant to keep another Enron from occurring again. Instead the feds have twisted this law into something the original drafters of the law never intended. And that’s just one example.

Today my attitude towards the law as practiced in this country is to avoid at all cost, and ot offer neither aid or comfort to them. They are the enemy, as much as any external enemy such as Russia, China, Iran, or ISIL.

And then what my wife went through (what we both went through) so that some very expensive medical tests could be conducted “just to be sure.” I’m beginning to believe that our aging flesh is being used as a “monetization” opportunity by Big Medical/Big Pharma.

And if you think that all these changes to the voting laws are to make sure our voting is more “secure,” think again. No one has offered any evidence in this state of any voting fraud that the changes are supposed to “correct.” Instead, it’s meant to make it as hard as possible for anyone to exercise the right to vote.