Redbeard's Journal

Seriously. I have red hair and a beard. What did you expect?

Something For Warmer Weather
ghost of redbeard
Now that warmer weather is finally here, I thought I'd share an incident from a couple of years ago.

The kids had spent some Christmas gift cards on water guns with the intention of having a knock down water gun fight in the 100F degree heat. Naturally, I didn't want to feel outgunned, so I bought one of those "water shotguns", which is in the shape of a double barrel and uses the pump action to shoot water out of one of the barrels at a time.

Imagine my surprise when my youngest grabbed my own gun during the game, swung it around at the others, and shouted "Say hello to my little friend!!" before dousing them in water.
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Historically Speaking
ghost of redbeard
My oldest asked me the other day why we study history.  I got up from my spot at the dining room table I use for work and went into the kitchen.  "Do you want the pithy quote or a deeper answer?" I replied, pulling out a glass and filling it with water.

She wanted the quote first.

"We study the past so we don't have to repeat it."


"Do you know what that means?"


"It means that history is filled with mistakes, things gone wrong, and decisions that turned out to be disastrous.  If we study those, we can hopefully learn from those problems so we don't do those things again."

"Yeah, but what's the other answer?"

"That the past is completely foreign to us.  We look at things, and we don't know how they were achieved.  We may have ideas on how things were done, but we don't know without studying them.  Look at the pyramids."

"They were built with slave labor."

"Well, maybe and maybe not.  There's some evidence that each village in Egypt sent workers seasonally --and willingly-- to work on the pyramids.  But the details on how they were built were lost to antiquity.  Like how the pyramids in Central America were built remain a mystery. Or Egyptian obelisks."

"Hey, there was a NOVA show on that!"

"Yes.  People have theories how it works, but we still don't know how they were done."

She chewed on that for a few minutes.

"Look at it this way:  we see things with 21st century eyes and see the disconnect.  Like how our Founding Fathers fought for freedom to choose--"

"--yet they owned slaves," she finished.

"Exactly.  Some of them wrestled with that problem, but a lot of them didn't have an issue with it at all.  Studying the past allows us to take a critical eye at ourselves and see what we might be missing that future generations would point out."

I sat back down at my laptop. "Besides, learning about people and how they lived is fun.  I'll never get to travel to see Marcus Aurelius' Rome, but I can read about it.  And an archaeologist can study the city and reconstruct what it was like back then.  Without history, we'd never know."

Earworm Friday
ghost of redbeard
On days like this, I miss Ronnie James Dio.


ghost of redbeard
Again, it's been a long time between posts.  Not intended, but it seems that when I'm pushed for time, my writing gets squeezed.

I'm still alive, busy, and hoping to get heavily into NaNo.

ghost of redbeard
I came face to face with my mortality a few weeks ago.

No, not a life threatening situation, but reality that I simply can't do the things that I used to be able to do.

About three weeks ago, I finally go my first pair of bifocals.  At 44, I'm maybe slightly on the young side for them, but I'd gotten annoyed enough at having to take off my glasses to read close up that I decided to go for them.  They do take some getting used to, especially when I was accustomed to looking out of the corner of my eye at things and I find I can no longer do that with bifocals (the distortion really messes with your head).

However, that wasn't the source of my frustration.

No, it had to do with the Kindle Fire.

Apparently our Fire, which is out of warranty, is one of those that have USB port problems; the USB port is loose and/or disconnected from the motherboard, and the Fire becomes impossible to recharge.  It's apparently a common enough problem out there, and given my background in electronics, I figured it was one I could easily fix.

I removed the cover and removed the motherboard to find that yes indeed, the USB port had a few issues.  When you're holding the motherboard and the port is sitting there on the kitchen table, you know it wasn't connected well.  The USB port has five data pins that are soldered to the motherboard, and the port itself has two other pins that were to be soldered to the motherboard to act as support.  What I observed, however, was that the two support pins weren't soldered properly to the motherboard, meaning that the entire weight of the port was borne by the 5 data pins, something that they were not meant to handle.  Three of the pins weren't soldered well at all either, and popped out from their solder joint completely.  The other two pins had snapped in two, half in the solder and half on the port.

Looking at things, I felt that I could possibly fix it, I'd just need to make sure things were soldered properly.  But I didn't reckon that my eyes had different ideas.

I simply couldn't focus in on the details that I needed to see to get the job done.  It's not like I couldn't hold my hand still to perform the soldering, but my eyes wouldn't focus.  I'm nearsighted, so I'm used to not seeing anything far away, but close up like this had never been a problem before.  Now, suddenly, it was.  Even a magnifying glass couldn't help very much.

Frustration set in.  Unlike, say, other forms of physical labor that could be corrected my exercising more --like working on the deck with heavy beams-- this is strictly a limitation due to my eyes aging.  I was able to solder things back together, but after reinstalling the motherboard I couldn't get the port to work properly.

I'm sure that if I had a replacement USB port, and if this were even 5 years ago, I could have fixed the Fire without a problem.  But now it is simply beyond my skill to repair.  It's a hard thing to accept, particularly since this summer I'd replaced a toilet, a faucet, and built and installed a window box.  But one of the things I loved, puttering around electronics, is starting to recede from me.

What, it's July Already?
ghost of redbeard
It's been a long time.

Summer has been, well, Summer.

Cold, then rainy, and now hot and melty.

The A/C went out in the van, and it required way too many Ben Franklins to fix it.  However, the mildew smell is officially gone from the van, so we get a side benefit from the repair.

Since school (and then Halloween!) is on the horizon, I've been doing some scouting for cloth for the kids' costumes.  The oldest wants to hang around as Tauriel (from the upcoming Hobbit movie), and she wants a Jedi robe.  The youngest wants to go as Asajj Ventress (Star Wars character), so that'll be a bit rough to handle.  My son, on the other hand, has an easy job:  Matt Smith, the Eleventh Doctor.

I went and looked at cloth at Jo-Ann tonight with the kids, and we've got the basic ideas down for Tauriel an the Jedi robe, but I'm going to have to dig deeper for Ventress.


School's Out for Summer
ghost of redbeard
Another school year is coming to a close.  The kids' last day is on Monday for some strange reason, but still the Summer is upon us.

I'm wondering how long it'll be before we start hearing those magic words:  "I'm bored!!!"

Almost There.....
ghost of redbeard
This is one of those weeks that can't end quickly enough.

Another Snippet
ghost of redbeard
"Myths are about what a culture values."

"Yes.  Courage, honor, sacrifice."

He grimaced.  "Yes, but more than just that.  Physical prowess over mental.  Or hadn't you noticed where the sly and clever Loki stands in the pantheon of Norse gods?"

"I'd not say that any of the Greek gods had a monopoly on cleverness."

"True enough, but look at who we value as a society:  the footballer, the baseball player, the athlete.  We laud them and place them at the top of the pecking order as youths, and the egghead, the nerd, is placed at the bottom."

I shifted from foot to foot.  "So?"

"You are fighting a battle of mythic proportions.  People distrust those smarter than them.  Your opponent, the jock, is someone they all want to be.  They don't want to be you, no matter how successful you are."

Obviously, this one doesn't come from anything vaguely SFF related, although I suppose I could weave that into a story.

Snippet of Sorts
ghost of redbeard
I woke up with these lines running through my head:

I snorted.  "The fey don't care about us, whether we live or die."

"Much better than the dead caring about us, if you ask me."

"I...."  My mouth opened and closed.  How could I tell them that the fey were dead without giving something away?

He was looking at me with that face that said you know something but you're being a real bastard and keeping it to yourself.  Well, of course I was.  After all, bastard was my middle name.

"I sure hope so," I said at last.

He poked me in the chest.  "You'd better not get us killed, you understand me?"

I have no idea where they came from, but I think there's something there.

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