30 August 2009

Memories of my last Old Settlers.

The city should be setting up Old Settlers this week. I have some interesting memories of Old Settlers time. Here is a memoir of my last Old Settlers memory.

Old Settlers Time

The smell of anything you want fried on a stick and cotton candy hangs heavily in the air, causing mouths to water regardless of the hiked up prices. It is that time of year again. It is that week were the carnival companies come and turn our downtown, as small as it is, into a barricaded off playground of children's imagination. Citizens and corporations alike come from every side of town and set up their tents in a shameless attempt at pushing their wares on the unsuspecting public at marked up prices. Everyone comes with paintings, crafts, candles, toys, sand, food, and even somewhat drug like substances. You can stop in to the O2 tent and for a few minutes you can get a free oxygen high.

There is one tent that stands out from the others. It is placed somewhat on the outskirts of the carnival, it stands twice as large as the other tents and distractingly shines in it's bright yellow color. Underneath the shadow of this tent stands tables piled full of various books all by one author L Ron Hubbard. It is the Scientologists tent. I read some of the posters briefly as I wait. One poster outlines the several points of the organization's mission, End war, End sickness, End drugs, End poverty, etc... Other posters outline different techniques that they teach to combat addictions, depression, and even muscle pain they cure by using touch therapy. There are two men sitting in chairs giving demonstrations to passers by. There is a woman who I recognize from my church sitting in a chair in front of another man. I cannot recall her name, I am bad with names. She is holding onto two slender silver cylanders, they look like those can and string telephones that we would use as a kid. But instead of the wire just going from one can directly to another, the wires go into the back of an odd looking blue device that has several knobs and switches and a little meter. I listen in.

"How are things at work" says the man.
"Things are going well." the woman says.
The meter confirms this as the needle remains still.
"How about your family?"
The needle wiggles a bit and drifts upward. The woman's eyes stay fixed to the meter, she refuses to say.
"Hmm, is it your husband." the needle stops.
"Perhaps a child." the needle begins to move upward again.
"Do you have a son or daughter that you are worried about?" The needle shoots up.
"It looks like you have some stress."
The woman throws the cans down out of her hands and looks hurt. "That's not fair." she says. "Everyone who has kids worries for their kids. Do you have any kids?"
The man doesn't answer the question. "Scientology could really help you." he says. With a huff the lady gets up and begins to move away.

"How about you sir, would you like an audit?" the second man says as he turns to me.
I look at him squarely in the eye, he looks unkempt. his beard has grown long and his hair is uncombed. I shrug, "Why not."
I take a seat and the man hands me the cans. I grip them loosely.
"What is your name?"
"Stephen?" I respond.
"Well Stephen, it is nice to meet you, this device, to put it simply, is a stress meter. I will ask you some questions about your life and try to find areas of your life which cause you stress so that you can focus your efforts on those areas of your life. let me calibrate the machine to you." The man turns a knob slightly and the needle on the meter swings up to a halfway point. I relax.
"How is life going for you Stephen?"
I think for a moment and calmly reply, "Things are going well enough." I watch as the needle begins to drop slowly.
"How are things going in your family."
I concentrate on the family and try to find any thing that would be a cause for stress, I find none.
"My family is doing well." The needle drops nearly to the bottom of the scale.
The man adjusts the knob to bring the needle back to the middle.
"How about work? Are your coworkers nice?"
"Work is going well, I am saving up enough money, that is a good thing." the needle continues to fall.
A discouraging look begins to creep across the man's face.
"What kind of things do you do for a hobby?"
I shrug as several things cross my mind, "I like to build things with legos. I like to write. I play video games." the needle drops down further almost touching the bottom of the meter a second time.
The man adjusts the knob again bringing the needle to the beginning. "Hmm" he says as he looks at the machine. "Do you hang out with anyone? Are your friends doing well?"
I began to rack my brain now, searching for anything, even something unrelated to the question that might trigger stress. The best I can come up with was a recent argument which I had with an online hotshot. Even as I thought about that argument though, the needle was unwavering in its determination to reach the bottom of the meter. I looked at the man again. "My friends are all doing well."
The man adjusted the knob a fourth time to bring the needle up to the middle, "What are your plans for the future?"
"I am saving up money right now so that I can go on a mission in a couple more months."
"A Mission? What for?"
"To preach the Gospel."
"What church do you belong to?"
"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints."
The man looks back at the machine, the needle rested firmly on the bottom of the meter. Confusion crossed his face. "Umm. well... It was nice meeting you Mr. Stephen. I don't know what to say, I have never seen anyone with as little stress as you. I really wish I could live as free of stress. Scientology realy does help out a lot of people though. I can give you a free book that you can read to learn more about it." He holds out a thin looking book.
"Thank you" I say kindly. I stand up and begin to walk away.
My friend Peter leans over and chuckles, "Dude, as soon as you mentioned your mission the needle just dropped, it didn't drift down slowly. it was like it was pulled to the bottom."
I shake my head, I flip through the pages of the book. There is nothing of interest to me. I dump the book in a near by trashcan. The thought runs through my head. If I have just accomplished what they are working towards, then why not ask me how I do live a life so free of stress. It boggles my mind that someone could just pass up an opportunity like that. We pass by the tent later to find the man huttled down behind the books, hiding the cigarette that he was lighting up. We both shake our heads and begin to roam elsewhere among the countless paintings and toys and trinkets. It is Old Settlers Time again.

23 August 2009

Patience is a curious virtue.

Patience is a curious virtue. I've often considered that I have a lot of patience. However there is still things that get under my skin. I am trying out speech recognition software. I've found that I have very little patience for computers. I'm currently trying to use windows speech recognition software to write this blog. But it is not going so well.

For example I just had the say new paragraph about five times for it to finally recognize that I wanted a new line. And every time I try to type new paragraph or new line, I have to say "literal new paragraph" (That is it. I give up, this software is practically useless) The people who develop speech recognition software use the argument that people can speak 120 words a minute yet they can only type at less than 40 words a minute as a way to draw them in. My problem is figuring out what I want to say. This lack of inspiration is what makes me type at 40 words a minute (ish). Consequently, this lack of inspiration causes me to speak at 40 words a minute as well. In fact I could argue that because I have spent more time using a keyboard than I have using speech recognition, I end up thinking in type faster than I think in voice.

On top of this argument is the fact that I have go go back and correct a minimum of three things per line when using speech recognition. This constant stop and start in composition interrupts my thought process and I can't think of what to say next. I didn't mean to take up a whole blog post with a rant about speech recognition. However it does seem fitting. I have patience with people, they are people, they are imperfect by nature. Computers on the other hand hold very little of my patience. Computers are tools, they are supposed to make life easier. Yet at times my computer becomes so unwieldy. It is like trying to weed my garden with a back hoe. I want to do some small task but it ends up being such a hassle.

Like trying to write this blog. It would be some small thing. If I could do it with speech recognition software, it would be nice, yet the software just is too unwieldy and turns the tiny job into a huge mess. I will have to say though, I wanted to use speech recognition because November is approaching fast. November means National Novel Writing Month. This means that I have to figure out how to write 50,000 words in a month. When I attempted this two years ago I had my trusty palm that I could rely on, during breaks at work I could just pop open my portable keyboard and away I would go. Now I have to find some other way of efficiently adding to the word count between work and home. I thought I would record me dictating my book, but seeing as how poorly my software is working, I don't think that is an option anymore.

It is crazy how someone can be tolerant and forgiving and patient with one thing so well, yet be viciously unforgiving and borderline abusive with another thing.

20 August 2009

HP is influenced by the Frustration Corporation.

HP is slowly drifting into my black list. I am concerned when it comes to buying any more of their products. (Unless it was a calculator, because their calculators are still better than TI) The first really bad experience I had with a 4 gig thumb drive. It may have been a defective unit. I may have simply had bad luck in my selection, yet the fact still remains that every time I try to do anything with it, it will shut down and restart causing Windows Vista to ask me what I want it to do with the thumb drive. I finally gave up on it and got a micro SD to usb dongle. I find it works both faster and with fewer problems during use. (Hooray for Kingston) On top of this I also find it nice that if I ever need more room I can just go buy the relatively cheep Micro SD cards. They are small and so they can go easily with you.

My most recent evidence that HP is secretly influenced by the Fustration Corporation happened just a few days ago. I sent my laptop in for repairs two weeks ago because the internal fan stopped working (That is what I get for buying refurbished, I am still happy, it could have been worse.) I finally get my beloved laptop back expecting everything to work fine and dandy. I turn it on to find out that my wireless network card is not functioning the way it should. I press the button to turn the wireless on and then I get a notification on my screen that the wireless network is now off. I press the button again and receive a note that the wireless network is disabled. (GAAAHHHHHHHHHH, that is the sound of my head exploding.) I click on properties to see if anything might help. There is nothing indicating how to turn on the wireless. I check in with the help document which upon reading I find out that 90% of the document is devoted to telling people how to open the screen which I already had open. The other 9% of the document said that, to activate the wireless Internet, I should press the button which I had already tried. In frustration and with an exploded head I went to bed frustrated at the thought that I would have to call up the repair shop again and that they would possibly take my laptop for another week to run diagnostics. (which undoubtedly would reveal that my computer is in perfect working order)

I slept on it, not particularly well though. When I woke in the morning I popped open my computer again and gave it another shot with my re-assembled head. I started clicking random things to see if I could make any progress. Finally this is what got it working again. There is an option that says Show: independent controls for installed wireless devices. I selected this box and I was awarded a button that says "Turn On" next to my Wireless LAN. After a brief Alleluia I was back on the road updating Windows and McAfee.

Can you guess who made this program?.... HP. Who would turn off the option of seeing the controls? Who would put in the option to turn off viewing of the controls? This is clearly the Fustration Corporation in action.


09 August 2009

Road Trips aka Pain Trips

The only good thing about a road trip is reaching the destination. Last week we went on a road trip which proved to be rather eventful. My laptop (aka my main source of entertainment on this journey) began to overheat again and shut off periodically. Then we broke a GPS antenna cable, (wich was realy bad because we were relying on that GPS to tell us how to get there). Next we proceeded to break the antenna on the FM transmiter wich we were using to listen to audio books from my MP3 player. Then we blew a tire (one which was giving us trouble any way) and we had to stop for the night in some town (whose name I still don't know). We ended up ordering dinner at the Applebee's which involved Dad and me sitting at the Bar watching everyone else get drunk or scratching our heads at the revolting looking concoctions that the girl at the bar was making. In the morning we arrived late at the continental breakfast to find only a few muffins and bananas left. Mom tried to get hot chocolate from the coffee machine. In order to ensure that she wouldn't get any of the coffee flavoring in her chocolate she decided she would let the machine just run off for one cup which caused the catch tray to overflow. After we got that cleaned up she ended up with a cup of slightly murky brown water and decided it wasn't fit to be called hot chocolate.
When we got on the road the next morning, Mom and Dad went to walmart to replace the FM transmitter. We found out that it only transmits on a small range the high end or the low end of the FM spectrum. It was hard to find a station to transmit on. We finally arrived safely and we all got stiffly out of the car. We had fun for the next two days and then headed back home. The return trip was also not without event. My little brother and I both plugged a laptop into the transformer and blew the fuse, Dad ended up pulling off to find a place to get a replacement. Then two hours away from home my little brother began to throw up.
But out of all the troubles and problems I would still have to say that the most difficult thing for me was just having to sit there in the same position for so many hours. There is a reason I don't want a sit down job.