Fun with any Operating System(The Love Of Music)

February 6, 2017

It’s been a while since I posted here and I’ve tossed around many an idea for posting.  Instead of something political or ranting about this or that, I thought I’d do something that would help others instead.  It’s something that everyone likes too.  Matter of fact, everyone has their own collection that often gets larger and larger over the years.

Many have used iTunes and other services to purchase their digital music.  Many share their music via Youtube.  Even the record companies or at least someone inside the companies is sharing various music online via Youtube.  How do I know this.  I’ve discovered this while working on a project to provide entertainment for my 40th high school class reunion.

What I found would not only increase your music collection but save you a ton of money as well.  With a few simple tools (some free and others that cost you a small amount should you decide to use a “professional” version of the software), some time, and a little effort on your part, most of your music can be had for free without the use of bit torrent or other so called illegal services.

Let’s start with the appropriate software.  Most use Microsoft Windows so I’ll provide a link which talks of many different Youtube downloading tools.  That link is:

https://itube.iskysoft.com/download-youtube/free-youtube-downloader-for-windows-10.html

This one talks of pros and cons of the various software as well as what you’d get with the “paid for professional” versions.  I’ll leave the decision up to you as to the software you choose as a Windows user when it comes to downloading the videos from Youtube.

For my Mac fans you can look and select from this link for downloaders:

http://mac.eltima.com/list-of-best-youtube-downloaders.html

For Linux fans (I highly recommend Clipgrab).  It can be found in many distro’s repositories or if you have to get it otherwise, go here:

https://clipgrab.org/

While researching this I found that Clipgrab is available for both Windows and Mac as well as Linux.  Give it a try.  It allows multiple downloads (more than one at a time), it has a converter ( I don’t use this function), and a very handy function I’ve found to work with the browser.  Just right click on the URL in your browser for the video and it can copy the URL directly to Clipgrab with a simple click on the notification.  Then you can download it with Clipgrab.  Best of all is Clipgrab is free.  So all operating systems have multiple applications for downloading Youtube video.  The choice is yours.

The second application you’ll need is Audacity.  It’s an open source (free) application that has Windows, Mac, and in my case Linux versions.  This is a “go to” tool for converting videos to MP3 and allowing you to edit the content, normalize it, as well as many other things with audio.  You’ll find that some of your Youtube downloaders will have converters built into them.  Audacity will do a much better job and you can clean up the recorded song as well.  Documentation on this application is very good and straight forward in it’s use.  You can find Audacity here:

http://www.audacityteam.org/

Now the fun really begins.  Start searching Youtube for music videos.  The best ones to select are those that state “Provided to YouTube by.”  After this statement it will most likely have a record company name such as Universal, Sony, etc.  If these are NOT available, there are often posts of the original video done for MTV or VH1 posted by Vevo.  These are the best to download for conversion.  When they are NOT available, your best bet is consult one of two sources for time length to get the correct length of the song in question.  Those sources can be:

https://www.discogs.com/

https://www.wikipedia.org/

Those sites will allow you to search the artist, the album, and the song to verify you have a good download from Youtube.

Once you have the video or videos you want to convert to MP3 format, you’re ready for the second phase of things unless your downloader will also convert to MP3.  I forgo the built in converters because I remove dead spots (no audio) as well as normalize the sound and select the bit rate and quality of the conversion.  These are things that Audacity does with aplomb.

With that mentioned, load up Audacity then open your video file with it (most Youtube video formats are supported).  Once the file is open you can edit it to your hearts content.  Please read the documentation on the editing tools before using them.  After you’ve finished with your editing, you’ll have to EXPORT instead of SAVE for MP3 format.  This is very well described in the Audacity documentation.  This is where you’ll select name, bit rate, quality, and be able to edit the MP3 tag file.

That’s pretty much how to do it.  I hope this helps those that collect music as I’m now doing for myself and the entertainment of others.  And one last thing.  Wikipedia is your friend when it comes to the charts.  There are various pages on the various Billboard charts.  One such that I’m using has listed all the Billboard Hot 100 year end songs from 1951 to present.  There’s another such listing the Billboard Country year end songs from 1941 to present.  I’m sure there are other charts there or you could even look at Billboard’s own:

http://www.billboard.com/

Happy collecting.

View of KDE Neon

August 16, 2016

First a little background information on myself. I’ve been a CompTIA A+ certified technician since 2003. My love for Linux started even before then. By 2006, I was running Linux on my computer systems without dual booting Windows of any variant. So I’ve been running Linux for approximately ten years as my sole operating system of choice.

Through those ten years, I’ve worked with two basic distributions of Linux. Redhat’s Fedora was my start but after a few years of tinkering with the system almost constantly I started shopping around for a new distribution. It was then that I happened upon Ubuntu in their early days. Many know that Ubuntu is based on Debian which is one of the oldest distributions in existence, much like Redhat.

Over the years I’ve found Ubuntu/Debian to be much faster at many things than the rpm based distributions. Updating is easier either via command line or graphical tools as well as faster. Granted packaging software is different, but the vast amount of software for Debian based distributions is much broader.

Lately I’d been shopping around for a new distribution of Linux yet again. I wanted it to be Debian based but with the options of removing existing software that I didn’t want and installing those applications that I found over the years that I liked and felt comfortable with. Over several months I’ve searched for a distribution of my liking and with my favorite desktop (KDE). Most were experimented with via a virtual machine like Oracle’s VirtualBox software.

As always, Linux is in a state of flux and updates with developers throwing out stuff that either doesn’t work or doesn’t fit their intended purpose. Gnome desktop has gone through this as recently as five years ago. They all but changed the entire look of their desktop. KDE is going through this now so finding a decent working desktop is not easy. There are other desktops out there and many have their preferences. I’ve even tried a few of the others (namely XFCE and Cinnamon). However, I almost always return to KDE.

I think I’ve finally found something of a rolling release of Linux. Or perhaps it’s just a rolling release desktop. For those keeping up on the latest Linux offerings, I’m currently writing this in LibreOffice running on KDE Neon. It’s a project started by Jonathan Riddell to run advancements out on the KDE desktop almost as they happen. The base of this is Ubuntu LTS (long term support).

Neon is an interesting project and should be praised. It’s a lean and stable operating system if you chose the user edition. It has a developer edition as well, but it’s much more prone to breakage. However, neither version isn’t without it’s faults. Of course the same can be said about any Windows system.

For the desktop, Neon runs the latest KDE. At the time of this writing it’s KDE Frameworks 5.7 with Plasma 5.7.3 in the user edition. In most cases, I’m impressed with the work of the KDE developers. The new Plasma is much snappier than the KDE 4 days. My only quibble here is the all out flatness of the desktop. It can be beautified. I’ll get to that later.

Most of your normal KDE applications are here via the Ubuntu/Kubuntu repositories. Current applications layer is KDE 16.04.3. They all seem to play nice with the system and appear to load quicker than their older versions. I’m not certain as to the reason behind this but like most Ubuntu/Debian systems it seems to just work. For all appearances Neon, is nothing more than Kubuntu 16.04 with the latest KDE applications and frameworks. The memory footprint is loads better than KDE 4. I just checked the bare desktop as I have it configured and it takes up not even five hundred megabyte of ram (I think it was like 450 or just a little more). I makes it more competitive with other lightweight desktops out there now. Otherwise it’s very stable.

Now for the minimal issues I’ve found thus far. The biggest issue I’ve found with Neon is that though KDE is still in fast development, some of the applications I use (especially those that minimize to the system tray) just don’t have full functionality with the current Plasma. One of my favorites is Qbittorrent. It’s one that I generally use to download distributions of Linux to test in virtual machine. When minimizing this and other applications to the system tray, their icons just disappear from the taskbar, the system tray, and the desktop. This may be Plasma and then again it may mean that there is a communication issue with the KDE developers and other application developers.

My second beef is more with Canonical than it is with Neon. Though I’m all for preventing “root” access to certain applications (file managers and such), there’s been an inherent or it could be intentional bug in using various applications (Dolphin and Kate to name two) with “root” access. Now there IS a workaround (it can be found at bugs.kde.org) and it’s fairly easy to implement for those who are experienced with the command line. The biggest beef here is those that want to “tweak” Neon and for that matter Kubuntu’s performance need to have “root” access to these graphical applications to do so without going back to the command line. After “tweaking” system administrators can LOCK done “root” privileges.

I only truly have one other fault for Neon as well as other distributions that are moving to KDE Frameworks 5. This is the tacky or to be more blunt ugly login screen on SDDM. Yes, I understand they want to “advertise” their desktop but PLEASE! I’ve found much better login screens on Linux Mint’s Cinnamon desktop with MDM that are far more unobtrusive than the greeter for SDDM on any distribution. The “lock screen” and the “splash screen” are just as bad. Granted you can put up your own picture behind the greeter and the lock screen, but it would be nice if you could do the same with the “splash screen.” Here is where KDE could take a page from other desktops. Now there are options but they are not quit as fully developed as the shipping packages. I hope to work on this issue myself as I know a bit of XML and am willing to learn more.

In the past, I’ve submitted bugs, made entries into various forums, as well as sought help and assisted those with questions on Internet Relay Chat (freenode). I still do these things when necessary and will continue to do so. I’m a firm believer in open source software as well as open source operating systems. Anyone who would take the time to read Microsoft’s Privacy statement thoroughly that is now out there and thought about what they were stating there would consider open source even more. I’m not a fan of the current policy from Microsoft though I have to support their operating systems. But for me it will continue to be Linux and open source software. I think more and more corporations should consider it in the future. I know governments are.

What is WRONG with operating system developers?

March 24, 2016

Though I’ve taken a course in C++ and Java programming, I still wonder WTF! When I say this I often think of those companies (Yes, even the open source companies) are thinking when they are trying to merge their desktop/laptop operating systems with their phone operating systems. Now, I agree it would make things simpler in development, but….

It’s obvious that some people often don’t think the same as you or I or even the corporate information technologists. I wonder in their infinite wisdom as they so like to think, have they taken the time out to look at the BIG picture. I’d say they haven’t. The developers would say they have.

Let’s take the major mistake that Microsoft made in this area and what is happening in the open source community. When Microsoft came out with Windows 8, it was advertised as the next major step in operating systems. Those of us that were smart and those in the corporate world bowed out on Windows 8 and even Windows 8.1. There were more than a few reasons behind this.

First the corporate view of this. Their reasoning was three fold. First and foremost was the cost of NEW hardware. Before I began typing this I took a look at Newegg. They are one of many on line retailers of both software and hardware. I found the same thing that the corporations found. The cost of any touch screen exceeds the cost of a REGULAR flat panel computer monitor by anywhere from $150 US to well over triple the cost. That alone would be a huge outlay for corporations even with their volume purchase discounts let along people like you and me. Secondly, let’s look at the cost of retraining personnel in the corporate world. It’s not cheap. Training costs exceed the cost of hardware by far. Retraining for a “touch” operating system would have been exceptionally costly. And there is yet a third reason behind the corporations not moving to a “touch” operating system. The last and probably the most damning of these was the cost of the operating system itself. Microsoft change the licensing on their operating system so it would be even more costly for the corporate world than it was before. Corporations were having NONE of this.

All of these were valid reasons for not just the corporations to pass on Windows 8 and 8.1 but have second thoughts about Microsoft’s half step backwards for Windows 10. It appears Microsoft still hasn’t quite given up on the idea of merging operating systems between phone and desktop/laptop. And it appears that Microsoft is NOT the only one. Canonical (the producers of Ubuntu) are attempting the same thing that Microsoft is doing but in the open source arena. And they are not the only ones either. Even Apple is working on the same aspects (Though, I think that they stand a better chance at making it work).

As I see it, there is NO WAY that a “touch” screen operating system will ever become as productive as a desktop/laptop operating system. First of all, you have to have a very stable base for “touch” to work on anything above perhaps a ten inch screen. Even a ten inch screen is too large in some cases. Then there is the cost of maintenance of those touch screens not just the initial cost of them. Touch screens have to be cleaned with more regularity just to SEE what you’re looking at without eye strain. Yes, the oil that comes from your skin makes a mess of any flat panel. It also makes the eyes strain to see through that mess from all the touching. Do you really want to have to wipe off a beautiful 17 inch or above touch screen monitor just to see what you’re doing in the process of doing it? I certainly don’t.

Perhaps in another generation or two touch will be the rage of the desktop/laptops. However, I like many others who are use to the “old school” methods of computing more than likely won’t be around unless someone finds the fountain of youth. Even then, I don’t think I want to live that long anyway. This entire thing makes me reminisce a scene from one of the original Star Trek movies where Scotty is addressing an “old school” computer with a keyboard like he would the computers on the Enterprise. Quite comical if you ask me.

Microsoft Window 10 Upgrade!

August 11, 2015

Ok, everyone has been hearing about Microsoft Windows 10 upgrade lately.  I’ve seen only one report that was written with any thought of looking deeply under the hood of Windows 10.  I’ve yet to read others.  Being an IT technician, I follow big business and their habits about upgrading operating systems and supporting them.  Thus is why I keep up with what Microsoft is up to.

A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine on Internet Relay Chat showed me a copy of a recent email he’d gotten about Windows 10.  I was rather dumbfounded to say the least and wasn’t sure if it were a hoax or not.  After reading it and Microsoft’s own “privacy statement,” I am even more shell shocked.  You can read this “privacy statement” in it’s entirety here:

http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/privacystatement/default.aspx

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.  You’ll be just as shocked as I was.  If you think the NSA scandal was bad with your personal information and spying, you haven’t begun to understand government or big business.  This “privacy statement” as Microsoft is calling it is ripe for a class action lawsuit.  This is nothing more than pure invasion of privacy on the level of if not beyond what the NSA was doing before Edward Snowden released his informative information about what was happening inside the NSA.

Let me list just what they are collecting without their explanation of it.  You can go to the above link and find out their definition of the terms I use here under the section : Personal Data We Collect.

Name and contact data

Credentials

Demographic data

Interests and favorites

Payment data

Usage data

Contacts and relationships

Location data

Content

Taken individually or taken as a whole, wouldn’t you think twice before upgrading even if you could turn most of this collection process off?  I know I would.  Do you think Microsoft is going to do what they say with your personal information?  I don’t.  I’ll make the wager that Microsoft is going to not only use your personal information but SELL it in order to reap even more money (profit) off their monopolistic ways.

Ok, most of you won’t believe this and probably have already upgraded.  All I can say is YOU’LL BE SORRY!  Start looking for your junk mail and unk email to fill up beyond capacity and telemarketers to call more than usual.  This is only the beginning unless a class action lawsuit is brought against Microsoft.  Microsoft will NOT protect your personal data against government agencies unlike Google who has.  Microsoft and Uncle Sam are closely tied together at the hip.

For those that are still on Windows 7, stay put till AFTER this gets resolved.  Either that or join a growing number of people like myself who are moving away from Windows and to a lesser extent Apple to use open source software (FREE) and the Linux or BSD operating systems.  I know.  You’ll say it’s harder than Windows or Mac OS X.  Yes it can be so take it slow at first if you decide you want to drop kick Microsoft to the curb.

Here’s the upside of moving away from proprietary software: absolutely no cost for the operating system at all, more secure operating system (less virus prone and less spyware prone), faster updates than Microsoft [(first Tuesday of every month) whereas Linux and BSD update shortly after a security issue is found (usually within days not weeks months or years)], and many many more applications than Windows will ever have for you guessed it FREE.  The largest upside is that both Linux and BSD operating systems DO NOT collect personal data!

The ball is in your court now.  Upgrade or not.  Personally, I’ll NEVER look back at Windows again.  Even if I do it will NOT be Windows 10 and it will be run in virtual machine NOT my main operating system.  I’ve been on Linux (Kubuntu and Fedora Core) for over 8 years now full time.  I don’t know it all nor will I ever really know it all.  However, I’m happier knowing my system is secure and more stable than Windows (any variant) will ever be.

Release!

April 2, 2015

This has been a long time coming. I should have written this years ago before I got to this point in my life or had the issues I currently have mentally. There’s been untold pain, anxiety, aggravation, and temper. The aggravation and temper has been both at others and at myself over the years. It needs to stop and now it’s going to. Perhaps not all my temper will be gone once I write this but at least the rest of my issues will be out in the open and I will fear them no longer nor will I ever again bottle them up as I have all these years.

First let me point out that I do not use anyone’s last name here as they will realize who they are if they read this. Secondly and by law, I have to keep some things simplified and less detailed as not to violate what was once a Top Secret security clearance. Yes, there will be some details of my time in the military here. It’s pertinent as well as my youth and after military time.

It seems my problems still revolve around what happened some forty plus years ago. I’m not certain why it happened. You’d have to ask the person that started the rumor that made me an introvert. Yes, I’ll admit it was a family member. The sad thing was what was said got promulgated by others thus turning it into bullying by today’s standards. I won’t discuss it beyond that. Shame that it couldn’t be taken care of as such back then. However, this made me stronger than some would think.

At age thirteen, I had a crush on a young lady named Marcy. Alas she had a boyfriend at the time. He found out and attempted to get me to fight him. I tried to avoid the fight but his cousin decided to slap us both to get things going. All I did was defend myself and then got pounded the next day with, “he kicked your ass” and laughs. More bullying. This continued throughout junior high. Peer pressure is hell sometimes.

Speaking of peer pressure, that was what got me involved in my second fight/boxing match. I put on a pair of 26 ounce boxing gloves to face off with someone I hardly knew at the time and we later became friends. I got a lucky punch on Kirk and when that happened, he went wailing for my head. I played Ali and did the “rope-a-dope” thing. God my arms hurt after that. More on the later friendship later. This was still ninth grade.

There were several young ladies, I had crushes on or cared for throughout junior high school. Their names were Jeanie, Amy, Andrea, Melanie, Marcy of course, and Brenda. Now that years have passed, I’m happy they found happiness elsewhere instead of being with me. They were wonderful ladies then and still are today. Two of these I knew since grade school. One was said to be cousins of the one I later fell for in high school.

On to high school I went after this. All the taunting and bullying followed along for a time. Some people stopped and others did not. Though I played Sophmore and Senior football I was still considered one of the school nerds. I focused on math, science, and English. Spending more time in books than on the playing field helped me prepare for college. Alas, I was never good enough for anything but second string on the football team. Still I made out. As far as I know I still hold the record for the longest interception in the school history. It was 63 yards during our homecoming game in 1978 where we lost only one game that season. Probably my best success during my high school years.

It was this team that got invited out by a local businessman to dinner. This was the start of what would become my first odyssey with cannabis. Yes, you heard me right. I smoked grass/marijane/wacky weed/left handed cigarettes. Any number of names you can think of. I went to this feast that night with five other guys in Joe’s station wagon. It was Joe, Jim, Kirk, me, and one other whose name I forgot. We weren’t even completely out of town when the first joint was lit and passed around. Even had I not tried it that night, I’d have still had what is called a contact buzz. Joe’s station wagon looked like that panel van from Cheech n Chong’s Up in Smoke when we opened the doors upon arrival. After entering the building I remember Stacy and Jeanie giggling their butts off at me. I must have looked a sight, but I didn’t care at the time.

A month or two later I thought Stacy was cute and sent her a rose when one of the other classes went around selling them for some reason or other. My first attempt to impress a lady I liked. I don’t know what I was thinking but Stacy did come up and thank me. Beyond that nothing ever happened between us. More taunting followed and I felt rejected. It wasn’t her fault though. Somehow I felt as if I had done something wrong when I hadn’t. Story of my life throughout school and prior to my military service.

School for me wasn’t about socializing. It was about learning and I took advantage of this. I took all the hardest courses. Burying myself into books of just about any sort were my escape from the taunting and other heckling. Science fiction took hold of me as I was studying for computer sciences in college. However, I did throw in a good mix of non-fiction books as well. Probably the best and most useful book I ever read was on transcendental meditation (I read this one at age fifteen). Yes, a self-help book. I read this book just before going the doctor for what I would find out was a sinus infection. I confused the doctor before he figured out what was going on. I had turned down my heartbeat down to almost nothing through meditation. Shame I can’t do that now.

Well, so much for high school. After graduation it was work/college/party then repeat. I was this way till the wear and tear caught up on me. I got pulled over by a policeman on the way home from my girlfriend of the time. He escorted me another two miles down the road after warning me about swerving over the white line. Next morning mom took me to the doctor. Three days later I was on mandatory bed rest for two weeks. No nothing. The only thing I was allowed to do was go feed my rabbits.

Wasn’t long after this I got laid off from my job, lost my girlfriend, then had to drop out of college. Options were very slim to say the least. Either hire on for less than what I needed to continue with school or join the military. Well that left only one option since I was still paying for a brand new 1980 Toyota Corolla at the time. Years later I found out had I asked my parents (namely my father) he would not only have paid for college but also the car. Failed yet again and blinded by pride.

I don’t think my parents knew the extent of the issues I was going through and even my mom who is my remaining parent knows everything I’ve dealt with. My father passed before I could tell him everything. Today, I hope he’s looking down at me and seeing what everything has done and that I still continue to try and do the “right” things. Both my parents knew of my experimentation with drugs. They just didn’t know the extent of it. Now I can honestly admit I’ve done just about everything from marijuana to LSD. The only thing I never did was “shoot up.” I’ve always had an aversion to needles.

After I enlisted in the U.S. Navy, I learned a whole new version of bullying and subversion, not to mention pain. During boot camp of my time, you’re put through hell just to get you to function as a team instead of as an individual. Not something I was use to at the time and probably will never get completely use to. It was during this time that I found out the woman I was dating at 19 and was still very much in love with was getting married. Thanks to a good friend that I only recall by the name of Fant, I was able to get through that pain. Yes, I spent a night in tears over that one. This was the worse thing I went through in boot camp. It was worse than most anything they threw at me.

After boot camp, I was put into a basic electricity and electronics course where I excelled at until I hit a brick wall with transistor theory. I was stymied for a few weeks on this till I finally got through it. This was after all a self paced course. I still finished earlier than most but had my troubles. After that, I headed for Great Lakes Naval Training base for Electronics Technician school. That’s where I had my first true failure of my naval career. I was there perhaps two or three months before I failed out. I was put up for reclassification. They told me to pick three ratings I’d like to work in and two of those I couldn’t get in. Disappointment was something I had to learn to live with. Anyway, I was reclassified as a Sonar Technician.

The nice thing was, I was no longer under as much stress to perform in something I wasn’t quite up to. They sent me on to Submarine School in Groton, Connecticut for my submarine training since I was still going for submarines. It was probably the most fun I’d had in the Navy. All except the pressure test that is. I was having issues with a cold or something when they had us go through this test. They put you in a decompression chamber and take you to the equivalent pressure of about fifty feet. I barely made nineteen feet before I had to bail. My ears couldn’t take it. It didn’t fail me from the course but still. Just a minor failure here.

Next up was my “C” school. I was slated for submarine auxiliaries school. It was a good school. I was doing well in this school till about four month into the school I was informed my father was hospitalized with a brain tumor. I took off on a ten day leave to see my parents and found out my father was terminal. Going back to school with this hanging on my head made things very difficult for me. Four weeks before I was to graduate this school I failed one practical examination. I had the problem down to the card but could not name the exact point of failure. This ended with me being dropped from my second school in the Navy. Between the stress of dealing with school and knowing my father was dying was just too much.

The Navy was still going to send me on to submarines. They sent me on to a submarine sonar operators course and I passed this with flying colors. While awaiting orders for my first submarine, I found out my father had passed away. I had to go to the Chaplin in order to get thirty days leave instead of the ten that the officer of the day was able to authorize me when I was informed about my fathers death. It was a Saturday when I found out before the Red Cross message got to the officer of the day. I’d talked to both my sister and my mother prior to this where I learned my father’s last words and to this day I wished I’d been there to hear them. He had that one last lucid moment before death and told my mother to tell me “he loved me.” Since I was awaiting orders, I had to call back to base three weeks later if I hadn’t gotten my orders in the mail since I was on “emergency leave.”

Other than the disappointment of not being at my father’s deathbed and hearing those words, I was disappointed further when three weeks after his death I called the base and was told to come back and I was being sent to ships instead of submarines. I don’t recall exactly what I did after that phone call. All I really remember is coming back from the woods on our farm hours later and mom asking me if I was alright. Perhaps it was my redheaded temper. I’m not sure. Perhaps the disappointment was too much. All I can think of about the time was I lost it completely. All my control, my training of myself and my mind. And I was trying to be the strong one for my family at the time since I was the oldest. Life is hell that way.

Anyway, I went back to the base. I was put through yet another operators course for surface craft (ships) and sent off to the fleet. The first ship was probably the fondest memory of Navy now that I look back at things. I learned more in my time on my first ship than anywhere I’d learned before. I took on jobs that others didn’t want or couldn’t do. My chief (next superior) was what everyone thought an asshole. I later learned to appreciate why he was the way he was to us. More on this later. It was on this first ship I learned how much I truly valued life itself.

During my time on that first ship, I was assigned to a missile handling team. On this team I performed a set of functions for the missile (bird) to be loaded into the launcher. Every member of the team was trained not only on their job like I was but also trained on everyone’s job. This was so no one made any mistakes. It was something I’m happy to say I’m glad of to this day. We were just out of the shipyards and undergoing massive inspections for missile handling and other things. It was during one of these inspections that I forgot a step in plugging in a data cable to the missile. The failure of this step could have ignited a live missiles rocket motor. Had it not been for the cross training of the other members of this team, it could have meant the entire team could have died had it not been an inert missile. We still passed the inspection because someone caught me before I made the fatal error. However, the damage was done as they say.

A few days later, I told my chief and division officer I could no longer do the job on the missile handling team. I explained to them that because I’d forgotten that step and had thought about what would have happened had it been a “live” missile I couldn’t live with deaths of others on my own hands even if I were dead myself. It was quite amazing that they managed to talk me into going through the final inspection. More amazing that I agreed to it. Either way, I told them after that I was done.

Even with this failure on board my first ship, I was still happy to be in the Navy. So happy, I actually re-enlisted for a second hitch as it’s called. Instead of staying with my ship, which I could have done had I known about it, I headed back to school again. The second time around for a “C” school. This time I didn’t get dropped out. I passed it and headed to my second ship as a second class petty officer. Now that I think back, perhaps I should have quit while I was ahead so to speak.

It was on my second ship where I met true disappointment and let down. My first assignment there was as the leading petty officer. Basically, I was the next man under the chief(s) to be in charge. Since I had not been trained to be in charge of anyone before, I attempted to be a working boss and a friend to others. For a while it worked. My largest issue was dealing with not one but two chiefs in the same division. Both were bucking for promotion to senior chief. Neither wanted to cooperate with the other and it made my life a living hell trying to get everything done with the limited personnel I had at my disposal when priorities changed from minute to minute. Add to that, that I was trying to gain my own identity as a leader. I had yet to have had the Navy’s LMET (leadership management educational training) course.

Well, I finally got the LMET course. Problem started the morning I was to start the course. I was twelve hours unauthorized absence (UA). I was immediately sent to base medical. There I was diagnosed with a sinus infection but not diagnosed with any other issues that I can remember. Once I got back to my ship I faced charges for the unauthorized absence. The first person I talked to was my division officer. Surprisingly he didn’t chew my butt. He quietly made me sign the report chit (paperwork for my offense) then asked why this happened. I told him of the stress I was having with the two chiefs not working together. He said he’d talk to them but I was no longer the division LPO (leading petty officer). The later removed some stress from me but not all. Besides having to take medication for the sinus infection, I was already slated to see a psychiatrist for the stress issues. It was the appointments with the shrink as some call psychiatrists that saved my bacon at captain’s mast (non judicial punishment). Because I was seeking help I was not demoted nor did I pay any fines. Again, I beat myself up for failures I should not have had. Seemed like an ongoing issue with me though I didn’t realize it then.

I managed to make it off my second ship and to shore duty for what I hoped to be an easier job. Boy was I wrong here. When I arrived, I requested maintenance. I was given the job of instructor instead. For a year I fought to become a qualified instructor and even after I did, I still had problems. However, it wasn’t being an instructor that caused my last and fatal failure as far as the Navy was concerned. Less than a year after going to shore duty, I was given the additional duty of being a watch section duty leader. I didn’t have any problems with this duty as I thought. I’d learned a valuable lesson while on my second ship about leadership. You can’t be anyone’s friend. I made it through the three month assignment without issue. Even the senior chief in charge of the duty sections (a friend of mine) asked for me to do it again. Of course, I turned him down. It was shortly after this job that I had my second bought with stress related issues.

One day, I had slated myself to teach a lesson for a class I was in charge of. That day I was late for two hours. Again, I faced charges of unauthorized absence. This time the captain wasn’t so lenient. I received a suspended bust. If I managed to keep my record clean for the next six months I wouldn’t loss a pay grade nor be fined. Should I screw up again, it would mean two strips and a fine. I stayed clean but it was to no avail. Evaluations were due shortly after my latest captain’s mast. I got the worst evaluation of my time in the military. The worst part of it was, I was not being considered for advancement nor retention at a time when I was beginning to consider the Navy after almost twelve years in as a career. The later retention issue made it impossible for me to re-enlist.

Once again I had failed not only myself but other people. It wasn’t so bad I failed myself but my failure in other people’s eyes is the one thing that makes me feel worse. However, this was not to be the last of my issues. Perhaps they were just beginning to come to a head. It sure was taking it’s time doing so though.

Once back in what the military calls the civilian world, I had a hard time finding a job. Once I did, I moved from job to job to job because there were nothing but manufacturing jobs in my home town area. I still wanted to get into computers but wasn’t familiar with how things worked after a twelve year hiatus. Anyway, I ended up becoming homeless when the jobs finally ran out.

Prior to me becoming homeless my uncle who was a Dean at Florida Technical College, had made me an offer to come down and get some further education in computers. Two years went by before I became homeless and decided to take him up on his offer. He couldn’t get me into the exact field I was looking to get into but he did get me into something computer related (programming) that would at least help me get a better job. I passed the course but could not find work after I got out of school. Again, I was failing even with the work ethic I had learned long ago from my own father.

Yet again, I was homeless. I started working for day labor places where I was in Jacksonville, Florida and then in Columbia, South Carolina. I’ve spent more time homeless than not. I’ve had a grand total of two computer jobs in my time after becoming CompTIA A+ certified which I did in 2003. I’m homeless again and my spirit has pretty much left me.

From 2000 on, I’ve been on and off the streets of Columbia, South Carolina. I’ve picked myself up and have had myself dropped back into homelessness at least three times. Even after going through the Veteran’s Administration’s Healthcare for Homeless Veterans, I still went back to being homeless. It wasn’t exactly for lack of work but being tired of being taken advantage of for my work ethics and how hard I do work. The last job I held was at a local Sam’s Club where I was out performing not one but four twenty something year olds at age forty-eight. All this with injuries (suffered while in the military) that would have most people down and seeking some form of relief.

It wasn’t till 2009 while homeless that I met a group of people that really do care about others. I had pretty much become a recluse for the most part. Hardly talking to anyone. This group is one of but many that put on feeds for the homeless in Columbia. After about two years of eating at this place, I started to help out setting up tables and tents as a way of giving back for what I was given. I was finally on a road back to society or at least I thought.

Just a few weeks ago, I stopped attending the place that I was being fed and also helping out at. I did so for a multitude of reasons. Again, I was beating myself up for something I did and really should not have been beating myself up for. But to me this was the straw that broke the camel’s back so to speak. For over a year, my mind was going critical with temper over the way human beings acted. Both those with homes and those without them. I’ve seen more than I could bear. I even told a psychiatrist that I was ready to kill someone over a year ago. Would I? No. I don’t want to go to jail.

Anyway, I won’t say what that straw was. I just stopped going to this one feed and pretty much stopped going to others where there were a large number (over fifty) homeless people. I’ve paid the price. I’ve lost probably ten or fifteen pounds and found out who really cares in the course of things. There were more than I thought there were.

All I can say at this point is I’ve not asked for much of anything, especially not for their love. I didn’t really realize just how bad I hurt others because of my foolish pride and not asking for help when I needed it the most. Whether it was a matter of trust or something else, I’m not certain. All I do know is that I hope this helps others seek help. Writing this has been a confession, a relief, and a plea for help which even the Veteran’s Administration probably can’t nor will provide since this problem is not service related or at least so they will deem it.

The last thing I want to say here is that I forgive everyone. Those that know me or who have had little or no dealings with me never really knew me and may never truly know me. I’m not even certain I know myself anymore. All I know is I’m done trying to please everyone or change to make others happy. It’s time I find a way to live in the moment and not live in the past or even contemplate the future. I just hope I can do this. It’s not going to be as easy as quiting alcohol or drugs or even smoking cigarettes which I’ve still got to quit. I pray for society as a whole even more than I pray for myself.

Discrimination!

March 17, 2015

This is a multiple edge sword that is as old as mankind. It has been based mostly on race and religion. However, it’s probably been based on even broader ideals than this. It’s also mankind’s most hurtful of sins. Discrimination hurts everyone every single day.

Slavery which is almost as old as mankind itself is nothing more than a form of discrimination. We had it here in America for many years after the United States became a country. Before that it was recorded to have happened in Europe and the middle east. Slavery often happened during or after a war between two different people for the most simplistic of reasons. It wasn’t till the Europeans became slavers that slavery became a thing of race.

Thankfully slavery was abolished both in Europe and the United States. European’s were the first to abolish it. Great Britain was next and then the U.S. Alas, slavery still exists but in a quiet underworld sort of way.

Not to be outdone, religion became the most vaunted form of discrimination in modern time. It started with the Roman’s against the Christians not long after Christ. The Crusades in the 14th century was next. Again we had discrimination by religion in World War II. Then it was discrimination against the Jews. Religious discrimination happens even today with Catholics against Protestants in Ireland as well as Christians against Muslims in the middle east. There’s even Muslims against Muslims in a secular way. Secularism is in just about every religion and is another topic all together.

These are the two largest forms of discrimination. However, there are other forms of discrimination. You can be discriminated due to sex or other things. It still happens today even in the United States. Terms like nerd, dweb, and others are nothing more than a form of discrimination. You or those that use terms like this are separating those you describe as this into a specific group and discriminating against that group. It even happens by “class” of people. The wealthy look down their noses at the poor or less fortunate. This is a form of discrimination as well. Even age is discriminated against in some places.

No matter what, discrimination is WRONG! People like you, me, and others should NOT discriminate for ANY reason whatsoever. This next phrase I’m about to type here is the EXACT reason there shouldn’t be any discrimination at all. WE ALL BLEED THE SAME COLOR! That’s right. WE ALL BLEED RED. Then why is there discrimination? This is a question everyone should be asking each other instead of calling someone racist or other name to instigate a fight or even war. We all should be talking with each other instead of fighting over words or beliefs or whatever the reason is for discrimination. Enough said!

Literacy!

February 27, 2015

Stop right there.  Think about what you’re doing when you come here.  Why did you come here?  It wasn’t for pictures was it?  Well you didn’t come here for anything other than that.  It’s obvious.  You came here to read what words I may post.  You do this everywhere you go.  Not just here or online.  You read everywhere.  Signs, books, newspapers, even text on your phone.  But have you ever thought of just how literate you or anyone else is.

Dictionary.com gives three separate meanings for literacy.  They are as follows:

1.     The quality or state of being literate, especially the ability to read and write.

2.     Possession of education.

3.     A person’s knowledge of a particular subject or field.

Let me go one step further here.  Without the first you will NEVER have the latter two.  If one can not read nor write as I’ve shown you here then one does not have even the barest of education nor do they have knowledge of a specific field or subject (well in some cases this can be learned without reading in the case of on the job training).  Both skills are taught in school or at home.  In the case of the later, we usually learn that in school.  In the case of the prior, we should ALL know how to read at least by no later than four years of age.

Reading is by far the most important part of literacy.  If you can’t or won’t read then you’re missing out on an entirely different world view and distort your own perceptions of the world.  We as adults should foster the need for reading and literacy in children when they are of the most impressionable years of age (usually from three to twelve and I’m just guessing on the high end).  Even if you can’t read yourself seek help learning.  You’ll be glad you did.

I did some interesting research prior to writing this.  I’ll give two particular sites here for information:

http://www.statisticbrain.com/number-of-american-adults-who-cant-read/

http://world.bymap.org/LiteracyRates.html

The first site gives a pretty appalling report of literacy in the United States alone (as of 2013).  The second is a map that shows the literacy of the world.  Overall, our world looks good for reading and writing.  Now take into account the levels at which you, your children, and myself read at.  Today’s children can read no better and in many places worse than those that grew up when I was a child.  The best most people can read at is a 6th grade level and often times there are places where people can’t even do that.

There are things we can do to stop this backwards slide of illiteracy.  Parents must spend more time reading to their children till they are of an age to understand symbols (a.k.a. the alphabet) so they might be able to read on their own.  If this can’t or doesn’t happen, then perhaps the grandparents could assist.  I personally know one grandmother who has all her grand kids reading alone by three.  I’ve met some of her grand kids.  They are very bright indeed.

Alas, corporations as well as government attempts to dumb down our society in order for them to better control your lives (it’s part of a POWER play).  Even the newspapers (corporate owned) only print to a sixth grade level and some even print articles at a fourth grade level.  It’s no wonder people are not learning nor are they capable of learning if you’re reading comprehension is at that level.  It follows that your quality of life will suffer as well.  It’s also no wonder that companies are either outsourcing or screaming bloody murder about the lack of education in new employees.  We must do better than this.

As a child, I for one spent more time with books than most kids my age.  By the time I was twelve I read at a college junior’s level.  Funny thing was I was understanding those books as well.  If I were reading a book you would find a dictionary nearby in order for me to find out something about a word that puzzled me.  Even now that I’ve aged, I still read pretty heavily.  A lot of life’s lessons can be found through reading.  I’ve read from fantasy, science fiction, biography, as well as technical manuals to self help books (transcendental meditation).

Reading has a vast affect on society as well.  Those less learned than even myself find themselves out of touch or just plain ignored by the more learned.  The bad thing is people who are learned should instead of turning away and ignoring the issue should be less rude and more pro-active in helping those that can’t read.  We (due to the fact we can’t read) are sliding down a slope we need NOT be on to begin with.

The philosophy here is to spend more time reading and less time on the television (boob tube is the aptly given name for it because of the low quality of it’s educational purpose).  Spend that time researching the web or with a good book for an escape.  You’ll be better off for it and may just develop into a good human being instead of devolving.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions, and Man’s Worst Enemy!

August 29, 2014

Decisions!  We all make them.  For better or for worse, man/woman is stuck with them.  It’s part of our own personal hell on Earth.  We’re faced with more decisions each day than we are with dilemmas.  To quote some song lyrics here, “do this, don’t do that.”  It’s all about what we  decide  that can make good things bad or bad things good.

Often times we are faced with a decision that takes more thought than others.  Many times, people don’t think before they decide on anything.  I see this everyday in not only people around me but in myself as well.  Do I do this or that?  Should I say this or that?  What will the effect be if I do this or say something?  It’s something everyone and I mean everyone should think about before doing or saying things.  Yes, somethings should be automatic.  But many things you do or say will have a vast effect on others and how they treat you.

This entire treatise goes along with my second thought more than anything.  Man’s/woman’s own worst enemy is himself/herself!  That’s right.  Do you want to know the reason why?  I’ll tell you what I’ve deduced over the years because I’ve realized what has caused me more pain and suffering than anything.  It’s man’s/woman’s decisions that make him/her in the eyes of others as well as how he/she feels about themselves.

Is there a recourse for the hell we put each other through?  I’d like to think so.  My thought is that most if not all people base their decisions on to little information.  Alas, sometimes you don’t get all the information you need prior to making a decision.  Sometimes, you don’t have the time to gather up all the information you need.  Other times people have the time they need to gather the necessary information to make a proper decision.  Yet time and time again, those decisions are often in error.  This is why I continue to say man/women are their own worst enemy and will continue to be so.  Enough said.

Question asked, question answered late and sorta!

June 9, 2014

A while back I was asked something that I thought was a good question.  It was actually difficult at the time to answer and the person asking me this question wanted me to share my answer with his church and others in support of his group called Resurrections.  The answer has been forthcoming for a good long while and believe me it took more than a week to come up with it as well as more that I keep bringing up to myself often as time goes by.  But first, let me tell you what Resurrections is about.

For over a decade now Resurrections has been providing one meal each Saturday to those that are homeless and those in need.  This group of individuals is not from just one church but many.  This organization gets others involved (other churches, local businesses, as well as one entire school district).  So it’s not just a core group who comes to feed those like myself who are on the street or those in need (low income people).  The volunteers that come feed those of us are the ones who share their time and also learn that homelessness isn’t about just one issue but many.  From here out, I’ll describe individuals I know from the group’s core and talk about the people who volunteer their time.

Over the years, Resurrections has gone through two organizers.  The first person goes by C.J.  I never really got to know him well or know what Resurrections was about till he retired and Larry took over.  When Larry took over is when I started actually assisting Resurrections with their setting up for feeding those in need.  I’ve not asked what Larry does for full time employment.  However, I know he does a lot of footwork for Resurrections.  He sets up the volunteers for time slots and hunts down donations as well as more volunteers.  I’d like to think of it as his second job and almost a calling in life.  Other than that, Larry has been a great individual and I like to count him as a friend.

Monica, is one of the sweetest individuals I know with the group.  She’s what we call our chili lady.  Every week she cooks up at least two to three pots of chili for the hot dogs served as well as offers prayer at the beginning of the meals when there is no others available for this small chore.  However, that isn’t where her work started.  By day she’s a school teacher that is deeply involved with teaching her students.  She goes above and beyond the usual teacher stuff.  It wasn’t till I met her that I knew more about teaching than I did when I was a trainer in the military.  Often times she’s putting in over seventy hours a week.  And yet, she still feels as if those that come are like her wayward children.  I know no other person that can do this.

Betsy, our cookie lady, is also a fine person who has problems of her own which I can’t discuss here.  She’s there at least once every two weeks handing out home made cookies she bakes herself.  Every week she’s off, I miss her and think about her as well as keep her in my prayers.  She makes me think of my mom’s own cooking when I get her chocolate chip cookies 😀

Tobie is the woman who brings our bananas most weeks.  When she can’t she gets Herb or some other member to pick them up where she gets them from.  I won’t name the place because I don’t advertise anyone if possible.  There are many like Tobie who are concerned citizens and think that everyone in America should treat each other with equal respect irregardless.  She’s a wonderful person to talk to and know.  I wish I could say more.

Robbie is our desert man.  He’s one of the most unique individuals I’ve met here in Columbia, South Carolina.  Sometimes I think of him as our overgrown child.  He often brings his “big kid” toys to the weekly feed.  Bless his heart for always thinking about those in need and working with a local grocer to provide the deserts at each of those events.  He’s a blessing to many of those that come and is always friendly with those he talks to.

There are many others in the core group and it seems like it’s always growing.  Some come and some go.  They will never be forgotten.  I could name many others who help out here by name but I’ve covered the main individuals.  They are just what keeps this going.  If it weren’t for the volunteers this wouldn’t come about at all.

That is the main point of this weekly event.  It brings those that often don’t know or have very little knowledge of what really goes on in this town beyond their own personal life.  I’ve met many a volunteer through this weekly event and have several people who I’d like to call friends other than those I deal with on the street.  The volunteers make this event work more so than the core group.  We ALL get to know more about each other when they come.

Yes, I say I don’t advertise here.  However, I’d like to thank two groups in particular.  One is a local business called Southeastern Freight.  Their corporation has two or three groups that come down once or twice every three months to volunteer their services feeding those in need.  They are a great bunch of people that I relate to very easily as one of my brothers was/is an over the road truck driver like many of them.  The second group is a large group of children of various ages coming out of Richland county school district two.  They frequently come out to volunteer their service and actually work to get some of the things those out on the street need (mostly book bags so that those on the street can carry their belongings in something other than trash bags).  These children give me faith that there is a tomorrow for this country.  I hope they can learn some valuable things as well from those of us out on the street.  I know I try to impress upon them the importance of education as I’m still learning even from them.

All the volunteers as well as the regulars do so much with so little funding it’s truly amazing.  I can’t recommend more for those that chose to do something for their fellow man but to get involved in this group in one form or another.  Donations are always welcome by these people.  It could be clothing, shoes, book bags, toiletries, your time helping out by serving those in need, or even chipping in funding this wonderful group and their volunteers.  Resurrections would be more than happy for any assistance in their mission.

My final words here are words I’ve shared with Larry about Resurrections.  I’ve promised him that if I remain in South Carolina, specifically Columbia, that once I got off the street I’d still come and help him out.  I would be bringing more instead of just my assistance of helping set up in this case.  I believe in this groups mission and thank God himself for what it’s done for me in the way I see society in general.  If you’re not from South Carolina or the United States there are others like me and those of us out on the street.  Help however you can.  It doesn’t have to be a monetary handout.  It could be a meal or even just time listening to those that need a person to listen to their story.  Never ever look down on those that are having a hard time.  You could be there yourself at one time or another in your life.  Everyone needs friends no matter what the circumstances are.  Because of a group like this I’ve many more friends than I first had here and hope to find many others through this group.  God bless everyone involved.

Benevolence!

January 9, 2014

Many of you might wonder how my holidays went.  Being homeless doesn’t always allow you to have great holidays or holiday cheer.  Almost all the homeless would much rather spend them a different way than out in the street, sometimes cold, sometimes wet, and sometimes hungry.  Some have better holidays than others even if they are in the street.

Myself, I’m not much of a holidays person after my father passed away.  I tend to prefer to be alone even though I’m often lonely for someone of like interests.  I spend the days much like I do now.  Usually reading a book and going to one of the few places who feed the needy on those days.  One of my favorite places to be is a local park where few homeless go.  It’s here where my story of benevolence begins.

From just before Thanksgiving all the way through Christmas and even on to my birthday (January 5th), I’ve been the recipient of the benevolence of others outside the usual and even more from the usual.  Not once but five times I’ve had people whom I didn’t know come up to me and give me money or offer me food.  Almost every time I’ve attempted to refuse the assistance.  Not out of pride, but out of concern for those attempting to give the gifts (some of these I believe can’t really afford to do what they do but do so anyway).

Most of these folks I’ve met this way have been younger than myself (I just turned 54).  Some have families, others do not.  Those that have had families, I’ve tried to explain that they should put that money into their families and not into my hands.  Others, like the gentleman who I’m guessing was around 75 years old, smile when I finally do accept their offer.  In the case of the 75 year old, I’d like to think it brought him some pleasure and joy to help out his fellow man.  Two who helped me out I’ve known through helping them help others in my shoes.  I won’t name them, but they know who they are.

The one thing I always do with these people is attempt to befriend them.  What I would much rather have is their friendship and understanding instead of their money.  Over my 54 years, I’ve learned that it isn’t about “money.”  I no longer crave the material things I once craved.  The one thing I crave most is friends since it’s not likely I’ll ever have a family.

Very few of these people do I ever see again.  Though I don’t find it odd, I find it odd that they wouldn’t take credit for doing what they do.  These are the true benevolent soles out there.  The ones who don’t have a lot and yet they go out of their way to help a total stranger out.  They may or may not do this in just one place.  Often times, they would much rather be forgotten for their good deeds.

Well, to those that helped me out with charitable contributions, I thank you.  Even if I’ve never known them or never got their name, thank you from the bottom of my heart.  Your money was well spent on either food or keeping my bicycle going.  As all my followers know, I don’t have the vices of drugs or alcohol to use the money on.