Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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.

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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.

Remembrance of One I Loved

December 12, 2013

Some might consider this a long overdue eulogy.  So be it.  To me it’s my way of having an ever lasting memory of one I love even to this day.  Yes, I’m talking about a deceased member of my immediate family.  His birthday is this month and I wanted to do something for him even after thirty (30) years of being long gone.  He lived for a very short forty two years.  Some may have called him every name in the book and then some, others may have called him a friend.  However, I’ve always referred to him as “father.”

For the most part he was a good father.  His only character flaw to me was his lack of showing how much he truly cared openly.  Don’t get me wrong.  There were plenty of times that he openly showed he cared.  It’s just those times were few and far apart.  Otherwise, his love was shown in the best way possible.  He was always understanding even when he didn’t voice his opinion.  My father was certainly supportive of his three children.  His one thing was we had what we needed even if he had to do without.

From the day my father left high school till the year before he died, he worked as a tool and die worker.  You may have seen some of his work when you climbed into your automobile or truck in the past.  He built the molds for a large number of plastic parts that went into those automobiles and trucks.  One such mold I remember him having his shop order a microscope so he could fix a mold someone else botched up.  It was for the Ford four speed shifter that was to go into the Mustang of the time.  Alas, this is but one memory of my father.  Not the fondest of memories but just one.

Probably the earliest memory of something my father did for us kids was when we lived at the house on Pulver Road outside Three Rivers, Michigan.  One year it snowed deep enough for him to come out and make us a snow fort semi-igloo with a snow shovel.  At the time we weren’t even old enough to handle a shovel all that well.  I think I was around eight at the time.  My other two siblings at the time were seven and five.  It was a lot of fun.  I think my father even got into a snowball fight with us kids.

The next fondest memory of my father was when we lived on North Main Street just a block outside of Three Rivers.  It was on a fourth of July.  At the time my father was big into muzzle loading guns.  He had ample amounts of gun powder in the house for shooting as well as testing barrels for some of the guns he build himself.  That fourth of July he took the time to make home made firecrackers and shot off his muzzle loading rifle out back sans lead balls.  I still think he had more fun than us kids that year.  It was the same year my mom’s oldest brother showed up with his family.  He had to show off to my father after seeing my father’s muzzle loader.  He brought out an old WWII vintage Thompson semi-machine gun and lit it off (shot it) in full automatic.  Needless to say we had police at our door ten minutes after my uncle put the weapon away.

By far the best times with my father were spent on our eighty acre farm he bought back in 1973.  It was almost half way between Jones, Michigan and Three Rivers.  We heated by a wood/oil burning furnace as well as a Benjamin Franklin style stove.  Many a times either my entire family or just my father and his two sons went out to cut wood for the winter.  He’d cut the trees down and cut them up so we could load it onto a trailer.  A lot of wood got split by yours truly as well as my brother.

Funny thing is I was not there for a picture my mom shot of my father when he wasn’t looking.  I believe she still has that picture today.  The picture in question had my father out in the driveway the day after an evening snow storm.  All the trees are covered in snow as well as the ground.  My father was looking off towards the woods to the south and thinking about what I don’t know to this day.  To me it’s by far the best picture of my father I’ll ever see.  I have one other of my mom, him, and myself that was taken around my high school graduation time but it doesn’t even compare with the one mentioned.  I think he was actually in his element when my mom took the picture of him in the driveway.

My last memory of my father alive was during a Christmas leave period (while I was in the Navy) in 1982.  I was home for his last Christmas as well as his last birthday alive.  He’d been diagnosed with a brain tumor just two months before and had come through surgery to remove some of it.  He didn’t go for full removal because he didn’t want to loose his mobility.  Instead he opted for the partial removal and to finish his life out making his final plans for his family.  When diagnosed, my father was given six months to two years to live.  He left my mother, my brother, and my sister but five months later in April of 1983.

It’s been difficult to write this short piece about my father.  My eyes are watering and tears are starting to roll down my cheeks.  My only wish is that anyone who reads this will remember what my father meant to me and think before they have bad thoughts about their own fathers.  Sometimes fathers do things for the strangest of reasons.  Most times they do them for the good of the family that is theirs.  For better or for worse, I LOVE YOU FATHER WHEREVER YOUR SOLE IS NOW I HOPE YOU SEE THIS.

Brooks Saddles, My Current Ride and My Final Ride!

June 7, 2013

I know, I know.  After my last post, I’m going to be asked what you’re riding now.  This is where I’ll tell you and of course the title tells you about my current and last bicycle saddle I’ll ever ride on.

My current ride is a 2010 Surly Long Haul Trucker (from here out I’ll just say LHT).  It’s not stock anymore however.  I’ve changed the original Onyx brakes to Avid Shorty 6’s.  The handlebars and stem have been changed to a shorter stem (35 degree 80 mm stem from Dimension).  The handlebars are the European type touring bars for more hand hold positions.

Though not a bad bar, I’m not truly fond of the European touring type handlebars.  I miss what I had on my 2004 Gary Fisher 129 Dual Sport (flat bar with a Profile Designs Century aero bar).  It’s comfortable for most riding but not as easy for my gorilla arms when going down into a aero position for riding down hills.  Thus my next bike will have the same as the Fisher if I don’t do it to my LHT.  The only other option I’ll consider is getting what is no longer made.  They are the Scott AT-4 Pro handlebars that are no longer in production.

The reason I changed the brake is that the Avid Shorty 6’s were a bit lighter and actually had better braking ability than the Tektro Onyx, not to mention cartridge pads.  With these brakes I added a set of Avid Speed Dial 7 Brake Levers.  I’ve had these levers before on another bike.  They are ultimately adjustable and fairly light where as the original road Tektro brake levers weren’t adjustable.

Getting to my pride and joy, I’ll go a bit more in depth.  I’ve tried several saddles via the last few bicycles.  I can honestly say they don’t hold a candle to the Brooks I currently ride.  No it’s not the venerable B17.  It’s actually the B67.  I considered the B17 but opted for the B67 because of spinal issues.  Total comfort from shock was required.  Yes, all Brooks saddles are heavy.  But on a touring bicycle weight isn’t the factor.  Comfort is.

As to treating the Brooks saddles (all models), there are many theories.  Mine is somewhat out of the ordinary yet pretty typical.  My lubricant/treatment of choice is Proofide developed by Brooks themselves.  Below is how I treated my B67 saddle:

1.)  Right from the box turn the saddle upside down showing the rails on top.

2.)  Open the small can/tin of Proofide.  You either bought the 25 or 40 gram variety(at least I hope you didn’t forget a good leather treatment substance).  I bought the 25 gram.

3.)  Take a clean rag and apply liberal amounts of the Proofide to the bottom of the saddle.  Don’t worry about using a lot.  The initial treatment is the most important.  I used roughly half of a 25 gram can/tin.  If you like you can also put a thin coat on the opposite (top) side of the saddle.  Just remember to wipe the excess off before you ride it if you do this particular top coating.  Also, initially treating the bottom of the saddle makes it less prone to water damage from dirty water spun off the wheel.

4.)  Mount as you would any other saddle.

5.)  Take the spanner wrench you received with your saddle and tighten down the nose till you have approximately one fourth of an inch between the wires above the rails and the leather.  This will give your saddle ample give while you ride and prevent from bruising your nether regions on the wires supporting the leather.

6.)  Ride your saddle for at least 500 miles.  By then it will be form fitted to your posterior.

Special considerations with the Brooks saddles I’ve heard.  Some complain about the saddle bowing outward at the sides like a butterfly.  This is a natural effect to suspended leather.  There are fixes that I’ve heard but I suggest you leave it alone as it conforms to your thighs while riding.  Be very careful just how much tension you put on the nose nut of your Brooks.  Too tight and you may be returning the saddle to Brooks for repair.  Too loose and you’ll bruise your nether regions.  Leather that is treated correctly will soak up the treatment like Proofide or your personal favorite leather treatment as well as stretch (not all in one direction either (it’ll stretch in all directions).

Re-treatment should be done as necessary.  Time between treatments will vary depending on your climate for the most part.  Don’t let the leather become dry and brittle or back to Brooks your saddle will go.  Also, if you want to keep the top black as my B67 was when it came from the factory use only paste type shoe polish like Kiwi paste.  DO NOT USE LIQUID BASED SHOE POLISH FOR ANY REASON!  If you prefer an antique finish on a black saddle just ride it for a while.  The polish will eventually come off and you’ll get the natural coloring of the leather.  Continual treatments will give it the rustic horse saddle finish of old.

Now my final bicycle of choice will surprise many.  No the LHT will not be my final choice even in the disc brake model.  Personally, I’m eventually going to get a Surly Troll.  Two reasons for this.  When I had my Gary Fisher Dual Sport 129 I enjoyed the geometry better than my LHT.  In many instances it was more upright and a lot more durable off road.  Yes, I know.  The Fisher has a suspension fork where as the LHT has a solid fork.  With the Surly Troll I get a bike with a more mountain bike geometry as well as a suspension corrected solid fork (think less maintenance here).  The second and most important reason for choice of the Surly Troll is configurability and wheel size.  The Troll like it’s bigger brother the Surly Ogre can be outfitted with just about everything including the kitchen sink.  The wheel size on the Troll is 26″ and is very easily found in any store that sells bicycle goods including Walmart.  You can’t say that just yet with the 700C size wheels.

This is but the beginning.  I plan on configuring my Troll with a Shimano SLX kit in 2X10 instead of 3X10.  I don’t see the need in a very large tooth number on the front chainrings.  Speed is not of vast importance when touring anyway.  Yes, I’ll outfit my Troll with disc brakes vice rim brakes.  I’ve ridden both and prefer the discs for several reasons.  No, I won’t be going hydraulic after looking up the freezing and boiling points of mineral oil that is in the fine SLX hydraulic discs.  I intend to use Avid BB7 mechanical discs for on the road service capabilities.  The Avid BB7’s are a good compromise between rim brakes and hydraulic discs and fall between them for braking power.  Other components my Troll will have are riser bars with a Profile Designs Century aerobar for steering and a set of B.O.B. nuts for the mounting of my B.O.B. Yak trailer which I intend to pull behind me as well as panniers front and rear.  I found the flat bar or riser bar with an aerodynamic type bar like the Profile Designs very comfortable for my kind of long distance riding.  It provided me with many miles of happy riding when I had a similar setup on my Gary Fisher.

A little more on the B.O.B. nuts thing here.  If you haven’t pulled a B.O.B. Yak or Ibis trailer (the Ibis is more for off road loads as it has a suspension rear), B.O.B. makes two different mounts for the tongue of those trailers.  One is a custom skewer for your rear wheel or the B.O.B. nuts which mount on the framework of your Troll/Ogre.  They also mount on the axle of non quick release wheels as well.  The main reason I’m using the B.O.B. nuts is that I’ve bent two of their stainless steel skewer type mounts (probably overloaded the trailer and had too much tongue weight).  With the nuts mounted on the frame of the bike instead of through the skewer it will keep me from replacing skewers frequently.

As to racks and panniers, I prefer the Surly Nice Racks. They are well built and strong.  The panniers, I’m still looking into.  I know, people will tell me to try this that and the other brands.  I’ve tried Jandd’s panniers.  They are very durable (I currently have a set of Jandd Large Mountains).  I’m not enamored with the mounting system though.  I love the Arkel mounting system but I’m not enamored by the liberal use of zippers of any quality level.  Perhaps I’ll stick with the Jandd’s and just get the mounting rails from Arkel and mount them to the Jandds.  I’ll just have to look at that when the time comes.

Yes, I know some will ask why I intend to use both panniers and trailer.  Why don’t I use one or the other?  Simple.  The panniers are for my clothing while the trailer will be strictly for my camping gear as well as storage for a small laptop.  I don’t intend on putting a large amount of weight besides my own on my bicycle.  Clothing will be enough in the panniers.  Also, both panniers and trailer singularly put up wind resistance.  Not just against the wind or with the wind either.  You’d be surprised at what either will do with a cross draft from either side.  With both, I hope to alleviate cross draft drift by going with smaller loads on each instead of having a large cross section with just one or the other.  However you do it you need to check out the physics involved.

Now my one choice that some don’t care for.  I’m going to run clipless pedals.  Most choose not to run them to avoid having to keep two sets of shoes (one for walking and one for riding).  Myself, it’s another choice for performance over useless effort.  I’ve found that clipless pedals are much more efficient over standard toe clips.  You can put upwards of 75% or more power into your pedals with clipless vice 50% or less with standard toe clips.

Hopefully this article has been if nothing else entertaining.  I know several won’t agree with my choices.  That’s all a part of personal preferences.  For those that are not familiar with touring, I hope some of the information will be enlightening.  The best thing you can do if you plan on touring is to make your own enlightened choices of what works and what doesn’t.  However, the more you research (either while you ride or while not riding), the wiser choices you can make.  My personal choices are based on where and how I ride both locally and while I tour as I prefer to keep only one bicycle at a time.

Bicycling!

April 29, 2013

Some would think I’m not really a bicyclist.  Actually I’m a die-hard bicyclist.  I quit driving in 2000 after having a second Ford product blowing up and remembering that if I took one more severe whiplash I’d look like Christopher Reeve.  My neck injury in a 1982 automobile accident is the cause of this diagnosis which I’ve ignored till 2000.

So let me tell you my experience of touring.  First off, my tour from Michigan to Florida.  I’ll cover my trip as well as the equipment I used for that trip.  Then, in a separate article, I’ll cover my trip from South Carolina to Michigan and back.  Lastly, I’ll cover my current bike and hopes for a future and hopefully final bicycle build.  Without further ado, I’ll start with the first of my bicycling articles.

In 1998, I lost yet another job and was not seeing a possibility of working again soon.  With the final check from a subcontracting job (not computer related), I purchased a reasonable bicycle (from Sam’s Club).  It was better than most from Walmart or the likes anyway, though not as good as the bike I once owned in California in my final two years in the Navy.

The bicycle I purchased was a Motiv.  I forget the model.  It was a twenty one speed mountain type bicycle with Shimano Altus components.  It really wasn’t all that much.  It didn’t have a rack nor at the purchase time did I have a set of panniers.  Those were purchased afterward at a local bicycle shop in my hometown of Three Rivers, Michigan.

From that point, I had to plan what I would take.  Since I was going to be pretty much homeless, I had to prepare for the trip with a minimalistic living style.  Of course I had a small tent and sleeping bag, but beyond that I had to have the bare essentials in clothing.  This amounted to four t-shirts, two pair of shorts, two pair of jeans, socks, and shoes for clothing (it was in the beginning of June that I left for Florida).  I didn’t pack much more than that because I had no room.  I was only running a rear rack and panniers for it.

Why Florida for my first choice of destinations you ask?  Simple.  My uncle god bless his departed soul had offered me two years before to come down to Florida to get further education at a branch of Florida Technical College where he’d become the only non-relative Dean.  The college was nationally certified and the head of it use to be Ronald Reagan’s Department of Education Secretary.  To me, that made this school a good bet.

The day I left Three Rivers, Michigan was a partly cloudy day that turned into a mostly cloudy afternoon.   I made good time the first day cutting across the northwest corner of Indiana and into Illinois.  My intention was to go visit my cousins in Pontiac, Illinois for a day or two before going on with my journey.  I made it into Valparaiso, Indiana before the bottom came out and rain ruined the rest of the day’s ride.  That night I spent a rather soggy nasty night under a park picnic area roof with the tent on top of a picnic table.  It was a rather stressful night to say the least.  By morning the weather had abated and I was off on my second day of travel.

The second day fared better.  I was finally able to make it to Pontiac where I was able to catch one of my cousins around and asked to stay a bit before moving on.  That turned out to be almost a week.  It was a time of discovery, learning, and re-association between myself and one of my cousins.  I still cherish that time I spent there and always will.  It was also a time of true relaxation.

After day two, days get jumbled together quite a bit.  However, I do remember rolling around St. Louis and down through and into Rolla, Missouri in about three days time.  I went this way in hopes I might meet up with a lady I’d talked to online.  Alas, it wasn’t to be so I continued my trek from there back to Kentucky and southward.  I pretty much followed the Mississippi after returning to the east side of it.  Crossing the Mississippi at Cape Girardeau, Kentucky, I continued from there through Tennessee avoiding Memphis altogether.

It wasn’t even a week after leaving Pontiac, Illinois, that I made it to around Montgomery, Alabama.  This was via Kentucky, Tennessee, and the northeastern corner of Mississippi.  I vaguely remember staying in St. Louis and Montgomery for two days each to do laundry as well as rest.  From Montgomery, I went through Dothan, Alabama via the southwestern corner of Georgia and into the Florida panhandle at Monticello, Florida.

From Monticello, Florida, I turned south and east ending my trip in Winter Haven, Florida where I visited my grandmother on my mother’s side for a week before my uncle picked me up and got me started at Florida Technical College.  I actually ended up in Jacksonville, Florida where I attended that college branch where my uncle was Dean of for a short time before going back south to open yet another branch.  I traveled from Winter Haven to Jacksonville via my uncle’s car so that doesn’t count as part of my tour.  In all, I spent thirty days on the road.  Of that, I spent twenty-one days riding.  I figured it out to be a shade over two thousand miles one way.  Average mileage per day ended up being around a century a day with on long day being over a century and a half.  Not bad for at the time a thirty-eight year old man.

Next up, my trip from Columbia, South Carolina to Centreville, Michigan.  Different bicycle and equipment for that.  Stay tuned.

I’ve Seen!

April 4, 2013

A couple of years ago, I lost my grandmother.  At 91 years old she’d said she’d seen enough.  Only this morning did it dawn on me what she meant by that comment before passing.  She lived through the Great Depression, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Dessert Storm and some of the current wars not to mention several years of vast change in this country including Women’s Suffrage  and the Civil Rights Movement.

I’m too young to remember a lot of these things.  My only recollection of things during my grandmother’s later years was of my uncle leaving for Vietnam (he did two one year tours there), my neighbor going to serve the National Guard during the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, and of course I served in the Navy during Dessert Storm.  It makes me wonder just what I’ll witness next.

These are but a few things I’ve not seen in my fifty three years of life so far.  I’ve seen many more things than I’d like.  Some I’d much rather not see, especially here in the United States.  At this point in life, I can honestly say I’m with my grandmother on what her last feelings were.  I’ve seen enough to make a grown man not just cry but to curl up and want to die.

I was once a proud citizen of this country I call my home.  Doing my patriotic duty serving in the U.S. Navy wasn’t something I did just for a job.  After all these years, I can’t honestly say I’m proud of this country.  Actually, I’m mortified.  The people (especially the politicians) should be ashamed of themselves for the treatment they give those that are in as well as those who have served this country in the military.  They gave their lives or part of their lives in order to keep this country the way it is no matter how messed up it has become.  Yet, they are looked at as second and often times less than third rate citizens.  The illegal immigrants get better treatment most of the time.

Greed seems to be one of the things I’ve witnessed the most.  The saying “competing with the Jones'” comes to mind here.  Everywhere I’ve gone, everyone I meet, and every job I’ve been in seems fraught with who can get what for little or nothing of his/her time.  My last job with Sam’s Club will attest to that.  I worked there not even a year before quitting.   I was USED by day shift and management (my immediate supervisors) to get ahead (advance up the corporate ladder).  What did I get out of it?  Nothing more than an “at a boy” and a pay raise of only fifty cents an hour (the only pay raise I ever got there though I increased sales in my section by 30%).  Now I’m homeless again for my NOT cow towing to people who use and abuse others for their own personal gain.  It’s shameful.

Worse yet, I’ve seen this same greed and treatment of African Americans by not just Caucasians but by other African Americans.  Nowhere is that more prevalent than in the distribution of illegal drugs.  Of course, this particular thing happens not just in the African American communities, but in other racial communities as well.  Drugs are not a racial discriminator.

Discrimination is probably the second most prevalent thing I’ve seen.  Nowhere have I seen it more pronounced than in the impoverished neighborhoods and in the south.  However, it’s not just the African Americans against the Caucasian Americans and vice versa.  I think the worst discriminating race I’ve met is the Asian Americans.  Not so much in the northern part of the United States, but here in the south it’s abysmal.  These people, if they could have it their way, wouldn’t associate with anyone.

Personally, I don’t look at the exterior of anyone anymore.  I look at what is inside.  The personality of the person I’m talking to or the person I care for.   Personality is everything.  What is on the outside doesn’t matter.  WE all BLEED the same damn color, RED!  Plain and simple, there should be NO discrimination anywhere.  Yet it still happens.

From there I’ll mention history.  Nowhere in history has any government lasted longer than in the United States.  No monarchy, dictatorship, or other form of government has lasted so long.  I’ve worked both sides of the fence and studied both sides for a long time.  This government is DOOMED to repeat the errors of the past by not looking at what happened to past forms of government.  Alas, history is no longer truly taught in the school systems.  For that matter not much in today’s school systems is useful with the exception of math and science (and the so called Christians want to remove science from the system as well) to progress a person to a meaningful life.  But history ought to be a required subject throughout a students scholastic years.  Fully half the politicians in our current government know little or nothing about history and how greed has been the downfall of most all governments.  The other half ignore history though they do know of it.   These politicians think they have a “great civilization.”  Yeah right.  For whom?  Them of course.  Not the average person on the street.

The two oldest professions in the book are politics and prostitution.  They actually are much the same.  The career politician is nothing more than a whore.  More so than the prostitute on the street.  I’ve read recently where several politicians sold out to a major corporate interest.  They voted to support the oil industry in certain claims because a large amount of their campaign contributions (BRIBES) came from that one industry.  Two are members of the House of Representatives in Washington D.C.  Another four to six are in the Oklahoma Assembly.  The exposure of this as well as that of several assemblymen in the North Carolina Assembly for taking large campaign contributions (BRIBES again) from corporations for votes proves my point entirely.  Just another thing that makes me wonder, “Have I seen enough yet?”

And while I’m at it, let me mention military procurement.  Everyone knows what happens to some extent there.  It’s in the news just how much the “Joint Strike Fighter” is costing the taxpayer.  This is but one example but let me use it.  Corporations are not only using retired military personnel, but also BRIBING active duty personnel to push through stuff the military doesn’t need or in some cases even wants.  Yes, I agree we need a joint strike fighter that serves multiple missions for all branches of the service.  Where I don’t agree is on the cost.  Currently, each JFS (as I’ll refer to them now) will cost the American taxpayer over $100 million apiece.  That cost is growing on almost a daily basis.  Now the Navy’s old FA-18 Super Hornet was around $85 million apiece to give you a reference.  Granted we’ve had advances in many things but do we need all those things.  Americans are fighting two wars of completely different propensities.  We are fighting terrorists and computer crackers (the correct term though the media uses “hackers”, the incorrect term).  WTF do we need a joint strike fighter to fight these wars for?

As I’ve said, I’ve seen many things.  Some things I’ve seen here in Columbia, South Carolina I’m shocked at since I would think I’d see them on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood, California instead of in the Bible Belt.  Two things I witnessed here is just plain stupid even for a couple of homeless individuals.  First of all, two obviously homosexual men fornicating in front of a closed store at 2AM.  Secondly, a heterosexual couple fornicating in broad daylight under a blanket in the middle of a park.  Granted both situations involved homeless people and I’m ashamed to be mentioned in the same sentence as either of those four individuals.  Those four people have no sense of social dignity let alone anything else.  Of course, this is the only town where I’ve witnessed the aftermath of a knifing in as well.  Never did I witness these things in San Diego nor Los Angeles while stationed aboard two different ships going through the shipyards of Long Beach.  It’s truly amazing what you witness in a town of just over a hundred thousand people that you don’t see in cities of over four million people.  Need I say more?

I won’t say much more.  I’ll just leave you with a thought though.  When you’ve seen what you think is enough, just wait.  You’ll witness more.

Columbia, South Carolina state’s best city? NOT!

March 27, 2013

I found this rather interesting item in the news a few months back.  It was a determination of the United States best cities.  The survey was done by the Milken Institute and is rather informative.  If you’re not from the United States or even if you are you can check out your cities standings (if it’s listed ) at the following links.  This information is based on several factors and the determination is actually described by the institute’s site (first link).

http://bestcities.milkeninstitute.org/
http://bestcities.milkeninstitute.org/best-performing-cities-2012-large.html
http://bestcities.milkeninstitute.org/best-performing-cities-2012-small.html

The table below is just a standing for the cities listed from South Carolina.  It’s not the entire table at the links above.

2012 Rank

2011 Rank

Metropolitan Area

State

9

11

Charleston-North Charleston-Summerville

SC

35

114

Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill

NC-SC

52

113

Greenville-Mauldin-Easley

SC

88

77

Augusta-Richmond County

GA-SC

108

181

Spartanburg

SC

129

115

Columbia

SC

165

128

Myrtle Beach-North Myrtle Beach-Conway

SC

127

141

Anderson

SC

129

151

Florence

SC

131

155

Sumter

SC

I found it quite interesting that Columbia is one of three cities listed from South Carolina that actually fell from their previous years listing.  Of the cities listed it is in the bottom twenty percent and tied with Florence.  The worst city of course was Myrtle Beach/North Myrtle Beach/ Conway for obvious reasons.

Now as to why Columbia is failing to move up the listings.  There are several things that mark the decline of Columbia.  First and foremost is the number of jobs (jobs that pay significantly more than minimum wage) in this city.  The second and I feel should be the most important and will bring the first to this city is infrastructure.  Third is a friendly government.

Now let’s talk about infrastructure.  This should be a city’s first order of business since without a sound infrastructure jobs will NEVER come.  The city of Columbia is and has been in hot water with the Environmental Protection Agency over it’s sewage system.  Progress of repairing it has been slow at best and has cost the citizens of this city far more than they need it to cost.  Why you ask?  It’s because like all governments, the Columbia city council pools all the cities funds into one lump sum and spends it without regard to setting aside money for future needs nor repair of in use systems.  It’s why not only the cities sewage system is still in need of repair (even through not one but several water rate hikes in recent times) but the roads, parks and other things are in need of repair or proper maintenance.

Where is all this money going you ask?  Look around.  You see block parties (not necessarily for the general public (i.e. normal citizen), parades, and other nonsense things being supported by city council in order to draw people to a DEAD downtown.  Tourism isn’t happening in this city let alone this state because of several things that I need not mention.  Tourism is also a dead industry like manufacturing has become in the United States.

Roads are seeing very little repair outside that which the city spends from state and federal funds they receive.  One thing could help this issue other than further taxing an already burdened people.  Think before you make repairs of streets.  Two or three years ago, Columbia resurfaced several of their downtown streets instead of spreading the funds around the town on these projects.  What happened after the resurfacing?  Sure enough, not one month after the roads were resurfaced, the city started tearing up the NEW surface repairing stuff that could have been repaired before the resurfacing.  Now they’ll scramble for more state and federal funds to resurface the same streets they tore up again instead of fixing other more in need streets.  This isn’t new.  It happens in many a city.  Ill thought out maintenance and repair is killing things.

As to the parks, they aren’t getting but subsistence funding.  Meaning, they aren’t getting anything more than what they need for basic maintenance.  Water fountains in the parks aren’t being maintained where there are such.  Restrooms which need repair, maintenance, or just flat need replacing are not getting done to attract citizens to the parks.  The sad thing is I’ve talked to people who work these parks.  They request the necessary things needed but are denied what they need in order to make the parks a better place for citizens.

Now a word about public safety in the city.  Columbia has recently added several new police officers to their ranks.  However, they like other government employees don’t seem to be doing their job properly.  Granted ALL police officers are underpaid for what they do, but most here are NOT performing the basics and the police chief seems to be spineless in his dealings with city council.  What I mean by this is, the police chief’s officers are being redirected against the current homeless population by city council and not able or willing to perform the basic functions they are paid for (writing traffic citations to those that commit the simplest of crimes).  In other words if you are homeless in this city as other major cities have homelessness as well, don’t expect a police officer to help you.  If anything they’ll lock you up faster to get points with city council.  If you’re an automobile owner, you can do no wrong.  Run a red light, speed, wreck less driving, or hit a pedestrian, no problem.  It seems pedestrians as well as bicyclists have NO rights in this town.

For Columbia to succeed in moving upward, they need to first task their police for properly.  Secondly, think proper repair and maintenance of their infrastructure (funding for current and future).  And last, FIRE their current city council.  Then and only then will they have an efficient and well run city where government responds to their citizens instead of being self centered egotistical megalomaniacs  like most government officials are.  Maybe then and only then will the Columbia police force remove the tag for them as being nothing more than “Uniform Gang Members.”

You Lie!

February 22, 2013

This famous two word sentence got international attention when Representative Joe Wilson yelled it at the top of his lungs during a speech given by President Barack Obama to the joint session of Congress in September of 2009.  Though he later apologized for his actions, ole Joe wasn’t far from the truth.  Not just about the President but about all politicians in general.  But this isn’t about just politicians.  It’s about everyone and just how far they’ll go to get what they want.

I for one abhor lies.  Even stretching the truth doesn’t go very far with me.  Oh, everyone has his/her stories and they can tell it the way they see it.  It’s when those stories are no longer stories and becomes lies they live with as truths for personal gain.  That’s the one thing I abhor the most.  This greatly narrows down the list of those I call professional liars.  Now let’s look at the professions I believe to be professional liars.

Spin doctors as they are called.  These people are used by government to make statements to make statistics look good for those in control of our government through various media sources.  What people don’t realize is these people only present one side of any story statistically speaking.  They tend to not include ALL of the facts.  Are they liars?  To a point their job is to lie to the public via not presenting all of the facts. In this case they are not really liars.

Meteorologists to use the proper term.  Some may say they are liars but they are NOT.  The issue here again is the amount of data this profession has to work with.  They rely on historic data as well as garnered data captured by the current technology for forecasting.

Prostitutes ARE professional liars to a point.  They lie more to their clientele than they do to friends and or their pimps (if they have them or they work for a madame).  All the guys know their lies so I won’t expound upon them here.  Even a large number of females know their lies as there are some that AREN’T prostitutes that use these lies to get what they want.

Politicians on the other hand ARE true liars.  They lie not only to their constituent, but to anyone they feel necessary to in order to maintain their grip on the power they have.  They also lie to garner campaign contributions (some of these contributions can be construed as BRIBES).  Often times, they’ll even lie to the other people in their respective field of endeavor.

Often times, I wonder if they know just how many lies they tell.  Do they count them just to keep track?  Do they get caught lying?  I’m not certain about the first question.  The second question I can honestly say that they get caught.  Just not often enough to help his/her constituents.  I truly think the last honest politician we here in the United States had was Harry S. Truman.  Even he probably hid the truth to a certain extent though not through blatant lying.

What we need in this world today is less lying and opinions.  We have enough lying.  Opinions are like assholes.  Everyone has one and they all stink.  If there were more honesty in this world we as the human race would have a lot less strife than we currently have.  Enough said.

Could It Be? Did someone hear my challenge?

January 29, 2013

I’ll repeat the two questions in the title for purposes you’ll see in a moment.  Could it be?  Did someone hear my challenge?  Let me amend the second question and add yet another?  Did the right parties finally get smart and take up my challenge?  Did it take the suicide of a person only seeking to release information that should have been free in the first place?  The following link is what I refer to:

http://www.dailytech.com/article.aspx?newsid=29754

Though classified a selective attack by Anonymous (i.e. Department of Justice), it appears they are finally realizing what I’ve realized all along.  To truly wake up government (not necessarily the United States government but any government), you have to get information that government wants kept secret for fear that it will do one of several things.  Examples of things the governments don’t want exposed:

1.     Corruption

2.     Fraud

3.     Missappropriation

4.     Plots by the government against their own citizens.

It is my sincere hope that Anonymous found all this and more when they “cracked” into DOJ’s servers.  I’ve checked the files listed that were released on Pirate Bay for download.  Though I currently have no computer of my own and can’t download them via bit torrent here at the public library, I’d love to have copies of these nine files to see just what Anonymous has released.  I suspect it’s some very embarrassing items about the DOJ.  By my estimation, the nine files they uploaded have around thirteen or fourteen gigabyte of information.  If it’s all text, it’s considerable.

Also my sincere hope is that Anonymous won’t stop at the Department of Justice.  I hope they dig deeper.  It would be interesting to see what they could find at the Central Intelligence Agency or Department of Homeland Security (I call the DHS the Department of Homeland Insecurity), or even the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  The National Security Agency to me is a waste of time.  There is just too much information there to sift through.  The CIA would be interesting because they should have been closed down years ago during Kennedy’s administration.  DHS because of the Patriot Act which in my book shouldn’t even be called that.  That was the most unpatriotic bill ever invoked into law not to mention most of it being unconstitutional.  As to the FBI, I’m sure there are lots of very interesting things that can be gleaned there.  Cover ups anyone?

All this goes to show you that even our own government can’t stop people from finding out what they want to find out.  How much are they really hiding?  Perhaps things to do with Roswell, New Mexico or even John F. Kennedy’s assassination?  I’m sure there is even more than that.

At this point, I believe the United States government is proving just how stupid of Information Technologist they can and DO hire.  If their website programmers can’t avoid a security issue that has been known in the wild for over ten years,  then they should all be fired and they should get some competent people.  However, competency is another subject altogether when it comes to just how competent the United States of America is.

Please by all means, find more dirt that the career politicians and their cronies have on them.  Anonymous has a start.  Frankly, I don’t care if Anonymous does it or some private individual.  We need to expose the faults and corruption of our own government.  The media is finally getting in the act instead of just listening to their corporate masters.  However, it’s the Internet media that is finding all this out.  Definitely not Rupert Murdock’s crew.