On the Towpath Trail

In the spirit of Halloween, I thought I’d have a little fun with the photos I took on yesterday’s bike ride.  I started my ride in Akron and ended in Peninsula where I caught the train back to Akron.  It was a good ride.  Almost 14 miles when all was said and done.  I did get a bit chilled out there.  The temperature, close to 70 when I started, dropped about 15 degrees while I was riding.  My fingers and toes were numb when I finished.  It felt good to sit by the heater on the train and thaw out.

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This is crazy

So, yeah, I’m gonna do it.

Because I’m just plain crazy.

M and I will be leaving for San Diego on Saturday. I didn’t think I’d be able to participate this year since we’d be gone for the first week or so of NaBloPoMo. I was regretting that because I wandered into some pretty cool blogs last year, had fun, and made some new friends along the way.

But as it turns out, we will have wireless where we’re staying in San Diego. M will be bringing his laptop. With this winning combination, I think I can churn out a few sentences every day while we’re away.

Wish me luck. And while you’re at it, why don’t you join me?

Not a significant source of protein*

I watched some of Live Earth today while taking breaks in between the cleaning and cooking. I left the computer on while I was working and listened to some of it as I kept busy doing the things that need to be done around here. The laptop doesn’t have the best sound system in the world, but it was the only way for me to watch and listen so it was good enough.

The live stream MSN put up was nice in that I could choose which country to watch/listen to. Figuring that M the Elder will want to watch the network version on television tonight, and also figuring that since it’s an American network (NBC) they’re likely to play a lot of Al Gore’s speeches and the performers that played in the U.S. and the U.K., I decided to listen and/or watch places such as China, Japan, Brazil, and South Africa. I particularly wanted to watch South Africa to see/hear Angelique Kidjo and Joss Stone. I don’t know where I first heard Angelique Kidjo. But I liked her so much that I bought one of her CD’s even though I couldn’t understand the language she was singing in. I’m not sure language matters so much when it comes to music. At least not to me. That’s why I own such a wide variety of stuff I don’t understand, such as the Orishas (a Cuban rap group).

Joss Stone performed with Angelique Kidjo for one song (“Gimme Shelter”), a bonus in my eyes. I’m a big fan of both women.

That said, I got supremely annoyed with all the talk about “saving the Earth” or “saving the planet” or “saving our continent.” No matter how badly we fuck up, unless we somehow manage to blow the place to pieces, the planet will still be here. We can heat things up until the polar ice caps melt completely and the Earth will be changed, but she’ll still be here.

What I think they really mean to say, and should be saying, is that we’re trying to save ourselves. Seems to me we’re also trying to save our way of life. I’m not entirely sure that’s a good thing, but will admit that I like modern conveniences and have never had a desire to go back to the past. Running water, water that is drinkable, and showers are all amazing things. I enjoy having heat and air conditioning, and I’d hate to give up my flushable toilets. While I’m sure I could live without it, I like being in touch with the rest of the world via the computer. I’ve made some great friends through this medium.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m almost as green as Kermit the Frog, and I’ve been that way long before it became fashionable (I’ve been called a “tree-hugging hippy” more than once, that’s for sure). I’ve spent a lot of years wondering why American businesses and corporations resisted the idea of coming up with green ideas and solutions. Just think of all the money to be made. Well, now that it’s fashionable and all, I guess they’ll be seeing how much money there is to be made.

I’m not all that fond of the ethanol idea that’s being promoted. Of course I think decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels is a grand thing. However, with all the farmers jumping on the ethanol bandwagon by growing corn and soybeans for that purpose (because that’s where the money is right now), who’s going to grow the food we eat? On the other hand, it might be a good thing if it brings back the small, local farm. Watch for rising prices in food and drink until this all evens out somehow. I read an article recently about how barley prices are going up because farmers are selling their barley crops to make ethanol. That means the price of beer will rise. So will the price of meat and dairy products since barley is often used to feed the livestock.

We lived near an ethanol plant in southern Ohio. It closed down while we were living there because ethanol wasn’t the “in” thing. Funny how times change. Ethanol plants stink, you know. It’s a little like smelling wort when it’s cooking. Wort, for those that don’t know, is the cooking brew that eventually becomes beer (boiling water, barley, malt and hops). Smelling it for a little while isn’t so bad, but when it’s constant it can become nauseating. I have no idea what the pollution from ethanol plants does in terms of the environment and air quality other than the smell.

Anyhow, I didn’t mean to start ranting or pontificating. Life will be simplifying for M and I in many ways when we move back to the Bogs after this sabbatical adventure. We were already working towards eating locally grown foods, cutting back on meat (we’re mostly vegetarians when we’re home), and doing what we could to cut back on our energy usage (such as hanging the laundry out to dry rather than use the dryer when I can, keeping the heat and air conditioning on a timer so we’re not heating or cooling the place when we’re not home, etc.). We recyle, reuse, and have reduced as much as possible.  As I watch all these “green” ideas flash by on the Live Earth broadcasts I can sit here with a slightly smug smile, knowing that we were already ahead of the game. The smugness and smile are only slight, though, due to the fact that I know there’s more we could be doing.

The suggestions that Live Earth are flashing are not new ideas.  They’ve been around for a while.  But now they’re fashionable.  Perhaps making them fashionable will finally make a difference.  Who knows?

More change is coming for us in the Bogs. Food waste will be going out to the compost pile. I’ll be canning and freezing the locally grown harvest. I also plan to start baking our own bread and going back to homebrewing. I’m a little out of practice with the homebrewing (other than the mead I made last spring), but it’s so much like cooking that I’m sure I’ll have no problem getting back into the swing of it. Barley is probably going to be more expensive, though.

I still haven’t decided about the chickens. One thing at a time. The garden first, and then the chickens. Maybe.

*An inside joke around here that really has nothing to do with the contents of this post. M and I recently bought a quiche to have for dinner and the packaging made it clear that it was “not a significant source of protein.” I thought that kind of odd, given that it was made with eggs and cheese. Go figure.

Blog rating

A little fun:

Online Dating

I’m shocked.  I thought I’d get at least a PG rating.

The law of attraction?

The Secret is everywhere (including on the Sunday morning news program I’m half-listening to as I type). The Queen of Television, Oprah, discovered it recently and made it even more popular than it was becoming via word-of-mouth (or, these days, word-of-internet). In case you’ve somehow missed this phenomenon, it’s a movie that purports to tell us The Secret to having everything we want in life. That Secret is The Law of Attraction which is, basically, that you attract what you have in life through the power of your thoughts. Positive thoughts attract positive things; negative thoughts attract negative things.

I haven’t seen the film or read the book so I’m not going to review either one. While I believe in the power of positive thinking (and have used it to successfully accomplish things in life), some of what I’ve seen (on Oprah, where else?) about The Secret seems like a bunch of hooey to me, at least in terms of the way it is presented. Positive thinking isn’t a new concept and it looks like The Secret is taking advantage of The Da Vinci Code popularity in the way the filmmakers present the information about The Law of Attraction.

Imagine my surprise when the Law of Attraction came to visit my blog.

After my post regarding spam, I was, well, spammed. 150 comments were identified as spam. The drug dealers were out in force, as most of the spam concerned ordering drugs online. The usual good stuff: Vicodin, Xanax, Prozac, and Valium.

The nice thing about WordPress is that it comes with a neat little widget called Akismet. I’ve been using Akismet, but wasn’t giving it credit. I remedied that today by putting Akismet in the sidebar.

Akismet blocks spam. It seems to do a nice job of it, too. Not one piece of the 150 spams made it into the comments section of my blog. It is stored elsewhere so I can go through it and determine whether or not it’s spam, then delete or de-spam it.

In other news…

M has been working this weekend, running experiments, so it’s been a relatively quiet weekend. I hurt my back on Thursday overdoing it at the gym (no more dead lifts for me!) so I’ve been lounging around, taking drugs, uploading and organizing photos, and catching up on my reading. With the sun shining today, we’re thinking about going for a hike later. One day of lounging around is enough. Time to put my body back in action again before I stiffen up.

I should finish uploading all the Assateague photos today or tomorrow, after which I’ll post a few. That will likely be the last of the photo entries for a while. We’re heading home to the Bogs on April 1st. I’m not taking my computer with me. It’s too bulky to carry back and forth. I will have access to a computer (or computers), but don’t think I’ll bother to upload photos since those aren’t my computers (and I don’t think either one of the M’s would appreciate having their computers clogged up with all my photographs).

More later. 🙂

Spam, spam, spam

I’ve been spammed.

Now, I know there’s nothing unusual about that. I have three email accounts (one of which I haven’t looked at in months) and my yahoo account gets about 2,000 pieces of spam every 3-4 days (thankfully it mostly ends up in the “bulk mail” folder so I never have to look at it unless I’m searching for an expected email that might have ended up there because it’s a newsletter type thing).

Have you looked at your spam lately? There’s some interesting stuff in there. Snippets of some of the great literary works are ending up in spam in an attempt to get past the spam filters.

But that’s not what I’m here to write about.

Today I was spammed by Jesus.

I won’t copy the subject line because, well, it’s kind of offensive and my mother reads my blog (Hi, Mom!). But here’s what was in the email:

Feeling insecure about your manhood can effect every aspect of your life.
Man Xl will cure all these problems and more.
No more worries about size, you’ll have more stamina and last longer.
Women can sense when a guy isn’t secure about himself, do something about

I’m surprised Jesus would be concerned with such things. I realize he works miracles and all, including cures, but really… ?

The names that spammers use have been fascinating me lately. If I ever write a novel, I think I’ll turn to my spam to find names for the characters. I’m really bad at naming things and the spammers seem to be pretty good at it (except for that Jesus character).

I currently have a whole family of Johnsons in my spam box: Young Johnson, Madge Johnson, Evan Johnson, Carla Johnson, Nina Johnson, Bradley Johnson, Judy Johnson, Alva Johnson, Chester Johnson and Jamar Johnson. The Kilgore family is there, too: Valerie Kilgore, Wanda Kilgore, Jonathan Kilgore, Lynn Kilgore, Kirby Kilgore, and Gail Kilgore. There are tons of Smiths, including Edwin, Joey, Cole, and Traci.

Evan is a popular first name: Evan Johnson, Evan Davenport, Evan Potter, Evan Kinsella, Evan Smith, Evan Glenn.

But these are some of my favorites, some of which would make great fictional characters: Crystal Snow, Young Good, Kitty Brewer, Hank Conklin, Sanderson Clint, Cherry Carlisle, Winfred Rush, Dollie Chin, Gilbert Flood, Althea Evans, Edwina Platt, Gus Draper, and Ginger Pitt.

Gus Draper probably runs the General Store in some small town near the Bogs. Crystal Snow, a college student, has hippy parents and she’s just glad they weren’t Zappa fans or her name might be even worse. Young Good lives in the Amish community south of the Bogs. Edwina Platt is the grumpy but good-hearted librarian. Kitty Brewer, a young widow, owns a large horse farm and Sanderson Clint has his eye on her and the farm. Cherry Carlisle is a retired porn star, trying to hide her past (without bothering to change her name). Ginger Pitt is her best friend and has a checkered past of her own that she’s trying to hide. Dollie Chin is the exotic character of mixed parentage.

The funny part is that a look through the phone book in the Bogs might turn up these very people with these very stereotypes. Or maybe that’s what the spammers have in mind — and it wouldn’t surprise me — bringing up those stereotypes via names.

I’m a little tired of looking at photos, hence the excursion into the Land of Spam. I’ve been trying to organize as well as come up with a secure way to back-up my photographs. It’s grueling, eye-straining, butt-numbing work. I’m considering buying an external hard drive to store the photos. More than considering. I’m not sure there’s a better way to go as far as storage and computer access are concerned. The photos I really want to save are being uploaded to one of those websites where they print them. Because, let’s face it, there really is no better means (at the moment) of archiving photographs than prints. Anything computer related will likely end up obsolete. Prints, as long as you store them properly, will hold up a bit longer than, say, the floppy disk. (Anyone out there remember the floppy?  How about key-punch cards?)

Someday soon I’ll get back to Assateague. In the meantime, how about telling me what’s in your spam. Got any good names that lead to good stories? Or just plain funny names?

(In case it needs to be said: My apologies to anyone offended by the Jesus bit. Perhaps the name was meant to have the Spanish pronunciation and I got it all wrong.)

Sunshine & Internet Connections

The sun is shining here in Sabbaticalville today. It looks lovely outside. But a glance at the temperature tells me it’s freezing out there and not quite as lovely as it looks. Nonetheless, I hope to get out there for a walk today. How far I walk will depend on the sidewalks and how much snow and ice are still left out there. From the looks of things up here on the 5th floor, it’s going to be a short walk.

After a short hiatus (a week or two) of slackmongering (I made up that word and have grown rather fond of it), I’m back on track today. I got up bright and early, went to the gym, had a great workout, and even managed to get some laundry started while I was down there (the laundry room and gym are both in the basement).

I beat the Mormons to the laundry room today! Yay! I don’t know if that means anything to my readers or not. I’m not sure I mentioned it here. About two weeks ago I had to spend an entire Monday trying to do two loads of laundry because of a group of Mormons who live in the building. Monday is their laundry day (as the woman pointed out to me this morning when she found I got there before her…hehehehe). The trouble is, they load up all the machines and then leave. For hours. Since I don’t like having to pull out someone else’s undies from the dryers, I had to wait for them to come back which, as it turned out, was most of the day. I was going to give up doing laundry on Mondays, but since I was up so early and all, I decided to go for it. It worked out so well, I think I’ll just start taking a load down with me when I go to the gym in the morning. That’s the sensible and logical thing to do. Nobody else is down there at that time.

Here I am writing about laundry again. Perhaps I should rename the blog: Life in the Laundry Room.

Our internet connection is on the fritz again. Comcast (our cable company) claims it’s the modem. The modem company claims it’s Comcast and that we should have Comcast check the incoming signal. So, we’ve once again scheduled a tech to come out and have a look. He or she will be here on Wednesday. I had a tech here on Friday, but the connection was working fine and dandy while he was here so there was nothing he could do to fix what didn’t appear to be broke. Naturally the connection shut down on us Friday evening and we haven’t been able to get online again until this morning.

We pay far too much money for this. We haven’t had a decent connection to the internet since the snow and ice hit last week (Tuesday night). Someone should do something about the cable companies and their monopolies.

Internet problems aside, M and I had a good weekend. He had to work throughout some of the weekend, getting a grant proposal ready for submission. But he took time out for fun, too. We went to a party on Saturday night. It was a goodbye party for some friends of M’s. He went to high school with them. It was fun. Good food, good beer, good people.

We spent a large part of yesterday afternoon at a local pub so M could access the internet on their free wireless. He had to submit the grant proposal electronically and he couldn’t do it from home. It’s rough, having to sit in a booth by the fireplace, sipping on beer, munching on some excellent crab dip (with artichokes and spinach), while reading a good book as M worked on his grant. I might have to thank Comcast for that.

I’d better get this posted while I can. Who knows how long this connection will last? (I’m guessing it will last until after the tech comes to look at it on Wednesday.)