Indigo Girls Concert

27 February 2020

Raegan has been a fan of the Indigo Girls for many years.  I’ve heard a couple of their songs that I really like.  I’ve been keeping an eye on their concert tour schedule a couple of years, and when we found out they were going to be here, naturally we wanted to go.

The show started at 2000 with singer Lucy Wainwright Roche, who has a decent voice and is pretty funny.  She got up there and basically did something like seven songs in a row.

Right after Lucy finished, they did a quick stage reconfigure, and the Indigo Girls came out at 2030.  After that, it was 2.75 hours straight of music. No pauses or intermissions, just a minute or so between songs for the Girls to switch instruments.  The vast majority of the songs were acoustic, and I think there were two songs where one of the Girls had an electric guitar.  They also used a mandolin and a banjo.  Lucy came back out for backing vocals, and they had a dynamite violin player who also did backing vocals.  Other than that, a guy hidden off stage right with a keyboard made up the crew.  No bullcrap, just playing songs to an enthusiastic audience that sang along with most of the songs.

I have to admit, I didn’t recognize a single song.  I’ve listened to a couple of their albums over the years, but not enough to memorize more than two songs, neither of which they played.  But, and this is important to me, I could recognize the words to the songs for the most part, and so I could figure out what the songs were about.  The technical execution wasn’t bad.  The first song had some distortion from one microphone, but it got corrected very quickly, so the sound people were on the ball. They had very simple lighting that wasn’t distracting.

The venue, Jones Assembly, sucked (see previous post). I can’t think of an act where I would go back unless they change and get some damn chairs to sit in.

So a good show was put on, the way it should be.  I hope we cross paths with the Indigo Girls again at some point, I’d happily see them again.

Jones Assembly, Oklahoma City

27 February 2020

Last evening Raegan and I checked out Jones Assembly in OKC, for an Indigo Girls concert (see next post).

In short, the venue is terrible.

We got there (amazing for us) at 1815, before the doors actually opened at 1830.  We were wanded by a security guy, who sent the people ahead of us out of the line for a small pocket knife, and totally missed the large knife-laden multitool I had on my belt,

Now, there’s stuff on their website about while they sell all tickets at general admission and standing room only, there is adequate seating.

When we got in, we found the truth.  There are two areas.  One, with the stage in front, is truly standing only.  The other area is separated by a tall brick wall, with two garage doors, which were not opened.  The second area has a food ordering window, and some tables and chairs.  This area is open to the sky, and so last night was cold as hell (air temp was around 34F).

So basically, from the time we got there until we left, we were on our feet for 4.5 hours.  Raegan, who is still in rehab for her second knee replacement, was quite miserable and in pain after about an hour.

So I say don’t go to Jones Assembly.  I’m going to inquire if they are ADA compliant. Chairs are not that expensive, so what kind of nut sets up a venue that way?

Sanders, and Castro

26 February 2020

The comments by Bernie Sanders with respect to Fidel Castro, and the uproar they caused, I really find non-relevant.

Sanders would not be my first choice as the Democrat Presidential nominee.  But he, or any of the current Democrat candidates, beat the hell out of another four years of the dumpster fire that IS Donald Trump.

Sanders says things, but he has been consistent.  He tells the truth.  We don’t have that from the Republicans, or in particular the Liar-In-Chief Trump.

So Democrats are a hot mess right now.  Not surprising, given that they are in the middle of a hotly contested nomination. My only worry is the people (like many Sanders supporters in 2016) staying home because their candidate wasn’t the nominee.

I’m voting for the Democrat candidate regardless.  Even Sanders; so he praised something Fidel Castro did 30 years ago.  I don’t have to worry that he, or any of the others, would place Russia over the United States, like Trump has done repeatedly.  I don’t worry that any of the Democrats will spit on the Constitution, like McConnell.

Voting Blue, no matter who.

Wal-Mart Pickup

12 February 2020

I had my second experience with the Wal-Mart grocery pickup service.  I’m amazingly happy with it.

A couple months ago, Raegan and I were getting food for our Girl Scout troop campout.  We were feeding about 10 people, and we decided to try the online ordering and pickup service.  While there was one substitution we were not entirely happy about, it was acceptable.  The best part was pulling up to Wal-Mart on a very busy day, and then heading out again 15 minutes later with all that food.

It was even so last weekend.  For our Scouts BSA troop camp, I decided that the adults would do the cooking and cleanup to get the boys off to the shooting event as quickly as possible.  I was buying food for 25 people, and was in the Dallas area through Friday morning, and the camp started Friday evening.  So that Thursday evening, I placed two orders from my tablet; one was the breakfast order, and the other lunch.

One cool thing, I saw the totals for the food in real time, so I could ensure I was within the budget for each meal.  It only took about 15 minutes to build and place the orders.  There were texts the next day as the pickup time approached, and the orders were ready when I pulled in.  The employees loaded one order into the passengers seats, and the other into the back of my Sorento (that was a help when my Scouts loaded the two sets of food into two ice checks and dry boxes to transport to camp; I didn’t to spend time rooting through the boxes looking just for breakfast). Again on a busy afternoon, I was out of there in about 10 minutes.

So overall, it was a big help.  I did specify several things that I didn’t want substituted, for example, I wanted Pace picante sauce, not some off-brand.  The only substitute was for one type of cookies; the package size I specified wasn’t available, so they went one larger at no cost increase.

I think we may look at this for our personal shopping as well.

Impeachment Trial is a Coverup

21 January 2020

It’s clear that few (if any) Republicans have the courage to admit what is clear:

  1. Trump committed impeachable offenses.
  2. There is evidence, and there are witnesses to his conduct.
  3. There is a coverup going on that involves Members of Congress and executive branch officials.

The rot and corruption in the Republican Party has a long and sordid history.  The Party needs to die and some other political party replace it in order for the country to move forward.

UMC Split

3 January 2020

I read in the Washington Post today that the United Methodist Church is formally spinning off into two parts, one based on bigotry and the other based on Christianity. The bigoted part is opposed to marriage equality, and also opposed to ordination of gay people.

It’s too bad.  I’m not a Methodist, but many relatives and friends are.

I have a sense of amazement that this should even be an issue.  I get that there are still bigots around, but I can’t fathom why, of all the prohibitions in the various bibles, that the fact that there are people who are gay should be the thing to focus on.  C’mon, bigots, where are your hateful feelings about your sinner friends and relations that eat shellfish, or who are divorced?

It’s stupid and shortsighted.

Thoughts On The New Girl Scout Outdoors Badges

2 January 2020

I’m a long-time Girl Scout leader (and Boy Scout leader as well), and I’m quite wrapped up in the outdoors programs of both organizations.  Readers may recall that I have a low opinion of the Girl Scout outdoors program.

So when GS-USA announced that new outdoors badges would be made available, I was hopeful.  Here are my thoughts on some of these badges, in no particular order.

Trail Adventure (Senior):  Girls can do trail running or backpacking.  The first requirement is to do some research about the sports, then do some planning.  OK. The planning part is arguably the most important thing about backpacking in particular, but this requirement is at the 30,000 foot level of detail. I don’t think the average 14 year old can learn something like backpacking in a vacuum, and that’s how these requirements feel to me.  The suggestion to take a day hike with an experienced trail runner or backpacker is a good start, but it really should guide the girl in the expectation department (stop and pitch a tent, cooking, etc.).

Step 5 is to go on the adventure.  And here is where I have a big issue – there is no mastery of the sport required.  No mileages, or number of overnights, or anything concrete.

Eco Trekker (Senior):  Learn about conservation, water in particular.  Then go out, and either mark a trail map for durable surfaces (an LNT requirement), or collect water and test it, or build a mound fire.  Again, do one thing that is low-effort.

Adventure Camper (Senior): The usual planning (with more detail than Trail Adventurer), but again, a single camp, which again would not build any mastery.

Survival Camper (Ambassador):  This one has potential.  It’s essentially the backpacking badge above, but you build a shelter instead of taking a tent.

Troop Camping—Primitive Camping (Cadettes):  This is essentially a single plan and take a backpacking trip (but the dishes cleaning method using three wash basins is a little weird for backpacking).

So overall, my judgement is that these outdoors badges are superficial.  For an organization that talks a lot about getting girls outside, these are skim-the-surface activities.  I would argue that you shouldn’t get a badge for an activity that’s fairly complex and demanding unless you show some proficiency in the activity, and these don’t have any goals for girls to strive for.

A Sad Day For America

19 December 2019

The impeachment of Donald Trump is a sad day for America.

While he is certainly responsible for the consequences of his actions, the real blame lies with the Republican Party.  It is beyond me how a major political party could allow itself to be subsumed in fealty to such a person.

Trump is a jerk, classless and arrogant.  He uses race as a weapon.  Regardless of all that, he was elected.

The Republican Party is enabling his behavior, as the culmination of a long history of increasingly un-American behavior that is attempting, in effect, one-party rule of the country.  Trump may have felt that he did not have to answer information demands from the House of Representatives due to the fact that Democrats controlled the chamber.  However, the Constitution does not allow a party, or a President, to define when they give information to Congress.  Even in the face of obnoxious or even baseless requests, the information must be provided.  Note that the Obama administration complied with each request from the Republican-controlled House and Senate.

As to the abuse of power, I feel that the “impeachability” of Trumps’ actions are subject to debate.  He may not have even realized that the actions he was taking were unethical or not legal.  Regardless, there are so many parts of that situation that still need to be wrung out.  The obstruction charges are directly related to this.  If Trump did nothing wrong, why did he restrict many players on his staff from giving testimony?  None of the defenders have gone on the record under oath.  There’s certainly smoke there, and there may be fire.

I wonder how this will play out in the end.  Regardless, if Trump lasts to 2020 (I’m not ruling out him just saying “eff it” and resigning in a fit of pique), I hope that he is voted out by a huge, undeniable margin.

Then the Republican Party can complete its slow decline in integrity and policy.

Impeachment and Biden

6 October 2019

Trump has admitted to committing impeachable acts. Good for him.

But he has been frothing at the mouth to try and get Joe Biden and/or Hunter Biden investigated for some reason.  So maybe Hunter Biden was getting big bucks to sit on the board of a Ukrainian company for little work.  So what actual impact might an investigation have?  Joe Biden has been the leading candidate for the Democrat nomination, while Sanders and Warren have been slowly catching up.  Biden, in the worst case, may receive enough damage that his support drops to form a three-way race.

And that’s OK.  I like Biden, he would make a fine President.  However, if Warren was nominated, that would be fine as well (and that includes several other of the Democrat candidates).

Bottom line, most of the top Democrats can beat the dumpster fire that is Trump.  Any of them would be a better President.

Trump can froth and rant all he wants, he is still despicable. Obama is a far better person, and was a far better President. The next Democrat will be both as well.

Good Riddance, John Bolton

11 September 2019

Bolton was far too anxious to start wars, particularly in the Middle East.

I’m glad he is gone, and I hope he never disgraces the American political scene again.

Driving A Hybrid Ford Fusion

26 August 2019

For a business trip to Omaha, I rented a car to make the drive from OKC, as I do about half the time.  Avis gave me a newish Ford Fusion, which is the same kind of car I drove OKC-Dallas and back a couple weeks ago, except this one was a hybrid.

Hybrids, for those who don’t know, are powered by an electric drive. While the electric drive use significant batteries, the car has a gasoline engine (smaller than the non-hybrid) that fires up to charge the batteries when they start getting too low.  The batteries also are charged as the car slows down, through coupling the braking action with generators that charge the batteries.  As we all know, perfect efficiency in using and producing electricity is impossible, so every once in a while, the motor has to fire up to keep the batteries charged.

So my DFW conventional Fusion got about 28mpg.  The Omaha hybrid Fusion got north of 48mpg. So not bad there.

The user part of the car (the cabin) was unchanged, but the trunk lost about a third of the luggage space.  Raegan and I travel with a rolling bag apiece and two backpacks.  The conventional Fusion handled those with no issue, and space to spare.  The hybrid had to be crunched in, and no room to spare.

This car had the radar integrated in with the cruise control, and it worked really well.  Numerous times I would be going along at 80 on the interstate, a car would pull in front of me, and the car would automagically slow down and maintain about 75 ft between the two cars.  Once the car in front moved over, the car would quickly accelerate back to 80.  Braking was very smooth.

This car also had a drive alert.  If the car though that I was weaving or drifting, it would ding-ding-ding and show a red alert indicator that had a steaming cup of coffee on it.

The Fusion had smart high-beams!  Cruising at night, if there was no oncoming traffic, the brights would kick on.  With any indication of traffic in the other lanes, they would go back down very quickly.  I was not able to experiment with traffic in my lane, but in at least one instance the brights were on when there was traffic in front of me about a quarter-mile.  You can turn the brights off manually.

The car had collision avoidance that I managed to test twice in slow-moving traffic.

The car didn’t have a lot of pep.  I understand all-electric cars like the Volt essentially put the motors next to the wheels, directly connected to the batteries.  I think that the Fusion probably has a conventional drive that it shares with gas models, and loss in that transmission (coupled with a single electric motor, maybe?), slows it down some.  This hybrid was certainly less peppy than the conventional.

The car had a much smaller gas tank than the conventional, which makes sense as we rarely heard the motor actually running.

The only weird thing was getting in and pushing the Start button.  After a couple seconds, an indicator would show up on the dash – “Ready To Drive”.  Put it in gear, push the accelerator, and off you go.  It’s kinda odd to hear tire noise on the ground only.

So my first hybrid was a nice ride, comfortable, and a good learning experience.

Paper Junk Mail Hell

25 August 2019

A curse on the numerous companies that do not allow opt out of paper junk mail.

I just spent about two hours sorting though and then destroying a huge amount of junk mail that comes to the house, almost every day.  At least once a month I have to do this.

A special hex on USAA!  Even though our lives are tied up with the insurance and banking giant, and despite the fact that they claim to have opt-out for every type of account, I still get paper statements EVERY SINGLE MONTH from them.  Every one of these I have to rip open, extract the info from the plain paper, and then feed them through my shredder.  USAA:  We love your service, but your tree-killing insistence on sending me stuff is dumb.

Then there are the f@#king credit card offers from so many companies.  Notice to each of them:  I’m not getting your card.  Bugger off.

There are quite a few financial “service” offers.  I can only image, and I’m not taking a single one.

And to the State Farm agent here in OKC that’s been sending me mail every couple weeks for the past 20 years, NO NO NO NO NO EVER!

My wall of shame:

  • USAA
  • American Airlines
  • Chase Bank
  • Capital One
  • Hilton Honors
  • AARP
  • JP Morgan

KNOCK IT OFF, willya.

Some places are better.  Anthem/Blue Cross used to send a fat envelop every time they had a claim.  They set up a decent site online to look at all that stuff, and hooray to all my utility companies for doing the same (City of OKC, OG&E, etc.).  We still get stuff from the Anthem Slime Sub Meridian Resource, but those just get shredded without even a review.

Several of my magazines have gone digital, and for those I am grateful.

Tomorrow I will take three sacks of paper out to the recycle bin.  While a lot of it is magazines, to much is shredded paper.  I want that flow to slow down, a lot.

Using the Garmin InReach Explorer+

12 August 2019

I carried a SPOT device from 2012 until 2016; it worked well for letting my wife know my position when I was in the backcountry.  I also carried a GPS (most recently a GPSMap62s).  The combination worked for me.

I gave my SPOT to my son when he drove to Alaska, and I started looking for a replacement.  I looked at a number of devices.  I was particularly intrigued by the devices that offered two-way comms.

I ended up settling on the Garmin InReach Explorer+.  It had the following advantages:

  • Using the InReach replaced both a SPOT and my GPS. I lost about nine ounces from my pack weight, from the two devices and one set of spare batteries apiece (of course, one used AAA and the other AA).
  • The monthly charge for the InReach was comparable to the SPOT.
  • The InReach had better maps, and free updates.
  • The InReach sent messages two-way.
  • The InReach charges from a micro USB.  My headlamp does also.  This means I can either charge both from a power brick, or from a solar panel.

In the general category, the InReach can be used with a smart phone acting as the message interface.  While the scroll-and-click by the letter works OK, the phone interface is much faster.  The phone also makes reading maps much faster.  The battery on the InReach so far has lasted without needing recharge on a six-day trip.  The monthly cost for the service is comparable to the cost to run a SPOT also.

There was one disadvantage:

  • It cost $450.

Now, if I were buying both a decent GPS and a SPOT, the two of them would be about the same, so that may work for some people.


So far, the InReach has not missed sending or receiving a message either in town or in the backcountry.  I’ve used the maps, tracking, and odometer functions the most (like, 99% of the time).  I also have used the sun and moon schedules every once in a while.

There is one fairly useful function – you can send a message and get a fairly detailed hour-by-hour weather forecast for the location you are at.  I wonder if this could be updated to add receiving a current radar image?

I’ve only had one real glitch with the InReach.  On my last backpacking trip, we were going from the trailhead 5.1 miles to the first nights camp.  I had the route loaded into the device, and the current location marker was right on the route.  The distance on the odometer, however, was about 2x the actual distance.  So at the end of the trail, the device showed 12 miles of progress. Accurate, not so much.  The downloaded track, however, showed the correct mileage.

During a backpacking or hiking trip, I will occasionally download a route into the device. My go-to service for this is CalTopo.

During the hike, I will have the InReach capture my hike.  In previous backpacking GPS units I’ve had, once you turn the device on, it starts tracking you.  Not so with the InReach.  After it turns on and establishes where it is, I go into the Trip Info menu and clear that, then go into the Tracking menu and clear it, then right before we get started, I go back into the Tracking menu and clear any existing track data.  One thing here is to set the tracking interval; if you are going fairly straight, a 30-second or 1-minute track interval is fine.  If you are hitting switchbacks that are 30 feet long, or on a really windy trail, you might decrease the interval.  The trade off is shorter intervals means more memory used, and more computing, which affects battery life.  Once into camp, I usually turn off tracking. I also reset the odometer, so for a multi-day trip I can tell how far the entire trip has been, and also how far we’ve gone that day.

Garmin makes money off the InReach sending stuff out, so they have a “want to share your location” when you turn on tracking; if you do that, you will send your location to somewhere, and that means they will charge you for that.

All that being said, there’s also after-trip stuff to be done.  For me, I always export the track(s) of the hike so I can plot the actual hike on a map (I’m often astounded at how often actual tracks differ from map tracks), and I like to see the altitude plots (note, if you do this also, I find it useful to export GPX tracks to Excel, and then I convert the lat/long points to absolute distances (i.e. feet), and then plot the altitude against that.  It gives you a non-exaggerated view of how far you walk and climb/descend.

Now, how you do that after-trip stuff is, to use a kind word, jacked up.  Every GPS I’ve ever had used a serial interface to transfer data into and out of the GPS.  The InReach has a USB port that is used for charging, and NOTHING else.  Unlike my GPSMap60 and GPSMap62s, which mount like an SD card with most any computer, then you can transfer a GPX route into it, or transfer a GPX track of of it.  The InReach will not do that.

Garman:  that’s a dumb decision.

The InReach has a Bluetooth interface, and that’s the only way to transfer stuff into and out of it.  When you buy an InReach, you get a full license to the Garmin-owned Earthmate app.  You are also allowed to create an account on the Inreach website (which you use to set up service plans as a start). So you download Earthmate to your phone, Bluetooth link it to the InReach, and then you use to phone/Earthmate combo to launder stuff between the InReach website, and the device.  It’s not the most reliable link.  I had to do a transfer from my hike yesterday something like five times to get the track from the InReach to the website.  Once the track is on the website, you can name it, color-code it, and it is stored there for some time.

Earthmate has decent maps, and you can update them for free anytime.  If your InReach is tracking you, the Earthmate app will show you your location on that decent map as you hike along.  Now, your phone has to have Bluetooth enabled for this, and that means some extra power is being consumed by your phone.  Also, I have had two instances of the Earthmate app going rogue on my phone and sucking the phone power-dry in a couple hours (I had to go into Apps and KILL it; I think that losing the Bluetooth connection to the InReach caused the issue). There is also the enhanced message interface that may work in your favor.

One other note:  updating the device firmware.  You HAVE to have Windows 10 to update firmware.  There is no way at all to do that from Linux. Garmin, you really should have some way to update the InReach without having to have Windows 10.  It’s not hard, dudes.

One other thing.  The InReach website will allow you to upload routes, and then use the phone/Earthmate combo to launder those to the InReach, and it will download tracks via the laundering method. You can view those on a decent set of maps.  That’s about all the website is good for. You can’t even look at an altitude plot for a track. There are many ways to send messages, and track where an InReach is, but that’s all $$$ for Garmin.  I routinely export my latest track to GPS (a buglet – the InReach website will try so hard to export Every. Single. Track. And. Waypoint into a single HUGE file), then I will import the track into CalTopo to review the track and look at altitude.

If you are not aware, Garmin used to have a tool called MapSource that would perform all of the tasks I needed, and more.  It also stored your trip info on your computer instead of in the InReach cloud. I’ve ended up exporting three MapSource instances to a single set of GPX files on my computer (and backed up, since I have tracks back to 2003).

In summary, the InReach is pretty cool.  There are a bunch of functions on it I haven’t even looked at, but for what it need it for, it’s very reliable.  Being able to do two-way comms gives my wife some peace of mind when I’m in the backcountry.  It’s light, and stays powered a long time, and can be recharged from common power bricks, and solar panels. The monthly cost isn’t unreasonable.  There are some things I wish Garmin would de-glitch, but overall I can overcome those. The InReach is a winner for me.

Racism In America, And More

1 August 2019

Presidential candidate Marianne Williamson had this to say during the recent Democrat debate:

This is part of the dark underbelly of American society. The racism, the bigotry, and the entire conversation that we’re having here tonight. If you think any of this wonkiness is is going to deal with this dark psychic force of the collectivized hatred that this president is bringing up in this country, then I’m afraid that the Democrats are going to see some very dark days.

Regardless of how she does during the campaign, she has identified the basic problem that still needs to be solved in America.  We have too many bigots and racists in the country.

I’ve had a number of interactions recently with friends and others where race and bigotry have had too much of an impact.  For what may be the first time in my life, I have written a person off, someone I’ve known for more than 10 years, for his being a bigoted, homophobic, misogynist, racist.  After one interaction with my son, who told me about extremely offensive language being used, I simply reached my limit and that person is written off as far as I’m concerned.

There have been other interactions with others online that I find similarly disturbing.  Defense of Trump supposedly not being racist. Too many memes that denigrate people of color, impugn the character of entire groups of people.  Some of these people are relatives of mine, some are people I’ve known more than 40 years.

Back before the Trump campaign, I had written several times that I thought and hoped that the last racist cohort would be dying off during this period.  Unfortunately, it seems now, with the election of Trump and the “emboldening” of racists and bigots, we may have another generation or two more.

I think that most of our younger citizens are mainly not racists or bigots; they seem to wear their hearts on their sleeves and I rarely see evidence of racist or bigoted behavior.

Every person in this country deserves, and is guaranteed by the Constitution, equal opportunity. Racists and bigots tend to suppress those opportunities.  The faster they are gone, the faster we can work to get rid of their legacies that have been left in our law and customs.

The Right-Wing SCOTUS Boots It On Gerrymandering

28 June 2019

In yet another example of the adage “Stolen SCOTUS seats have consequences”, the SCOTUS completely showed the conservative stripes that were bought by Mitch McConnell stealing the nomination that was rightfully President Obamas.

Gerrymandering is a way for incumbents to keep themselves in power by voter block suppression.  It should be illegal, no matter which party practices it.  Districts should be subject to judicial checks and balances.  The Roberts SCOTUS ignored it.

I note for the record that in the past several cycles, only Republicans have pushed wide-spread, significant voter suppression and manipulation, including having the Republican  Georgia candidate for Governor being in charge of clearing the voter rolls of… Democrat registrations.

I’ve written before that districts should be drawn in a strict mechanical process for every state.  That keeps politicians from trying to write their own districts.

But the gerrymandering Republicans, the SCOTUS, and McConnell should be ashamed.  I’m sure they are not.

2020 Election Heating Up

26 June 2019

I’m undecided on who to support in 2020, except for one thing:  ANY Democrat is better than the dumpster fire that is Trump.

I just saw a headline from Politico regarding Biden:  “He keeps stepping in it, and it doesn’t matter to voters”.  I think that’s true because at his heart, Biden is a decent, caring man who does his best for the country.  People realize that.

I could vote for Biden.  He did a very good job in the Senate and as Vice President.

There are other Democrat contenders that have good policy, and good character; I could vote for most of them as well.

We need the rest of the blue wave in 2020 to sweep the obstructionist, racist Republicans out of the Senate and the White House.

A Test Post

2 June 2019

These are hikes I’ve taken.

I hope this displays correctly.

Linux and SmartBoards

6 February 2017

Regular readers may recall that one of my major activities is helping keep the technology going at St. John’s Episcopal School and Church.

We have four SmartBoards in the building.  A full SmartBoard installation requires the board (essentially a large touchscreen), a computer, and projector that projects the computer display on the SmartBoard.  Software on the computer interfaces to the SmartBoard, and interprets touches (as mouse clicks) and swipes (as various line draws, highlights, etc.).  The swipes are usually overlayed on whatever the computer is displaying.

The computers we have driving the SmartBoards are very old, 2004-vintage, and running XP.  I did an XP install from scratch on one, and it sped up a little, but it still would not play videos, and the SmartBoard drawing was very sluggish.

A buddy of mine from the Omaha area (thanks, Stan!) donated one of his computers to St. John’s.  It’s a dual-core 3GHz machine with 8GB of memory.  I decided to replace one of the SmartBoard computers with this one.  The license tag was for Vista.  I decided that since SmartBoard supported Linux, that’s the route I would go.

The requirements stated by Smart was a 1.2GHz machine with 1GB of RAM, and Ubuntu 14.04. I had the most recent Ubuntu 16.04 on a USB stick, so that’s what I used.  The install and setup were smooth, as expected, as this was the eighth computer I have installed 16.04 on.  Then I noticed in some fine print on the installation errata that the SmartBoard drivers would only work on a 32bit (386) architecture.  Well, crap, the install I just did was for a 64bit architecture.  So off I went and downloaded a 32bit version of Ubuntu 16.04.  That install was very smooth as well.

I had to go through a lot of gyrations with Smart to get a product key to allow me to download the Smart Notebook software.  I had registered one SmartBoard with them back when I first installed it, and while I registered the other three in the process, only that first registration got me an authorized product key (although, the terms for that key stated that the software could be installed any where in the building.  Whatever.).

I unpacked the Smart Notebook software and drivers, and started reading the installation instructions.  The files were in .deb archives, which are usually very straightforward to install.  There were a lot of instructions from Smart about setting up PGP, running scripts with their key and my key to sign the archives prior to installation, and the first time I followed their instructions to the letter, the process immediately failed with NO explanation except “signing failed”.  Hmmmm…

After about two seconds of thought, I said THWI, and started installing the .deb files as they were unzipped.  I did try to do this in a reasonable order (the common files first, etc.).  All reported installed successfully. Usually after this, I would try to start the service that would be installed, but I didn’t see anything like that in top, so I just restarted the whole computer.  When I logged in again, the status light on the board was and solid, which indicated that the board and computer were communicating.  I did some pokes at the board, and darned if the thing wasn’t working.  I aligned it, and all was well.

I fired up the Smart Notebook software, and got a splash screen, but nothing else.  It sat for a while, still nothing.  I went to the terminal I had open, and any command reported no child processes spawned, which is usually an indicator that all resources are sucked dry.  I restarted again (at least graceful restart was still there), got on terminal and saw the usual stuff I would expect (along with SmartBoard drivers, very cool), and then fired up Notebook again.  This time, ps -x showed more new processes spawned that I could keep up with.  When they got up to 20,000+, the machine basically threw up its hands.

I went off to research.  While I found the same question on a number of forums, the answer was on the very bottom of the errata sheet for Notebook 11:  Notebook will not work with Unity, which is the default desktop of Ubuntu (and was for 14.04, which is the baseline for Ubuntu for SmartBoards).  I installed a Gnome desktop, restarted with that one, and fired up Notebook, which ran perfectly.

I would say that Notebook running wild under Unity is a major bug that should be addressed by Smart.  I don’t think they will; the latest Notebook for Linux is 11, and the Windows version is 16.

Regardless, my favorite teacher likes the new computer, is comfortable with Linux, and likes that the new machine can run SmartBoard programs, annotate documents, and all the other cool stuff that SmartBoards can do.  She can also play YouTube videos and stream PBS and news programs for her kids to watch thanks to the zippy new computer.

So I’m calling Linux on SmartBoards a win overall.  Next, I will deploy Linux on the curernt machine on another SmartBoard (a GX270) and see if performance is better than the XP that’s currently on that one.

Kinda Sad Observation

4 December 2016

I have some long-time friends that are nice to have around, most of the time.

Then there are the times they are just jerks.

It used to be for very short times, but the durations are getting longer.


I actually feel sorry for them.

Post-Election Not Quite What I Hoped For

15 November 2016

I’m frankly horrified by the outcome of the election.

The worst thing to me is the continuing level of vitriol directed at liberals, the Clintons, and the Obamas by Trump supporters.

One thing about the election:  it has shown me who the worst in America are.  Unfortunately, I know a lot of these people personally. The basket of deplorables are basket cases.

Looking Ahead To Post-Election

3 November 2016

I posted this as my Facebook status a while ago:

Oklahoma voting starts today!

I’m voting for Hillary Clinton. She has policies that I like across the board. She will appoint progressive Supreme Court justices that are pro-people instead of pro-business. She has the proven ability to work in a bipartisan way. She lets science guide policy. She is inclusive to people of all walks of life, including our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. She has the experience to keep our military strong. She is a champion of women and children. She will not work to keep our brothers and sisters of color from participating in the country and having their voices heard. She is not obnoxious. does not fear monger, and lives in a world that is reality-based. In spite of the avalanche of BS constantly thrown her way, she has kept to the high road with grace and dignity. She is uniquely qualified, and will do a fine job as President for all Americans.

There were some comments, pro and anti, not unexpected.  You will note that what I wrote above is all pretty much pro-Clinton, as opposed to anti-Trump, and that’s quite deliberate (I could write at least as much anti-Trump, if I wanted to).

One of my friends posted this as a response, both to my post and another friends comment:

America will survive whoever gets elected. The landscape may change, but we will survive and hopefully do a better job in selecting candidates next election.

I generally agree with this, in particular the first sentence and most of the second.  But I’m less sanguine about what the state of the country will be in the (hoped-for!) Clinton Administration.

In the past couple months, and weeks, I’ve seen a level of vitriol directed against Clinton that I would never have imagined.  One of the worst things I’ve seen is playing up that Bill Clinton has an african-american child by a mistress.  Another is the claim that the election of Clinton is a coup d’etat.  Another claimed that a list of ISIS members who donated to the Clinton campaign was found.  So many small facts have been overblown into supposed major crimes (think the after-the-fact classification of a few emails).  And all of this is on top of many, many made-up posts released for the low-information types to pass around.  A few lawmakers have been talking impeachment already (of course, no grounds for anything like that have been discussed).  And other people in Congress have already started talking about endless investigations, never confirming any SCOTUS appointments, and more obstructive inaction.

All of this I find really bothersome.  It’s a rejection of the Constitution by conservatives. It is continued attempts to de-legitimize any Democrat office holder. It’s cowardly.

I am generally all for a multi-party system of government.  But right now, I hope that not only does Clinton win the White House, but at least Democrats take the Senate, and for good measure, the House as well. Getting the do-nothing Republicans out of there will at least let some progress be made on solving or mitigating the problems this country has, which the Republicans have no plan to even address, much less solve.

I’m Tired Of Hearing About Clinton’s Emails, Also

29 October 2016

So that’s something else I share with Bernie Sanders.

As I’ve said many times, the Republicans in general, and Trump in particular, had no policy to compete against Hillary Clinton.  They have been desperately searching for something that looks like dirt on her to try to salvage the Presidential election.

So she ran a private email server, while she was SecState.  Various investigations show no violation of the law.

At some point, the FBI found more emails on a computer used by one of her aides.

That set off howls of outrage among the low-information set that is devoted to Trump and the sickly remains of the Republican Party.  In less than a couple hours, I’ve seen memes fed to those low-info types that howl that the “missing 30,000 emails were found” and “there was classified information that is a danger to the country”.  Pence got on Chris Matthews show and was allowed to run at the mouth for almost five minutes, bitching about how bad the emails were, and being given the opportunity to spout mindless talking points.  The same on CNN and Fox, a bunch of free advertising.

But little intelligent discussion about the actual effect.  What is most likely is that the emails in question are copies of some or most of the emails already looked at, since the computer in question has already been identified at getting messages from the server in questions.

The FBI (the Director, I would guess) seriously screwed up by stirring up the situation without having any indication of any new information.

Regardless, it all comes down to the fact that Trump and the Republicans still don’t have policy to run on.  Unless one of the magic emails is found to have a true national security impact, Clinton will be elected.

Republicans need to grow up to be a real party again, or they will be gone in a couple years.

Backpacking from Mt. Magazine to Cove Lake, AR, 21-23 Oct 2016

25 October 2016

The High Adventure Team (HAT) of Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma had a really nice beginner/intermediate backpacking trip between Mount Magazine and Cove Lake, AR, last weekend.

Photos from the trip are here on my Google+ site.

Summary, 10.8 miles over two days, with about 1400 ft of altitude loss, and short gains, with mostly contouring.

We headed out from OKC around 1630 and got to Cove Lake around 1930.  It was dark, but the Scouts got tents and hammocks up very quickly.  We sat around talking for a while, and looked at the beautiful dark sky with the Milky Way perfectly clear.  Off to the east, we watched the Pleiades, followed by Sirius, and there was a glow on the horizon that was the Moon about to peek over. We saw a couple satellites.  One thing, there was some sort of bio-luminescent critter in the lake that glowed like a firefly.

The next morning, we got up, had breakfast, and packed up.  We drove up to the Corley trailhead to do a water recon and see if there was a good campsite around the halfway point of the trail, but didn’t really see either.  We decided on a clearing that had been recently cut near a natural gas facility.

A note on those.  We saw three others just like the one I reference above.  A natural gas pipe facility, and very nearby, an acre or more of trees are just bulldozed down with a rough road cut.  I figured they were for parking heavy machinery somehow used by the gas company.

Regardless, after our recon we drove up to Mt. Magazine, visited the visitor center, and went to the trailhead.  We had one vehicle shuttle to do, and we hit the trail.

Two things about this five-mile hike.  It’s a long way down (more than 1200 ft), and there is no water along the way, except in one pond we hiked next to.  There were several nice campsites (I waypointed them on my GPS, and you can see them on the terrain plot on the Google+ site).  Note that the campsites, except the one that was near the pond, had NO water nearby.  There were a number of streambeds that we crossed, but dry.

As we got closer to the five-mile halfway point, we noticed a number of good campsites. There was a decent one about 200 yards south of a point where the trailed joined up with a road for a short distance.  Gutter Rock Creek is a decent-sized streambed several hundred yards SW along that road, but again, it was dry.  Our campsite was in a stand of pine trees, and the trunks were perfect for our hammock hangers, and the copious pine needles were a thick and very comfortable bed for our tenters.  There were lots of rocks to sit on and cook on.

The next morning, we got up and had breakfast and headed out earlier than the previous day.  We had about another five miles to go to get back to Cove Lake. Once you get on the short stretch of gravel road, you find a new trail, with both the road and new trail heading steadily but not steeply up.  You level out at the Corley trailhead.  There is a sign there that points down the road, but the actual trail is west of the trailhead; exit the trailhead to the NW, and a short spur leads you to the trailhead near the bluff.

As you hike along to the north, you shortly come to the best view on the trail, that looks back at Mt. Magazine to the south.

The remainder of the trail contours or gently slopes down.  About a half mile from the Cove Lake trailhead, we crossed one stream with decent water in it, and then Cove Creek, with a LOT of water in it.  There were lots of campsites along the bluff with the good view, or in the forest as you get near Cove Lake, but most of them are dry.

This was a nice backpack, easy on our newbies, with decent views to reward our effort. 90% of the hike was in shade.


Two More Bad Things About Conservatives and the 2016 Election

18 October 2016

First, there is far too much talk about the election being “rigged” by Mr. Trump.  He is deservedly far behind, and getting further behind, and good for that.  But to call the election system, spread across 50 states + DC + the territories, as subject to widespread fraud, is just not true.

To keep saying that there is widespread fraud (which Republicans have been using as an excuse for several years as a voter suppression tool) is antithetical to the values this country is built on.

The only actual cases of election rigging in the past couple decades were wrought by REPUBLICANS in state legislatures that used gerrymandering.  Not so coincidentally, those were largely the same legislatures that promulgated voter suppression laws requiring voters to have an ID, restricting early voting, and eliminating same-day voter registration, among other tactics.

Second, Senator John McCain, announced (although he supposedly walked it back) that he would not allow a vote on ANY SCOTUS nominees put forward by President Hillary Clinton.  How the principled have chucked off those principles.  Mr. McCain has been on a downward slide of peeling off his integrity since the last election.  In exactly the same vein as Donald Trump, Mr. McCain decided that for political expediency, he would just say “f*k it all” with regards to the Constitution.

Trump and McCain share one pitiful thread here:  complete disregard for the Constitution of this country.

Just for the record, I hope they both lose, and in a landslide.

What Really Frightens Me About The 2016 Presidential Election

10 October 2016

I have been saying for some time that it would be very difficult for Hillary Clinton to lose the Presidential election this time around.  It was clear to me that her policies and temperament were far superior to those Republicans that were running.  I was far more worried about Marco Rubio than any of the rest.

So now, here we are after the second Presidential debate. has Clinton with an 83.5% change of winning, and that’s before the second debate results are known. Clinton is on the rise, and Trump not.  It’s likely the effect of the second debate will accelerate that.

I’m not worried about Clinton being President.

But something else does worry me greatly.  In the past, we’ve had right-wing and left-wing kooks, people who take it too far.  We’ve had the militia groups that were convinced that some sort of apocalypse was coming, and we’ve had environmental groups that wanted to stop lumber cutting or development.  But those types of people were always a small part of the population; a very small part.  I’ve seen numbers that say there are 10,000-50,000 militia members in the country, but that’s 0.015% of the total population.  Even if the numbers were 100 times greater, it’s less than 2%.  A small number of people.  The lefties are even smaller in number, I would guess.

So, from 1992, you have had the Republican Party, at the national level, moving from campaigns based on just patriotism (Bush 41), to fear (Bush 43), to minimal policy (Romney), to no-policy (Trump), with increasing mendacity starting with Romney.

That leads us to now.  Trump issues lies and less-than-truths at a rate not seen yet.  He has two main policy concepts:  controlling immigration and immigrants to keep them from murdering/raping/robbing US citizens; and tax cuts, specified as being significant.

Now, you can argue the merits of these to for a long time (well, not really a long time), and after that you can look at the rest of Trump:  mostly, attacks against policies that Clinton proposes or has otherwise laid out.  Much of what Trump attacks isn’t those policies (as it is abundantly clear that if you are going to argue policy, you need policy of your own to counter with). Trump instead takes the route of attacking stuff that he (or people he talks to) perceive to be bad.  For example, Clinton’s emails.  He wants to see a bunch of deleted emails labeled by Clinton as personal, and the fact they are missing is clearly a smoking gun for something is an article of faith for conservatives.  On the other hand, Trump hasn’t released any emails (or his tax returns, for that matter).

Which brings me to what bothers me.  Throughout the end of the primary campaign to now, Trump has had a voting block of roughly 40% of voters no matter what.  Applying that to the voter population translates out to between 50M – 87M people supporting Trump (the numbers are somewhat amorphous, as do you count actual voters, registered voters, or eligible voters?).

That, to me, means millions of people who support a candidate who is a serial liar, abuser of women, will not come straight with what he wants to do with/to the country in large part, and perhaps worst of all, has no interest in longstanding policy and history in the country of two-party rule.  People he, and his allies, have deliberately scared for months, and furthermore these are people who have little apparent interest in finding out the truth about either their candidate, or Clinton (think about the chants of “lock her up”, when the question “for what” isn’t even raised).

What are those people going to do when he loses?  They obviously have a lot of pent-up rage.  How will it be expressed?  What will Republicans, who created Trump with their do-nothing policy, do if that group turns physically against the country?

When Obama was elected, the number of militia groups, which had ticked up when Bill Clinton was President, then down during Bush 43, rose again.  The reasons were simple, that fear of losing guns or religion, and loss of white control.

I’m concerned we will see more terrorism.  The roots are there:  people driven by base fears, stoked by perceived leaders like Trump, or the Breitbart people, or Hannity, will react the way other uneducated people have done in the Middle East and elsewhere.

And those people will never question why they are scared in the first place.

The Whole Republican Problem in One Sentence

9 October 2016

I was watching Meet The Press this morning, and the feckless Mike Lee was being interviewed by Chuck Todd.  Lee is one of the problems with the Republican Party.

He made a statement that sums up why Republicans can’t go away fast enough:

“That’s what unites us more than anything else as Republicans is the fact that the Washington political establishment is broken and Hillary Clinton needs to be defeated.” – Mike Lee

The Republican Party is not united by any common policy, or support for the middle class, or anything else like that.

Take a closer look at the first part (the second part is just stupid and not worth consideration):  The fact (questionable) that the Washington political establishment is broken is an indictment of all national level politicians, including Republicans.  I think that the vast majority of the cause of the breakage is Republicans, starting with Gingrich in the early 90s, to the policy of total obstruction by Boehner/McConnell now (Lee is a large part of that, as well).

The entire Republican Party at the national level is based on cowardice.  The playing to the fear of low-information voters is part of that cowardice.

Backpacking and Hiking Glacier National Park, MT, 16-23 September 2016

2 October 2016


50+ miles walking in Glacier National Park, MT, with an early departure due to lousy weather to see the Park.  Massive views otherwise, a lot of critters and critter signs, amazing lakes.

The photos for the trek are on Google+ here.

Want to go back already!

Getting There

I’ve been putting in for backcountry permits at Glacier for the past couple years, and this year we finally hit one in the lottery, with an itinerary Clark had submitted.  I quickly found out that United or Delta were my only choices for flying into Kalispell, MT, which was the closest airport to the Park.  $550 later, I was ready to go.

The team had decided to get to the Park a couple days early and dayhike, so we all came in for Friday.  Chuck and I headed out from OKC way early, and in Denver we had a delay due to an airplane problem after we launched for Kalispell.  The flight between DEN-FCA was stunning, we flew over East Yellowstone.  I will put up a separate blog post for that.  We got in about 1115, picked up Clark and Jason in Kalispell and had lunch, then headed to the Park.

Jason had found a very nice house that would sleep us all at Glacier Guides.  We dropped out stuff there on the way to the Park.


We had a total of 17.58 miles dayhiking over three days.

First, we headed up to Avalanche Lake.  We were amazed that in late September, the trailhead parking was full, and then some.  There was construction going on the boardwalk part of the trail.  The trail up to the Lake was pretty easy, and there were a TON of people going up there.  We were on the trail from 1415 to 1700.  The trail starts on the Trail Of The Cedars, which is a loop boardwalk trail.  At several points you are treated to small cascades on Avalanche Creek.  Once at the Lake, you immediately transition from woods to a majestic wall around the south end of the Lake that had three ribbon waterfalls coming down a couple thousand feet. Photos were taken in quantity.  We hiked along the lakeshore, alternating between river rock and bigger rock hopping.  We got about halfway along the shore when we decided that it was getting dark, so we headed back.  We found a trail to the main trail; if we had realized that trail was there we would have made better time and more progress to the head of the Lake.

This hike was 5.86 miles roundtrip, and about 650 ft of altitude gain.  Highly recommended.


Saturday, we started the day by hiking a loop trail that ran by Sacred Dancing Cascade and McDonald Falls.  This was a pretty flat trail for the most part, except the part that goes by John’s Lake, where you get a little up.  The woods on the north side of McDonald Creek were deep and dark.  The Falls were very pretty, I climbed down about 30 ft to get near the surface of the creek.

This hike was 3.03 miles, and had a total of 500 ft of altitude gain, mostly on the south side of Going To The Sun Road to climb up to the Lake.


After the loop hike, we headed back into town to pick up Dave, then get lunch, then back into the Park for some more hiking.

This was not so much happy.  We had decided to drive up Going To The Sun Road for the views, and to hike to Hidden Lake.  On the way up, it started to rain, and the wind started to blow, and as we went up, the clouds came down, and in short order we were in a low-visibility situation.  We ended up at the Visitor Center at Logan Pass, looked around a couple minutes, then hitched up our rain gear and headed out.  It was raining, sleeting, and blowing hard enough that a couple times you had to push pretty hard.  The first part of the hike was over tundra, and was on a long boardwalk with occasional trail.  There are some pretty waterfalls to the north.  We got out to the overlook, and looked over a bunch of clouds below us.  We decided that the Lake would not be seen today, and headed back down.

The hike to the Hidden Lake overlook was 2.98 miles, with about 550 ft of up, and then 550 ft of down.


We headed back to the house and met up with Lance and Luke, then headed into Columbia Falls for dinner and a grocery run.

The third day, we drove into Whitefish to do a bit of shopping for gear, then headed back into the Park for lunch and another hike.  For this one, we decided to hike up to Fish Lake.  I really wanted to see a moose, and figured that an alpine lake would increase the odds.  This hike was a very straightforward out and back off of GTTS Road, and it had a bit of a climb.  We crossed several streams along the way and back, and had some nice views of Lake McDonald from the trail.

This days hike was 5.65 miles round trip, with a gain and loss of about 1,200 ft.


After our hike, we returned to the house for some home-cooked spaghetti and meat sauce with garlic bread, and final packing for departure the next morning.

We had been checking the weather.  The next two days were nice, with rain predicted for Wednesday afternoon, and snow Thursday and Friday.  Snow was predicted for the southeast side of the park, which is very high.  We went into the Backcountry Office and talked with them about routing, and made a change to reflect a route I had tried for the previous two years, modified to a different camp site for Thursday evening.


Day 1

We had a really good breakfast before leaving, and got out of the house around 0900.  It was steadily raining (the forecast notwithstanding), and the drive on GTTS Road had not really improved view-wise.  On the other side, we broke out in sunshine (mostly), and turned north at Babb for the trailhead, near Chief Mountain very near the Canadian border.

We managed to hit the trail around 1030 after the drive in.  It was a perfect day to hike, with temps in the 60s, with the only downer a very stiff wind blowing into our faces.  We hiked along until around 1300, when we found a place that was both in the sun and in the lee of the wind behind some trees.  Lunch was very good!

The trail was well worn along here, although a bit narrow, and after a good descent from the trailhead, mostly flat.  We passed a Ranger station with about seven horses that watched us pass.  At this point, we started back into trees, and bounced up and down quite a bit.  We crossed the Belly River on a suspension bridge, ran into and talked to a Ranger, and hike along in pretty good shape.  We had the threat of rain but never really got any.

An unexpected surprise was a beautiful waterfall along the way.  Dawn Mist Falls is about 100ft high and was thundering and stunning.  If you miss the turnoff for the foot of the Falls, you get a good view from an overlook.

We motored into camp at the bottom of Elizabeth Lake around 1645.

We had secured food storage boxes at Elizabeth Lake, and an outhouse.  After storing our food bags in the boxes, we set up camp, and came back for dinner.

Glacier is sorta different in the food area.  There is a food area, and you are required to do all cooking and eating there.  The food area is very nice, with logs to sit on, and upended logs to use for tables.

I had Backpackers Pantry Santa Fe Chicken and Rice for dinner, with a couple cups of chicken noodle soup, and it was great.

It was around 50F when we got into camp, and in the mid-40s at bed time.

Our day was 10.3 miles.  Once you lose about 770 ft from the trailhead, you have a net gain of around 300 ft of climb by the time you get to camp, but the actual gain is probably 1000 ft by the time you factor in a number of intermediate bump ups (and downs).

Day 2

It was 38F when we got up.  Rather, it was 38F when *I* got up :).  The rest of the crew was up around 0700, I struggled out at 0830.  Oh well, I didn’t hold the group up, I got my tent down and stuff packed up when everyone else was ready, and I used a bit of existing hot water to make some hot chocolate.  I ate my breakfast (a bag of Frosted Flakes and a package of blueberry Pop Tarts) as we hiked along.

We headed down the trail towards Helen Lake.  The trail follows the north side of Elizabeth Lake, and contours up and down quite a bit below a cliff that feeds a number of small waterfalls.  There were a lot of sheep and goats up there.

We got to the head of Elizabeth Lake and took a break at the camp there.  The trail continued on towards Helen Lake, climbing steadily but gently.  We found a very pretty waterfall and decided to stop there and have lunch under a beautiful blue sky, with all that mountain around us.  After lunch, we continued up the trail, going another 150 grueling yards until we found the Helen Lake campsite :).  This site had a tall bar installed for hanging food bags.  We did so, set up tents, and relaxed.  We had this site to ourselves.  It was 5 miles and a net gain of just over 200 ft altitude at this point.

One of the highlights of the hike to Helen as seeing the dramatic Old Sun Glacier and a large Yosemite-class waterfall off to the north.

After a bit of resting, we went off on a dayhike.  There were trails heading south of the camp that looked promising, right up to the point that we were in an impenetrable network of brush.  There were lots of berries in there, and we wondered if bears were also.  We retreated and tried the shoreline, but no luck there.  So we headed to the north side.  We tried low first, then went a little higher and found a way through.  We contoured steadily up, and as Sun was starting to get close to Ahern Mountain to the west, we stopped and admired the lake below us, the snowfields to the west, the waterfalls across the lake, and Ahern Glacier above.  We headed back after a bit.  This hike was 2 miles total, and got us about 1/3 of the way along the lake shore.  We also had another 200 ft of altitude gain to get us above the lake.  If I get back there, I will make it a point to get up the lake farther.

Dinner for me was Mountain House Chili Mac, and it was very good.

Our total for the day was 7 miles, and about 400 ft of altitude gain.

Day 3

We awoke to a very overcast sky.  I had oatmeal and hot tea for breakfast.  The temp was 43F.  We couldn’t see any of the mountains around us, the clouds were only a couple hundred feet over our heads.  We headed out at 0830, back towards the tail end of Lake Elizabeth.  Again, it was a nice walk to get there.  It rained on us several times on the way.  We got into camp just afternoon, unpacked the food, set up the tents, and had lunch.  It continued to rain on and off, and the last temperature I checked, it was 45F.

We knew the trail we were taking Thursday started right out of camp on a suspension bridge over the Belly River, and we had been told by the Backcountry Office the bridge would be removed at some point this week.  A couple of us walked over there after lunch, and sure enough, the bridge was gone.  The suspension cables were there, but the deck was stacked up nearby.  A trail crew was busy building a new bridge approach.  They pointed us a bit upstream at a horse ford that was about three feet deep as a place to cross the next morning.  I note that I measured the water temp a bit later at 53F.

We also got a weather update from the trail crew.  The weather was deteriorating, with heavy rain expected were we were, starting later that afternoon, and several inches of sleet and snow higher.  Well…  The next day, we were headed 2000ft higher.  Most importantly, the clouds were going to stay right where they were, and the highs the next couple days were in the mid 30s where we were, and so quite colder 2000ft higher.

We kicked it around as a team.  One option was wading the stream, and taking an intermediate trail that went through Ptarmigan Tunnel, then into Many Glacier.  It was only a 1200 ft climb, but we would end up five miles from our shuttle car.  We could also just escape out the way we came.  We settled on that option.  Then it was noted that it was 1415, and we really couldn’t hike anywhere else, and it was a long time until sunset. So we modified the option, packed up, and headed out about 1515.

There isn’t a lot to say about this day.  The trail was a muddy, disgusting slog due to all the rain.  We had just eaten a good lunch and had a good rest after the five mile walk into camp, and it was mostly down, so we burned along.  We saw a lot of tracks, and a live moose, which was very cool.  Near dusk, we got to the last hill that climbed up to the parking lot.  We all slowed down some on that climb, and we got into the parking lot at 1930, just after full dark.  We had some tired legs.  In all, we walked 10 miles in 5 hr 30 min, which is 1.8 mph sustained, with backpacks.  Not bad.

In all, we hiked 14.8 miles that last day, with 600 ft of altitude loss over the first 13 miles, with an 800 ft gain over the last 1.8 miles.

As you might expect, the decision to abort the second backpacking trip due to weather while on the trail really bugged me.  It was the right decision, given that we had a likelihood of having trouble finding the trail on a high ridge, socked in, with a couple inches of snow.  The overriding thing was not being able to see mountains, which was the entire point of being up there.

The trail:  it was a muddy, disgusting mess.  All of our boots, and our rain pants, and some of our jackets, were covered in mud.  It really made the hike a lot harder, due to slipping around.

Regardless, we got to the parking lot, loaded up in the Suburban, and drove to East Glacier, where some good staff support work by Gayle found the team some very nice (overheated!) rooms at a local place, where we could spread out our wet tents and stuff to dry overnight.

We were so sweaty and wet, that not only did every window in the car fog up, the plastic covering the dash instruments fogged up also.


We saw quite a lot of wildlife, and signs of others.  We saw deer, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, fox, moose, a number of ducks and waterbirds, and elk while out on the trail.  We saw paw and hoof prints from elk and moose, bear, lynx, and cougar.  There was quite a lot of bear scat seen.  I would like to see a brown bear in the wild, maybe next time.


We had no issues with water.  Even when we were not walking by lakes or camping by lakes, there were plenty of streams crossing the trail, and most of them could be pumped from.


Glacier is a lot lower than Rocky Mountain NP, or some of the stuff we have hiked in New Mexico.  This is a plot of the altitudes of the various walks we did.  Note that when I moved the GPS track data over to LibreOffice, I swapped the order of the John’s Lake and Hidden Lake plots.


Getting Home

While we were at breakfast Thursday morning, we all checked on flights, and decided that a departure that afternoon would work.  We drove around the south end of the Park, looking at the clouds covering up the mountains. We drove into Whitefish and walked around downtown for a while after lunch, then headed to FCA.  We had some issues with incoming flights at FCA, which caused all five of us to miss our connections, which were the last ones of the evening, so we were all put up in hotels overnight.  Friday morning (after seeing one of the longest security lines I’ve ever seen), we all got out and home.

Gear Notes

My fully loaded pack, for five days, was 29 lbs.  My Helium 55 held all my gear internally (but it was tight!), and the pack rode well.

Food was good.  I almost forgot to get soup, but found some at our last stop before the trailhead.  Raegan had helped me by taking my two-person dinners and cutting them by half for the trail.

I needed to have replaced my water pump filter before heading out on this trip.  A new one is on the way right now.

My clothing was a good mix.  I would get into camp, put up the tent, and immediately put on my base layer and other long sleeved stuff, and I was warm enough.  I took a fleece jacket that I wore under my Frog Togg rain jacket.

Looking Ahead

I still have not walked on a glacier.  After hiking and backpacking on this trip, I think that I will aim at the trail in the Gunsight Pass area to try to get to Jackson or Sperry Glacier, or focus on dayhiking out of Many Glacier.

Trump Supporters and Scurrilous BS

1 October 2016

So I have posted before about the mystery of why Trump supporters like the guy, when he is a serial liar and has no policy.

But I’ve also been noting a raft of memes that Trump supporters just mindlessly repost.

While in Montana, and then again last night here in Oklahoma, the NRA is running an ad that claims that Clinton wants to take away the ability of Americans to own a handgun. They illustrate this with a woman (white, of course) hearing a noise, leaping out of bed, calling 911, then while she is opening a locked gun safe to get a pistol, the safe and pistol disappear while the ominous narrator states that Hillary Clinton wants to take away the ability of people to have self defense.  It’s bullshit, of course, but I guess the NRA knows the easily scared will believe it.

Another meme (several, actually) purport to convince people that Clinton has had people killed.  I saw another one of those this evening on Facebook.

Several posts today ask why Lester Holt didn’t ask Clinton about several topics, including Benghazi.  I would wonder why Trump didn’t bring that up if he thought it was important, but given that even the Gowdy Witch Hunt Committee finally admitted there wasn’t anything there, maybe news people realize that questions about Benghazi are no longer newsworthy.

Another one claims that the Director of the FBI asked for immunity with regards to the Clinton email investigation; I would have thought that would be explosive, but more likely it’s just crap, and so some conservative somewhere once again made stuff up out of whole cloth, and some people just fell for it.  If you have to make stuff up, your party is not worth a damn.

Another easily debunked post purports to show Hillary Clinton with Osama Bin Laden. Again, if your party has to do stuff like that, your party sucks.

I just don’t get it.  Republicans have drained money to the wealthy, and the easily scared have let them do it, while being led around by fear. The demographics of the country are inexorably changing, and at some point in the next cycles they will lose all relevancy.  I just hope the damage they cause will be minimized.

Trump and Being Thin-Skinned

30 September 2016

I listened to the first debate between Clinton and Trump, and it pretty much affirmed what I have been thinking, and why I will vote for Clinton.  For the most part, Clinton talked about policy, and Trump about generalities, while he lied flat-out many times, compared to Clinton on a couple occasions using weasel words.

But one thing thing I am fairly amazed by.  When Clinton pulled out the accusation involving Alicia Machado, I thought it was a great example of a debater laying in wait with a very strong example to prove a point (and Trump asking the completely non-relevant “where did you find her” was a very poor response on his part).  But now, days later, Trump is just on a tear, on constant attack about Ms. Machado.

I presume that the Clinton campaign was smart enough to vet the accusations made by Ms. Machado.  I have read numerous articles quoting Trump saying more uncomplimentary things about her weight, her personality, and how somehow he was able to persuade the pageant organization to not fire her.  But he has also attacked her for being in a “sex tape” (which does not exist, according to

It makes me wonder just how insecure he is to do that.  I would have thought that he/his campaign would have refuted the claims if possible.  After all, his opponent in the race is Hillary Clinton, not Ms. Machado.  Or maybe he could have tried to claim that Clinton dug up old stuff, and he could trot out some examples of women saying how nice he is.

And to make it worse, at the very least he appears to be lying (again) while attacking (the “sex tape”).

I continue to be astounded that so many people support this very poor candidate. Republicans have been dumping policy in favor of symbolism since the 1990s, and it has naturally devolved into scaring the easily led.

Trump is a new low in mendacity, but it really does not seem to dissuade his followers.

Some Good Android Connectivity

28 September 2016

Last week, I was in Glacier National Park. I had traveled up there pretty light electronics-wise. I had my Galaxy Tab S2 and my S6 phone with me, and that was about it.

It occurred to me that I had checked the memory use of the phone, and it had about 18GB of pictures on it, out of 32GB. The tablet had about 4GB used of the internal 32GB, and another 16GB unused in an SD card. I didn’t want to run out of space, so I really wanted to transfer the photos from the phone to the tablet. I didn’t have any cables, but I remembered that both had Bluetooth, and that Bluetooth could be used to transfer files.

I talked to Jason, who told me that once the devices were connected, there was a Share With… option. I turned on BT for both, paired them, then fired up the Gallery picture file app on the phone, and there was a Share option, which when pressed came up with the tablet. I highlighted all of the photos and started the share. The first time failed to transfer anything for some reason, but I tried again, and both the phone and the tablet put up status banners “Sharing xxx file of xxx via Bluetooth”.

It took about two hours to transfer the 1500 photos from the phone to the tablet (a little slower than I thought it would be). I just let the devices sit overnight. The next morning, I turned off Bluetooth on both, then looked around on the tablet, and after a bit of looking sure enough there were the photos.

I deleted the photos on the phone (always a bit nerve-inducing), and went off tot he trail knowing I wouldn’t run out of space for photos.

I just looked at a couple discussions of file transfer rates:

Bluetooth: 2Mbps
USB 2: 480Mbps
WiFi (N): varies 7 – 72Mbps

It’s apparent that USB would be the way to go, if you have cables. I may have to experiment a bit, since I’ve got a lot of pictures on the phone again :).

Getting A New Passport

9 September 2016

I’m getting close to heading to a life-list backpacking trip to Glacier National Park. One of the things the crew decided to do was go up into Waterton, Canada, for a day.

My passport expired more than 10 years ago, so I would have to get it renewed. A quick perusal of the Department of State website told me I was right on the edge of being able to get the passport in time for the trip. I was frankly dreading the process. I downloaded the application, filled it out, and used the website to find out that post offices were able to accept the applications. I also noted that a FedEx Kinkos near work would take the photos. I called the post office to find out if I needed to go anywhere in particular, and was told no, just the main line. I mentioned I would head that way after I got my photo, and the guy said come on down, they take them right there in the post office.

So I headed downtown, fully expecting a hellish experience.

I walked in, and walked out 15 minutes later, done. Hellish, not so much. The post office people looked at the departure date on the application, and suggested overnighting the app to the State Department, and overnighting it back. It added about $40 to the cost. They took the photo (with a handheld camera), printed two copies of the photo, checked my ID and birth certificate, packaged it all up and off it went. The only weird thing, the State Department only wants a money order for their fee, but the post office people printed a money order right there using my debit card (why not a credit card, who knows?).

I did this on a Friday, 26 August, and it was accepted by the DoS in New York on Saturday.

So a week passed, and we took a trip over Labor Day weekend to Arkansas. We got in late Saturday, and checked the mail, and there was the passport, one week and one day turnaround.

So that’s pretty darn efficient. I am surprised and pleased by how well both the Post Office and DoS handled this.

Now, I’m just waiting for being off to Montana, then Canada.

Emily’s Restaurant, Pinellas Park, FL

9 September 2016

Emily's Family Restaurant III Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I had breakfast at Emily’s this morning. Again, I got there about 0720 and it was empty.

I thought I would have another skillet. This one was PERFECT. Again, ham and sausage and cheese (grated, this time). The potatoes were thin sliced (like I would get in a potato casserole in Omaha), and they were cooked up just right. This one had a layer of sausage gravy between the meats and the eggs, and the combination of flavors was fantastic! This thing was right on the edge of eat-it-until-I-explode territory, it was that good.

The meal came with an excellent biscuit that hosted strawberry jam. The iced tea was great, service was extraordinarily friendly, and my check was $10.60. That may have been the best skillet meal I’ve had, anywhere. Great stuff, highly recommended.

Peter’s Family Restaurant, Largo, FL

9 September 2016

Peters Family Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I had breakfast at Peter’s Wednesday morning. I got there about 0730 and it was pretty much empty. It’s another in the plethora of family restaurants in the area.

I had a country skillet. Now, I like skillet meals as they are usually just a mess of flavors, and that’s a Good Thing. 🙂 This one was advertised as having green peppers, but I asked for them to be not there, and they weren’t. The rest of the meal was some home fries, ham, onion, sausage, and cheese, with a couple eggs (over easy). Two things that were kind of odd, the cheese was a couple slices of American laid on top of the mound of other stuff, right under the eggs, and the sausage was basically links that had been cut up. I’m a bit particular, but I like my sausage as ground up and cooked in with the meal, and I prefer shredded cheese. Beyond my whining about that, it was a pretty good skillet. As is my custom, I cut up the eggies so that the yolks ran down into the mess of food. It was very good.

The meal came with some wheat toast, that hosted some grape jelly. I had some decent iced tea to drink. Service was very friendly. The place was uncrowded (more like mostly empty), so I had time to digest the USA Today while I ate. My check was $9.31. I would happily go back.

Kristina’s Cafe, St. Petersburg, FL

8 September 2016

Kristina's Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I’ve mentioned before that the Tampa area is filled with small family restaurants that resemble east coast diners in that they have a huge menu. I visited three of them on this trip, the first one being Kristina’s.

I had the pot roast. It wasn’t what I expected. It was presented as a slab of roast beast, lying on a bed of egg noodles, and with a red sauce with carrots and onions spooned over it. Although it’s not what I expected, it was pretty good.

I had a small bowl of rice pudding for dessert.

Service was very fast and friendly, and the iced tea was good. My check was $10.49. I’d have no problem going back.

Red Mesa Cantina, St. Petersburg, FL

8 September 2016

Red Mesa Cantina Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Continuing my current business trip, I had dinner with a group of work friends at Red Mesa. There were 11 of us, and I figured that it would be hours, but I have to say up front that the server was outstanding. I never ran out of iced tea, and stuff got to the table in good time.

That being said, this is not a true Mexican place. It’s more Tex-Mex and stuffy. Regardless, it was good.

I got the table a couple bowls each of refried beans and queso con carne to dip our chips in. The beans needed some salsa added, but the queso was great stuff.

I had a beef burrito, it was filled with shredded barbacoa, cheese, and the like. I gutted it to eat it, and the filling was great stuff, just the right amount of heat, and wonderful flavor.

The iced tea was very good, and kept refilled in spite of the size of our group. Our server, as I mentioned, was very attentive, and we had our orders taken, food dispensed, and checks taken care of very efficiently, and he was a very friendly guy. My check was $47.20, but bear in mind that my meal was actually about $12; the rest of it was the appetizers, and a $6.80 forced gratuity (that I significantly sweeted, I will add, the guy busted his tail). I would go back again. The place was only a couple blocks from my hotel in downtown St. Pete.

Longhorn Steakhouse, Tampa, FL (Westshore)

8 September 2016

LongHorn Steakhouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

So I am in Florida this week on business, and I had a couple really good meals.

I’m starting with Longhorn. I can count on Longhorn for a decent steak when I don’t want to take a chance. It was even so here.

I had my standby ribeye. It came a perfect medium, and was very tender and flavorful. I had most of a baker with bacon, cheese, and butter. The soup was a bit of a disappointment. I always get the baked potato, but I received some chowder. The correct soup came right before the steak, and the flavor was off. Didn’t really matter, the steak made up for it.

Service was OK. The iced tea was GREAT as always. My check was $23.32. Reliable.

B’s Restaurant, Chandler, OK

8 September 2016

B's Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

As we headed out of OKC last Friday, we needed dinner, and Chandler was just up the road. B’s is in a hotel right off I-44, nice and close.

Erin had a cheeseburger that seemed to have decent flavor, but it was overcooked a bit and charred. Raegan had catfish, and while she enjoyed it, it was a huge amount of food that she couldn’t finish. I had a ribeye steak that was outstanding. That steak was about 3/4″ thick, perfectly cooked medium, and was darn near fork tender. It was seasoned a bit (they say right on the menu that they love to season), but the seasoning didn’t overwhelm the beef.

Sides were OK. The iced tea was very good, and service was OK overall. Our check was $58.29, that included the very good pecan pie that Raegan had to go, mostly right there in the place :).

Granny’s Kitchen, Huntsville, AR

8 September 2016

Grannys Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

This wasn’t the only restaurant in town (in fact, there are a couple others that look worth checking), but it’s good.

We cruised through Huntsville on the way to the Ozarks last Saturday on our NW Arkansas drive. There’s a creek right below the place that I really liked.

I had chicken fried steak. It wasn’t the best I’ve had, but it was FAR from the worst. I rated the CFS a 9 out of 10, mainly because a 10 is 100% fork tender and just bursting with flavor. There were a couple tougher places on this one. I had a cup of chili also, it was OK. The green beans and mashers with gravy were OK.

But… Raegan and Erin got pulled pork sandwiches. Oh my gosh, that was the best pulled port I’ve ever tasted. Fortunately, I got to eat about a third of Erins sammich. Wow, that stuff was tender and had amazing flavor. I liked the fries as well.

The iced tea was excellent, and the service was very friendly. Our check was $41.56. Good stuff.

Roma Italian Restaurant, Harrison, AR

8 September 2016

Hot dang, I’m at TPA early, and they have desks with power and good WiFi, so I’m going to play catch-up on some restaurant posts!

Roma Italian Ristorante & Pizzeria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Raegan and Erin and I did some very relaxed driving through Northwest Arkansas last weekend, and we had a good dinner the second night in Harrison. The front desk person recommended Roma (not Roma’s), it was a good recommendation.

First of all, Roma is one of the Stealthy Chain Of Italian Restaurants That Is Not A Chain. The giveaway Spaghetti The Works was on the menu.

We got there about 1840 and the place was not even close to crowded.  I had Spaghetti the Works.  Aside from the fact that the marinara was a little more orange than I’ve experienced at the other places, it was perfect, a big pile of noodles and a ton of meat sauce, mushrooms, and a very good meatball.  Raegan had manicotti and Erin had chicken fettuccine al fredo.  All were outstanding.  We had the usual table bread, and some of that outstanding al fredo to dip the bread in, and it was just great.

Service was friendly and just right.  Our check was $50.30.  You probably can’t do better for Italian, or much better for anything else in Harrison.

Where I Stand On the 2016 Oklahoma State Questions

31 August 2016

These are the initiatives currently on the ballot, along with how I will vote on each, and why.  I took the text describing each initiative from Balletpedia.

If any others are added, I will endeavor to add them here.

State Question 776 was designed to assert that all methods of execution shall be constitutionally allowed, unless prohibited by the United States Constitution, and designated statutorily by the legislature.

My take:  I will vote NO on this.  I have been a capital punishment supporter pretty much all my life.  OTOH, I have changed my opinion over the past couple years, with the large number of people freed from death sentences following DNA testing and other advances in crime science, along with the appalling race bias in the courts.  I am of the opinion that the standard for capital punishment should change from “beyond a reasonable doubt” to “proven”, given that capital punishment is something that can’t be recovered from once it is applied.  Until then, I oppose any loosening of the ability for states to ease execution.  The disgraceful rush to kill exhibited in Oklahoma over the past couple years is a good enough reason to keep the brakes on.

State Question 777 was designed to establish a constitutional guarantee for farmers and ranchers to engage in farming and ranching practices.

My take:  I will vote NO on this.  This looks to extend extra protections to farmers that would essentially make them unregulated or less able to be regulated.  Since unregulated farming has made huge messes (think chicken farms in Arkansas or hog farms in Oklahoma), they clearly need the scrutiny.

State Question 779 was designed to increase the state sales tax by one percent to generate revenue for education funding.

My take:  I will vote YES on this, under protest.  The protest is that this is yet another state question that is required because the Oklahoma State Legislature will not do the job the Legislators swore they would do.  Specifically, fund education.  One difference is that this measure is not on the ballot by the Legislature, but in spite of it.

State Question 780 was designed to reclassify certain property offenses and simple drug possession misdemeanor crimes.

My take:  I will vote YES on this.  I do wish that the felony limits on theft of personal property were left at $500 instead of $1000, but overall, this looks like better use of prison resources.

State Question 781 was designed to use money saved by reclassifying certain property and drug crimes as misdemeanors outlined in State Question 780 to fund rehabilitative programs.

My take:  I will vote YES on this as well.

State Question 790 was designed to repeal Section 5 of Article 2 of the Oklahoma Constitution, which prohibits public money from being spent for religious purposes.

My take:  I will vote NO on this.  If they had a way, I would vote HELL NO ( 🙂 ).  This is an attempt by the Legislator and Governor (all Republican controlled, it should be noted) to pander to Christians and try to get a monument to Deuteronomy 5:4–21 placed back on the state capitol grounds, Establishment Clause be damned.  We’ve had too much in the way of enshrining religious practice in law in the country, and this state, and I hope this is not approved.  I do think that if it is, it will be found un-Constitutional in Federal court.

State Question 792 was designed to allow grocery stores and convenience stores to sell full-strength beer and wine.

My take:  I will vote YES on this.  There isn’t any good reason for alcohol drinks to only be sold in liquor stores.  Sounds like a chance for good, healthy competition to me.  Next, lets’s open it up to all booze, and let’s see it sold on Sunday (and Election Day, if that’s still not legal).  It’s done that way in numerous states, and they haven’t seen any moral collapse.

El Sombrero Restaurant, Oklahoma City, OK (N. May)

31 August 2016

El Sombrero Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I noticed this restaurant a couple months ago but haven’t had a chance to try it until this past evening. There have been a number of these in the OKC area over the past couple years, in particular one in Midwest City that I liked a lot, but that location closed unexpectedly. I’ve also eaten in a location near Britton and May.

It was very good. Five of us from St. John’s had dinner there last evening. I noted two references on the menu to steak and shrimp guisado dishes. I’m not a huge fan of shrimp, so I asked if they had any non-shrimp guiso and she told me that the Guisado Dinner was beef and potatoes in a green sauce. Sounded pretty good, and it was! The beef was diced up, tender, and the potatoes and guiso mix was the perfect spice level for me. Just outstanding flavor. The meal came with beans and rice, and not a bit was left. Erin reported her enchilada dinner as very good, and Reagan had a chimi in lunch size that she said was OK.

The iced tea was very good and kept refilled. Service was fast and friendly. Our check for three was $35.17. I will happily return for another meal.

Some Lessons Learned, Order of the Arrow Weekend

28 August 2016

I was nominated for the Scouting honor camping group Order of the Arrow (OA) a couple months ago. This past weekend, I was able to participate in the Ordeal Experience, which is an induction to the Order.

It was held at our Council Camp George Thomas, near Lawton. I was well prepared gear-wise by emails from the local OA Lodge.

Except I suffered somewhat of a failure to really think through my clothing.

I made a conscious decision to wear long pants, as I knew that part of the experience was a work day at the camp. My thought was I might be in brush. I also wore a t-shirt, knowing I would get dirty.

In spite of the fact that I have spent some money on quick-dry stuff for backpacking, I went down there in COTTON jeans and tshirt. So, temps were around 90F, we were working hard outside, and naturally by 0900 I was a soaking wet mess.

One kind of cool thing, I’ve lost enough weight that at one of the breaks, I took my belt off and drilled a hole through it so I could tighten up my jeans.

So I should have worn my new quick-dry Scout uniform shorts (more pockets, too!) and a backpacking shirt. While it would still have been hot, I would have been a little dryer.

Other than my poor choice in clothing, the Ordeal Experience was a chance for good fellowship and meeting some super nice Scouts and Scouters. The camp got a lot of facelift in terms of getting cleaned up after the summer camp season (there was no less than 24 inches of ash in one fire ring we cleaned out, and that thing was four feet in diameter).

The path to our campsite was along the trail my Wood Badge troop had built, I thought that was really neat!

The ceremony crew put on a pair of impressive ceremonies both Friday evening and Saturday afternoon. The only downer was kind of surprising, someone was flying a quadcopter drone over the ceremony Saturday evening, and it was loud and obnoxious. I sorta wish the Guardian had used his bow to shoot the thing down :).

The Saturday night feast was GREAT! Roast beef that was just right.

I’m looking forward to supporting the Lodge and Chapter, although I already wonder how to fit in the time.

Papa Reno, Bellevue, NE

25 August 2016

Papa Reno's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

This restaurant is in the location once occupied by my beloved Mama Alvino’s. I will try very hard not to compare the two.

I had lunch here today with a work friend. We both had calzones. Mine was pepperoni and sausage. The calzone was not that large, and I thought that it was very light in the stuffing (read: there wasn’t much pepperoni or sausage). There was quite a lot of cheese. I would like to make a recommendation to the staff: you might not want to cut the calzone in half before serving, as it spills its cheese guts out; I think it should be plated and served uncut. The crust was pretty good, just the right amount of chewy and decent flavor. The marinara was OK, and each calzone comes with some on the side.

They don’t have real iced tea, but the Dr. Pepper wasn’t bad. Service was pretty fast. The food was OK. My check was $10.64. I will go back, and probably try the pizza next time.

La Mesa, Omaha, NE (Northwest)

25 August 2016

La Mesa Mexican Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tonight I met a work friend here for dinner, as it was roughly between our hotels. And like the rest of the La Mesa outlets, it was outstanding.

As usual, I had mixed chicken and beef fajitas with no bell peppers. Except it showed at the table with bell peppers, and got taken back and replaced very quickly. I dumped my beans, a lot of the excellent salsa, and lettuce on the meat, and squeezed the lemons from my iced tea over the resulting mess, then ate it! It was, simply, perfect. All cooked nice and tender, and with tremendous flavor.

The iced tea was wonderful, the conversation great. Service was perfect. Our check for two was $35.85.

Just a great meal. La Mesa is one of the best Mexican restaurants I have been to, anywhere.

Trump Calls Clinton A Bigot?

25 August 2016

Tonight Trump shouted during a speech that Hillary Clinton is a bigot, and that Clinton doesn’t care about minorities.


He claims that African American unemployment is far higher than it really is. He also claims that African Americans are living mostly in crappy neighborhoods and get shot all the time walking down the street. These two claims are demonstrably, provably, false.

So given that the Clinton Foundation has provided millions of dollars both in this country and overseas to support programs to battle poverty specifically for various minority communities, makes his claim about Clinton being a bigot quite suspect.

Given the definition of a bigot as a “a person who has strong, unreasonable ideas, esp. about race or religion, and who thinks anyone who does not have the same beliefs is wrong” (Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary), I think that Mr. Trump is on very perilous ground. His statements about Hispanics (Mexicans in particular) and minority populations such as African Americans and Muslims are clearly bigoted under that definition. Further, I can’t think of a single thing that Clinton has said that would be considered bigoted.

So once again, we have Trump shouting accusations, without providing anything to substantiate his shouting, and not a word of any policy to address any of the issues he claims are problems.

It really looks to me like the guy is just trying to bluster and BS his way into the Presidency.

Garden Cafe, Omaha, NE

24 August 2016

Garden Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

After I got my hair cut this evening, I did a Google search, and was surprised to see a listing for the Garden Cafe nearby.

There used to be about 10 of the Garden Cafe outlets around the Omaha and Council Bluffs area, and there was even at least one in Kansas City I really liked them, in particular their potato casserole dishes. Regrettably, over time more and more closed.

So I headed over there. It seemed to be the same as the chainlet I thought it to be. I ordered an Omaha Potato Casserole. When it got to the table there was at least a quarter of a chopped red onion, and some pickles. I did a little configuration change by getting rid of the onions and chopping up the pickles over the meal.

It was excellent. The amount of ground beef was prefect, the potatoes were cooked all the way through, there was copious cheese, it was great!

Service was fast and friendly. The iced tea was great. The meal came with a blueberry muffin (pretty decent) that I had as a snack an hour ago. My check was $13.35. Overall, a very good meal that I will be happy to repeat.

Hilton Hotels Premium Internet, Again

24 August 2016

I recently looked at the relative increase in bandwidth you get by paying for premium internet access in Hampton Inns in the Boston area.

This evening, I’m at an Embassy Suites in west Omaha, and here is the updated data:

Standard and Premium Hilton Internet

The Embassy Suites data is on the right, and you can see that the effective bandwidth is doubled, from under 3Mbps to 6Mbps+.  However, in every case from the Hampton Inns, the cost of premium service was $4.95, and here at the Embassy Suites, it is $12.95.

While the Embassy Suites premium is a lot more expensive, it’s not a proportionate increase from the Internet offered by the Hampton Inns.  Yes, it is a larger hotel, but then again, they have a lot more rooms to fold costs into.  I’m not sure a more-than-double cost that doesn’t net a significant increase in bandwidth is worthwhile.

A New State License Tag? Seriously?

22 August 2016

Lots of reports today about the Great Unveiling of a new design for the state car license tag.

It’s more expensive, of course.

So our state has a terrible budget foisted on us by the supply-siders in the Legislature and “Governor” Fallin. They can’t get education funded, but there is apparently plenty of time to get a new license tag out.

From KFOR:

“Most of the additional revenue will go into a newly created State Public Safety Fund that will be available for the Legislature to spend to “support public safety” in the state.”

So… we are already hugely over-policed, but now there is a new tax (er, fee) for a tag we don’t need, for more “public safety”.

Clueless and incompetent does not even begin to describe the Bozos running the state government. In fact, that’s an insult. To Bozo.

Texas Roadhouse, San Antonio, TX

21 August 2016

Texas Roadhouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

We had dinner here evening before last with Ian in the San Antonio Food Tour. 🙂

We had called ahead for seating, and when we got to the restaurant at 1730, it was packed, with a long waiting line. Fortunately, we only waited five minutes since we had called ahead.

Ian and I had steak, both of us had ribeyes. Both steaks were cooked perfectly to order (medium and medium rare), and were very good cuts. Mine had no spots that were not tender.

Raegan had a grilled shrimp dinner.

Nothing was left of any of these meals. Service was very good, we never ran out of iced tea. Our check was $60.56. Good food.

Changes, Changes

21 August 2016

Raegan and I are in San Antonio, TX right now to mark a special occasion.  Our son Ian graduated from US Air Force Basic Military Training here Thursday, and became an Airman.

It was a very emotional set of ceremonies over a couple days, and we have been able to visit with him for the past four days on both base liberty and town liberty.  We haven’t really done any touristy stuff, but a lot of sitting and talking, walking and talking, driving and talking, and feeding our Airman some “real” food instead of chow hall meals.

He’s an E-3 now, and after outprocessing in the upcoming week, he will report to his tech school for another five months of training, and then move on to his career.

He is in the best shape of his life, both physically and intellectually.  We are so proud of him we could burst.

We are headed back to OKC this evening for a return to work, but this otherwise very low-key visit to San Antonio and Lackland AFB will stand out in my mind for a long time.

Why Does This Stuff Get Passed Along?

17 August 2016

I’m sort of picking on this item at random.  It took me about 1 minute to prove false.


The image is just as posted on Facebook, except that I cropped the name of my friend who posted it.

After he posted it, at least three other people I know re-posted it, and several others “liked” one of those.

The problem:  the claim in the article is completely bogus.  If you click the link, you get a medium length article, dated today, 16 August 2016, talking about how the House is passing bills for Trump, and how it is “taking down Obama”.  Note the “Republicans Just Passed” tease.

The bill in question was in fact introduced in the House, in July, 2015, not 2016.  The vote quoted in the article was not “passed”, but it was vote advancing the bill in question to the House floor for a full vote, which was never taken.

So the question becomes, did the writer of the article screw up, or is it deliberate just to keep up an anti-Obama drumbeat?  It literally took me one minute to find out what about the bill.

I’ve pretty much stopped trying to fact-check things for people that post even the most outrageous stuff, it doesn’t seem to make a difference to people that re-post stuff without having the integrity to know whether it is true.

Having opinions is great, right, left, or center.  But people shouldn’t just mindlessly repost stuff that isn’t true, no matter their politics.

Tooling Around the Northeast, 29 July – 06 August 2016

9 August 2016

Last week we took a driving tour around parts of the Northeast.  We drove 1093 miles over eight days.  Photos from our vacation are here on Google+.

We left OKC Friday evening (29 July). We had an airline Charlie-Fox right off the bat. The ground crew got us boarded and completely ready to go 10 min before departure (very cool). The pilot reported that the fuel guy loaded 1,000 lbs too much on the airplane. We sat for a while, and then the pilot announced that it would take to long to get the fuel guy back to defuel, and it would be faster to sit near the runway and burn it off (that’s REALLY strange to hear). We say there for 20+ minutes, then the pilot says they have a brake temp warning light, so we have to taxi back and have maintenance look at it.

We go back, but there is only one ground crew in OKC, and the airplane in the gate is having a maintenance issue, so we wait 20 minutes before they push back. In the meantime, the LAX-OKC EMB 175 has come in, and is waiting behind us. We finally get there, the maintenance guy agrees the brakes are not on fire, they sign out, and we head out again. AA booked us on a later flight, but we get into BOS at 1250, and to the hotel in Providence at 0230, and in bed about 0300.

A note here: we had a sail around Newport harbor scheduled for Saturday morning, I sent an email to the folks there (Classic Cruises of Newport) right before bed, and they changed us to the 1230 Monday cruise, which was darn nice of them. We slept until almost 1000.

After dragging out of bed, we headed to downtown Providence and visited the Rhode Island School of Design museum. They have an impressive collection of art from names I know, including an interesting piece by Rodan. The museum is connected to the Pendelton House, which has a lot of Revolutionary War era stuff in it.

After the museums, we headed towards NYC. We stopped in Milford and checked into our hotel, then headed to NYC. I wrote a blog post about driving there.

While Raegan saw Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, Erin and I just wandered around the Times Square area.  It was raining (occasionally pretty hard) while we were there, and it wasn’t quite as crowded as it was last year, but there was still a huge amount of life and elan around us.

Once Phantom was over, we headed back to the hotel, arriving around 0100.  We were now working on one loooong day, less than six hours sleep, then another looong day.  We woke up at 0900, getting a decent recharge, and headed out to Mystic.

We hit the Mystic Aquarium and spent a couple hours there.  I was not as impressed with this aquarium as some others.  While I enjoyed seeing the beluga whales, I liked seeing the rescue area (which was mainly populated by exceptionally cute baby harbor seals), and the couple of sea lions.  I was less than impressed by the one display area.  There was a “pet the shark” area, kind of cool.  The jellyfish exhibit was also very neat.  But it just seemed to me that there was a lot that was lacking.  A physically large part of the aquarium was a swampy area that was filled with lilypads, and had turtles (must have been on vacation that day 🙂 ), small frogs, and bullfrogs (very cool).  At the end of the swamp was a penguin area.  We ended our visit at the stingray “petting” area, where Erin and I were approached by a couple rays.

Afterward, we went down to the Seaport area and wandered around for several hours.  At one point, the drawbridge opened to let a couple ships through, very cool.  We drove the coast route back towards Groton, and drove down to Noank to look at the ocean from in front of some very expensive houses.  We had dinner in Groton, then checked into our hotel, and crashed early.

Monday was a big day.  We headed towards Newport, and part of the drive was through the beautiful woods between I-95 and RI 4.  The big Claiborne Pell Bridge over the Narragansett Bay is very impressive. As I mentioned before, we had moved our sail to Monday, and we arrived at the boarding area early (for us, a minor miracle).  We sailed on the Madeline, a 72-ft trimast schooner.  I *love* the schooner and sloop form, it’s very flowing and sleek.  The folks at Classic Cruises put on a wonderful sail.  The breeze was about 15 knots out of the SE, and when those big sails got filled, the boat accelerated nicely.   We had several heels in the 30deg range.  The breeze was fresh, the crew very nice, and the sail absolutely relaxing.  We didn’t get quite as far out to the ocean as I would have hoped, but it was a great experience:


After the sail, we had lunch and visited some of the shops in the harbor area.  Then we drove to the coast, passing some amazing, large houses south of downtown.  We drove around the coast and all the way to Fort Adams, then stopped and waded in the ocean for a while.

From Newport, we drove up the east side of Narragansett Bay towards Providence.  We stopped for dinner SE of town, and then headed on into the Boston/Norwood area for the next phase of the trip.

Tuesday and Wednesday were work days for me, so we had activities in the evening that mainly involved shopping.  I found some pretty interesting robotics kits and parts/supplies at a hobby shop in Dedham, and visited an Eastern Mountain Sports to buy a hiking trail map of the White Mountain National Forest.  We also hit an REI, and Raegan and Erin visited the Boston Museum of Fine Art, an amazing museum.

We tried to visit the Blue Mountain Observatory, supposedly the oldest continuously operating weather observatory in the United States.  I noted on their website they were open until 1630, and that was enough time for a quick visit.  We got there, and I was surprised that the road to drive up to the observatory was not open to private vehicles.  I noticed in the parking lot just to the west the sign that said you needed to walk up the road.  Note:  I submitted a correction to Google, as Maps shows the road as drivable.

Regardless, Erin and I walked up there.  It’s just about a mile, and a couple hundred feet of altitude gain, but it was easy for us.  We got up there and saw nice views to the south, northwest, and north.  But… the observatory was closed.  A sign there noted that it was open weekends.  Well, crap.  We walked all around it, petted a couple dogs a couple had brought up, and then we decided to walk back down.  We went back down the road, and decided to walk over to the ski area just a bit down the road, and ended up at the top of the ski lift.  After checking all that out, we walked down the ski slope, and then over to the parking lot.

There was a Massachusetts Audubon Society Blue Hills Trailside on the way.  It has exhibits on the local environment, and displays of rescued animals.

Thursday we got up and checked out of the hotel, and headed northwest towards New Hampshire. My intent was to leave early enough to be able to hike in the Franconia State Park area, but that didn’t work out.

We got to Manchester and visited the Lawrence L. Lee Scouting Museum, which is located at Camp Carpenter, a council facility just southeast of Manchester. The Museum as a lot of vintage uniforms, handbooks, patches, and gear. I was fascinated by the backpacking baskets they had (people actually used them!). The docent was amazingly knowledgeable. We also visited the Scout Shop and I scored a Wood Badge patch.

We drove a sorta roundabout path from Manchester to Concord, then to Lebanon, and north on 91 until we got to 301, where we cut across the corner to Littleton. Tomorrow, we hike.

Friday, Erin and I got up and drove to Franconia Notch State Park.  I-93 is two lanes through here.  We got to the park about 1000, and found every parking lot full of cars.  We parked on the shoulder of I-93 and walked underneath to the east side.  We hiked about 1,000 ft up the Falling Waters trail, marveling at the beautiful waterfalls.  It was hottish and fairly humid.

After the hike we drove back into Littleton, and the three of us had lunch, drove back to the Park, and walked around the Flume Gorge area.

Then we drove down I-93 to Tripoli Road and drove through the White Mountain National Forest.  There were a huge number of campsites along the road!  Many of them were occupied.  We rejoined civilization at Waterville Valley, then drove back to I-93 to our hotel in Manchester.  We tooled around Manchester for a bit, then got up the next morning and flew back to OKC.

This was a nice trip.  Aside from work days, and the flight situation getting to Boston, we got up and out of the hotel in decent time, saw a lot of pretty scenery (always a priority for us), did some cool stuff, and generally relaxed.

Food was very expensive on this trip.  We typically pay about $35 for the three of us to eat, and we were getting meals at family restaurants in the $50-$60 range, with no real evidence of additional quality.

There were some nice towns that we would like an extended visit at, including Manchester and possibly Littleton.

There is always next year for more exploring.

Red Robin, California, MD

9 August 2016

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I haven’t been to a Red Robin in ages, having sworn them off for increasing cost while decreasing quality. However, in this case, when a small group needed to get lunch, but didn’t have time to drive, and the other option was Olive Garden, Red Robin was suddenly the answer.

I had a Whiskey River BBQ Burger, which wasn’t much in the way of BBQ. The burger was cooked well enough, and had decent beef flavor, but it just wasn’t that outstanding. The steak fries were OK.

Service was kind of slow, even though the place was largely empty from 1140-1245. My check was $15.35. The iced tea was pretty good. I will not be seeking out Red Robins, as I think that the cheeseburger was not worth $15, but if I was in the same situation where we needed to be near, I would still go.

The Lighthouse, Solomons Island, MD

9 August 2016

The Lighthouse Restaurant & Dock Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I had dinner here this evening with a group of work friends. It was pretty darn good.

The rest of the table had seafood of one form or another, including oysters, soups, and other stuff. I had a New York Strip, 14 oz and a perfect medium. The steak was very tender and had better than average flavor. I had a baked potato with cheese, butter, and lots of bacon, and applesauce. The baker was very good, but the applesauce had a not-entirely-pleasant sharp aftertaste. I ate all of it, regardless.

They have very good iced tea. Service was just right for allowing us to sit and talk, not rushed, and very friendly. My check was $41.35, which was not bad for a steak of that quality. The rest of the crew reported their food as excellent.

Hampton Inn Premium Internet Comparison

7 August 2016

Since I stay in a lot of hotels on business and personal travel, I tend to get Internet from the hotel a lot as well.

This past trip, we were in a series of Hampton Inns on the back end of the trip.  Since I had three laptops and two tablets (and occasionally a couple phones) we had a lot of connectivity going on.

I decided to do a bit of comparison of the devices and internet speed.  For the speed checks, I used the reliable

A couple ground rules.  First, I established that my tablet measured the same speeds as my laptop.  Testing was done one device at a time, when the others were not doing any high-bandwidth stuff like streaming.  The three laptops were always within a couple Kbps of each other when testing.

Given all that, here are the cumulative results of five tests I did, at different points during the evening, late evening, and morning.

Standard and Premium Hampton Internet

The first question I had was “do you actually get more bandwidth with the premium service”.  The answer is pretty clearly, yes.  The premium charge was $4.95 per day.  In two of the cases, there is a small increase, but in the other three cases, it was significant.

I was surprised at the amount of bandwidth being used for uploading.  Most network transactions on the web are a short request, followed by a lot of data coming back.  It seems that some of the bandwidth that is available for uploads would be better used for servicing the downloads.

I think my reaction is that if you need to maintain a stable VPN, or you are running big downloads like Exchange, the premium is usually worth it.

Miller’s Cafe and Bakery, Littleton, NH

6 August 2016

Miller's Cafe & Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

After Erin and I did some hiking, we headed back to Littleton to meet up with Raegan, and get lunch.

Miller’s was almost empty when we got there. The menu was kind of limited, but Erin and I got a club sandwich. The sammiches were very good, not too big, and filled us up after the hike. They came with some penne pasta noodles. They didn’t have any iced tea, so I had a Coke.

Service was very friendly. Our check was $26.21. I thought that while the sandwich was OK, the menu was a bit limited.

The Airport Diner, Manchester, NH

6 August 2016

Airport Diner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

For our last night on this combined work/vacation, we wanted to hit a diner. The Airport Diner was pretty close.

First of all, I had one of their custom root beers. Very good.

Raegan and I had the turkey dinner. There was quite a bit of food on the plates. The turkey was very tasty, but just a touch on the dry side. It had very good cranberry sauce, and decent mashers and dressing. I really liked the gravy.

Erin had chicken fingers, and ate all of them.

They only had Gold Peak iced tea, so I had a very good Coke. Service was fast and friendly. We would go back. Our check was $38.86.

Moe Joe’s, Manchester, NH

5 August 2016

MoeJoe's Family Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Today we were in Manchester after visiting the nearby Scout Museum. We picked Moe Joe’s as it was on the same side of town.

Erin had chicken tenders; I tried one and it was very good. Raegan and I had burgers. She had a swiss burger, and I had a bacon cheeseburger. The burgers were made from decent beef, and were cooked medium well. They had good texture and better than average beef flavor. The bacon was mostly pretty good and crunchy, but a couple chunks were burned. Raegan had some OK onion rings, and I had slaw that was passable.

We followed up the main meal with various ice cream sundaes, that were pretty darn good.

Service was exceptionally friendly and right on the money. They didn’t have brewed iced tea, so we had water (me), Mt Dew (Raegan), and a root beer float (Erin). This place was good, I would be happy to go back. Our check was $50.85, pretty good value, I think.

Victoria’s Diner, Boston, MA

4 August 2016

Victoria's Diner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

This was the best meal I have had in the Boston area, ever.

We started out with some excellent iced tea. Great stuff. I had a bowl of beef stew that I would have been happy to get anywhere. Big chunks of braised beef, veg, and wonderful broth, all tender and highly flavorable. YUM!

Raegan had baked haddock, and ate all of it, reporting it excellent. Erin had a bowl of mac and cheese, it was great, as I had about 10 bites of it. She liked it too. I had steak tips with mashed potatoes, gravy, and baked beans. All excellent! The steak tips were tender and had great beef flavor. I loved the mashers and gravy. The beans were good also. I could finish the tips, but between the stew, Erin’s mac and cheese, and the tips, I left a small pile of taters and 80% of the beans.

We finished the meal off with a huge piece of very good chocolate cake.

Service was very friendly and fast. The food was excellent. The iced tea was welcome. Our check was $80.14. Recommended, I would go back any time.

Blue Hills Grill, Canton, MA

4 August 2016

Blue Hills Grille Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

After we walked up Blue Hill, we hit the Grill for late lunch.

First of all, the iced tea is very good. Really nice after the slightly sweaty walk. Raegan got a turkey wrap, really good turkey in that. Erin got fish and chips, it was two HUGE pieces of fish, and one of those was her limit. Finally, I got shepherd’s pie, and it was perfect, one of the best I’ve had, and done in the traditional style.

Service was very friendly, the food was great. Our check was $55.57, a bit expensive (perhaps we are noting this is a trend for New England). Again, the iced tea was great. Very nice place, would be happy to eat here again.

Olivio’s Pizza, Norwood, MA

3 August 2016

Olivio's Grill and Pizzeria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

We had been thinking about pizza for a couple days, and decided that tonight was the night. I found Olivio’s from Google and we headed that way.

Just so you know, go to the counter and order, then go sit down, and they will bring your food to you.

We started off with some decent buffalo wings, and Raegan had a Greek salad. They didn’t have iced tea (too bad), so I had DP, not bad.

Our dinner was a large (14″) pizza that Reagan and I shared. Her half was ham and mushrooms, mine was a Meat Lover’s, minus the salami. Erin had a small chicken parm. Both of these are hand tossed, thin crust pizzas, and both were better than average. The crust was crispy but not tough, and the toppings were very good. Kind of unusual, the sausage was largish slices cut from the sausage log-style.

Service was very friendly. The place was not crowded. Our check was $55.89. We ended up bringing about 2/3rd of Erins pizza, and about 1/3 of our pizza, back to the room with us for a snack, or breakfast :). Not bad at all, I would be happy to go back.

Not Your Average Joe’s, Seekonk, RI

2 August 2016

Not Your Average Joe's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

OK, that’s a silly name for a restaurant.

We picked the place out pretty much at random, driving the east route between Newport and Providence.

An observation: we felt the menu was a little on the limited side.

Erin and I had fried chicken. In both cases, the chicken was significantly overcooked, and a bit stringy and less plump than I like. It had OK flavor. Erin had creole fries and a biscuit for her sides, and I had mac and cheese and onion straws for mine. The sides were pretty good. The chicken came with honey flavored with siracha, which while it was interesting to try, I don’t know that I would seek it out. I liked the mac and cheese, and the onion straws, but I left a pile of the straws, I just could not finish them. Raegan had a cup of chowder and a goat cheese salad. I also had a cup of chicken noodle soup that was right on the edge of being chicken stew, really good (and HOT coming to the table).

They had brewed iced tea that was very good. Our server was very attentive and friendly. Our check was $62.66.

We left quite a lot of food behind, but really have no way to store it. Too bad.

Benjamin’s, Newport, RI

2 August 2016

Benjamin's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I’m keeping up this trip!

We took a lovely cruise around Newport this afternoon, and afterward stopped at Benjamin’s for lunch.

Erin had a HUGE Seafood Macaroni, it was great but there was no way she could finish it. I had a HUGE (note the trend?) fish and chips, it was very good but there was no way I could finish it. Finally, Raegan had a HUGE Lobster Salad Roll, and… she liked it a lot but there was not way to finish it. The chips (fries) were pretty decent, but the slaw was vinegary and sort of flat.

Erin and I had some very good NE Clam Chowder also.

The tea was a concentrate and not very good. The Coke was OK. Our check was $70.75. We should have shared something. Service was fast and friendly.

I don’t like fish much, but that fish (it was cod, I asked) was pretty good.

Paul’s Pasta, Groton, CT

1 August 2016

Pauls Pasta Shop Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

This place was great! The building is pretty neat, we ate out on the deck, with a great view of the Thames River and New London. We got there around 1900, and had a 20 minute wait.

We started off with some excellent garlic cheese bread and marinara. The bread was very good, and the marinara was excellent, thick and with great flavor.

Erin and I had fettuccine al fredo with chicken. Hers was the small (one chicken breast) and mine was large (two chicken breasts). The fettuccine was excellent, not too rich, and the noodles were perfect. Neither of us could finish our dinners.

Raegan had lobster ravioli, and while she said they were very good, again, it was hard to finish them as there was so much.

Service was good despite how crowded the place was. Our check was $54.34. They had pretty good iced tea as well, brewed there. The only thing I would count down is that the chicken in our meals was breaded, fried, and then put on the bed of noodles, when it should have been sauteed and tossed.

I would contrast this meal with our lunch. Cost was about the same, but the quality of this meal was far better.

Good stuff. I would eat here again any time.

Filomena’s, Waterford, CT

1 August 2016

Filomena's Market Cafe & Ctrng Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

We hit this place for lunch today traveling between Milford and the Mystic area.

We all started with a cup of very good clam chowder. The meals were a Caesar wrap, which Raegan reported was OK, a philly cheesesteak, which Erin liked, but it was huge and she could not finish. I tried a good chunk of it; the beef was pretty good. Finally, I had a burger. The beef was pretty good, the bun was huge, the fries were OK.

The tea was concentrate and not good. The Coke was OK. Service was very good. Our check was $55.30. For what we got, it was pretty expensive and not that good. The best part of the meal was the chowder.

Sammy’s BBQ, NYC, NY

31 July 2016

Sammy's BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Erin and I dropped Raegan off at the Majestic to see Phantom of the Opera, and there was Sammy’s right across the street.

We got in there at 1920 and had immediate seating.  First of all, very good iced tea (for me) and lemonade (for Erin)!  We had buffalo wings as an appetizer, and again, very good.

Erin had a Sammy Special, which is a thick sandwich with brisket and cheese.  It was very good, but too much for her to finish.  She had chili cheese fries, which were really good. The chili had no heat but decent flavor.

I had a two-meat combo of pulled port and brisket.  The pulled pork was pretty darn good, tender, but not as smoky as it could be, and a little dry.  The brisket was great, tender and smoky, and cut a little bit from the wet side of the brisket. My sides were mac and cheese (EXCELLENT!) and beans.  The beans might as well have been chili.  There was as much brisket in there was beans (a darn good thing, in my view), and they tasted great.  The mac and cheese was baked, and just perfect.

The only issue I had was getting refills.  The tea was served in a small mason jar, and I go through the stuff pretty fast, so I was waiting with an empy jar several times.

Regardless, this was pretty good BBQ.  It was kind of expensive at $57.55 for the two of us, but it is in NYC.  I would not mind going back.

Thoughts On NYC Traffic

31 July 2016

To be short about it, it sucks.

We left Milford, CT last night about 1700 for the 2000 performance of Phantom Of The Opera in NYC.  It’s about 70 miles.  It took about 2 hours 15 minutes to get there.

We spent about 10 minutes getting from the Hudson expressway to the theater.  We spent about 10 minutes getting from I-95 down the Hudson expressway.  We also spent about a half hour getting from Milford to NYC.

The rest of the time was spent crawling along I-95, AKA the Cross-Bronx Expressway.

There weren’t any accidents, just too many cars for the number of lanes.

I don’t have any solutions, I just wanted to have a short rant.

I think I would have liked to figure out the combination of trains and subway stops that I could have taken instead of the car.

Regardless, Erin and I just enjoyed walking around the theater area and Times Square, watching all of the people.

31 July 2016 Update

I just did a bit of research.  If we had taken the train from New Haven to Grand Central, then the subway to 42nd street, it would have cost about $30 round trip, and taken about 2 hrs and some change.  From a driving frustration standpoint, that’s pretty legit. From a cost standpoint, the couple bucks of gas, and then no $38 parking fee, is very favorable. I’m going to plan on that the next time we do something in NYC.

Why I Am Voting For Hillary Clinton For President

27 July 2016

I decided this quite a while back, towards the end of the Republican primary process.  The rationale has several facets to it.

Overriding all else, I can’t really see myself voting for a Republican at the national level for a long, long time.  The disgraceful tactic of non-governance, few (but odious) policies, complete disrespect for facts, and worst of all, a deliberate policy of trying to gain power by scaring people, make the Republican party that I belonged to a part of history.  This process started before the 1992 campaign, and has not improved.

That being said, I’ve examined the policies being proposed by Clinton, and overall find them in the same lines as my personal philosophies.  Clinton expresses support for all levels of education. She is a strong proponent of equality for all (to include women, people of color, and LGBTQ people). She has good ideas for the economy.  One idea I like in particular is to encourage companies to profit share with the employees that do the actual work, treating those workers with respect.  Perhaps the most important part of the appeal of her economic plans is that she actually recognizes there is a problem than should be and can be fixed, as opposed to Republicans who myopically actively hinder the economy as part of their non-governance heel-dragging, trying to maintain the status quo of corporations that take all profits to upper management and shareholders.

Hillary Clinton has had the most serious vetting of any candidate, and perhaps any person, in history.  Countless investigations, most of which have been trumped up, have found no evidence of wrongdoing.  One thing I think I can appreciate is that in many cases where she was investigated, it was for taking action, and that action annoyed Republicans, who investigated out of petty spite.

It goes without saying that Republicans have rarely tried to match Clinton with policy and legislation.

Reading though policy papers, you see a lot of reference to science and technology.  In particular, Clinton is no climate change denier.  She, like Obama (and for that matter, Republicans when Bush was President), believes that comprehensive immigration reform is the way to do.  She does not demonize immigrants, and does not use immigrants as weapons to scare the easily scared.  She supports expanded voter rights, instead of the Republican policies of trying to keep grasping at power by trying to disenfranchise people of color.  She does not believe that Islam is an enemy of the United States, and that our Muslim citizens and visitors are overwhelmingly not terrorists.

As I was thinking about this post over the past couple days, I was watching an ever greater level of invective on numerous platforms, including social media and radio programs.  All manner of accusations, made-up charges, old and untrue tripe, but repeated endlessly by the easily duped.  Clinton has shown an impressive level of grace in not responding to the crap sent her way.

Clinton will help get SCOTUS back on track, and away from the conservative corporations-are-people justices.

So Hillary Clinton has my vote for President of the United States.  It is my fervent hope that the other side doesn’t wise up electorally-speaking, and that helps deliver at least the Senate as well, and help send Republican conservatism to the trash heap.

Another Example of Bad News Coverage

22 July 2016

A while back, I posted about news coverage of a suspected Ebola case in Stillwater.  The media in question trumpeted about a case being Ebola when it was already known not to be.

There were several examples today in the same vein.  I’m going to pick on the NBC Nightly News for this one.

The setup is that a mentally disturbed man had wandered away from a home.  Another man, a therapist, was there to help calm the mentally disturbed man.

Somehow the police had been told the disturbed man had a gun.

The therapist was sitting near the disturbed man, and the therapist had his hands raised, knowing the cops were nearby with guns out.  A cop took aim at the mentally disturbed guy, but was a lousy shot, and hit the therapist in the leg.

It’s been reported the cops then rushed over and handcuffed the therapist.  If true, those cops are stupid.

Regardless, this happened Monday.  Today, the NBC News reported it like this:

  1. A man laying on the ground with his hands raised was shot by police.
  2. The man was unarmed, and trying to help a mentally disturbed man.
  3. The man shouted to the police that the mentally disturbed man did not have a gun, but a toy truck in his hands.

The story went on for a couple minutes in that vein, and most of the way through, the correspondent finally says that the cop in question thought the therapist was in danger, shot, and missed the target, hitting the therapist.

It seems to me that the tone of the story was to continue a narrative of black men shot by cops.  Whether done for political reason (unlikely, I think) or to drive ratings (more likely), the tone should have been different.

Something like this:  “In Miami today, a cop shot at a man and missed, wounding another man nearby who was trying to help.  Neither the target or the helping man had guns.  Maybe Miami cops need to be issued binoculars, and need additional training on the range.”  Because those are really the two problems.

If the therapist says there is no gun, and he is two feet away, why did the cop shoot so fast?  If the cops had binocs, one could have observed the situation a little more clearly.

Regardless, this was an example of lousy reporting.

Homeslice Pizza, Durango, CO

20 July 2016

Homeslice Pizza North Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

After getting off the trail from three days of backpacking, our Scouts were hungry! We were at the nearby Community Center for showers, and called in our pizza order (for 20!) to give Homeslice some warning.

They treated us very well, we got there and were seated on the small patio around a cool serving area. The pizzas started coming in about 10 minutes. Our crew went through five large pizzas (pepperoni, supreme, greek, cheese, and something else) pretty quickly. Drinks were provided with glasses and pitchers of several beverages, including a welcome pitcher of Dr. Pepper!

The pizzas were thin crust, and were very good.

Our server was seemingly always there and smiling, which was especially hard when the first round of drinks were dispensed, which meant a lot of back and forth with pitchers.

I don’t know what the check was, but the pizza was excellent, and I would gladly go back again.

Optimus Cook System

20 July 2016


Raegan and the kids got me a new backpacking stove and pot for my birthday, an Optimus unit that is lighter than the Primus stove I have been carrying the past couple years.  This one came from Cabela’s, and was on sale for $60.

The pot has fins for heat distribution like a JetBoil, and the stove fits the usual isopro fuel canisters.  This weekend, I am going to do a fuel consumption test, but in the first checkout at home, the rig boiled 3.5 cups of water in 2 minutes 40 seconds, darned impressive.  I used it several times on the trail last week, and had similar performance numbers.

The 3.5 cups figure is important in that a typical backpacking meal takes around 2 cups of boiled water.  So that means one boil cycle gets you and your hiking partner dinner, and a nice cup of soup or tea, and then some.  If the meal is one of those that require 1.5 cups, then both of you get a cup of soup.

The burner folds sideways, and then the legs that hold the pot fold in half, and the burner gets very small.  Very cool.

The fuel canister fits inside the pot.  The folded up burner fits on top of it, then the pan/cup makes a lid.  One thing the rig needs is a rubber band to get it to all stay together in your pack (carry a couple, I found one on the trail, but it broke, probably due to the fins on the bottom of the pot).  A small strip of paperboard would probably solve that problem.

The stove and pot all weigh less than half of my Primus and pot combination.  Part of that is the very small size of the stove, and part due to the fact that the capacity is smaller (5 cups vs. 3.5) and the metal they are made of.  I like that the Optimus, fuel, and stove are one unit; my Primus was too big to fit into the pot with the fuel canister in there.

So far, I like this stove a lot.  Better performance and lighter, what’s not to like?  I might look at replacing the lid with a flat one to reduce the volume a bit more, but so far, I like it!

24 July 2016 Update:

I did a test of fuel use for this stove over the weekend.  The test conditions:  fill the pot (800ml) with tap water (about 60F) and heat to boiling.  I did five runs, and each took between 2.5-3 minutes to boil the water.

The total fuel used was 43 grams, which works out to 8.6 grams per pot, impressive.  But it is not apples-to-apples with the Primus, where I boiled 5 cups with 10 grams.  Doing some stoichiometry (thanks, Mrs. Guthrie!)  resulted in the Primus probably using around 6.7 grams of fuel for 800 ml, which was a little surprising.

I thought about it yesterday, and my theory has to do with time to boil.  I seem to remember the Primus boiling the water in around 5-6 minutes.  So I wonder if the extra fuel use is due to the higher BTUs produced by the Optimus and my running it at max, and some of the heat being wasted, while the water still boiled in half the time.  If I get a chance I will break a Primus out and time it with 800ml in it.

Still, the Optimus is a lot lighter and a  lot faster.  Given what I know about how much water I need on the trail, I think I will be able to stretch out one of the big canisters for a couple weeks, or even better, go with smaller canisters for a trip of up to a week.  My thinking here is a pot of water in the morning (a couple cups of tea and oatmeal), and another in the evening.  If I derate for colder water, that’s about 25 gms of fuel per day, or 12 days of use from a large canister.

Not bad at all.

Even A Black Conservative Can’t Get It Right

20 July 2016

I was listening to the NPR program “On Point”, hosted by Tom Ashbrook, over lunch. Ashbrook had a lady who self-identified as a black conservative on who was talking about the Republican convention, and the discussion was about people (mostly conservative) who reflexively  spout “all lives matter” or “blue lives matter” in response to Black Lives Matter.

The lady then made the following statement (it may be a few words off, but I guarantee it captures the point):  “Well, Black Lives Matter is funded by an ultraliberal group, and by the way, their objective is the destruction of America”.

Ashbrook, it should be noted, did not even question that bold, and stupid statement.  I’ve noted while listening to his program that he is a terrible interviewer, this is just another example.

One more point, if BLM is funded by an ultraliberal group, I need to find out who and donate to them, because good on them for helping people towards equality.

So I don’t know if the lady is ignorant (like many or most Trump supporters) or just so partisan that she has to lob nukes instead of spears.

I’ve been to the BLM website, and I can’t find anything on it that could even be remotely described as advocating for the destruction of America.

I find it horrifying that every time there is another police killing of a black, white (almost all conservative) people immediately throw memes about how cops lives matter.  The implication is a knee-jerk that any acknowledgement of how black lives OUGHT to matter somehow takes away from cops, or whites, or whatever.  It’s an example of an inherently racist attitude that is stating “you people can’t acknowledge that your lives matter without acknowledging that cop lives matter” (really, this is code for white lives, let’s be realistic).  This is the same sort of bogus argument that stated that allowing gay marriage would undercut straight marriage.

Look, folks, the recent killing of several police officers notwithstanding (and that is wrong as well), black lives have NOT mattered to many whites over the history of the country, even continuing today.

Why don’t those of you who question why there is even a BLM movement, instead question why one is needed.  If black lives mattered, then all in the country would have equal opportunity.  We don’t.  Whether for economic equality, voting equality, educational equality, it’s not there.  We can’t be “one nation” until we get there.

Note:  I’m going to find the transcript of the “On Point” program in question when it is posted and update this article.

Backpacking (most of) Segment 28 of the Colorado Trail

20 July 2016

Hike Summary: 19.3 miles of the last (or first?) segment of the Colorado Trail.

Photos from the trek are located on my Google+ site here.

Last week, the Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma (GS-West) High Adventure Team (HAT) backpacked most of Segment 28 of the Colorado Trail. This segment runs from Kennebec Pass down to Durango, CO.

My first plan had been to start at the Pass and walk the rest of the trail in.  However, the last couple miles of road to the Pass are pretty rough, and four-wheel drive with high clearance is recommended.  Since we were driving a couple 15-passenger vans, that didn’t sound very promising.  So instead I saw that FS Road 204 got to within about a mile of a trailhead, and Champion Road, AKA 171, would get us there.  I talked to a very nice young lady in the Durango Forest Service office, who told me that getting vans in there would not likely be a problem.

Getting There

FS 204 is about 15 miles from Junction Creek camp, where we stayed two nights prior to backpacking.  While half of the road is pretty decent, the other half is darned rough, and you can only drive about 10-15 miles an hour on it.  FS 204 connects to Champion/171 for about a mile.  You can park in several wide spots in the road where the Colorado Trail crosses 171, and there is plenty of room to turn around.

We had driven up to Durango in two vans and a truck.  We left the truck in Junction Creek camp with the permission of the camp hosts, which was very nice of them to let us do that.

The drive up there has some spectacular views of the Weminuche Wilderness and the Molas area.  It’s worth a drive up there if you are in the Durango area.

There are no facilities of any sort at the trailhead, and no water.

Day 1

The drive to the trailhead took a lot longer than I had thought it would, and we got there about 1115, and hit the trail around 1140.

There was a lot of green stuff on the trail starting right at the trailhead.  And flies.  Lots of flies.  They were annoying, and some bit.

We had lunch at a nice spot just above Fassbinder Gulch.  We hiked along and down, and didn’t see more than a trickle of water in the several creekbeds we passed.

At some point, we were somewhat above Flagler Creek.  We turned up Leavenworth Gulch, and there is a decent waterfall there that is about 75 ft tall.  The creek from the falls runs into Flagler, and that water looks solid.

We got to camp about 1630.

We camped at a small area near a bridge built over Junction Creek.  The camp has no tree cover, and was quite hot in the direct sun, but around 1800 Sun dropped behind the hill to the west and it started cooling off.

One interesting thing here, we found the remains of a small (calf?) elk at the north end of the camp area.

The obnoxious flies went away as soon as Sun went behind the wall, and started again as soon as Sun came back over the wall to the east the next morning.

There are not many places to hang a bear bag here.

The days hike was 5.62 miles, with 416 ft of altitude gain, and 2180 ft loss.

Day 2

This was a different day.  We anticipated a big climb and little water.  We broke camp and headed out about 1000.  The trail did not disappoint, we headed steadily upward all morning.  The trail was not steep, but it was steadily up.

We found a very nice spot for lunch at a high point near Sliderock Canyon, that had amazing views all around.

Right after leaving the lunch spot, we found a small stream where it crossed the trail in Sliderock.  There was a bit of a larger stream in the next turn, First Trail Canyon.  We pumped a couple liters of water from the First Trail stream, but I don’t know that it is reliable water; the pool we pumped from was about 10 inches across and a couple inches deep.

At the point between First Trail and Road End Canyons, you can look down the Junction Creek drainage and see Durango in the distance.  We had solid 4G service there.

As we came around into Road End Canyon, it looked to me like there was a former camp on the north side, but it was terribly overgrown. You have to keep going and make the turn at the end of the canyon, and the camp is about another hundred yards, between the two arms of the trail.  We hit camp around 1600.

This camp is in the trees and is very cool.  A low volume stream flows on the north side of the camp; the stream may be reliable through summer.  It was a stretch to get all of our tents and hammocks in there, but we got it done.  There is a nice fire ring with logs to sit on.

Our second day on the trail was 5.94 miles and 1650 ft of altitude gain.

Day 3

We got up and managed to hit the trail around 0930.  We didn’t see any water again until we hit Junction Creek at the bottom of big wall below Guda’s rest.  Before we left camp, we filled a couple of Platypus bladders and all of the water bottles.

We found a very nice spot for lunch above Deep Creek, right before the trail headed back to the east.  There were amazing views off to the south, and cell service was 4G along here.

At one point, we hiked into an area that was largely open, with a lot of scrub oaks.  We saw a number of bear scat, and Elaine and I smelt strong bear smell at one point.  I’m certain we were within tens of yards of a bear, possibly sleeping.

We hiked along until we were able to enjoy the view from Guda’s Rest, then headed down the big switchbacks there to Junction Creek (the first water since we left camp), and along to Junction Creek campsite.

Our last day was 9.9 miles, with 2760 ft of altitude loss.  We had some tired girls coming off the trail.

When we got off the trail, we sent the girls to the campsite at Junction Creek with two of our adults, and took the truck back up to the trailhead, then all of us drove back again.

It was a lot hotter there than we expected.  Forecasts before we left were in the mid 60s and mid 40s, which was consistent with the historical data at a SNOTEL at 10,000 ft a couple miles farther west.  We had temps in the mid to high 80s for highs, but at least the humidity was low.  We had zero clouds for the first two days, and a couple sparse clouds on Day 3.

I’m thinking it would be a dry distance for our Day 2 and 3 segments in August.  I drank every bit of my 2 bottles hiking to our second camp, so it would take another couple for staying overnight up there, not to mention not seeing any more water until getting all the way to Junction Creek.






This was a good beginners backpacking trip.  The Scouts did great, and handled the climbs and loads with ease.  We were kind of slow, but it doesn’t matter as we got into camp in plenty of time each day.

I’m very proud of the Scouts for keeping good spirits up in spite of the heat and the flies.

Bergan’s of Norway Helium 55

19 July 2016

I switched from my external frame Kelty to an internal frame pack back in 2011, and ended up with a Cabela’s pack that was about 90L. That pack has served me well on a couple dozen backpacking trips, and many other camping trips.

The Cabela’s pack weighs 5.75 lbs. When I was working on getting my pack weight down, that’s obviously a good chunk of weight. A couple months ago, the gear review issue of Backpacker magazine came out, and so I decided to read it to see what was available for less weighty packs. I also visited Backwoods, and a couple REI stores to see what they had.

One that caught my eye was the Bergan’s of Norway Helium 55 pack. It only weighs 2 lb 3 oz, so that’s darn near three pounds lighter than my Cabela’s pack. It also retailed for $180, which was about $100 less than comparable packs. After reading the Backpacker article a couple times, a couple online reviews of the Helium 55 (and the previous years version of it), and general reviews of Bergan’s products, I decided to give it a try.  I wanted to try it on, but they have limited places that carry Bergan’s  (one was north of Salt Lake City; I was reading the Backpacker magazine on the flight home to OKC from SLC, oh well…).  I ordered it online from Bergan’s, it shipped from Colorado, and was at the house a couple days later.  I had included two auxiliary pouches that are meant to be strapped to the outside of the pack, and add five liters of carrying space on the outside of the pack, each.

First thing, I transferred everything from the Cabela’s pack to the Bergan’s, and it all fit. Now, that doesn’t include food, or any shared gear I might be carrying, but there was still quite a bit of room in the Helium.  I looked at every seam and every surface, it seemed well put together.  The straps were a little thinner, the pads not as substantial as on the Cabela’s, but OTOH they padded where the thing touched me.  The fabric of the pack was a lot thinner than the Cabela’s, but it wasn’t strained either.

I took the pack on a shakedown hike with my Scouts a couple days later, it rode pretty well, but then I didn’t have it fully loaded up.

I had a three-day backpacking trip in Colorado coming up, and was largely living out of the pack for a total of eight days.  When I loaded it up for the trail, dry (i.e. everything but food and water), the total pack weight was 22 pounds.  When I loaded it with food and water and shared gear a couple days later, I was at 28.5 pounds, which is 60% of what I carried over the rim at Grand Canyon a couple years ago.  My back appreciates the weight reduction…  🙂

Here’s the pack after three days on the trail:


The walking part of the trip was over 21 miles.  The pack felt as if it was an integral part of me.  I adjusted the torso length to maximum.  The hip belt was right on top of my hips, and tight enough that there wasn’t any slack that let the pack slide around as I turned. The pack had good ventilation as well; my back was sweat-wet, but the pack didn’t get any of that.

The side pockets:  WHOA!  At one point, I had both 1-L bottles, and the area map, in one side pocket, and my water pump, pack cover, and some thing I was carrying for someone else in the other, with room to spare. I love those pockets!

The pack has stretchy strings cris-crossed on the sides.  I never figured out how those work, so I took them off and stashed them.  I will revisit them later.

The lid was never completely full.  One thing I liked is that the lid has four adjustable straps.  For the first two days, I had our tarp between the lid and the main compartment, but on the last day I realized it would it into the pack with the rest of the stuff.

The pack felt comfortable walking.  I did have a hard time reaching my water bottles and map in the deep side pockets.  I moved the map to a pocket on my pants.  When I wanted a drink, I asked one of my fellow hikers to grab the bottle, then put it back later.

The zipper down the front never got bound up or seemed to be too tight to close.  It was kind of cool to unzip from the bottom and grab my tent out of the middle of the pack.

I would pack stuff in this order:  sleeping bag into the very bottom, then the pad (rolled up), then the tent fly, stakes, and tent body (rolled up, again).  The food bad and pot/stove/fuel next to each other.  The rest of the stuff on top of those.  I never got the collar at the top extended, so there was another bunch of space.

I think I can use this pack for five-day trips with no issue.  If it is colder and I need more clothing, the trade in space is that the food we carried on this trip is bulkier then what I usually carry.  I also have the two external five-liter pockets to add space.

I inspected the pack closely inside and out after getting home from the trip.  There wasn’t any damage visible, or areas to be concerned with.

I’m happy with the Helium, if just due to the weight savings.  The cost was pretty reasonable as well.

One More Blow To Republicans

5 July 2016

Republicans have been waging a campaign of doing Not A Damn Thing since 2008 (well, except they have been promoting symbolic stuff a lot, but nothing substantial) as part of the Just Say No strategy to non-governing.

This has been extended to the wink-and-grin acceptance of the crazy wing of their party.

And it has also been manifested as a hope that Hilary Clinton would be taken out by some scandal. The so-called Benghazi investigations by Republicans (which were in addition to those undertaken by the DoD and DoS) dragged on with the specific intent of dragging down Clintons Presidential bid. That effort finally collapsed as the investigators could turn over no more stones in an attempt to find something to damage Clinton.

That left one thing: the so-called email server. Republicans predictably howled that Clinton should be in jail for supposedly mishandling classified material, and that this caused the Republic To Be At Grave RISK!!!!!!. A long investigation by the FBI has just been completed with a recommendation that the matter be dropped.

There will be frothing, wild-eyed discussion of conspiracy for a while, but since scandal that could damage Clinton is the best that Republicans have had (since they will not argue policy as that’s a loser for them), she will have an easy cruise to the election, and will likely be President.

Since the Republican Party as abrogated their responsibility to govern, and encouraged the base part of their followers with racist and xenophobic tripe, they have brought their own problems on themselves. I hope to see a center-left government next January, with all three branches in Democrat hands.

07 July 2016 update:

The predictable thundering howls from Republicans are ongoing. Most of the arguments revolve around two complaints: that Clinton lied to the FBI, and that she mishandled classified information.

Let’s take the claim of Clinton lying first. The argument is that Clinton told the FBI that she had not sent any emails that were marked as classified, but the data owners that reviewed the emails after the fact determined that certain emails were classified, so therefore supposedly Clinton lied. Somehow the after-the-fact classification shows that Clinton (and her professional staff) should have known the information was classified at the time. I have no idea what the information in question is, but “sensitive” is not necessarily classified. Regardless, since a lie is a deliberate falsehood, the claim that a statement by Clinton is a lie because of an after-the-fact decision by a data owner is specious at best.

Unless you accept that Clinton knew that the information she was handling was classified, but she sent it via the unclassified email system anyway, then the second major claim of mishandling classified is bogus.

One thing that is subtle, but has not been discussed that I have heard is the role of Original Classifying Authority, of which Secretary Clinton was one. OCAs, per law and Executive Order, have the authority to determine if information is classified or not. There can be help in the form of Security Classifications Guides (SCGs) in this, but in the end, high level people like Department Secretaries can make a classification or declassification decision on their own.

Pepperoni Grill, Edmond, OK

4 July 2016

Pepperoni Grill Kitchen & Winebar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Raegan and Erin and I had dinner here last evening. We have been to the location in Penn Square Mall several times, and had expectations for this location. They were met.

We started with a very good Caesar salad. I had chicken parmesan (with a side of fettuccine al fredo), Raegan chicken fettuccine al fredo, and Erin tortellini florentine. All of this was excellent. The chicken parm was plump and perfectly cooked, and the al fredo was excellent. The only real complaint I would have is that the chicken with Raegans al fredo was sliced and grilled, instead of being diced, sauteed, and tossed with the pasta. It was also a bit overgrilled.

The place wasn’t very crowded. The iced tea was pretty good, and service was quite attentive. Our check was $71.21; a bit on the expensive side for three, but OTOH, we all went home with a lunch for today (very unusual, if you know my appetite! 🙂 ).

Something I Don’t Get About Online Ads

1 July 2016

I’ve noted many times that visits to some sites suddenly gets you targeted by ads for those sites at other sites.

An example: we needed a refrigerator to supplement our aging unit. I looked online at and several similar places.

As is my habit, when I was done looking at refrigerators, I closed the tab and opened a Facebook tab. I was immediately shown a set of ads for refrigerators from Lowe’s that included the units I was looking at. So that’s interesting, of course, a close to real-time sharing of ad information that managed to be tied to me personally.

This went on a couple days. I would occasionally return to (and to other sites) to look at refrigerators. Eventually, I settled on one, and it happened to be a Lowe’s unit. I went to, found that unit, and then went through the order-and-pay sequence, which included setting up delivery to my house. I was pretty impressed by how easy it was.

That was last Thursday. Since then, I have been followed by the same Lowe’s (and a couple of other companies) ads as I have moved around the net.

And that’s what made me wonder. Lowe’s clearly could tie me as a visitor to their site (and interested in an item or type of item), and then could tie me to Facebook, and CNN, etc. to show me that ad on those sites. Why did Lowe’s not also recognize that I had bought the refrigerator, and then either stop showing me the ads for that unit (and others, since I am unlikely to buy two refrigerators), or maybe show me ads for ice makers or other refrigerator accessories, or maybe related items like a new oven?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t really want ads, but OTOH, they help pay for my internet experience, and so they are a necessary thing. But if I were a marketer, I would try to use the info I have to try to get people to buy more crap as possible.

The DoD and Transgender Service Members

1 July 2016

I will be the first to say that I do not understand the mental and physical challenges that are experienced by transgender people. I’m sure I do not get the pronouns right (at least, yet).

But I think that the US Department of Defense decision today to allow openly transgender people to serve is simply outstanding.

The key word there is “people”. No matter a person’s sexual orientation or thoughts, they are people, and in the case of the United States, citizens who should be accorded the same rights (and attendant responsibilities) as everyone else.

I’ve been impressed with DoD for taking the lead on many LGBTQ issues in the past decade. This latest step is another in that series of moves that can only be good for the country as a whole.

Lake Draper Trails

26 June 2016

A month or so ago, I took a group of Troop 15 Scouts out to Lake Draper for a 10-mile hike for the Hiking Merit Badge. It had rained quite a bit the evening before, so it was quite muddy. We were on the west and northwest side of the lake.

Today, I took another group out. We got there this morning at 0830, and were on the the trail close to 0900. It was quite warm.

Draper is an OKC lake. The Point 9 area had a water faucet, but it was marked as being not potable. I saw the same thing at Crystal Lake, also an OKC lake. I do not understand why the city does not provide potable water at those two lakes.

Regardless, we managed to find the trail on the west side of the area. We almost immediately ran into tall plant fronds that completely covered the trail. We found this at many places on the trail, vegetation growing all over the trail. There were also numerous places where trees had fallen across the trail. There was a huge amount of poison ivy and an equally large amount of brambles.

To top all of this off, we experienced the largest number of ticks that I have seen since my friend Darla and I hiked around Greenleaf Lake back in 1977, picking literally dozens of the little SOBs off of ourselves. This was worse.

The ticks were so bad that when we came to a road, I decided to keep the group on the road for the rest of the hike. We had to trade the shade of being under the trees for unrelenting sun, because of the hordes of ticks.

We found a trail at Draper named after someone; it had a sign.

I think the Draper trails could be very cool to hike, but they need a lot of maintenance. I saw a huge number of tracks of deer of all sizes, raccoon, possum, coyote, and bobcat. That explains the tick population.

I am going to do some asking around city offices as to what could be done to get the trails in better shape. If the vegetation could be cut back a couple feet across the trail, the trail we saw was in good shape for hiking. A trim would help keep ticks off hikers as well.

An Amusing Email Loop

21 June 2016

Last week we were in Dallas. I was on a business trip, and I took the family with me so they could have a bit of recreation while I was working during the day.

Per company policy, I rented a car to drive down. I was given a Nissan Rogue, which is the first time I’ve driven one of those.

At some point, as is my usual practice, I connected my phone to the car using the cars Bluetooth. I get a lot of calls, and tend to take them in hands free mode.

Here’s where the amusing part comes in. My work email is set up to send me a text message when I receive a message. The text has enough of the message for me to determine how to prioritize answering the message. So I’m driving along, and I get an email in at work, which generates a text message. I check it out, not a priority.

Then I get another text message about 15 seconds later. Then another, then another… this went on for a couple minutes, and each of the messages were the same: “Sent from my car”. The rate sped up as I received about four messages in a five-minute span, so I was getting a LOT of texts. I turned off Bluetooth and it stopped the cycles.

So what happened: My work email would receive a message, and send me a text that I had a new email. The car radio would auto-reply back to my work email with a text-to-email gateway using my phone number with the “Sent from my car” message, which would arrive at work, and generate a text back to my phone. Naturally, my work email had a lot of these messages piled in my inbox.

I just left my phone disconnected from the Rogue Bluetooth (hah, sending “rogue messages!) for the remainder of the trip. I haven’t looked to see if there was a setting in the car to turn off the auto-generated reply.

One comment on that: the user interface into the Rogue display was very poor.

Perils of technology…

The Perot Museum of Nature and Science, Dallas, TX

20 June 2016

This past Friday, after my work finished, Raegan, Ian, and Erin and I headed to downtown Dallas to visit the Perot Museum. We got there about 1330.

One of the reasons I wanted to hit the museum is that they were playing an IMax film about our National Parks. We scored our entry tickets to include tickets for the show at 1415. Raegan got in free as she is an educator, and Erin got a discount for being a student.

We looked through the gift shop prior to show time. The movie was essentially a long commercial for our national parks (I have no problem with that). It was beautifully filmed. It was in 3D format, which was occasionally interesting but didn’t add much to the scenery.

They have a flow through the place. They want you to take a couple long escalators up to the 3rd floor, where you see a small exhibit on earth and space science, including an earthquake simulator. They also have a decent set of fossils there. On top of this level is a mezzanine devoted to birds. This was my favorite level in the museum.

From there, you drift down to level two. I love mineral collections, and while the mineral collection here was on the small side, they had some spectacular large crystals.

The life sciences hall was kind of sparse, but one thing that was pretty neat was some MRIs of the human body showing the midsections. Seeing the relationships between bones and organs was cool.

The hydrocarbons exhibit was basically a long commercial for fracking.

The Innovations hall has some cool hands-on stuff. The best thing was a robot programming station that used a form of Logo on a drag-and-drop GUI to program the robot to roam around the table.

We left right before 1800. It was an enjoyable visit, but was less extensive than other science museums we have been to. We won’t have a return visit for some time, unless they add some spectacular new exhibit. It’s worth a visit.

Johnnie’s, Edmond, OK

12 June 2016

Johnnie's Charcoal Broiler Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Raegan and Erin and I had late lunch here today.

Very straightforward: each of us had a cheeseburger. Mine was a double with chili. The burger was very, very good. It was cooked with a nice crust for texture, and had great beef flavor. I usually ask Johnnie’s to go light on the shredded cheddar they pile on.

Erin got fries (and this was the only down, the fries were a touch undercooked), and we also had onion rings, perfect!

The meal was topped off with a big slide of chocolate pie. The iced tea was excellent. Our check was $44.60. Not bad at all for the quality of the burgers. Great stuff.

Ranch House, Stroud, OK

12 June 2016

Ranch House Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday evening, we were driving to Tulsa so Raegan could attend a science teachers convention, and we were hungry, so we stopped here. It was very good.

We started off with salads from the small salad bar. The potato salad, peaches, and cottage cheese were very good. We also got a mix appetizer plate with wings, mushrooms, and onion straws. All were very good.

Raegan and I got fried chicken, it was pretty much perfect, crunchy, juicy, and not dried out. It was a lot of chicken, being a four-piece. Ian got a chicken fried steak. I got a couple bites, it was very good as well. I rated it a 9 out of 10. Erin got fish and chips and liked them.

The iced tea was excellent, and service was fast and friendly. Our check was $56.84. I would gladly eat here again.

Smokehouse Bob, Muskogee, OK

12 June 2016

Smokehouse Bob's Bar-B-Que Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Ian and Erin and I were taking a lunch break from working in Muskogee and headed to Smokehouse Bob.

They were out of chicken, ribs, and pulled pork, so we all got brisket. It was excellent. Cut a bit wet, it was tender and smoky and so flavorful. The kids both got fries. They were rough cut, deep fried, and had a bit of salt on them, and they were perfect. All three of us thought those were some of the best fries we had had. I had potato salad and slaw. I finished the salad but not the slaw, I just ran out of room.

Service was very friendly. The iced tea was excellent. Our check was $32.00. This place was great! I look forward to eating there again and trying the stuff they were out of.

A Little Bit Of History Was Made Yesterday…

8 June 2016

… and it is far past time.

Hillary Clinton became the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party for the Presidency of the United States.  While the couple instances of having female Vice Presidential candidates was a good thing, having a woman at the top of the ticket for a major party is long overdue.

Regardless of the years-long attempts to cover her with mud, her career of public service has been good training for her to reach this milestone.  I think there is an almost certainty that she will be elected our first female President, and will continue the work that her husband started and Obama built on.

I have been impressed with her path to the nomination.  Starting with her work in the health insurance reform plan in the [Bill] Clinton administration, then on as a Senator and Secretary of State, she has formed alliances to work with people to get stuff done.  That is an essential skill that is required of a true leader, and is critical to being the leader of the entire country.

Congratulations to Ms. Clinton for sticking to the plan and winning the nomination.  I hope she continues her work, for all Americans, as part of the [Hillary] Clinton administration.

Carl’s Jr, Midwest City, OK (Well, Really About Cheeseburgers in General)

7 June 2016

Carl's Jr. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

This isn’t really about the Carl’s location. It is a commentary on the sad state of fast food cheeseburgers.

I was looking for a cheeseburger today, and thought to hit up The Garage in MWC.  The place was crowded, and I was wanting to get back to work, so I headed across Crutcho Creek to the Carl’s there.  They used to have good burgers.

I got a Super Cheeseburger.  It was…  OK at best.  It had an actual crust on it from flame grilling, so there was some texture.  But the patties were small, and they had no flavor whatsoever.  I could taste the cheese (a little), the lettuce, and the mayo, but no beef flavor.

Fast food places that do cheeseburgers (I’m looking at you, Sonic, Braum’s, Burger King, McD, Whataburger, Jack In the Box, and the like), please stop serving us up meat with no flavor.  I don’t mind paying six or seven bucks for a fast food burger combo, but I want it to have some flavor and some texture.  LIKE YOU USED TO HAVE.

Burgers that were good were common.  I remember my friend Harold kidding me in 1985 that I had eaten cheeseburgers for dinner something like five days in a row, with no issue (day 1, Braum’s, day 2, BK, etc.).  One thing I remember with some fondness is the bacon cheeseburger at BK, and the Ultimate Cheeseburger at JITB.  Sometime in the past 5-10 years all that has just gone away.  The last JITB burger I had was about five years ago, when a location opened in MWC.  I went in there after it opened with high hopes, and didn’t even finish the burger, it was that nasty.

There are still good burgers.  Chili’s, The Garage, Irma’s and a host of other places come to mind.  Five Guys and Smashburger are two relatively new entrants that are very good.  But most of these places are sit-downs, and a lot of times I want to get and take back to the office quickly.

But Sonic and Braum’s should be ashamed.  Sonic did something different recently, but since I’ve been to five or six locations, it’s not consistently better.  Some are still just as crappy as before (59th and Sooner, MLK and I-44, 122nd and I-35 all come to mind).

If you are in charge or have influence at some of these places, please break your mold of thinking and get some better beef.  Please?

To finish, my check at the Carl’s was $7.32.  Service was very friendly and fast.  I like the breakfast items they serve.  Burgers, not so much.

Is it too much to ask for an El Pollo Loco in the area?

Fuze, Oklahoma City, OK

7 June 2016

Fuze Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Don’t bother.

Raegan and I had dinner at Fuze last evening with our Girl Scout Service Unit. The good news, we didn’t get sick.

I had some pot roast, a mongolian bbq (with chicken for my meat and fried rice for the starch), some wings, some curried chicken, a couple other things I can’t remember, some veg, and finally some tapioca. Raegan has some salad, sushi, turkey, and a couple other things.

None of this was bad. It also was not good. I don’t think a single thing that I had, to include the tapioca, had any real flavor. It was bland. Even the curried chicken didn’t have curry flavor. Some of the stuff was quite tough. I’m pretty sure the “brisket” was the same meat as the pot roast, but shredded with some red sauce on it (it wasn’t BBQ sauce). My comment to Raegan is that maybe all the stuff was made from the same protein stuff just extruded through different equipment.

The iced tea was not good, I switched to Dr. Pepper, which was not particularly good (it was watered down).

Service was pretty good. The music playing in the room we were in was way too loud, and after one request to the server, a manager came in within a minute and turned it down. Drinks were kept refilled.

I suppose this place would be an option if you have multiple “tastes” that need to be satisfied in a group of people. But don’t go here expecting decent flavor. I make a final comment, about the mongolian bbq: I added a number of sauces to mine, including one that was quite hot. It made not one difference.

Trump and Republicans and Politics

7 June 2016

There were quite a few reports of various Republicans condemning remarks by Donald Trump pertaining to a judge overseeing one of the lawsuits Trump is involved in.

Trump claims that the judge should be disqualified due to a conflict of interest.  The judges parents are Mexican, Trump wants to build a wall between Mexico and the United States, and so somehow that makes the judge unqualified to sit on the case.  Uh-huh.

It’s a stupid, knee-jerk reaction typical of Trump, who has no apparent ability to see long-term consequences from running his mouth in reactive mode.

But what I find interesting is the reaction of major political leaders like Paul Ryan.  He will vote for (endorse, apparently) Trump, as having a Republican, even a vile, racist, misogynist Republican, in office is more important than the possibility of having a Democrat in the White House.  Note that I say nothing about policy here, since there really hasn’t been any policy from Trump yet.

I saw that Conan The Destroyer was on TV this past weekend.  As I surfed past it, I wondered if the guardians of the crypt of the god Dagoth are like Paul Ryan and the rest of the Republicans, in that they believe that once the angry Trump is enthroned in the Presidency, then “they can control him” as opposed to his unleashing death to the world, and that is their endgame instead of trying to replace him at the Republican convention.

As I’ve said in the past, the Republican establishment are quite responsible for creating the interest in Trump.  Bringing in Sarah Palin was the start of the creation of the monster that is Donald Trump, and in focusing on imagery, stoking fear of Obama, practicing serial obstruction, and not putting forth any policy of substance, the Republicans managed to enrage part of their base to inflate inherent racism and inherent fear and enable those low-bandwidth voters a far greater influence than was probably intended.

It is incumbent on the Democrats to get their voters out in 2016, to both ensure that Trump and his “ideas” do not get inflicted on this country, and to balance policy going forward.  If the Republicans get fatally damaged in the meantime, that would be unfortunate.  But after the couple of decades turn of the Republican Party first to the extremism of the supposedly religious right, then to the policy-lite Bush 41, on to the war-mongering Bush 43, and finally to the rage of the Tea Party, Republicans will finally reap what they have sown.

Brock Turner Is A Symptom of A Larger Problem

7 June 2016

Turner was convicted of several counts relating to his rape of an unconscious woman in California.  For multiple felonies, he was sentenced to a very light six months.  The “judge” was concerned for the poor boys well-being, it seems.  His father was also concerned that his son getting so much bad vibe for his “20 minutes of action”.

I have no idea what the political leanings of that pair of twisted idiots, or the judge, are. But it is clear that all three of them value the well-being and mental health of the victim far less than the perpetrator. (Late note, I read over lunch that the judge is a former Stanford athlete, like Turner. I don’t know if that’s true.)

I don’t know what kind of sexual urge or drive or need or want drives a guy to rape an unconscious woman.  It is wrong on any number of levels.  The attacker rapist should have a greater punishment.  I understand a father wanting to support his son, but the father dismisses the victim (“20 minutes of action”) and bemoans the effect on the son. Too effing bad, your son is a rapist.

The fact that the victim was drinking is not relevant, once she was unconscious (and for all we know, she could have had “help” in that respect from the rapist) she can’t consent, and at that point, the only honorable thing to do was to help her back to a place of safety.

But these three clueless people, the rapist, his father, and the judge, are symptoms of larger issues that demean and degrade women who are victims of various forms of assault by men.  Whether catcalls, or groping, being drugged, or being raped, there are a significant number of abusers of women around.  Just as bad, there are people who protect those abusers, even if they don’t participate in the abuse.

In the past couple political cycles, a number of people, all men as far as I know, and all conservative as far as I know, have talked about rape in terms of blaming the victim.

If you don’t condemn rape without condition, then STFU, crawl back under a rock, and remove yourself from society.  We don’t need you, and we don’t want you in a position of trust if you can’t support half of our population.

Hickory House BBQ, Marietta, OK

6 June 2016

Hickory House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Of the hundreds of times I have been down I-35, I don’t think I have ever stopped in Marietta. When I was coming back from a trip to Richardson back on 30 April, it was early afternoon and I needed some lunch. I saw a sign referencing Hickory House, and since I’m always up for BBQ…

First mistake, they seated me in a room full of OU stuff. When I hit the restroom, I passed a room full of OSU stuff. Oh well ).

I had my usual, a two-meat dinner with chopped brisket and ribs. The ribs first. Decent smoke flavor but a little on the tough side, with a lot of meat. About an 8 on a scale of 1 to JTs. The brisket was excellent, more coarse chopped than fine chopped, and very juicy but not swimming in grease. Really good. I think I had slaw and fries for my sides.

Regardless, the iced tea was great and service was very good. My check was $17.87. Hopefully, I won’t wait another 30+ years to visit Marietta.

Judge’s Char Grill, Midwest City, OK

4 June 2016

Judge's Char-Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I had lunch here back on 02 October 2015.

I had the Chicken Fried Steak platter, with a slice of chocolate pie for dessert.

I should have just had the pie. The CFS was not very good at all, tough and tasteless. I didn’t even finish it, it was so bad.

My check was $19.50. The pie and the iced tea were the best part of the meal. Not recommended.

San Marcos Mexican Restaurant, Oklahoma City, OK (Meridian)

4 June 2016

San Marcos Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

We’ve been to several of the San Marcos locations in OKC, and like them. Back on 23 February, Raegan and I were headed to a Girl Scout shooting club event, and we needed dinner. San Marcos was close.

We both had our usual meals. Raegan had seafood mixed with veg, and I had pork guisado chili verde. Both were great as expected.

We had iced tea that was strong and good. Service was friendly and fast. Our check was $26.30. I like the chainlet, they make great Mexican food.

Marco’s Pizza, Oklahoma City, OK (SE)

4 June 2016

Marco's Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I like Marco’s. When this location opened last Fall, I was happy as it is only about a mile from my office. I had lunch here back on 10 May. Except for one small glitch, it was a great experience.

I ordered at the counter. I asked for a small pepperoni pizza and some chicken wings. The pizza was just as ordered, but I got chicken dippers instead of wings. As I was afraid the dippers would be tossed, I took them anyway. The pizza was great! The dippers were so-so. I thought they were tough and had little flavor. I will certainly get the wings next time, I know they are good.

My drink was a 2L DP to go. My check was $23.29 (yes, a little expensive, but it’s essentially two entrees). Great pizza.

Pizzaria Gusto, Oklahoma City, OK

4 June 2016

This is the first in a series of (again) delayed posts. Life gets in the way of having fun on occasion… 🙂

Pizzeria Gusto Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Raegan and the kids and I had dinner at Pizzaria Gusto last night. We were in midtown, we drove by, and it didn’t look crowded, so in we went.

We ate outside in the courtyard area as the temps were pretty nice. We walked through the main dining area, and it struck me as being very loud.

This is traditional pizza from Italy, not Hideaway, so if you were expecting a Big Country you might be disappointed.

Raegan and Erin split a Margherita, adding prosciutto (ham) and extra cheese.  Ian had a Margherita, adding soppressata (salami) and some roast garlic.  I had a meatball pizza. The crusts were hand tossed and pretty doughy but had good flavor.  Toppings were sorta on the thin side (not atypical of art pizza).  No one had any negative comments, but not all that many positive either.  I though my meatballs were bland.

We had sorbet, affogato (think a hot fudge sundae except the ice cream is gelato and the hot fudge is expresso), and a chocolate tart.  All OK.

We all had water to drink as our advance party didn’t find iced tea on the menu.  Service was pretty good.  Our check was $74.24.

We usually spend about $50 at Hideaway for Americanized pizza, so you pay a premium for the art pizza at Gusto.  It was not bad pizza, but it’s probably not something we would do often.

Delta Cafe, Shawnee, OK

3 June 2016

Delta Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I generally like the Delta Cafes. Ian and I were driving back to Muskogee one evening back on 10 April, and we were hungry after working most of the day in Muskogee, and Delta Cafe was open.

He had a chicken fried steak, and I had pot roast. It wasn’t very good. His CFS was tough. The pot roast was also.

Service was OK, and the iced tea was good. Our check was $30.77. It just wasn’t very good.

Butcher BBQ Stand, Wellston, OK

3 June 2016

Butcher BBQ Stand Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Ian and I were headed to Muskogee back on 09 April, it was a nice day, and it was near noon. We decided to hit Butcher BBQ as we were only about five miles from Wellston.

First of all, it’s only outside dining. It was kind of windy, so eating outside was a bit dicey.

Ian and I both got two-meat dinners, both with brisket and ribs. I had mac and cheese as a side, I don’t remember what Ian had (probably fries). The brisket was pretty good, but the ribs had little flavor and were tough.

They don’t have iced tea, just bottles of drink. The dining area had some games. Our check was $37.21. If I was headed into the OKC area, I would wait for Earl’s. If I was headed for Tulsa, I would wait for Five Star in Stroud.

People Acting Stupid About Obama, Again

28 May 2016

President Obama was in Japan the past couple days, and he visited the city of Hiroshima and made a speech.  I’ve read it, it’s here on the White House website.

I find it troublesome that in the past two days I’ve seen no less than four separate posts on Facebook that make the claim that President Obama somehow apologized for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.  “Likes” and comments from people I respect show that they apparently believe the claim of an apology.

It find it very sad that otherwise intelligent people just blindly pass along this tripe.  The speech was televised, and a transcript is available to read.  There isn’t anything in the speech that even resembles an apology.  Yet what I can only assume is blind hatred and unthinking loyalty to conservatism or republicanism or something equally stupid makes these people believe the claim.

The so-called “apology tour” that Obama supposedly embarked on at the start of his Presidency has been debunked over and over, and still unthinking “conservatives” cling to it as an article of faith.  I asked a couple of them to show me video or audio that supports the apology tour claim, and they couldn’t.  Debunk sites are “biased”, I’m told.

It’s pathetic that people give such blind credence to stuff like this.  A couple months ago, I posted on Facebook that people really should fact check stuff before posting it.  A guy who I respect for his service and his intelligence, but is conservative, shot back “Who are you to tell people what to post?”.  This kind of response is sad in that I would assume that people would want to be truthful, but I guess that the ability to repost stuff without caring if it is true or not, just so long as it hurts the President or someone else politically, it more important than integrity.

For myself, I would rather not be led by the nose by any media or “leader”, and keep my integrity.

Cool Things From The Air, DFW-SAT-PHX-SLC-DFW

28 May 2016

Note:  I found this draft post from April 2015 on my blog, and decided I ought to finish it.  I seem to remember I was trying to pin down the exact location of one of the photos.  Oh well.


I was on travel the past week [note, actually 13-17 April 2015], and saw some interesting things from the window seat.

The photos are on my Google+ site here.

I saw the very pretty Lake Belton in central Texas, followed shortly by downtown Austin.

I was astounded at the amount of mining going on between Austin and San Antonio.  I went hiking at a park west of San Antonio a couple years ago, and passed several mining operations, and saw more from the air flying in and out.

One facility right outside one of these mines caught my eye.  The Bexar Concrete facility had a lot of what looked like tubes outside it, but on closer Google Maps examination, I think the “tubes” are highway overpass beams.

On Wednesday I flew from SAT to PHX.  I was astounded by the number of oil facilities along the way.  I’ve seen some of those when flying from DFW to SAN, but the sheer number are amazing.

I also saw the very dense King Mountain Wind Farm.  King Mountain looks to me more like a mesa.

We continued north of PHX towards SLC.  Over Williams, I saw a sun reflection off a track track, it was very cool.

I had high expectations of seeing Grand Canyon shortly thereafter.  It was clear, and the network of canyons to the south of Grand Canyon  (Havasu Creek) was clearly visible.

[This, BTW, is what led me to not completing this post.  I was trying to identify this odd structure that I thought was right on the Canyon rim.]


Right after the picture of Havasu Creek, we ran over clouds that blanketed Grand Canyon.  Very annoying.  I thought the structure above was right on the north rim, but today, I did a little dead reckoning using time instead of airspeed, and that analysis placed that structure near Jacob Lake.

Next I started looking for some structures that I thought to be near Bryce Canyon, but again I had no luck finding the exact location.

For the return from SLC to OKC (via DFW), I was lucky enough to get a great shot of Philmonts Baldy Mountain, and a canyon between there and DFW.

I’ll keep looking for the stuff near Grand Canyon, I really want to find it.

Running A Laptop As A Virtual Machine

27 May 2016

This is a post I started back in March, I’m just now finishing it :).

I’ve been carrying a series of work-issued laptops for more than 15 years.  About six years ago, the Air Force issued me an HP 6930p.  It is a workhorse and worked well for me.  My company issued me an HP 6570b back in December, and after I changed contracts in March, I turned the 6930p back in with some regret.

I had previously backed up all the work files from the 6930p to the 6570b, that was easy. But I had some apps I wanted to have access to on the 6930p that I could not transfer. Since I didn’t want to buy an aftermarket 6930p, and I sure didn’t want to carry two laptops, I decided the best way to keep those apps around was to virtualize the 6930p.  I did some research and decided I would install a second disk in the 6570b.  I bought a laptop 2TB disk and a drive carrier, and started experimenting.

The first thing I did was install disk2vhd on the 6930p.  I told it to capture the disk, and off it went, this was about 2100.  From the progress bar, it looked like it would take about three hours to capture the disk.  I let it run overnight.  At 0200, W10 installed updates and rebooted, so that killed the capture.  I started it again the next afternoon, and at 1700 it was still running.  I carried the running computer out to my car while it kept capturing, and it was still capturing at home at 2300 when I went to bed, and at 0700 the next morning.  Hmmm…

I killed the process, and went looking for info.  Turns out that is common behavior by disk2vhd.  OK.  I noted the vhdx file was about the right size, and so I though WTH and tried to mount it.  Windows told me it was already mounted.  It would not un-mount.  That meant I could not copy it.  I restarted the computer with System Rescue CD, mounted the W10 drive, and copied the vhdx file off to a thumb drive.  So far, so good.  It was interesting that Windows found the vhdx file and auto-mounted it.

A note, I tried the disk2vhd program several times to try to get it to terminate.  I tried changing the output to vhd, and several other things (it’s easy to let the machine run overnight for tests like that).  Disk2vhd never properly terminated, but it still produced good files.

In the meantime, I was getting the 2TB drive ready.  I decided I would like to have my old friend Fedora running again, so I downloaded Fedora 22 and installed it.  But, it would not get the laptop wireless working.  Yum didn’t work at all (weird, that one).  A couple of other devices were not working.  I played with it a couple days on and off, and eventually got annoyed, and downloaded Ubuntu 14.04 workstation (I run 14.04 server on the school server, so that was a good match).

I had to use diskpart to hammer the existing Fedora installation install, for some reason Ubuntu wouldn’t overwrite the disk.  I built Ubuntu, and at the very end, it noted that it was installing GRUB.  I booted Ubuntu and it worked great, all devices worked, looking good.  Except, Ubuntu or GRUB had reached out to the other physical disk and wiped it out, very annoying.  I got that disk fixed, then came back and re-installed Ubuntu on the 2TB disk with the W7 disk completely removed from the computer and locked into a lead-lined vault (just kidding about that last).

I downloaded VMWare VirtualBox and installed it.  Then I copied the vhdx file over to the Linux disk.  I tried starting it, and VirtualBox helpfully told me to change the BIOS setting of the computer to support virtualization.  I rebooted, made the BIOS change, got back into VirtualBox, and started the VM, and… it started.  Just like that.  Just like that.  Whoa.

I was presented with my W10 login screen, and logged in.  There was my W10 desktop, surrounded by Linux.  Weird, and cool.

When it started, VirtualBox had showed several messages about keyboard and mouse capture, but they both worked equally with Linux and the VM.  The VM was connected to the wired network connection that Linux had, no problem (and I found later that it worked great when Linux was on a wireless connection as well).

There are a couple oddities.  The video driver that the VM uses isn’t the 6930p video card, so instead of a 1280×800 display (wide) I get a 1024×768 (I looked very briefly about installing a virtual driver but didn’t follow up).  One app (my Garmin Basecamp GPS mapping tool) complains that it can only run in 2D mode instead of 3D mode due to the video, but I don’t notice any difference.

W10 boots a little slower, but once booted it runs pretty darn fast.  I haven’t been able to get the VM to recognize USB drives.  Linux and VirtualBox recognize them, but the configuration setting doesn’t pass the drive through to the VM.  I’ve made up for that by using Google sites and Google drive to pass data into and out of the VM.

In the VM, I used a license crawler tool to get the MS Office license, then I removed Office (I use Office on my W7 laptop, and LibreOffice in Linux, no issues transferring between the two).  That Office license will go to upgrade Raegan’s office on her desktop.

I don’t know how long I will use the W10 VM.  I made an effort to ensure that my Ubuntu would do the same stuff that the W10 would do.  There have been two things I’ve had issues with, one is a replacement (or rehosting) of the Garmin Basecamp tool, and the other is a tool to convert a series of JPEG images captured from a wireless camera into an MPEG format for viewing.  I have access to an XP machine to do that right now, and it works OK.

So the virtualization effort was pretty painless.  The VM, when it is running, doesn’t impact my Ubuntu performance.

I might virtualize my W7 installation and see how it works next…

Past and Inherent Racism

27 May 2016

So Louisiana has passed a law that designates crimes against police as hate crimes.  This follows a lot of blather, mostly on the right, about how “all lives matter” and “police lives matter”, and most of that is in direct reaction to the Black Lives Matter movement that developed in the wake of numerous incidents of black people being killed by police, including some egregious examples of unarmed blacks being killed by heavily armed white police.

These counter-movements are examples of the inherent racism still practiced by many Americans.  White-dominated law enforcement has far more weapons (to include physical weapons, and the weapons of law, which include the ability to arrest on little pretext) than the citizenry in general.  The rate of police officers shot or injured or killed is far, far less than the rate of citizens shot, injured, or killed.

Further, the use of the hate crime is limited to a specific set of crimes.  Per the FBI,

A hate crime is “a criminal offense committed against a person, property, or society that is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity/national origin”.

On the one hand conservatives want to exclude transgender people from protection, although they are clearly part of the sexual orientation clause, and on the other hand, they want to add police to this list.  Each category has a history of official oppression.  There is no history of oppression of police, and in fact, there are many examples where the police have been the oppressors, or protectors of oppressors.

So the Louisiana action is essentially shooting the finger at blacks.  It is inherently racist.

If black lives mattered to all, the Black Lives Matter movement would not be necessary.  As I have said before, the long history of oppression of our black citizens (and that also get’s ignored, they are our fellow citizens and should have equal rights) has not been corrected from a societal or economic basis.  Oppression is more subtle now, but it’s still there, and opportunity still is not available to all equally, starting with education, and leading to jobs.

That’s the real issue here, not some knee-jerk racist response to supposedly protect the civil rights of police.