Friday, September 30, 2016

The Square Peg - Micromushed

The Square Peg - Micromushed
© S. Bradley Stoner

I am POed. It didn’t happen all at once. Nope, this is an accumulation of a week’s worth of frustration with my cyberspace. That’s right, my virtual world is giving me fits. My CPU is underperforming, my virtual memory is shrinking, my RAM is impotent. I’ve attacked the problems all week... and they keep attacking back. How do I know this? I have an excellent antivirus and computer optimizing program. It’s one of the best on the market. It tells me what my performance is. It eliminates craplets (whatever the hell they are), it defrags the hard drive, it updates my software... except for my XP. Micromush doesn’t support that anymore. They want me to upgrade. I don’t want to upgrade. I like XP and I refuse to rent a program from the Perpetual Pecker-head Profiteer of Programming... take that Mr. Bill!

Now, understand this... I am a computer multitasker. That means I have a lot of programs on the old hard drive that eat RAM. That has a tendency to make my RAM go on the lam. Generally I have a solution for this. I have multiple external hard drives, so whenever things start to bog down, I mirror those programs on the external and uninstall them on the computer’s hard drive. That used to work well. Now? Not so much. So I went on the Internet to see what tweaks I could do to old reliable to make it work faster. Aha! I found an article about Micromush’s tracking software. Seems it comes with every update and security fix they put out... and boy does it eat memory, not to mention all the little packets of bits it sucks back to Micromush central. @#$% it to !^&&!

Then there’s all those H-key gizmos. One article told me I didn’t need to keep them all, but it didn’t tell me which ones I could get rid of and which to keep. Since that could cause old reliable to crash and burn, I’m going to leave them alone until I do some more research. Even then I’d better tread lightly. I can’t afford to have my baby go bye-bye. Frankly, I’m thinking about dumping Micromush and trying on a new hat... a Fedora or Red Hat to be exact. I really don’t need a Red Hat... it’s an Enterprise system... no not the Star Trek ship... it manages multiple platforms. Fedora, on the other hand, is an operating system for a single work station. It’s free from Linux... and guess what? All the Micromush programs I actually own will run on it. They say even the new Micromush programs are compatible, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Mr. Bill isn’t high on competition (we all remember who took a bite out of the Apple, don’t we?).

Well, I finally went cross-eyed looking at all the articles and the funky Micromush code so I called it a morning and headed outside to take my frustration out on the overgrown bushes in my front yard. I lopped the bejeepers out of the Esperanza so those showy Mexican Firebushes could get a little more sunlight and the hummers would have a little maneuvering room. I gave my Privet a crew cut and showed my Carob the cutting edge of a chain saw. Yep, I was cleaning house... and my jungle was actually starting to look civilized, almost groomed you might say. I was feeling better. Frustration was slowly giving way to a slight feeling of euphoria. Then Bob showed up.

“Whoa! You’re really hacking stuff back. What’s up?”

The ‘hacking’ reference almost sent me into a tail spin, but I regained control. “Just time to do my fall pruning,” I replied evenly, swallowing a smartass geek-speak retort.
“You kinda been holed up this week. Haven’t seen ya out much.”

“Yeah, well I’ve had some computer issues that I needed to address.”

“Got a virus, huh,” Bob intoned like he knew what he was talking about.

“Nothing like that. Just getting rid of some programs and cleaning out the junk so it runs a little better.”

“You gotta stay away from those free sites,” he nodded sagely, “they’ll download all kinds of crap on ya.”

“I don’t go to free sites for programs,” I grumbled. “I do beta test some software from reputable companies.”

About that time, Frank’s daughter wandered by, walking her dog. She flashed a smile and waved at us as she passed by.

“I’d like to beta test her software,” Bob leered.

“Geez, Bob, won’t you ever learn? If your wife doesn’t get you again, Frank will.”

“Hey... it don’t hurt to look. I’m just appreciating the art work.”

“Sure you are, Bob,” my voice dripped with sarcasm.

“Oh, mister holier than thou... I suppose you don’t look.”

“She’s young enough to be my granddaughter, Bob.”

“Well, I ain’t dead yet... at least not...”

“Bob... I’m holding a chain saw, and it’s plugged in. I’d choose my next words carefully if I were you. One quick swipe and you’re a gelding.”

“A what?”

I forgot Bob is ignorant of cowboy and farm terms. “Go look it up Bob.” I figured that would pretty well take care of his afternoon and I could get back to my pruning. It became pretty clear pretty quickly that he wasn’t anxious to leave. So I changed tactics. “Well, if you’re going to hang around, make yourself useful and help me clean up the trimmings.

Bob looked at the piles of brush, most of it with thorns, and reconsidered. “Um, I think I have some honey-dos at home. I better be goin’.”

An hour later, I felt refreshed and was ready to do some serious pruning in my computer and close some gates on Mr. Bill.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Square Peg - Fumbles, Foibles and Foofaraws!

The Square Peg - Fumbles, Foibles and Foofaraws!
© S. Bradley Stoner

South-central Texas is grudgingly admitting that we have passed the autumnal equinox... and yes, we south-central Texans actually know what that is, and how to pronounce it, despite what some of you Yankees might think. As a friend of mine used to say... “us’ns is edjumacated!” That was uttered with tongue in cheek, y’all, so don’t go getting all uppity!

Anyway, we know that summer has passed and that means it’s now fall... somewhere. Not here. Here, as I mentioned last time, it’s second spring. NEVER-THE-LESS, this time of year means a whole lot to Texans. Let’s see in September, there’s Diez y Seis (Mexican Independence Day), FotoSeptiembre USA, Jazz’SAlive, Six Flags Fright Fest, and the onset of NFL Football. As most of you know, or at least should know, Texas is synonymous with football. It starts with Pop Warner, gains momentum with High School, and goes absolutely nuts with Pro Football. Heck, San Antonio has even tried to entice the Saints and the Raiders. As the seventh largest city in the country, San Antonians feel they deserve a Pro team. It would give us something else to celebrate at all the October Beer fests. Yep... October is unofficially “drunk month” down here. But, I digress. Let’s get back to September and football.

I won’t say Texans are rabid fans. I mean we don’t generally get into fist fights when other team’s fans show up... unless it’s the KC Chiefs, and they start it. We are loyal fans, but since a lot of our population comes from elsewhere, having wound up here at one time or another during military service and decided this was the place to retire, our loyalties are somewhat divided. One thing San Antonians (most of them) have in common is that we aren’t Cowboy fans. Nope... we make fun of Jerry Jones and Tony Romo, at least when he plays, which isn’t often because he keeps getting injured. We all wish we could get paid as much as he does for being off work as much as he is. Except for the steel pins and pain, that’s a pretty easy way to make a living.

Almost all of us like the Houston Texans and delight in seeing Watt, Clowney, McKinney, and Mercilus terrorize opposing quarterbacks. Who wouldn’t? They’re almost as good as my Broncos... almost. Whenever I say this, I have to back up a couple of steps to avoid the wrath of the one avid Patriot and one rabid Panther fan in our neighborhood. They’re still smarting over last year. They’re going to get even this year. I told the Patriot fan the Broncos were going to let the air out of their football... so Brady could get a better grip. It’s a good thing the Patriot fan is smaller than me. He just huffed and stomped off. The Panthers fan didn’t say anything... the Broncs already whupped them this year. I’m just glad we don’t have any Bengals fans. Apparently Texans, even the ones that came from Ohio, just don’t like Cincinnati... or Cleveland for that matter. Heck we didn’t even pay much attention to the Browns even when Manziel played there and he lived just up I-10 in Kerrville.

Okay, all of this was a rambling prelude to what I really intended to write about today. While we Texans are politely passionate about our football (raise your hand if you believe that), there are some things about the game that will just spark a foofaraw. That’s right, I said it... FOOFARAW! I could have said “tempest in a teapot,” but that’s just trite and isn’t nearly as cool as saying “foofaraw.” And I want to be cool. Who doesn’t? So what was this dust up about? Was it about the fantasy football lineup? The injury roster? The stupid new rules? Nope. While any one of those could incite a legitimate debate, none would fall into the foofaraw category. What does fall into that category is the Sunday Night Football song. I found that out this morning.

There was a small crowd gathered in front of Bingo Bob’s house. I noticed it because of its unusual composition. It was about evenly split between male and female, and it was pretty obvious the genders had squared off against each other. Naturally, I thought, ‘Uh oh, this is about some sexist remark Bob made.’ Wrong.

Bob was getting loud. “I’m tellin’ ya, it’s ruined Sunday Night Football... that prancing princess of puntdom changing the song that way. Who does she think she is?”

Paula Pettingzoo matched him volume for volume. “She’s an artist, you buffoon! She’s innovative... vivacious... and talented!”

“Yeah,” Patti Peeksalot sputtered. Patti isn’t much for original thought, but she’s a great supporter.

“You don’t even watch football,” Duncan snorted. “I doubt you’ve even seen it.”

“Have too,” Patti pouted, but they all knew it wasn’t true.

“What? In the commercials?” Frank asked.

“Who asked you?” Gail Greenup shot at him.

“Oh go recycle something,” Frank shot back.

“Hey, that was uncalled for,” Twyla Twaddle whined.

“Ah,” Bob droned in his best and most sarcastic basso profundo, “the terrible trio of testimonials has spoken.”

“That was unkind,” Hillary Hardbody interjected and added, “I kind of like the new song too.”

Now Charlie, who knows as much about football as the geckos on my porch wall, piped up with, “Like you watch sports.” He couldn’t even bring himself to say ‘football.’

Hillary was indignant, and I don’t blame her. “I watch sports,” she spat. “I’m a big athletic supporter!”

That was too much for Bob. He looked her up and down approvingly and said, “Don’t I wish!”

The next thing everybody heard was Bob’s pained shriek as his wife dragged him inside by his ear. That pretty much ended the curbside meeting. 

As it broke up and folks began drifting away, Duncan looked at me and said, “I didn’t hear anything from you... Well? What do you have to say for yourself?”

“I think it’s time for lunch,” I replied and headed home.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Square Peg - Going to Pot

The Square Peg - Going to Pot
© S. Bradley Stoner

It was late afternoon and I was in my garage. I’d cleared my work bench and fetched an array of salvaged flower pots on it. I’d saved them from previous purchases, rescued them from being thrown away by neighbors, and even a couple from the curbside piles on “bulk pickup” day. By the way, it’s amazing what people chuck if the city picks it up for nothing. Okay, it isn’t “nothing,” trust me, you pay for it.  I digress. Anyway, I was in the garage fixing to do some planting. It’s second spring here in San Antonio and perfect weather to start seedlings and cuttings.

Normally, I do this in my potting shed in the back yard, but I got to the chore late today and the sun was beating a 94° tattoo on my head. It was a bit warm. The garage, on the other hand, was a reasonably cool 82°. Besides, it was out of the sun and my big box fan kept the air circulating and the work environment tolerable, so I was ready to test out the theory that I truly do have a green thumb.

On the agenda today, Pride of Barbados and Sago Palm seeds sent to me by a friend in Austin. I was now the proud owner of several Pride of Barbados ripe pods and three Sago Palm seeds. I’d never tried to start either one from seed, but I have had success with other plants, like that Mexican Habanero Pepper pictured above. That plant is going on three years old. It produced over ten big peppers earlier this year and, with second spring, now has about sixteen new peppers growing on it. I’m not sure of the actual number. It’s still flowering and little peppers keep popping up on a daily basis. I only count the ones bigger than my thumb. Stop it Brad... your mind is wandering again.

So, there I was, happily measuring out potting soil, scarifying the Barbados seeds (this apparently helps the seeds germinate) and generally getting ready to plant when Duncan and Bob sneak up on me. Okay... they didn’t really sneak, but I was pretty focused on what I was doing so I didn’t hear them walk up my driveway. Bob almost made me drop the seed I was working on with a small emery board.

“Whatcha doin’?”

“Dammit, Bob, don’t do that!”

“Do what?”

“Sneak up on me.”

“Who’s sneaking?” Duncan asked. “We just wandered over to see what you were up to.”

“Well, wander a little louder next time,” I grumbled.

“Geez, don’t be so grouchy,” Bob said.

“My garage, my rules... I’ll be grouchy if I want to.”

Bob reached out for one of the Sago Palm seeds. I smacked his hand with the emery board. “Don’t touch my seeds,” I growled.

“Ow!” Bob whined, withdrawing his hand quickly... as if an emery board could inflict pain on a grown man.

Duncan stepped in before things escalated. “So, are you going to pot?”

Bob sniggered. “Stoner going to pot... that’s funny.”

“Put a sock in it Bob. It’s not like I haven’t heard stuff like that since I was a kid. And yeah, Duncan, I’m going to pot some new plants.”

Duncan eyeballed the front yard, crowded with Esperanza, Mexican Firebush, roses, my chocolate tree, and the Live Oak. “Where are you going to plant ‘em?”

“If I’m successful with the Pride of Barbados, I’m going to plant one in the front... even if I have to dig up one of the roses or shrink the yard a little. If they all come up, I’m going to sell some.”

“You could give me one,” Bob suggested.

“Or you could buy one,” Duncan returned.

“That’s not very neighborly,” Bob grumbled, reaching for one of the pods.

I smacked him with the potting trowel.

“HOLY CRAP!” Bob yelled.

“Keep it up, Bob, and seeds won’t be the only thing Brad will be planting,” Duncan warned.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Square Peg - Make It So

The Square Peg - Make It So
© S. Bradley Stoner

I’ve been busy. Really busy. Unusual for a retired guy, right? Well, maybe not so much. After all, I’m “semiretired.” Basically that means I work when I want to, or so it would seem. Not really. Yes, I could refuse a client, but generally that’s not in my nature. Besides, I love what I did for a career. I like to keep my hand in the game.

Anyway, I emerged from my self-imposed exile from the outside world last Thursday evening for a couple of hours. It would have been for only an hour, which is how long it takes to mow my lawn (yeah, it’s still growing... lots), but Bob was out in his yard. And, I noticed something strange about Bob. I don’t know if it was the tall boots or the tight pants and vermillion tunic, but there was something vaguely familiar about the get up and it got my curiosity up. Curiosity can be a dangerous thing, by the way. It certainly was Thursday and it cost me an hour I didn’t really have to spend.

Bob saw me staring at him, grinned broadly, and came trotting over to where I was gassing up the old mower. “Haloo Number One!” he called as he approached.

“I beg your pardon,” I groaned. I’m not sure I liked being called “Number One,” but I suppose it was better than being called “Number Two.” That would have been crappy to say the least.

“Whaddaya think?” he beamed, spreading his arms and pirouetting like a punch-drunk model.

“About what?”

“The uniform... isn’t it spectacular? I had it made special for today.”

I must admit I was a bit befuddled... until I saw the communicator pinned to his tunic. Okay... so Bob’s a Trekkie. Big deal. Well, maybe I shouldn’t say that, because my wife loves to collect all things Star Trek. I even got her a pizza cutter shaped like the Enterprise, which, by the way, has never touched a pizza. It decorates one of her collection shelves. The one on her desk next to the baby alien lamp. And let’s face it, I’m kind of into space travel myself. I want to be a Martian... no not the sci-fi kind, a real Martian colonist. I even have my name on a list. I didn’t tell Bob that. He’d think I was nuts and we can’t have that.

In any case, Bob was disappointed. “Don’t you know what day it is?”

I thought about saying S. H. I. T., you know, for So Here It’s Thursday, but instead I just replied, “Sure I do. It’s Thursday. I have a calendar.”

“No!” Bob fairly shouted. “I mean what day this is. Don’t you watch the news or social media?”

Okay, now I was completely befuddled. “Not so much, Bob. I’ve been working.”

That threw Bob for a loop... at least temporarily... and his thought train jumped the track. “Hey, wait a minute,” he said. “You’re retired.”

“Semi,” I shot back.

“What do trucks have to do with this?” Bob looked puzzled. Sometimes he can be just a tad slow. Other times a snail would win a race with him. Finally it struck him. “Oh, you mean semi-retired. Gotcha.”

“Lord, I hope not,” I said more to myself than to him.


Please don’t go there, Bob... “Never mind, I was just thinking aloud.”

“Oh.” Bob scratched his head, a sure sign he was searching for his original topic.

I didn’t have all day to wait for him to find it. “So tell me, what is special about today?”

“It’s the 50th anniversary of Star Trek.”

“So you felt compelled to dress up?”

“Well yeah. Besides, I had to try it on to make sure it fit. I’m wearing it to next month’s Comic-Con downtown.”

“San Antonio has a Comic-Con?”

“Man, you just don’t keep up with the important stuff, do ya?”

I’ve got to admit, with all the political B.S., football stars making statements that have nothing to do with football, and the economy, I’ve kind of shunned news and social media. I don’t need the aggravation.

“Apparently not, Bob. Listen, I don’t want to be rude, but I have to get the lawn mowed before it gets dark.”

“Make it so, Number One,” Bob intoned gravely and followed me down the driveway. As I reached for the starter cord, he pointed his right forefinger and barked, “Engage!”

I pulled the cord and, as the mower sputtered to life, I wished I had a phaser. I’m not sure I would have set it to stun.