Blog Day

Thinking of investing in Las Vegas real estate? Contact Steve at 702-379-6267, or check out Paradise Palms Real Estate and Retiring to Vegas on Facebook!

I hereby declare Wednesday to be “Blog Day.”

Shhhhhhyyyyeah. Sure.

Anyhow, I put it into my calendars, so I’ll be getting reminders about it, so maybe. We’ll see. But for now, here’s what I’m up to this week.

In the world of real estate I have one condo for sale and two rentals. One of the rentals has been hit with a lot of vandalism as it sat empty. It took me months to get the owner in Kentucky to understand what was happening here in the big city. He lives in Bowling Green, a nice college town, where people are not so eager to mess with other people’s stuff. But, enough about real estate. Check my pages on Facebook if you want more of that.

In the world of writing, I have a middle-grader ready to pitch, assuming I can find someone to pitch to. I’ve joined RWA for the quality of their conference, in particular since a fellow children’s’ writer, Jay Asher, has so heartily endorsed them. Tami has been a member since forever, even served on the board once upon a time. I’m looking forward to the conference. I have begun plowing very slowly through my YA romance, about a chapter at a time, trying to make it read well and all. I’m up to page 15. Don’t hold your breath, but it shall be done.

And then there’s stand-up. I took two courses from Philip Paredo, a recent import to Las Vegas who is a comic and also runs Tickle Me Entertainment. I haven’t decided how far to pursue this field yet, but this very night I plan to be at Legends on Boulder Highway for open mic night, starting at 9pm. Don’t go there to see just me, ’cause I may not make it, but I’m going to try. Go there if you want to hear some fresh comics, though. Definitely for that.

I’m hoping to get additional creative juices flowing through this blog, so if you want to help out in comments or whatever, and tell me what you’re up to, or trade links, you know the drill, I’m open to that.

I’ll see you, I hope, next week. Same bat time, same bat channel.

SPYWARE AND STUFF

Thinking of investing in Las Vegas real estate? Contact Steve at 702-379-6267, or check out Paradise Palms Real Estate and Retiring to Vegas on Facebook!

In a spirit of helpfulness and public duty, I want to mention three products which I use to keep my computers free of headache. No, wise guy, not one of them is from Apple.

First, it’s easy to pick up a load of spyware. Spyware is just cookies that have enough program in them to track where you’ve been on the Internet and what you’ve done there. Potentially, this includes recording your keystrokes and sending them off to someone else. Maybe not too awful even at that, unless those keystrokes happen to be the password to your online bank account. Hmmm. Even absent that sort of malice, these little devils can be nasty. That’s because they must send data back to wherever they came from in order to do their jobs. If you get enough of them, that can add up to a lot of data. I had a laptop get so infected that it would barely function until I cleaned all of the spyware off. I used Spy Hunter, from Enigma Software to do the job. $30 a year for 3 computers, and worth every penny.

If you use Windows you should get Windows Defender, or the Windows Live Essentials download, all of which is free. The price is right and it will take care of most common viruses. If you do nothing else to protect yourself, do this. Just search for it on your computer, and if you don’t see it, go to Microsoft.com and you’ll find it there. If you don’t have it, get it.

Defender is good for common viruses, but sometimes you get some sort of nasty thing that Defender can’t remove. Not often, to be fair, but I got one once that redirected every single web page I tried to visit, downloaded tons of advertising videos for things I had no interest in, and generally made it impossible to use my computer normally. For that, and similar baddies, I use Malware Bytes. Malwarebytes (It actually shows up as all one word like that) got rid of that nasty and has been silently seeking out new ones, and sometimes finding them, in the background ever since. It’s $25 per year for 3 computers and well worth the investment.

Finally, and you don’t have to do this but it makes your computing experience more fun, I use a program called System Mechanic from Iolo to keep things in trim. It does things like defragment the registry, recover memory, defragment your hard drive, optimize your Internet connections and much more. It’s $40, but that’s not a subscription, it’s the price, for as many PCs as you have at home. (They have business versions as well.) Again, well worth it, and you only pay once. It updates periodically at no extra charge.

There you go. My recommendations. There are other programs that probably work as well, although for the price it’s hard to beat Defender. No reason not to use that, but use another as well. On my home PC I use Defender, System Mechanic, and Malware Bytes, and I have zero problems.

 

Williams theme park plan unveiled – Williams News – Williams, Arizona

Thinking of investing in Las Vegas real estate? Contact Steve at 702-379-6267, or check out Paradise Palms Real Estate and Retiring to Vegas on Facebook!
Get Your Kicks . . .
Get Your Kicks . . .

Williams theme park plan unveiled – Williams News – Williams, Arizona.

 

This isn’t a historic bit of Route 66, but it does affect the heart of that highway. Good stuff.

Mercedes M Yardley

Beautiful Sorrows
A Creepily Good Book

 

I have this book, signed by the author. There is one very short story, in particular, that gives me the chills because it is so effective. It’s only a paragraph or so long, but it’s complete. Want to see? Buy the book. The image links to Amazon.

Mercedes not only signed my copy of this book, she also presented to the Las Vegas Writers’ Group an excellent presentation on how to blog. Not that I’ve been doing it right, mind you, but I did get better than I had been. I’m working on it, you see. I did give this book a good review on Amazon, but this is not her only work. The thing is, her stories are not only creepy, they’re funny, which makes everything okay, doesn’t it? Unlike a lot of authors I’ve never met, I’ve known Mercedes and her husband for a few years now. I have, unfortunately, never met her chickens, who I’m sure are exemplary birds.

My point being that this lady writes better than I do and you should check her out. She has a blog, A Broken Laptop, and a page on Amazon, so it’s easy to find her . Go ahead! Tell her I sent you.

NotHotLanta

‘Not’HotLanta? Well, consider this photograph:

4 out of 5 days looked just like this -- photo by Steve Fey
4 out of 5 days looked just like this — photo by Steve Fey

There’s nothing special in the frame; it’s just a view of the hotel’s (Marriott Northwest in Smyrna) tent like ballroom on the left, and rear parking area and driveways on the right. The rain, however, is the subject. During our time in Atlanta they received something on the order of 3 inches of rain. This led to our choosing a whole lot of indoor activities. Only the final day, the one where we left town in the evening, was sunny part of the time. That’s when we went to the zoo.

What to do indoors in Metro Atlanta? Well, the first afternoon we were confused, as one gets, by the long trip, so we went to a movie. We saw the live-action Cinderella from Disney, which is in fact a very good movie, but that’s about all we accomplished, other than that I watched Letterman through the Top Ten for probably the last time. (I fall asleep too early on the West Coast.

The next day we were out and about. Ah, yes. To wit, here is a photograph we had taken of ourselves with a familiar advertising icon:

Coca Cola Bear and Friends. Photo by Coca Cola on my Droid Maxx
Coca Cola Bear and Friends. Photo by Coca Cola on my Droid Maxx

Almost shockingly, our hotel featured Pepsi, but that was the only Pepsi I saw for sale during our stay in Atlanta. Tami kept asking at restaurants whether they had Pepsi or Coke. I don’t drink a lot of soda pop , but I wouldn’t have bothered. Coca Cola is a huge presence in Atlanta. We were just ahead of a large group of school kids in getting to see that bear, for example. The World of Coca Cola is a major draw, with busses cramming the streets surrounding the place. It’s worth a visit, even if you, however unlikely it seems, prefer Pepsi. (Some people must.)

They have a room full of memorabilia from the past century and a half, a movie that is guaranteed to make a turnip feel good, then you can meet the bear, and finally you’re free to roam exhibits including a slow bottling line (from which they give you a bottle as you exit) and a place where you can design your own Coke bottle. Yes, really. Here’s mine:

Coke Bottle Small (360x640)

*** By the way, all of the photos on this post were taken with a Droid Maxx. Apple, as usual, lies by omission. It isn’t so much the camera as how you process the image afterwards that makes it good or bad. ***

I barely got that photo taken because somebody else sat down as I stood up, but I got it. There is a room where they screen ads from all over the world (kind of a yawner after a couple of minutes, to be honest) and at the end a tasting room where you can sample any of their products from anywhere. The best were a couple of apple-flavoured sodas (from places where they spell that way) and the worst, by miles, was a bitter drink from Italy. It took several hits of other beverages, finishing up with a Sprite and a Coke, to get that awful taste out of my mouth. I never saw the stuff when we were in Italy. If I ever do, I won’t buy it. Yoiks!

Sharing a plaza with World of Coca Cola is the Civil Rights Center (not included in our Atlanta City Pass so I haven’t seen it) and the Atlanta Aquarium. It’s a nice aquarium, but the screeching of the small kids got to us in the end and we ran away. Tami took all of the pictures there, but it was the usual stuff: sharks, rays, colorful fish, river displays, you know, aquarium stuff.

That evening we ate at a place called Sugar Cakes Patisserie in Marietta. I’ve never tasted better bread. The rest of the food is also excellent. If you’re ever in that area, I highly recommend the place. It’s right on Marietta Square, same side as the theater.

Saturday Tami gave an all-day workshop and I wrote. We ate at an Italian place in Smyrna, the name of which I’ve forgotten, but it was good, and authentic.

Next day we found the art museum. It’s a nice museum, formally called the High Museum of Art. It seemed fitting, somehow, that the most prominent temporary exhibit was devoted to the 100th anniversary of the first iconic Coke bottle. Yep, more Coca Cola. (Kudos to the person who sold our hotel on Pepsi.) Here are several of the things we saw there, by no means all.

This is from the Coke Bottle exhibit. I like the hands, myself.
This is from the Coke Bottle exhibit. I like the hands, myself.
Frank Lloyd Wright WindowSmall (640x360)
This is a Frank Lloyd Wright window on display.

 

This desk is from the late 1930s, but it screams mid-mod.
This desk is from the late 1930s, but it screams mid-mod.

They have a large collection of mid-century items, some of them simply furniture, but all of them lovely. They have some contemporary art that is interesting, as well as some of those items that look as if the artist is just screwing around trying to see if he can get people to pay for trash. DuChamp could get away with that, people. You need to come up with something fresh!

Monday was the day we came home, but not until 8 pm. Prior to that we visited the zoo, It’s a nice little zoo, not too big. Took us a couple of hours to see it all. Animals, you know. Here’s a photo of a pensive one:

What Was He Thinking?
What Was He Thinking?

We’ll never know, I suppose. He held that pose for quite a while. The cutest things were their pandas, including two young ones born in 2013.

After the Zoo we went to the Atlanta History Center. Apparently, I took no photos. I did have an excellent sandwich in the Swan Carriage House restaurant. There are two historic houses, one built on site, the other a relocated farm built in the 1860s. The museum houses various exhibits, the most moving of which is about the Civil War, particularly how it affected Atlanta and the rest of the South. Like all wars, it’s more sad than anything, but of course Atlanta is famous for having been utterly destroyed by Sherman. They did rebuild, though, so no worries these days. It is, in fact, a beautiful city and well worth a visit. I expect that you’ll like it better, though, if you decide to drink Coke. ;-)

 

Reductio ad absurdum

I contributed to the problem I’m writing about. When I was looking for a PhD thesis topic, I needed something that would demonstrate that I knew how to do scientific research. I also needed something simple enough for my simple mind to handle. And, I needed something nobody had done before. That makes me like every other PhD student, I know, but there’s more!

My supporting field was called “Industrial Relations.” (Why make it simple like “HR” or “Training for Industry?” huh? At that time nobody had ever examined existing applications to determine patterns of turnover (when people quit before you wish they would) based upon what they filled in when they applied. It’s common now. I’m sorry. But I did do it first. Check out Identification of Factors Predicting Staying Behavior Among Employees in a Traditionally High-Turnover Environment. That’s my book, and I have to stick to it. Or own up to it, maybe.

See, it worked! Really, really well! At the point in my dissertation where many candidates are explaining how the results failed to produce just what they predicted, I got to crow (with all due modesty) that I got a p-value of less than 1 in 10,000. In plain English, the odds that my results were because of random chance were less than ten-thousand to one. Worse than the odds of getting a natural royal flush when playing video poker. Damned unlikely.

And I was not the only one thinking like that, I just got it published first. Now everybody is on the statistical analysis bandwagon, and it sucks. Take credit scores. Based upon probability, which is calculated using historical data (looking through past credit-involved activity) you can come up with factors that predict someone’s likelihood of repaying you. And it works! Or maybe it would if it were used correctly.

Ten years ago people who maybe should be in jail today were giving out loans to people whose credit records pointed to almost certain default. The main criterion for getting a loan was the ability to sign the line.

That was bad. But a lot of people had decent enough chances of repaying the loan, assuming they didn’t get laid off because of the default of all those deadbeats who had loans anyway, which resulted in a crash in real estate values, which resulted in a nice little recession.  And those defaults cascaded into other defaults until even those who really were upstanding debtors were forced into bankruptcy or worse.

So, okay, you say, maybe we need to enforce those credit scores more strictly. Maybe. Or maybe we should go back to getting to know somebody before lending them money. I know that’s radical, but at one point a letter of reference from a previous credit carried some weight. You can’t even get those now, because everything is numericalized and analyzed, and a letter of reference doesn’t fit the paradigm. (Pronounced like twenty cents.)

I’m sorry I contributed to the credit score snafu. The people in charge of calculating those scores are better at butt covering than statistical analysis, don’t need to explain themselves, and brook no exceptions for life events like births, deaths, medical emergencies or your house burning down. If I promise never to do it again, can we just forget the whole thing?

 

RETIREMENT

No, not the usual kind. I am forced by advancing age (apparently) to retire from running. Which is too bad, ’cause I really like to run. Ah, well, now the desert tortoise and the one legged man with a bad ankle have a clear field ahead of them. And I gain an extra pair of sneaks!

(I have plantar fasciitis which will not quit.)

Baseball!

It’s finally back! My favorite sport, even though I was never very good at it. Baseball. And it’s opening day! The Cubs are hosting, and this year, well this year, they’re gonna win, right? Damn skippy!

Click here for a taste of the optimism of the day.

I never fully appreciated the game until I read the series of Baseball Card Adventures by Dan Gutman. I knew that there was psychology involved, but I didn’t realize just how vital being smart was to playing. To quote George Carlin, “Baseball is different . . .” He’s right, and for all the reasons he mentions.

Football is a stylized representation of war. Not putting it down, mind you, but that’s the truth. I think football is typical of something we as a society have to work out. It seems to me to contribute to situations like cops shooting unarmed civilians, home invasions, accidental deaths by pistol, and general societal unpleasantness. That is, we feel that we need to be at war. That the proper goal of society is always to beat the other guys. Even in Congress, don’t you know?

And Football, at least the NFL, is entirely communistic. Think about the revenue sharing that NFL teams must sign up for. No matter how poorly or well you do, your reward at the end will be more or less the same. That makes for a level playing field, a fair war if you will, but it truly is “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” That’s not a joke, folks, that’s the way it is. But baseball is much less so; it’s mainly pure capitalism. The New York Yankees paid out enough cash to ensure that they were the World Series Champions for fully one-quarter of the twentieth century. You can’t do that in football; heaven forfend someone buy talent so blatantly. Baseball developed in America, and it’s a peculiarly American game. Football is everywhere; we just have a particularly odd iteration of it. There is no other game like baseball, no other game like it at all. Cricket? Are you kidding?

In baseball, everybody pulls for the team to win. But the actual contest is one-on-one, mano-a-mano almost. When the batter steps into the box he’s trying to figure out just what the pitcher is going to throw at him. And you have to figure it out, because nobody can react quickly enough to hit a 90 mph fastball. You watch the release and decide in that instant if, and how, to swing. The pitcher, of course, is trying his damndest to fool the hitter, and often the pitcher does. Once I understood that this interaction, repeated at least fifty-one times during the game, was the true heart of baseball, I realized that a pitchers’ duel is the most sublime baseball game imaginable. Sure, a home run is fun; and sliding and running and tossing out and all are a hoot, but the real contest is right there at home plate. Frequently, it comes down to the first one of the two, pitcher or hitter, to make a mistake loses. That is, the hitter is out, or the pitcher sees his era dip a tad. And, as Carlin says in his bit, sometimes a hitter will hit a long, high fly ball that even I could catch, in order to let a teammate advance a base or two, maybe even score. It’s called a sacrifice fly. Or he may sacrifice with a bunt. Either way, he takes one for the team, and it doesn’t cause any brain damage when he does.

And sometimes the hitter scores a real coup. Last year I attended a game at Busch Stadium, where I took this picture. This is one of the best photographs I ever took, and I’m sort of proud of it.

A pitch at Busch Stadium, May 17, 2014    Photo by Steve Fey
A pitch at Busch Stadium, May 17, 2014 Photo by Steve Fey

During the game the Cardinal’s best hitter came up. The visiting Braves were ahead slightly, but this guy obviously worried them. Especially when he started popping up fouls. About as high as the lights, and a lot of them. He was swinging for the fences, and the defense accordingly moved back, and back, and back. There was a runner on first, but the first baseman joined the general retreat, but the runner did not try to steal. I knew the batter was up to something, but apparently the entire Atlanta defense missed it, and they were a good team last year. Finally, he laid down a little dribbling bunt down the first base line, probably intending it to be a sacrifice, but the catcher was so surprised that he was a tad late starting for the rolling ball, and damned if the batter didn’t make it safe to first. Both he and the runner now on third scored on the next play. The people who only like fly balls and slides into second missed the whole show, poor things.

Another example of how baseball is different was the last game of the 2014 World Series. It was the bottom of the last inning, unless Kansas City could score. And they got a runner on third, with two outs. But, even in that dire situation, they could have won. Not just theoretically, but in fact, if the Giants had made one teensy mistake more (they had made a few already.) It was over, as Yogi Berra would say, when it was over, and not a moment before. Want one more amazing example of how baseball is different? Watch this!

Now, that’s America! No matter how down you are, you can still come back and win it all! It doesn’t take a war, it just takes brains, skill, and a bit of luck. Baseball causes many fewer traumatic injuries than football. You can let your kids play it almost without worry. It’s a game that depends on knowledge, cunning, planning, fast thinking, and skill. You know, the things that made America great!

And today at 5pm? The Cubs are back!

A Reminder

Nothing heavy here, just a reminder of how this site works. Joining is the same as subscribing, so that’s great if you do that. Anyone can comment, but I have to approve your first comment. That is due to the vast number of phishing comments I receive. If you make a legitimate comment and it doesn’t appear for a while, contact me and I’ll either restore it, approve it, or ask you to make it again, depending upon how long since I marked it as Spam. That’s my ultimate punishment: SPAM!

And, don’t say anything about anyone here that you wouldn’t say to that person in their own living room, right to their face. That rule will keep you out of trouble. If you do post something gratuitously offensive, either it will never appear, or it will disappear.

Thus endeth the rules.

Anger and Suffering

I came across the book Anger by Thich Hahn while reading a list of fifty influential books. I can see why it appeals to a lot of people, but it has, for me, a fatal flaw. Actually, it’s not the book that’s flawed, it’s Buddha. I say Buddha because unlike with some other popular religions, Buddha did at least write the book himself. And Buddha’s first principle is simple: to live is to suffer. That’s the first principle of Buddhism. Okay.

So, the key to being less angry is to suffer less, saith the author. Fair enough. And the key to suffering less is to be mindful. Fair enough. I’m willing to believe that by practicing mindfulness in all things, and taking care not to absorb anger and negativity, one can suffer less, and therefore be angry less often. All fair enough.

But, the thing that gets me is, if To Live is To Suffer, then isn’t trying to lower your suffering trying to live less? And if you’re living less, aren’t you also enjoying less, since suffering has a counterpart in the pure joy of living, which is also an important thing to experience, at least it is for me. So, what Buddha is teaching is a way to live less. That might be okay if there were any actual evidence that we live over and over and over, but I’m afraid that empirically there isn’t a shred of evidence for that idea. Which leaves me, a man less of faith and more of empirical evidence, with only one life to live. With only one life to live, it is extremely important that we be nice to each other, respect each other, and tolerate each other’s foibles, because not to do those things simply creates misery, and Buddha and I agree completely that misery begets misery, because, after all, misery famously loves company.

But, reduce my suffering through mindfulness? Nah, I think I’ll take the suffering, and the unbounded joy. It’s a nice package, and I don’t want to mess with it.