Archive for November 2014

11-29-2014 Journal–The Day After BF!   Leave a comment

Well, it’s the day after Black Friday which in fact started almost a week ago and I assume by next year will almost certainly become Black November.  That way they can begin their annoying Christmas push the day after Halloween.  I chose this year to not leave the house on Black Friday.  I try to miss it as often as I possibly can.  After more than twenty-five years of working for retail corporations and being forced to work Black Friday every year, I refuse to ever do it again.

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This morning my better-half hit the ground running when she arrived in the bedroom to wake me up well before I was ready.  If it isn’t the cat it’s her. She was on her third cup of coffee and talking ninety miles an hour and rattling off the list of stores we’d be visiting on our planned shopping trip.  There just wasn’t enough coffee in the house to get me out of that bed quickly but eventually I stumbled to the kitchen and tried to wake up.

An hour or so later we were on our way.  I really wasn’t into the shopping but I made sure I drove us through areas where good photographs might be found. It was a bright and clear sunny day and I didn’t want to waste any of it.  Here are a few photo’s to help you appreciate Maine a little.

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We had a great day together where my better-half wandered around looking and touching everything she saw and was able to fill the car rather easily with all sorts of treasures.  We’ve just arrived home and hopefully I can settle in and relax for a few hours before the nonsense starts again tomorrow.  I can expect another early wakeup call and I need a little time to come up with a reason or two why I can’t be dragged shopping once again. It’s never worked before but I can only keep trying.

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‘Say hello to the horses.’

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11-27-2014 Journal – Happy Thanksgiving!   Leave a comment

It seems to me that 2014 has come and gone in the blink of an eye.  It was a busy year which probably accounts for that.  It’s Thanksgiving morning and I’m relaxing with a coffee and donut supplied by my better-half who was the early riser this morning.  It’s been quite some time since we’ve had a snow storm on Thanksgiving and I’m looking out the window at a winter wonderland.  I can’t believe she was up and out so early in this weather.  It’s one of those special holiday miracles I guess.

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I spent time yesterday as the snow was accumulating trying to keep the driveway passable.  The snowblower was unveiled and got it’s first use this season and so did my back and arms.  I’m more than a little stiff today but that’s par for the course here in Maine.

The final snow numbers indicate between ten and twelve inches with most of the area suffering from downed tree limbs and power outages.  I’m not sure how we missed out on the loss of power but for a change we made it through the storm with only a few momentary lapses.  We have our issues with this snow and as you see so do the birds.  They’re scratching their way to the food as best they can.  

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The sun is shining and is being reflected off the snow and it’s amazing.  I can’t wait to get dressed and get out with my camera.  Everywhere you look there are beautiful pictures to be taken and I’m going to get my fair share.

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I’d also like to send out a special thank you to the Saco town snowplow operator responsible for destroying my new mailbox during the first effing snow storm of the season.  I wish I knew who he was and where he lives.  I might just do a drive-by on his mailbox with a baseball bat. Freaking A-hole!!

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For the first time in a while our Thanksgiving dinner will be just for two.  All of our family and friends are scattered about the country celebrating their holiday. We’ll have our meal this afternoon and be thankful for our good health and the blessing of a quiet day to properly enjoy it.

I do love the snow and I’m sure we’ll be seeing much more before this winter is over.  I hope you and yours are enjoying this holiday and appreciate your lives together.  Now we can rush headlong into the Christmas season and then the welcoming of 2015.

11-26-2014 Journal–The Music Never Dies!   Leave a comment

I started collecting music at a very young age.  I didn’t just collect everything because that would be impossible.  I have my musical likes and dislikes but as everyone else the music of my twenties and thirties holds the biggest attraction.  I collected first on eight tracks, then cassettes and later on CD’s which resulted in a collection of more than 400 albums of what are now called classic oldies.  Ten years ago I decided to make the move to digital and spent months with a software package called Audiograbber and converted all of my CD’s into MP3’s.  It was a massive job but it permitted me to take my entire collection and install it on my first 80 gig IPod.  It was one of my better purchases because I’m still using it today, 11 years later, on the original battery.

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Most of my music is from the late 1950’s through the early 1970’s.  Only a few albums and artists have been added over the years because I only collect what I really like. I could sit here and attempt to razzle-dazzle you with song titles and artist’s names but what would be the point of that. We all love the music we love and some of us don’t like much of anything.  Some people only enjoy the music for its ability to create an atmosphere that will lead to social gatherings at bars and clubs, drinking, dancing, and the occasional bout of recreational sex.

I’m fairly eclectic in my music tastes and enjoy quite a variety which doesn’t include Hip Hop or Country & Western.  Only a very select few from those genres made the cut.  Salt & Pepa, En Vogue, Delbert McClinton, and Bonnie Raitt are just a few that did.

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Every so often when I’m alone for a few hours or when I’m working on the computer I’ll crank up certain selections and rock the house down.  One day last week I decided to celebrate some of my favorite artists that had tons of musical talent and died before their time. I spent two hours listening first to my two favorite balladeers, Jim Croce and Harry Chapin.  Then I moved on to the Big Bopper, Richie Valens, and Buddy Holly.  I saved the best for last with Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain, and ended the montage with Jim Morrison and Freddie Mercury.  Wow. . . it was more than just a little wonderful.  I’m still humming and singing those songs in my head and will be for quite some time. 

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After two hours of that music I found myself extremely sad to have lost them before their time and could only imagine all of the fantastic music that died with them.  The only positive thing I can think of is that they and their music will outlive us all and be enjoyed by millions in future generations.  They found their immortality albeit in a most unpleasant fashion.

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I look toward to many more special moments listening to their songs as I’ve enjoyed doing in the past.  With that:

R.I.P.

11-23-2014 Things I Once Hated!   Leave a comment

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Four years ago in a galaxy far far away on my first blog I posted a list of 100 Things I Hate.  At the time I challenged myself to compile that list in under ten minutes to make it as spontaneous as possible. I completed it easily and was really proud of my accomplishment.  It was a fun exercise that I found interesting and one I want to revisit today.

I’ll be addressing the first ten items from that list and fully intend to cover the remaining ninety over the next month.  "An unexamined life is not worth living." or so I’ve been told over and over again.  That being said there are certain inevitabilities in life such as the much overused "death and taxes" but there are many others that are just as important.  "Change" effects us all in a myriad of ways and many times we aren’t even aware that it’s happening. I hope this silly little exercise will give me a better understanding of the many changes that are taking place within me and the effect it has on my endless supply of opinions on just about everything.  Here we go.

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#1 STUPID PEOPLE – Unfortunately this one hasn’t changed much at all.  Although now I recognize and admit that a large percentage of these people are harmless-stupid which makes them more annoying than anything else. The remainder are bad-stupid and remain on my hate list.  It appears I’m not hating on this as much as I once did and I see a 50% Improvement.

#2 ROSIE O’DONNELL – No change here. No improvement whatsoever. She sucks.

#3 UNIBROW WOMEN – I’ve always had the ability to identify one or two things about any woman I’ve become involved with or thought about getting involved with. I consider them all lovely and fun to be with in their own right. I’m again forced to reconsider this item because I’m sure there are some women out there with unibrows that I’d like to spend a little time with.  50% Improvement.

#4 BUMS – This term along with the term hobo is no longer politically correct and I promise to slap myself on the wrist really hard each and every time I use them.  Again I find myself hating those aggressive and arrogant homeless people who insist on getting in my face and wanting my money.  Some of these others who are mentally challenged are just pitiful but because of all the politically-correct thinking in this country they’ve been dumped onto the streets. 50% Improvement.

#5 DIRTY FINGERNAILS – No change here and no improvement.

#6 CRIMINALS – No change here either. No improvement.

#7 CANADIANS – I’ve moved this item into the annoyance category.  Canadians are are just a mild form of a parasite that continually criticizes it’s host but continues to enjoy the benefits it provides. 100% Improvement.

#8 ROCK STACKERS – Once again, more an annoyance than anything else. It’s something I see no useful purpose in doing but if you feel compelled to do it then just do it.  I can feel myself changing already and I’m getting all tingly with my 100% Improvement.

#9 FUNERALS – I hate them.  I would like to spend the remainder of my life never attending another regardless of who it is.  They freak me out and hopefully the only other one I ever attend will be my own. No improvement here.

#10 BACKWARD BASEBALL CAPS -  This is something I’ve hated since it all started. Grown men and women teaching their children to look as stupid and ridiculous as they do.  This goes hand in hand with saggy pants with underwear sticking out. I’d like to find the person who started these ridiculous trends and just kick their ass. No improvement.

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By my calculations on these ten items I’m showing a 35% improvement overall.  I find that amazing, disturbing, and annoying, all at the same time.  I wish I could get that kind of improvement for my 2014 New Years resolutions but they’ll be reviewed and discussed at a later date.

11-21-2014 Fall in Maine!   Leave a comment

I needed a few hours of peace and quiet and since that’s virtually impossible at home I decided to take my camera and disappear into the woods for a couple of hours.  The temperature was in the low forties which made the woods a little more bearable than normal.  No hordes of black flies and gnats and no sweating through my clothing because of the summer heat.  That’s a win/win anytime for me and motivates me to make more visits during these cooler months.

As I walked onto the trail the first thing I noticed was the absolute quiet. That’s a Winter quiet that takes a little getting used to.  During warm weather the place is nothing but noise from birds, squirrels, and any other wildlife that’s passing through the area.  The leaves have fallen and the fields of milkweed pods have opened up and spilled their seeds everywhere.

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This place is usually teeming with birds but almost all of them have headed south for the Winter.  I saw two cardinals frolicking through the nearby trees filled with red berries.  They should be really happy, there’s enough berries in this area to feed them and all of their friends until next summer.  If you squint just a little you can just see the male cardinal keeping an close eye on me while his mate eats nearby.

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I always try to visit the small ponds and swamps when I’m here and today I found the places dead quiet as well.  It’s been just cold enough over the last few days to begin freezing the ponds.  Even in these conditions I still love spending time here and I’m not sure why, I just do.

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Another thing I like about the late Fall is that the leaves have dropped and now make it possible to see things you normally can’t.  It’s the only time of the year when I can truly appreciate the beauty of the white birch trees scattered throughout these woods.  They almost seem to glow in the bright sunlight and it’s really breathtaking.

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The quarter mile before returning to my car is a walk that takes me through an area diverse with every kind of tree and bush.  It always seems in such perfect balance, something Mother Nature seems to be very good at.

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As I return home I feel refreshed and relaxed, something that always occurs after I’ve spent some time here.  I’ll be returning soon after the first significant snow fall to begin my 2014 Winter collection of photos.

I’m still stalking my friend, the big fat barn owl.  I took this picture a few years ago and have been trying to find him just one more time ever since.  I’ve seen him flying overhead on many occasions but he apparently roosts  in some of the tallest pine trees located along the Scarborough River.  It makes getting any decent photographs very difficult. I hope some day my persistence pays off and he agrees to pose for me again.

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11-19-2014 Journal–Chili Day!   1 comment

This stretch of cold and rainy weather has pretty much kept me in the house for the last few days.  I was starting to climb the walls a bit when I received a call from my better-half from work to discuss arrangements for dinner. I assumed from the call that she wasn’t interested in cooking and needed me to help out a little.  She suggested that maybe just maybe I could make a batch of my chili. 

After agreeing I checked my latest recipe for the necessary ingredients and I was out the door and on my way to get them.  You need to understand something important, when I make a batch of chili I make a huge batch.  My normal recipes result in upwards of ten quarts and sometime even more.  It was a quick shopping trip and I returned home and got to work.

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This was a new recipe I created after tasting the chili pictured below during one of our luncheon forays to Kennebunkport, Maine. That chili contained a lot of cheese and a healthy number of calories due to the ground beef and oils used in preparation. As you can see it looks incredible and tasted even better.

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‘Thanks Federal Jack’

I substituted a mixture of ground chicken and turkey to replace the beef, then eliminated the oil by browning the meat in Smart Balance.  It was then a simple matter of adding the remaining ingredients and spices and cooking it for a few minutes.

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Most of the state of Texas would string me up by my heels for ever calling my chili, Chili.  Fortunately I cook and flavor foods so they taste good to me.  I like my chili super hot and use a mixture of Cayenne and Habanero peppers that bring it to life in a big way.  I also use a selection of beans with different flavors and textures which apparently is a big NO NO in chili cooking circles. Just to add insult to injury I always, regardless of the ingredients, add diced potatoes.  Strikes two and three as far as Texas is concerned.

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A short time later I had my finished product, a batch of Black Bean & Corn chili, and to hell with all of you chili purists. It tastes exactly the way I wanted, hot as blazes, with no red meat or oil used.  It looks a little like the restaurant version but certainly has more flavor and an increased level of heat.  As is usually the case most restaurants serve a medium heat chili unless it happens to be a Mexican restaurant.  Here it is.

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We had a couple of bowls each for dinner that night and loved it.  We then packaged up the rest for freezing which should supply us with five or six hearty meals this winter.  Life is good.

11-17-2014 Journal – Blood, Guts, and Ratings!   2 comments

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I usually find myself posting about my personal life, friends, family, and the crazy things we do, but not today.  After having an up close, personal, and distasteful incident  with my television I feel the need to vent. This posting will be a tad longer than most but unfortunately for all of you I have a lot to say. Bear with me for a few minutes.

What I’m about to post may piss off a few people.  I’m not a card carrying member of any special interest group advocating non-violence on TV or elsewhere.  I’m just a regular guy who’s concerned with viewing trends on TV and in the movies. I take my responsibilities as a citizen seriously as accorded by the Bill of Rights which gives me the right and responsibility to voice my displeasure about things I’ve been seeing.

This is the time of Obama’s dysfunctional presidency and more importantly the end of Mad Men, the end of Sons of Anarchy, and worst of all the end of Justified.  What will we now do to satisfy our deep, dark, and secret needs for illicit sex, adultery, criminal activities up to and including murder and mayhem? 

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We may be forced to feed our disturbing need for uncontrolled violence with the next generation of those gritty, realistic, murderous, and graphic programs like Hell on Wheels.  Who doesn’t want to sit at home after a hard days work to watch rape, murder, and worse on their 60” big screen HD TV. Fortunately we still have our old list of favorites to fall back on if we can’t find enough blood and guts to satisfy us. That’s what Hulu Plus and Netflix are for, don’t you know.

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We now have Dexter the serial killer who spends his off-time killing other serial killers.  How much more graphic killing do we really require on TV before we begin to realize that our kids and ourselves are being desensitized to all this death and destruction.  Watch a few seasons of Criminal Minds where the ever increasing number of serial killers justifies the continued ridiculous story lines that include everything up to and including cannibalism.  We can’t see enough blood and guts I guess and there seems to be no limits of decency any longer. Anything is acceptable as long as it keeps the ratings where they need to be and the revenues flowing. 

The politicians certainly did their part by making the famous "V" chip mandatory for manufactures.  Just another politically correct gimmick used  to quiet the critics and maintain the status quo.  Do you know anyone who’s actually ever used a "V" chip or even knew there was such a thing?

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Let’s watch more of that continuous  stream of murderous zombie programing that seems to be the latest fad. There you can fill your need to smash someone’s skull and splatter their brains and blood everywhere.  If all else fails we’ll always have those thousands of werewolves out there to rip out some throats or tear some hearts from chests for our viewing pleasure. It’s just so damn exciting. Also, there’s nothing hotter than a graphic sex scene between a human and one of those romantic and super sexy killing machines. It’s just so freaking cool. Start shining up those pretty trophies to prepare for next years round of award shows where we applaud and award the stars and producers of this nonsense.

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I guess I’m old-school enough to appreciate television when it was just entertainment.  The need for censors was minimal and the programming was easily watched by everyone, children included.   I liked it better when the good guys won and the bad guys lost.  No gray area that required the good guys to be recovering drug addicts or alcoholics who’d been rehabilitated and continued to fight that good fight.  I didn’t need the bad guys to be portrayed as good guys who were mistreated and abused throughout their entire lives giving justification to their inappropriate and criminal activities.  Good is good, bad is bad, it’s that simple.

It wasn’t until “reality TV” arrived  on the scene that things started really going to hell.  I for one like to see bad guys pay for their sins.  If it happens that they’re shot fighting with the good guys, I can live with that.  What I can’t live with is the perverted need to see the slow motion bullet flying through the air, entering the body, and sending blood and guts flying in all direction. 

I also refuse to watch as attempts are made to convince viewers that the good guys were at fault and shouldn’t have shot the bad guys in the first place. They should have handled him with kid gloves, shown empathy for their terrible childhood, and then set them up in a comfortable jail cell with cable TV, Internet access, a gymnasium, conjugal visits, and an attorney to file an endless list of appeals. 

To me it’s all interconnected and as always a steady stream of propaganda works.  I hope some of you agree but I hold little hope for that as well. As in the book 1984, when Big Brother controls the Media, we are screwed.

I’m done with this.  I’ll be back to writing about my semi-boring life tomorrow.

11-15-2014 Journal – The Birthday Celebration!   Leave a comment

The big day has finally arrived and now my better-half is one year older.  I’ve never been one to celebrate my own birthdays but for her I can make an exception. We started the day off perfectly when we looked out the window of our bedroom to see the first snow fall of the year.  We’d had a flurry or two a week ago but this snow covered everything just like it should and as you can see.

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She was on a day-off which allowed us to be bed buddies for an hour or so.  I brought her some excellent coffee and we relaxed and thoroughly enjoyed the moment. Much to her surprise I’d hidden a birthday gift or two in the closet and brought them out.  Our normal routine has always been to open gifts at the end of the day but I wanted to change things up a little.  She opened her gifts and read her cards (one funny and one mushy) and we planned the remainder of our day.

It wasn’t long before we were in the car and on our way to Lowe’s.  What better way to start her birthday than with a snow storm and a flu shot.  That little chore took five minutes and we were headed out to Portland for a day of walking around, people watching, and shopping. 

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You’ve got to love shopping in Portland. Let’s see if you can guess what state your in by the merchandise they have available for sale.

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We made a few purchases and hallelujah, a birthday miracle, the sun came out and the skies cleared.  It was still cold as hell but it was turning into a perfect Maine winter day. We were thoroughly enjoying the day and decided to stop at a little out of the way tavern for a quick drink and some French fries.  They also have this great fish tank.

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It was while we were there that she contacted some friends who we socialize with occasionally and agreed to meet later for drinks.  We left Portland and made our way to my favorite coffee spot located inside the Maine Mall.  I ordered us both some excellent Ethiopian coffee and we split one of their triple berry yogurt muffins,  It was incredible.

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We had our dinner at the nearby Sebago Brewery which while being a small brewery is also a restaurant and bar and usually packed with people.  A Friday nite at this place is a freaking zoo and we were dropped right in the middle of it.  We finished our meal and a short time later our friends arrived  and the birthday celebration continued.  Her day was filled with emails, messages, and the dozen or so tweets she posted on Twitter. She also received calls from her children, siblings, and other friends.  She  was in heaven.

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We returned home at a reasonable hour, fell into bed and relaxed.  That’s when I brought out her quad-chocolate layer cake. She blew out her candles, made her magical wish, cut us two slices, and we pigged out a little.  What better way to finish our day right where it all started. More laughing and enjoying each other’s company and then to sleep. Isn’t that what it’s all about after all.

Happy Birthday Lovey!

11-13-2014 Journal – My Cloud, My Rules!   Leave a comment

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I’m relaxing this morning for a number of reasons.  This is the only time of the day I can really settle back and watch some NASA TV without interruptions of any kind.  I always try to keep current with what they’re doing especially with the upcoming launch of this country’s next generation of space vehicle, the Orion, happening within the next three weeks. This unmanned first flight is the next step to seeing people actually visiting nearby asteroids and then on to Mars in a few years. For me it’s something that’s pretty damn exciting since I’ve been a huge space nerd for my entire life and never thought I’d live to see some of the things I’ve seen in the last few years. It also relaxes me like nothing else seems to do (do not include sex in that thought).

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It’s also the time of day where I usually write my blog postings without phone calls and constant conversational interruptions.  Most of my recent weeks have been a steady diet of all things computer.  I posted a few weeks ago about the disaster that was my attempt to upgrade my home wireless network. After a great deal of time and effort I finally accomplished what I set out to do. Unfortunately all of those efforts were just the first and most important step in my much larger project of creating and installing my own personal Cloud system.  It required a great deal of research to find the proper equipment and software as well as the training I needed to do it myself.  As of this morning I’m just hours away from the completion of that project and I’m feeling damn good about it.

One of the things that made the project so easy (a relative term) was a device called the My Cloud.  It’s a Western Digital product that attaches to a home network and provides a storage area for any and all devices included in that network.  It sounds like a simple matter but it is anything but.  Not only does it connect all of my computers, laptops, IPads, Android tablets, smart phones and printers together, it permits me to access the network with any of my wireless devices from anywhere I can find a Wi-Fi connection. We can upload photographs and videos from our cell phone and IPad cameras from just about anywhere. Everything is heavily encrypted and virus protected with layers of passwords and firewalls making access possible only by previously approved people.  Unlike most commercial Cloud ventures from major computer entities, my cloud cannot be accessed by the government without my consent. 

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This all started a few years ago when our home was burglarized.  Part of that "smash and grab" crime involved the theft of my better-half’s laptop.  We lost more than two years of her photographs of family and friends which could never be replaced. Also every time I have a computer problem I seem to lose data when forced to restore or recover the device.  It’s not that we don’t do proper backups, it’s that we sometimes forget to do them.  With this new system some of our backups will now be done automatically into the Cloud which has been installed in an area not easily discovered by marauding  criminals.  Between the two of us we have more than thirty thousand photographs and five thousand songs in storage that are now safe from loss. It’s easy to replace a device but some other things are just irreplaceable and require extra protection. It’ll take a day of two to copy everything completely to the new four terabyte Cloud but I’ll certainly sleep better knowing it’s finally done.

So hooray for me and it’s back to NASA and another steaming cup of hot and delicious "Midnight Velvet" coffee.  That’ll get my heart started for sure.

11-11-2014 Journal – Coffee, Sandwich, and a Horse!   Leave a comment

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I awoke this morning to find a beautiful sunny day with temperatures in the high fifties.  After a few days of BLAH I was overjoyed.  Once again my better-half was on a day-off and we grabbed our cameras and headed out to run errands and enjoy our day together.

I needed to do a little shopping for two flash drives that would help me solve my most recent computer crisis.  I quickly found the drives at Target, made the purchase, and then retired to Starbucks for a coffee and to await her return. Oh, let me correct myself, not just a coffee but a Grande coffee.  That’s a medium coffee from those of you normal people who haven’t let Starbucks change your approach to the English language.  I try never to frequent Starbucks for only one reason, the cost.  Today I had a medium coffee with milk, no latte, no whip cream, and no fancy flavoring.  Just a medium cup of coffee and one snowman shaped sugar cookie.  That’s six dollars I’ll never get back again and while the barista (PC BS Title) tried to soften the blow by telling me how good the cookie was, I wasn’t convinced. When she saw that her efforts weren’t working she then gave me a small card for a free game App for my IPad.  Even the App sucked.

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My better-half also has her own issues with Starbucks so after she arrived we quickly left that shopping center and made a stop at a nearby Dunkin Donuts for some good coffee and a breakfast sandwich. I had a medium size flavored coffee and a breakfast wrap with sausage, egg, and cheese that came to only five dollars.  Eat that Starbucks!!

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On the return home we passed a local horse farm where I stop occasionally to take pictures and to pet a horse or two.  I found out something interesting during my visit today that I never knew before.  Horses and cats seem to have a lot in common.  I walked up to the fence of the corral and one of the horses spotted me and made a beeline straight for me.  He walked right up to me, nuzzled my hand, and got a few pats on his nose.  I had my camera out and started snapping away when he suddenly turned around and gave me his large ass to look at.  He refused to turn back around and face the camera for some reason.  He must have been a little annoyed that after coming right over to me I hadn’t rewarded him with a carrot, an apple, or a few sugar cubes.  He was being a little pissy to say the least.

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That’s the same routine my cat sometimes uses when he doesn’t get his way. He sits in the middle of the room directly in front of me with his back turned and gives me the "Big Ignore".  Who knew it was a trait for horses too.  I returned to the car properly chastened and we headed home.

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Another day here in the paradise that is Maine.