various braindroppings. infrequent. some incoherent. Please COMMENT, critique, complain, and send me a link to your blog or photos page. You can also click "follow" and get an email upon addl. posts. thnx!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

see new picts:

new photos of our California Coast Trip on my picasaweb page: www.picasweb.google.com/geefred

9 day trip to the coast. 35,000lbs of vehicle, 250 gallons of fuel, 1600 miles of roads. Are motorhomes worth it?

O.K., O.K., O.K., I know, I’m doing just what everyone does with an RV, never get around to using it and it just sits and rots in the back yard. I admit that I’ve had this thing a year and a half, and I just took it on it’s second trip! But it’s because the NY apt took longer to finish and we didn’t get home this past summer to take some longer trips as planned. Next summer. ‘Sound familiar? No, really, next summer we plan to take it out for a while, -like maybe Yellowstone and stuff up thataway. Actually, this January we are taking it to CES and then from there, down along the Colorado River, ending at the huge RV show and Blue Bird Wanderlodge Rally in Quartzite.

But, I digress. We took a wonderful trip mid October, for 9 days with our closest friends, Mike and Tami Putz, and took both of our coaches (something Mike and I had been dreaming of doing someday, since about 30 years ago, when we first got “into” motorhomes). Well, Mike acted on his dream right away, when, about 25 years ago, he bought a bus and started building an RV from scratch! Since then he has taken several short trips each year, no matter what state the conversion was in. A few years ago he was practically finished with it, and I was just finally talking about starting one, when he declared that he was going to sell his, and buy a manufactured motorcoach instead!

Over the years (decades!) of converting his Blue Bird school bus he learned all about the high-end luxury coaches that Blue Bird manufactured, and how, you could get an old used one for reasonable money that was as reliable as the day it was built! It seems they are built with durability and serviceability as top priorities. And with so many top-notch, built-in components and engineering, he decided it was better than the coach he built on a budget, even though he also built it well, and knew every single part of it by heart. So, He and I each got a used Blue Bird Wanderlodge a year and a half ago. This was my second trip,… and it was his tenth!

We headed for the California coast, to see the gorgeous beaches along Hwy 1 that are rocky coves, instead of straight sand. And we wanted to see Big Sur and the famous big trees, and so we picked October, since it’s their dry season and we wouldn’t have to worry about rain spoiling our hiking and exploring. Well, you can’t always count on the Almanac! El Nino was back, from five years ago, and had some plans of its’ own! We planned to stay 4 nights in a Big Sur campground, but just as we were leaving to drive there, they called and explained about the impending weather, and said they’d be kicking everyone out in two days, for fear of mud slides in the canyon, as they had experienced the last time El Nino was in town. So, we went up there anyway, and spent the time before the storm with our friends Phil and Vicky, and Mike’s sister, Missy, who drove down from the Bay area and stayed overnight. We ended up staying only one night due to being delayed from a breakdown (see slideshow), and although it didn’t end up mud-sliding, we headed down the coast to be safe, and camped near Hearst Castle while the storm dumped about 8 inches of rain on the coast, while we mostly stayed in our coaches for the two days, watching movies, and went to Hearst Castle. The next day the sun came out, and we explored Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo, and the wine country near Buellton, where we attended a Wanderlodge Rally, and met up with an old friend of Mike’s.

So, motor coach traveling is terrific. You basically take your creature comforts with you, and then if there’s a change of weather or other plans, you don’t mind because you’re at-home anyway, spontaneously changing part of the trip from the comfort of your armchair, without having to re-schedule planes, trains, or rented automobiles. The rigs really do have everything you’d want in terms of comfort. Wendy spent a lot of the driving time just doing what she does at home – computering, thanks to the $10/month, AT&T 3G unlimited data package, by tethering her phone to the laptop. It works pretty well, although there were parts along Hwy 1 with spotty service. And of course, along there, we were more than content to enjoy the fabulous scenery! (see picts!)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I lost an old friend.




My old friend Wally passed away the other day. Now, when I say “my old friend”, I mean it. In fact, he was my oldest friend that I had. Not that I knew him longer than anyone else (although it was a 32 year old friendship), but what I mean is that he would’ve been 89 next month. I first met him when I answered an ad for a car stereo installer, while I was working my way through college in the late 70’s. I walked in expecting to find a big, bustling retail car audio store with all the top brand names, and young people everywhere buying and selling the best high performance gear, only to find the smallest office I’d ever seen, stacked with white boxes that said “RCA car radio” on them. And an “old guy” with a New York accent, saying, “how many car radios can you install in an hour?” I said: “Radios?” - “No, I’m lookin’ to do Custom Stereo System installs, you know, Retail, with separate amps and….” He cut me off and said “No, No, No,….too many headaches!….We do Wholesale here. You know, stock-looking radios in new cars, right on the dealerships’ lot. Right before the customer buys the car. – You’re in,- you’re out, bing bang,….no headaches!” Well I had never even heard of such a thing. And I equated RCA with the “old days”, and although it wasn’t what I thought I wanted to do right then, the money and the hours sounded great, and there was something about this guy that was very likeable, so I took the job, and although I only worked there a few years, it was the start of a journey that would lead me to owning my own retail car stereo business, and would lead to a 32 year friendship with a very fun, interesting, positive guy that lived his live through a philosophy of “no headaches”.

Wally and Gloria were sort of employers, friends, and even parental figures for me, and they went out of their way to help me out in so many ways. They also gave me some very good advice from time to time. Everything from getting over an ended relationship, to not starting my business as a partnership, and to start small, with as small a rent payment as possible. I can still hear Wally: “Fred!, Listen, I’m tellin’ you, you don’t want the headaches!” He was so right. Life is too short. I really learned a lot from him about enjoying life, day to day. We stayed in touch, over the years, as I visited them with my wife and kids, and they would stop by my store, and see my dozen employees, and Wally would say, “Fred, doesn’t all this give you headaches?” And I’d say something like “Yeah, but once I get it running smoothly…, I’ll be able to be home more….” Until I realized that he was right again, and sold the store. It’s not that he was afraid to take a chance. He just wanted to know the odds going in. And that made sense to me. I’d usually see them at the annual CES show in Vegas. And actually, If I had gone to Vegas any other time during the year I might’ve run into them as well, because they went a lot. Wally liked to gamble. “Craps…this is the only game worth playing”, he would say, as he taught me the game. They say that stress is the number one cause of a shortened life. And I think Wally was proof of that. Just last week he was up at Vegas, a drink in one hand, dice in the other, probably saying something to the dice like, “’Come on boys, bring it home, ...and don’t give me any headaches!” Thanks Wally, for being my friend, and being such a positive, fun loving guy.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Michael Jackson was a freak

He was born a black male but he adopted a persona that was closer to a white female. He was a millionaire who spent like a billionaire, purchasing hundreds of useless glittery art-like objects from dealers like the retail shops in Las Vegas casinos that mark up items to unbelievable percentages! There may be a sucker born every minute, but this guy was the chump champ! He had an ego the size of Cleveland, never uttering one humble remark in any interview, and never acknowledging the talents of other performers. His art was also somewhat of a “freak of nature”. In a segment of the art world, called rock and roll, where gritty and rough and tough messages are the most prevalent and saleable, he consistently wrote and sang (and had success with) songs about very positive messages. He somehow managed to make topics like non-violence and world peace seem “hip” and “cool”. What a freak. His bizarre costuming also never portrayed an image of gang-violence or any other offensive, negative, or rebellious styles. How strange for the rock-world. And his dances were as freakish as they come, seemingly defying the laws of physics.
But his personal life was the all-time freak-out of any celebrity, bar none. Instead of “clubbing”, “drugging”, sleeping around, and spending millions on uber-elaborate parties like most celebrities, this weirdo chose to do things like build a Disneyland at his house and invite handicapped kids and their families over for a weekend of rides and ice cream, just to see them smile. What kind of freak gets a kick out that? I guess because he started show biz young, and didn’t have a normal childhood, he tried to re-live it vicariously through his guests. But, apparently, his early success kept him from having any normal relationships with anyone, on any level. He was so out of touch with reality, that he didn’t even see the potential pitfalls of sleeping in the same room, and even bed, as the kids, and was terribly, personally hurt when some families accused him of inappropriate behavior. Hell, everything he did was inappropriate by normal standards. Would you let your kid sleep over at some guy’s house that dresses like a girl and acts like a child? I actually think those parents were a little more na├»ve than Michael on that deal. And even though the investigations seem to prove that there wasn’t any actual molestation, the whole ordeal was a bit out of control and turned Michaels’ positive intentions into a nightmare for everyone. What a freak.
He may have looked at the man in the mirror, but could never really see himself. A world-class celebrity and entertainer, who couldn’t even carry on a normal conversation. But just like so many tormented genius artists over the ages from Mozart to Kurt Cobain, he could handle complex art forms, just not the details of daily life, normal relationships, and personal contentment. It’s always a really sad situation for them, but a good thing for the rest of the world. Because not only do we benefit from enjoying their wonderful art, we get to look at them, and reflect on our own lives, and realize how lucky we are that even though we can’t make art like them, we have discovered the much more important artistry of obtaining personal happiness. Thank you Michael, for being a freak of nature, and entertaining us on many levels. May you rest in peace.

P.S. I can’t wait to see the bio-picts about him. I wonder what actress they’ll get to play him?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Don't worry, Regina, we actually thought we had it made!

After telling my 21 year old daughter how rough life was for us as kids (my previous post), she was so sympathetic, and wondered how we could survive such a boring existence. So I had to set her straight on a few things:
It's true, that when I was kid, the “digital age” had not yet begun, but we really had everything we wanted. For example, there were pin-ball machines, with fancy mechanical rotating "digital" readouts for scoring! Then there were some new, high-tech ones that had vacuum-tube, 7 segment, true digital display readouts for the score, - man was that cool! Then when I was about 16, the very first video game came out, called "Pong". It was a TV screen in a box/table facing up that two people could sit at, and play either a one player game (against the "brain" of the thing), or two players. And it was just like ping pong. A "ball" (little, fuzzy square) bounced back and forth, that you had to hit with your "paddle", an inch long blob that you could make scroll up and down the far edge of the screen with a rotary knob controller. 'Too simple and boring, right?

Well, we thought it was right out of Star Trek! Not only was it new and high tech and whiz-bang and cool and futuristic and space-age and our first contact with a thinking machine up-close-and-personal!!! …It was also sophisticated enough that you could put "spin" on the ball if you not only got up or down there in time with your paddle, but made your paddle move just as the ball was hitting it. !!! This was the most amazing part of it, to think that a machine could calculate all that stuff. And it also really made the game more interesting to play for a long time, to master just how fast and in which direction to make that ball leave your paddle in a slightly different direction, at a slightly different speed than normal, which would make a whole lot more work for your opponent to return your shot. In one-player mode it did go faster and faster until it won. It’s true you could never win. And then it calculated and displayed your score. And so you only "won" by having the highest score on that machine in that particular pizza joint, or wherever. I'm pretty sure that if I had a nickel for every quarter I spent on those early video games I could buy myself a new laptop today.

We really didn't miss the internet. Nothing was hard to look up or know what was new or anything. We had great yellow pages, and newspapers, and radio and TV stations and gorgeous full color magazines. My friends and I were into all the new, high-tech, exploding fields of - photography, stereos, two way radios, bicycles, and remote-controlled-scale cars/airplanes. We were the high-tech generation! (we thought) Color TV's were getting so cheap that even poorer families like mine could afford one. When we got one (when I was about 14, in ‘70) I got to have the old black and white one, in my room. IN MY ROOM! For a poor kid, I was sure the envy of my friends. I had that TV, to which I rigged up headphones (so that I could watch late at night when I was supposed to be asleep), my own stereo phonograph, and a radio with FM... -in Stereo!

At about 12 years old I convinced my mother to not worry when I "illegally" hooked up an extension to our home telephone in my room (back then, the phone company wanted you to pay $2/month for each additional phone device you had, - even though it was just one phone line!?) I had a killer ten speed bike (that I saved up for, for about a year), a pretty good used camera - and a flash attachment! And,....when I was about 15, I had a CB with a huge base-station antenna on the roof of our mobilehome. This was possibly the most important material thing I had, concerning my emotional and societal development (in addition to some of the controversial comedy albums like George Carlin's), because back then, in the early days of Citizen Band radio, the air was clear and not over crowded like it became later in the late 70's, and you could talk all over the Valley, and meet people. And somehow, a tiny percentage of “enlightened” high school kids bought them and used them as a social networking tool, much the same way kids today use Facebook, texting, email, I.M., and cell phones. I had moved from Tempe to Mesa when I was 13, and still had old friends there, and so with the CB radios we where finally able to talk for free all night, every night. Not privately, you understand, but that was part of the fun of it. Other people would just jump in and offer their "comments", and it was a great way to kinda get to know a buncha people from all over. When I was "doing my homework", I had the CB on (on "our" channel - channel 23), kinda half-listening in to whatever the evenings' conversation topic was and periodically interjecting, while the TV was on with the sound low, - and maybe a little music on the phonograph, just for background filler! (I don't remember my homework getting the best scores). As soon as someone got a car, we went mobile (with mobile radios) and had impromptu "boondocker" parties (‘don’t know where that term came from) in the desert on the edge of town (which wasn't very far to go, back then) every weekend. Gas was 45 cents (although there was a devastating gas shortage, where gas skyrocketed to 75 cents!). Then Cassette players and recorders came out, and you could record your albums and play them in your car!….IN YOUR CAR!!!

We really had everything we could’ve dreamed of, and didn’t want for much. We felt pride in being the space-age generation that put a man on the moon, and we were sure that someday, when we’re older, we will probably be able to visit there as tourists, if we could afford it. We had Tang and Velcro and other great by-products of the space race. And every day, you’d hear about how in a few years, we’d have affordable computers for our homes! We didn’t know what we might want to do with them, but just the thought of having one was exciting enough! We started having affordable mini-calculators (we could cheat at math!), and digital watches – with alarms!!
Rich people like doctors, and mafia hit-men had radio- mobile telephones in their cars, and you’d hear of some phones that could fit in a small suitcase! Cars were cool, of course, because the hey-day of the muscle car was about ten years past, which meant you could afford to buy some of those cool cars used (even if we couldn’t afford gas). Actually, we could always afford gas, ‘cus even 75 cents/gallon wasn’t a deal-breaker if you wanted to cruise badly enough. The problem was Gas Rationing. They’d legislated how much gas you could buy, and which days, based on what your license plate number was.

So, I remember not being able to buy gas, even though we had money! And we really needed to cruise (Main St. in Mesa), so I remember one time we set out to steal some gas out of parked cars. We knew how to siphon, we got our hose and gas can, we targeted two sorta long-term parked cars in the corner lot of the mobile home park that I lived in. We decided on these because we figured by the time they got back to using them and noticed the fuel was low, they’d think it was from evaporation. Why we worried about this, I don’t know! This being our first time (and turned out to be the last) at real honest-to-no-goodness crime, we were nervous and a little scared to say the least. It’s funny, I have a terrible memory, but I’ll always remember this event ‘till the day I die. It was Mike Putz, and Vance Green, and I, and we made a point of wearing black clothing so we wouldn’t be seen as easily, even though we noticed there was a huge streetlight right there. We started by hiking all the way around the outside fence (even though they were just a 30 second walk from my front door!?) and then jumping the fence right behind the parked cars when we were sure no one was around. “We’re safe!” “No one saw us!” (that was because no one was ever around after dark in this sleepy little trailer park).

The first car we targeted didn’t seem to have a gas filler inlet on it anywhere! We we’re all (stealthily) searching every inch of this car, and, nothing! Somebody said “See, I knew we shouldn’t be doing this, we don’t know enough about cars to even do this!” It’s true, we were not “car enthusiast kids”. Only Mike Putz had a car so far, and none of us had the kind of Dad that talked cars all the time or anything. Finally somebody found that the rear license plate flipped down to access the gas inlet. -It had a locking gas cap on it!! We had heard of them, but they were new and no one really used them much, but this guy did! “Just our luck! – Damn!” We had it all planned that we would take just half a gallon from each, filling our can and giving us enough for about 25 miles in Mike’s Chevy Vega. “Let’s just take the whole gallon from this next car here,… we don’t care!” “OK, it say’s Mercedes Benz on this one, I think it’s a rich guys’ car, he won’t care” “OK”. So we maneuvered around, still whispering and hiding in the shadows of the cars, the best we could.

You have to remember, we had seen a lot 70’s TV, and knew just how to act and talk like proper two-bit thieves. And so, we find the gas filler, and put the hose in, and now it’s time to finally decide just who is gonna start the siphon. We had “discussed” it before, but hadn’t yet agreed on a “designated drinker”. You see, to start a siphon, you have to suck on the hose long enough to draw the gas down the hose, to a lower level, where it will continue to flow, into the can. The problem is, you always end up getting some gas in your mouth, ‘cus it’s virtually impossible to know exactly when to stop sucking and see if it worked! So we’re back to arguing about who the lucky person will be, - only this time it’s bigger stakes because there’s only one car now, and the honors can’t be shared, when somebody’s weak flashlight illuminates a sticker next to the fuel-filler that says “Diesel Fuel Only”. We hadn’t even heard of passenger cars that run off of Diesel! We thought that maybe it was modified and that we found the only car in the world that had diesel fuel in it! –Just our luck! We laughed (for about a week), and decided to abandon our life of crime, realizing it was just not in the cards for us. Besides, we really did have everything we could want.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

If you are 35 or older, I know you will relate:

Every generation of parents have told their kids how hard things were when they were growing up. From walking to school barefoot in the snow, uphill – both ways, to more realistic reminders of how technology has made life easier for their kids. I remember thinking when I was a kid hearing this, that I was never gonna lay this on my kids. But with the sudden advances in technology of late, I think this generation is more deserving of this tradition than any other. Really, compared to our childhood, today’s kids live a charmed life in Utopia! So, here it is. Dear kids:

When I was a kid, we didn't have computers. When we wrote something like a paper for school, we wrote it. With our hand. And a pen! Or a typewriter. We actually had to know how to spell! And when we wanted to move a sentence up or back in the paragraph, there was no cut and paste command, you re-did the whole damn page!



No Internet. If we wanted to know something, We had to go to the damn library and look it up in a book. (I’m sure you know what books were, having seen them in old movies). And there was no email!! (or I.M.) We had to actually write and snail-mail somebody a letter, with paper, pen, envelope, stamp, and time! You had to walk down the street, put it in the mailbox, wait days for it get there, days for someone to write back, and more days in the mail back to you!

Kids had to actually respect and listen to adults. Child Protective Services didn't care if our parents beat us. As a matter of fact, the parents of all our friends also had permission to kick our ass! No where was safe!

There was no digital music. If you wanted to steal music, you had to hitchhike to the damn record store and shoplift it yourself!
Or you had to wait around all day to tape it off the radio and the DJ'd would always talk over the beginning. And you were fine with it, cause it was the only way to get free music ever! No iPods either. When we walked down the street, we listened to the traffic! There were no CD players! We had tape decks in our cars. We'd play our favorite tape a few times, and if didn’t get “eaten” and jammed up in the player, it would “wear out” and sound worse and worse the more you played it. So your favorite stuff sounded the worse! How would like them apples?

No cell phones! Pagers were expensive, only for doctors and drug dealers, and all they could display was a phone number. If you were gonna meet someone somewhere, you had to actually do it! There was no calling to arrange a new plan. Phones were at home, business, or sometimes they would have “public” ones on street corners that you put a quarter in for five minutes, and everyone around could listen in! We didn't have fancy crap like Call Waiting. If you were on the phone and somebody else called they got a busy signal, that's it!



And no Caller ID either! When the phone rang, you had no idea who it was! It could be your school, your mom, your boss, your Bookie, your drug dealer, a collections agent, you just didn't know!!! You had to pick it up and take your chances, mister!

We didn't have any fancy video games with high-resolution graphics, we had the Atari 2600! With our games your guy was a little square! You actually had to use your imagination. And there were no multiple levels or screens, it was just one screen forever!
And you could never win. The game just kept getting faster and faster and harder and harder until you died! Just like LIFE!


You had to use a little book called a TV Guide to find out what was
on the few channels there were. You were screwed when it came to channel surfing! You had to get off your ass and walk over to the TV to change the channel! And if you tried to stay there to keep flipping, your Mom yelled “get back away from the radiation!” Oh, and no Cartoon Network either. You could only get cartoons on Saturday Morning. And no VCR’s! ‘You slept in Saturday, you missed them for another week. Do you hear what I'm saying!?!


Movies were something that you see in a movie theater. Period. If you didn’t see a particular movie before it stopped showing. That’s it! We thought we would never see it. Ever.

Digital cameras? No, …cameras used film. Film was something you had to buy, for five bucks, each time you wanted to take 20 more photos. Then,… when you took the picture, you couldn’t see it right after, to see if it was good!?! You had wait till all 20 picts are taken, take the roll in for developing (another five bucks), then you’d get back 20 little shiney prints that you couldn’t touch ‘cus they’d easily get finger prints, and to “share” a photo meant you’d giveaway yours, and plan to make another for yourself from the negative but you never did ‘cus it was too much of a pain in the ass!! ‘That was photo sharing.


Facebook? Nothing even similar. If you wanted friends, you had go out and work hard at making them ... Imagine that!
That's exactly what I'm talking about! You kids have absolutely no idea how easy you have it. “Spoiled” is an extreme understatement. You guys wouldn't last five minutes, if you were back just a few decades! You’d better thank your lucky stars every day of your life that you didn’t grow up a few decades ago. And when you become parents, I don’t think there’s anything left for your kids to have easier than you’ve had, so don’t worry about that. Just be nicer and feel pity for your parents, and go get them a pillow or something.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

I just bought 60% of GM!

Well, I guess I’m doing pretty well. I just bought 60% of GM the other day!

Robert Reich had, (as usual) some very cool insights on this, including:

“The only practical purpose I can imagine for the bail-out is to slow the decline of GM to create enough time for its workers, suppliers, dealers and communities to adjust to its eventual demise.”

Robert Reich was the nation's 22nd Secretary of Labor and is a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, and his blog of easy-to-read explanations of complicated stuff is at: http://robertreich.blogspot.com/

Michael Moore has (as usual) some wonderfully radical observations, and some specific suggestions of what we should do with our newly-purchased car company. Please read his ideas on his link below, and see if you agree, because you and I have to make some big, executive decisions very soon!


“It is with sad irony that the company which invented "planned obsolescence" -- the decision to build cars that would fall apart after a few years so that the customer would then have to buy a new one -- has now made itself obsolete.” The complete, very interesting summary is at: http://www.michaelmoore.com/


Well, Mr. Moore is again, dead-on with simple, logical, down-to-earth assessments of what we as a country, and as a society, are doing wrong and what we should be doing to make it better. Because he does this publicly, he is branded a “radical”, a revolutionist, a treasonist, a seditionist and worse. When really he is one of our nations greatest Patriots. And bravest. He lives with constant death threats from ignorant redneck types who don’t realize he works hard at doing what he feels is the best way he can help his country. By simply making entertaining documentary films that make us think about the status quo. We need to always remember that, just because things are, and have been a certain way, and just because a gigantic system of millions of people making their livelihood from it, doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be abolished. If this was so, we would still have slavery in America. We would still have an open and active Opium trade. And we would still have a huge tobacco industry…- oh, well, some things we’re still working on.

Mr. Moore has the guts to say what millions of us are too afraid to say about many topics. I’ve seen all of his films and after every one I sit there and say to myself “You miserable, lazy, selfish, scared loser!” “Why don’t you have the nerve to speak up like Michael does, and try to do what you know is best for your country!?” I have personally studied the electric car’s development enough over the last few decades to know, absolutely, without a doubt, that it is the number one solution to many of our transportation, economic, ecological, and foreign political problems. And that right now is the time to totally embrace the technology 100%, with every effort of every auto industry worker and every government bureaucrat, to completely re-make our energy infrastructure over the next several decades. Apparently Mr. Moore does too. Now if we can just convince all those auto guys and bureaucrats, which make their living off of the internal combustion engine, then it will be an easy transition!

Seriously, now that we’re all auto industry tycoons, how ‘bout we just make electric cars, since they don’t use petroleum, they don’t spew out noise and pollution, they go 150 miles on a charge, and the national driving daily average is just 29, and they have 300 less moving parts than an internal combustion engine, so they don’t break down anywhere nearly as often.

With our resources of our huge car company, we could take the car world by storm by being the first on the market with affordable electrics. And we could start, by easily selling them to all of the millions of two car families. That way, they’d still have one car on the old system for long summer vacations or whatever. Then over time, we could create a network of charging stations near restaurants, or interchangeable batteries, and then people could use their electric more and more. We could sell people solar panel covered carports so that their car charges for free (and green) all day while they park in the shade. We’d have it made in the shade!
Let’s start by changing the name though, don’t you think? I mean, General Motors is a stupid name for a car company, and it has a LOT of bad connotations associated with it. How ‘bout “Only Electric Motors” (OEM!). Or, how ‘bout “No more stupid, noisy, smelly, planet-killing, war-causing, internal-combustion-engines car company”. It has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? Lemme know what you think, partner.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Look at this dreamy RV





This 1990 Blue Bird Wanderlodge, model SP36, has been well maintained, and must have been stored indoors for much of it’s life, since the original paint is still shining. It was the Silver Anniversary edition, that included many extras not found in other versions of this coach. This fully self-contained home on wheels is ready for anything from a weekend in the mountains to a full-time tour of the country! While you're driving, your passengers can watch movies in the livingroom or the bedroom, fix a meal and eat or play cards at the roomy dinette, or even shower in the spacious bath, since the coach makes continuous hot water for you from engine heat! Up front, the pilot and co-pilot have top-notch sound systems with individual volume and equalizer controls.

The full-featured galley includes a dual burner stove and a convection microwave that will run off of the generator or the 3000 watt inverter from a huge bank of house batteries. Pop popcorn at a rest stop, or roast a turkey on the way to the campsite. Dual sinks and disposal make for an easy clean up. The large refrigerator/freezer runs off of electric, 12v., or Propane, and you can make a Smoothie or a Frozen Margarita with the built-in Nutone power blender, or other attachments. This coach is designed to handle cold weather in style with three different heating systems running off the engine, propane, and electricity. The holding tanks are also heated, and the entire coach is well insulated with several inches of expanding foam. Hot desert travel is a breeze as well, with the “dash” A/C that runs off the engine, and, if needed, the two roof A/C’s that can run off the generator.

For privacy, just activate the power draperies, or the total black-out shades in the rear. You'll find bright and efficient flourescent and LED lighting throughout the coach, even inside the closets and cabinets! This coach features a 32" flat TV, as well as a unique, 50" projection theater across from the couch for big movie nite fun! Deadbolt the steel door and you’re safe and secure in an all-steel mini-fortress. The queen size bed has a premium mattress providing a good nite's sleep anywhere, and the sofa pulls out into a double bed that is actually very comfortable, since the “seam” is down the middle, between the two people, that are off in dreamland. Custom wood flooring, leather seats, and earth-toned cabinetry create a complimentary environment for relaxing. The bathroom features a porcelain toilet and a shower/tub unit that’s as roomy as many home showers, with a high showerhead and plenty of elbow room. Go ahead, take a long, hot shower. The rapid-recovery water heater provides almost endless hot water. Even if dry camping, there’s 100 gallons of fresh water on board. The walls of the bathroom swing away, doubling your floor space. In a Blue Bird, you're never cramped. And when two couples use the coach, the double doors provide discreet access to the bathroom from either side.

And speaking of space, this unit has seemingly unlimited storage space. The famous high quality Wanderlodge cabinetry is everywhere, from ample overhead cabinets, to a roomy, pull-out pantry, to a huge cedar-lined wardrobe closet that has sliding mirrored doors and automatic lights. Things like magazine racks, tissue holders and drawers are right where you need them, and there’s even a lighted china cabinet for items you'd like to display. Under the coach, there is a pass-through bay and several spacious compartments all protected by solid steel doors and locks. One bay has a full-size roll-out tool box. Having just one rear axle, leaves even more bay space. For very large items, the roof is completely encircled with the iconic, Blue Bird luggage rail, and the aluminum decking can handle the weight. Feel free to walk around or even watch the sunset from your perch in the sky. While up there you’ll notice the high-gain wifi antenna, the motorized-lift amplified TV antenna, and two state of the art solar panels that constantly provide 12 amps of charge to the battery systems, free and green, whenever the sun is out, which is perfect for dry camping or isolated storage!

The 300 HP Turbo Cat 3208 engine not only provides enough power for the coach to bound up mountain passes, but also for up to a 10,000 pound trailer or tow car. This is a rear-engine diesel pusher with air ride, -just like the Greyhound buses, and you can practically whisper to each other while riding in this wonderfully quiet coach! The 8-way power leather seats, tilt/telescoping steering, power heated mirrors, 4-speed automatic transmission, remote control spotlights, rear camera, and multitude of gauges and dash controls make driving this coach an absolute joy. Flip-down fog lights, CB, radar detector, weather radio, GPS, standard horn, air horns, musical horn, everything imaginable to make the journey a unique experience.

Outside the coach, you'll find awnings on every window, featuring cast alloy components and sturdy reliability. Plus, a giant patio awning, to enjoy the outdoors even if sunny or rainy. The radiator is designed to swing out of the way for major engine access. The diesel generator power-slides out of the front for servicing, and there are even foot-holds so you can clean the windshield easily. Every aspect is engineered for effortless use. Once you activate the hydraulic levelers and set up camp, you can lower the rear motorcycle platform and take off to see the sites on the Vespa 3 wheeled motor scooter. Or, if there are four of you, use the four electric bicycles and do your sightseeing the completely green (and completely fun) way!

Just relax and enjoy your vacation, knowing you’re in the safest, most reliable, and enjoyable way to travel, and experience the adventure, …but sleep in your own bed every night!
more at: http://picasaweb.google.com/Bluebirdzoom/MaunderMaximum#

Blue Bird Motorcoaches are so well engineered and built, that they are essentially a timeless work of art. It is certain that they will outlive most of us. Therefore we are just stewards, (‘hopefully good ones), caring for them, for a while. This does not mean that they are perfect and never fail. In fact, this complex network of inter-connected electrical and mechanical systems needs constant maintenance and periodic repair due to the stresses of mobile use, combating the environment. However, time and experiences have shown that out of the hundreds of manufacturers of motor coaches, Blue Birds’ are the most reliable and easily repairable, even though they are not the most exotic and expensive.

The members of the Blue Bird forums are a wonderful, friendly bunch that, due to pride of ownership of these fine machines, spend great amounts of time and energy sharing information with each other on everything from repairs and maintenance, to upgrades and use-tips, making the Blue Birds all that much more valuable.

The recession has hit RV values quite hard, and they are all currently worth only about two-thirds what they were a year or two ago. Furthermore, many RV coach manufacturers (including Blue Bird) have gone out of business recently because of the economic disaster. However, once the economy recovers, Blue Birds will be in demand and extremely valuable, since it will take many, many years for any new coach builders to start up and make any coaches, anywhere near the quality of a Blue Bird.

If you have a friend that is looking for a quality motorcoach, or are considering going along on a vacation with someone that has one, it would be worth your time to worry and hope that it is a Blue Bird!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Day Weekend, and my friend Jack



It’s Memorial Day weekend, and I always think of camping, and my friend Jack Huston, that past away two years ago. Usually, people most remember a lost friend and loved one on the anniversary of their birthday or the day they died. And even though Jack died on Earth Day, which was so fitting for a guy so in tune with the earth, I will always think of Jack on Memorial Day weekend the most because, for about 20 of them, he and I, and whatever group we could gather-up, went camping together in the always-glorious weather of that time of year, in the breath-takingly-beautiful Arizona mountains. My memory has gone from bad to worse as I’ve aged, but I have a strong warm-fuzzy when I think of those trips, and I know that if I could remember more details, they were all good times, no matter the group assembled, due to the atmosphere provided by the fabulous destinations.

I have always taken photos. Not Photographs, but photos, “picts”, “snapshots”, you know, just quick pictures of where I am, what I’m experiencing, often with the self-timer, to help me remember that experience for “when I’m old” (which didn’t take long!). And yes, it’s true that I usually took pictures when times were good as apposed to bad, and just as with memories that get imprinted harder when endorphins and other good-time chemicals are present in the brain, we tend remember the fun times, and forget the bad. But I’m still pretty sure, these trips were all good. I really need to go thru the old “prints” of our life, before digital photos. Remember those?

As with most of the many times I camped with Jack, most all of the Memorial Day Weekend trips were backpacking trips, as that’s what Jack (and I) preferred over car camping trips, 100 to one. But sometimes, if the “group assembled” consisted of members of “varying degrees of hiking proficiencies”, and if we could think of a place to go where you could drive back into the wilderness far enough to not have “neighbors”, we would take the big iron things and could then take along some more creature comforts, - like chairs! I remember once when Regina was two months old, we did just that, and were kinda glad we did, because it turned very windy that night, and the tent shook so much it scared Regina, and we retreated to the Suburban. Mostly always though, we were at least a mile or two in. Including my most memorable Memorial Day outing, that I don’t remember much about. ~?

Let me explain, we had assembled a relatively large group one year, of about 20 people, for a backpack trip into a canyon that Jack had been to just once before (unusual for Jack, as most of the places he took us on MD were places he knew quite well). This was to be a “short, easy hike”, because several in the group were first time backpackers (which wasn’t unusual for these MD trips), and because, Wendy and I were taking Ethan, at 7 months, on my back, and Regina at 3yrs, 2 months, on her first hike where she’d have to walk all the way, since we were obviously loaded down fully. Well, the “short easy hike” Jack had remembered was a little steeper downhill, and longer than he’d remembered, but the camp spot was gorgeous, and would normally be considered by Wendy and I “worth the hike”. EXCEPT, I had been feeling a little foggy that morning, but since so much prep and anticipation had gone into the trip, decided to just barrel ahead, and also since I was sort of the “coordinator” of the group, I decided to just “hope it was nothing”.

This, in retrospect, was incredibly stupid and irresponsible, as it turned out to be a full blown flu that had me sleeping from the time we made camp, until the next morning when, after feeling like I could try to hike out, most of the group went along, to carry all our gear and kids! I went back to sleep in the car, Wendy drove us home, and I slept thru till the next day, when some of the group stopped by to see how we were all doing, on their way home from the 3 day trip. Wendy had even less fun than me, getting almost no sleep in the tent that night, because Ethan was having stomach problems, and periodically vomiting all over the place! –Not really the most “memorable” trip, - just the one we’ll always remember! But Jack and I sure loved those Memorial Day Weekend outings. It was our unspoken “standing commitment” to each other for so many years there, to try to get some folks together, and think of a fun new place to go. We introduced a lot of people to backpacking. And Jack introduced a lot of people to the splendor of the wilderness, including me, and that’s what I’ll always remember about my friend Jack.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Mr. Cheney should really sit down and shut up.


If Mr. Cheney can’t keep his mouth shut, and stop ruining our country, then we’ll have to just go ahead and arrest, charge, convict, and sentence him for any one of the number of illegal things he did while in office. We’ve been letting him slide, giving him a lot of latitude, and basically letting him off on these blatant unlawful actions, because he did hold a high office. But that is about all we can do for him, to honor his years of service. Especially since the majority of us agree that his years of service didn’t serve our country very well at all. He may have believed he was doing the right thing, but time has proved that he clearly wasn’t. And if he can’t see the tremendous favor we’re doing for him, by letting him slide, and just go away, and if he doesn’t stop giving these speeches, and continuing to promote policies and ideologies that the majority of the country does not agree with, then we should stop looking the other way on his offenses, and go ahead and press charges and get him off his soapbox, so that we can stay focused on the job at hand, and continue the (hard) work on healing our nation. I believe everyone has right to his opinions. The problem here is that he gets national tv coverage, only because of his previous job (that he did poorly), and there’s no good way to insure equal time, from the view of the opposing side, - that is, the view of more than half of countries’ population. We don’t think torture is good. We don’t think it works. And we don’t think it’s a good way to run a society, for many reasons. All polling reveals this. So if he can’t accept that, then we’ll have to take back our offer of letting him slide on all that law-breaking he did. The only problem with this, of course, is the martyr syndrome that may infuse some of our less-brain-cell-endowed citizenry into trying to start riots. Really, the guy is starting to piss me off, royally. You’d think he’d be happy we gave him a chance to try out his ideas (and none of them worked out well), we looked the other way when he changed all sorts of laws about executive priveledge, and we gave him a couple a real ‘spensive heart surgeries – no charge! I mean, he’d be dead right now, if not for the goodness of our hearts. And yet he still thinks he can get in our face, and yammer on about his crazy, stooopid, disasterous ideas on how to run a country. Someone needs to have talk with him, right away, up close and personal, and explain the way things really are – and could be for him real soon, if he doesn’t sit down and shut up. I’ll be glad to do it, if Obama and his cronies are too afraid to.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Electric Bicycles are coming!



Electric bicycles are coming! They will take the world by storm. They will replace the car for most all short commutes of single riders in fair weather. They will do this because they are faster and much more efficient (than either a car, a regular bike, or walking). They will do this because they are much less expensive. They will do this because the planet is sick. But mostly, they will quickly take the world by storm, and replace the car for so many trips, because electric bikes are fun to ride! Bicycles have always been fun to ride. Ever since the “Safety Bicycle” was perfected in 1880, with it’s chain, sprocket, and air-filled tires, the bicycle has always been universally accepted as fun to ride. As long as there were no hills. And as long as there were no head-winds. And as long as you were fit, and strong, and feeling good, and didn’t mind working up a sweat. The bicycle could make you feel like you were sailing, or even flying! But not through water or air, but through your own neighborhood and town! The envy of everyone, as you were having fun, and getting to where you wanted to go. With half the effort, and over five times faster than walking! But there were those hills. And that head wind! And those days when you just didn’t feel all that energetic. But what if you could magically take away those hills, and that head wind, and make the bike feel like you were always going downhill, and with the wind? Then it wouldn’t matter if you didn’t feel good some days, because a ride on a magical bicycle like that, would make you feel good again! You could sail and fly through your favorite parts of town, running errands, getting things done, but you wouldn’t be getting tired, you’d be getting therapy! And so it seems clear, that if there were a magical bicycle like that, everyone would want one. And would ride it often! And if that happens, our lifestyle would improve. And it would help to heal our planet.

Well, the electric bike does all that. And more. That’s why it is already taking the world by storm. Many places like China and Europe have already experienced massive explosions in the growth of this new product. And it is becoming a new paradigm for transportation. America is just now starting to discover the wonderful advantages of pairing a bicycle with an electric motor. Even though we tend to have greater distances to travel, and our cities are designed to cater to our love affair with the automobile, people are finding that an electric bike can solve so many problems on shorter commutes, that sales in the US have begun to skyrocket here as well. And for every electric bike that is purchased, and more importantly, every time we replace miles-driven with miles-ridden, on an e-bike, our lives, and our planet, benefit greatly. So, you might ask, “just because electric bikes are so much easier and more fun to ride than regular bikes, how much of a positive impact could they really make, even if we did replace a lot of our short car trips with an e-bike?” Well, it’s hard to say. We won’t use them much on long trips, say, over ten miles each way. And we won’t use them much when it’s raining because we like to stay dry in our cars. And we won’t use them if we need to pickup more items than will fit in our baskets and saddlebags. So, what does that leave? A LOT! In the US, the climate is pretty nice, most of the time. The national average daily miles driven is 29 miles. In addition to those who are starting to commute to work by e-bike to save hundreds of dollars in monthly fuel costs, it is easy to see how we can replace millions of our little daily errand-running trips with an e-bike instead of a 4,000lb, gas-guzzling, pollution-spewing, budget-breaking car.

Here are a few Fun Facts about e-bikes:

>Faster in many cities for short commutes, due to traffic jams.
>Healthier lifestyle, gets you “out”, pedaling some.
>More efficient than any other form of transportation, including walking and regular pedal biking. Electricity takes less energy than the amount to grow food.
>Decreases congestion on city streets. Can you imagine how many more bikes can fit on a road than cars?
>Greenest transport. Zero emissions. Better health not breathing pollution. Helps climate crises.
>More fun than being sat on by a hippopotamus.
>Reduces use of non-renewable energy resources like petroleum, which we need to make plastics.
>Reduces wars by reducing oil use. Most efficient means of transportation,-1500 mpg equivalency.
>Sustainable-small amount of energy needed can easily be made from total green source like solar.
>The bike above goes 18mph for 18miles without pedaling, and is available for $300 (plus $100 shipping) at target.com

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Need a new computer? ...– "NO!"


This is the most common response lately because A. Everybody has a computer. B. Nobody has any money in this recession. And C. Even if we kinda want a new, smaller, lighter weight laptop and have the money, nobody wants to end up with Vista just to do it. Understandable. Completely understandable. But, we feel sorry for the computer industry, right? (it’s not their fault the new version of windows makes computers as slow as ten yrs ago) and we’d like to help stimulate the economy by buying something, right? What if you could get that sexy new, high-tech, 3 lb, 10” screen, lonnng battery life laptop for ~$300? – AND, it runs on XP!!! It’s true. -It’s the best kept secret in the computer world right now. Microsoft has allowed sales of their (best) operating system for a select few “netbooks” (because they know that Vista is such a hardware hog, it won’t run on anything but big machines). And the best news for us normal, daily computer users is that, Intel developed a small, super-efficient, low-cost processor, called the Atom, with these netbooks (and entry-level desktops) in mind! My favorite is the Asus eeePC1000 that is getting great reviews for build quality, and everything, actually. It comes with a 6 cell battery that results in a run time of about 5 hours! No, really, 5 hours really. They claim 7, but you know how these guys always rate these things – very best case scenarios (screen fully dimmed, wireless off, etc.). But the user reviews are saying they’re really getting five hours! 5 hrs! I could do that. 160GB hard drive, dualtouch touchpad, bluetooth, webcam, the works. So this could be our main computer, hooked up to our large monitor, with our large keyboard, and then when we need to travel-it, all our files and bookmarks and stuff are there. I’ve read the test reviews, and this processor runs 98% of everything I need (even Photoshop, though it takes a second to do a huge graphics job). Then if I need to edit video or something, I could just hook up my old computer for the day. The only thing this doesn’t have is an optical drive. So you just buy an external dvd burner (~$40) for when you need that at home. You can dump movies into it’s hard drive to watch on trips (which is another way to help batt life, by not spinning a disc). And it’s less than three lbs! So if you know anyone thinking about a new machine, tell them about this one. Remember, friends don’t let friends buy Vista. http://usa.asus.com/news_show.aspx?id=15498 It comes in black, blue, or, for those, “i” people, - white!

Remember when music sounded good?



Remember when music was played on sound systems that made it sound good? Those of us that grew up in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, were very lucky, technology wise, when it came to listening to music. We were lucky because there wasn’t this explosion of technology, including digital music! I know, you’re thinking “but digital music is wonderful, clean, clear, portable, versatile, and all that stuff!”. But let me ask you something, does it sound good? The answer, most of the time, is arguably “No!”. The problem is that, people select too low of a sampling rate to rip and store their music, in order to save space on their devices. Furthermore, the headphones and speaker systems being used (everything from $3 earbuds to FM modulators for car radio interfacing) sound absolutely horrid. Not to mention that so many people today listen to music while they’re walking down the street, eating a snack, and talking to friends! Back in the day, music was Gospel. No matter if it was hard rock, classical, or Gospel! It was listened to. Carefully. And the technology we had, the LP record, turntable, receiver, and speakers, were cherished and worshiped as well. And it improved every year, and you’d go into the stereo store (that’s what we called them, “stereo stores”) and drool over the latest equipment that had a little bit better specs than last years! And every few years you’d save a few paychecks and splurge on some new component, and then all your friends would be over to hear the newest album…and they’d really listen! Man, are we lucky we didn’t have ipods! We would’ve really missed out!! Spread the word. Tell people that they’re missing out. Remind them to rip music at high sampling rates. .WAV files sound better than .MP3 ones. And use high quality headphones and amplifier/speaker systems. And then you’ll find yourself really listening again!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

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I like all kinds of movies!

I used to work at a car stereo store where we’d build custom sound systems for people and one of the questions we’d ask our clients was “what kind of music do you listen to?”. By far, the common answer was “all types of music”. At which point, we would ask for more clarification, and get answers like: “you know, everything from Rush to Metallica” or something of that nature, where they’d name several artists from the exact same genre and era. And so, when people ask me what kind of movies I like to watch, I say “all kinds!” You know, everything is good. I love movies. Almost any movie whatsoever. As long as it makes you think. Any movie that says something and takes you to a place you wouldn’t normally go, or presents a viewpoint you wouldn’t normally have, and really helps you understand it. And in an entertaining way. Also, is should be realistically believable. With suspense, usually. Like any psychological thriller drama, with good suspense, without any gratuitous action scenes (gratuitous sex scenes are ok), and excellent character development so that you actually care about the characters. And of course, no PG or PG13 or PG17 ratings, since those are for people under 17. And no fantasy or science fiction (except good, sensible future science fiction), since that’s not reality – based, and therefore, it’s hard to identify with the characters and feel for them or worry about them, since there could just be some magic in the next scene to solve everything. So, basically any good movie at all, as long as it’s a good, serious, adult drama that’s rated R, and has really good actors and filmmakers behind it. And a big budget. Oh, and it should definitely have an IMDB user rating of at least 6.5 out of 10, or better. And at least 5,000 votes to keep from possibly being skewed by people related to making or marketing the film. And it has to be widescreeen. And have closed captioning (in English). But as far as what kind of movie, it could be anything from a political suspense thriller to a psychological courtroom drama, or just about anything, really. I love all kinds of movies!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Annual CES Summary


This year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas was pleasant! Due to the poorest attendance in years, there was elbow room to spare on the show floor, and you could actually get around and see stuff! ‘Good for attendees, but a bad indication for the industry and the economy, I guess. But then again, what is there that isn’t an indication of a bad economy right now? So let me try to brighten your outlook with news of what’s fun & fancy in the way of e-gadgets that may be in your future!

The death of TV. Do I have your attention now? “What?” you say? The death of our most favorite consumer electronics invention of all time?? Well, not exactly the end of it, but there is clearly a shift away from TV as we have known it, including the actual death and finite ending of the way TV has been broadcast for these past 68 or so years. “The Switch” (the turning off of the analog broadcasts) is finally set for Feb 17th! But wait! … Breaking news!… They’re going to extend it AGAIN!… ‘till this summer. Because the governments’ (ill-conceived, and in my opinion, unnecessary) “DTV 2000” program for free $40 vouchers toward digital set-top tuners is stalled once again. But the death of TV is really much more about social and cultural changes, since, digital TV, which is replacing the analog, is better in every way. Including freeing up airspace to be used for more important stuff than entertainment. The big shift in TV is the growing practice of people choosing not to use antennas, cable, or satellite to view their favorite shows, but instead, channel-surf the web. So much video content, including network TV shows, is available now online, that people are eliminating their $800/yr cable or satellite bill, and watching for free! In HD! With just four, 15 second commercials per hour! !

Which reminds me of a neat product I saw at the show. More and more, people are trying hook up their computers to their big new HDTV’s to not only watch online content, but show their photos and home movies to larger groups, in a more comfortable setting. Many cables, adapters, and widgets are coming out to help you do that, but none more eloquent and ingenious than one I saw called ZV (www.zeevee.com). Basically it creates a high definition TV channel from the monitor output of your computer, and injects it into your cable TV cable that is already running around your house to all your new TV’s that are capable of receiving 1080i HD. You just tune to channel 999, (all your other channels are still there), and use the included RF remote with it’s touch pad mouse control, to see everything on you computer! You can even view it simultaneously on every TV in the house! ‘Pretty simple. ‘Pretty useful. ‘Pretty smart.

There were many demonstrations of 3D video that, I have to admit, look way better than they used to. Much cleaner and smoother, and no “eye/brain fatigue” as in the past. It will definitely be popular for video games right away, as it makes them so much more “immersive” (‘cool word, huh?). Hollywood recently announced that bringing this new technology to the cinema will keep the exhibition industry alive verses home theater. But the consumer level guys are starting to offer it for home video already! Just between you and me, there really isn’t much left for the cinema to offer us, now that BlueRay is here, except a six-week earlier release date. We can rent unlimited amounts of BlueRay discs from NetFlix for $10/month, and see a better picture, with better sound, with better popcorn, create our own intermission breaks when needed (and sometimes they’re really needed!), and not have anyone kicking the backs of our chairs! Now That’s Entertainment!

Computers. Hmm, Let’s see. Computers aren’t new. In fact, nothing’s really new with computers right now. Vista is seeing to that. Everything’s sort of at a stand-still while we suffer through these “dark years” of no-innovation due to Vista’s horrible operating system. There is some hope for the future though, as Microsoft has kind of acknowledged how bad it is, and is promising a new OS sometime maybe this year called “Windows 7”. ‘We’ll see. The only exciting innovation I noticed, was due to fact that Microsoft is allowing XP to be sold to just one specific category of machines called “netbooks”. These are wonderful, terrific, low-cost, tiny laptops, that use a terrific, low-cost, tiny processor from Intel called the “Atom”. Imagine, instead of buying a new laptop for $800, that has a very fast, 2.4Gig processor, and 4 Gigs of RAM, but has Vista, and so, it runs just so-so. ‘You know, not slow, not fast. Just half-fast. OR, you could buy, for under $400, a machine that is small, lightweight, sexy, runs for 6 hours on it’s battery, has a slower, 1.6Gig processor and just 1Gig of RAM, BUT, it uses XP, and therefore seems to run just as fast as the big one does! These netbooks are the real, productivity tools we’ve always wanted! 10” screens! 2 pounds! 6-cell batteries! Practically full-size keyboards! WiFi, 160GB hard drive,VGA out (for use with a big monitor at home) and everything else you need to do everything but maybe gaming and video editing. The only thing not built in is the CD/DVD drive, which you keep at home to allow for the wonderful portability! ‘Innovation, in spite of Microsoft! Asus seems to make the best of these at: www.asus.com

One other thing I noticed was that touch-screen computers are finally viable due to way better touch screens, unlike the first ones that looked dull and hazy. This technology is obviously due to the efforts of the cell phone industry, which has always worked hard to get bright, reliable touch screens to provide PDA (personal digital assistants) phones with a better user interface. Palm, Apple, and many others have now perfected the screens, but so far, people just don’t quite like typing on touch screen keyboards as much as hard button keyboards. That’s why there continues to be a bevy of new qwerty keyboard phones coming out. And that’s why, one of the biggest hits of the show was Nokia’s new flagship, N97, full feature phone that looks similar to the iPhone and all the other full-size touch screen phones out lately, however, manages to also have a full qwerty keyboard that swings out and at an angle for true, hand-held computering (SP?).

The last thing I want to tell you about was probably the most impressive use of tech that I saw,- or heard, at the show this year. Motorola has had a noise-canceling circuit on many of their phones lately called “Crystal Talk” Well, they re-invented the whole technique with multiple microphones and advanced algorithms, and they now call it “Crystal Talk Plus”. But they should’ve called it “Crystal Talk – 100 times better!” Because it is! They demoed it by letting you talk on two such equipped phones with someone who, steps into a “cone of not-silence” phone-booth-looking thing that has loud music and voices playing to represent a loud bar or restaurant. Then you switch places and keep talking, and I gotta tell ya, this thing was scary-good at canceling out almost all of the noise, not just some of it! Beware, if your spouse gets one of these phones and calls to say they‘re working late, they just might be at some bar whooping it up, and you’d never know!

If you enjoyed reading about these new tech toys (I wouldn’t admit it. It’s pretty sad that you’re a lonely nerd like me), you also may enjoy perusing sites like: www.engadget.com

\/\/\…Fred



Previous year’s ces summary:

Feb 2nd, 2008

Well, I know it’s a little late, but here’s my Annual CES Summary (my 30th annual trip there!). Maybe it was just me, but this year’s CES show, seemed like it was lacking enthusiasm. It could be the impending recession, or the fact that several major manufactures didn’t show this year due to some very controversial price-gouging by the city of Las Vegas (rates for rooms during CES week have risen 365% in two years!), but you could sense a little less “energy” out there on the show floor. Maybe it’s because there was actually a little less true innovation to be seen this year. Now, I say this in comparison to the previous few years, which have seen tremendous, some say, stupendous (‘love that word) amounts of innovation. So, there was some, but not as much. Ya know, it could be that we’ve already invented everything that the human race needs, or will ever need? Maybe we just need to make-do with what we have? Could we take our computers and satellites and phones that we have now, and use them more effectively to make this planet a shining example of what humans can really do when they get all evolved and civilized and stuff? Through high-tech consumer electronics, could we communicate so well, with every single member of our big blue marble club, that we could stop quarreling, share ideas and resources, heal the sick ecosystem, and ensure the future survival of our species? Sure! I think so. I’m an optimist about this stuff, like Gene Roddenbery. He felt strongly about, and showed us an example of how, through embracing technology, instead of fearing it, we might find true peace among our various tribes. Not only on this little planet, but we could then serve as a good example, when we start to meet other folks, from other planets, blue, or any other color.

So, we trudge along, making incremental contributions to civilization, like the video-game-like program I saw where your kid can assemble a virtual train set, and run the train around on the screen. !!??!! WHAT THE HELL ARE WE DOING HERE? What about actually getting a real train set for our kids, ya know, one where you actually feel the tactile reality of the physics and stuff, one of the simplest toys that teaches so much about linear reality, construction, patience, personal accomplishment, etc., etc., etc.!!! Uh oh, I’m ranting again. ‘Sorry about that. Well, sure, there are certainly examples of completely stupid stuff that is high-tech – but completely stupid. But there are also totally worthwhile and useful things coming out everyday. You just have to carefully analyze whether it could actually be useful or not, for you, and your lifestyle. Some people spend thousands of dollars on video games, which I don’t get at all, but they totally enjoy them, so it’s worth it to them. Last year, I wrote about the newest PDA phones that were finally reliable and therefore useful. Unfortunately they are expensive. I later bought one last summer (the very Nokia I wrote about last year), and people thought I was crazy for spending $500 on a cell phone! Especially when they give basic ones away for free (for signing up)! Well I couldn’t imagine my life without it now. Its’ 5 megapixel camera is my main snapshot camera (and video camera), catching hundreds of great photos of things and events in my life worth remembering, that I would never have had, except that it was right there with me. And about a dozen other key app’s that I use constantly have changed my life for the better, in small, but positive ways.

But, you want to know about CES this year. O.K., let’s see, there was a winner in the 3-year-long format war on high-definition video disks. Blu-Ray! (I believe I predicted that one, last year). So now we can get down to the business of growing that product category and lowering prices so that we can all watch movies at home, that look as good as TV does already (if you have HDTV. If not, get it, it’s wonderful. (It’s stupendous!). ‘Speaking of TV, there’s a mobile TV standard being developed (3 competing systems vying for industry acceptance – we’ll know more on that in a few months). This will mean that you can watch TV in glorious digital reliability, on your phone or other handheld for “free” (regular commercials). Speaking of TV, (again?) there are some pretty spiffy new TV sets. Yes, I know, we don’t really call them “TV sets” any more. But they are. This is a bone of contention with me, because long ago, about 20 yrs or so, “better” TV’s were supposed to go “component”. That is, you’d get a monitor (only), and tuner (only) and a separate audio system, for high-performance and universal interchangeability (even that’s an official real word! Strange.). But it just never happened. And I really don’t know why. Especially now. Anyway, several of the top TV manufactures showed their “coincidentally simultaneous” dramatic breakthroughs in the development of flat screen technology. Panels that are TWICE as efficient (twice as bright, or half as much current draw, or some compromise of each), which, really is a big deal. The result is big screen LCD TV’s that are only 1.5” thick (outside dimensions!-I saw ‘em, they’re real!), at half the wattage, and half the heat! All with,- guess what, - built-in tuners and speakers, of course. Let’s stop speaking of TV now…… Uh, oh, I can’t think of anything else that was really cool to tell you about! Oh wait, here’s one other thing. The “Death of the mp3 player”. What, you say? MP3 players are bigger than ever!?? What I’m saying, is that I saw very, very few new offerings of any stand-alone MP3 players. And, there wasn’t one new phone on the show floor that didn’t have an MP3 player in it. I predict the death of the small, snapshot camera in the next year or two, as they get incorporated into the cell phone as well. Well, that’s it. See you next year!

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