Day 71-SIP-Pandemic Or TV Series?

Adventure stories turn me on, and I am reading one that is probably the hardest journey ever undertaken by man, the trip to the South Pole. Maybe I am wrong, perhaps the trip to the moon was just as hard. The idea of living in the cold for two years does not appeal to me at all. Not to be able to see the color green as in vegetation would be a living hell. Yet the men who undertook this journey lived in conditions totally unbearable to normal people. These were not normal people, they were extraordinary men.

Reading this account during the warm spring-summer months is recommended. When it is ninety outside and you are reading about living in minus fifty it has a cooling effect on the body. Sir Ernest Shackleton led this exploration in 1914. His trip was to be the first to cross the continent of Antarctica via the South pole. The sad story is that this first attempt failed, and it became an adventure to survive. I think I would rather live with COVID-19 than to take on such a trip as Shackleton did.

The book is over seven hundred pages long, and I have just crossed the four hundred page mark. I have finally reached a point where I can’t seem to put it down. Even as I write this, I am longing to finish so I can resume reading.

At my Tuesday Night At the Stray Bar Club via Zoom meeting one of the members suggested I watch a new series titled Billions. Since, I have watched two episodes and I am hooked on another story. I heard about this series months ago, but steered clear because the principal character is played by actor Damian Lewis who played Brody in Homeland. I truly believed I would continue to visualize this man as Brody in the new series. I didn’t want to ruin the image of Brody the marine who was captured and imprisoned by radical Islamist terrorists for eight years.

It didn’t happen, I didn’t see this new character as Brody. After ten minutes of the new story, I saw him as the totally new person playing the part of a billionaire hedge fund manager. The plot of this new story is wrapped in the mystery of how hedge fund managers avoid prosecution. The main conflict is between big money business and big power government. I’ll watch all the episodes and look forward to the next season too.

Watching a series is like watching a movie that doesn’t end. The story keeps developing throughout all the episodes and getting more and more complicated as it does. Usually, there is an end which wraps up the season, with a teaser to pull you in to the next season’s story. One benefit of modern TV is that when a season is over the entire set of episodes is available anytime you want twitch it. It is a very popular pastime to binge watch thirteen episode stories at one sitting (all day). I only hope the series called COVID-19 doesn’t mimic one of these tv series. I hate the idea of COVID being a story that doesn’t quit.

Day 60-SIP-Blogs, VLOGS, Videos, and Podcasts

As part of my routine of killing time everyday while in place and hiding from COVID-19, I listen to a lot of radio through my hearing aids. I have a blue tooth pendant that hangs around my neck that connects my iPhone to the hearing aids. Hell, I spent a fortune on that phone so I am going to get some use out of it, the same with the hearing aids. The system also feeds TV into my ears, and of course the telephone, i.e. if the connections are all made. What are the connections you ask? Number one the bluetooth pendant has to be charged and turned on, then it must be paired with the phone, once that is done I have to connect the phone to my hearing aids. It only took me two years of trial and error to understand and make all those connections. It all takes but 10 seconds to accomplish. Old folks don’t adapt too fast to these new fangled contraptions.

Another time waster is watching Youtube videos. My grand daughter kind of pointed me to that when I asked her what her favorite TV show was. Her response, “I don’t watch TV.”

“How do you find entertainment,” I asked?

“I watch Youtube videos.” That is what pushed me into watching Youtube. At first it was to learn how to cook. I found that if a recipe exists there will be any number of chefs making videos on how to combine the ingredients. I have gotten so spoiled watching cooking videos that now before I attempt to do anything I will search Youtube and watch other people do it. Some are fantastic entertainment and some are so so. What I’m learning about with this is that: 1. people make videos in the hope of making money, and 2. people would rather learn by watching than by reading and understanding a recipe.

Oma is a carbon copy of my mother.

Another thing I have become acquainted with through streaming are Podcasts. When my favorite radio programs are over and I am still in my shop grinding wood or glueing, I listen to Podcasts. First I found Fox News Channel with all my favorite people, and discovered that they are not broadcasting live news they are streaming podcasts and turning conversation into something entertaining and also educational. A favorite is listening to Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt discuss politics, or history.

A few months ago I was in conference with my financial advisor. He asked me how I spend my time now that Peg is gone. I told hm I was struggling trying to find suitable TV that was worth watching, but that I loved reality programs. He told me about how new companies like Amazon, Netflix, etc. are now doing original programming to compete with network broadcasters. So, I checked out what Amazon has. Since I already subscribe for their Prime shipping service I also get what is termed their streaming service. Streaming allows a person to tune in to a program at the moment you are ready to watch it. There is no need to remember to watch at a specific time. You find a program, and click watch and it happens on the spot. Needless to say, I got hooked on a several of their original programs and love watching TV this way. It allows me to turn on the set when I am ready to see something and to see it immediately.

If all of this sounds old to you remember I am old and it takes longer for this kind of stuff to register as useful. Long gone are the days when I was entertained by a floor model radio that had a speaker as large a pizza that I sat in front of with my ear glued to the sound. Those were the good old days. The good old days are different now, we sit in front of a huge color picture screen with high definition picture and stream material we never could have imagined before.

The use of these new technologies has inspired me to wonder if I shouldn’t be getting into making videos and/or podcasts. Grumpa Joes Place is my number one vehicle to spout off steam and to talk without actually speaking. I like writing because words seems to flow from my mind easier than does speech. One of my speech problems is that I always say the opposite of what I actually mean. If I want to tell you to use your right hand to do something, it will come out as use your left hand. Or, if I want to tell you the sky is blue it will come out the sky is grey. I have done this repeatedly for years and I believe it is some form of dyslexia. Anyway, I want to try videos and podcasting as a form of expression. At this point though, I don’t know my rectum from a hole in the ground.

One Idea I have for a podcast is to promote Lions. I would interview Lions Club Presidents and discuss what he does with his club to serve the community. With over 46,000 Lions clubs in the world I think I have some work to do. One curiosity leads me to compare club size to town population. In the nineteen eighties Frankfort population was 2500 residents, but the Lions had 130 members. Today, Frankfort population is near 20, 000 residents and the single Lions Club has seventy members. Why so? Take another example, the La Moille, IL Lions club has thirty members and a town population of 750. What are they doing that is so different from Frankfort? I think I could use that kind of information to make an interesting video for Lions all across the world.

My body clock is running down and I have a lot of work to do before the main spring finally reaches the end and stops ticking. This pursuit however, may make life more interesting along the way. What ever I do, I’ll give you a report on Grumpa Joes Place in the future.

Day 55-SIP-New Milestone

Yes, I accomplished a new goal. I took ride on my trusty two wheel convertible and lasted for seven miles without awakening my sciatic nerve. I must admit that even though the nerve did not fully awaken it did begin to send signals of uneasiness. For those who don’t know why I’m concerned about my sciatic nerve it is because it runs from the back through the ass and down to my knees. Ever try pedaling a bike when so much of the engine is hurting? Let me advise you, don’t.

We are three days away from the point when we who live in zone five can plant flowers without worrying about a frost. Except that this year I am not going to trust that date at all. The weather in general has been too cold. I can testify to that after experiencing the bike ride. I often tell the story about how my wife Barb and I waited patiently to get started in the garden and planted annuals on May 15. That year we had a killing frost on May 30. If you are a gambler like I am give it a try, and be prepared to cover your plants when the temp is predicted to drop into the thirties.

This year, I am redesigning my yard by transplanting perennials and redistributing them to where annuals used to be. The reason is that I have way too many beds dedicated to annuals, (because I love the colors and huge spreading masses of flowers) and I cannot maintain it anymore. Well, let’s just change that to I don’t want to maintain it anymore. I’m getting too old and lazy. With COVID-19 closing businesses I can’t even count on getting fresh plants from the nursery’s even though I need to get some to fill spaces. The alternative to this is to let the garden go natural, except I abhor out of place native perennials, and I would spend my summer-in-place pulling weeds by the bushel.

Lobelia With Rabbit Barrier

Today, my Lions club announced on Facebook that it is officially cancelling their annual fund raising WURST FEST. This would have been our fortieth anniversary, but in the interest of the community health and safety we are giving it up. The event has been our largest fund raiser of the year and fuels our service projects through the year. Until COVID-19 is dead we will replace this crowd attracting event with a more simple fund raiser.

Also on the Lions front, the club held it’s first meeting since February using ZOOM. It went well and we are pleased. The attendance was about half (27) of what it would have been (48) if it were live. We usually use our Community Center for the meetings but it is closed, and the President’s and Governor’s guidelines are to keep meetings to less than ten, to use social distancing and to wear masks. The last thing we want is to infect each other then go out into the community to infect others and the next thing we know the Lions are responsible for shutting down the entire town. That works against our creed which is to serve.

The country is definitely feeling the effects of the shut down. Our unemployment rate is nearly that of the great depression in the thirties. I was born at the very end of that one, and maybe I’ll be buried at the end of this one. What a history. Yet the time between has been among the greatest experienced by the planet. I wouldn’t want to live in any other timespan. I have seen so much development during my lifetime I don’t think a greater period of positive development will come along for many years to come.

I have always thought it would be cool to be so advanced that countries get to the point where they held virtual wars instead of real hard-fought wars. Think about that, it would be computer against computer, programmer against programmer, and gamers against gamers. No one would die of the injuries inflicted on line, and the winner ends up owning the loser.

Over 1 million Reddit users waged a virtual war to create this bizarre work of art with 16 million pixels

I think I’ve had too much coffee.

Day 41-Quarantine-Phenomenon

Yesterday the weather turned out to be the exact opposite of the day before. The sun shone, the temperature was warm, and everyone’s disposition was bright. People were out walking again, although practicing social distancing. It strikes me as funny when walking and I spot someone coming toward me but still several houses away one of us will head for the street so we don’t pass each other too closely. Yes, we take the rules seriously.

The warmth brought out the bicycles. I have to admit that bikers don’t give hoot about social distancing when on the bike path. They zoom past you without the usual vocal warning. Sometimes I felt a wave of warmth flush over me as they speed along. Evidently one doesn’t need to be spaced apart when you pass each by with great speed. I’ll have to research whether the virus can jump that quickly from one person to the next.

Last night I came across a movie titled Phenomenon with John Travolta. I’m not a huge fan of Travolta when he plays the villain, but when he plays ordinary people I love him. In this film he was an ordinary guy struggling to make living and to get a date with a girl. He lives in a small California town which never gets named in the film where everyone knows everyone else. He celebrates his fortieth birthday at the local pub with a huge sign proclaiming that the first drink is on him. He leaves the pub for a breath of fresh air and looks up into the night sky to see a phenomenon in the form of a bright ball of light that is rapidly coming toward him, and it blasts him to the ground. He Awakens a new and different man. He become s voracious reader reading as many as four books a day. The reading brings him knowledge which stuns the people of the town, because up to this point George was just an ordinary guy who barely made it through high school. The more he knows the more he wants to know and his reading evolves into experiments in his gardening his shop.

George’s buddy is a ham radio hobbist, and once while visiting him he overhears a message in morse code and deciphers it. He learned Morse code from one of his books. George asks his buddy to key a return answer to the message. A few days later the FBI shows up and take him and his buddy in custody. He intercepted a secret government encrypted message. The Feds were not appreciative that their code was broken, so they assume George must be a spy because only spies can do that kind of stuff. The story has a love theme, wrapped in a science fiction mystery theme. It has a beautiful, happy, but sad ending. I wanted to story to keep going.

What has this movie to do with COVID-19? Well, if I weren’t practicing social distancing at home alone on a Sunday night I would have been out with friends instead of watching a movie by myself. The character of George in this story was one smart feller who just might have been able to develop a vaccine for killing the virus.

Day 29-Quarantine-Virtual Sports

How about it folks, let’s do some brainstorming. I’ve heard a lot of people complain that they are in live sports withdrawal. That is not something I readily understand, but sympathize with sports fans. I’ve heard my favorite radio host say he is tired of watching 14 year old baseball games and even older football games. He would like the MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL, and live Cricket to return to the stadiums. Lets kick out all the COVID hospital paraphernalia and lay down the grass, wood, and ice once again. That won’t happen until we decide we would rather catch the Covid-19 virus and develop our own immunity, or we get vaccinated.

Here is an idea I came up with, virtual teams playing virtual games. With the advanced gaming technology available it should be relatively simple to set up. The hard part would be in inventing how games would be played in a virtual setting. My vision has each professional team equipped with the latest WII software integrated with the latest gaming software. Players of each team operate using a meeting program similar to Zoom, so they can communicate (huddle) to call plays. The players all have WII controllers and use them to move against the opposing team who is controlling their robotic equivalent in defense. They watch themselves on the screen to decide what moves to make and which way to move and who to tackle etc. Basketball programs are already pretty sophisticated with the players controlling themselves on screen using the handheld device.

Think of the benefits, all players would  be socially distanced from one another. Spectators would be doing the same. Game injuries could be eliminated although some aggressive WII players can hurt themselves even when alone. There would be no need for a Zamboni to make new ice between periods, and for that matter there wouldn’t really be a need to take long breaks between halves and periods because the physicality of the game is so much reduced. Although this rule would not be eliminated since most players would want to grab a quick beer between periods.  Fighting at hockey games is nil because the players are so far apart. Injuries requiring stitches disappear. Instant replays to decide if a player is out of bounds is not required. The computers will know when a foot goes over a line.

Teams would save big money by not having to transport players to far away cities to compete. At worst, the teams can set up virtual game studios with separated Covid-19 play-rooms to keep them safe. This also removes the virtual team  player from his living room so he can relinquish the game player to his kids. Players would be freed from having to be in top physical condition since there isn’t any real contact between human bodies. Instead, players would have to train using game controllers and eye coordination.

Another twist is that the team owners could charge fans a premium play in games. Pick your position, get a controller, and substitute for a professional player. They can charge you by the number of plays you want to play, or you can pay a huge subscription for a season pass, or an even larger subscription to substitute for a season. Because of the new 5G systems available the subscriptions available to play are limitless. Each SS (subscription  substitute) player will be playing the game and watching himself on his TV. You can now play the same position against all your drinking buddies in the exact same game and determine which of you is the best.

You get the idea, right?

What’s that? It’s already available?

Then why am I wasting my and brainpower posting about it

I need some wine.

 

Day 23-Quarantine-Group Meetings

This week I had opportunity to participate in three group meetings by phone. All three were different and I learned a lot from each, mostly how to operate an online video meeting. This afternoon was probably the most interesting because it was the most attended with eighteen participants, and because it was a support group for the visually impaired, not everyone had video. The service is called ZOOM. I have to admit it is a far cry better than the one I used when I was still working twenty years ago. I guess there has been some advancement in the past two decades.

Why am I attending a support group for the visually impaired? Several reasons: 1.) I am a Lion and we are Knights of the Blind as commissioned by Helen Keller (blind, deaf, and mute) in nineteen twenty-five. 2.) As a Lion, I want to understand the hardships that visually impaired people encounter.

There are many things that sighted people take for granted. Like being able to get into a car and to drive someplace, read a menu at a restaurant, or social isolation. What I was surprised to learn from this group is that they all sound as frustrated as I am about having the stay in place. One would think that blind people would be stuck at home most of the time, but they are not. Many spoke about not being able to get out to the store, or to church. Vision impaired people have trouble finding transportation, but somehow manage to find rides when they want them or need them. Most have recruited support systems for themselves.

This meeting was semi-formal in that the leader opened with an uplifting prayer and started the conversation. After that it became a friendly banter between people just as any group of friends would have. The group leader announced that they will hold a ZOOM meeting every week at the same time until such time as the COVID-19 is dead.

The second meeting I attended was a Lions Club Board meeting. I recommend we do this on a continuum since we finished a pretty complete agenda in thirty-five minutes. The third meeting was a Lions training session. The leader conducted a Power Point slide show with lecture while the attendees all showed at the side of the screen. During the question answer period attendees clicked on a icon of a raised hand so the moderator could give him the floor. This also worked good because it cut out people talking over one another. This meeting also lasted forty minutes.

One great thing that COVID-19 is doing is forcing us to use the technology that is available to us. This evening, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday, parishes all across the country will conduct video services.

I plan on opening a personal ZOOM account for my own use so I can gather all my grandkids together from three states for a face time phone chat on Easter Sunday.

Easter was always a huge celebration for my family. I have fond memories of my mother cooking and baking for the Easter morning breakfast, and the family gathering that followed. My wives Barbara, and Peggy celebrated the holy day similarly even though one was of Polish descent and the other Irish. Only the foods varied. My daughter and daughters-in-law have continued the tradition within our family. Now that we are a thousand miles apart it is difficult if not impossible to carry on the tradition as a combined family. That is why I am hoping the ZOOM service can allow us to gather as a group once again.

 

I Finally Finished


In my old age I should know better than to struggle for twelve weeks to finish reading a book. My time on earth is rapidly diminishing and reading useless literature is not what I want to be known for. The book that almost broke my back is Alan Turing: The Enigma. I love the story of the Enigma. It is an important piece of WWII history. A machine invented by the Germans to scramble messages, it drove the British nuts. I saw the movie Imitation Game and loved the story. Following my rule that a book is usually  better than the movie I trusted my fellow reading club members that this was still true. Except, in this case the movie is infinitely better.

Who ever this author Andrew Hodges is, I will never read another of his works. This work is over six hundred pages of small print. The story could have been cut in half that amount of words and pages. True, trying to describe a mathematician’s work process and ideas is trying. None of Hodges’ descriptions of Turing’s early work while inventing the modern digital computer was understandable. The only way I was able to decipher what he was trying to say was by looking at Turing’s sketches of his early machine which contained a series of zeros and ones. It was then that I began to understand some of his gibberish. I learned to program an early digital computer using binary numbers which was the basis of the machine i learned to program.

This story convinced me that I abhor intellectual work and should refrain from reading it. I love good stories. I hate reading math books. Even a physics book is more exciting than a math book. Alan Turing was a pure mathematician and Hodges failed to tell his story in a simple understandable way. The last two hundred pages finally started to read well, but by then the story drifted away from math and toward the man and his life struggles.

I also like stories with short chapters. This work has boring with long chapters of a hundred pages or more. The chapters could be shorter. The author may have decided to cut some of them had he done so.

All in all, if you want to learn the story of the Enigma go see the movie “The Imitation Game.”

Five ughs.

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