Dealing with the Government, a Good Experience

I needed to change some information with the federal government Office of Personnel and Management and I was dreading doing it.

I put it off as long as I could. Then I had to do it.

After a long search I found the letter they sent me with my Unique Identifier Number (UIN) on it. The government web site gave me nothing but trouble. I quickly found out that you cannot bookmark a link to the inside of the web site so you can return to that place quickly. You have to start on the home page and go through all the drop down menus.

After hours of going around in circles with the web site I get a page that says you can’t do what I want to do and it said call this number.

I prepare myself for a long wait (restroom break, coffee, and water) and make the call.

I got a person after a couple of rings. She was cheerful, knowledgeable, and fast. In a couple of minutes I had three problems taken care of.

If only the rest of the government worked like this.

Now I’ve jinked it, people reading this will call instead of trying to use the web site which will cause long telephone wait times.

I should have bought a lottery ticket yesterday.

Write on, draw on.   Professor Voltage.

Hospital Food is really that Bad

The last couple of days I’ve been with a sick relative in the hospital. Been doing a lot of hand holding while the doctors try to figure out what caused the problem. Don’t let anyone fool you, we need more tools, diagnostic techniques, cures, research. One day you’re going to get sick and wish there was a better way to get well.

It’s been long, long days with someone who needed me there. After a grueling day of waiting for tests to be run, or this or that doctor to see my relative I was hungry. The nurse said they had a spare lunch tray and I could have, I was hungry and not thinking to clearly so I did. How could they mess up Mac and Cheese (macaroni and cheese). It looked fancy with good presentation. But it was next to a big pile of steamed cauliflower. The chicken soup was too thin and lacked flavor.

In their defense it was a heart healthy meal but no wonder my relative wasn’t eating.

It was warm when served but the Mac and Cheese had that no fat taste or lack of taste. It also was devoid of salt.

So it’s not so much the fault of the hospital, the problem is that we eat such unhealthy food.

Three food groups; Salt, sugar, and diet coke.

Write on, draw on.  Professor Voltage

What’s the Holiday Hurry

Driving home tonight and I passed three houses on my block with bright red Christmas lights. It’s not Halloween yet.

I like a little competition but these people are getting carried away. There wasn’t a single orange or black (UV) light set out for a Halloween decoration.

Red is the color of lights to have for Christmas this year. None of the lights I passed blink. When I put mine up they blink and they don’t go up until after Thanksgiving.

I guess using Christmas lights would be OK if you were dressing up as an elf or Santa Claus for Halloween, but that’s just tacky.

It’s almost as bad as the Big Lots store. On October 2nd they had more shelves of Christmas stuff than Halloween stuff. Next thing you know they will have Christmas stuff for sale along side the fourth of July stuff.

Even the guy that leaves his Christmas lights up all year hasn’t turned them on yet.

Slow down and enjoy each holiday as it comes. They only come once a year.


Write on, draw on.  Professor Voltage


Non-Human senses, a panel from Conjecture Con 2014, notes on

A few quick note on the panel. Panelist; William Stoddard, Vernor Vinge, Jean Graham, James Hay

William Stoddard mentioned a book called Animal Eyes, and yes it’s about animal eyes and vision. Some scrimp can see colors humans can’t.

Comment, it’s not x-ray vision if superman can see through a wall and see the color of the object on the other side of the wall.

Vernor Vinge called his story about a shape shifting demon hard fantasy. He attempted to keep the biology as real as he could. Used the term “explicit biology of fantasy”.

James Hay pointed out that animals devote a large part of their brain to the dominate sense. (Can smell well but can’t see worth a darn.)

James mentioned that when staking an animal if animal looks at you freeze. Many animals are sensitive to motion. He failed stalking class twice.

Vernor had a friend that put an Infer Red sensing camera on his glasses and changed the output of the camera to audio and piped the audio into his ear. He could tell if the lawn needed watering even if it looked very green to everyone else. Can Google Glass do that, if it could you could sell it to gardeners all over the world.

William Stoddard said the book on animal eyes reported that birds are now following roads. It’s lazy and messing up the scientist that study migration.

Jean has seven cats. Great for writing about senses. (she must have tons of followers on Youtube and draw lots of people to her Facebook page with all the cat pictures and stories. Which would help sell a lot of books).

They got to talking about races or creatures that had dominate senses other than sight. You would end up with saying in the creatures language like “I know it like the smell of my rear end.”

Write on, Draw on. Professor Voltage.

Artists don’t respect their customers

Artists don’t respect their customers. I attended a panel at the recent Conjecture 2014 conference where two artist gave a talk.

I have mentioned before that I find artists are not morning people. The panel started at 10:00 AM yet one panel speakers complained that it was too early. I am on the computer working by 7:00 AM every morning along with other engineers I know. To us 10:00 is time to take a break from work and stretch our legs.

Neither artist brought a laptop to the panel (although one said she had one in her hotel room) yet both artists wanted to show pictures of great artwork to the attendees and did not have hard copies. There’s always problems with getting the laptop to talk to the projector but this is ridiculous. Ended up having to walk to the speakers table to look at their cell phones to see the artwork.

Is this an example of the artist disconnect with their customers or is it artist arrogance where artist believe that people will buy whatever they make because it is art and they are very good. What if people are not buying the type or style of art the artist is producing. Could this be why there are so many starving artists?

Maybe I care about my customers, maybe I care to much? Maybe I’ll always be an engineer and never an artist.

Write on, draw on.  Professor Voltage.

San Diego Comic Fest not to be confused with Comic Con

Last weekend (Oct 17, 18, & 19 2014) I attended the San Diego Comic Fest at the Town and Country hotel on hotel circle. It was a great convention.

Under I was wrong. When I got the preliminary schedule I researched the different presentations on the web (who are they talking about, should I know this guy). I was disappointed that there were not many presentations on making comics. I was wrong. There were plenty of presentations by writers and artist on making comics. This year there were also several presentations on Kickstarter and doing Kickstarter campaigns. The Kickstarter talks drew good crowds.

There were unscheduled talks including one that went till after 10:00 PM Saturday.

I heard other attendees say that the presentations were good this year so it’s not just me that thinks it was a good con. I go to find out how to make better comics and it is always a relief to find others are having the same problems I am having. Now if I could find someone that would warn me of the problems before hand.

There were many presentations on other subjects but hey I’m focused.

Besides where else can you go and have Spiderman as your IT guy, complete with Google Glass. Your costume rocks AV tech.

You could get a ride in a Ghost Buster’s car.

Artist alley was packed. A friendly busy bunch. There were the occasional shouts of where is my brush pen and buy my book.

Plenty of Steampunk costumes.

Lots of music, with live band.

I had family commitments and had to skip Sunday but if Sunday was anything like Friday and Saturday it was a great conference.

Conjecture 2014 & ConChord 26 fantasy conventions

I’m more into science fiction but I enjoy conventions and had never been to this one. Besides it don’t take much to keep me happy. I do miss listening to authors talks since the Mysteries to Die For bookstore closed.

Got to hear many authors talk. Several of the authors I have never heard give a talk before.

It’s a small convention and those are the best. You can talk to the speakers and other attendees unlike the very big cons where the lines are too long and the crowds too big.

The dealers room had a small number of vendors but I bought a couple of items, support your vendors. Could have used more vendors and the competition between vendors is limited with the small number of them.

The last panel of the day was always the funniest.

There was the usual confusion at the beginning of the con, you don’t notice it in the big cons they have enough support people to smooth thing out.

All in all a good con.


Write on, draw on.  Professor Voltage.

Luna Eclipse

It’s cloudy many nights of the year here so Wednesday Oct 8 I got up at 3:00 AM to see the totality of the Lunar Eclipse. The moon does not get as red as the news would make it. Also there was a thin bit of white on one side of the moon instead of being completely red. Unlike a solar eclipse the Lunar eclipse takes a long time to unfold.

While waiting for the moon to slip fully into the shadow I saw that the Orion constellation was high over head. I turned my binoculars on the three stars of Orion’s sword. I had forgotten that the three stars were doubles. I need magnification to split (show them as two stars) them.

The sky was clear and the stars were bright, even with four street lights visible from the back yard. The stars barely twinkled. I should have gotten a copy of Sky and Telescope. There were two stars that most likely were planets but I don’t keep track of which planets are where in the sky like I use to so I don’t know which ones they were.

I could hear the barking of sea lions in the night air. There was plenty of traffic even that early in the morning. The dew was heavy too.

After 45 minutes I headed back inside. It had been a long day and the coming day promised to be a hard long day also.

Still I got to see the eclipse and the temperature wasn’t as bad as the time I went down to Baja California to see the total eclipse of the sun.

Writ on, draw on.  Professor Voltage.

Garage Door Problems

The other day I went out to get my car out of the garage. I hit the button on the remote and the garage door did nothing. I could hear the electric motor turning but the door didn’t even wiggle. For problems like this there is a manual chain fall to open the door. Open the little door on the side of the garage to get access to the chain fall. Work the chain fall (that’s mechanical speak for pulling on the chain) to open the door and nothing happened. This is a big problem.

There is no way into the garage except through the garage door. The garage door is an old metal roll up door. It is not one of those tin foil doors that everyone buys nowadays. This door was installed before tin foil doors were common. This door is like one you would find installed in an industrial building. Some of us take are garages seriously.

To open the garage door in this situation you have to get out the inch and a quarter by inch and a quarter crow bar that has been flattened to a chisel point on one end (and not stored in the garage). Jam the chisel point under the bottom of the door, put a piece of two by four under the crow bar and pry the door up. Slip another piece of two by four under the door and repeat the prying up on the other side of the door. Of course I has been cleaning up and thrown away all the scraps of two by four I had laying around.

It’s hot and muggy. I have an appointment coming up. Run around, find another two by four in back yard. Saw two by four up into eight inch lengths for cribbing. That’s what the prying and placing block under something is called.

Try to crawl under door. Don’t fit and I’ve lost weight. Go find more two by fours. Saw up more cribbing.

Get under door. Climb up to the garage door opener. Find that a bushing has worn out. I had inspected the opener just a couple of days ago. The bushing behind a big pulley so I missed it. There is a lot of tension on the shaft that the  bushing supports so the pulley and shaft didn’t wiggle when I tried to move it a couple of days ago.

Today I got the pulley off with the help of a friend. Pulled the remains of the bushing out. Went down to the bearing store (yes there are such things) and ordered a replacement. The bearing store has been turned into an office with almost no stock. Thank you MBA’s (if the stock don’t move get rid of it). If I had known that I would have ordered it on line and maybe get it faster. I need the bushing now, not tomorrow not the day after. If you don’t have what the customer wants he will go on line and get it just as fast and cheaper. If you run a production line and you have a dozen paid people standing around doing nothing does the MBA pay for the down time or for the fine the state lays on the company for sending the people home suddenly without pay?


Write on, draw on.  Professor Voltage.

Silly Season or is it Just Halloween

Silly Season is traditional newspaper language for a series or flood of wild stories in the vein of; big foot, UFO, Lock Ness sightings and conspiracy stories. This time it started with someone going through the NASA Mars picture files and finding a picture with a ball shaped rock in it. Spherical rocks are not that common on earth and are usually formed by water. So why didn’t NASA make a big deal of this rock as evidence of water on Mars? It’s got to be a conspiracy. Then a picture was found in the Mars picture files that has a rock  that looks like a traffic stop light. In the spirit of there’s gold in them there pictures someone went through the 1968 NASA Moon picture files and found a picture with something that looks like a space ship sitting in a crater in it. Another person jumped on the picture saying there was a highway in the picture. (the highway looks like a transmission error common in the old technology used in the 1960s, if you were born after HD TV you don’t know what snow like static is or rolling horizontal bar or bars on a TV screen is). Right after all this comes a multiple UFO report from Colorado. Isn’t there enough horribly bad news  to keep people entertained?

We have a full moon with eclipse coming up and then Halloween, it’s just going to get better.


Write on, draw on.  Professor Voltage.