They don’t make them like they uses to, or at least not as well

I just rebuilt a storage shed in my back yard. It replaces a twenty year old shed that the termites got into.

Instead of reusing the door latch from the old shed I bought a new door latch. The old door latch was rusted up bad. Same brand, same size but the metal was thinner on the new one. And of course the new one cost a lot more.

Maybe there is something to this the government and manufacturers things don’t change for the better. Now let’s see if the new latch last as long as the old latch did.


Write on, draw on.  Professor Hyram Voltage

Your Hard Drive is Going to Die

It’s not if but soon. Hard drives fail, all the time, so back up your data. I’ve said it before, now go back up your data. Even new SSD (Solid State Drives) fail. If you know how SSDs work then you know they are constantly failing and that they have excellent error correcting electronics but one day they will get so bad that the error correcting can’t correct the errors.

I’ve lost data in hard drive failures. I now back up my data at least once a month. I back it up on two different USB connected hard drives. I keep the USB Hard Drives locked up and stored well away form the computer. And I keep old copies of the data. If the data on your hard drive get corrupted and you copy it onto the back up USB hard drive over the data that was there then you’ve lost the data anyway.

I also backup working files on thumb drives. It makes the files handy and if I write over a file with to many changes I can always pull an old copy off the thumb drive and start over.

At the last writers meeting we had a new guy. He’s making a graphic novel using a image program. He’s stuck, his hard drive died and he lost a lot of the old images so he has to make do with the images he has. The graphics program he uses has changed so it would be a major undertaking to make new images in the style of the old images.

I’m having trouble finding sympathy for the guy. I’ve lost data and I could not afford at the time to pay someone to get it back. Sometimes when a hard drives fail and even the best techs can’t get the data back. It’s also very expensive to recover data from a damaged hard drive.

USB thumb drives are cheap and have plenty of room for the files that you generate (you don’t need to backup everything). Even if it is a bunch of pictures there are 128 Gbyte thumb drives out there. Get two thumb drives and store them in different places. One glitch in the hard drive and you could lose all your children’s baby pictures.

There are four terabyte USB portable hard drives for sell. Stick with the two terabyte drives, I have heard that the three and four terabyte hard drives have problems. These drives are fast and hold a lot. Again get two to protect against fires and floods and store them in separate places. Think about getting a water proof and fire proof container to store them in.

On line or cloud storage is not the answer. If your files on your computer get corrupted and the computer syncs the files on the computer to the files on the cloud then the cloud stored files are damaged and no good. If a hacker gets mad at One Note or Google and develops a virus that start destroying cloud files you’re out of luck because all your files were in one place and that place got hacked.

It’s your data and it’s your responsiblity. Back it up.


Write on, draw on.  Professor Hyram Voltage

Find time to write

The question that a writer dreads; How do I find time to write?

Everyone has 24 hours in a day. Writers and non-writer included.

One way to find time to write is to squeeze every second out of the day you can. You carry a note book and pen or pencil with you every where, and use it. Your standing in line waiting. This is a great place to think up ideas for your story. You’re out of your comfort zone, you’re surrounded by unhappy people, your senses are in over drive, jot down your impressions, ideas, observations. Think hard on your story. Think about incorporating this experience into the story. How would the character handle waiting in line, jot it down.

A minute here and there adds up especially if it’s quality time thinking. But jot it down. The second someone asks you a question the idea or thought is gone with “you want paper or plastic” or “did you bring a bag”. I find walking through a doorway a great idea eraser. Now if walking through a doorway would get rid of the song that keeps running through my head. Write it down before the idea slips away.

Another way to find time to write is to work at it. I know, you didn’t want to hear that but this is the best way to find time to write.

Step 1. List the things you do during the day. It can start as a vague or broad list. The list can be as simple as eat, sleep, work and play (or family time).

a. How can you squeeze time to write out of eating? If you eat in front of the computer or TV then stop it. You are eating for the length of a show or web cast and not tasting your food. This is a good way to gain weight. Eat at a table and talk to the people at the table. They are a great source of ideas and character information.

b. How can you squeeze time to write out of sleeping. Do you watch TV in bed? Then stop. Go exercise, or write. Do you get 8 hours of sleep a night? If not try it. When I am well rested I think better and am more productive. I am on the boarder about reading in bed. Will you remember a book that you read while half asleep? If you write, you have to read but you got to read in something other than the zombie mode.

c. How can I squeeze time out of work? Don’t do it. Work at work, but do you need to take home work form work? Will it get you more pay, is everyone else doing it? You can gather stories form coworkers. These stories can end up in you writing. A coworkers daughter’s outrageous antics at school, work, or at a party, could be perfect for your next book. You can gather character traits and actions for your writing from coworkers and bosses. The second most person that is killed off in a first time murder mystery writer book is her boss. The most often character to get killed off in a first time murder mystery is based on the writer’s husband (or ex). This is from an unofficial list I made from attending a bunch of writer’s signing.

d. How can I squeeze time out of family time? Sitting on the couch watching TV with a family member is not spending time with them, it’s entertaining yourself. If you want to spend time with them talk to them, listen to them. Life is short, when you spend time with someone then spend time with them not with the TV set. Have you ever watched a show because you thought the other person wanted to watch it? Did you ask the other person if they wanted to watch the show? You could waste a whole hour and neither one of you are going to be satisfied.

If you find yourself flipping through the channels then turn off the TV and pick up your pen, pencil, or sharpy and write. You have a half hour of writing time until the next show starts maybe even an hour. If you miss a show it will be back in reruns or syndication. Then there is always binge watching of a show if you really like it. Write now, watch later. If you in a writer’s slump and you think your writing is bad, awful, or worse it is still better to write than to watch bad TV shows.

Above are some things to think about when trying to find more time to write. Still need more time then rethink your day. Does reading an email make you more money at work, make you happy, really necessary to read, then get rid of it. Unsubscribe to email newsletters that don’t improve you or your day. Blow off the emails that want you to buy something. Cut down on trips, do you need to stop at the grocery store every day after work. Make a list and shop once a week.

Everyone has the same amount of time in a day. Some write and some don’t. Use your time wisely.


Write on, draw on. Professor Hyram Voltage

Growing Tomatoes with Alfalfa Mulch

Last year I read an expounding on using alfalfa for mulch and then at the end of the year turning the soil to mix in the alfalfa so the alfalfa would act as fertilizer.

So last year a bought a bail of alfalfa hay. Had trouble getting the bail into the back of the car. A California bale of hay is much bigger than an Arizona hay bale and heavier too. I have a small test garden that is only two and half feet by six feet. I planted two tomato plants in the garden. Then I took the bale and broke it up. Baled hay will come apart in sheets a couple of inches thick. I laid the sheets of hay out to act as mulch around the tomato plants. The hay is porous enough to allow water through but I kept the area around (about eight inches around the base) the tomato plants clear.  The alfalfa mulch did seem to keep the weeds down. The lack of weeds could have been due to the drought. I only watered the base of the tomato plants and watered carefully so I didn’t get water on the leaves of the tomato plants. No water and no sun light could have stopped the weeds.

After the growing season I pulled the tomato plants and trashed them. I do not want any disease from the plants getting into the ground. I then turned the alfalfa into the soil with a shovel.

This year I had plenty of weeds in the test garden. After pulling them out I turned the soil with a shovel. I found clumps of alfalfa in the soil. It had not decomposed. With the drought I had not been growing anything in the garden and had not been watering the garden.

Alfalfa hay does work as a mulch. It’s full of nitrogen and should make a good organic fertilizer. It takes a lot of work to spread it around, it’s messy looking, and it’s a lot of work to till it into the ground. It also take a lot of alfalfa to cover a garden.

Write on, draw on. Professor Hyram Voltage