Time for Reflection

It was hard growing up. Not much money. Yet all year my parents would save some for Christmas. It hurt them to use the money to pay some bill they had to pay right now.

Even us kids would send what little money we had to buy presents for others.

Mother helping us wrap presents until late at night. Even now sometimes I’m up till late on Christmas eve wrapping present. The bows and paper. Some of that paper and bows were saved year after year to warp next years presents.

It’s lonely now with grand parents, and parents gone. Aunts and uncles too. Even several of my cousins. My brothers have moved out of state.

Much of what I have left is memories. Memories of my brother, a year younger than me, told on Christmas day to peel some potatoes for Christmas dinner. He almost peeled a 20 pound bag of them before mother started to wonder why he was so quiet.

My youngest brother, five years younger than me, getting up before dawn and opening all the presents. All of them. He was very young, but he knew what to do. Good thing mother like wrapping presents so it wasn’t a disaster.

Lincoln Log sets, Erector sets, so many days playing with them.

My father gave me a electric train set when I was one or two years old. He gave each of us a train set. Of all the presents my brothers still remember the train sets and we still have them.

Over the years I got radio and electronic teaching kits that led to a life as an engineer.

The red wagon I got before I was one year old. It was a super flyer.

The thought of my father paying $500.00 for a present for someone except the whole family makes me laugh. That sounds like merely like buying a cell phone or computer for a kid now. Back in those days a dime was worth more than a dollar is today.

We got bicycles and skates. Even skate boards although my father did not see the use of the things. It wasn’t till years later that they built a housing tract across the street that had side walks where we could skate. My feet were so big I could never could fit into the skates. Back then they were steel wheeled and hard to use. Even the skate boards had steel wheels. Try using one with steel wheels hot shot.

The big get togethers for Christmas dinner. Mother would make over a dozen pies. They would put picnic tables between houses for everyone to sit at. Grandmothers and grandpa. Aunts, uncles and cousins by the dozens.

Fruit salad, suspicious looking dishes of something brought by relatives. And the pies, especially pecan pie and the occasional coconut cream pie.

The Christmas trees. Grandpa’s tree that looked like a picture out of a magazine and you couldn’t touch it. Our tree, a bit haphazard, we all helped putting ornaments on, mother always moving ornaments around on it to make it look better.

The old blinking light. Each one blinked on its own schedule. The lights would interfere with the AM radio. Our town didn’t have an FM radio station back then. The lights would interfere with the TV at times. Those lights were purchased back in the 1950s. They don’t make light like that any more. Now the lights are synchronized to music and run by a computer.

All I have now is the train, a set of old lights that are fire hazard, a couple of glass ornaments, a couple of toys that survived the years and a radio demonstrator kit. Those few things and memories.

I have memories of working like mad till late in the night to build a special Christmas present. Couldn’t afford to buy a really nice one. One time me and a friend worked for a week until late at night every night to build a special bed for his father that would tilt so his father could get out of it on his own and stand.

I’ll make new memories. Last year I made hand made Christmas cards. I had an artist help me. They were so good I was asked where I purchased them.

Merry Christmas.

Stay strong, write on.                Professor Hyram Voltage

War within Amazon Publishing

I got an email from Michelle Campbell-Scott. I bought a course from her. She said that CreateSpace is requesting that authors and publisher remove all Amazon URLs (to their books) from their manuscripts or add two other places where the books are available.

Sounds like war between KDP and CreateSpace.

KDP is now offering the ability to upload print books directly. Michelle warns (from her email):

It looks like KDP and CreateSpace may have parted ways – especially as KDP are now offering the ability to upload print books directly. The general wisdom is not to do this though. They don’t offer proof copies and the quality of the formatting may not be as good. I’ll let you know if this changes. For now, CreateSpace remains the best option most most print purposes – not least because CreateSpace staff are excellent and accessible (unlike KDP staff!).

Just remember not to have Amazon links in your print books unless you’re also including other links to book sales sites.


Publishing is changing fast, stay on top.

Stay strong, write on.        Professor Hyram Voltage

Using lead free solder for plumbing

Had to help a neighbor fix a plumbing problem. A leak where the water main enters the outside wall of his house. Hey, there a drought going on and it was a weekend.

I’ve used lead free solder for years, but I sometimes have a problem making a good joint with it. I always make sure the joint is shiny bright clean before I solder it. Inside and out and I make sure there are no little black marks anywhere around where its going to be soldered. I make sure I don’t touch the joint after I clean it to keep the oils from my hands out the joint.

Got a tip from a plumber, don’t get the joint too hot. Use a propane torch in place of oxygen/acetylene torch.

It worked.

Stay strong, write on.     Professor Hyram Voltage

Happy Winter Solstice

The days are only going to get longer. Cheer up, more daylight. Soon you’ll get up and it will be daylight. That is until summer then the days get shorter. But that’s six months away.

Stay strong, write on.             Professor Hyram Voltage

A Dilbert Moment at Social Security

I had to go to the Social Security office. I know you can make an appointment so I got on line and pulled up the web page for the local office.

The web page did not list a phone number that you could call to make an appointment at the local office. The only phone number listed on the local Social Security office web site is the national Social Security telephone number. I called that number and the automated voice told me it was an hour to and hour and a half wait to talk to someone. I pushed the buttons to have them call me back and was told that was an hour and a half wait time too. I went down to the social security office and waited an hour there instead. It was quicker to go to the office than deal with the nation telephone number.

Once I got to see a representative I asked how do you make an appointment. He said you call this number. I told him the number wasn’t on the local office web site. He said yes, you either call the national number or Google the number. Why have a web site if your not going to put a phone number on it that speeds up service for both the customer and the office?

I needed to help a family member get Medicare. I told the rep that the Social Security web site had a button called How To Apply. If you click on the button it gives you all sorts of information about the benefits of Medicare, but tells you nothing about how to apply for Medicare. He said you can apply for Medicare on line from the Medicare web site but that’s buried somewhere on the Medicare site.

The How To Apply web page should tell you how to apply, what site to go to or where to go to and what buttons to push.

The Social Security web site is a true Dilbert or software coder’s web site. Lots of information, but nothing you need.

Write on, draw on.         Professor Hyram Voltage

A Dilbert Moment at Yahoo

or How a Great Company Killed Itself.

I tried to log in to Yahoo to change my password. I haven’t gotten a notice that my password has been hacked, it’s just for safety reasons I want to change the password. I went to sign in. The sign in box say it does not recognize my email address or my user name. I have a password vault program that I store my user names and passwords in, so I know the names and passwords are correct.

I go to the help page. There are a bunch of FAQs. I work through the FAQs and none of them help to get me logged in. I click the contact box (as in contact Yahoo) and it bounces me back to the FAQs.

It looks like Yahoo has laid off all the help desk humans. Saves lots of money if you have people that don’t work for Yahoo tell you how to work around Yahoo problems. I can see why users needing help get frustrated and desert Yahoo. With less users and income Yahoo has to lay off more workers. The executives get pay raises for firing people and saving money. Service goes down and more users leave. Finally executives lose their jobs, but only after making millions or hundreds of millions of dollars. This is not user friendly, this is a death spiral.

I go to the user groups and can not post a request for help because I can not log in. I need help to login in and I have to log in to get help. That sounds like a Dilbert Moment.

Good bye Yahoo, I will miss you.

Stay strong, write on.           Professor Hyram Voltage

A Dilbert Moment at MicroSoft

A recent update to MicroSoft Windows 10 caused many computers to lose the ability to connect to the internet.

In an old Dilbert cartoon the Dilbert character email stopped working at work. The next panel shows him talking to the company computer technician. Dilbert tells the technician that his email doesn’t work. The computer technician smiles and tells Dilbert to send him an email.

For the loss of internet problem the official MicroSoft fix is to turn off your computer, leave it off for one minute, then turn it back on. If that does not work then go to the MicroSoft web site for more help.

If you’re a programmer you have several computers and this makes sense. If your an older user and have only one old second hand computer that someone gave you (and doesn’t connect to the internet because of a MicroSoft update so you can’t get to the MicroSoft site) or if your on the road with only one computer then you’re a very angry Dilbert character about to form a neck tie party and go after some pointy haired MicroSoft types.

Stay strong, write on.          Professor Hyram Voltage

The Search for an Editor

I like the editor I used the last time, but. There’s always a but. It was a sterile relationship. The editor worked for a company. There was not much back and forth. I don’t even know the editor’s name or if I was dealing with a man or a woman.

I got a lot of good inputs from the editor. I think the editor did a good job, but I don’t know who it was.

I’m looking for an editor that will do a lot of work. I’m not good with the English language and I need a lot of help. I also want re-edits, edits of what I corrected, at a reduced rate. Hey the editor has looked at it already. I can make more mistakes fixing something than were there in the first place. I don’t do this on purpose.

I was lucky to get the last editor I got. It was a lot of work to find him/her. During this busy time of year it’s hard to find time to write let alone search for an editor.

Stray strong, Write On. Professor Hyram Voltage

Exceptions and Traveling Turkeys

The holidays are the time for exceptions, and an exception is a good excuse for missing a day or two of writing. Last Saturday I went down to Los Angeles to help a friend. She has vision problems and can’t drive a car. In California that’s major inconvenience. One time it took her two hours by bus to get a pound of butter. California was built around cars.

So I spent the day driving her around to five different stores so she could get the fixings for Thanksgiving dinner and enough supplies to last her a month or until I came down again. I don’t mind doing this, even if it takes all day, I’m going to get a Thanksgiving dinner out of it and I won’t have to do the dishes. She has a big fancy dish washer machine.

The last thing she wanted to do was to go to another grocery store and have the butcher butterfly a turkey. She does this every year. By butterfly I mean the butcher cuts the backbone out and break the breast bone so the turkey will lay flat in the pan. Doing it that way cuts the cooking time way down and ensures all the turkey is done. It avoids the top or breast meat being over cooked and dry while the bottom is raw.

By the time she got to the butcher counter the main butcher had left for the day. No one else was qualified to run the saw to cut up the bird. Panic time. She had visions that on Sunday she would be hauling a 20 pound bird on the buss back home. Not easy.

Here I come to the rescue. I told her I would get the bird and have it butterflied up where I live and bring it down on Thursday in time for her to cook it. She was worried I would not know how to dry brine the bird. So, I had her write up the brining instructions. She even made up a batch of salt and season mix to cover the bird with. It’s like she thinks I can’t cook. I do occasionally make a mess in the kitchen, but I can cook.

So Thursday I will load up the bird and drive down to L. A. I will also be carrying a couple of home made pies (I can cook). Nothing like a home made pecan pie and maybe a couple of dozen home made chocolate chips cookies.

Write on, draw on.      Professor Hyram Voltage.
Have turkey, will travel.

The best tools to write with

Artist are often asked what they use to draw with. Authors are asked about their writing process. People want to know what is the best paint, pencil, or brush to paint with. While budding authors want to know what the best time, computer, program, or method to write with.

You want to know the secret. It doesn’t matter. And it all depends on you.

Here is a link to an artist that proved it by drawing a drawing with a charcoal briquette (like you use to barbecue with) on an old fashion brown paper grocery bag.

It’s not the tools, it’s the artist or the author making the story or drawing with what he’s got. That doesn’t mean having good tools makes the effort go faster, but you shouldn’t wait till you can afford the most expensive computer, the $200.00 pen, the finest art paper. A number two pencil and copy paper, even the back of a five year old financial report will do for a first draft. Here’s a YouTube video showing the first Harry Potter was written with a cheap pen on whatever paper or note book was handy. You have to watch about half way through to get to where they show the writing.

But it has to be typed on the finest paper you scream. Maybe not. Several years ago I was at the world science fiction convention. The top editor of a leading science fiction magazine gave a talk. In the talk he mentioned how every month they received a hand written manuscript from an author on the east coast. Like clock work these thing would arrive. After a while he tried to read one. It wasn’t a story. He wasn’t sure what it was. He got other people on the magazine staff to read different manuscripts that this author sent in. No one could figure out what the author was writing, but they read it. I don’t recommend doing this, but they read it.

The point of this is that magazine editors will read hand written stories. They don’t have a lot of time and your chances of this happening are near zero, but it can happen. Don’t do it. There are $200.00 laptop out there. You can use McDonald’s or Starbucks for a internet connections. There are public libraries that will let you use their computers.

The problem is you have to write a story. The editors want stories, I want stories, the world wants stories. And the authors have to write stories, not rants, not dialog, and not gibberish. You can find help for spelling, proper English, but you  have to make it a story, even if it’s written on a 7 year old third hand computer. Been there, done that one and I have friends that are doing just that.

Stay strong, write on.                 Professor Hyram Voltage