Adventures in electronics

Well, that was fun.

I recently had a tablet ‘donated’ to me. It’s an older model, and recently it had been giving it’s former owner fits. Repeatedly dropping WiFi connections, ‘freezing’ in mid-operation, you name it, it was doing it.

I was mainly interested in getting a tablet as an entertainment device: something I could watch movies and anime on, listen to music, and maybe read a book. So I didn’t figure I’d have as many problems as it’s owner had been having, and besides, it came at the perfect price: free.

First thing I found out about it was that outside of the built-in memory, it had no memory. It had a slot for a micro-SDHC card, but one hadn’t been installed. Quick trip to the local Walmart revealed that I could buy a card that would max out the possible memory for under $7, so it came home with me. Then the fun started. I did some research to find out how best to transfer files between an Android device and a Linux platform. Strangely enough, even though Android is based on Linux, doing a file transfer via a USB cable would require me to install an special file transfer app on the tablet, and even then the information I could gather indicated that the transfer would be both slow and prone to errors. But the card came with an adapter that would allow me to plug it directly into my Linux machine, so I decided to just load the files I wanted onto the card before installing it in the tablet.

It took some time to do this, even with the higher speeds available via the card adapter interface. Dumping 5+GB of music files alone took over five minutes. And the file folders holding my different anime series were roughly that size too. Throw in figuring out what I wanted to have on the tablet ( I had a lot more available than the card could accommodate), and I spent most of Wednesday morning getting the job done.

Wednesday afternoon is one of the times I volunteer to be at the local Democratic Party headquarters, so with all the files transferred, I plugged the card into the tablet and took it with me to see how well my experiment worked.

The results were mixed.

It took a bit of poking around just to find the anime and movies. Turns out, they were all available in the “Gallery” app. Individual series folders holding the episodes were represented by a single image from one of the episodes, so not hard to figure out what was where. For some reason, even though they were loaded as individual files, all the movies ended up lumped together behind a single ‘tile’. Tapping it opened the tile up, revealing a sub-tile for each movie. Decided to try watching an anime episode, so picked one at random, tapped it, and selected an episode for the sub-tiles. The episode opens, and I watch it through before trying another anime series. This one had most of the sub-tiles showing a scene from the episode, but not all. Those that didn’t had a ‘generic’ scene, so I tried one of them. Up pops a message “Can’t play video.”. Okay, why three episodes in the middle of the series aren’t opening, I don’t know, but that’s something to figure out later. Back out, I try a movie, one of my favorite, “Your Name”. The tile opens, and the message “Can’t play video” pops ups even though I can see the video playing behind it. Stop, try again, and this time no message, but also no audio. Another problem to sort out. Time to see about the other content.

Now things get interesting. I can’t find an app that will even see the books I have loaded on. They’re all “Project Gutenberg” downloads, and I’d moved them all into a folder to cut the clutter on the card, so I reasoned that either might be causing the problem. Then I try the music file, and get the same result: nothing can find the music files. Basic trouble-shooting done, and a few ideas for solution in hand. I settled back to enjoy the remaining time at the headquarters watching anime.

Today, I decided I’d pop the card out of the tablet and try a few ideas I’d come up with. First off, I thought I’d see if what was keeping me from seeing the books I had loaded up was them being inside a file folder. So I put it in, shifted the ebook files out of the folder and ditched the folder before ‘unmounting’ the card and putting it back into the tablet. Still nothing. Fine, I reasoned, I’ll just ditch the files, free up a few hundred meg of space, and see what I can do about the music files. So I power down the tablet, open the access panel to get at the card and go to remove it.

For those of you who have never handled an micro SDHC card, they are tiny things, less then half the size of a postage stamp. They slide into a slot on the side of your device and ‘click’ into place when properly seated. To get one out of it’s slot, you press in with a finger nail and release. The card should pop slightly out so you can grasp it for removal….but it is spring-loaded. So, if you’re not careful it can do more than just move into position for removal….it can literally pop out of the device and go sailing out of sight, which is what my card did.

In my case, not only did the card go sailing, it flew over my shoulder and dropped into an area by the chair I was sitting in that holds a trash can and a few other items (it’s nick-name is ‘the junk corner’, to give you an idea of what it’s like). I didn’t see where it went, all the information I had was what I heard. What I heard was the card striking a hard surface, then bouncing off to go…..somewhere.

And it’s still there. I pulled the garbage can, looked under it, around it, and found nothing. Cleaned out most of the junk in the corner, and again found nothing. Then it was time to sort through the contents of the garbage can, by hand, to see if it had gone in there. Nope, checked everything, found nothing.

So the moral of the story? Be damned careful where you work, and remember what you’re working on too. Tomorrow morning I might go out and buy another card, but for now I’m going to spend some time kicking myself for my own stupidity.

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‘The Occasional Okatu’ asks you to help

It’s like a sick remake of “Ground Hog Day”: a crazy person walks into a business and decides to vent their anger at the world by killing as many people as they can.

It seems to happen all over the world, with no rhyme or reason, the only common thing is the suffering left in the wake of these attacks.

This time, though, the crazy person decided they had a beef with some creative people: Kyoto Animation Studios. If you’re not familiar with their works, then I’ll bring you up to speed. The outstanding anime movie “A Silent Voice”. Netflix’s acclaimed “Violet Evergarden”. The currently-airing “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya”. All of these, and more, plus a string of Japanese-language ‘light novels’ came from the minds at Kyoto Animation.

But not now.

In this particular instance, the crazy person walked into their three-story office complex, sprayed what is reported to have been gasoline around, and then shouted some complaint before tossing a lighter into the gas. The attacker was injured, and the police captured him nearby, but he’d accomplished what he set out to do: at this time, with the building still a smoking wreck, there are at least 23 confirmed dead, with fears that more remain to be found.

What makes this even sadder is the fact that like most writers, anime artists are notoriously underpaid. And Kyoto Animation, being a fairly new studio, doesn’t have a lot of money on hand. Fortunately, their US distributor has set up a GoFundMe page to help the victims and the company recover. So if you’ve got a few spare coins, and you’d like to help out some fellow struggling artists in a time of true need, I hope you’ll give some thought to following the link below. When last I looked, they were closing in on the $500,000 figure they were hoping to reach, but I don’t think they’d object to going over that amount.

https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-kyoani-heal

 

Container gardening update.

A few weeks back, I wrote about my decision to experiment with container gardening, and I thought a quick update was in order.

Not being around any bee hives, I didn’t expect my plants to get pollinated. Initially, I tried using a bit of a weed to spread the pollen. Unfortunately, all that happened was that the flowers withered and died. So suspecting that something about the weed was interfering with what I was doing, I invested a buck to buy some ultra-cheap ‘craft brushes’ (think plastic-handled miniature paint brushes). Now I go out every day to ‘pollinate’ any open flowers by hand.

Results? Well, the pepper plant hasn’t flowered since that first, failed attempt, but the tomato plant has been almost covered in flowers, As you can see from the photo below, I’ve got one tomato that’s about an inch across, plus a couple of bb-sized tomatoes that have just formed.

There are a couple of flower buds on the pepper plant, and I’m hoping that they will open in the next week or so, but until they do, I don’t have any clue whether or not I’ll be able to duplicate my success with the tomato plant.

tomato

The nature (and portrayal) of evil.

Is evil relative?

I ask that question after engaging in a debate of the subject with a couple of fellow writers. They insisted that, yes, evil is relative, and writings that portray certain subjects in a positive light should not be censored.

One writer insisted that, at least at first, the Nazi’s weren’t evil. Another insisted that, because many surviving Nazi’s still view what they did in a positive light, then the actions of that regime were not evil.

Personally, I thought both of them were insane.

The first, who styled themselves as a historian, insisted that the German government didn’t really ‘go bad’ until after the war started. They also said that, because the other European powers failed to intervene, they were either complicit in what happened, of at least initially, agreed with what happened.

I remembered history differently.

I remember the violence the Nazi’s used to gain power, and the swift expansion and increasing brutality of that violence once they had achieved power. I know that they moved swiftly to crush any and all opposition parties. I remember how they rounded up those who opposed them. I also remember that they imprisoned people in existing prisons long before the first purpose-built concentration camps opened in 1933. In short, I remember that the Nazi’s were born evil, and were never anything but evil.

The other person, who insisted that because surviving Nazi’s remember their actions in a positive light, they could not have been evil I found to be laughably naive. Mass murderers, from the ‘Son of Sam’ to John Wayne Gacy, rarely if ever speak of what they did as evil. They also pulled out the “Star Wars” card, quoting Obi-Wan Kenobi’s famous ‘from a certain point of view’ line as proof that evil is all in the eyes of the beholder. This person, btw, was a woman, and I was strongly tempted to ask her how she react to a story that portrayed a woman being raped in a positive light.

Perhaps I am old, but I think there are some things that are simply evil, and that they should never, ever be portrayed as anything else. What subject I feel should be regarded that way is a long list. Mass executions. Genocide. The rounding up of large numbers of people for no other reason than to silence opposition/please a fanatical leader’s ego. Torture for any reason. Sexual violence against anyone. There are a few others, but I write this to ask all of you, the readers, what you think?

How do you feel?

Are there subjects that should not be portrayed in a positive light, or is it ‘anything goes’ and be damned to what happens after?

Why not tonight?

I tip the glass up and the sharp taste of the Bushmill’s in it fills my mouth. It slides down my throat as I swallow like a fiery being that fills my body with heat. The surface ripples, catching a stray bit of light from the bar’s overhead illumination. It looks like an eye winking rhythmically at me, mocking me, daring me.

“I could do it tonight.”

No one could have heard me whisper the words to myself, not with the music blasting over the sound system. But I hear them, and I wonder why I don’t do it.

I have a gun, a snub-nosed .38 that even an expert couldn’t hit a target with from more than ten feet away. I told the man at the gun store I was buying it because several of my neighbors had been robbed, but that was a lie.

I have learned how to tie innumerable knots. I tell people I learned to tie them because I’m interested in boats. I am interested in boats, but that had nothing to do with my desire to understand knots.

I look down at the amber liquid in my glass. I could just keep drinking, drink until I can’t stand straight, until my senses begin to reel. The drive home is long, the road busy, and there would be many opportunities.

On the drive here, I saw men standing in the mouths of allies, sometimes alone, sometimes with other people. The way they all look furtively about, their very wariness, is a sign that they are buying and selling drugs. I could stop and buy something from one of them before going home to do it in private.

“So why don’t I do it? Why don’t I kill myself?” I ask the reflection in the whiskey. Life has been one long string of disappointments. A job I hate, one failed romance after another, family dying one by one, leaving me alone.

Why am I still alive?

I take another sip, look into the glass, and find the answer. I don’t kill myself because I still have hope. Some part of me believes my soul mate is out there, waiting for me to find her. A portion of my heart still thinks I’ll find a job that makes me fulfilled.

I look at my reflection, and the tired old man who looks back at me smiles. I push the glass away, stand, and head for the door. I look up as I exit and see the sky, darker than any of my musing. I see the scattered stars, shining like tiny beacons. Even as dim as they are here in town, they’re ever-present. Like my hope, they too refuse to fade away. I know why I won’t take my life tonight, or any of the countless nights to come.

“You don’t kill yourself because you’re too stupid to just lay down and give up, that’s why.”

It’s not much of a reason, but it’s enough.

Strange cat tales

Something strange happened today, but to understand why it’s strange, you need to know a bit of history.

I’ve had several what I call ‘hang-around-the-fort’ cats. The name draws from the old days of American Indian culture when there were those who tried to follow the traditional ways of life, and those who who took to the white man’s ways. The former often called the latter ‘hang-around-the-fort’ Indians because they regarded those who took the white man’s path as too lazy to fend for themselves. When applied to cats, it means a stray that’s willing to show up and eat food provided for it, while occasionally allowing itself to be petted. Generally, they maintain a facade of independence, a sort of aloof attachment to those who feed them.

A few have moved beyond that to become near pets, venturing into the house for short periods before making their own way towards the door and the environment they’re familiar with. One of these earned the name “No Paws”. She was one of a surviving pair of female kittens born to a terrible mother cat who tended to lie atop her kittens and kill them. The two were identical dark tabbies except for the fact that one of them had four white paws, and the other didn’t. So when a family member picked the name “Snow Paws” for that one, and the other became “No Paws”. Snow Paws disappeared shortly after maturing (some ‘hang-around’ cats are only temporary visitors), but “No Paws” became something of a fixture, becoming as close to a real pet as possible for a feral cat. She would come in the house, wander around, even lie down and watch TV with everyone else. But eventually, she’d head for the door where she’d sit impatiently waiting for someone to let her out. She hung around for a couple of years, then one day, she just wasn’t around anymore. Where she went to, I don’t know. I never saw her wandering the neighborhood, nor did she delve into my or the neighbor’s garbage. She just left.

Other cats followed her, including the current cat who bears the name “Silly” (the name has a long story attached to it, suffice it to say she earned the moniker). Like most of the earlier cats, “Silly” is a female (why I draw the interest of mostly female cats, I have no clue), and she’s been around for nearly three years now. Occasionally, other cats will show up to try to steal her food (she prefers to eat outside, I guess preferring ‘alfresco’ dining to being around us lowly humans), and a few will decide to stick around short-term in hopes of benefiting from the ‘free food’ us humans put out.

So it was no surprise when a dark tabby showed up a couple of weeks ago. It didn’t stick around long. “Silly” is fairly territorial, and I or someone else will usually hear the howling prequel to a full-on cat fight long before actual combat commences. I was the one who broke this fight up before it started, and outside of watching the cat until it had run away, I didn’t think anything of it.

Then I went out to prepare my own lunch today, and saw a dark cat on the back walk. It was facing away from the house, but in hopes of discouraging it from getting into a conflict with “Silly”, I opened the back door and called out to it. Usually, the response to this is the cat sprinting away as fast as it can go, but not this time. No, this cat raised its head, looked at me….then ran towards the back door. It came up, stopped at the bottom of the screen door, and stared up at me while letting out plaintive meows.

That’s when I noticed it’s markings. They were the same as “No Paws”, and the cat was rather large, just like her. And it sat there, staring up at me like it knew me and expected me to let it in.

“No Paws” was a full-grown adult cat when she disappeared nearly twenty years ago, so it’s impossible that this is her. So what’s going on? Is this someone’s pet turned out? Or is this some distant descendant of the cat that went MIA all those years ago?

Arise!

Clear skies bring sunshine.

Ground warms, air rises.

Wings I spread,

To catch the upwards currents.

Earth shrinks beneath me.

Humans, animals, plants.

All become insignificant,

As I ride the air higher.

Eyes sharp, I scan it all.

What will I find today?

Danger? Food? A mate?

For now, enjoy the moment.