Trail maps, X-Mass, and one-eyed grits salesmen.

So the other night I was looking for a replacement Nintendo car charger (those things have a way of getting closed in the car door, don’t they?) and I took the opportunity to do some X-mass shopping.

Yeah, I know, keep Christ in Christmas and all that crap. I’ll put Christ in X-Mass when I don’t have to spend three months shopping. So far I haven’t seen any evidence of Jesus at the mall, just lots of greedy people.

So I found a charger quickly, and I took the opportunity to order a present and a trail map from National Geographic. A trail map is a lot like a road map, but with topographic details and trails marked on it. After several days of waiting, the Amazon.Com box finally arrived.

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There seem to be a lot of these maps, probably because at $12 each the cost would run up pretty quickly. Thankfully amazon sells them at a discount. I enjoyed looking at it and thinking about what would be fun to go see. I just have to get my stuff by springtime. Since I will be ordering a lot more x-mass stuff by the winter solstice celebration, maybe I can put in a few more hiking supplies and take advantage of the free shipping.

My co-workers seem to take great delight in the idea I may soon be in “deliverance country”, and chide me on the fact I will soon be hacked to bits and buried by Appalachian Americans. Between my interests in hiking and flying, I know some really supportive people (and yes, Kaylee, I’m ‘being sarcasm’).

Speaking of backwoods people, while we were down in Charleston SC last week, my wife and I ate at a place called the “Marina Variety Store” restaurant. While there I had some incredibly tasty grits, so Angie and I decided to look for some REAL grits, not this quaker instant crap. We found a local place the grows and grinds their own grits. When directions to the grits people include “turn off the paved road”, you know you are in the back side of nowhere.
We found the grits place. which was a collection of buildings and machinery that seemed a bit scary. No one seemed to be around, and I thought I could hear banjos. Finally we found a guy with an eye patch, who told us he was “just a laborer”, and while he was trying to find the grits described the fact that he had been hurt at work, and he didn’t qualify for the disabled check, but he was finally able to qualify for the crazy check.

We got our grits and left. They were worth the trip when Angie got them cooked. Very tasty.

7 Gadgets that won’t be around in 2020

So Yahoo! linked a story about 7 things we all use that probably won’t be around in 2020.I beg to differ on some of their opinions.

1. Stand-alone GPS units.  I’m sorry, but outdoorsmen were using GPS long before soccer moms bought them to find the closest Starbucks. Hikers, skiers, Geocachers, ATV riders and other off-roaders will be using them long after the GPS unit is integrated into the new cars. However – I see a new use in cars.

a. As a speed governor. Your friendly GPS tells your car that the speed limit on the road is 55. The car computer sets a limit on your speed at 55. Coming into the city… your top speed limits to 35.

b. Tax revenue – drive a lot? Get ready to pay more taxes as your friendly GPS helps report your miles to the appropriate taxation authority. After all, shouldn’t drivers who use the road more, pay more taxes (even though they already tax gasoline – so that should be moot, right?)

 

2. E-Readers. Goodbye kindle. Hello iPad. Umm…. wasnt the point of the kindle to be simple and cheap, and most importantly, SOMETHING YOU CAN READ OUTSIDE in the SUNLIGHT? Evidently the makers of e-readers have forgotten this. Sure, you can get e-readers with color and touch screens and all. So – maybe Yahoo is getting this one right.

 

3. Feature phones. Those crappy things you get for free on your cell phone plan. Yeah – good riddance to those. If I want a phone that only makes phone calls – I can pay-per-month on my wal-mart POS. If you’re locking me into a two year contract – my phone better be smart, let me play music and movies and do things like email photos and add ringtones without making me PAY extra.

4. Low end cameras. So they predict the death of the point and shoot. Yahoo hasn’t figured out the same thing most consumers haven’t. Megapixels does not mean better pictures. Your iPhone with its 10 megapixel itty bitty sensor and pinhole lens will NOT look as good as that 8 megapixel nikon point and shoot. And both of them will still be outclassed by that two year old DSLR with 6 megapixels and a Nikkor lens. But to most people – megapixels = better pictures, so they will say “why should I carry my old 6mp coolpix when I have the iphone with 8mp?”

5. DVD players. Okay – I’ll give them this. IF streaming companies will get off their butts and add new releases to streaming. It makes it harder to copy stuff, and streamlines the process. When new movies are only available on disc or through mail-delivery (netflix) then we’re stuck with the DVD.

6. Recordable DVDs and CDs. Maybe. With the death of the floppy disc, I can see the CD following. I can’t remember buying my last spindle of CDs. After all, most of what I copy just as easily fits on DVD or external drives. With most new cars having aux ports, who borrows friend’s CDs to make copies any more? Just rip them and plug in the iPod or even a thumb drive. Done. Flash memory is cheap and doesn’t scratch. It also fails, but DVDs break, so there you go.

7. Game consoles. Good riddance. Wasn’t the PC supposed to end this? But no, you buy a console and a few games and the next year something newer and better is out. At least with a PC the same games play for a long time, even through several upgrades.

 

Maybe Yahoo will be gone by 2020. After all – when something intrigues people, no one ever says, “I think I’ll Yahoo that later”.

On Kidney Stones, Hospitals, and Facebook

So all day yesterday, something didn’t feel quite right. I thought I might have some sort of bladder infection, for various reasons. Last night, however it started coming to a head. It was during my kid’s bath time I started to have some pain in my side. I was thinking, “Boy this isn’t normal, I’m going to have to go to the doctor sometime soon.” When the pain became severe and I was laying on my side on the floor, shivering, my wife did what anyone would do in that situation…

She asked FaceBook. It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes a community of old friends and some relative strangers to raise a husband who doesn’t like going to the hospital unless blood is coming out (for good reason, as you will soon see).

The house was soon resounding with the noise of text messages flying in. These people may not be doctors, but I think some of them stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night. By this time the pain started to lessen, so like any man, I said “Dont worry, it doesn’t hurt now, I’ll go to the doctor Monday”. Cooler heads prevailed thanks to an old college friend. She happened to be a nurse, and said, in no uncertain terms; GO TO THE DOCTOR YOU MORON. Well, it was nicer than that, but thus was the general idea (thanks Gini).

So off to the hospital we go, to sit in the waiting room. Thankfully there weren’t too many coughing babies, we were taken back within about ten minutes. The pain was coming and going, and I passed the time deleting people from my phone’s contact list. Really – I don’t think I’ve seen some of those people in years, some were dead, and some of the businesses had closed.

The nurse finally called me back, asked my symptoms, put me on the probulator,  then ushered me to a big room with a glass door that reminded me of a car salesman’s office (which was about as comforting). IV time! I would have made a great Heroin addict. Nice big veins. She started giving me something to calm my “kidney colic” and ease the pain, but thankfully nothing to make me woozy enough to produce funny youtube material. All the while the male nurse was telling me “When she finishes I’ll be right back to catherize you”. Yeah. Funny joke. Ha Ha. It’s not so much the pain, as I think I could take it with no problem, I just don’t want strangers poking around at my Nads unless there is something wrong with them.

Mr. Hilarious and the nurse left, and I sat for a while. I had to pee a LOT, and they took a sample. Actually I told them – If you need a sample, give me a cup, because I don’t know how long this stream will flow.

At this point my wife left to do something, and I was pounced on. Mrs. Billing Lady comes in and has me sign some papers so they can treat me. Standard legal stuff, without any explanation. Sign here, initial here, blah blah blah. My wife comes back in. Then She says “You have a balance of $84 from your last visit”, (which is all that’s left from my $500 HIDA scan from earlier in the year that I have been faithfully paying).  I said “okay”. She continued, “Would you like to take care of that now?”

What? Are you kidding me? I’m doped up, its 11:00 at night, and you’re hounding me for $84? My wife busted out laughing and said, quite loudly, “Oh THIS is going on Facebook”, and whipped out her phone. She should have taken a picture of the shocked look on my face and the woman standing over me. That would have been great.

She continued: “You have an ER Co-pay of $125, would you like to pay that now?”

My Reply;  “No. Sorry, when I was writhing in pain on the floor, I didn’t think about bringing my CHECK BOOK!”

“Your insurance company requires we collect that co-pay”, she replies.

I said, “tack in onto my $84 then.”

I was really kind of upset by then, and she left. My wife and I discussed the whole event. Who does that? Waits until someone is doped up and alone to attack them with legal papers and hound them about bills? And how many people give in? After all, they are required to treat you or transfer you to someone who will.  I came to the hospital once before, and they said the same thing, “How much will you be paying today?” I slapped two quarters on the counter and said, “There you go, where do I go for my test?”

The running joke at that point became how much they were going to charge for stuff. The radiologist came in to take me to scan my CT. I asked her if the CT scanner had a cash slot on it like a Coke machine, or could I just swipe my credit card in it before the test. She laughed at it. The test was fast, and they wheeled me back out.

After the requisite wait, the doctor said, “Yes you have a kidney stone. It’s moved towards your bladder, you’ll pee it out tomorrow.

The nurse came in with a paint strainer and told me to pee through it and try to catch the stone. I told her I had about ten of those at the house that I got for ten cents each at Sherwin-Williams, and I hope they weren’t charging me twenty bucks for it. She laughed at the whole Billing Lady story, and said it was “just wrong. I could never do that to people”. The nurses and doctors were the nicest, most professional people I’ve ever dealt with at that hospital. It’s the billing department I despise.

So – thank you FaceBook, you finally did something good. That’s one useful thing you have done, amoung all the inane banter and useless status updates and hundred of pictures that I never cared to look at.

You did good.

It’s the end of the world as we know it…

And I feel fine (apologies to R.E.M.)

So – today was the end of the world. Strange, I’m at work. You’d think they would have given us the day off. Actually I’m at lunch.

According to a religious nutter (what, a Religious man being a nutter? Say it isn’t so!) Harold Camping, today was supposed to be the day of the rapture. Whatever the Hell that is. I served a long sentence in the Littleton Street Methodist Church (kind of like the opposite of weekend time in Jail – I only had to GO on Sunday) and not ONCE did they ever mention a rapture. I always thought “Rapture” was some sort of extreme pleasure, like reproductive practice or skydiving or a King Size Hershey bar.

So – after all that time in church (I was paroled at the age of about 15 – and neither parent had the guts to drag me back to church. What kid says “I’m going to dad’s this weekend so I can wear uncomfortable pants!”) and I never discovered the Rapture until I met some baptists, and read a Dean Koontz book about it. I’m just wondering, how exactly is this supposed to work?

Do people just disappear from the line at Wal-Mart? One second there’s some fool arguing about 2-for-1 coupons and then POOF! the line gets shorter? Do they get to take their stuff, or do purses, wallets, and clothes hit the floor? Then again – it’s Wal-Mart. Probably most shoppers wouldn’t be affected.

And what about the other religions? Jews don’t have a rapture. They don’t need one. They’re exempt. Do Muslims? Its been a long while since “Religions of the World” but I don’t think they have a Rapture either. They just have those 72 virgins if they die for Allah (really, 72? Who came up with that number? Give me 50 or 75. 72 is weird. Actually, 10 would be a better number, less scheduling problems). So when the believers that are sinners are “left behind” – and they are running screaming from the 50 foot Satan walking through town, do the rest of us just look confused, like that Priest at the end of “Eric the Viking”, who can’t see the Gods and Goddesses in Valhalla because it’s the wrong religion?

That’s the only real way religion can work, after all – seeing as how there are so many different ones, a lot of them all claiming “We’re right, they’re wrong! Nyah Nyah Nyah Boo Boo!” Can’t you imagine St. Peter at the gates? “Oh, Muslim? Line 4. Bhuddist? Line 7. Christian….oh wait, Sinning Christian? The Down escalator is over there. Atheist? Oops… bad choice (Dude Pops out of existence).”

This is another prediction by Harold that’s not come true. He’s done this several times.

So anyway – we’re all still here. All this crap about the world ending is a bit premature. After all, despite religious and environmentalist claims that “The sky is falling! And its getting hotter too!” The world will always be here. At least, for another 5 billion years until the sun exhausts its fuel and expands to envelop the planet. Then we’re pretty much boned, but hopefully we will have left long before then. In spaceships…

The Great Kaylee Ski Trip

Two years ago I attended my one and only “John Specht Ski Adventure”, where I learned that 14 years is a LONG time to go without skiing, and that I had a thing or two to remember about sliding down a mountain on a pair of oversized popsicle sticks. I suddenly felt bad for my wife, who I took skiing her first time in 1996, and couldn’t understand what was so hard about learning to ski. The effect was much like starting over completely.

So when I came home, my daughter heard the tale and decided she wanted to go. I told her “maybe next year”, because she was a bit small in my opinion to go all the way there by herself.

Fast forward to January 2011.

Kaylee tells me around Christmas time that “Hey remember last year you went skiing and you said I could go this year?”

Yes, I thought, and I was hoping you would forget. So – I made the plans and set up the great ski adventure for Kaylee. A week before we went, the southeast was hit by a BIG snowstorm. We were out of school/work for three days in Eastern South Carolina. I was suddenly very iffy about heading to the West Virginia mountains in a Honda CRV (which is less Jeep and more glorified Mini-Van). But – I went anyway. My wife informed me as I was driving away that “yes – I want to go!”, and before I could get turned around, she changed her mind, so it was off to WV by ourselves.

Kaylee greatly enjoyed the trip up, taking approximately 75 blurry pictures out the car window, including 15 in darkened tunnels. She finally figured out how to turn the flash off, too, which was good. Blind tunnel driving is no good.

We stayed in a hotel in Ghent, WV, as there are no hotels next to Winterplace, unless you plan to stay right on the slopes, which I could not afford for this two-person trip.  Thinking that we could both sleep in a King bed (her on one side, me on the other) was a mistake. Kaylee likes to huddle up against the other bed partner, shoving me off the side. I switched sides twice. The next morning we had our “constipational breakfast”, and headed to ski. Originally she wanted to do “half a day” ski school so she could ski with me. Unfortunately, she was unable to learn a few frills, things like stopping, turning, the chair lift, etc. So – she was interesting to try and teach. My teaching method consisted mainly of chasing her down the mountain pleading with her not to hit a tree, a lift pole, other skiers…

All in all she had a good time, and by 5pm we were both wet, cold, tired and ready to go home. There’s always next year…

I love Dick’s!

Kaylee loves a certain sporting goods store with an unfortunate name. What idiot names their store that?
Any way… There we were in Dick’s at the South Park mall in Charlotte. It was a huge place. Two stories… So now the South Park Mall is “The mall with the BIG Dick’s…”

I’m not much into sports. Sure, I like to ski, but what I do is as much a sport as walking to the mailbox can be compared to the Boston Marathon. Flailing semi-controlled down the mountainside is NOT a sport.
I am getting into Backpacking, again, good exercise, not a sport. But Dick’s has stuff for both. We were looking at gloves and ski wear for Kaylee, when she found the hats. Her favorite was the Balaclava.

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She found another one later in Florence, in a better color. I’m not sure how many ninjas would wear a pink hat, but if she ever studies martial arts, she has the headgear.

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Of course she insisted on wearing it into the Mall, which caused the wife no small amount of discomfort. I think the exact words were “What the Hell are you doing? It’s 80 degrees!”

Kaylee also insists she needs the ear warmers with the built in headphones. I told her she won’t be using her iPod when she’s skiing, so she doesn’t need those. I, however, like the looks of them, and may be purchasing a set for myself. They will come in handy on the slopes, fall and spring backpacking, and maybe at the Mall during the “holiday shopping season”.

I’ve also been told by Kaylee that I will soon be tenting out in the back yard. Seeing as how she doesn’t have a sleeping bag, I don’t see how this will go well. I do have a tent she can use. She also told me, “we have to keep the door unlocked, in case we have to pee”.
I’m not sure exactly how this will work. There’s no way I’m lighting a camp fire in my yard. The fire guys would be really upset putting out all the dead grass, and something tells me tents are flammable.