Saturday, November 29

Cables, splitters and football

Exterior cable box with 3 splitters and multiple cables.
It was a 'no football' Thanksgiving due to cable failure, but the Hargray repair man showed up as promised on Black Friday. While elsewhere shoppers were pushing and shoving - and a few throwing punches - things turned out better at our house. (Women fought over a Barbie doll and it took police to break it up. In England, two men fought over a TV in a Tesco grocery store and the TV was dropped  - a third man picked it up and walked off with it.

On the home front, the TV cable failure was attributed to a bad splitter and, perhaps, too many unused cables and connections. Three of the latter were in play. Since we have two TVs hooked up to cable at present the other cables were tied off and voila the tubes were back to working as usual. 

Today it will be Carolina and Clemson and later Notre Dame and Southern California.

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Friday, November 28

No football

Yesterday, Thanksgiving 2014, for only the second time in 54 years, I did not see any NFL football.  The first time I was in Taian, China, where the NFL runs a slow second to the NBA. The Chinese are very big on American basketball and follow certain players and their careers like a high school freshman chasing his first puppy love. Yesterday, my cable service went kaput and 24 hours later I am waiting for the Hargray repair man to show up at my house "between 1 and 5 pm."

Back in 1960, it was the Packers and Lions who were the game of the day. This custom of many years ended when Vince Lombardi notified the league the Packers did not want to do this any longer. It was hard on any team which usually played the previous Sunday and had to suit up again on Thursday. This cut the recovery time for injuries incurred on the previous Sunday, and Lombardi felt doing this every year was unfair to his players and fans. So the league began shuffling other teams into the turkey day festivities.
Football on Thanksgiving has been a regular occurrence since the league's inception in 1920. Currently, three NFL games are played every Thanksgiving. The first two are hosted by the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys, with one team from each conference playing either team on a rotating basis; a third game, with no fixed opponents, has been played annually since 2006. With six teams now playing each Thanksgiving many more players have less time to recover from injuries suffered the previous Sunday. (The league also started a regular Thursday night game in 2006. So much for the league's professed "concerns" about player safety.)
Notwithstanding the lack of NFL action in my life yesterday, today I am the same cheerful, friendly, clear thinking, pure in body and soul heterosexual male I have always been.

Monday, November 24

Quotes worth remembering

Down through our nation's history men have uttered memorable phrases which remain with us throughout our lives, e.g. "Give me liberty or give me death,"  "Walk softly but carry a big stick," "We have nothing to fear but fear itself," "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country," "I am not a crook," "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall," "It's the economy stupid," "Yes we can." Most of these came from politicians, but others have made memorable contributions as well. Consider this "Notable Quote " from Steve  Martin, actor and comedian, found in The Island Packet, Bluffton, SC, on November 24, 2014: "I love money. I love everything about it. I bought some pretty good stuff. Got me a $300 pair of socks. Got a fur sink. An electric dog polisher. A gasoline-powered turtleneck sweater. And, of course, I bought some dumb stuff too."
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Sunday, November 9

Tearing down the Berlin Wall

On November 9, the world marks the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Part of the wall saved as a memorial.
I was in Berlin twenty-five years ago when the Berlin Wall, erected in 1961 to separate East Berlin from the West, began to crumble (and would eventually come down.) In November 1989, following months of civil unrest in East Germany, the Communist government said people could travel between East and West.

My wife, Mary (died December 29, 2010), and I took advantage of a great price on an American Airlines flight to Germany to enjoy our first overseas trip together. We traveled in both East (Communist controlled) and West Germany, and spent a night in Salzburg, Austria.

We landed in Frankfurt and went on to Munich. While there we visited Dachau, the first concentration camp established by the Nazis. We were deeply sorrowed and affected by the horrific place in history the camp represents. We traveled to Oberammergau and visited some castles. Our next stop was Berchtesgaden but it was late when we arrived and we stayed the night across the border in Salzburg.

We drove the Autobahn toward Berlin through East Germany (getting in and out was an exercise in paperwork and paying fees) and later spent more two hours stuck on the road because of an accident ahead of us. We eventually arrived in West Berlin, the most exciting part of the journey. I visited Kennedy Platz where President Kennedy gave his “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech and talked with a German who had been there on the occasion so many years earlier. I was at Checkpoint Charlie and considered crossing over in the night to sight see but an American military officer recommended waiting for daylight. We took an organized bus tour of East Berlin the next day and found it much subdued in contrast to the lively and vigorous West Berlin.

We went to the Wall, separating Berlin into the Communist zone and the Democratic West, which was being attacked with small hammers and light hand tools by enthusiastic and almost delirious Berliners. (Starting officially in 1990, the government used heavy duty demolition equipment and by 1992 the nine miles of concrete, barbed wire, alarms, lights and buffer zones (killing fields) were gone.) Mary and I joined the throng of Berliners – West and East - and knocked some stones and bricks loose. I gathered a large handful of small pieces of rock and stone. Later, when we were back home, I divided these into five small plastic snack bags, labeled them and gave one to each of our children at Christmas as a memento of an historic moment in their lifetime.

On our final day we went on to Magdeburg, at the time one of the most depressing towns in East Germany, and then to Bonn and Frankfurt for the flight home.

Sunday, October 26

Madrac Farms - A pleasant Saturday Trip

There is always something new to do in life. Over the weekend I made a trip to a pumpkin farm on Ralph Rahn Road in Rincon, Georgia. My wife, Joyce, and her step-daughter, Perry McGuiness,visiting from Minnesota, also made the trip.
I bought tickets for the farm in late September through one of those Groupon e-mails offering dollars off the admission. I originally planned to use them in early October when a couple of my sons were visiting. Time was against us on that occasion.
When I saw the site one thought that occurred was how the owner(s) of the farm were maximizing their investment. In addition to raising crops of corn, sunflowers, and pumpkins for sale, they were using them as backdrops to a fun time and pleasurably experience for adults and children. Especially children. The corn and sunflower crops had already been harvested. Loads of pumpkins were already gone to market but the patch had enough left to remain as the main attraction. The rest of the story can be told best by pictures:

Joyce and Perry

Joyce and the Blogger

Into the maze of the maize.

The Sunflower Patch

Perry in the hay wagon; a converted peanut wagon.

The little ones experienced the ride.

Posing for a picture for the family album. 

Kids enjoy having their face painted.

This is me coming down the slide as Perry cheers me on.

Visitors were invited to pick their own pumpkin.

A sight to enjoy and remember: Madrac's Pumpkin Farm.

Sunday, October 19

Network signal ---- re-visited

I thought I had my Internet router strength/distance problem worked out. (Ref. This blog, "Five bars of strength, Thursday, October 16.)  Apparently not as well as I believed. We have a new all-in-one computer in a room at the other end of the house and could not sustain adequate strength to our network access point. I found some loose change in the cushions of the sofa and bought a Linksys Wi-Fi range extender N300. The setup was simple, took only a few minutes and voila everything fell into place. The signal for the network on the new computer is five by five.

Thursday, October 16

Five bars of strength

Often it is the easiest solution which is the best and the simplest. Today's case in point: For several evenings while trying to watch a Netflix streaming (instant download) film I experienced a stop and go action. This was a recent new phenomenon and frustrating. While watching the film I would only see a portion of the scene and hear the dialogue before the film would have to reload. I incorrectly assumed it was a poor Internet connection, or my Apple internet router was too far away from the living room smart TV. The router is in one room about 50-60 from the TV in the living room. When I checked the strength I had only two of five bars showing signal power. Instinct said to get a
A router signal extender (an example)
router signal extender. I spent about an hour researching an extender for my Apple router. A Google search turned up several people with a similar problem and those who reported solving the issue did so with extenders. Rather than rush off and spend $70  $80, I decided to try using a Chromecast system (a thumb-sized media streaming device that plugs into the HDMI port on your TV) given to me last Christmas by one of my sons. This has an extender built in. While the installation was in progress, I re-read the small manual which came with my Apple router. The manual addressed interference and what could cause it. One of these was metal objects near the router. Between my router and my television set I had a couple of laptop computers and some other small metal objects very close to the router. When I removed these, the five bars of signal strength on my TV Internet connection instantly improved from two bars to five. I worked this for about half an hour and determined I had continuous reception from Netflix without stop and go aggravation. One of the films I had tried to watch last evening came through - as they say - loud and clear.