Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Invisible flying pinch bugs

I mentioned recently about stopping for gas and an unusual encounter at the pump. There were actually two unusual encounters.

When I got out of the car, there was a large bug on the ground. I don't know what it was. It was kinda like a North American Stag Beetle, but it was the color of the concrete, and the mandibles were very wide. Really wide. I could see it, but it didn't stand out. Kinda blended in. Hard to see. So, nothing like a North American Stag Beetle. Except for being a large bug. With huge mandibles.

Well, I stepped over the bug and closed the door, then proceeded to gas up. You already know how that went.

When I finished, got my receipt, pocketed it, and stepped back to the door, I didn't see the large bug. Good. Or, so I thought.

During the next 15 minutes or so, I mulled over if I had done the right thing regarding the praying panhandler. I decided I had. That's when something seemed to fall onto my shirt.

Now, I am sometimes guilty of putting stuff over the visor in the car, but I didn't think I had done that. Still, something seemed to have fallen from the visor. I wondered what it was. It was dark in the car, 4:00-4:30 time frame, and no other traffic on the road. A little bit of light from the dashboard, but that was it. I couldn't really see anything on my shirt, and I wasn't going to take my eyes off the road for any period of time.

I'm in the middle of nowhere, on a four-lane road, 65 MPH, no traffic, and the possibility of deer, as I was very much aware. So, without being able to see it, I grabbed whatever it was that had settled on my shirt.

It grabbed back.

That's not a feeling you want to experience when you're driving 65 MPH in the middle of nowhere on a road with curves and bridges.

I threw whatever it was down. I realized almost immediately, of course, it was that large bug I had encountered at the gas pump. Seems it had made its way into the car either during the time I stepped over it and before I shut the door, or surreptitiously while I re-entered the car. Either way, there was a large bug in the car, somewhere under my feet.

Okay, then. Maybe I'll stop for something to drink or a snack up the road. Breakfast at a McDonald's maybe. I'll locate and extract the large bug at that time. Then, it flew from the floor beneath my feet to the passenger seat where I had laid my jacket.

This simply would not do.

I pulled over into a turn lane. The four-lane was divided by a large grass median -- about three full lanes wide -- and had the occasional turn-round lane on the left where one could pull into it, then make a u-turn when traffic was clear.

I stopped the car, put it in park, put the flashers on in case a vehicle happened by, put my holster on -- I don't wear it when driving but have it at hand -- and exited the vehicle. I walked around to the passenger side, opened the door, picked up the jacket and shook it, looking for the bug.

No bug.

I pulled out my phone, turned the flashlight on, and began looking though the car.

Nothing.

So, I'm standing beside the road around 4:30 in the morning with an invisible flying pinch bug loose in the car. Now, I'm wondering what the trade-in value is on the car.

After a few more minutes, I finally found the large pinch bug on the floor behind the driver's seat. I grabbed a loose Wendy's napkin -- I don't remember ever hitting a Wendy's drive-thru since I got that car, but that's a mystery for another time -- and picked up the bug and tossed it away from the car.

He didn't like that, and came straight back for the car. My foot put an end to the whole sordid affair.

I left the body just laying there, as a warning for other invisible flying pinch bugs. I am not to be trifled with.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Praying at the gas pump

My schedule has me traveling at early morning hours on some days. That means, depending on how well I planned things, I may be getting gas at 4:00 AM some days. I don't like those days.

Last week, I had one of those days. It was a Wednesday morning, it was the 4:00 hour -- that 0400 not 1600 -- and I pulled in to a gas station to get gas. Made sure I had everything in order, got out, and started the process to gas up.

I'm dressed in my standard work attire: dress pants, dress shoes, dress shirt, tie, jacket. My wallet is in my jacket pocket on my left side. Right next to my .380 in its holster. When I pulled in, I checked the lot and the area around the station, which was situation on the corner. It's on the outskirts of town, and there is wooded area nearby, so caution is always advised at off hours. 4:00 AM is an off hour.

Put the credit card in the slot -- first checking for a skimmer, of course -- enter my ZIP code, select the fuel type, and begin the process of gassing up the ride. Now the waiting. And that's when I made my mistake.

I don't carry money in my wallet. I don't carry a lot of cash, but what little I do carry is separate from my wallet. As I waited for the fuel to fill the tank, I put my hand in my pocket. My cash was in disarray. Normally, it's neatly arranged by denomination -- ones on top, followed by fives, tens, and twenties, if I am carrying those bills. All neatly stacked, and all facing the same way. It's easier for me that way. Only, when my hand went into my pocket, the cash wasn't neatly stacked. Nor sure what happened, but that was unacceptable. What I did was more unacceptable.

I pulled the cash out and sorted the few bills I was carrying. Lined them all up -- that was the major issue; some were sideways -- and put the cash back in my pocket. That mistake allowed two things to happen:
  1. I took my eyes off my surroundings
  2. I allowed other eyes to see I was carrying cash
There were other eyes, as I became aware just after putting the rearranged cash back in my pocket.

"Good morning," came the voice.

I turn my head slowly, saw the young man approaching from the road. I nodded my head, "Good morning, sir."

As I turned back to finish pumping the gas, he spoke again. "Do you mind if I pray with you?"

Just in case you're not aware, if someone approaches you at a gas station and asks to pray, he's probably not a traveling evangelist, but rather someone looking for money. Even if he is a traveling evangelist, he's still someone looking for money. I wasn't in the mood for whatever he had going on.

I looked back at him, "You don't need me for you to pray." I turned back to my task, checking to ensure my jacket was open for easy access to my .380, if needed. You never know how someone reacts to something unexpected. I don't think he expected my response.

His path turned from directly approaching me to one of heading to his right, down the road away from the gas station.

"Jesus love you. He loves you." the young man said as he walked away, keeping an eye on me.

I nodded.

Jesus does love me. But I don't think he's too keen on people using His name for panhandling.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Hulu with Live TV

Since I cut the cord in early 2011, I've tried several different ways to get certain content on TV. Sports is what I'm talking about.

I like college football. When I cut the cord in 2011, I waited until after the college bowl season was done. I had purchased a Roku in 2010, but kept cable until after football season because there was no other way to watch the games from home.

Thankfully, that's no longer the case. For sports, I've tried Sling TV ($25/month for package and add-on with all ESPN channels), DirecTV Now ($50/month for package with all ESPN channels), and PlayStation Vue ($45/month for a package with all the English language ESPN channels). Best price is Sling TV for what I want.

Right now I'm trying a different service: Hulu.

Okay, it's the Hulu with Live TV service. That's Hulu, but with Live TV. Which puts Hulu as another service similar to Sling TV, DirecTV Now, and PlayStation Vue.

Hulu is normally $8/month. That's been serving as my "cable service" since 2011. Recently, they added a Live TV service. It's $40/month. Not an additional $40/month, but it works out to an additional $32/month.

On the face of it, it still looks like Sling TV is a better deal because Hulu and Sling TV together totals $33/month ($8/month + $25/month) as opposed to $40/month. But things are never that simple.

All of the live TV services has problems. They're buggy. They will buffer a lot. It's nearly impossible to watch a game on any of those services, in my experience. So, I use the service to authenticate against the ESPN app (or the WatchESPN app, depending on the platform). The ESPN app is much more stable for live streaming than those live TV service apps.

As for what channels these services offer, here's a chart provided by Roku. It has a few flaws, such as the same channel listed twice (ESPN2 vs ESPN 2, TCM vs Turner Classic Movies, etc).

So, for now, it's $7/month more for Hulu with Live TV vs Hulu and Sling TV. But, I get two streams with Hulu Live TV vs Sling TV's 1 stream (unless I want their $40 four-stream service). I also get more app authentications.

For your purposes, is Hulu with Live TV a good deal? I don't know. I will say that it offers support for more apps than Sling TV does. The downside is Apple TV-related. Sling TV supports Single Sign On, while none of the other services support it.

I may keep this one. This is the first service to threaten Sling TV's position as my go-to service for accessing sports.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Hurricane

Yes, there's a hurricane coming this way. This one might be trouble.

Of course, I've been through hurricanes before. The last hurricane that came this close, I went to a football game.


[The YouTube]

I was at that game. Want proof? I'm in this picture.



Wait. Here's a better picture.


[Photo credit: Georgia Southern Athletics]

Did you find me?



I'll probably stay inside for this one.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Satire News Sites Sue ESPN Over Intellectual Property Infringement

ESPN reporter Robert Lee
ATLANTA (AP) -- Several satirical news Websites have file suit in federal court in Atlanta against ESPN alleging the sports network has infringed on their intellectual property. The suit comes days after ESPN announced that the network was removing reporter Robert Lee from the University of Virginia home game on September 2.

Kurt Mueller, COO of The Onion, said that the network's actions are "a clear infringement of The Onion's intellectual property. This should be an open and shut case. After all, when news of Mr. Lee's reassignment was announced, social media exploded with questions asking if it was a post on The Onion." The topic was trending on Facebook and Twitter.

The Onion was joined in the lawsuit by news satire Websites Weekly World News, Babylon Bee, DuffleBlog, and others. Paul Szoldra of DuffleBlog explained, "While we focus on satirical news from the military standpoint, an infringement against mainstream humor is an infringement against us all."

Weekly World News spokesman Bat Boy said "The lawsuit speaks for itself." Babylon Bee's Adam Ford added, "Yeah, what he said."

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

https

I received an email from Google last week. I'm not sure what to make of it. Let me first take a minute and give you some idea of how Google and this little blog are intertwined.

The domain name of this blog, basilsblog.com, is registered with Google Domains.

This blog is hosted by Google, via their Blogger platform.

I could register the domain elsewhere, and I could host it somewhere else, but Google's reliability and pricing are hard to beat.

One other thing that isn't directly blog related, but worth noting is that Google also has a Web browser that is quite popular, called Chrome.

Oh, and there's a thing called Google Search Console which offers tools that can be handy in checking out and improving your Website. You don't have to be hosted at Google to use Google Search Console.

Got all that? Good.

Now, that email I got from Google. It's from Google Search Console, actually. It said:


Starting October 2017, Chrome (version 62) will show a “NOT SECURE” warning when users enter text in a form on an HTTP page, and for all HTTP pages in Incognito mode.

The following URLs on your site include text input fields (such as <input type="text"> or <input type="email">) that will trigger the new Chrome warning.
So, I it would be a good idea to enable https on the blog, right? Only...

Warning: HTTPS is currently not available for custom domain blogs.
Which means that, as long as I'm hosted at Google on their Blogger platform, and have my own domain name, I can't enable https.

So, all together, this means that Google is warning me that I don't have https enabled on my Website that they host and don't allow https for Websites like mine.

Catch-22? Maybe. Or maybe I need to move back to another platform and host for this little blog. Which I don't really want to do.

I can hardly wait to see what I decide.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Disney World

Until recently, I hadn't been to Walt Disney World in two decades. The last trip was one with my daughter and son in the mid-1990s.

When I was younger, a teenager or thereabouts, I had been to Disney World a few times. It was always a big deal and I always enjoyed it.

Of course, back then, they had the tickets (I think they actually called them "coupons") designating different attractions. A ticket, B ticket, up to E ticket. I always spent my E ticket on The Haunted Mansion. Love that attraction.

Note: Here's another link showing different attractions on some of the tickets.

When I took the children in the mid-1990s, that was, I believe, my first experience without the ticket books. That was great in that I didn't have to choose among certain attractions. The downside? Neither did anyone else. That meant the most popular attractions had long lines. That did put a little damper on things, but I focused on making the trip as enjoyable as I could for the children. I'm not sure how successful I was, but they did seem to enjoy it.

When I became a grandparent, I wanted to take the grandchildren to Walt Disney World. There were some catches, though. When the first grandchildren were born, I wasn't living in southeast Georgia where I grew up. The Columbus, Georgia area is a good six hour drive from Walt Disney World. That meant over 12 hours driving on the trip. Two adults, three children, in a single car, for that time and distance? Not comfortable.

Then, the long lines. Yes, Disney had introduced FastPass, but I didn't know much about that. I can be a quick study on some things, but honestly, I didn't do proper research into it. That's changed, as you'll soon see.

Oh, and the cost of driving and eating and hotels, not even counting the price of admission of adults and three grandchildren. All in all, an expensive proposition. And, it was something we never did. But, it was something I wanted to do.

Now, years later, I have more than three grandchildren. And I still wanted to get them to Disney World. Well, the two year old might be a little young to appreciate it. He'd get almost as much fun out of a sprinkler in the yard, but the day is coming soon. However, he has been to Disney World. More on that in a bit.

While I did want to take the grandchildren to Disney World, there were attractions much closer to Columbus than the one in Orlando. Atlanta has Six Flags over Georgia and Stone Mountain Park. We managed to take the grandchildren to each of those a few times. Even bought year passes for each at different times, but ended up not going that often. Work schedules, school schedules, and self-imposed restrictions that I thought were kinda silly (no, I won't elaborate), all contributed to making it not as often as would have been nice.

Still, the occasional trip to Six Flags or Stone Mountain did happen. Six Flags over Georgia and Stone Mountain Park are great places to visit. What they don't have is the "Disney mystique." I mean, you don't hear Super Bowl winners saying "I'm going to Stone Mountain!"

This year, though, I've been to Walt Disney World twice, and am gearing up for a third trip.

I mentioned that my youngest grandson had been to Disney World. His grandmother, my ex-wife, took him. She had also taken my second-youngest grandson, also her grandson, to Disney World. She's taken him more than once. Note: those are the only two grandchildren we share. My other grandchildren are not also her grandchildren.

This year, at the last minute, my daughter asked about our going to Disney World along with her, her son (my grandson), and her mother (my ex-wife). This was like two days before they were scheduled to go. I was open to the idea. Ex-wife and I get along fine. There's not a bunch of tension in the room when we're in the same place. We've had troubles in the past, but I'm not going to dwell on them, and neither is she, it seems. So, I said if I could work it out (that always means funding) we'd be delighted to go.

Actually, it turned out to not be "we." Wife didn't go. That nearly put a damper on things. Ex-wife expressed concern about that, but after talking with my daughter, it came down to my decision, and I went. And I enjoyed it during the time I was there. I didn't stay for the entire time they were there, but did have a blast riding the rides with my grandson. He rode the rides with me most of the time.

Seeing how much fun he was having made me decide to get the other grandchildren to Walt Disney World. Before I left Orlando, I was already setting things in place for a trip with the other five-year-old.

Wife still didn't want to go, so I ended up taking his brother and sister, both 17, a week later. They were great at keeping up with their brother, and had a fun time. Granddaughter in particular really enjoyed it. From my daughter, I had learned how to work the FastPass+ feature using the app for my iPhone, along with another app. That made the visit a lot more enjoyable, as we never waited in line more than 10 minutes for anything. Okay, there was one 20-minute wait for one ride, but only one. Everything else was either FastPass+ or short lines by noting the wait times on the app.

Right now, there's one more grandchild that's still in school (she's also 17) that hasn't been to Disney World. That's being remedied Labor Day weekend. And, this time, I won't be the only adult in the car. Wife is finally going. She went decades ago, before we met, but I don't think she particularly had a good time. Maybe that'll be different this time around. After all, I'm such a delight to be around.

Oh, remember that I mentioned that one granddaughter really enjoyed her trip? Well, she wants to go again. Only, I had to tell her "no." I explained that I wasn't going to take her twice and the others once. And my focus was on getting her cousin there, and that I wasn't going to buy her another ticket just yet. Undaunted, she said she was working and asked what if she bought her own ticket. I told her that, of course, we'd take her along. Which changed my "no" to a "yes." So, she bought her own ticket. This trip will be two adults (Wife and me) and two teenagers (cousins), which will mean the car is as full as it can be, what with luggage and a six hour trip. I am so looking forward to this trip with three of my favorite people.

There are still a grandchild that's in college. I have an idea how to manage getting her to Disney World. And, there's another that's not in college. We've discussed how to deal with that, too. We will work something out.

Anyway, I've been to Disney World twice since last month, and have another trip coming up next month. I'm not sure when I'll get Disney Fever out of my system. Maybe never.