Sunday, October 28, 2007

First Santa Sighting of the Season

Mary Ann sent me to the convenience store for ice cream, and the clerk asked if I played Santa at Christmas. It turns out she's a Christmas baby as well.

It always brightens up my day when there's a Santa Sighting.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Plugging In (in South Africa)

While planning for our African trip, I attempted to be ready to connect all our electrical equipment to the local power. The first thing I did was buy a couple of universal traveller plug kits, like the grey ones in the picture.  These advertise as covering all your needs.  I bought this Sima one in a camera store, and another Samsonite kit that does everything the Sima did and also included a 1600 watt 240 to 120 volt converter.

I also tried to go out on the web to find out what kind of power would be used in that area -- and yes, it was going to be exclusively 240 volts in all of southern Africa.  I didn't worry too much about that, since I'd been conscious that most modern electrical wall warts were dual voltage.  I rechecked.  Yes, our Apple laptops would work off 240.  My battery chargers would also.  The only issue was whether the plugs would fit the outlets, and I had two different universal plug kits.  One by Samsonite.  Surely I'd be covered.

We arrived in Capetown, checked into our first hotel room.  None of the plugs fit.

It seems that 'universal' doesn't mean southern Africa.  After leaving Capetown and arriving in Namibia, I began to realize it wasn't just South Africa, but the countries near it also used a different plug.  Look at the white plug in the photo with its three large round contacts.  It's huge. 

We limped by using the universal bathroom outlet for electric shavers, but it wasn't always reliable, and with two laptops and two different battery chargers to service, it was difficult.  But going through the airports, I finally discovered the right adapters.

Several places sold these.  There were two kinds, "The Visitor" which I bought and allowed us to connect to SA-style outlets, and "The Traveler" which was for SA residents and allowed them to survive the the rest of the world.  I'd advise any tourist to be on the lookout for them as they travel through the Johannesburg airport.

In Zambia, we actually had use for the universal adapters I'd bought, since they used a different style outlet, but I'm definitely hanging onto my SA adapters.  I just might go back.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Music Library Stats

I was reading one of the zillion commentaries about Apple's iTunes Store vs. the RIAA Big Labels. I don't pretend to predict that future, but it caused me to look at my own music library.

I was an early iPod adopter, with one of those 5GB original units. That was back before iTunes was selling music, but I had already gotten into the music player spirit with a Diamond Rio, and a 5GB hard drive was huge compared to the 32MB memory cards I was using. Suddenly, instead of the few albums I deemed worthy of converting for the Rio, everything on CD was now destined for the conversion marathon.

So, my original digital music library was a little less than 1000 songs, all from purchased or gifted CD's I acquired over decades.

I experimented with the P2P software and downloaded maybe six or seven songs. None survived. I didn't like the ethics of the situation.

Today, the count is 2859 in "Music". That's just the simple count. Of those, slightly less than two per week were free downloads from iTunes (I avoid Hip-Hop/Rap), which gives me exposure to music I'd never have sampled before.

Of the unpurchased remainder, perhaps 300 are things I've recorded myself, like the church music I captured while visiting the churches in Zambia, and recorded lectures.

But the big picture? I buy much more music now that it's just a click away, and the percentage from CD's is dropping rapidly.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Seeing iPhones Everywhere

I was just watching the pilot episode of Journeyman, and there he was hopping back and forth in time with his iPhone. He could reliably tell what era he was in by whether his iPhone was working or not. And the scene where the 1980's businessman with his Motorola brick phone was staring at the bluetooth headset in his ear was a classic.

Pinch It

I was just looking at Bill Crider's blog and found myself doing the zoom-pinch action on my laptop's trackpad. I've been using my iPhone heavily since I bought it less than a week ago, and when browing the web on the little screen, text can be too small to read. But you can put two fingers together on the screen and drag them apart, causing the image to zoom in for better readability. I guess my brain is already adapting to that method. I helps that I scroll the screen the same way on both the iPhone and the Mac, dragging the screen with my fingertips.

I suspect it won't be long before I can zoom in with a pinch on the laptop's trackpad. Multi-touch technology is already partly enabled on the trackpad, and arbitrary zooming the screen is already available with command-option-+. Maybe it'll be in Lepoard.

I realized I'd been lax in blogging lately, so when the impulse hit, I decided to do something about it.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Posting With an iPhone

I just wanted to see if I could do it. Having an Internet portal clipped to my belt all the time be could be very useful, once I get the hang of typing on its touchscreen keyboard. Some things don't work, like using the composer window shortcuts for bold and italics, but in all it works well enough.

Test bold italics.
Okay, I found a way to do it.

Now if I can just get past these cramped fingers.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Review: Life is Wild

I had to watch this new CW show, especially since the pilot was a free download on iTunes. It's a 'blended family' show set in an African game lodge. While it wasn't in the locations that I visited, there was much in common, and a lot that looked just wrong.

For one thing, I can remember one teenager girl (Italian) in my visit. This show has as many pretty young teenagers as a typical CW California beach show. Even the lone black character sounded way too American.

But I'll give it some more chances, if for nothing else than the African scenery.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Resources for Writers

There are millions of web pages listing resources for writers. The only difference in mine is that I'm putting up the slide show I used at the George Benson Christian College in Zambia. As I do other classes and presentations, I'll be adding more.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Eugene James "Gene" Melton, Jr. 1919-2007

Eugene James "Gene" Melton, Jr. of Lake Tanglewood died Wednesday, October 3, 2007.
Gene was born in Cement, Oklahoma on December 29, 1919 and technically gifted, took an early interest in radio, serving in the Navy during WWII, becoming a HAM radio operator and working for Santa Fe Railroad for 31 years, developing much of their cross-country microwave communications system.
Never searching for praise from others, Gene was always helping at the Churches of Christ at several locations, serving as a deacon, teaching local Bible classes, and working to establish Christianity in India through World Bible School. By the example of his simple, honest life, he left an enduring legacy of believers among family, friends, and around the world.
He was preceeded in death by his parents and younger brother Jack Melton.
Gene is survived by his wife Mary Evelyn Wheeler Melton of 69 years, his brother Fred Melton of Flatonia, Texas, four children: Roger Melton and wife Linda of Rescue California, Mary Solomon and husband Walter of Lake Tanglewood, Henry Melton and wife Mary Ann of Hutto Texas, and Martha Barnett and husband Hugh of Dallas Texas. He had 10 grandchildren, and 9 great-grandchildren.

Monday, October 01, 2007


I was just starting a posting on Zambian names when the call came in from Amarillo. My father's health has taken a turn for the worse, so we started tossing luggage into the car and made a run to the Urgent Care Plus place to get me a meds to shake my sinus infection. Currently we're on the road to Amarillo. More details when they become available.