Coping: With Free Monday (no, for real…)

This week’s “Monday ramble” begins with a note from reader Chris that really made my day Sunday…and I think it will yours, too…

Periodically I do searches for unclaimed property for myself and people I know. Today I decided for shits and giggles to also throw in a few other people’s names including yours. I usually use this site for my searches. Then I end up going direct to each state where more details are available. This one is for Texas: where is shows that Direct TV owes you $51.58 from 2011. Also looks like George junior is owed some money in Seattle. You have some small amount of money waiting there too: . George juniors appears to be in the amount of $50-$100. Just thought you might like to know.

Near as I can figure it, the is a semi-official collaboration of many states – but not all.  I was going to run a check for a buddy of mine in Hawaii, for example, and was disappointed to see that Hawaii doesn’t appear to be one of the states taking part.

Still, there were other people we know who were due for some cash: One of Elaine’s boys, in addition to G2.  And one of my flying friends.

I was going to tell one of my neighbors that he’s got several items worth claiming, but I though he might think that I’d gone over to the dark side with computer surveillance of neighbors…

No, you’re not likely to get rich, since most of the money is small amounts, sees liker $50-bucks, or so.  But overall – at least insofar as our little slice of dough – the work to fill out the online claim form, and then gather up and mail the related backup documents worked out to working for $300/hour.  Hell yeah…I’m that guy.

Have fun with it and save some of that new-found money for a Peoplenomics subscription and a Valentine for your S.O. this week.

Weekend Adventuring: On Paper

Since most days I’m working 12-14 hours on various projects, I decided Sunday to take off and just screw around most of the day.

Since I like reading, I consumed about half of the latest Jack du Brul/Clive Cussler novel, Mirage (The Oregon Files) which is a part of Cussler’s collaboration approach to writing.

While Cussler’s a highly successful author in his own right (write), with his Dirk Pitt adventure books, he’s not got a system going where he collaborates with other authors as well which I have to imagine offers a fair bit of marketing advantage. 

The next book due out (which I think brings Cussler’s solo books and collaborative total up to 149 books) will be the Justin Scott collaboration The Bootlegger (An Isaac Bell Adventure) which is due out about March 4th.

While his Dirk Pitt adventures are about an undersea diving engineer (who marries a congresswoman somewhere in mid-series, or so) the collaborations introduce related, but distinctly different characters.

In the du Brul books, the “Oregon Files” involves a super-advantaged ship operated by an outfit called “The Corporation” which headed up by Juan Cabrillo.  This character’s main distinction is he lost the lower part of a leg and so periodically his prosthetics are used for (in the present book Mirage) so far, smuggling explosives into a jail to break someone out of confinement and for prying a heavy steel door off a ship found on the drying up bottom of a Russia lake – a ship when somehow gets tied back to The Philadelphia experiment.  You’ll need to read the book.

The main character of the Justin Scott series is a turn-of-the-century detective by the name of Isaac Bell.  He’s been through all sorts of adventures, including driving at break-neck speed through the devastation of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake in one of the previous books.  Bell, who turns out to be quite the pugilist, not to mention having many of the man, manly-man styles of Cussler’s Dirk Pitt character, had had other adventures, one of which was flying in a cross-country air race.

Since I’m still plugging away on my own first novel (with plots for several more), I convince myself that reading good/entertaining fiction is somehow work-related.  And, since writing is a major part of my life (way outside the IRS hobby loss rules), there are concepts that can be borrowed from any good book.

In many of the Dirk Pitt books, for example, Cussler will cast himself as an old prospector, or other character actor image, who will drop in on the novel’s lead to drop off some key bit of information.

Naturally, in my first novel (still writing it) one of the characters drives past a large, modern-looking garage just off to the side of a not too heavily-traveled highway.  As the male lead in the book passes, we learn that the sign out front says the place is “Cussler’s Garage” – a nod to another one of Cussler’s trademark Dirk Pitt  features.  There’s always an antique car about somewhere.

And in a nod to du Brul, that’s the name of one of the characters on a Navy RIB boat that makes an appearance in the first chapter of my novel….,

Anyway, novel reading (and writing) if great fun, if not a little tedious at times.  The most enjoyable part is the  writing as you tell the story.  The least enjoyable part is the proofreading, as if a few visits to this column wouldn’t have sorted that out for you.

Weekend Adventuring: On Air

Somewhere, in the midst of eating ten chapters of a novel, I got the impulse to get up from my inert phase and head out to the office where I haven’t turned on one of the ham radio rigs for what seemed like a month of Sundays.

Right out of the bag, I nabbed a CW (Morse code, right?) contact with a guy (John) who was cross-country skiing up on the Minnesota border.  He’d stopped as his log cabin in the woods where he was running a simple 4-watt portable ham  radio which he’d cobbled up to an 8-foot mobile 20-meter antenna. The antenna was inside the cabin, and despite transmitting through snow (31 inches on the ground) we was still getting out OK.

After a comparison of weather (we were 63F at the time, he was –7F and expecting –30F, so I gloated a bit) and some discussion about the bears outside and the couple of beers he’d stashed in the snow, it was time to move on. Weak signal work is fun, but it’s easy to get beers and bears confused in a deep fade into the noise floor.

The second, and last contact of the day, was a YM5 (Asiatic Turkey) but unfortunately, as is so often the case when “chasing DX [long distance] contacts that are rare, the “contact” was little more than an exchange of signal reports because everyone and his grandmother was trying to work the guy.  Rare call signs are, in ham radio, what the sport’s all about for many.

Still, it reminded me that pounding out Morse code, even at a fairly slow pace (17 WPM) and working weak stations can be quite rewarding.  It’s not my usual 28-35 common on the low bands when “coping in my head” on strong signals that makes Morse just like chatting at low speed, but ham radio is all kinds of fun at any speed.

There is no longer a Morse requirement to get started and why more people aren’t in the hobby is just astounding to me.  Only until I remember how many people are lazy and why average is such a low number.  Morse is an art and worth preserving.

Not I have to schedule some work on my tower because the big beam antenna is stuck pointed up toward Seattle.  Never a shortage of things on that “to-do” list.

One of them is to bug my friend Gaye at about getting her ham radio license.  She and SurvivalHubby have their radios, but this is busy season in her other life (accounting/controller in motion) so I’m cutting her just a bit of slack.

Not saying you couldn’t send her a note as ask how the licensing study is going.  

Weather Lingo

Speaking of weather, and the adventures of my friend John up at the border, I noticed something odd this weekend that struck me as a new phrase that’s worming its way into people’s thinking:

Wintry Mix

Used to be that it was going to snow, or not.  At least back when I was a kid.  And that was fine because in Alaska and among Eskimos there are more than two dozen words for “snow” and it covers the gamut from sleet to powder and everything in between and off either end.

This morning’s forecast doesn’t use the phrase but it was around all weekend.  Partly because, seems to me, when the Weather Service isn’t quite sure which way things are going to roll, they can use the “wintry mix” and be (nominally) right.

What this means, I suppose is that down the road we’ll start seeing terms like “summery” and, once that’s been worked to death, maybe we can get onto “springly” and “fally” weather.

In the meantime, East Texas is due to drop down to freezing and below such that by tomorrow night we’ll be served up “A mix of wintry precipitation in the evening…”

Seems to me that “wintry weather” is anything happening from the winter solstice to the spring equinox, but then again, I don’t have any skin in the “name that weather” game.

Weekend Adventuring: Cheap Date

There wasn’t much in the way of new movies out this weekend, so we fired up the old Wii.  One of my cost justifications for buying it, several years back, was that video games with the “numchucks” and balance board would keep us from getting too sedentary. 

Sure enough. 

And adult beverage and a whole bunch of Frisbee throwing and probably a half-dozen lines of bowling, augmented by pizza for dinner….  Well, video games are a lot cheaper than going out.

Friday’s Missing Report

With any luck, this morning’s column will show up on schedule.  A tweak to some of our fancy server software last Wednesday screwed things up.

The reports (Thursday and Friday) were in fact posted on time.  But in an effort to “leverage browser caching” the reports didn’t show up for some folks until I turned off that (misnamed POS  “feature.”

This morning things should be back to their promptly delivered self.  Make a note not to leverage client side browser caching on sites that update daily if you’re a tinkering idiot..

Write when you break even…