I Bought A New Tablet -2

Photo from Ebay

My new Commodore 64 led me down a path I could ill afford – a floppy drive, a printer, a monitor, and eventually a modem. But these peripherals came in affordable stages (one cannot eat an elephant in one bite). But a disk drive and software for word processing were at the top of the list. A number of word processors were available – PaperClip was number two, in my opinion, but the best one of the lot was Easy Script due to the accompanying spell check.

Everyone was selling Commodore software, even furniture stores. One Saturday morning I visited Sears, hoping they might have a copy of ES. They didn’t, but the salesman wasn’t about to let me walk out empty-handed.

What’s do special about Easy Script?” he asked.

The large spell check program.”

Well,” he said, “what you need is this,” he said, whipping out a small calculator-size device. Entering the word in question brought forth a number of choices. “Slip this in your shirt pocket and you’re good to go,” he added.

I’m not interested,” I responded.

He was disappointed, but he wouldn’t back off so I asked to see the carton he was holding. The sales pitch printed on a side panel called the device a self-contained spell check system “Let me see the unit,” I said.

I typed in the hyphenated word self-contained and pressed the enter key. It couldn’t match the word.

This thing’s no good. It doesn’t even know the words on the box it came in,” said, handing it back to him.

Most people know that hyphenated words aren’t found in a run-of-the-spell check database. But he didn’t. He was still fiddling with it when I left the store.

Within a week I had everything but a modem. I had no use for one. I even passed up a distress modem-sale at Payless Drugs – $5 each. To make the initial connection with their unit one had to dial the number using the telephone, wait until the other modem answered and then quickly disconnect the wire from the phone and connect to the modem. Then, unless a certain number was dialed prior to that initial connection, anyone calling in would terminate the modem connection. It was a hassle. No thanks. But then something unexpected occurred.

I’d mailed a crop dusting manuscript via USPS to the editor of Ag-Pilot International Magazine. Months passed before he responded. The only contact he left was a FIDO MAIL address. One of my associates was involved with this precursor to Internet email, so I was not caught totally flat footed. Not willing to share my personal grief meant I needed a modem, and I needed it now.

Payless Drugs was no help, having shucked all things related to computers. After calling computer stores far and wide, I located a 300/1200 baud modem fifty miles north of town. With the temperature hovering in the mid-20s and no car, I rode a Suzuki 250cc 2-stroke motorcycle the hundred miles round trip and gleefully paid $175.

I landed the job.

I Bought A New Tablet

Photo from Ebay

I bought a new Samsung tablet yesterday, a Galaxy Tab E with a 9.6″ display. This purchase was made at Walmart only after three false starts from Amazon – receiving two refurbished iPads and a Nexus 7 when I thought they were shipping me new stuff. Why purchase a tablet for writing? My fingers are damaged from years on keyboards. The realization that a physical keyboard was no longer an option came after I accepted the 2014 NANOWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) challenge. I succeeded with 50,252 words in 28 days. But doing so injured the middle finger, left hand. And since then I’ve been unable to locate a suitable keyboard.

I been writing for many years. Maybe my two million words are behind me. I’ve lost count. I began with a Sears portable as a hobby in 1964, submitting manuscripts to the scores of backroom publishers that existed during the pre-Internet days. Many were as desperate for manuscripts as I was to find a place to park my scribbles. Rewards were sometimes a penny or even a nickel per word, but most often payment came in the form of a single copy of the issue (they were hobbyist as well). Some authors sharing those pages told very bazaar tales – the story that often comes to mind is of the concession worker  at Yellowstone who pissed in the dishwasher at work That still gives me pause.

Everyone knows there is no delete key on a Sears manual. When I was writing a tale for Overdrive Magazine, I retyped the entire manuscript ten times before I gave up and mailed it off, typos and all.

In 1982 I spotted my first personal computer, a TI-99. The instructions suggested using a television as a monitor. That might have worked if the data cable had been longer. Being so close, the sync pulses triggering the raster blanked the data from the computer. The net result was zero output. I possessed the skills for fabricating a shielded data cable of some greater length, and I would have done that had I not wondered what other surprises lurked therein. I returned to the store and traded my ‘99 for partial payment of a Commodore 64. However, there is no pie in the sky, it seems. While waiting for my transaction to clear, a lady complained to the clerk that her C-64 only made an “H” no matter what key she pressed. Casting an eye toward my new toy I wondered, if  this was the second chapter of an ongoing adventure.

The Sardine Can

Perhaps thirty years ago an editor of Harper’s Magazine published an article concerning his winter sabbatical where he finished a novel. Moving into a borrowed cabin located in the Connecticut woodlands he placed his typewriter at a bay window and went to work while his wife configured a number of bird-feeding stations.  One of the stations was a sardine can packed with suet and wired to a tree limb. The feeding stations became so active he abandoned his novel for a spell.

While watching, two ravens paid the sardine can a visit. Together, they untwisted the wires, letting the can fell into the snow. Then each raven grabbed a wire in his beak and in unison, they flew into the woods hauling the can between them.

The Dalton (fiction)

The photo is from Philip, a friend; by way of Ebay

The Christmas Season was in full swing when the air force transferred me from New Jersey to California. I could have flown, but with an ample travel time. I took a train.

The sun was low when we reached Chicago, grabbing my B4 bag, I found a Yellow Cab waiting on the street.

I’ve heard about The Loop at Christmas. Take me to a reasonably priced hotel so I can see it for myself,” I told the driver.

Yes sir, hop in, I’ll put your things in the trunk,” said the driver. After pulling away from the cub, he pointed out famous landmarks while i watched the meter. Minutes passed, perhaps fifteen, I was wondering if I was ‘taking the tour”. But before it read four dollars he wheeled up to the curb.“This is as close as you’re gonna find a bargain,” he said.

Outside stood a large tan and brown building that might have covered a quarter of the block. Above the entry were the words: Dalton Hotel.

I passed him a five-spot and he set my bag on the sidewalk.

Inside, the lobby was filled with men I took to be truck drivers, judging from the company names on their shirts – Overnight, Watson Bros., Roadway, to name a few. This place had the earmarks of an A1 hotel, back when, but it was headed downhill. The clerk, a heavy set man with a pockmarked face and tired eyes signed me up for room 404 and then pointed a stubby finger toward the lift.

Take a right when you reach the fourth floor,” he said, then returned to a stack of papers he’d been sorting when I arrived.

I waited for a bell boy to appear, but none came, so I grabbed my bag and headed for the lift. It was a relic, something out of the Machine Gun Kelly or Pretty Boy Floyd era. The door was a decorative steel mesh work, that protested when disturbed. But as the latch click a panel of buttons sprang to life. Pressing button number four caused the lift to shudder. Three or four relays clicked, and then it growling to fourth floor where it came to a jerking halt.

Visiting The Loop was a worthwhile adventure. The lights, decorations and music gave me the Christmas spirit, but I didn’t stay long.

The following morning I rode the lift down to the lobby. All the truckers were gone except or eight or nine wearing Roadway patches. They were younger than me.

Where you from?” I asked.

We’re from New York. We’ll be heading back this morning as soon as our trailers are loaded,” answered a skinny fellow with crooked teeth.

Thinking I’d watch some news, I fished out a quarter and headed for the television.

DON’T DO THAT!” one of them shouted and poured five or six washers into my hand. “You can buy these at the hardware store for a penny each,” he added, motioning in a thumb in a direction that was meaningless to me.

Let’s go, boys,” shouted portly fellow who popped in from Wabash.

Maybe we’ll see you next trip,” one said as they filed out behind the old man .

The gray-headed clerk stood watching me. I guess he read my mind when I was hesitate about using a washer.

Go ahead, use the washer. Save your quarter. I wait until they’re gone then I count the washers and multiply them by twenty-five cents. The end of the week I send a bill to the Roadways main office in New York. The boss takes it out of their pay and then mails me a check. We’ve been doing that for fifteen years and they’ve never caught on.”

I didn’t know what to say. Evidently he wasn’t expecting a response, because he turned his attention to some book work.

I had breakfast down the street near the hardware store that sold the washers, then got my bag and hailed a Yellow Cab.

Train depot,” I said.

The Supreme Court

It’s difficult to ignore what’s going on in Washington. It’s in-you-face-news at every turn.  I gather most of my news from the Internet – no commercials, no talking heads that never breath, and I don’t have to wait for broadcast time.

Some folks say the public has no say in this. Directly, we don’t, but however it shakes out some Washington folks, maybe looking for work, come the next cycle.

A paragraph from the third chapter of an unnamed tale.

A lifetime has passed since I began probing my great-grandfather’s, the things that happened, the things he accomplished after his release from Jefferson Barracks. I’ve asked questions until there was no one left alive to ask. So, after numerous runs at the tale I decided to draw from the shreds of truth I have gleaned and tell it how I think it might have unfolded.

Below are a couple of paragraph from the third chapter of my yet nameless story. The year is 1868, the setting is on a stern wheeler steaming up the Missouri River.

# # #

It isn’t large, as river boats go, nor is it fancy. But it is big enough for the crew and the livestock, feed, pots and pans, mail, and farming implements bound for distant trading posts. In addition, there are a few hardy passengers. Captain Thorpe, a frail-looking man with a prominent nose, sits in the wheelhouse shouting orders and cursing. As a rule the boats are loaded with freight and livestock. Only then are the passengers allowed to board. However, Dave keeps watch on the Captain. He knows sooner or later the old man will have to relieve himself and when he disappears to do so, Dave slips aboard and hides behind a stack of bagged cattle feed. The boat is a smelly place laden with cows, goats, and hogs free to roam the deck. A cabin could have been had for twice the cost of the boarding fare the army paid, but Dave chose to sleep on the deck.

The sun is low by the time the captain pulls the chain on the steam whistle and the crewmen begin hauling in the gang-plank. Moments later the captain backs away from the levee and gets underway.

What’s your job here?” Dave asked the ragged man who settled down beside him after they are in mid stream.

Well, sir, loadin’ and unloadin’ , mainly. That’s what I does. They calls me Curly,”he adds, whipping off his ragged hat, exposing a head as bald as a billiard ball. “Yer a Yanky, ain’t cha? What does ya answer to?” he adds.

Yes, I am Yanky and my name’s Dave. You think the captain’s going to run all night?”

Well sir, I cain’t say for sure, but he probly will since we got us a full moon. Cain’t always see good, ya know. One night just about two-year ago the Cap’n, he hit a big snag agoin’ the tother way. That snag, it punched a hole big ‘nuf to push a cow through an ‘ol May Belle started asinkin’ right off.”

What did you do?” Dave asked.

The only thin’ we cud do. We swimmed fer it, us and ’bout fifty cows and pigs and chickens. Yes sir, that night started out bad and it got a damn sight worse pretty damn quick.”


Comments are welcome.

Flying Tigers

Image from the Flying Tiger Website

During autumn 1956 I was old enough to enlist in the USAF. I wanted to become a CW radio operator, sending and receiving Morse code. However, a series of tests suggested I was better suited for fixing for stuff. That resulted in a year-long electronic school that prepared me to become an aircraft maintainer, an Airborne Navigation Equipment Repairman. (This title was later identified as Avionics when the navigation field became larger and began shifting toward solid state devices and microprocessors.) But, as an Airborne Navigation Equipment Repairman my first permanent duty station was Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina.

Charleston Air Force Base was, among other things, the customs inspection point for military flights inbound from Africa, South America, and the Caribbean. It became a gathering spot for aircraft of every description, a very busy place open for business around the clock..

Shortly before dawn, one given morning, while returning to the shop after several hours repairing a C-121. This was when I spotted my first C-46 which immediately reminded me of an obese C-47. In bright red letters the words The Flying Tigers Airlines were painted in red above the windows on the fuselage. Unfortunately, it was one of those events that are often lost on the youth. I let the moment pass. When Internet became a reality did I mentally return to that moment with questions. Who were these people?

If I’ve not misunderstood the results of my investigation, the founders of The Flying Tigers Airlines were the same volunteers who brought air cover to the Burma Road during World War II.

If only I’d stopped long enough to ask the flight crew some questions.


I’m an old man, so my ideas and opinions may not count for much, but I still generate them.

Many folks, at lease those who have a voice on the Internet, are talking about going to Mars. Just who do they think is going to make the trip? Me? You? I don’t think so. Only a chosen few will be considered and only a chosen few of those considered will actually climb aboard and blast off. How many climb out and walk around after they arrive? Who knows?

The argument is obvious, we’ve made a gigantic dent in our planet’s resources, or most of those we consider useful. However, if we opted to invest part of our star-gazing dollars into saving what we have – Earth – it seems to me it would be money better spent. It’s sort of like the hypothetical automobile. The note is finally satisfied. Now should we set aside $50 or $100 per month to keep the old one in good shape, or should we “give” it to the car dealer and rewrite that $400+ per month note? You be the judge.

Back in the 1960s I was a communications/navigation maintainer on B-52G bombers. They were 1957 and 1958 year models. It took money and lots of effort to keep these hummers ready for whatever tomorrow might bring. Today, the 1960 B-52H models are being crewed by the grandchildren of those who crewed the 1955 B-52B models. Keeping these birds in the air and ready for tomorrow’s threats was not an accident. It required roll-up-you-sleeves maintenance.

Instead of the billions of us who will watch those hand-picked few blast off in search of another world, we need to roll up our sleeves and bite the bullet.

Today Google News reported that humans traveling toward Mars would not survive the trip, something about guts. I’m not sure anyone has any rock-hard evidence of that occurring. The late Wayne Greene, the generator of many ideas and publisher of 73 Magazine had stark opinions about space travel. If my memory has not failed me, he maintained that surviving a trip through Earth’s Van Allen Belts would require shielding of concrete nine feet thick. Was he correct? My limited math skills prevent me from evaluating his POV.

Considering our present weather patterns, melting polar caps, rising water levels, environmental pollution, maybe we should set the money and effort designing and launching Mars rockets aside and give some serious investment in what we have and surviving whatever tomorrow has in store for us.

Any opinions?