Waiting for New Home Rails

You’ve noticed me pushing for traffic to my site and specifically for people to click on the occasional ad to help generate some revenue. These are the reason.

I’ve had these locomotives for our kids (and myself) for the past 5 years, and I’m working on building a new layout. Slow and sure does it, but my main goal with my job and most of my side work is making sure we have a savings and a home of our own. So my goal with a bit of side money I save over time is to put up a new layout. Not big, just something that’ll nicely hold a few set of cars and scenery… something that will grow over time.

But to do that, I am putting out whatever content I can regularly on my site… be it train stuff, humor, recipes, whatever. Hey, if you build it, they will come, right?

So I’m building content and I’ll keep pushing updates as often as I can. What I’d love for you to do is just stop by regularly and see what I’m working on. The more often you visit, view and click the occasional ad on my site, the more revenue comes in towards this stuff.

So again, just a bit of shameless plugging, please visit regularly and click an ad or two. Those clicks put a bit of extra funding aside for the hobby.

Thanks!

Dose of Humor #6 – The Science of Charley Horses

Charley Horses. If you’ve never had one, let me explain the feeling of waking up to one. Your alarm goes off. Maybe it’s the first time… maybe you’ve hit snooze once or twice or 17 times… and you turn over, deciding “yeah, I guess I should get up now and get ready to go for work”. And your muscles in your leg, given instructions from your brain to swing over and set down on the floor, instead decide “hey, let’s seize up in the most intense way as soon as we’re mid-way over the floor”.

So one or both of your legs experience a contraction spasm in such a way as to feel like giant rubber bands that have snapped. You then sharply contort your legs, trying desperately to find a position that will allow the sensation to subside a bit, while you frantically attempt to massage the muscle that seems to think that it should keep contracting.

In the process, you arch your back to reach the spot with your hands while the contraction continues to become more severe, resulting in you trying to adjust your leg even more trying to abate the pain, only to twist your body in just such a way that you have now pulled 1 or more muscles along the flank of your body, giving you a new cramp that means you are choosing between easing the pain your leg, which has been going on for at least as long as an average presidential administration, or the new pain in your side which feels like some horror villain has implanted a knife in you.

Meanwhile, one or more dogs has decided you are in distress and is attempting to help by licking your face, thinking “yes, if I drown him in saliva, he will no longer suffer”. This is much the same as the idea of helping a person who is on fire by pushing them into a vat of gasoline. At first, you think “this liquid will douse the fire”, but then you realize that the liquid is, in fact, smelly. Oh, and making that fire worse. Would it help if I dumped this powder on him to put it out? It’s labeled as “wood dust”. Seems reasonable.

And at this stage, the cat has decided “Oh, his weird position and sounds must mean he wants to cuddle and play”. So she climbs onto you with the 40 foot long razor blades she calls her claws fully exposed, and proceeds to paw at:

  • Your stomach
  • Your arm
  • Your chest (including, no doubt, the sensitive sections there)

which in turn causes you to flinch. The cat interprets this as you wanting to cuddle, so she spins around onto her back so she can rub against the muscles that are in mid-spasm on the side of your body. The dog, who now fancies him or herself an E.M.T. is licking more vigorously… that’ll make it better.

You flinch, which causes the dog to redouble his or her efforts, but sends the cat flying off the side of the bed, which you didn’t mean to happen, but it did, and meanwhile the flinch has caused both sets of muscles to contract MORE. The cat decides to jump back up because obviously that was just an accident, but we definitely need to extend our claws for the landing because we may need a better grip. Also, let’s try a landing on that part that seems to have a cloth covering right around the waste. PERFECT DEAD CENTER LANDING… though what is the lumpy sensation under this material?

And needless to say, this is why the snooze button function on an alarm clock should really be more of a “shut up, and I’ll get up when I’m good and ready”.

Also, a muscle spasm / drowning / knifing of soft external protrusions really should qualify as a medical excuse from work.

Dose of Humor #5 – Hi-Ho Dexter, Away

It was two weeks ago that my wife announced to me that she was ready to love again. By which I mean, she was ready to adopt a new cat. Sadly, back at the beginning of the year, her pet of 10 years, Peach, passed on, we believe due to a heart attack. It was, obviously, a heartbreaking thing, and it took her a bit of time to deal with the emotions of that loss. After all, it was the first real pet of that nature she ever had. Peach had been important to her and the kids, and even I will admit that though we had a bit of a tense relationships, she and I had enough of an understanding that we could work through the nuisances of things like me having to give her a bath.

I’m no cat person. I always was raised with dogs, and so I never was all that keen on having one around. It’s very hit or miss with a cat on how they will handle things. Here’s an example of what may come to pass with a cat.

If you’ve tried really hard to keep a good place for that cat to use as a rest room, but that place happens to be in your laundry room, the cat may, if it’s in a bad mood, decide your pile of socks to wash is just as good as the litter box. I think you can understand the issue that may present. Socks smell bad enough as it is from warm weather. Cat urine just makes it that much worse.

So having a cat could be a wonderful experience about bonding with a loving animal, or might make you think that you’ve walked into an ammonia testing facility… and there is NO way to tell what you’ll end up with.

So my wife had decided that, much as she would always love Peach and miss her, she was ready to bring home a new cat who would become part of the family, but would not be a replacement for Peach, would just be a new family member.

And I had promised her that I would be OK with it when the time came, so I was obligated to accept this myself, which I’d like to think I have. Of course, there were a few concerns / caveats to the whole idea. Obviously, with having two Siberian Huskies, the cat needed to be OK with dogs (and yes, my wife had obviously thought all of that through well in advance) and I was adamant that whatever the case, I really didn’t want to deal with a kitten, mostly because I wanted the type of animal around that would have a known personality as an adult. Kittens look cute, but that uncertainty factor with personality is a severe concern to me.

My wife, ever the right-minded person that she is, really wanted to adopt an adult cat, knowing that there are too many in shelters and who really deserve a good, loving home, so she’d already set her mind on the idea of adopting based on that idea.

And so at the end of that weekend, I was awaken from a nap to find myself staring into the eyes of this… cat…. OK, here we go. Yeah, she had pretty eyes. Wait, is she really that small as an adult? I mean, she’s not tiny, but she’s kind of small…. oh, just a small 2 year old? How is she supposed to be with dogs? Seems friendly, so it’s probably OK? Alright, we’ll give it a try… oh we have to work her into the household… she’ll be sleeping and eating and… eh, OK, she’ll be living in our room until she adapts to the environment. Fine. Not destructive, but likes to climb? OK, I guess we’ll have to figure this out…

Yes, she is pretty…

Can I help you?
Can I help you?

So we that night and the next, she slept in our room. And then, Sunday night, we’re going to bed, and the cat has… disappeared. She apparently slipped out of the bedroom in a heartbeat while my wife’s back was turned, trying to shoo out the dogs who really wanted to meet the new friend and play with her…. especially her head. OK, not really, they just wanted to get to know her, but apparently freaked her the heck out, and she disappeared… somewhere in the house. And we have no idea where.

The next 24 hours is my wife frantically worrying more and more that she has not yet reappeared, and so we begin searching room-by-room to figure out where the heck she went. As it turns out, she shot into my son’s room and hid under his bed behind a few boxes. I discovered her on the third or 4th time looking, after realizing I had mistook her for one of his stuffed animals.

Sssssh.... don't tell anyone where I am...
Sssssh…. don’t tell anyone where I am…

She had decided to hide out in the room the dogs were sleeping in, and was essentially trapped because of trying to evade them. So we had our hands full figuring out, how are we going to get them comfortable if she panicked and ran to hide like that.

The next week consisted of trying to gently introduce her to Dexter and Ruby. Surprisingly, Dexter was generally very gentle with his inspections… it was Ruby, who was irritating to Pepper. Ruby, who has a bad tendency to request attention by using her nose obtrusively and her paws almost as much to get you to come over to her.

But my wife kept at it and amazingly, one day, the cat was able to stand staying on the bed with my wife and both dogs for an extended period of time. And apparently, Pepper decided “OK, I’ll deal with this”.

And of course, the whole time I’m trying to adapt to the idea of dealing with a cat again. Yeah, I’m just not a cat person, but this little furball…. well, she finally got me to admit that I kind of like her… well, OK, I actually love her…. she’s very friendly, and surprisingly likes to cuddle up to me as much as everyone else. And she’s pretty good about not using her claws wrong with me. In fact, she tends to spend more time trying to lick and groom me than anything else, but it’s kind of cute, so yeah, I’m OK with her.

Hi, Daddy, I'm going to just stay here next to you...
Hi, Daddy, I’m going to just stay here next to you…

But here’s the kicker. She’s bonded with Dexter. Crazy, hyperactive, over-sized, bear-of-a-dog that he is, they have gotten very close. Close enough that yesterday when I walked in, they were laying on the bed together. At one point he hopped off and she followed. And when he got back on the bed, she jumped back up and after he was lying down, she decided to curl up with him… after brushing against the underside of his neck and jaw area… she decided that she liked him.

This was.... unexpected
This was…. unexpected

And it keeps happening that way.

To the point that I am now expecting to walk in some day soon and see her riding on his back like the Lone Kitty Ranger meowing “Hi Ho, Dexter… away!”.

It might happen with Ruby, too, if she can keep from stuffing her nose into Pepper’s face so abruptly, but for now, it’s relaxing to know that they all get along…. unless they’re planning something… honey? Should I be concerned?

Welcome to the family, Pepper.

Model Train Update

A while back I put a temporary hold on my planning / design for a train layout, due to a lot of issues. One of the biggest issues is the fact that it’s so hard to come up with a track plan that satisfies my desires. I’ve been playing with designs on and off for years, and never quite getting something that’s totally satisfying.

But another point came to mind recently while taking yet another stab at this whole process. In a year or two (at most) we plan to buy a home, and in addition to moving all of the furniture and tools and whatnot, I want to be able to get my layout out of the house without destroying anything. Of course, when we get a home, the design I have might not fit anyway, but at least I want to do something for myself. Heck, if I’m going to build a layout, I want to TRY to make some reasonable progress.

So I went back and looked at a layout from another gentleman recently that was always a source of inspiration to me. Those of you familiar with the model done at Quinntopia will be familiar with his gorgeous layout that started out on a single (later pair) of hollow-core doors. And that v1 / v2 layout was gorgeous.

So why not do something based on that? Well, as it turns out, that’s exactly where I started to head with this project. I don’t know how far I’ll get with this, but at least here’s an idea of where I can maybe start. 3 foot wide, 12 foot long, built on two 3 x 6 tables… back to basics, folks… maybe.

Returning to Social Media… because…

If you’re recall back about a month-and-a-half ago, I had announced a decision I’d reached to end my participation in Facebook. My reasoning was that, frankly, I was sick of the large volume of negative crap that I regularly was seeing posted onto the service, and with it being as annoying as it was, I just decided I’d had enough for good.

The honest-to-goodness truth is that my feelings on that are still more-or-less the same. I find that, quite often, I can’t stand the stuff I see on there, because people have seemed to lose track of the point of social networking – it’s not supposed to be about posting crap that drives people apart.

I’d scheduled my account for deletion and that was to be the end of it. But as the deadline for that deletion approached, I realized that I was having a harder time generating the traffic to projects like this site, because people tend to not go somewhere like a personal site anymore unless the link is regularly provided through a site like Facebook.

So I’m planning to use that account in an attempt to drive some visitors back to this site, in hopes that some of my content will help with generating visitor / ad revenue. And yes, that means I might post a few personal things on Facebook from time-to-time. But seriously, I don’t want the negative garbage that goes along with it. If you have something negative to say, please, you can do that on your own wall, and leave it there. Please, don’t post it to mine.

However, if you’d like to keep abreast of what’s really happening in my life, please, feel free to visit here. If you come in from a post on Facebook, that’s fine by me. If you want to post something to my wall over there, that’s great. If I don’t like what I see, I’m not going to say anything, I’m just going to delete it. If you don’t get the hint, chances are I will just remove or block you.

I’m trying to turn over to more positive mindsets. I’ve had too much of a negative one in life, and I really don’t want to waste the 2nd half of my life on any more of it. Hopefully this clarifies what happened, and we can just leave it alone, so I can get back to recipes, workshop stuff and model trains…

Dose of Humor #4 – Mixed Message Service?

I’m not entirely sure if this was planned out properly, but one of the NFTA Metro Rail trains has two cars with advertising wraps on it. One is encouraging you to be healthy, the other is encouraging you to have vodka.

I’m not sure if this is a devious ploy or the failure of someone to think things through… or maybe just some hostler with a bad sense of humor…

Progress Report #5

Despite not really doing anything personal, I have to say it was a reasonably successful week. The kids are all but done with school. My son is on his last exam, and my daughter has one of those days where you typically look at the clock every 3 minutes wondering why it’s barely changed even though you’re sure it’s been an hour.

For Kelly and me, it’s a matter of not needing to drive the kids in every morning anymore. They will start next year in the other part of the district and the need to drive the extra distance on the way to work to drop them off, and then pick them up at my parents will be largely eliminated.

And, for the record, thank you mom and dad for watching them this school year. We are very grateful for your help in that regard. But we’re sure you’ll be happy to get some measure of peace back though, and we’ll be glad to go straight home after work.

So maybe, conceivably, this week will finally allow for some time to get things done. No dance, no scouts, just a softball practice and Saturday game if the weather is reasonable. No more crazy schedule stuff. Maybe… possibly… a chance to actually do some of the projects that were put off for the past month or so.

And by the way, if you’re visiting the site, please remember to click an advertisement or two. Seriously, it helps me out. Thanks!

reMarkable Day 15

Two weeks ago I started using my new reMarkable e-Ink tablet as a replacement to carrying around a lot of disorganized notes on yellow legal pads. Today, day 15, I can now say I am glad I invested in this tool. It still remains to be seen how this plays on in a real long-term sense (how will I feel after 3 months or 6 months), but my impression up to this point is that this tool is making my job easier, little-by-little.

As a person who has always struggled to keep notes and planning materials organized, this has already demonstrated a marked value in reducing some of the load of getting my work-life organized.

There are a few idiosyncrasies in using the reMarkable, and there are some features that I’d like to see added in over time, but even as it stands now, I find myself being able to take notes, sketch out plans and concepts and just plain doodle as I desire.

The $500 price tag on this unit is a bit high, but considering the fact that it is NOT being mass-produced on a level approaching the average Android smart phone or Amazon Kindle, it’s completely understandable that the price will be higher.

Still, between the battery life which I am finding excellent, the comfort of still feeling like I have paper, and the good fundamental structure for writing, organizing and saving my data, I am inclined to say that this could be a bonafide hit. I’ll post a few shots of my use so far.

Admittedly it may appear a bit slim after two weeks, but I’ve had only a handful of meetings with anything I could add, and some of it I have to blot out due to business security. Still, I think this should give you an idea of what you can do on this tablet, and as time goes on, I will address further the strengths and weaknesses.

I will admit that a few reviews out there had some understandable criticism of features, but it is nice to see that the folks who’ve made this tablet have been learning from the user input and releasing updates to address some of these issues. I think as time goes on, this will let them continue updating the tablet and producing a product that really does step us towards the “paperless” office model that was talked about for years.

Calypso Lemonade

It’s been a number of years since I first found and tried Calypso Lemonade. The first time I encountered it was at one of those gas-station / convenience store hybrids that dot the landscape of Buffalo nearly as much as the average Tim Horton’s donuts.

By my very nature, I prefer cool drinks to warm drinks. And of course, my biggest weakness has always been Dr. Pepper or any cherry cola. Growing up, in fact, I didn’t really enjoy lemonade. But as I hit my late teen years and then got into college, I did discover that lemonade was a taste I’d acquired along the way.

Today, I like my homemade blend, and I enjoy the sparkling lemonade that Wegman’s makes as part of it’s soft drink offerings, but a real special treat are the flavors of lemonade offered as part of the Calypso line. My ultimate favorite is either their strawberry or black cherry flavored varieties, but today, I discovered a new (for me) flavor, Island Wave Lemonade.

Non-Sponsored, Unsolicited Promotion Ahead

Calypso Lemonades have to be about the best drink offering of this nature I’ve ever had. There are at least a half-dozen flavors that I’ve tried and I have never had one that I didn’t enjoy. Of course, as with any of these drinks, you have to limit how much you have because they are, as expected, sugary drinks. So I don’t have these daily (mom, if you’re reading this, I’m not kidding, I only get these every so often, so don’t worry), but they make for a nice alternative of flavor every so often, and are a great reward on a hot day. Between these and some bottles of fresh water, I tend to feel the energy without the later sluggishness of having a regular soda.

So if you really want a neat and unique take on a good summer lemonade, but don’t want to make your own flavors, this is a great product to try. This isn’t a sponsored ad, but just an honest, simple point that I wanted to share. This stuff is fantastic!

Check for nearby retailers that sell the brand, and give one a try. If you’re a lemonade person, I guarantee you’ll find a flavor you love, just like I did.

Absolutely fantastic flavor!

Advertising, Analytics and Push Notifications

I figured this was as good a time as any to just mention a couple of topics on a technical level with my site. I’ll be updating my Privacy Policy info soon for all of this, but as a step to keeping my info as up-to-date for visitors as I can, here are just a few quick notes.

Advertising

By now you’ll likely have noted the advertisements showing up on my site for various outlets. I signed up for Google AdSense some years back and I have attempted on a few occasions to add the AdSense stuff to my site. This is my latest attempt and I’m going to try to keep this going permanently this time.

My understanding of how this works is that various vendor sites you may visit will attempt to big their ads to show up through Google’s ad network. So if you visit Home Depot to look for some products, don’t be surprised if you come here and see Home Depot ads on my site. If you visit Amazon a lot, there will probably be Amazon ads regularly on here.

I don’t really control what ads are showing up in that sense, I just have added the allowances for Google to handle it’s ad publishing through my site.

Please note, though – if you encounter an advertisement that is really bothersome (hijack ad, something highly inappropriate, etc), please feel free to reach out to me and let me know. I’ll contact the AdSense team and make sure it’s dealt with.

My goal with this is just to see if I can eventually bring enough money in with ads and my content to have it pay for the server regularly on its own.

Analytics

I do use Google Analytics for purposes of tracking where most of my visitors end up, in an effort to determine what content I should provide more of. Yes, it uses some form of cookie technology and does track you, but I am not selling this data or doing anything with it other than determining the best articles and content to provide.

Google may do some additional work with this data, too, but I honestly can’t answer a lot more on that myself. Still, if you are concerned, reach out to me and I’ll try to get you answers on what, if anything, Google does with that data. Again, my own use of the data is strictly limited to “how you found me, why you found me, where you spent your time, and what further content should I focus on generating”. I am not doing anything beyond that.

Push Notifications

Finally, I do make use of a push notifications service to send out occasional updates, especially if I publish something that I think might be worthy of calling attention to. My pickle chips article would be an example of something like that. I am not going to push something out every single time I publish an article at this stage; it has to be something particularly interesting before I do that.

So if you decide to accept notifications, you won’t get one every single time I do anything on here, but I will probably send a couple each week during periods of higher activity.

I hope all of this helps to clear things up for now.