Christmas at the Ranch

What's the opposite of a noisy, crowded, hurried Christmas?  It's Christmas at the ranch.   If you're a fan of that last couple of minutes at the end of CBS Sunday Morning, where they have a moment of nature, you're going to really enjoy this video.

It's 6 minute video taken with my new HD camera that shows a really quiet, peaceful scene of the horses, some Sandhill Cranes and my dog, Nellie.


Bill Maher's a Hero

It sad that some people think Bill Maher's not funny.

He's a comedian and comedian's are known for exposing hypocrisy. On Christmas eve he tweeted,  "Wow, Jesus just fXXX #TimTebow bad! And on Xmas Eve! Somewhere in hell Satan is tebowing, saying to Hitler 'Hey, Buffalo's killing them'."

Now a bunch of religious conservatives are calling for a boycott of HBO, the network Maher appears on.  Most religious conservatives probably don't watch HBO anyway and religious conservatives who are hypocrites probably do and won't stop.  Maher doesn't have to worry. He's safe at HBO.

My gag reflex kicks in whenever someone tries to tell me what to watch, read, listen to, etc.  Maher is funny and smart and I'll continue to watch him whenever I can.  Our society will certainly survive Maher's tweets and Tebow's religious zeal.

More at Chicago Tribune.


Dying at Christmas

Of all times of the year to die, why do people have to die at Christmas time?

The fact that people die at what's commonly believed to be the most joyous time of year is proof positive that there is no God.

Christmas is set aside as a time for most people in our country to at least pretend or attempt to be a little happier then other times of the year. Life is hard. Especially with the poor economy and chronic unemployment it's easy to feel depressed, downtrodden.  We go full speed all year, sweating and toiling;  trying to stay alive. Life is gray and difficult.

Then Christmas comes. A happy time. A time of parties and good food and gift giving. Then someone has to go and die and ruin all the good tidings.

I lost two good friends at Christmas.  Steve Stover was a kid I grew up with in Ohio. We met when I was about 12 years old. We were in the same classes and graduated high school together.  Afterward, he went off to the Navy and I  drifted in and out of college but we kept in close touch. We did a cross-country trip together in 1981.  He died of complication from pancreatic cancer the  day after Christmas in 1997.  He had just turned 41.

Just last year my friend Danny Smith died the day before Christmas Eve.  Between 1975 and 1982 we were as close as two friends could be.

Now just 8 days before Christmas Eve I learn that the incredibly gifted writer Christopher Hitchens has died. I tried to read everything he wrote. I certainly loved to see him take apart some feeble-minded, right-wing believer in a debate.  I could only hope to be half as smart as Hitchens.

It's certainly sad when anyone dies, anytime of the year.  There's something extra sad about having someone you love die during the holiday season.  Dying at Christmas makes it seem as though reality is mocking our childish beliefs about joy and peace and goodwill towards men. Of course it's not true but it sure seems that way to me.


Protect Yourself

Sure, in 1995 all I had was one Yahoo email address, so all I had to remember was one username and password.

But now I have at least 5 email accounts, Facebook,  online banking, insurance and more. In all I have about 100 online accounts. Up until a couple of years ago I used the same username and password for them all and then it dawned on me.  If someone guessed that one password, they could take over my life.

It's impossible to remember more then a few unique passwords. To be really secure online you should have a different password for each online account you have. The strength of a password is a function of length, complexity, and unpredictability.

I looked around for a solution and found Keepass Password Safe. This little program has been the best thing I've ever done to help protect myself online. KeePass is a free open source password manager. You put all your passwords in one database, which is locked with one master key or a key file. So you only have to remember one single master password file to unlock the whole database. The database is encrypted using the most secure encryption algorithms currently known. So all I have to remember is one password which I use to unlock my a file that contains all my other passwords.

With Keepass I make passwords that are 15-20 charaters long, with upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters like ?>!%. I never have to remember any of them.

I would highly recommend everyone who is online to get some sort of password manager. Hackers are out there looking for a way to take over your online accounts. Don't make it easy for them.

Keepass Password Safe is available for every operating system known to mankind. I use a portable version installed on a flash drive I can take with me wherever I go. Check them out on their website at: Keepass Password Safe.


National Novel Writing Month

November is National Novel Writing Month.

For the entire month people all over the country attempt to write a 50,000 word novel. That's approximately 175 pages in 30 days.  The goal is to take the procrastination out of novel writing.  There were over 210,000 people who participated in 2010. Of those, only 30,000 completed the 50K word goal by the end of the month.

It's not too late to sign up but you'll have to write 50,00 words by midnight tonight.  WOW!

For more information visit the National Novel Writing Month website.


What I'm Tired Of

  • I'm tired of driving to work every day. 
  • I'm tired of being taken for granted.
  • I'm tired of being dismissed. 
  • I'm tired of not having better things. 
  • I'm tired of not being taken seriously. 
  • I'm tired of giving my best. 
  • I'm tired of not being recognized. 
  • I'm tired of not getting the credit. 
  • I'm tired of the same old things. 
  • I'm tired of being told no. 
  • I'm tired of not having any fun. 
  • I'm tired of not being able to sleep. 
  • I'm tired of getting the short end. 
  • I'm tired of being required to smile. 
  • I'm tired of being lied to. 
  • I'm tired of not having enough time


People Who Worked at the Colonel

An old friend recently reminded me that I used to work at Colonel Sanders Kentucky Fried Chicken in high school. Here's an informal list of people who worked at the Colonel from March 1973 to May 1975. It's been a long time and I'm forgetting a lot of people. Terry Grovesnor - He was the manager when I started. Ernie Biggs - He was the assistant manager. He had a badass Charger, even if it was an automatic. Steve Stover - A guy I grew up with and one of my best friends. Mike Mitchell - A really good friend and a great personality. Kathy Barr - One of the girls that worked up front. Foxy! Barbara Jean Englemyer - One of the girls that worked up front. Too pretty to even talk to. Craig Patten - A really good friend who taught me a lot. I still talk to him from time to time. Betsy Dye - One of the girls that worked up front. Foxy! Was in my class at RHS. Gerry Gerkin - Was assistant manager and later manager. One of the nicest guys. Later joined the Navy. Bill Patterson - A great human, good friend and a guy I still keep in touch with. Candy Christensen - Dated Candy for a while. A really cool girl.


Danny Smith Passes

My good friend Danny Smith passed away on Thursday, December 23. I don't know the exact cause but he's been dealing with health problems associated with Hepatitis C for a couple of years now.

I was friends with Danny for 36 years. We had a LOT of good times together. He was like a brother to me. In fact, a couple of times people asked us if we were brothers. I am absolutely devastated to lose such a good friend. Someday I might write a long, in-depth story on our friendship and adventures, but for right now I wanted to get out this shorter tribute that touches on the highlights of our times together.

I met Danny at his brother's wedding. A girl I knew from high school asked me to go with her. Right away I learned this guy was someone who knew how to have a good time. He went to the same high school as me. What first solidified our friendship was a common interest in certain recreational activities that were popular in the 1970's.

Danny Smith
Danny graduated a year ahead of me but in December 1975 we shared an apartment near the campus of the Ohio State University in Columbus. I got a job working construction and he was just beginning to learn what would be his life long trade, carpentry. By February 1976 I convinced him to hitchhike to California with me.

Danny found a guy who was moving to Arizona and needed his extra car driven along. It would be Danny and I , but he also had this German Shepard mix dog named "Bear". So me and Danny and this dog followed this guy and his wife all the way to Tucson, Arizona. They drive a van while we followed along in a Mustang II. We also ended up spending time in San Diego, Tijuana, Mexico, and Las Vegas before finally heading back to Ohio. We spend a little over two months on the road, having a blast everywhere we went.

After we returned I ended up going back to school and Danny got a job but we always remained close friends. A lot of people don't know that Danny spent at least a half a year attending Ohio State University. I was at a party one winter night around 1981-82 when Danny met Diane. She would later give birth to Danny's son, Aaron.

During the years Danny lived in Arizona we weren't as close but we did talk on the phone when we could. By 1986 Danny was living in Florida and I came to visit during Spring Break. We had a great time. Two years later I graduated. I was going to go to California but my friend Steve couldn't put me up. I called Danny and he said sure come on down to Florida, so I did.

He was kind enough to put me up while I got a job and a place to live. Because he was adopted he would put anyone up for however long they needed it. He was like that. By 1989 both our lives had changed so much that we would never be as close as we had been. He had his life as a carpenter and a whole different circle of friends. I was just starting out in a career as a writer. We remained friends through out the years. I was honored to be the photographer at his wedding to Monica.

When he first told me about his Hepatitis infection I really thought he would beat it, either with drugs or he would get a new liver. He said the drugs made him too sick to even stand up and apparently he was not rich or famous enough to get a liver transplant. And so he passed on.

Danny Smith was such a shining star. He was kind, generous, and when he was around everyone was guaranteed to have a great time. A time they wouldn't forget. There's a hole in my life now. All I can say is I hope that we see each other again some day. And then the good times will live again