A Throwback Vacation

When my father retired to Sarasota, Florida in the late 1980s, he quickly grew tired of the summer weather there and began spending summers in North Carolina.  Beech Mountain is just across the Tennessee border, in the northwest corner of the state, off the Blue Ridge Parkway and nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountain range.  Every year, he’d rent a house or chalet and spend six or eight weeks relishing the milder summer weather.

Map of North Carolina

Boone is 17 miles southeast of Beech Mountain

It turns out Beech Mountain is a day’s drive from Northern Virginia.  I would routinely spend a week visiting with my dad, taking my daughter at times, and we’d enjoy the food, the sights, the attractions and the free lodging!  Dad passed away in 2005.  I don’t recall how many years it had been since he’d made the trip, so it became just a memory.

Along comes COVID.  The cruises and airlines are shut down and after a year of working from home, I felt the need to get away.  Besides, I have so much vacation time built up, I need to burn some.  What could I do?  I’d been to Davis, WV just a year or so ago, so that didn’t appeal to me.  Then it hit me:  I could drive to Beech Mountain and do like dad.  I went online and found a nice small place that was available and rented it for a week.

My fortunes have been good:  Memorial Day is still a week away, so the summer tourist season hasn’t been in full swing, yet.  I spent a day exploring Grandfather Mountain, and another roaming around Boone and Blowing Rock.  The latter so named because of its interesting rock formation when the wind from below seems to blow upwards!

It’s kind of like Old Home Week.  Many of the places I knew are still there; the venerable Fred’s General Mercantile is still the center of town, and Fred Pfohl is still owner and proprietor.

Fred's General Mercantile

South entrance to Fred’s

The Alpen Inn and the ski resort are still there, as is the Famous Brick Oven Pizza.

Famous Brick Oven Pizzeria

Still serving after 25 years

It’s been so long since I was last here, visits to Grandfather Mountain and Blowing Rock were like seeing them for the first time.  Both have seen major improvements.

View From Grandfather Mountain

View from near the pinnacle

Exactly one mile above sea level

It’s been a good week.  I stopped at the Edelweiss restaurant on the way and had a bountiful Schweinshaxe and then found the little condo I’d rented to be perfectly suited to my needs.  Comforts of home, with a view to match.

Perfect as a home base, and perfect as a “home away from home.”  I’m glad I made the trip!

On This Day in 2021

Nothing happened.

The Occupant of the White House kept America’s credit card in his pocket and didn’t spend money (that we know of).  The Washington Nationals, as a result of a four game winning streak, moved into a first place tie with the NY Mets.  But they’re only 24 games into a 162 game season.  And their record is 12-12.  (It is fun to watch future hall-of-famer Max Scherzer pitch, though).

No riots have been reported, and COVID-19-20-21-22 is not the leading story in the news.  Oh, the rule makers are still trying to play it for all it’s worth, but it’s more and more obvious it’s a “plan-demic” as opposed to a pandemic.

Wait.  Hold the phone.  It just hit the news wire:  Bill and Melinda Gates have announced they are ending their marriage.  First it was Jeff Bezos, now Bill Gates.  I guess the pitfall to being the richest man in the world is that marriage is unsustainable.  I doubt this will affect many outside their circle.

All my computers, cars and appliances are functioning normally.  All my guitars are strung and playable.  I get my daily exercise and have now been twice vaccinated.  In two weeks, I’ll be on vacation.  Today, nothing happened.

But I felt like writing about it.  🤓

Change Is A-Coming

This past year has been almost a daily re-hash of wake, coffee, work, exercise, eat and sleep. Rinse and repeat. So, it’s with a bit of excitement that I find myself all of a sudden involved with several new projects that have grabbed my attention.

In addition to adding a humidifier to my guitar room, I’ve subscribed to online guitar lessons from ActiveMelody. With hundreds (or thousands) of online lessons to choose from, I found this one addressing the kind of guitar playing I’m interested in. I am always hesitant to purchase online anything, but as one person on the site’s forum put it, a year’s subscription costs only a little more than a couple of in-person lessons. A good point, given that I spent a year with in-person lessons that cost much more than I paid for a year of tabs, downloadable jam tracks, and video lessons I can access whenever I wish. I am enjoying it so far!

The other project that has me all a-twitter began as the germ of an idea when I discovered that my favorite guitar forum might be lapsing into disuse. It’s a long story I won’t go into now, but this site has a “sister” site and the idea is to just have everyone move into one. The problem I (and some others) have, is that I don’t like the sister site!

So I got the idea of seeing how difficult it might be to create an alternate forum. I already have a domain and a site (this one), and checking with my ISP, found that I had plenty of storage and bandwidth, and that I could run a forum — perhaps as a subdomain to this (but more on that later. Maybe.).

I began researching forum software. There’s a lot of it available, both commercial and free. Side note: I believe forums are one of the oldest concepts enabled by the Internet. We used to have “bulletin board systems” (BBS) before the Internet. A forum is just a newer form of BBS. Since I participate in a number of forums (fora?) I started looking into what software they were using. A lot of cream rose to the top in short order. Here are some that I found.

  • xenForo.  This is a commercial product.  $160 for a license if you self-host it. $55 every year thereafter.  A lot of sites I visit have moved to this platform.
  • phpBB.  Many software packages proclaim they are #1, but in this case, phpBB may be correct.  The software has been around since 2000, and it’s 100% free!
  • Discourse.  This is very modern software, “designed for the next 10 years of the Internet.” Their business model suggests paying them to host your forum, but the software is free.  Being modern, it automatically reformats for smart devices as well as browsers.
  • vBulletin.  Another popular commercial package.$249 to purchase, or a monthly hosting place from $15 per month and up.

I looked at some others, but these were the standouts.  There are plenty of review sites, and I found this one lists all of the above, with comments.  Wikipedia has a table comparing forum software capabilities. Not wanting to shell out dollars for a proof-of-concept, I decided to see what some of the free packages offer.  I downloaded DIscourse and installed it on my Linux server, and then I fetched phpBB and installed it on my Mac.  Yes, that’s right, I put a software forum on my Mac!

At first, I was hesitant to install on my Mac, because with all the needed components, I thought it might chew up too much disk space.  Wow, was I mistaken!

Based on php, the scripting language designed for the web, it wasn’t necessary to install, because Macs already ship with it.  I just made sure it was up to date.  Years ago I found a free web server alternative to Apache (which is bundled with every Mac, but I find difficult to set up) called Abyss Web Server from a company called Aprelium.  I’ve used in for years, and it’s solid and feature-filled.  All I needed was a database, so I downloaded SQLite3 and created an empty database.  The install was a snap, and I began to build a forum.  I downloaded and installed a theme I liked, a language pack for American English (British English is the default) and even poked a hole through my router so that a couple of people I invited could look at it.

Well, that was a fun couple of days.  Now to my ISP…

In conversing with one of their staff (maybe the only one — she’s been with the company since before I became a customer — and that was 25 years ago!) she informed me I could install phpBB without a problem, and that she created a sub-domain so that I could add the forum without clobbering this site.  It’s done.  Now, my next step is to take what I’ve learned locally and start thinking globally!

I'm so happy!



I don’t update this site on a regular schedule; I do so whenever the mood strikes. I debated making this post for a day or two before actually sitting down to write, and if it weren’t for the fact I was notified of some necessary site maintenance, might have let the moment pass.

Yesterday (March 32, 2021) was the birthday of Theodor Seuss “Ted” Geisel, known worldwide by his pen name: Dr. Seuss (in truth, he was never a doctor). It was also Read Across America Day, chosen specifically to coincide with Dr. Seuss’s birthday. Geisel authored 60 books, which sold upwards of 600 million copies, and were translated into 20 languages (source: Wikipedia).

As a kid, I remember reading his books, their rhyming, almost-doggerel and bendy, twisty figures spanning pages and telling stories that were both lighthearted and childish as well as morality tales. Horton Hears a Who!‘s moral was: A person’s a person, no matter how small.

The same “Horton” (an elephant) reprised his gentle, caring role in Horton Hatches The Egg. The moral of this story is about keeping one’s word. “I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. . . . An elephant’s faithful, one hundred per cent!”

Dr. Seuss’s honors include two Academy Awards, two Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal, the Inkpot Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Additionally, he was honored with a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame (ibid).

All of this sounds perfectly deserving of the acclaim and honors bestowed on Geisel, during his life and after his death. So why then, is this post entitled, “Unsanity?”

There are other uses for this term. I chose it because “insanity” doesn’t seem to even begin to describe what’s going on in the U. S. A. and by inference, the rest of the world today. There is a concerted effort to rewrite history, and a growing “cancel culture” has arisen that seeks to airbrush (or worse) elements of the American experience from all media and mention. Statues of Founding Fathers have been toppled Taliban-like, posts and articles have been “fact checked” and blocked from social media, and even upcoming social media site Parler was “de-platformed” by Amazon Web Services, causing the site to go completely offline for weeks until it could find another hosting service.

All of this reeks of a world gone mad. America is supposed to be the “shining city on a hill,” as Ronald Reagan quoted in his farewell address. A beacon of hope and freedom. The Statue of Liberty beckoning those “yearning to breathe free.” So, what happened?

The Loudoun County, Virginia public school system (the county in which I currently live) has determined that “after studying” Geisel’s books and tearing them apart under the guise of “social justice,” they now are deemed racist in nature and should no longer be the “focus” of the Read Across America Day. Right.

This comes right on the heels of a decision by the Hasbro Toy Company to remove the “Mr.” and “Mrs.” designations from their Potatohead toys (point of historical fact: When I was a kid, a real potato was used as the subject one plugged in the articles – eyes, glasses, hands, feet, etc.). Really? IT’S A POTATO, folks!

It would be easy to say these “issues” and items being promulgated today are insane. But that’s an easy out. It goes beyond sane or insane. It’s UNSANE!

Taking a Giant Leap

I have spoken many times about guitars and guitar playing. It’s perhaps the one passion that has sustained me since I was a teenager. I took a few years off after breaking my left elbow, but I didn’t get rid of my guitars, I just put them away for a while.

Over the past few years I have acquired a number of guitars. Some of them based on a perceived “collectibility” and others because they struck my fancy. Some I play, some I will likely never (or almost never) play, and others I have a pure joy every time I pick them up. Yes, I have a few clunkers as well. I wouldn’t have admitted that a few years ago, but it’s true; not only will I not play them, but now I don’t even like them!

Currently, I have three guitars (four, if you count my lovely little KLŌS travel guitar) that I find myself playing frequently. At least one of the four every day! I love them all, and they each have characteristics that lend themselves to my playing enjoyment. Do I have pictures? Let’s see…

Ibanez AG95QA
Taylor GS Mini-e Koa
1957 Gibson ES-225t

And just for grins and giggles, my KLŌS and Gretsch “Jim Dandy” – Parlor guitars, if you will.

Gretsch G9500 “Jim Dandy”
KLŌS carbon fiber travl guitar

It’s eye candy to me, even if it does nothing for you! 😁

So, where am I going with this? It’s the giant leap of the title.

Last week, I was reading a guitar forum (one of many I belong to) and one of the posters wrote a glowing letter of recommendation for a guitar maker in Oregon named Stephen Holst. Very quickly, others joined in and were in universal praise for the man and his guitars. They included photos.

Holst makes custom guitars. I asked the forum members about the process and then I reached out to Holst himself. This is a photo that inspired me to consider having him build me a guitar.

Holst custom guitar, “ch1.”

Steve sent me a spreadsheet that when I looked at it bowled me over: Bracing type? Tailpiece type? Pickups? Wow. I filled out those items I felt I could and asked him to guide me with the rest. And so it begins…

I don’t know what the final price will be, but the round numbers on his web site, plus the fact he takes a down payment means that I can actually get a guitar made exclusively for me, and one that I hope combines the best features of the three guitars (above) that I love to play. More will be revealed…

An Open Letter to Apple

Dear Mr. Cook:

I am dismayed at Apple’s decision to remove the Parler app from the App Store. In many ways, this seems contrary to Apple’s founding and original character.

The Mac Team and the Pirate Flag

My love for Apple and its products began in the late 1970s. I had first an Apple //e, then a IIc. When I was able to get my hands on a Macintosh, I replaced the IIc quickly. I’ve read all 122 stories by and about the Mac team at folklore.org. When Steve Jobs raised the skull and crossbones flag and declared, “It’s better to be a pirate than join the navy,” the tone was set. Apple wasn’t going to “go along,” Apple was going to be a challenger. A trend-setter.

I remember the “dark days” of Apple after Steve left. I remember Michael Spindler and Gil Amelio and the horrendously complex line of boring, tan computers. I remember the rumors that Apple was going to be acquired by Sun Microsystems. I remember Microsoft, considered to be Apple’s staunchest rival, infusing Apple with $!50 million to keep the company solvent. I remember buying Guy Kawasaki’s book, How to Drive Your Competition Crazy, and buying and proudly wearing a “Mac Evangelist’ shirt (which I still own).

The one and only MacWorld D. C. occurred in 1989, and I attended gleefully. I won a copy of Informix’s Wingz program which was completely ahead of its time. I belonged to several Macintosh user groups. I bought the first three volumes of Inside Macintosh (hardcover!), and the first edition of The Macintosh Bible, and I still revere its First Commandment: “This is the Macintosh. It’s supposed to be fun!”

This is a Second Edition cover; I couldn’t find a First Edition.

Owning and using a Mac, and then later Apple products was a pleasure and filled with satisfaction. A quick inventory of Apple products I own shows Macs (6), iPads (2), iPods (7), Airpods (2), iPhone (1), Magic Mouse (3), Apple Watch (1) and assorted cables, cases, connectors and keyboards. On top of that I have five shirts, including the Mac Evangelist shirt mentioned above and two coffee cups.

I became a shareholder 20 years ago. Apple’s stock has been one of the best investments I have made! I cheered when Apple became the first company ever to exceed the $1 trillion market valuation.

Somewhere along the line, Apple became the “establishment” as we used to call it. That same establishment that Steve Jobs so despised. I’m sad to say the products don’t work the way the old ads used to claim: “There is no step three.” I have experienced software glitches with macOS security updates, my new iPhone didn’t automatically transfer data from my old iPhone, and crashes are now more frequent than the “sad Mac” one would rarely experience.

And now, Apple has put the icing on the cake with its decision to remove the Parler app from the App Store. Personally, I don’t like and have little use for “social media” (which is anything but, in my opinion), but this move seems capricious and divisive. I’ve been to Parler, and I have never read any article or posting there inciting anyone to violence. I have read and seen worse on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Those apps are not banned from the App Store, which makes me wonder about selective indignation. If Parler were offering pornography, weapons building instructions or clearly illegal content, I could understand it. But this strikes me as a move to silence voices you don’t want heard.

Would you have silenced Steve Jobs because of his pirate flag?

Sociopathy = Social Distancing + Social Media

I started writing this blog post on an online forum, and then felt it might better fit here.

It occurred to me this morning, as sometimes thoughts like this do, during my shower that we (the royal “we”) are once again being manipulated like cattle in the pens heading for the slaughter.  How?  

Ever since the coronavirus lockdowns started, I have internally rebelled at the term, “social distancing.”  Who came up with that term, why, and what does it mean?  In fact, the advice we hear to ostensibly help protect us against contracting the virus, is to physically distance ourselves from one another by six feet. So why not just say so?

Perhaps this is mental manipulation.  Because the more physically distant we become from one another, the more our innate need to socialize (man is a social being) reaches out and finds… social media.

New Yorker cartoon published on July 5, 1993 – the same year the Internet became public – is captioned, “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.”

The implications of this cartoon – the most widely reproduced New Yorker cartoon, according to Wikipedia – are that behind the firewall of one’s computer, one can pretend to be anyone or anything.  Enter “social media.”  I am not a sociologist, although I did some study decades ago in college, but to almost anyone with a semblance of a brain, examples of people pretending to be things they are not run rampant on the Internet. 

So why not us?  My inherent trust in people (which has gotten me in trouble before) wants to believe that everyone reading this is exactly who and what they say they are.  But if I say I’m a 6-foot-5, 250-lb. former Navy SEAL with extensive experience in black ops and multiple contacts within the intelligence community, who’s to say I’m wrong? (I’m not, by the way).  

Judging someone by their looks is almost as bad as judging someone by their intentions.  You can only judge someone by their actions.  It isn’t a stretch of the imagination to take a look at the giants of the tech industry and believe that they weren’t the guys in school the girls were all chasing after.  Facebook, in fact, was created by “geeks” to rate the attractiveness of coeds at Harvard.  It’s probably safe to say that Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey and others of their ilk weren’t like Yankee Doodle Dandy, and “with the girls be handy.” The image of the four-eyed geek sitting in his mother’s basement, pens in a pocket protector, gazing at a computer screen is known to everyone, I daresay. 

I was one of them.  I wasn’t “handy” with the girls, but I was good with technology, and made a career of it.  A good career, in fact.  It has allowed me to survive the ups and downs of economic swings, and yes, I got married and had a family.  So even geeks can succeed, depending on how you measure success. 

Being good with technology means being able to manipulate things. Computers, cars, cameras, vacuum cleaners, thermostats, light timers, video recorders (remember those?).  It does NOT mean manipulating people. But I think we have reached a point in our disintegrating culture and civilization where the manipulators are using “social distancing” to push us to “social media” where content and concepts are being filtered to present us with a single view of the world.  Churches, restaurants and bars – places where people gather to talk, exchange ideas and “socialize” are being withheld from us, for reasons that appear to make no sense. The sociopaths have found a way to herd us like cattle.  And the drug of “social media,” where nobody knows we’re a dog, blinds us to that. 

With an Asterisk (*)

Lately I have been seeing a number of (mostly op-ed) articles placing an asterisk after Joe Biden’s name: Biden*

I am going to adopt this typography, as it speaks volumes to how the political landscape in the U. S. A. works today. At present, Joseph Robinette Biden seems poised to assume the office of President of the Unites States despite all logical indications he did not win that office. At least not fairly.

I won’t go into the many arguments, papers, treatises, videos, affidavits, charts and proclamations that make the point that massive fraud occurred during the presidential election of 2020, and that the true winner was the incumbent. It’s extremely rare for an incumbent to lose re-election. Especially when the record of accomplishments is as lengthy as president Donald John Trump’s.

Pictures Say More Than Words

The image above, as unfocused as it may be, tells the story without words: BIden rarely left his basement, and even put a “lid” on public appearances, while Trump traveled the country holding rallies, where thousands of enthusiastic supporters showed up. Weather be damned and COVID be damned. There is so much wrong that “statistics” show how improbable Biden’s “victory” could be. Yet, the media and “big tech” played handmaidens to the Democrats, and Biden’s victory has been proclaimed as if it were a fait accompli.

Thus the asterisk. I will never believe that Biden* won the presidency. If he takes the office on January 20th, 2021, he will be a “pretender.” A “president-select,” as it were. There will always be an asterisk attached to his presidency. For me and for 74 million other Americans.

I Love It Here. So, I’m Leaving.

If you work in an organization that uses email as a major form of communication, you’ve no doubt been the recipient of the global “blast” farewell message. You know the kind. Generically, the email goes out to everyone in the company/organization/division/group/whatever, and announces the sender is leaving for greener pastures.

But wait, that’s not enough. The person writing the email typically says something to the effect, “I’ve made some lifelong friends here, and this has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career.”

There are even templates and guidance on writing such an email. The authors of these pieces of wisdom suggest that you are being considerate, thanking people you may not have had an opportunity to say good-bye to in person.

What I don’t understand is, the general tone of these emails suggests that the employment they’re leaving has been the pinnacle of their career, the company the best on earth, and the people the most wonderful creatures ever. So, if things are so great, why are they leaving?

If and when I leave my current employment (retirement looms only a short way down the road), I have no intention of writing a sophomoric “love letter” to the entire company. As the cartoon to the right suggests, when that day comes, I’ll just pack up and walk out the door. Done.

Can We Return To Normal?

The headline is one I’ve been seeing and reading a lot recently. In my opinion, it’s an unanswerable question until we first define “normal.” I have long held that “normal” is a setting on a washing machine. There are no “normal” people, and I think a fair argument could be made that the year 2020 was anything but normal!

First, there was the COVID-19 pandemic, which as I write this, is still front page news, and has half the world’s population cowering under the bedsheets. Then there was the U. S. presidential election with the revelations of media bias, pollsters making, not taking opinion, and big tech become the ham-fisted Big Brother we’ve talked about but never worried about. Until now.

“Rebel Alliance” Post-It Note

The divisiveness heightened by the election campaign continues even post-election. It staggers my mind to think that as technologically advanced as is the United States, a secure, streamlined process for holding elections — a mainstay of the American system — can’t be implemented. Oh, that’s right: One of the allegations raised is that bogeyman George Soros financed, at least in part, the manufacturer of the voting machines used in 16 states. As one side proclaims victory, the other side continues to challenge the validity and honesty of the election. What strikes me as pathetically laughable is that the presumptive winner is vowing to be “president of all,” and is expressing a desire for unity. Excuse me? This is the same party that nineteen minutes after President Trump was inaugurated proclaimed, “The campaign to impeach President Trump has begun.” (Washington Post, January 20, 2017). Funny, they had four years to “unify,” work “across the aisle,” and the House of Representatives, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) concerned itself more with bogus documents, anonymous whistleblowers and efforts to block any progress by the Trump administration — including COVID relief. Were it not for Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in the Senate, it’s unlikely Trump would have been able to appoint three Associate Justices to the Supreme Court.

That all may be part of the way sausage is made, as the old saying goes, but this time, not only was the sausage-making in full view, but the mask of impartiality was stripped from the media, the pollsters, and even the big tech giants.

It has been my observation for close to twenty years, that the media had stopped reporting the news and had become a 24-hour-a-day propaganda machine. Only when cataclysmic events (fires, floods, earthquakes) transpired did the media avert its gaze from its attempts to brainwash us to do actual reporting. I have since sought to get news from abroad, where the media doesn’t have as deep an investment in the American landscape (sure, many of them are part of the globalist agenda, but they aren’t fixated on the U. S.).

When the polls were so obviously wrong in 2016 (Hillary Clinton was posted to a 96% assurance level of winning), the thinking was that the pollsters would reset their algorithms and do better next time. 2020 was that “next time,” and once again, they got it wrong. Not entirely, though. Being part of the campaign to elect Joe Biden, they continued to flog the beast in the attempt to influence voter opinion, not take it. However, they neglected the local races and House and Senate races, and came up far short. Their dishonesty is a visible as the media’s.

CEOs of Google, Facebook & Twitter

Big tech is the eye-opener. But maybe it shouldn’t be. It’s no secret that the majority of campaign contributions from the big tech companies go to Democrats and Leftist causes. While I can’t fully explain the why of this, I suspect much of it has to do with the Democrats’ continued outsourcing of intellectual property and manufacturing, thereby lining the coffers of the tech elites. As Dinesh D’Souza put it in his film, Trump Card (paraphrasing), “Remember when your parent told you to eat your dinner because there were starving kids in India? Nowadays, they tell their kids, ‘go to college, there are Indian kids out after your job.'” By cozying up to Washington, the big tech companies can avoid close scrutiny and possible anti-trust regulations.

The genius of the American system is twofold. First, the adventurous and entrepreneurial will find alternatives. Already, there are new social media platforms showing up that promise no censorship, and privacy of information. I have already joined MeWe, and I’m looking into Parler.

You see, it’s been my experience that when dictators, autocrats and oligarchs begin acting TOO tyrannical, the serfs rebel.

My rebellion has started. We may never get to “normal,” but then again, what is “normal?”