Sunday, August 28, 2011

ZAMM (part 2) - Journey through Life

Part 2 of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (ZAMM)

Remember board games? Long before computers, video games, etc. You may remember this one ...

The Game of Life

The Game of Life was invented in the 19th century by Milton Bradley.  A hundred years later, TV personality Art Linkletter became its spokesman in the 1960s and helped to make the game popular, again. (It was one of my favorites when I was a kid.)

In this 3 D board game, all the participants start out on a level playing field - one tiny plastic car inserted with one man (a blue peg) or woman (a pink peg). The car and its occupants (spouse, kids picked up along the way) jump along the wiggly line of squares on the board, following a path of twists and turns until you come to the end of road.

Along this Life's journey,the spin of the wheel and a few choices determines your career and salary, the inevitability of getting married, and possible expansion of the family. You go through good times with windfalls of cash. And there's the bad times of negative cash flow - taxes, payoffs to a fellow player who is wreaking revenge on you, helping a relative down on his luck.

Life reaches its climax at the Day of Reckoning. In the end, you will give an accounting of your worldly goods. Do you have enough cash to win? If not,you may opt to go for broke - putting all your assets on the wheel and giving it a spin. If fate has it and your number come up,you win the game. Hooray!  If not, you end up on the poor farm waiting for the others in the game to finish. In that case, the most fortunate - with piles of cash - retire to Millionaire's Acres.

End game?

In this version of Life, the end game is the one with the most money wins.  (That's if he/she doesn't get lucky at the spin of the wheel - kind of like winning the lottery.)  And I saw a bumper sticker expressing this world view once: The one who dies with the most toys wins.

But what does the Good Book say? To paraphrase Job - You can't take it with you. (reference Job 1:20-21)

The Journey of Life

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance describes a journey. The author, Robert Pirsig, with his son (and another couple who travel with them part of the way) embark on a trip riding motorcycles, starting in Minnesota. Their odyssey takes them through the badlands of the Dakotas, the varied landscapes of Montana and Idaho, and down the West Coast - many times on the road less traveled.

The experience of the motorcycle allows them to connect with their environment otherwise missed in the artificial bubble of a car. These travelers sense changes in the landscape and climate as well as the attitude of the people about them.

During this journey, the author has flashbacks of his old life, the one in which he went insane. His former self had been erased in a mental institution -- almost. From this background he tells his story - his journey and lessons he has learned and observed on the rocky road of his search for the meaning of values ... and even grasping for an attribute of the Divine perhaps?

Good News for our journey

Many philosophers describe life as a journey, like Robert Pirsig in his watershed book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.  Is the accumulation of material goods all there is?  Where are we?  Where have we been?  Where are we going? 

Yet, we are not totally left without a compass. The Real Game of Life comes with a Divine road map. Here is a sampling of the squares we may land on as mapped out by the Good Book.

Start of our journey:    We are all born into this imperfect world.

Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.
Job 5:7 (King James Version)

First leg of the journey:    During childhood, the development of our talents may need guidance and encouragement.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 22:6 (King James Version)

New territory:    We need a GPS from above to guide us, especially when we are young and starting out life outside the home.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Proverbs 1:7 (King James Version)

Warnings:    We need to discern the dangers in the road, ahead.

My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not.
Proverbs 1:10 (King James Version)

Alternate route:    Some of us may choose to get married and not go through our journey alone.

Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD.
Proverbs 18:22 (King James Version)

End of the road:    Near the end of life, we need assurance.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Psalm 23:4 (King James Version)

Exit sign and off-ramp:  The final exit comes when we leave the road of this life and step into eternity.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
Psalm 23:6 (King James Version)

Travel log:  It is being written in our lives every second.  Many have shared their experiences to  guide others on their journey in the real game of life.  Many have blogged about it and offered wonderful advice.  May the travel logs of others, who have mapped their way, help us to make wise choices along our path and avoid the dangers in the road ahead.

Question:  Any words of wisdom learned from your life's journey?

Check out:  ZAMM (part 1) - Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Photo: everystockphoto.comThe Game of Life

Monday, August 22, 2011

eReaders (Part 3) - PDFs cute and EZ


Most anyone who regularly uses the computer and peruses various types of files must have encountered documents in the PDF format.

And you need a special reader, such as an Adobe Reader, to look at it.

The PDF contents - text, graphics, format - display much like a picture on your screen.

Compared with other formats - various word docs (PC or mac), rich texts, plain texts, xml, html, etc. - the PDF has its good points ... and also has its ... erm ... features.

The upside of PDFs

raison d'etre

PDFs - Portable Document Formats - were a standard created so that the content of a file could be displayed in a form that would look the same regardless of its medium.

This solution has worked for various platforms and browsers - which can seem fickle when they display non-PDF material on the monitor. Likewise, for printers that can go rogue, PDF inputs deliver the expected output on the printed page.   What you see is what you get.

One of the features of eReaders - such as Kindle and Nook, as well as others - is the ability to download and display documents in the ubiquitous PDF format.  I have downloaded many articles and books as PDFs and have enjoyed the convenience of reading them at my leisure on my Nook. But PDFs have not been without their problems.

The downside of PDFs

It's always something!

Generally, PDFs are not as easy to handle on my Nook as the ePub format. Especially if they are big files.  Some of my downloaded PDFs are downright nasty.   Though they display their goodies on my PC, these PDFs deliver nothing but big X's (instead of the text and pictures) when side loaded on my Nook.

What to do?

I did two things.  I googled the problem for answers, and I also called a friend with a Nook.


Google is so handy for picking the shared memory of the internet. Other have been there, done that. And they are more than happy to tell the cyber world all about it.  As a result of googling, I came to some forums of those who had the same PDF problem. They had a cute solution. Literally.


There really is a free program - CutePDF. (Here is one place I found it: CutePDF Writer.) What is required is a Windows application that is able to print.  Well, I had those things.  So I downloaded the freeware and gave this cute solution a try. 

After the installation of CutePDF on my windows based PC, here are the steps I did to convert my problem PDF files:

* Select the problem PDF file
* Print the file, but choose the printer output - CutePDF Writer, which will result in some messages during the conversion that the file is being flattened. (If it is a large file, the conversion may take some time.)
* A "Save As" dialog box pops up allowing to save the CutePDF output to a filename of choice and location on the desktop
* Use this CutePDF as the import to the Nook

When the deed was done, I side loaded the converted PDF to my Nook -  voila!

I could see the goods.  Best of all this cute solution was free.

As for my second solution ....

I called a friend

My friend said it was EZ - literally.

And there was an app for that :


(Here is some info: ezPDF Reader)

For my Nook, I purchased the ezPDF Reader through my Barnes and Noble account. The store delivered the app to my Nook, like any eBook I had purchased through them. The app cost at the time $.99, but was worth every 99 pennies - plus tax.

This video describes ezPDF app quite well:

Now, I can open any PDF on my Nook that I have tried so far, even the offending PDFs. The app works well and has a page turning feature among others described in the video above that are not provided by cutePDF.

Downside, it's not free (but close to it - a plus).  And I have to open up the ezPDF app first, then look for my specific PDF file to read the document with ezPDF.

Otherwise, the ezPDF app does provide tools, which are similar to those that work on ePubs.  And I'm sure future apps will get even better.

Question:  Any advice in managing your PDFs on your eReaders?

photo form eReader Comparison

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

What a Ham I am (Part 3) - Hams make Contact

Since I was kid, I have loved science and was fascinated by good science fiction stories.


In early grade school, my first love was  Fireball XL5 during the age of the Space Race. Venus, the woman doctor and romantic interest of pilot Steve Zodiac, was my role model.

Then, as I approached junior high, along came Star Trek.  In the original series, the men were men (if they were not space aliens) and women wore very, very short skorts.  (Hey, this was the 1960s.)  And Mr. Spock was far-out, in many ways.

1970s .... 1980s

My college years, though, left little time for TV and little money for movies.  But during this time, the first of the Star Wars movies made its debut in 1977. And there were the endless reruns of the original Star Trek, followed by the first of many Star Trek movies.  And don't get me started on Star Trek - the Next Generation and its many other incarnations and movie sequels ....


Then came the 1990s, the other turn of the century.  The year 1997 was memorable in science fiction. Carl Sagan's book Contact was made into a movie. Though the movie deviated some from the book, the story on the big screen still told a good yarn and brought forth the long running discussion of science versus faith.

Hams make Contact?

The opening scene of Contact was awesome.   We (especially hams) never know where our electromagnetic emissions will end up as they spread out across the universe. In the final seconds of the clip below, ham radio sparked the love of science and exploration in a little girl.

Those familiar with the movie know that this little girl would grow up to become Dr. Ellie Arroway, the protagonist of the story.  And she was a ham.  Another role model,

21st Century?

Now, we live in an age dominated by the Internet, cell phones, and numerous gadgets that tap into cyberspace.  Ham radio may seem so last millennium. But as we have seen in the news, systems get hacked, systems go down.  Meanwhile, amateur radio communications still work in spite of attacks or disasters.  Ham radio is not only a fun hobby, but a skill that can be so important to communicate with each other during emergencies when our higher tech systems fail.

Hams - the Next Generation

Like in the story of Ellie Arroway, hams need to continue to inspire children to love science and explore.  Not only that, ham skills need to be passed on to -  Hams - the Next Generation.

Who knows?  Hams may be sorely needed during troubled days and the next big national emergency.

Question:  Any movies or shows inspire you to pursue your hobby?

Photo from Wiki CommonsVery Large Array