Saturday, April 23, 2016

"On The Go" with Android

Because of gray clouds covering the sky and a 15% chance of precipitation I had thought about writing this post out on my own deck by the patio table, but considering that I'm wanting to showcase the OTG ("On The Go") functionality of my Android devices I decided that it would simply be stupid to write the post at home rather than "on the go."  I'm taking a decided risk here because I've been caught in "15% chance of precipitation" on the scooter in the past, and I can assure you that it's every bit as wet and cold as 100% chance of precipitation is.  My location of choice for this post, McDonald's, the first of the cheapo food places to offer free Wifi.  I can fill my belly with two sausage burritos and a senior soda for $3.17 so even though it's not my favorite restaurant, (and I call it a restaurant loosely, but that's a whole 'nother story), it suffices for a task such as the one I'm in the process of undertaking.  And, check out the amount of junk inside a single burrito.  Not bad for a buck!

I pause here to read over the preamble above and think about my honey telling me all the time that I'm too wordy. True, but as I often counter, "Would you want to buy a book about the sinking of the Titanic to read, 'Ship hits iceberg.  Lots of people drown.  THE END.'?"

 Everything I need to blog "On The Go" fits into this case, smaller than a McDonald's tray.

While the rest of my family members would be lost without their precious iPhones, my allegiances to companies are always far removed from the Apple empire.  So it is with my PC and Windows based netbook and laptop, and thus also with my mobile devices all running Google's Android operating systems.  I like the way all of Google's products tie together and if they're collecting data and using what they learn about me for whatever business purposes might suit them, God bless them.  It costs me nothing to use their services heavily and freely so I'm okay with that. 

The small cable immediately to the left of the red card reader is all it takes to attach a peripheral with a standard USB male plug to an Android device.

I would venture to bet that the vast majority of Android users have no idea what OTG is all about, but with a standard USB female to USB Mini male adapter, there seems to be no end to what peripherals you can plug into an Android device and use!  You’ll notice in the pictures accompanying this post that there are no wires between the keyboard and the mouse running into the tablet which is a Lenovo S8-50F.  They’re both connected to the tablet via Bluetooth.  

So, what’s the thrill about OTG?  For me it’s basically transferring data easily and conveniently when I’m “on the go.”  Unlike many folks I know I can’t stand letting pictures accumulate on my phone or camera card and I regularly download them as soon as I can after an event at which I might have taken many.  I am NOT like so many people, especially females, who’ll grab their phones to show you pictures of their kids (or worse, grand kids) that they might have taken three years ago.  The pictures I want the world to see go on Facebook or get e-mailed to whomever I’d like to see them.  The rest go into storage where, at the moment, I have 81,628 family pictures taken since 1986 when I got my mitts on my first digital camera.  I probably have more than that many in different directories showcasing various other times and events. 

The picture immediately above this one and the paragraph atop it was pulled from the camera's SD card using the card reader plugged into the tablet with the adapter cable
Here’s how the OTG works.  Let’s say I’m away for a four day vacation.  Each day I’ll take bunches of photos (after reminding myself that digital photos are essentially free and that I can shoot as many as I want).  Each evening with the small adapter cable, and a card reader, I’ll download all of the day’s pictures to the tablet.  But, I like redundant backups, so I’ll also use OTG to copy the pictures to an ingenious flash drive made by SanDisk so that there will be copies on the tablet and on the flash drive.  After that I can format the card, stick it back into the camera, and be ready for another day of photography.  And, I can enjoy looking at the day’s gatherings on the screen of the tablet which is much bigger and of a better resolution than the camera’s own stingy disply screen. 

Here’s the flash drive I’m referring to...   

 A button on the side slides one way to expose an mini USB male that plugs into the tablet or the phone to gather data, or to add it if so desired.  Slide the button to the opposite end of the little device, though, and it’s a full sized USB male read to interface with the netbook, laptop, or PC!  Here I am at McD’s with this post in progress.  I took a picture of myself with the camera and within a minute there it was on the screen of the laptop for me to insert right here within the post itself.  (Yes, the camera has built in Wifi and I can pull pictures from it straight to my tablet or phone, but it’s battery intensive so if I’m moving more than just a few files, I use the cable.)  It should be noted that any flash drive can be interfaced with an OTG adapter and used with a compatible Android device.

To be sure, without Bluetooth a full sized PC keyboard, a numeric keypad, and a wireless mouse dongle can be plugged into the Android devices and work automatically without one having to install any kinds of drivers.  If your device is OTG compatible it seems that somehow it just knows what you’ve plugged into it and away it goes with complete functionality.  You can even run, for example, a keyboard AND a mouse with a USB bus. I haven't tried attaching a printer, though, because I can't see a situation where it would be practical to take one with me to a remote location.

Perhaps the most exciting discovery to me is that a full external hard drive can be ported into an Android device.  My entire album of those 81K+ pictures that I’ve taken are on a terabyte drive that stores easily in the case I take with me when I’m in the mood for some OTG action.  That drive is my tertiary redundant backup of all the files I’ve accumulated since I’ve had a PC so with my tablet and its OTG capabilities, I can access anything I might ever need from my past computing history no matter where I go. 

One of my old blog headers from the terabyte hard drive on the right was pulled up within seconds of searching for it.  The tablet's own battery is sufficient to power the external hard drive.

Finally, yes there are other ways to accomplish data transfer from mobile devices to and from each other and with full sized computers, but there are times when circumstances and the unavailability of Wifi connectivity make them less practical than using a physical device to do it.  Besides, I just think that OTG is cool!  If you found this article enlightening and you’d like to give OTG a shot, do be aware that OTG adapter prices vary greatly from place to place.  I think I saw one at Best Buy for over $30 that you can get online for about a buck and a quarter.  Also, it needs to be noted that since Lollipop came out, Android devices can’t write directly to OTG peripherals without a little research and adaptation, but everything one might need to know is out there on Google.

Friday, April 22, 2016

A Peculiar Freedom

Before I left the hospital in September, the cardiologist who placed my stents ordered me gently to walk daily.  “Walk out your front door, pick a direction, and walk for 15 minutes; then turn around and go back.”  Thirty minutes a day was mandated, and although it’s difficult to complete some days because of the bad knee which seems to be getting worse, maybe because of the walking, I do it faithfully.

When I started the daily walks I was using a cane and they weren’t easy.  I teeter when I walk, like a penguin waddling on its short little feet.  The prescription of a walker with wheels and a built-in seat was a godsend and while it doesn’t make the knee hurt any less, it stabilizes my gait so at least I don’t look like I had half a bottle of vodka before leaving the house. 

My neighborhood isn’t one to walk in.  Through just my adult lifetime we’ve watched the area go to pot with the influx of many unsavory looking characters with whom I’d prefer not to interact so when I first started walking I went to residential areas nearby that have yet to become blighted by people who I will kindly say just don’t happen to share the same core values as I.  Over time I graduated to walking outdoors atop the levees that form the walls beside the Susquehanna River as it courses through Wilkes-Barre and surrounding communities.  They’re paved, smooth, and without the clickety-clunk of the walker’s wheels that was constant when I was walking over sidewalks.  And they’re more open to the enjoyment of the fresh air and sunshine than the areas below where each house is built nearly on top of the one next to it, so densely were they packed when they were built, many of them in the early 1900s.

When I started using the walker, there was one huge thing about it that was far from ideal.  I couldn’t ride the scooter to where I was going to walk as I’d been doing when I was walking with only a cane.  When winter came and I was grounded by the weather I started walking in various large stores nearby, using a shopping cart to ease the legs rather than the walker.  Then spring arrived and I found myself walking indoors on way too many beautiful days simply because I could take the scooter, park near a cart corral, and use that to do my walking.

I built onto the back of the Piaggio the first summer that I had it a very sturdy aluminum frame to use for carting things and with strategically placed eye hooks I could attach nearly anything to it with bungee cords.  Eventually I came to add what used to be a little metal shelf, but mounted to the scooter vertically to serve as an anchor for the crate that I usually carry because it’s so convenient for picking up groceries and the like.  I’d suspected for a while that somehow I’d be able to hang the walker from the frame, using the shelf thing to keep it upright during the ride to where I’d be taking it.  My suspicions were confirmed yesterday when I actually gave it a try and discovered that I couldn’t have made the dimensions of the frame so near to the leg span of the walker if I’d actually tried building it for the role reason of transporting the walker.  I enjoyed my first walk outdoors just a little later, taking the walker for its inaugural ride on the scooter.  It worked like a charm!

Even though I’d always considered riding a scooter to be a unique form of freedom (All the fun of a motorcycle without the hassle of shifting through gears.) now, I’ll be enjoying the peculiar freedom of being able to take the scooter to where I’d like to walk on a given day, but with the support of the walker to help me on my way.  I’ll venture to bet that there won’t be too many scooters on the road with handicap license plates and walkers hung on the backs of them, nor all that many riders feeling uniquely blessed with the ability to keep on doing what they love to do, but in a unique way.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Tee Shirt, Shorts, and Sandals Season is Here!

I mentioned recently that last year on the first day of spring on which it was warm enough to celebrate being able to take the scooter out clad in only a tee shirt, short pants, and sandals, I posted a picture of myself wearing the light stuff with the good news on Facebook in one of the scooter forums.  Almost immediately the ATGATT (All the gear, all the time.) legion was all over me, chastising me as if I were a public sinner of some kind.

I felt like a transgender person trying to use the legally forbidden bathroom in a southern state or an adulteress in the 1600s.

Today was the first day of 2016 suitable for my preferred mode of summer riding dress and I'm celebrating it.  (It's also the 40th anniversary of the day on which I lost my virginity, but who's counting?)  

I don’t think I ever experienced what it was like to be on the “wrong side” among warring factions in the same way before that.  I’m generally an easy going, average, run of the mill Joe who doesn’t try to make waves and to be perfectly honest I didn’t realize that the ATGATTers were such proselytizers until then, hell bent on converting the rest of us to their way of paranoid thinking.  I certainly didn’t set out to offend anyone’s good sensibilities when I posted that picture and its celebratory caption, but that was because I didn’t know I was crossing a line of near religious belief rather than just into a different opinion as to what constitutes “proper” cycle riding dress.

 I do believe I’ll be posting such a picture again today on a similar if not the same Facebook scooter page, but this year I’ll be prepared to handle the flak rather than to shrink from it as I did last year when I pulled the post over the rebellious reactions to it.  I certainly have the right to my opinion and to my own degree of calculated risk when I ride, and I sure as hell don’t need strangers who dress like clams on their bikes to tell me what I should or shouldn’t be wearing when I’m just riding around town.

We could all quote statistics to back up whatever we happen to believe in, but what’s the point?  It’s nobody else’s job to try to dictate what I should do for my own good.  I still rebel in principle against mandates like wearing safety belts in cars.  When I vote, I choose someone to represent MY interests, or at least the majority’s and not to be my big brother looking after me as if I don’t have the ability to do it myself as I choose.  Likewise, I salute my brothers and sisters on two wheels, until they start telling me what I should be wearing when I’m out on the road.  That salute, unfortunately, turns into a pumped fist awfully fast, and not with a supportive downward pull of the arm, but with a firm upward thrust.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Sometimes You Just Need a Good Hot Dog

In an ideal universe, lobster tail soaked in drawn butter, thick burgers lathered with three different cheeses, and fat T-bone steaks accompanied by long baked potatoes slopped with sour cream would be the healthy foods while celery and lettuce would be the things to avoid.  Unfortunately, when it comes to eating, the universe we’re stuck with is far from that ideal and with heart disease, high cholesterol, and diabetes to contend with, there isn’t much on the various doctors' top ten good foods lists that's worth putting on one’s plate and sitting down to enjoy.  Sometimes you just need a good hot dog, though, and today was one of those days.
 Just a two mile ride from where I hang my helmet Abe’s Hot Dogs is never too far away nor inconvenient a drive especially on a sunny scooterin’ weather kind of day.

Abe’s Hot Dogs in downtown Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania has been in business since God knows how long.  It seems like its been there forever, and that’s a good thing for us hot dog connoisseurs to whom a good chili dog is worth its weight in prime steak.  If chili dogs aren’t something you eat out your way, dear reader, you’re missing out on something wonderful not only to the tastebuds but to one’s overall sense of being cultured.  Okay, that’s not my tongue in my cheek there; it must be a delicious chili dog!

There’s the man himself doing his thing as he does day in and day out right there in the front window of Abe’s. 

With Abe (if that's really the current owner's name) working the dogs in the window right there by the door it’s dinner and a show for a very reasonable price, under $3 for two dogs with the works.  (Brown mustard, diced onions, and that secret recipe chili sauce.)  Note that the chili sauce in this case is like chili con carne without the beans rather than the tomato based kind of chili sauce that you can get in a jar at the supermarket.

Any meal is better when one is out on the scooter and it’s no exception as I munch my dogs in a parking lot across the street from Abe’s.  I chose that spot to enjoy my lunch because I knew I’d be able to get some pictures of the dogs and the place itself.

To their credit, there are two entirely different chili dog businesses here in the valley, both using the name “Abe’s Hot Dogs.”  They’ve been in business on opposite sides of the Susquehanna River, though only a few miles apart, peacefully sharing the name since a time when lawsuits over things like using the same name for different businesses were practically unheard of.  (I remember reading once about a gentleman in Scotland whose name was McDonald being sued by THE McDonald’s chain for daring to use the name McDonald’s for his business.)  The Abe’s across the river makes just as delicious but slightly different chili dogs. 

And there it is, ladies and gentlemen!  One perfectly put-together Abe’s chili dog, just the way that God and nature intended for hot dogs to be served!

To be certain, I’m generally much more aware of and abiding by the foods on the “good list” for me, but sometimes, as I noted in the title of this post, you just need a good hot dog.  I hemmed and hawed for days about getting a couple of these delicious treats for myself.  The weather wasn’t right.  I wasn’t that hungry.  I had plenty of worthwhile leftovers in the fridge.  And so on.  But today I had no excuses to give myself and the dogs won out.

Yes, every bite down to the very last was just what the doctor ordered.  Wait.  I did mean that figuratively and not literally.  I’m fairly certain that my cardiologist would not have suggested that today’s lunch fare was a good one for me.

As with riding the scooter, eating “off the list” is always a calculated risk.  I was wondering on my way back from Abe’s if I’ll leave this world a little sooner because I ate those dogs, if the balance between giving up things that I like for the sake of living a little longer is worth it.  I worked with a guy years ago who had big time heart disease who knew the ropes and the risks but continued to eat anything and everything he loved.  I never did decide if I admired him for choosing to LIVE his life to the fullest rather than exist in moderation into a miserable old age.

If you plan to drive through the Wilkes-Barre area and might be looking for some genuine valley food Abe’s is definitely a place I’d recommend.  It’s small on size and seating, but BIG on taste and valley ambiance. 

Since this chicken hasn't taken the scooter to the Lehigh Valley yet, it should be noted that if he did, they would be Yocco's chili dogs filling his belly for lunch.  They're maybe, possibly, in some ways, perhaps a little better than either Abe's, but that's for one's own taste buds to decide.  And if you happen to be passing through there and drop into a Yocco's, you'll need to order a chocolate milk to wash your doggies down lest you get eyed like some out of towner who doesn't know a lick about good chili dog cuisine.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Back in Scooter Limbo

I got awfully spoiled by the warm weather two weeks ago or so.  Not only did I take the scooter out multiple times, but I actually did a once around town in short sleeves!  Not so now with the temperatures making up for the warmth I had been enjoying, and with rain to boot.  I've been stuck in the house and in the car for the past week and not enjoying it one bit.

I took pictures the last time I was out, intending to do a blog post, but then they moved onto the back burner and whatever I might've written then never coalesced in my noggin so I'll stick them in here randomly for the hell of it.  Never mind that things still aren't coming together in my brain, but I only did a single post here in March and felt ashamed when I realized it so here I am with a veritable diarrhea of words but a constipation of ideas posting anyway.

Speaking of the short sleeves, last year on the first day when it was warm enough for me to take my first ride in short sleeves, shorts, and sneakers I made the mistake of posting a picture of myself on the scooter dressed as such to one of the Facebook scooter boards.  Right away the ATGATT people were all over my sorry ass.  I'm pretty tolerant, but I can't stand people with a "cause" whether it's their goal to have every newborn baby sucking on its momma's nipples or trying to shame folks into dressing like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles every time they jump on their scooters to run for a jug of milk.  Do what you want, and leave the rest of us alone.  We don't need your sermonizing!  Riding is always a calculated risk.  It's not like we don't know that.

 I had to drag myself up early this morning to head to the parish church where the 8:00 Mass was being offered for the repose of the soul of my daddy.  (A Catholic thing.)  I sat with Mom and my sister.  Today would have been Mom and Dad's 60th wedding anniversary. Well, I suppose it still is, but without him around to celebrate it, it's kind of a moot thing.  I sat there before Mass started just thinking about various parts of my life with Dad, among them how when I was born he was the age at which my younger daughter is now.  Still a kid, practically, at 26, but with a little mouth to feed and a little butt to kick when it was appropriate.  I was afraid when he left us three years ago I was going to find hundreds of reasons why I'd still NEED him around, but thankfully it hasn't been that way.

Yeah, I guess it's kind of stupid, me writing away here with the pictures having nothing to do with what's coming out of my fingertips, but I've done this too often - getting a set of pictures together while intending to do a post and then blowing them out of the "Scootin'" directory because I didn't use them in a timely fashion.  What's the worst that will happen?  Somebody might post a shitty comment?  I think I can live with that.

Oh... I added a new gadget to my arsenal - a Pebble Classic smart watch.  I debated with myself about getting it for weeks, visiting the store every now and then and mulling it over, convincing myself that it would be a great thing to have, and then just as quickly telling myself that it would be just another thing that I don't need that will fall by the wayside soon enough.  

The novelty is still with me though I've had it for a few weeks now.  It's VERY handy when I'm on the scooter and get a text, or a Hangouts or Facebook Messenger notification, or an e-mail on one of my primary mail accounts.  There's the message right on my wrist and it hardly takes a momentary glance down to see if it's something worth pulling over for, or something I can reply to at leisure as is usually the case.  And if the phone starts ringing, the name of the caller appears so I know if I should tap the Bluetooth and take the call or just let it ring its merry little dinger off and go into voice mail.

Oh, my!  The sun started shining brightly since I began writing here.  Gonna check the temperature and forecast and see if a scooter ride is in order.  As is typical, I have absolutely nowhere I need to go.  Scootering is more of a want to than a need to kind of thing anyway, and I like it that way!