To book or not to book?

It is that time of year again when the heat starts to make it’s way up the thermometer, pushing the numbers higher and higher. It is that time of year when leaving home for a trip somewhere, after ten or eleven, is considered as madness.

I must admit. I don’t do too well with the heat. Maybe it is because of this AS and RA I suffer with. But most probably it is up to my increasing weight as I grow older and medications take their toll. The fact is I don’t eat that much to justify this growth, but there you have it.

Anyway, back to our subject. The heat. It makes people do crazy decisions. Some take to the beach, fling off their clothes, flash us their hairy chests or cheeky bums, and soak it all in. Others take to cooler countries for a while.

Those, like me, who have neither hairy chests and bums, nor money to burn, take an easier route.

We stay in

side and increase our reading. Now I know that voracious readers do not need the heat to indulge in their fantasies, but it is a dead cert that more books are opened in these months than in winter (or what passes as that season here).

As my friends know, I prefer the Kindle e-reader over printed matter. The reader is light, front-lit, can hold hundreds of books, and of course, for every aging guy with precarious eyesight, re-sizable fonts.

For what use is a dead-tree book for me if I can’t see the words? And Kindle books are, of course cheaper. And on any given day, there are hundreds of free books on Amazon. All for the Kindle of course.

And who doesn’t like free books?

Needless to say, books increase one’s knowledge. And knowledge is power.

Live Long and Prosper! \\//

Image result for kindle paperwhite

Busy Saturday!

Yeah, I know, Sunday today, but I thought I would pause to let some of yesterday’s many surprises sink in.

First of all we had the Amon Amarth tickets booked. My daughter, being an ardent Metal fan like myself, was over the moon, and I have to admit that I have longed to see the band live.

The fact that the show is in Italy, a few minutes away from the airport is a great bonus, as are the Ryanair flights directly to Bologna.

Following that was the excellent news that our dear friend Franco will be joining us for the show.

A meeting was thus necessary and it was to be that we watched the Juventus – Atalanta match together. An easy 3-1 win and a pleasant chat (some chat – 4 hours!), and it reminded me of how we have bonded so much over the years. A true friend indeed.

Another huge shock was seeing Rachel walk up the stairs in a daze, holding a brand new iPhone7 in her hands… Her boyfriend saw fit to buy her a new phone as the old one’s battery was barely holding up.

At night then, I had the, uh.. unexpected pleasure of having to sleep on the sofa with our two cats who were terrified of the lightning and thunder which hit the islands. I slept all crooked and a number of claw marks decorate my arms and chest. Still, they were like hot water bottles, and I love them… so what can I say really?

The wife seems to be coming down with a tummy bug, and has made the bathroom her dominion for the time being. It means no going out on Sunday, but I can take it. I love my TV room, my computers, YouTube in the background on my splendid XBOX ONE … it will provide ample rest and to continue work on my ‘movie project’ for the time being.

Have a great Sunday!

Live Long and Prosper

Spend! Spend! Spend!

Today, I am touching a subject which is to everyone’s heart. Money! (Or the lack of it!)

Granted, today we live in a consumer-centric society, and that the onus is to contribute more to the coffers of capitalism, but sometimes there are times when one has simply to stop and take stock of a situation that ultimately, threatens to run away with him.

I am of course, talking about the spending which occurs from the end of November to the end of December. Starting from the Black Friday deals all around the world, right up to the Christmas holidays and the New Year celebrations, people from all walks of life splash out on far more money than they have accumulated over the same period.

And let’s face it… some of the things on your wishlist suddenly become far more affordable than they could ever be. When is the best time to splash out if not on Black Friday? It’s true. I have fallen into the trap more than once myself. As an ardent gamer, I cannot resist really good deals. It’s inherent in all of us.

But are we really saving money? Is that gadget, service, whatever, really important to you? Will this purchase relieve you of a pressing desire or need? And most of all can we afford to buy this item instead of, say, food? Or clothing? Education even?

This goes on right through the Christmas season when it is customary for families to relax their grip on the kitty. Mothers and Fathers look on these occasions as the time of the year when it’s the ‘Time to be jolly, and forget the woes of a hard year.’

I tend to disagree. Many families splash out on expensive gifts, outings, meals with friends, using the same money they have worked so hard to put aside. While nothing illegal, it is totally illogical. You spend months slaving to save money only to splash it out on gifts which will (in my opinion) never make it past the first week of January?

This is nothing but madness. I am not adding to the mix something else entirely. People borrowing money via ‘soft loans’ on their credit cards. Money which has an insane interest on it, and where the minimum payment will not even scratch the surface.

It is quite common here in our country to talk to people who admit to having two debit cards each. Since it is laughably way to buy stuff online (you never SEE the money go out), we see families burdened with a ‘soft loan’ of around three thousand euros with little chance of paying it out completely.

So yeah, I could be called a grinch, but we are losing our ability to think clearly and realize that this constant bombardment of advertising is pushing us to limits that we will finally admit to have passed so many years back.

As an inquisitive person, I also nosed around to see what colleagues think about saving. Sadly, very little do any saving at all. And it’s not only because of the miserly pittance that passes as wages here, but also because we have lost the capability to do so.

Everybody wants a new car, a new computer, a new hair-do every week, nail technicians, gym memberships, a new mobile every year… but can we really afford them?

We are living beyond our means. WAY beyond it.

I cannot accept that. I cannot live in peace, laying my head on the pillow every night knowing that if the shit hits the fan, I cannot provide.

Sure, I spend money like everybody else, but at least, and this is thanks to a priceless lesson from a colleague at work, I first put away an amount of money from my salary for a rainy day, THEN a smaller amount for us to enjoy. After all, life is not all about work and saving. It’s about having the financial capability to make it through when the going gets tough, but also living comfortably.

And utilizing micro-management (for which an article will appear tomorrow), we are not only living better, we are also saving money easily. EASILY.

Live long and prosper.

Bring back any memories?

I got this mail in my inbox, and I couldn’t help be amused by the truth in it. Funny, but truthful… and worth a read!

Bring back any memories? Well it did for me !!
Someone asked the other day, ‘What was your favourite ‘fast food’ when you were growing up?’
‘We didn’t have fast food when I was growing up,’ I informed him.
‘All the food was slow.’
‘C’mon, seriously.. Where did you eat?’
‘It was a place called ‘home,” I explained. !
‘Mum cooked every day and when Dad got home from work, we sat down together at the dining room table, and if I didn’t like what she put on my plate, I was allowed to sit there until I did like it.’

By this time, the lad was laughing so hard I was afraid he was going to suffer serious internal damage, so I didn’t tell him the part about how I had to have permission to leave the table..

But here are some other things I would have told him about my childhood if I’d figured his system could have handled it:

Some parents NEVER owned their own house, wore jeans, set foot on a golf course, travelled out of the country or had a credit card.

My parents never drove me to school… I had a bicycle that weighed probably 50 pounds, and only had one speed(slow).

We didn’t have a television in our house until I was 10.
It was, of course, black and white, and the station went off the air at 10 PM, after playing the national anthem and epilogue; it came back on the air at about 6 am. And there was usually a locally produced news and farm show on, featuring local people…

Pizzas were not delivered to our home… But milk was.

All newspapers were delivered by boys and all boys delivered newspapers –My brother delivered a newspaper, seven days a week.
He had to get up at6am every morning.

Film stars kissed with their mouths shut. At least, they did in the films. There were no movie ratings because all movies were responsibly produced for everyone to enjoy viewing, without profanity or violence or almost anything offensive.

If you grew up in a generation before there was fast food, you may want to share some of these memories with your children or grandchildren. Just don’t blame me if they bust a gut laughing.
Growing up isn’t what it used to be, is it?

MEMORIES from a friend:
My Dad is cleaning out my grandmother’s house (she died in December) and he brought me an old lemonadebottle..
In the bottle top was a stopper with a bunch of holes in it. I knew immediately what it was, but my daughter had no idea.
She thought they had tried to make it a salt shaker or something. I knew it as the bottle that sat on the end of the ironing board to ‘sprinkle’ clothes with because we didn’t have steam irons. Man, I am old.

How many do you remember?
Headlight dip-switches on the floor of the car..
Ignition switches on the dashboard.
Trouser leg clips for bicycles without chain guards.
Soldering irons you heated on a gas burner..
Using hand signals for cars without turn indicators.
Older Than Dirt Quiz:
Count all the ones that you remember, not the ones you were told about. Ratings at the bottom

1. Sweet cigarettes
2. Coffee shops with juke boxes
3. Home milk delivery in glass bottles
4. Party lineson the telephone
5. Newsreels before the movie
6. TV test patterns that came on at night after the last show and were there until TV shows started again in the morning.
(There were only 2 channels [if
you were fortunate])
7. Peashooters
8. 33 rpm records
9. 45 RPM records
10. Hi-fi’s
11. Metal ice trays with levers
12. Blue flashbulb
13. Cork popguns
14. Wash tub wringers

If you remembered 0-3 = You’re still young
If you remembered 3-6 = You are getting older
If you remembered 7-10 = Don’t tell your age
If you remembered 11-14 = You’re positively ancient!

I must be ‘positively ancient’ but those memories are some of the best parts of my life.

Don’t forget to pass this along!!
Especially to all your really OLD friends….I just did!!!!!!!!!

(PS. I used a large type face so you could read it easily)

(I got 13 out of 14….. **sigh**)

My working stuff.

Lately, friends, knowing me as a Tech Freak, have been inquiring AND wondering what kind of hardware and software I must have running around at home.

Since giving up my shop in Fgura, I have naturally been left with loads of stuff, but what is of interest to all is the hardware I use at home. Sadly, I seem to err…have grown a bit, and my games needs have flown out of the window.

So does that mean that I’m using a bog-standard vanilla PC to get by with my computing needs? Not on your nelly!

Let’s describe my set-up. My main PC is an Athlon64 with 6Gig Ram, 500Gig of internal Hard-Disk, and a recently purchased 1.5 Tb external Hdd. The PC is connected via Wi-Fi to a router providing access to the outside world. A DVD-RW, multi-card reader and of course, a cordless notebook-style keyboard/mouse combination complete the set. The video card is an nVidia8600 1Gb Ram unit, connected to my 50inch Samsung Plasma TV via HDMI cable. The sound goes to a ‘classic’ NAD60 amplifier, delivering beautiful playback to a pair of huge Sony NSW-D350 speakers. These, my friends, are the bees knees! I want to be buried in one of these speakers when I die and am cremated. Naturally I also have the media centre remote-control…

The PC case is a beautiful set-top box, designed like a hi-fi system. Friends have difficulty in understanding that this is a computer and not a stereo system…but there you go.

All this stuff is complemented by a Samsung BDP-1500 Blu-Ray player and cable TV, arguably the weakest link in the system.

The software driving this system is extremely cheap and cheerful. I tend to go for freeware and open-source software. About the only thing I have paid a high price for is WindowsXP. The reason I use XP (in a dual-boot system) is to ensure compatibility with my kids’ learning environment at school. Otherwise I use Ubuntu as a free, solid, operating system.

For Office work I have two options. First is OpenOffice, by Sun. It’s fast, free, and offers all I need. The other is AbiWord, an oldie but goodie. I have no intention of ever installing Microsoft Office. The latest incarnations are hideous, to say the least.

For internet browsing, I am a Google Chrome man. Sometimes, but vary rarely, I fall back on Firefox. IE is a no-show on my system. Facebook and the free Live Writer are my main items for keeping in touch with friends, and now, blogging.

I have Calibre installed to transfer my files to my SONY PRS500 ebook reader. As an Acrobat reader I use Foxit, and for PDF creation, OpenOffice provides native PDF documents. Needless to say, the above programs are all FREE! As in 0 Euros. Not free by pirating. Legally Free!

For my guitar playing I have GuitarPro, another software that I purchased. This is by far the best music-creation software I have ever seen.

Image editing is next on the list. Photoscape (free) is my choice of quick and dirty image editing. However for serious creation and manipulation I use Paint Shop Pro exclusively. My purchases stopped at ver9.0 since it more than provides me with all the tools I need. I cannot understand the craze here in Malta for Photoshop… probably because it can be found for free on various torrents. 90% of people use 5% of Photoshop’s capabilities…silly really.

But why am I writing about productivity software when this machine is connected to some seriously cool hardware?

So let’s go to that bit. I use the free Media Player Classic (utilising the Combined Community Codec Pack) for watching videos (mainly mkv), and Winamp for playing music.

FFDecoders translate the data to images and sound, and I can tell you, watching a movie on this beast is nothing short of spectacular!

Sometimes, but very rarely, I hit the Windows Media Center software, but not enough to make an impact. I have ripped all my DVDs onto my hard-disks, together with my one thousand CD albums. I have not purchased a ‘physical CD’ for ages. I usually get them from Play on a download basis.

So just lie back on the nice comfy leather sofa, prop-up your legs on the coffee table, and turn that volume up!

(PS…I’m not going to mention all the gadgets I use from day to day… my iPhone, without which life would be unbearable… my PSP, or the GPS which is brilliant, saves me looking for addresses on errands. Or my lovely Inspiron1545 notebook… as well as the kids’ MSI Book PC and Acer Travelmate notebook. Should I include our iPod nanos? My younger daughter strangely favours my little 10inch Macbook laptop. For games I have a Sony Playstation 2, which is enough for me.)

As can be seen, most of the software used from day-to-day is absolutely free. I purchased XP, GuitarPro and PaintShopPro and Microsoft Flight Sim 9. And that’s about it!