Our trip to Gatlinburg, TN

So, for our 20th Anniversary, Me and the Mrs. took a week, and visited the beautiful Smoky Mountains. I say we went to Gatlinburg (because that’s where our cabin was), but really Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville are all there together. It was a long drive, but not terribly difficult, as it was mostly Interstate travel. We even got to stop at not one, but two Buc-ee’s.

Ok, as a tangent, Buc-ee’s is a really large gas station/convenience store chain. I mean, REALLY big. There’s only two in Tennessee, and we stopped at both.

So, onward and upward we travelled, and arrived at our cabin. I’d rented a cabin from Jackson Mountain Rentals, and as soon as we drove up, we saw a bear across the street rooting in the back of a maintenance truck. Here’s a picture of the cabin.

You can click on the picture to go to the site to see a lot more pictures of the cabin. I’m happy to say these pictures were mostly accurate! There were a few differences, such as a different TV and stand in the living room, an additional metal cabinet in the bedroom, and things like that.

We bring our stuff in, and get settled in. The next day we went out to a local Food City and picked up some stuff and brought it back. By that time, it was lunch, and we went to Captain Jim’s Seafood Buffet, where Lisa ate some crab legs.

Over the next couple of days, we went up the Gatlinburg Space Needle, saw the Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Feud show, The Island at Pigeon Forge, and walked downtown Gatlinburg window shopping. Great fun! We even made it to Smoky Mountain Knife Works. Wow, what a huge place! Had every edged object you can imagine!

Just a few of the display pieces. I literally could not think of an edged object they didn’t have examples of. Seriously you should visit if you’re in the area.

So, we left to head back home. Some things I learned that week. I learned there are three general types of drivers in Tennessee. Those that think the speed limit is a “suggestion”, those that think their car will explode if they get within 10mph of the speed limit, and those that hate whatever lane their in at the moment. Also, screw you downtown Nashville for your funky intersections. I almost died! There were cars and people everywhere, and like seventeen streets all meeting together! Ok, that was hyperbole…it was only like 6 streets. STILL!

Overall, we had a great time in the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge/Sevierville area. Hopefully if ever go back, we can do even more fun stuff!

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Random thoughts on your money

bank money bag coins currency vector illustration

So with the news from Canada that the Trudeau government will accelerate freezing the personal and business accounts of truckers protesting mandates (https://fee.org/articles/did-justin-trudeau-s-financial-crackdown-really-spark-a-bank-run-in-canada/), it occurred to me that some people may need to think about something. This could absolutely happen here in the U.S. This isn’t a “oh, it’s happening in another country, it could never happen here” thing.

So, the problem with the way most people think about banks is wrong…or at least, incomplete. This is an over-simplification, but when you deposit your money in a bank, you have now lost custody of that money. Those numbers you see on your mobile banking app is how much money the bank is holding in your name. But you do not have physical custody of ANY of that money. The government (or indeed the bank itself) can freeze or remove that money at any time, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. Yes, you might be able to get that money returned, but it’ll be a court battle to get it back. A possibly expensive court battle you have to wage with your money seized and inaccessible. A quick web search will return stories of accounts frozen and seized with little or no evidence of any wrongdoing, which takes weeks, months, or even years of expensive lawyers to resolve.

Now, I’m not saying this to scare people. But I do want people to acknowledge that giving your money for some other entity to hold on your behalf removes it from your immediate control. I’m not saying go and pull your money out of the bank. That would be counter-productive, and very inconvenient. Maybe a layered approach? Have some cash on hand, crypto holdings, and such? I don’t know, I’m not a financial professional, and this is not financial advice.

That’s one reason the government via the SEC, Fed, etc. are trying so hard to eliminate most cryptocurrencies, especially privacy-centered cryptocurrencies. They can’t be controlled, deleted, or frozen, and in the case of privacy coins, it’s very difficult to even track or trace. With some of the crazy things going on nowadays, it would be wise to be cautious.

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So, John Graduated Class of 2023…

So my oldest has now graduated high school. John will start college this fall. Not going to lie, I have mixed feelings. I’m proud of the man he’s grown into, happy he seems to be happy and not too traumatized by my parenting skills, and sad that he’ll now be moving out on his own (at least part-time). John, your mom and I love you a whole bunch. Be a good friend, a good man, and a good human being.

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Forgot about John’s Signing!

Tuesday, May 2nd, El Dorado High School had their Signing Day. That’s where all the students sign the acceptance papers for the El Dorado Promise. For anyone not from around here, The Promise was created by Murphy Oil and funded to give every student who graduates from EHS a guaranteed scholarship. It’s an awesome program that’s helped a lot of students and parents. Below is the link to the YouTube short where John actually signs. The whole program was nice, but very boring.

https://youtube.com/shorts/cbuiY_WHW-E?feature=share
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Site revamp and fixes!

Ok, so I made the mistake of upgrading php on the site, and borked everything. Luckily, WordPress is pretty forgiving and I was able to delete everything, install the latest WP, and copy all the database entries over the the new tables. Got everything back up. And I was able to fix the family tree part of the site as well, though I lost a lot of media. Not sure where it went. I don’t remember deleting any of it. But at least the data is mostly there. I have found some errors, but hopefully I can get them fixed soon.

Lot of stress going on right now. John is graduating high school in a week, and there are a lot of recitals and concerts to attend. With work and all this personal stuff going on, stress levels are through the roof! But we just have to remember that yes, this too shall pass.

Stay strong, everyone!

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Playing with Cryptocurrency

Everyone’s talking about crypto nowadays. You can’t seem to turn on the Tube (either TV or You) without seeing/hearing something about the Bitcoins, or the Eths, or whatever has caught someone’s eye this week. So I decided to play around a little. I do that from time to time. Like when I played around hosting my email and webservers in my bedroom.

Yeah, that one didn’t age well. Lots of effort for little return.

So I decided to play around a little with crypto. I read up on wallets, the different coins and tokens, and some of the basics of the uses of some crypto.

Some of what I learned at first was familiar. Anyone who’s played with asymmetrical encryption (PGP or GPG) will recognize how most crypto wallets work. You have a public key and a private key. The private key is kept in your crypto wallet (either a program, app, or hardware device). This allows you to sign outgoing transactions, or unencrypt incoming transactions. While the public key is used to encrypt transactions to you, or verify signed transactions sent from you.

Some of what I learned was new and foreign. The use cases of some crypto is downright confusing if you aren’t well-versed in it. Such as coins used as some intermediary between large scale transactions, or some kind of tokenized collateral for loans.

But as I read, I began to see at least some of what is trying to be accomplished with most of these coins. The developers are trying to re-make the financial world into something a little more secure, and a lot more free from bad actors trying to influence (or downright manipulate) the economy. Bad actors in this case not only being thieves, hackers, and conmen, but governments, central banks, and large financial institutions as well. That’s not to say the cryptos are perfect. Far from it. The entire crypto industry is still in its infancy. There is a lot more development necessary. But one day (hopefully soon), the corrupt, mostly unsecure financial system may be faster, more secure, and more independent than ever.

Until then, I advise to play around with it. Don’t dump any significant fiat (dollars, pesos, etc.) into it without the advice of a financial advisor, but anyone can download a wallet app (such as Coinomi or Trust Wallet), open an exchange account (such as Coinbase.com, ftx.us, etc.), and buy some Bitcoin, Etherium, or Litecoin. There are some very few stores that will even take crypto as payments. So don’t let the idea of crypto scare you. Get in there and play around. See what it’s all about. And learn.

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Still Alive!

Yes, this is just a post to acknowledge that yes, I’m still alive, and yes, I’m horrible at posting things. I’m going to try and post a little more often.

Hmm. Looking at the date, maybe I should have waited a couple more years. Oh well. LOL

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New Pokemon! Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire!

Ok, so the next Pokémon games have been announced.  Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are 3DS updates of Ruby and Sapphire.  So instead of new plots and regions, we’ll be revisiting the Hoenn region.  I’ve already pulled all my Pokes out of my game into the Pokémon Bank in preparation, and have preordered both games.  I appreciate the reasons to remake a game, but to be honest, when you have all the previous games and handhelds to play them, remakes aren’t really a big deal (except to dilute the legendary pool).

I’ll post a quick review like I did with Y after they’re release on November 21, 2014.

 

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Hot Manwich Buns!

Ok, that probably didn’t sound too good.  But they turned out pretty yummy.  Basically, you need a can of the large biscuits (like Pillsbury Grands), a can of Manwich, and 1 pound of ground beef.

Just make the Manwich according to the directions, and set aside.

Next, take the biscuits out of their can, lay out a sheet of wax paper, and roll out each biscuit to, say, around 8-10 inches around.

Place one or two spoonfuls of Manwich onto the rolled-out biscuit, and tuck it into a shape of your choosing.  I like to pinch them up in one spot at the top, making a round bun, or fold over into a meat pie shape.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 12-15 minutes on a greased cookie sheet.  Viola!  Pretty yummy, and makes a great snack later!

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Short Pokemon XY Review for the casual gamer

Ok.  Yeah, I’m an old man and I like Pokemon.  Been a fan of the franchise for years.  I unfortunately came late into the games, starting with Ruby in Generation III.  And I can’t quite figure out WHY I like Pokemon, but oh well.

SO…the good and bad first.

PROS:

  • The visuals – This is the first Pokemon game designed for the 3DS platform, and it really takes advantage of the hardware.  For the first time, Pokemon are animated 3d characters, rather than flat 2d sprites.  While not completely immersive, the world is large and visually interesting to watch.  Pokemon battle moves are now animated, and some of them are incredibly cool looking.
  • The sound effects – A lot (most if not all) of the sound effects have been re-worked, including the battle moves sounds.  If you have the ear, you can really hear some complex sound effects going on.
  • The score – A lot of the music is orchestral, and sounds terrific.  The ambient music (in towns, Pokemon Centers, etc.), is low-key and stays in the background.  The orchestral pieces really shine, though, especially in some of the climactic scenes.
  • GTS – The Global Trading Station got a major upgrade, that finally allows you to look for, and request Pokemon you’ve never seen!  This makes it tremendously easier to fill your Pokedex without having to resort to shady trade-trade deals.
  • New Balancing – With the added “Fairy” type, and some changing of some older types, the game is a little better balanced overall.  This won’t matter so much to the casual gamer, but I assure you it means a lot to those who compete in tournaments and such.  Sorry guys, no more PWNHaxorus!

CONS:

  • Too fast – Or not long enough.  Even a casual gamer like me managed to finish the game (beat the Elite Four and Champion), in 76 hours.  And that’s being pretty slow and trying to be as thorough as possible.  Frankly, though, this is typical of the franchise, and I’m not too upset.  It’s one of the longer games.  Usually the Pokemon games have a pretty extensive after-game, and I’m hoping it’s the same this time.
  • NO TRANSFER! – In every other game, going all the way back to Generation I, there’s been a way in-game (on the cartridge) to get your Pokemon from your old games, to the newer ones, keeping your little friends with you as you go along.  This time Nintendo decided not to include that function in-game, and produce a downloadable app that uploads your Pokes to the interwebs.  That’s fine and dandy, but they didn’t have it finished by the time the games were released.  In fact, it will be THREE MONTHS after release before Nintendo released the Pokemon Bank…a PAID service that keeps your Pokes safe and sound.  I understand the concept, but they should have had some free method for people who just want to do a one-way transfer from an old game or two.

BOTH PRO AND CON:

  • It’s easy – Maybe too easy.  It’s good in that there’s a better story, with better characters and plots, and it lets you enjoy the game without grinding out levels and killing the mood of the game.  On the other hand, it does make it a little light on the challenge, and that might turn some people off of it.

BOTTOM LINE:

  • This is a good game for both kids and adults to enjoy, and you don’t have to spend hours at a time playing.  Caught in traffic?  Knock out a couple of battles.  Waiting in line at Wal-Mart? You’ve got time to beat a Pokemon Gym.
  • The game is linear, but there’s no time limit to get to the next destination in the story, so you can explore, look for hidden goodies, or blast through the game at warp speed.  It’s all up to you.
  • And with the 3DS’s suspend and pause function when you close the lid, you can play in 5 minute chunks with no problem.

Note that there are two games, Pokemon X, and Pokemon Y.  If you’re buying one of the games for a child, if you prefer no whining, I’d suggest finding out which one they want.  I’m just sayin’…

There’s no functional difference between the two, except the main Legendary Pokemon (the ones pictured on the cover of the game) is different, and some of the Pokemon you find in the game will be different.  In years past, this would have been a really big deal, as finding the Pokes that weren’t in your game meant you had to go find someone with the other game physically.  But with the aforementioned GTS, you can trade anonymously with players from all over the world, so it’s not nearly the problem it used to be.

Not to give any spoilers, but some of the visuals and sounds are really killer.  You really have to see a Lucario using Aura Sphere, or Dragon Pulse.  And the Lickitung animation is hilarious.  Not to mention, if you’ve ever watched the Pokemon cartoon, you’ll recognize Pikachu’s call!

Well, I hope I’ve helped someone decide to get Pokemon X or Y for themselves, a child, or a friend.  They really are good games, and I can’t wait to explore the after-game!

 

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