Kroger and people do dumb things and I’m powerless to do anything about it

Every week I get several emails from the grocery store, run by Kroger. I click on an add, any add, in the email and I get Access Denied. That’s a slap in the face, they send me an email offering a good deal and then tell me I’m denied.

I’ve been getting these emails for months. I finally decided to do something about it. Of course Kroger doesn’t want to be bothered by its customers. There’s no working contact us link in the emails. So I goggled the CEO of Kroger and emailed him. No echo back that they got the email, nothing. Like I said they do not want to hear from their customers, just like most big corporations, they’re busy, they just want us to give them our money and go away. Well, I went away and deal with on line companies.

It cost Kroger money, lots of money to send out the emails. They have a big IT department with managers trying to build as big a department as they can, so the manger can earn more money because he runs a bigger department. That mean it cost Kroger even more money as time goes by. Then there is the advertising department. That’s expensive and adds to the cost of the emails. There are lawyers that make sure the emails meet state and federal requirements and don’t offend someone. More money. And the hidden middle men who earn their living by being in the loop. All to send a useless email out that the customer can’t use.

That’s dumb.

The workers inside Kroger use the company’s computers. I bet that the emails, they send out, look and work fine when viewed on the companies computers. Do high level board members see these emails on computers outside the company, if at all? Probably not. They have people that screen their emails, and other people to do their shopping at Whole Foods.

Has the CEO every looked at one of these emails? Why should he? He has people to do that. Has he every been inside a Kroger store except for an official visit? Why would he? His time is very valuable, he has more important stuff to do. The old idea of HP corporation where the two men that founded the corporation walked around the factory floor and talked to the workers and went to the customers and talked to them about their products is so old fashioned. Look what happened to HP when Carly Fiorina took over and stopped the old ways of doing business and ran the company by the book in the modern way . Hint, the stock price went from $78.00 a share to $13.00.

So Kroger will keep spamming people with email they can’t use, driving customers away, all the time the high level executives will keep giving themselves bigger and bigger raises. That is till we all go to on line shopping.

Stay strong, write on, and shop online.

Professor Hyram Voltage

The Candy Chute

Sometimes you just got to live your art.

Just before Halloween I saw in the Rose Is Rose newspaper cartoon that MeeMa had built a chute to slide the candy down to trick or treaters. She tied the slide to the hand rail that ran along the front steps of her house.

OK, I can do that. I made a quick trip to the big box hardware store to get a length of 3 or 4 inch diameter plastic pipe. All they had was 2 inch in white. I wanted white so it would show up at night in the poor light.

It was Halloween, and I was in a hurry. I used big tie wraps to hold the pipe to the hand rail of the steps to my front door. The hand rail was not steep enough to make the candy slide to the end of the pipe.

I went into the back yard and found a four foot long stick. I tie wrapped it vertically to the hand rail and lifted the end of the pipe closest to the door higher. That fixed getting the candy to the bottom of the pipe.

Then I tried to slide a little “Fun Sized” bag of M&Ms down the pipe. The bags were too big to fit in the 2 inch pipe.

The tie wraps held the pipe loosely so I could pull the pipe out easily. If I used duct tape, the old stand by, I would have had to tear the tape off and get the cleaner out to get the sticky residue off the pipe. I’m down to my last bottle of cleaner and it’s half empty.

I took a hacksaw and cut the pipe length wise at the one third point. I now have two pieces. One piece is a long trough shaped strip, but isn’t deep enough to reliably keep the candy in the chute as it slides down. The second piece has sides that are high enough to keep the candy in the chute.

I cleaned the chute up, shoving a wet paper towel down the pipe did not get it very clean. The candy now slides very fast down the chute and over shoots the bucket at the bottom. I was sending candy out into the front yard.

I add a 45 degree elbow to the end of the chute as a down spout. Helps but still sending candy into the yard.

The first kids, I had come to the door, had a hard time understanding that they were to stand at the end of the chute and the candy would come to them. In fact the first kid would not move from the chute after he got his candy and stood there waiting for more.

The word got around quickly and kids would crowd around the chute. Some of the older kids would grab the candy before it could fall into the littler kids bag. Thinking back to my past, that is something I would have done. I must have been a greedy kid.

The bottom of the chute, where the candy ends up
Top of the chute

I did practice good safety. I handled the candy with gloves on and the chute was over six feet long. Plus, I wore two masks.

Stay strong, write on, and slide candy slide.

Professor Hyram Voltage

Write What You Know

How can you write about inventors without trying to invent something? I’m not talking about slapping something together on a lark. I’m talking about dedicating part of your life to making something that’s never existed before. That last sentence sounds a lot like novel writing.

To often the story has the inventor grab things off the shelf and make a gadget that saves the day. Deus ex machina. And the thrown together invention always works, never fails and does the job completely.

Inventing is a struggle. Day after day and long into the night the determined inventor battles to overcome what others just excepted. overlooked, or ignored.

They say that necessity is the mother of invention, but they never mention that bastard cost, the dead beat father of creation. The Wright brothers sought out every book they could get on heavier than air flight. Then they did experiments and found that the “Book” on flight by a famous German scientist was wrong, based on experiments with equipment they constructed.

Tesla used higher mathematics to build his inventions. It takes work to invent, not tinkering.

Go read the Popular Mechanics article on Van Halen and his inventions concerning guitars and music. Don’t touch that big blue thing.

Sometimes progress is measured in explosions and the learning is if you survive the blast and don’t do it again.

Stay strong, write on, and invent.

Professor Hyram Voltage

Sometimes you have to set aside what you want to do, to do what you want to do

Authors often brag about hiding in their writing cave scribbling away, not seeing sunlight for days, not socializing, just cranking out words.

I must be a lousy writer. I run six to seven zoom meetings a month. One set of meeting for a screenwriting group and another for an amateur radio club I belong to. I’m president of the club and it’s hard work trying to keep the club from falling apart when you can’t hold face to face meeting or even see other club members. Some of the club members are older and have health problems, and they’re lonely.

I’m also on the hook to deliver a talk on How Antennas Work on Friday. Let’s see you try to describe a complex physical phenomena (electromagnetic propagation) to a group of people without using mathematics. To paraphrase Horace Greeley; describe a spiral staircase, without using your hands … in sign language. I’ve got three days to get this talk ready.

What could be more important than writing. A life long dream. Since high school, I wanted to bounce radio signals off the moon. Not many people can do it or have done it. It takes skill, learning, and work. My family, school, job and things in general got in the way. In the last four years I have lost family and friends. I’ve come to realize that my time here could come to an end any second now.

So I have plunged head first into this thing called Earth Moon Earth communications. I have built and purchased antennas only to discard them for better ones. I have purchased new wireless equipment. Upgraded almost everything in the system. I’m getting close, but so much more needs to be done. I’m running on a lack of sleep. I go to bed sore and exhausted every night.

My life is out of balance, but I will bounce signals off the moon.

Hey I wrote a book, EME can’t be any harder.

Live your life to the fullest. It’s the only one you got.

Stay strong, write on, and reach for the sky, even if it’s only the moon.

Professor Hyram Voltage

Saying goodbye to the Funnies

Saturday was sad. Two newspaper comic creators/spearheads announced they were retiring.

That’s not bad. If you plan and live below your means, and save a little money then retiring is great.

But during these times I need all the humor I can get. And the comics won’t be the same without those creative genius I have lived with for decades.

Sure someone else will carry on, but it’s not the same. They won’t have the same quirks and humor.

From what I can figure out it was one guy, partnered with others doing two comics, who retired. So enjoy your retirement Gary and thanks for the laughs from Shoe and Pluggers.

Also thanks to, too Howard Taylor of Schlock Mercenary. He’s not retired but the 20 year long strip has come to an end and he’s taking a break till he starts another strip.

In a way I feel like I’m losing friends. Long time friends.

There are others; Johnny Hart, Tom K Ryan,and Bill Walterson.

We need other to step in and make this a happier world. Instead the new comic creators are into making it edgier, real. That’s all the rage and all I see.

Come on Chris Fox I need another The Dark Lord Bert novel. I know you need to feed your family, but reading about people and things that can snap their finger and destroy a world is not going to lift by spirits.

Stay strong, write on.

Bacon, coffee, and a good book. Life is good.

Professor Hyram Voltage

You are good, You are real, It’s OK to have an option

A friend submitted a piece to a newsletter, and he’s ashamed of it. In the piece he expressed his opinion. Those opinions are not the the groups opinions.

His opinions are not immoral or criminal. They’re his opinions. Why have the politically correct police made having an opinion a horrendous slight against humanity?

I find stories that are politically correct boring. If everything is perfect there is no conflict.

Look at the best sellers. They’re stories about serial killers brought to justice, even if the hero has to break the law to bring the murders to justice. They’re stories about magic. You can’t have magic because religions forbid it and you have to respect all religions. You can’t have romance stories because it’s shows improper actions to under aged children.

Are we doomed to have the history books rewritten to say that WWII was fought over slavery?

Are your stories going to be banned, outlawed, by a self appointed overseer, when you include a scene out of a real life incidence, when the scene does not meet the overseer’s idea of moral correctness?

Are we on the edge of becoming the Fahrenheit 451 world?

It’s not against the law to have a opinion. It’s not against the law to say something that someone can twist to mean you promote a horrible act.

Are we going to be slaves of the Politically Correct? Are we going to be slaves to the protestor that threaten you with revenge, if you talk to the police about a murder that happened in a police free zone? Are we going to be slaves to trolls that hound people till they commit suicide?

We are fiction writers. We are the last free people.

Stay strong, write on.

Professor Hyram Voltage

Comets, Immortality, and Salads

Sometime you read a story and it’s not great, maybe forgettable. But the book has an idea and that idea has legs.

Gallagher’s Glacier has a standard plot of asteroid miners treated like slaves rebelling. One of the heroes of the story builds a space ship out of a comet.

Using the fuel or a comet for the body of the space ship has been used in stories again and again. Even today they talk of mining water on Earth’s moon for life support and fuel.

After having a space craft land on a comet it is now a plausible idea to make a space ship out of a comet. Until the landing we didn’t know if the dirty snowball of a comet was solid enough to support anything. The comet lander could have sunk into the surface of the comet.

I can also remember the description of an asteroid made into a spaceship as being made out of one of the more craggier asteroids. Who would of thought, back in the 1950s or even 1980s, that asteroids have craters and lose boulders laying around on the surface.

With modern insulating materials, a comet would make a good interplanetary space ship. With a fusion generator it would make for a interstellar spaceship. Have fuel will travel.

In his Instrumentality series Cordwainer Smith’s has a society that has developed immortality, but limits it to certain people. The age is coming where any device can be duplicate and any medicine can be cloned, I don’t see how the immortality drug could be kept secret.

I always wanted to see stories about secret laboratories on back water planets that were trying to break the mystery of the immortality drug. Or stories attemps to steal the drug. The planet it was made on would be heavily guarded and being the only place where the drug was would be a target of vengeance. Also an example of not putting all your eggs in one basket.

How much would someone pay to live 400 years? How sneaky could you be to get the drug?

The stories would not sell today since the animal derived people in the stories had no rights and were almost slaves.

Still the series investigates what a society would do if immortality was developed. Some books had you earn credit to buy time to live. The Instrumentality stories had a set time limit for that immortals could live. Somewhat Logan’s Run.

The usual add;

Recipe

Salad with bacon bits.

No salad with bacon strip.

Ingredients;

1 bag of salad greens

1 bottle of salad dressing

1 slice of bacon

Directions;

Place handful of greens on plate.

Top greens with two tablespoons of dressing.

Place strip of bacon along side salad.

Writing is Hard. So Why is being Forced to Stay Home Making it Harder?

I am not getting much done on my books. I have health problems and ‘m forced to stay home and away from people. So why can’t I get more writing done?

You would think that forced isolation would be great for a writer. But even introverts need social contact. Two weeks ago I ran two zoom meetings and participated in two other zoom meetings. Last week it was three zoom meetings. To show you how I feel about zoom meetings, like the one I’m running tonight, here’s a quote from a play you won’t recognize; “It’s not the same, captain. It’s not the same.” or “Last Thanksgiving was awful, just a food supplement pill with turkey written on it.” Zoom meetings are great but they’re not the same as being there.

The above line is important. A recent NPR broadcast said most millennials have not watched or seen “Gone With the Wind”. Young people do not care, or resist, or hate anything older than they are. This is good for writers. Young people want new stories. (and yes I know of one writer that takes old stories form the thirties and forties, doctors them a little and sells them).

With all these people looking for new stories it is the greatest time to be a writer. All those old writers aren’t selling and are not competition for today’s writers. Who’s going to read a book from the seventies, even a classic, that story is so last millennium.

So what’s keeping me from my writing. Is it the old problem in psychology, where you have to heal yourself. Like how do you stop acting a certain way or stop thinking a certain way. It doesn’t work that way. People are not a light switch. Maybe my friends and family are more important than my writing. Maybe I am more important than my writing. Maybe I have a lot of things to do that are not writing.

I haven’t eaten out in three months. No take out or delivery. I have made two trip of 13 miles in the last three months, and one of those was to a doctor’s office. Other than that, I go to the grocery store once every two weeks, and I worry that I will mess up and get the virus every time I step out the door.

And you know what, I am lucky. I have a friend who is over 80 years old. He can’t leave his house. He has people that make sure he doesn’t step out the front door, and it’s starting to get to him. (80 percent of virus fatalities are people over 80).

You think being stuck at home is bad. In college I got a letter. It said the deferment for the draft for college students was cancelled and I was 141 on the draft list. Not only was I not going to graduate, but I was going to be sent off to where there was a good chance I would be killed, like so many of my friends and family. So if you’re a writer, then write. If you’re a reader, then read. And yes, it can be worst.

Recipe

Fudge in 5 minute

Ingredients:
1 cup 12 ounces evaporated milk
3 1/3 sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup nuts
3 cups small marshmallows
12 ounces package chocolate chips
2 teaspoons vanilla

Directions:
Line 9 by 9 inch high sided pan with wax paper or butter bottom and sides of Pyrex dish.
Butter sides and bottom of large skillet. Add milk, sugar and salt to skillet. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for for five minutes.
Remove from heat and add marshmallows and chocolate chips. Caution the mixture is hot. Stir until marshmallows and chips are melted.
Stir in vanilla and nuts. Pour into buttered or wax paper lined disk.
Let cool over night. You can refrigerate for several hours to speed up cooling.
Cut into small squares.

Stay strong and write on, and hang in there.

Professor Hyram Voltage

A Talking to People Contest and Cinnamon Rolls

Last week I attended four zoom meetings. Three of the meeting I hosted. Of those three meetings, two of them I generated an agenda and after the meeting I generated minutes.

So what did I do this weekend. I competed in a contest to talk to as many people, one on one, as I could, using radios. In this contest I get to use the highest frequency radios I have. Up to five gigahertz. My 10.7 gigahertz radios need repair. That’s not cell phones either.

This was a nation wide contest, although I would have gladly talked to anyone around the world. The atmospheric conditions only allowed me to contact stations in Canada and Mexico. Still that a thousand kilometers away.

Why would I sit for a day and a half working with a computer controlled (no internet was used) radios talking to people. Because it’s fun. I also get bragging rights, about how many people I talked to, how good my equipment worked.

I now have plans for the next contest in August. I have to get the 10.7 gigahertz radios fixed. I gotta figure out the fine details of using SDR radios. I need to get the 55 foot tower up, but city hall is closed and I need a building permit. There are bugs in the system to work out. And I have to try out everything before August. You don’t go into a contest without a dry run or the contest will be a lot less fun, with easily avoidable headaches.

The standard old add; Buy my book;

Recipe;

The bread making is getting under control. The last loaf was not as light as I would have liked. But it’s good enough to get eaten. The dough is very sticky after being mixed. The loaf did fall a little when I put it in the oven. Next time I taking some of the dough and making cinnamon rolls.

Bread Machine Cinnamon Rolls

Ingredients:

1 cup milk
1 large egg
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter
3 1/3 cups bread flour plus flour to flour working surface and hands
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons active dry yeast

Filling:
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 dash of ground nutmeg
1/2 cup chopped and lightly toasted nuts

Preparation:

Gently warm milk (place cup of milk in microwave for 30 seconds (at 1000 watts, you want warm milk, not icy cold or boiling hot.). Add milk to bucket in bread machine. Add sugar to milk. Add yeast to to mixture. Lightly beat egg and add to mixture. Let mixture set for three minutes.

Add flour to mixture. Add salt to top of flour. Do not let salt get into liquid.

Set bread machine to dough cycle.

When cycle is finished, scoop dough out onto floured table top or other working surface. Knead dough about 1 minute, then let rest 15 minutes.

Roll dough into a rectangle, about 15 x 10 inches.

Spread 1/4 cup melted butter over dough to within 1 inch of edges (use brush if you have one). Mix sprinkle 1/4 cup sugar, the cinnamon, nutmeg, and sprinkle (I use an old aluminum shaker) over buttered surface. Now distribute chopped nuts evenly over dough.

Roll dough up tightly on long side. Press edges to seal and form into a 10 to 15 inch long, evenly shaped roll. With a knife or 8 inch long piece of dental floss, cut roll into 1 inch pieces. Place rolls cut side down into a greased 13 x 9 inch baking pan. Cover with towel and let rise in warm, draft free place until double in size, about 30 to 45 minutes.

Preheated oven to 375 degrees F. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in pan on rack for 10 to 15 minutes.

To make icing. Combine 1 cup powdered sugar with 1 to 2 tablespoons milk and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla. Stir until smooth. If too thin or too thick, add more powdered sugar or milk, respectively, until desired consistency is reached. Drizzle icing over rolls. Let icing firm up.

Cut rolls apart and remove from pan.

Stay strong, write on, and in this time of isolation, reach out and talk to someone. Even if you’re an introvert and need a contest to get you to talk to a stranger.

Professor Hyram Voltage

Tired of Reading Bang-bang Shoot Em Up Spaceopera?

May I recommend a literary science fiction book written by a philosopher.

Olaf Stapledon was a British philosopher that wrote science fiction books in the 1930s. These are not fast paced, light-reading, but his books influenced many later science fiction authors. He introduced many ideas to science fiction.

His book Odd John started the whole mutant super human trope that also appear as heroes in comic book. The trope got very over done in the 1970s.

His writing is in the style of the 1930s. It’s flowery, at times even purple prose. Strunk and White railed against overly flowery writing in their book the The Elements of Style. If you don’t have a copy of the Elements of Style, get one and read it, very couple of months. My English teachers told me that over and over.

His book The Star Maker has been called a history of the universe. A big statement. When he wrote the book, Black Holes were a mathematical concept. It was not until 1958 that a book came out that made Black Holes a popular concept. In the 1930s liquid fueled rockets were just being experimented with and some people argued that they could not work. The V2 would come crashing down on that idea a few years later. Galaxies had just been determined to be object like the Milky Way, not part of the Milky Way. There were no Cell Phones back then, it was primitive.

So plow through one or more of his books. You will find that ideas we think of as modern go back a long ways.

Someone has to thinks the books are good. They are out of copyright, but Amazon still charges top dollar for them.

Recipe.

I’m baking another loaf of bread. I’ll let you know how it came out next week.

Bacon recipe

Sugar Crisp Bacon

Ingredients
1 pound thick-cut bacon
¼ cup maple syrup
½ cup brown sugar
Optional thin, very thin sliced apple pieces
Direction

Stay strong, write on, and make it with bacon.

Professor Hyram Voltage