Category Archives: Technology

Speed Limit

On my way to work on Friday I was deep in thought and suddenly looked up to see a police cruiser on the side of the road – I was going 37 instead of 30. I immediately took my foot off the gas, but as I looked into the rear view mirror, I saw the cruiser pulling away from the curb and the flashing lights starting up.

All kinds of thoughts went through my brain: I don’t want to pay for a ticket, I don’t want any points on my license, do red cars get more tickets, I’m going to be late for work, what if I cry when the officer comes to my window.

Luckily someone in the other lane just behind me must have been going a bit faster than I was when we passed the radar; the cop pulled the other car over. I feel like I dodged a bullet and I went the speed limit all the way to work after that.

Have you ever gotten a traffic ticket of any kind?

A Good Cuppa

Today’s post comes to us from Port Huron Steve.

I started drinking coffee in the week I began grad school. I had my first cup in a coffeehouse, a memorable day because I learned I loved coffee and coffeehouse music. That first cup was espresso, dark as sin and quite strong.

That launched an odyssey as I searched for a way to make great coffee at home. As far as I’m concerned, the odyssey—which took 53 years to complete—came to a happy end about two months ago. The odyssey involved three things: my coffee mug, the brand of coffee and the coffee brewing technology.

A few weeks ago I wrote about my pursuit of the perfect coffee mug. The story ran under the title of Arabia Beehive. I described how I bought a mug that I later decided was perfect. It shattered when knocked to the floor in 1983. Since then I spent hundreds of hours looking for a replacement. And this year in October that 32-year search ended when I found a copy of my original beloved mug.

I spent about three decades looking for a great brand of coffee. It was a curious hunt. I knew how good coffee could be, for the coffee in good restaurants was wonderful. But I couldn’t find coffee like that in grocery stores. My erstwife and I went from brand to brand to brand, never finding one that tasted remotely like the best restaurant brew. We didn’t know the problem was that restaurants got to buy coffee that was roasted to perfection, coffee of a quality not sold in stores.

The search for great coffee beans took an unexpected turn when Starbucks became so popular in the early 1990s. Suddenly there were little coffeehouses all over serving and selling wonderful brews. And suddenly it was clear why we looked so long in vain for coffee like that in stores.

Everyone has a favorite. Mine is the Caribou blend from the Caribou Coffee folks. It is nothing terribly special, being a medium roast suitable for all-day drinking. I’ve dallied with French roast blends, which are stronger, but I keep coming back to the Caribou blend. I love it.

The odyssey also included a lot of experimentation with coffee makers. I’ve owned about fifteen different makers. For a while I liked a French press. I used to make Italian espresso. For about a year we made “camp coffee,” which is grounds thrown into cold water that is heated. Then you clarify the coffee with egg shells, maybe filtering it as a last step. It is pretty good, but messy and not easy to do when half-asleep.

While trying different coffee brewing technologies, I spent several years grinding my own beans each morning. According to experts, that was necessary, and for several years I believed them. But grinding beans makes an awful sound that I can’t abide shortly after waking up. I ultimately decided making coffee from freshly ground beans was more trouble than it was worth.

My search for the ideal coffee maker ended when my daughter (who rarely drinks coffee) served amazingly good coffee four years ago. I say “amazingly” because the coffee itself was just Folgers from a big red can, the stuff they sell in every grocery store in the country. I was astonished to learn that coffee from her Cuisinart coffee maker was truly better than I could make with my more expensive German brewing system.

And now the odyssey is truly over. Each day begins with perfect (to my palate) coffee brewed in my favorite coffeemaker and served in my favorite mug. I’m a happy, happy guy. It is embarrassing to be so easily pleased, but I really enjoy starting each day with something so reliably delightful.

What is your favorite beverage? Do you have it all worked out or are you still experimenting?


Getting a Lyft

The weekend post comes to us from CrystalBay.

I have increasing anxiety about driving after dark, so I decided to scope out Lyft. I couldn’t figure out how to use the app to determine the cost of being driven to the few locations that I regularly go to. After messing around for half an hour, I decided to order a ride because then the price would pop up. My clever plan was to then immediately cancel it. The problem, however, is that I couldn’t figure out how to cancel it!

Within minutes, Jeff texted he’d be here in ten minutes. I called him directly to cancel, explaining what I’d done. Two minutes later, Amy texted she’d be here in five minutes. I again called her to cancel. Three minutes later, Tom called saying that he was pulling up in my driveway! I told him my woe story and he showed me how I could use the app, then mentioned that each canceled ride had cost me $5. Altogether, I’d just lost $15 because of not understanding how to use this app. What still troubles me is that, after my initial call canceling, other drivers kept coming. I wondered how many more would show up.

The good news is finding out that, between here and Navarre, where 90% of my needs are met, Lyft only cost 87 cents!

What technologies have challenged (or defeated) you??

Leaf Pile Loss

Today’s post comes to us from Crystal Bay.

Have you ever lost your cell phone? If so, you know what it feels like to lose all contact with the outside world. A friend installed an ap on my computer recently called “Find my iPhone”. All you have to do is open this feature and it’ll make the phone sound alarms. I mistakenly thought I’d be home free with this feature, but without my phone, I couldn’t read what my password was in my contact list!

Today, I completed five days of blowing leaves into three very large piles – 3′ high and 15′ wide. Lots of leaves . Somewhere in one of those huge piles, my cell phone fell out of my pocket. Panic set in at the prospect of digging through the gigantic piles to find it.

It then occurred to me to then email a whole bunch of people, hoping one of them was home, labeling the subject EMERGENCY, and asking him/her to call my number until I answered it.

Mary, thank God, started calling me as I waited outside in the hopes of hearing the ring. It was like the old game of “Hot or Cold”. I frantically tried to follow the ringing. It took a few minutes to find it but not before tearing apart much of the work I’d done.  Last winter, I dropped my cell phone in a 2’ deep snowfall and had to dig up a lot of snow to find it. That time, I walked out to the country road, flagged down a car, and asked the driver if he’d call my number until I found it in the snow. He kindly did this.

If I’ve learned anything, it’s to never have my phone on me when blowing or snowing.



Appliance Shopping

The electronic display on our range/oven is more on the fritz than off the fritz these days. Most days a good “thunk” to the side of the range will turn the clock/temperature display back on but with the holidays coming up, I thought it was about time to get it fixed.  Unfortunately one of the two broken parts isn’t made anymore and although we could send it in to try to have it rebuilt, but it would take 6-8 weeks and there is only a 70% chance of success.

So I took the day off; after voting and a nice breakfast out, YA and I started out for our hunt. As we drove to the first place on my list, a place that does refurbished  appliances, YA gave me her list of “requirements”.  She wanted stainless steel with a grill in the middle of the burners, electronic display separate from the light switch, a bigger drawer in the bottom; I lost track of her desires after that.  My list was shorter – gas, cheap.

My requirements were met within the first five minutes. YA spent quite a bit of time googling ranges at Home Depot and Warner Stellian before giving up and agreeing to the range I liked.  I know her idea of shopping was to hit several stores and mull over many alternatives before making a decision.  It’s hard for me to imagine a more horrible scenario for spending a day!  I do not have the shopping gene; she has it in spades!

Of course getting the old range disconnected and then the new range connected is going to take a while – Centerpoint Energy does not make it easy for you to buy an appliance that they don’t sell you. Looks like we’ll be thunking the side of the old range until after Thanksgiving but hopefully not into December!

Do you start your holiday shopping before Thanksgiving?

Data Dump

Last week the Trail hit 7,000 followers.   This made me curious about some of our other current stats.

  • Overall # of views: 834,276
  • The most viewed posts are some of the oldest, written by our beloved leader Dale, however the fifth most-viewed is “Music: The Most Powerful Art Form” by our Chris.
  • The post with the most comments in the last four years is “Chores and the Great Depression” by our Jacque.
  • Top author is, of course, Dale, followed by Verily Sherrilee, Renee, Barbara in Rivertown and Northshorere (Clyde).
  • Recent top commenters are Barbara, Steve and Renee.
  • We have more activity on the Trail on Tuesday and Wednesdays. Our quietest day is Sunday.

But these are just numbers.

What do YOU think is noteworthy about the Trail? And if you have never commented before, this is your day – just a one word comment to add to our stats?




Work Stress

I would bet good money that the stress levels and alcohol consumption of people across the state who work in my department have risen geometrically over the past six months. We have been working  for several years to get ready for a roll out of a new and very needed electronic health record system. We have been trained and have been doing all manner of paper work to get ready for the transition from our current record system (about 16 years old) to the new one.  Due to problems beyond anyone’s control, it keeps getting pushed back. We were expecting the new system to start this Thursday, after two postponements this summer. Now it is postponed again. Uncertainty is difficult. The new system should simplify things at work and do all manner of good things.  It will do no good if it is started and it doesn’t work, though.

Change is so hard. Before our current medical record system was put in place, all our records were either hand written or typed by transcriptionists.  The angst when it was rolled out was palpable, as people were afraid of change and of computers. Some older employees even retired early so as to not have to deal with it. Now, those who I remember as opposed to the introduction of the old system are clinging to it like a dog to a meaty bone. How time alters things.

Have changes at work been stressful for you? How do you cope with work stress?