A Pen in the Hand is Worth Two You Can’t Find

Pens and pencils are constantly going missing in my house. The cry of “where did my pen/pencil go?” followed by a drawer opening and a new one being taken out of the package is common.

Sometimes the old ones show up again but more often than not they’re just gone. We’ve all come to accept this phenomenon. And rather than try to be responsible and keep track of our writing implements, our solution is simply to buy more pens and pencils – a lot more.

A few weeks ago my wife found a spectacular deal on Amazon for Uni Ball 207 pens. We bought enough multi packs to last a lifetime. I like to do a lot of my writing lying down so I also sprung for a pack of Uni Power Tank pens which are pressurized. So now we have an assortment of Bold 207, 207 and Micro 207 pens.

While we bought them for writing, I’ve found that the three sizes work really well for pen sketching. The different thicknesses lend themselves well to weighting a sketch appropriately or producing different shading effects.

While they’re not the most high-end pens and they aren’t perfect for drawing or writing, they’re great for casual sketches and notes. Besides, the cheap pen you have is better than the nice one you can’t find.

How to Make WAV Sound Clips for your Computer


Making sound clips to replace your computer’s system sounds is really easy. All you need is an audio file that you want to extract the clip from and the free Audacity software.

Step 1. Download and install Audacity.

Step 2.  Launch Audacity. Click File -> Open and browse to your audio file.

Step 3.  Select the portion of the track that you want to make into a clip.

Step 4. Click File -> Export -> Export Selected Audio…

Step 5. Save your audio to your preferred location.

That’s all there is to it! Now you can make .wav files to use for adding custom Windows system sounds or anything else.

The Uneasy Feeling of the Improbable

I reached up to adjust my visor so the sun wouldn’t blind me and send me careening into oncoming traffic. This seemed like a good idea. But as my hand grasped the visor’s edge, I heard a soft click and felt a slight give under my thumb. I was miles from home. I knew the device I just pressed only had a range of fifty feet or so. But for a split second a feeling of uneasyness came over me. What if, by some fluke of radio frequency transmission my garage door had actually opened?


I’ve had that feeling before. I’ll probably have it again. It’s like the feeling that you left the front door unlocked or the stove on when you left home. You’re uneasy until you get back and can make sure everything is alright. There’s alway that what-if question in the back of your mind. Even though it seems improbable or impossible, there always seems to be a chance.

The internet of things has begun to solve this problem. Garage doors can now be controlled via the internet using phone apps. IOT door locks and security suites can check and alert you if you leave something open or closed or off or on. So we’ve taken all of these low level, improbabe but nagging worries and we’ve condensed and distilled them into one, ominous fear: What if the WiFi is down?

Palm Sunday


Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus Christ’s arrival at Jerusalem at the beginning of the week before he was brutally killed on a cross. What a difference a week makes. On this day he was welcomed as a political savior. A few days later he was crucified as a spiritual savior.

Nothing has changed in the years since this happened. We still expect politics or some other complex human-centric institution to satisfy our need for lasting meaning and fulfillment. At the same time we reject the simple and free offer of eternal freedom, joy and satisfaction that politicians very obviously can’t provide.

Our human institutions just keep letting us down. But every political cycle we turn to them again with the same outcome. It’s said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. That certainly seems to define a lot of what I see happening today.

I Was Blown Away By What I Saw Today

For some reason while I was drying my hands in the bathroom at our library today I got to thinking about how blow dryers used to be the hot thing in bathroom drying technology. I know, I know, I think about weird topics at weird times but what can I say, that’s just me.

At one time it seemed like dryers were the future and that paper towels were soon to be non-existent in public restrooms. Blow dryers were touted as “green” because they didn’t use paper (a renewable resource) and they were considered more sanitary because you didn’t have to touch anything. Of course blow dryers use electricity which is often generated by burning coal(renewable if you wait long enough). And with towels you only have to touch a clean piece of soft paper but with the early blowers you had to push a button.

Lately I’ve been noticing a distinct shift back to paper towels. Some bathrooms have both a blower and a towel dispenser but in large part the towels are making a big comeback. I have no proof of this. These are just my own limited observations.

But I digress. I was standing there drying my hands when I started wondering just how clean the air was that was blowing down on my newly washed hands. Surely it must be just as clean as using a towel, right? After all it’s a mechanical blower. It doesn’t get touched by human hands.

There was no one else in the room so I quickly squatted down and looked up at the air outlet. I was disgusted with what I saw! The outlet for the air was caked with brown and black grime. It blows down but somehow the dirt had blown up! The worst part is that I had been blowing that crud all over my clean hands.

The Toto “Clean Dry” Hand Dryer


From what I saw, it’s probably more sanitary to not wash your hands at all than to use some bathrooms. Maybe I need to start carrying around a little bottle of hand sanitizer. Or maybe I should just stay home. If I become a recluse I won’t have to worry about public blow dryers anymore. This must be how psychoses begin. I’ve got to stop thinking so much.

Certified Frustration Free


I had some batteries from Amazon delivered the other day. After opening the box that’s probably 4x bigger than the batteries themselves, I noticed the sticker on top declaring “Frustration Free Packaging”. It was definitely low frustration but I was still annoyed to have to go get something to cut the large tape label that held the box closed.

The label also makes a big deal about using no wire ties or clamshells. Personally, I’ve never worried about wire ties or clamshells. But I guess these things really frustrate some people.

The question I’m left with is how does packaging get certified “Frustration Free”? Is there actually a process? Do Amazon vans snatch people from the streets and force them to open taped boxes while monitoring their brain activity? That last one is just hearsay.

And what recourse do I have if I do get frustrated? There probably is none. Amazon’s probably just counting on the fact that nobody actually cares what the box looks like or how many pieces of tape are holding it closed. They just want their batteries.

Oh, Today’s a Holiday?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how holidays in the US have shifted so radically to be meaningless. What were once celebrations of people and events of meaning and consequence have turned into excuses to eat and drink to excess. 

Today is Saint Patrick’s Day. Saint Patrick’s Day has historically been a celebration of the life and work of Patrick, a 5th century Christian missionary and Bishop in Ireland. But if you asked most people today who St. Patrick is, they’ll probably tell you he was an Irish Brew Master or something. For most, this holiday is merely an excuse to drink green beer and eat corned beef. Grocery clerks wear stupid, tiny, glittery top hats and threaten to pinch anyone not wearing green. I’m considering making a line of t-shirts. The first one will be some color other than green. It will say “A punch for a pinch” or something to that effect.

Look at any of our major holidays and you’ll see the same pattern. On Easter we now celebrate rabbits that poop chocolate eggs. How do we celebrate this? By making our kids search for plastic copies of the chocolate scat while the adults eat ham and scalloped potatoes and drink too much wine. Thankfully, most people don’t color their wine green.

Thanksgiving’s become nothing more than a frenzied marathon for cooking a glut of carbohydrates and hormone injected turkeys. Then we eat way more than we know we should but still wash it all down with any beer containing the word fall, wheat or ale in the name.

Christmas now consists of cookies smeared with food coloring, lots of candy and presents that nobody needs or wants after January first. Oh, an you should start drinking hard liquor because, you know, it’s cold outside.

I know I sound bitter. I’m really not. I love the holidays. I just wish we would (as a society) pay a little more attention to the real meaning behind them. That, and stop pinching people.

I’m Only Happy When It Rains

I’ve always loved overcast and rainy days. Hot, sunny days often sap my strength and leave me lethargic. But when the sky is gray and dark I feel energized and more creative. I’m also able to concentrate on things better like reading or learning something new. My wife loves rainy days for me because I’m more likely to finish up lingering projects or clean the bathroom.

I’m not sure what caused my attraction to dark weather. Maybe the comfort of a wood fire on cold and rainy days while growing up made me appreciate them. When I was in grade school, rainy days seemed special because we had to eat lunch in the classroom and play games like heads up seven up instead of recess.

Whatever the cause of my gloomy super power, I’ve learned to recognize it and harness it. I try to accomplish things I’ve been putting off. I try to finish books I’m only half way through. Sometimes I get inspired to start new projects like the six panel comic thank you note zine I started writing this morning for my friends.

Gray days have turned out to be one of the best personal life hacks I have.

Passion Not Profession

This isn’t one of those posts where the author says “sorry I haven’t been posting much lately but now I’m back and plan to start writing more”, although I haven’t and I do. Those posts are usually written in a burst of inspiration or guilt followed by never posting again. The post I’m writing now is happening during a semi-ketogenic stupor so it must be genuine and long lasting.

Over the last seven years I’ve been blogging, I’ve waffled about why I was writing in the first place. I originally named the site RyanRandom because I had so many interests and wanted to share them with others. I didn’t want to be tied to a single topic. However, I later felt compelled to write primarily about geographic information systems (GIS) because that was my profession. All the blogs about blogging tell you to be consistent with your subject. Pick one niche and stick to it so your readers won’t get confused. This way you’ll establish yourself as an expert in your field.

The problem is I don’t want to only write about GIS or programming. Those things are still important to me and I’ll still write about them. But what about art, poetry, fiction, photography, gardening and design? I certainly don’t have the time and energy to create separate sites around every interest (although I might change my mind tomorrow). For now, this site will be the central place for all my work. I’m just not that interested in followers, shares or Google rank.  So for now my philosophy is that SEO is for posers. When I change my mind I’ll come back and redact that statement.

What I’m tring to say is that going forward I’m making a concerted effort to blog my passions rather than just my profession. And instead of a consistent subject, I just want to be a consistent writer. I probably could have just said that in the first place and made this post a lot shorter. But then it wouldn’t have been at least 300 words which the SEO gurus say it should be to establish subject authority.

Browser Tab Overload

I’m addicted to browser tabs. Right now on my work computer I have 50 tabs open and that’s after I closed the unimportant ones. I have a fairly large screen but with this many tabs open I can’t even see the tab titles anymore. I usually just forget about what’s there until some point in the future when I end up deleting a bunch of them just so I can see which tab my email’s on.

Computer With Multiple Tabs

Of course, every tab is important to me. Each one is a blog post I want to read or a tutorial I just don’t have time to go through yet. I’ve tried bookmarking pages instead but without something in front of me I usually just forget that I have things bookmarked. Of course I usually just forget that I have things tabbed too.

One thing that sort of works, sometimes, is to organize my bookmarks into logical folders and then show those folders on my bookmarks bar. But then my bookmarks bar gets too long and a lot of the folders get hidden and I end up forgetting about them anyway.

My work computer has a solid state hard drive, a 3.4 GHz i7 processor and 32 GB of ram. It has no problem holding 40+ tabs open in Chrome along with running five to ten other programs I regularly use. My problem is just being able to see what the tabs hold so I can read them later.

At home, however, I have a different problem. My home computer is a 7 year old laptop with a core 2 duo and only 3GB of ram running Windows 10. But I still have my tab addiction. Unfortunately, I’ve hooked my wife on tabs too. Now two of us want to bounce from site to site and keep everything we’ve seen open. Arrggghhh, there’s too much interesting stuff on the internet!

My home laptop slows to a crawl if I use Chrome with more than about four tabs open. And good luck having any other programs open at the same time. The best solution would probably be to just close tabs or at least bookmark them and hope to someday remember to look at the bookmarks. But no, I found a way to force my ancient computer to keep my tabs up without crashing.

I loaded the Chrome extension called The Great Suspender. It suspends (surprise, surprise) tabs that haven’t been focused for more than a set amount of time. When you click on a suspended tab it reloads and away you go. This way I can keep lots of tabs open without affecting my system’s performance.

Yes, it’s a band aid for a problem that should be fixed by bookmarking or something. Of course, now that I think about it, when I have a screen full of tabs open I usually forget to go back and look at them anyway. My parents used to tell me that if I couldn’t remember something, it probably wasn’t that important anyway. And if most of the things my tabs hold aren’t that important, maybe I shouldn’t keep them around in the first place.

I need to get out more.