Thursday, December 30, 2010

Signs of the Times

Telling an acquaintance who likes to read ebooks on her iPhone about Amazon's free Kindle for iPhone app reminded me how I used to hear adults remark, "They oughta make a pill for that."

Now, people say, "There's an app for that."

As we enter the second decade of the third millennium, I wonder if there will be a new catch phrase associated with the period and, if so, what it will be. Only time can tell.

In the meantime, please enjoy the rest of the holiday season.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

On Eclipses and the Coming King of Kings

Did you see the lunar eclipse last night? I did even though I've seen both solar and lunar eclipses before. This one was special because it's been 372 years since a lunar eclipse coincided with a winter solstice.

So close to our celebration of the birth of Christ, the event reminded me of the signs of His second coming.

No, I don't believe the predictions for May 21, 2011; May 21, 2012; or Dec. 21, 2012.

Yes, although the Bible says no one knows the day or the hour of His return, the Bible also states that we will know when to look for His coming.

First, we must not forget that the word will be preached to ALL nations before He returns. Currently, there are tribes in South America that are known about but have yet to have any contact with outsiders much less preaching.

After the great tribulation occurs, there will be the signs of volcanic eruptions, the great earthquake, a total solar eclipse, during which the sun looks black, followed by a total lunar eclipse, during which the moon turns blood red under the right atmospheric conditions, followed by meteor showers and/or stars going dark.

Back in 1998 or '99, I quickly scanned NASA charts that went up to 3000 and found no predictions of a total solar eclipse followed by a total lunar eclipse. Not seeing anything in the charts that match the Bible and not hearing about actual events, I quit thinking about it.

The bottom line is that I do not believe the Lord will return before Y3K. If He does return sometime during this third millennium, it would neatly correlate to Jonah's three days in the whale and the three days between Jesus's death and resurrection.

Merry Christmas!

Matthew 12:40. For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

2 Peter 3:8. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

Matthew 24:
14. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
15. When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)
16. Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:
17. Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house:
18. Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes.
19. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!
20. But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day:
21. For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
22. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.
23. Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not.
24. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.
25. Behold, I have told you before.
26. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.
27. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
28. For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.
29. Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
30. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
31. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
32. Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh:
33. So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.
34. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
35. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.
36. But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.

(Notice that the angels gather the elect after the tribulation. Mark 13 and Luke 21 agree.

Matthew 13:30. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.

Other than pointing out these four confirming references, I'm not going to get into the Pre- versus Post-Tribulation Rapture argument.)

Acts 2:
19. And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke:
20. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come

Revelation 6:
12. And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;
13. And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.

(A lot of things happen between Revelation 6:13 and Revelation 19:11.)

Revelation 19:
11. And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.
12. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.
13. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.
14. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
15. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
16. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

For Holiday Shoppers

For those of you still considering what to get the bookworms on your holiday gift list or if you're licking your chops anticipating what you might buy yourself with the gift money you receive, here's some information about ebook reading devices. If you need only a stocking stuffer, Book Darts has Christmas specials.

This CNET article, updated last month, compares Amazon's Kindle, Barnes & Noble's Nook, and Apple's iPad with mentions of other e-readers, including the Sony Readers, to give you an idea of what's out there and their features. It says they're available at Best Buy if you want to see them in person without driving thither and yon.

As may be expected, the Nook is also available at Barnes & Noble with the iPad at an Apple store. Amazon's Kindle is also available at Staples and Target. Sony Readers are also available at Borders, Costco, and Fry's. Kobo eReaders are available at Borders and the new wireless Kobo Wi-Fi eReader is available at Wal-Mart stores in black only.

Four things you might want to know:

1. The Nook's touted LendMe feature lets you loan your ebooks to friends. However, it depends on the publisher and, if allowed, permits loaning only one book to one friend for only 14 days. You can't read it while it's loaned out. You can't loan it out again.

[Update: Amazon released this feature for the Kindle on Dec. 30, 2010 with the same limitations.]

2. If you've been borrowing books from your local public library and think getting an e-reader will significantly decrease the length of time you'll have to wait to read current popular fiction, don't count on it. I read a report of how libraries have ebooks in the EPUB format, but because publishers are concerned about decreased sales if libraries loan ebooks, there's a restriction making borrowing an ebook comparable to borrowing a hardcopy or worse. As a result, the author had to wait 18 weeks before getting the ebook he wanted to read on his Nook.

3. The Kindle, Kobo, Nook, and Sony Reader all use E Ink technology. However, at this time, only the Kindle and Sony Reader Touch are using the latest E Ink Pearl displays.

4. The Kobo eReader battery is not replaceable.

For comparison purposes, e-reader user guides are available for the Kindle, Kobo, Nook, and Sony Reader.

Try before you buy or avoid buying an e-reader because you already have something that will do - free apps for ebook reading devices such as the Android, BlackBerry, iPad, iPhone/iTouch, Mac, PC, and Windows Phone 7 are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Borders.

(Note: All devices are not supported by every bookseller and the free app may not have every feature that is available on the corresponding e-reader.)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

I <3 My Kindle

Finishing my Christmas shopping last Friday, my thoughts dwelt on how convenient Amazon's Kindle would be for me at home apart from its being a travel accessory.

1. Although I've enjoyed reading free ebooks on my laptop courtesy of the free Kindle for PC application, reading at bedtime makes my laptop magically grow progressively larger and heavier as I get sleepier, shrinking back to its regular size and weight before I awake. Being able to switch from my laptop at any point in a book to the much smaller and lighter Kindle would enable me to continue reading until I'm ready to nod off.

2. Checking Amazon for five books I bought this year, I saw that Kindle editions are available for all of them at a lesser price, one for free. Not only would it save me money, it would greatly decrease the amount of space I need for storing books at home. Sure, I'm a great fan of public libraries even while traveling, but there are books I just have to own. Of course, I can store more ebooks on my laptop, but see #1 above.

3. The Kindle has a Text-to-Speech feature that, depending on a publisher's allowing it to be enabled which may be determined on Amazon's description for the book, allows me to listen to an ebook when I want to rest my eyes like being read a bedtime story as a child. This feature is not available in the PC app. For road trips, I can plug my cassette adapter into the headphone jack, insert the adapter into my car's cassette player, and by turning Text-to-Speech on, listen to a book as I drive as if it's an audio book.

4. Another feature not available with the PC app is the ability to organize ebooks into folders, called Collections. Kindle for PC sorts by author, title, most recent, or by file size making quite a list for me to go through to find what I want out of the already 99 ebooks in my library. Being able to go to a Collection will greatly relieve me of the annoyance of not being able to quickly find something I know I have. Because ebooks may be categorized in more than one Collection, there's less chance of my not being able to find what I want due to forgetting in which Collection I categorized it.

As a result, after reading the 1-star and 2-star negative reviews on Amazon that did not put me off in the slightest, I ordered a Kindle last Friday, Dec. 4, at nearly 6 P.M. ET along with a neoprene case by Belkin. Assured they would be delivered Dec. 10-14, continuing to read on my magical laptop (see #1 above), I found waiting to be as hard on me as waiting for Christmas Day when I was a child.

Amazon and United Parcel Service must have really gotten their acts together for the holiday season. Despite my ordering after normal business hours on a Friday, considering the weekend and that I selected free shipping which usually takes a few days longer than the paid-for standard shipping, my Kindle arrived on Tuesday morning, shipped from Lexington, Kentucky. Remembering one Amazon shipment originating in the Dallas-Fort Worth area of Texas that drove me crazy watching it spend three days going from one UPS distribution center to another before it left the state of TX, I was determined to not monitor the tracking status for my Kindle during the six to ten days it was supposed to take to arrive. Surprised by the fast delivery, I was jumping in joy.

Having read the PDF User's Guide through the Kindle for PC app over the weekend, I unpacked the box and plugged in my Kindle to charge.

Noticing the indicator light changed from orange to green two to three hours later, I eagerly turned it on, registered it to my Amazon account, downloaded and synchronized my library, then tried out a few features before organizing my ebooks into Collections.

(The instructions said I wouldn't have to register it if I bought it through my Amazon account, which I did, because it would already be registered, which it wasn't. No matter. Registration was fast and easy, taking only a moment.)

I'm not reading ebooks on my laptop, anymore.

Imagine reading that's much easier on your eyes than using a backlit screen.

Imagine electronic paper and ink technology that's easier to read than paperback and some hardback books.

Imagine having nearly a hundred books, with room for up to 3,500 books, in a device that can be held in one hand, either hand, that's thinner and weighs less than two ounces more than a giant (6.8 oz/192 g) bar of Hershey's red Symphony chocolate.

Imagine being able to access any of your ebooks at any time with only a few clicks of a thumb or finger without having to move from your chair.

Imagine being able to turn pages with a slight movement of your thumb on the same hand holding the Kindle.

(Picture how not having to lift a finger to turn a page, much less an arm or hand, deepens the meaning of the term "couch potato.")

Since it arrived Tuesday morning, I've spent about ten hours reading on it and I love my Kindle. I really love it!

Praise the Lord!

Monday, December 6, 2010


In my last post, I wrote that the dictionary feature doesn't work in the Kindle for PC app. I was wrong. The reason it didn't work for me was because I wasn't online as I should have been to let the dictionary download the first time I tried to use it. After it downloads, it works just fine without my needing to be connected.

I edited my previous post to remove my erroneous observation.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Score! (Kindle for PC)

Always on the lookout for ideas to make traveling easier for me, recent television commercials for Amazon's Kindle got me thinking how nice it would be to have a single ebook reader when I go to Europe one of these days instead of packing travel guides, phrase books, and reading material for flights and long train rides.

Checking the features and reading the reviews for the latest version of the Kindle, the only thing I didn't like is that when the non-user-replaceable battery has to be replaced, customers have to send the unit back. After it's returned with a new battery, users have to download their libraries all over again. Since Amazon stores a backup copy of the user's library, bookmarks, highlighting, and notes, the inconvenience is only a matter of time unless there's a glitch somewhere that causes the loss of some books. However, users are able to download to a PC and save to a hard drive or other media, so it's easy enough to make your own backup of your library of ebooks and magazines which you should do anyway if you want to save all your magazines.

Seeing that the Kindle can read free ebooks from other sources as well, such as those from the Gutenberg Project, I decided to download the free Kindle for PC application along with several free ebooks to try out on my laptop. I have already finished reading two of my free ebooks and am very pleased.

In addition to the Kindle for PC app, other free Kindle apps are available for the Android Phone, BlackBerry, iPad, iPhone, and Mac. With the iPhone app, you may also read Kindle books on the iPod Touch.

As a result, when I'm ready to travel to Europe, I plan to buy a Kindle to keep my load down. Looking at the two piles of books next to me, maybe I should get one sooner. After all, it is a whole lot less expensive than an iPad and according to, it has a lot of nice features that make it better for reading than an iPad.

Whether I get a Kindle right away or not, free app + free ebooks - the inconvenience of going to a library or buying from a regular book store = Score!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Going through Wal-Mart yesterday morning, I noticed that a shelf had a large bare space where the Great Value French-fried onions were supposed to be. So, if you don't have a green bean casserole on your table as usual, it might be because whoever does the shopping for your feast got there too late and didn't want to buy the significantly more expensive brand. Maybe Wal-Mart will have enough in stock for Christmas to satisfy everybody.

Me? I'm feeling lazy, too lazy to actually count my blessings, but not too lazy to think about adding them up.

Hopefully, you'll be better about it before you eat or watch the game, the fights, the hero show, Beyonce, or whatever you plan to do.

Hopefully, I'll be better about it by that time, too.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Working on a Car Emergency Kit

I've been looking at several lists for what to include in a car emergency kit to ensure I've got my bases covered. Some lists include items that make absolutely no sense to me.

For example, a couple of lists include a gallon of window washer fluid on the basis that winter driving uses more. However, I'm thinking why don't they check the reservoir once a month or every weekend or every few days depending on how much is used and keep the fluid at home instead of waiting until they run out to refill and taking up valuable trunk space that would be better used for a gallon of drinking water for a car survival kit?

Then, three lists have recommendations for oil: a pint, a quart, two quarts. What's going on with vehicles that they're saying to carry oil? None of the lists explain. And a PINT??? What's with that? The add mark on a car's dipstick means you're a quart low. Also, I've only seen oil sold by the quart except for motorcycles. Yes, the author is American.

On the other hand, one list recommends spare headlight bulbs because "several European countries require them." Another recommended spare headlight bulbs and the tools to make the change. I think spare bulbs are a good idea for those who drive long distances at night as I've done at times, as long as the entire headlamp doesn't have to be replaced and realigned. According to my owner's guide, mine needs only a bulb. I still need to look at the car to see how easy it would be for me to do myself and what tools it would take because I've never done it before.

Spare fuses are another good idea and are very easy to replace. I had to install a heavy-duty fuse on my last car for the taillights to work when I was pulling a trailer with a small sailboat that I used to have and was surprised at how simple it was. I didn't even get my hands dirty. When I checked my owner's manual for this car, I learned that I already have three spare fuses. Unfortunately, I'm puzzled by one being 5 amp and there's no 5 amp fuse being used that it could replace. Very odd. Anyway, I'm planning to buy three other fuses so I have a complete set.

Another list recommended a plastic bag for storing the funnel all the lists recommend after it's used. I think that's a good idea and will get a zip bag for the gas siphon, too, or maybe store both together in one bag.

Another item is water. One list specified enough drinking water for the occupants for a 24-hour period and the radiator while others simply listed "water." I used to get a gallon jug for the car only when I was going to drive across a desert. Starting in 2006, that changed to 2-3 gallons at all times because a lot of tap water doesn't taste good to me anymore. Now that I do road trips with a Space Saver Brita pitcher, I don't need bottled water for normal drinking but will probably keep a gallon or two anyway for my car survival kit.

Other items I'm not sure about are things like plastic cable/zip ties, clamps, tape to seal hose leaks, light sticks, and a bag of sand or cat litter.

Lacking explanations for the zip ties, I think they'd melt from the heat of the engine.

Then, I always take my car in before a road trip to have an oil & filter change and to have the belts, hoses, and clamps checked. Plus, I have my AAA membership.

As for the light sticks, along with the car's hazard lights, I already have a Mini Maglite LED flashlight, flares, and the UCO candle lantern that's part of my cool weather hiking pack that doubles as part of my car survival kit. However, since light sticks aren't battery-operated, aren't fire hazards, don't cost much, and are small enough that the room they'll take up is negligible, I'm more likely to keep a couple on hand for my car emergency and car survival kits than get the other things I'm not sure about.

Finally, I used to carry a bag of cat litter, but when it didn't work and I ended up using a malfunctioning telephone answering machine to get traction, I quit carrying it. After that, it was the tow rope and helpful strangers with their vehicles that got me out of stuck spots. Once, my wheels spun in mud when I parked off the side of a road to watch a bicycle race in another town and once it was in sand down on Padre Island. Both times, others did the same thing but didn't get stuck. Only me. Huh.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

For Veterans on Veterans Day

To all veterans of the armed forces of the United States of America -

Thank you so very much for your service to our country! I treasure the freedom that you fought and bled for, for each one of us Americans. I am often appalled at how women are treated in too many other countries and thank God for letting me be born here with people like you who believe in protecting us and preserving our freedom.

My prayers are with you.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Flashing Light

My Dell laptop's battery status light is repeatedly flashing red-red-red-red-green.

It's supposed to flash only orange when the charge is low, and be a solid orange when critically low. I've never seen it orange before, only green since I don't use the battery much.

The green light is on when I'm working off of the battery. It flashes when the battery is recharging. The light is off when I'm working off the AC and the battery's charged.

However, I'm on AC and have been for several weeks. The Power Meter says the battery is charged 100%.

Also, the light on the power brick is green, so I know the AC is coming from the electrical outlet just fine. Thus, the puzzlement and concern of my previous post.

With the help of my good friend, Google, I learned where to click and finally found a message on my laptop that says:

"Your battery is able to charge normally. However, you may begin to notice reduced operating time because your long-term battery life is reducing."

After that, there's a button to order a new battery online. Evidently, my battery's health is diminished so while it can still be charged, I won't be able to run my laptop off the battery for as long as I did when it was new. No big deal. As much as I use my battery, I can afford to wait and get a new one sometime next year.

[Updated 5/27/11 - The message started popping up, so I finally ordered a new battery.]

It surely would have been easier, and less alarming, if the combination of flashing lights I'm seeing was described in the User's Guide.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


There's a red light blinking on my laptop.

Since I don't know what it represents, I'm currently backing up my hard drive.

Since I don't know how bad it may be, this post is "Bye for now" because if it's bad, I may be offline for a while.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Some Thoughts About Hiking

Several weeks ago, a friend went on a six-mile hike that turned into a nine-mile hike. When I asked if she went alone, she replied no, she had gone with a guy. She never hikes alone because if you fall, you might not be found soon enough.

True. However, there are easy to moderate trails where I can't imagine anyone falling that are popular enough that someone in distress would soon receive help.

Setting aside the different degrees of hiking difficulty, here are additional considerations:

1. Do you have a hiking staff or trekking poles that can support your weight to help you rescue yourself? Can your companion(s) carry you out or make a travois to drag you out?

2. Does anyone in your party have a cell phone and the number to call for a rescue team, usually the sheriff's department?

3. Can your or your companion's smart phone provide a GPS fix so the rescue team can be told your location? If not, do you hike with a GPS receiver? If your electronic devices fail or if you don't carry any, is your companion skilled enough with a map and compass to give coordinates for a search unit to begin looking for you?

4. If your companion goes for help, does s/he know the way there and back? Is anyone carrying a pen or pencil and paper, preferably waterproof, to give your coordinates to the rescue unit?

5. How will you protect yourself from dying of hypothermia/hyperthermia while waiting for help that might be many hours away? Do you have insulation from the cold and protection from the sun among your personal attire and emergency sheltering gear? Do you have a fire-making kit?

6. How will you prevent yourself from dying of dehydration while waiting for help that might be days away? Did you take more water than you expected you'd need or do you have the means to collect and purify water your companion might find in the area for you before s/he goes for help?

7. If your hiking companion is the one who gets injured, are you able to do the same things that you're counting on if you were injured?

It's this last point that bothers me. Too many times, I've found that women depend on men to bail them out of trouble to the extent they're virtually helpless. What if it's the man who gets injured?

After all, I once skied with a man who hit a tree. Another man got bucked off a horse and was knocked out for about an hour.

What if a companion hiker doesn't know where they are or how to get help back to the injured party? If it's a less popular trail, it won't be like in town where you can stop at a gas station to ask for directions.

This isn't a matter of one person being more able than another solely because of sex as if it's a matter of physical strength. It's a matter of knowledge and there's no good reason for anyone of either sex not to know or be able to figure out where they are and how to get back.

This isn't about my friend hiking with a guy, either, since I know she's gone hiking with women. The same thing goes for two women hiking together, two men, or a larger group, mixed sex or not. It isn't about her at all. This post contains some thoughts about hiking that arose after my exchange with her.

My point is that more than one person needs to know how to use a map and compass. Leaving the responsibility to a single person just isn't the smart thing to do.

If you hike or want to start, please take a navigation class or teach yourself how to use a map and compass from resources online or books from the public library and PRACTICE.

If you're not interested in hiking but know someone who hikes, please challenge her or him to ensure they know how to use a map and compass and encourage them to learn if they don't.

It's a basic skill for hiking and someone's life may depend on it.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cue Evil Laughter

All this preparedness stuff got me thinking about camping. This means I have to inventory my camping gear because a lot of things were stolen from my car when I was in San Ysidro, CA.

One of the items stolen was a BearVault. Although I'm not currently in bear country, a bear-resistant canister also protects food from being stolen by small creatures such as raccoons that are quite adept at accessing food campers thought they had secured.

Not only do I have to decide whether or not to replace the BearVault now or wait until later, I also need to decide whether to buy another BearVault or get a canister made by a different company.

Reading customer reviews, I was struck by a series of thoughts:

Considering that bears can break into cars but not into canisters approved by the Sierra Interagency Black Bear Group (SIBBG)...

Considering that BearVaults are made of super-strong polycarbonate, the same stuff used to make bullet-proof glass...

Considering that some campers were able to open their BearVaults to store food inside but missed meals because they weren't able to re-open them to get their food out...

Considering that I may have removed the label on the lid that has instructions on how to open the BearVault (I can't recall)...

Considering that San Ysidro, being a border town, has a majority Hispanic population and the thief might not have been able to read English if I left the label on (considering some restaurants there had menus only in Spanish and many business signs were in Spanish)...

Considering I had nothing worth more than US$20 stored in my BearVault (a coffee mug gift for a friend wrapped in a couple of shawls for cushioning)...

The thief likely expended great effort over a period of time to open my BearVault for very little reward, if it was ever opened at all!

Cue evil laughter.

I'm getting a kick from the thought of buying another see-through BearVault, putting a $20 bill in it, and Super gluing the lid shut just for the joy of knowing another thief will be aggravated by not knowing how to get the money out.

Except bear canisters are too expensive to buy just for the heck of it, I'd rather spend the $20 myself, and when the time comes, I've decided to try the Model 812 by Garcia Machine that can be opened, obviously, with a simple tool such as a coin.

Still, it's good to laugh at the idea.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Preparedness 2010 - Testing

After we make our plans and collect supplies for our various preparedness kits for home, workplace, school, and vehicle; testing is the next logical step.

For a test to be realistic, it needs to be conducted under as similar conditions as possible to those you're likely to encounter.

For example, during winter, it's easy enough to turn down the heat and forbid everyone from using water from a faucet for the weekend of the test. I wouldn't actually turn off the heat or water for a winter power outage and water shortage scenario because I wouldn't want the pipes to freeze. Turning the thermostat down to 45° F and letting a faucet drip slowly should prevent a weekend adventure from turning into a bona fide emergency.

The trick is to pick a weekend that's good for your scenario and unlikely to become a real event.

Another option is to test while the weather's still warm enough for you to shut off the gas and water, which you need to know how to do anyway, without the risk of your pipes freezing except then you wouldn't know if you're able to stay warm enough or will have to evacuate to a motel which you may not be able to do if an ice storm covers the roads with ice for several days.

Also, you'd have to restock supplies soon after so the test doesn't leave you unprepared for the real deal.

Testing a car survival kit realistically is easy enough since all you'd have to do is get a camp site then spend the entire weekend in or near your vehicle. For the sake of the camp ground and other campers, I'd use the camp ground's toilet facilities, but figure out the wheres and hows as if there wasn't a restroom because there probably won't be one when you're out stuck somewhere in your car.

The more kinks you can identify during a trial run and work out will make a real event less stressful but if the nearby camp grounds are closed for the winter, you might have to spend the weekend in your vehicle in your own driveway which will make the neighbors think you're very odd. Plus, there will be the temptations of getting things from the house and spending more time indoors than using the bathroom warrants.

Think of the emergency situations you're preparing against, then put your preparations to the test over a weekend for each scenario. Of course, unexpected situations such as reuniting with your family after something like 9-11 or a tornado that hits while you're at work and the children are at school won't need the entire weekend unless you combine testing your Get Home kits with the power outage and water shortage test at home.

Some situations I can think of testing are:

1. Sheltering in place with a power outage and water shortage at home or wherever you might be when conditions prevent you from reaching a community shelter.

2. Evacuating your home because of a fire, flood, tornado, or hurricane.

3. Reuniting with your family at home after a common disaster disables public transportation and closes major roads.

4. Reuniting with your family after a common disaster but at a different predetermined location.

5. Surviving in your vehicle because you can't reach your destination due to being lost or impassable road conditions such as a mud slide, snow, or ice.

People are advised to have various kits ready for their workplace, vehicle, and home to meet the events likely for their locale. For traveling, I'm thinking my Grab & Go bag should be modified into an I'm Already Gone bag or I need to make other provisions since I'm used to leaving such things as important documents at home when I travel. While not valuable to anybody else, the destruction of insurance policies, shot records, home inventory, and family photos could range from terribly inconvenient to emotionally devastating.

Practice not only highlights the rough spots, giving the opportunity to smooth them out prior to an actual emergency situation, but also builds confidence by letting everyone get acquainted with their part and the equipment through testing the plans.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Preparedness 2010 - Stoves

Instead of a camping canister stove costing US$25 - $295, here are some low-cost, low- or no-maintenance alternatives to see you and your family through an emergency situation:

1. Esbit Emergency Stove, $2.99, comes with three hexamine fuel cubes. A flat piece of steel you bend to form a pot stand, it is ideal for day hikers, travelers, and vehicle survival kits for one to two persons. Best use is to boil water for safe drinking, hot beverages, instant foods, freeze-dried meals, and preparing Ramen and soups. Natural fuel can be used to supplement or as an alternative to the fuel cube which also is an excellent fire starter.

Needing to be lit by a flame, such as from a match or cigarette lighter, each cube burns for about 13 minutes. It takes about 8 minutes to bring 16 oz. (.5 L) of cold tap water to a full rolling boil, less if you have a windscreen (recommended). Cover the vessel, however, as an uncovered vessel gets merely steamy. If you want to light it with a sparker such as a Spark-Lite or Swedish FireSteel, place some tinder on or next to it and light the tinder, instead. Only a small bit is necessary; it took only a few strokes of my FireSteel to light about a quarter of a square of toilet tissue moistened with hand sanitizer that I set on top of the cube.

If you want to conserve fuel, and as fuels go, hexamine tabs are expensive so should be conserved, simply blow it out like a birthday candle as soon as you don't need the flame anymore and save what remains for future use. Since it will stick to the stove's fuel platform, you may want to set the cube in an Altoids Smalls tin before lighting it to make it easier to store after extinguishing it. You can make the lid removable by simply pushing out the tabs forming the hinges to release the lid from the bottom of the tin, then pushing the tabs back so they won't catch on anything.

An alternative to the fuel cubes is an alcohol burner made of an Altoids Smalls tin (see 6. Alcohol Burners below for instructions). Be aware, however, that since the slits for the hinges won't permit you to completely fill the tin with your liquid fuel, you may not be able to attain a boil.

By bending the stove to support my 18 oz. stainless steel backpacker's mug (the handles fold in for easy packing), I can store it in the mug along with 11 fuel cubes (four go in the stove and one in the Altoids Smalls tin), an Altoids Smalls tin, a disposable cigarette lighter, and one of those tubular orange, waterproof match boxes that can be found online, in camping stores, and Wal-Mart's camping department for about $2.

Having both wooden matches and a lighter is better because matches may fail or break and butane lighters don't work when cold or at higher elevations. If using safety matches, be sure to tuck the striker strip from the original box into the waterproof match box or you won't be able to get the matches to light.

2. Esbit Pocket Stove, $9.99 although it may sometimes be found it in military surplus stores for as low as $3. The website says, "Includes 3 large solid fuel cubes." Mine came with six and the steel isn't pliable like the description states. (Frankly, I think they put up the same description as the Emergency Stove instead of the description for the Pocket Stove.) Four cubes store neatly in the stove when it's closed.

Popular for its small size by outdoors people, military forces, and expeditions since 1936, the Pocket Stove is more robust than the Esbit Emergency Stove and more versatile in fuel options. As well as a Kiwi alcohol burner (see 6. Alcohol Burners below), natural fuel or two charcoal briquettes will fit and may be continually added if you want to keep the fire going outdoors.

Since there's no heat control other than the two positions in which it may be set, the Pocket Stove is better for simple cooking like frying bacon or burgers or boiling water for one to three people. Substituting a tealight candle allows simmering.

Because hexamine fuel cubes, a safe fuel, aren't always available in local stores, it's best to stock up on Esbit tabs (12 for $5.95) and/or make an alcohol burner. Trioxane tabs are available, usually through military surplus stores, but need to be used outdoors carefully because they're toxic. The advantage of trioxane tabs is they can be lit with only a spark, not requiring a direct flame as do hexamine tabs.

3. Coghlan's Folding Stove, $8.98, is limited to canned fuel such as Sterno, the Nuwick 44-hour candle (the 120-hour Nuwick candle doesn't fit), or an alcohol burner such as a Trangia or a DIY project, although I don't see why natural fuel or charcoal briquettes can't be used as long as it's set on the ground outside with a foil pan underneath so nothing will be harmed when hot embers and ashes fall off the fuel platform. Hexamine tabs might be used if an empty can is put on the platform upside down to boost the height.

Because it's rather large when compared the Esbit stoves and is heavier, being made of steel, than the Sterno Portable Folding Stove (next), the best use is for a family at home if you have only heavy pots or for car camping. I don't like it for a car survival kit because it's heavy for lugging around should you have to leave the car; rarely advisable but a possibility.

4. Sterno Portable Folding Stove, $9.75, uses 7 and 8 oz. Sterno canned fuel that will simmer but might not boil water depending on conditions, as well as 44-hour and 120-hour Nuwick candles that can have the heat output regulated according to the number of wicks lit. It is also available in a Stove Kit that includes two cans of Sterno fuel and in the Sterno Emergency Kit that includes the stove, cans of Sterno, and candles.

When I tested it with a can of Sterno, I got 16 oz. of water, uncovered, to a slow, gentle, boil in 25 minutes. I quit ten minutes later when there was no change.

Because the fuel platform is only a couple of wire supports instead of being solid, using a Trangia alcohol burner is too close to being a balancing act for my comfort so I set my Trangia burner into an empty, clean, 5 oz. chicken can to make it stable. With the Trangia filled with 91% isopropyl alcohol, my uncovered stainless steel mug with 16 oz. of cold tap water took 5.5 minutes to reach a full, vigorously rolling boil.

To make your own alcohol burner that fits the fuel platform, I suggest using up a can of Sterno, and then making an alcohol burner with the empty can (see 6. Alcohol Burners below). Not having an empty Sterno can, I used a 1.76 oz. (50g) Altoids tin with a thin layer of 0000 steel wool and 91% isopropyl alcohol and got a full boil in 6 minutes. The flame went out nine minutes later making 15 minutes the total burn time for the Altoids burner.

Using a 120-hour Nuwick for cooking that needs high heat isn't feasible; after an hour with three wicks, I didn't get anything more than steamy water. Starting over, reducing the water from 16 oz. to 8 oz., I got some steam at 30 minutes and gave up knowing it's much faster for me to use an alcohol burner if I need to boil water.

Like the Coghlan's stove above, I don't know of any reason natural fuels or charcoal shouldn't be used as long as the stove is set on the ground outdoors with a foil pan underneath to catch the ashes.

The advantage the Sterno stove has over the others is that the pot support portion of it is made of wire that campers have used for toasting bread and grilling. However, it is faster to toast more than one or two slices at a time by using a stove toasting rack.

Because of its size and being made of aluminum, this is a good choice for a family at home, for a family's Grab & Go bag, as well as for a car survival kit, and car camping.

5. UCO Candlelier, $36.95. Not readily apparent as a stove, the flat heat shield top has been used for years by campers and backpackers to boil water. The amount of heat may be lowered by extinguishing one or two of the three 9-hour candles. Although it's more expensive than the cheapest canister stove, it provides light, heat, and a stove in a single unit making it as good for a car survival kit or an individual's Grab & Go bag as for backpacking. If bugs are a problem, 9-hour citronella candles are available.

6. Alcohol burners or stoves might be the least expensive option of all since the majority of them are DIY projects. Known as a "Cat stove," "Super Cat stove," "Pepsi stove," "Penny stove," or by whatever container or design is used, alcohol burners are popular for their reliability, ease of use being practically maintenance-free thus no hard-to-find parts to break or buy when access to camping stores is limited, and use inexpensive denatured or 90+% isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol that's available practically everywhere, from marine stores, hardware and home improvement stores, service stations and automotive parts stores, to drug stores, and doesn't require special fuel bottles. In a pinch, more expensive alcohol is available from liquor stores.

I made my first Kiwi burner back in 2006 by cleaning out all the residue from a 1-1/8 oz can of Kiwi shoe polish that fit perfectly into my Esbit Pocket Stove, then filled it with fine steel wool (recommended grades are 0000 or 000). When I was ready to cook my scrambled eggs and sausage, I filled it with 91% rubbing alcohol and lit it with a match.

Unfortunately, after my last meal was eaten and the stove cooled off ready for storage, I stored the steel wool in the Kiwi can which corroded during the three years I didn't use it. As a result, next time, instead of steel wool, I plan to use perlite with a piece of aluminum screen cut to fit inside the container to keep the beads from scattering when the lid's off or I'll store the piece of steel wool separately.

The best-known of the commercially-made alcohol stoves is the Trangia that's been used since 1925 by military forces and outdoors people. Available in cook sets for one to four people, with accessories to use other fuels, the alcohol burner is available separately for about $14.95. Made of brass so it's a lot sturdier than any DIY burner, the best features of the Trangia burner are the adjustable simmer ring that allows you to regulate the flame or extinguish it by moving the damper (Caution! Hot! Use something like the pliers of your multitool to lift the simmer ring off the burner and protect your fingers from being burned while adjusting the hot damper), and the cap that lets you store unused fuel in the burner which can't be done with others.

As with my Kiwi burner, all that's needed to operate a Trangia is to pour in the fuel and light it. When done, close the damper on the simmer ring and set the simmer ring on the burner to smother the flame.

If the burner is filled to capacity, it will cook at full blast for 30-45 minutes depending on wind and outside temperature. The only cautions are to set it on a stable surface so the fuel won't spill, don't check the difficult-to-see flame by passing your hand over it (Duh!), don't refill the burner while it's still warm - avoid a flare-up by using a second burner if you need to continue cooking longer - and avoid ruining the O-ring by waiting for the burner to cool before capping it. Also, it's better to coat the O-ring with silicone grease when you first get it and occasionally after so it doesn't dry and crack.

Detractors claim alcohol stoves are slow, but it's significantly true only for making coffee or hot cocoa for a crowd of eight which seems like it takes forever. Breaking the task down into two to four cups at a time will get it served a lot faster. Parties of only a few people won't notice a difference between a canister stove and a Trangia because of the pre-cook fiddling and priming that canister stoves require and the Trangia is sometimes even faster. Besides, what else are you going to be doing that's making you impatient over so very few minutes other than wait for your situation to improve?

For winter conditions, there's a Winter Attachment set ($26) that comes with a burner, a pre-burner to warm the burner so it starts easily in cold temperatures, and a pan so the burner won't sink into melted snow and disappear from sight.

In addition to the pot stands mentioned here, there are others made by other companies specifically for the Trangia burner. I favor the Westwind, available with a Trangia burner ($29.95) or without ($17.95), because it's lightweight and can be taken apart and easily stored flat in your pot or a Grab & Go bag.


Accessories for whichever type of stove you choose for your preparedness kit should include a windscreen for cooking outdoors or with adequate ventilation and a pot cozy.

While a windscreen may be fashioned from heavy-duty foil doubled and wrapped around your pot stand, it might be easier to use one made of aluminum with accordion folds available for about $11.

A pot cozy is recommended to conserve fuel. When instructions say to simmer for n minutes, you can remove the pot from the stove after the water's boiled and set it in a pot cozy to continue cooking for the remaining time using residual heat.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Preparedness 2010 - Part 5

I was looking for another knife for my hiking Essentials, a subset of my preparedness kit, when I realized I hadn't replaced my pocket-sized knife sharpener that had been in my hydration pack when it was stolen from the trunk of my car three years ago while I was in San Ysidro, California.

My first thought was to buy another Smith's 2-Step sharpener from Wal-Mart for less than US$4 because, although uncomfortable to hold (and you can NOT hold it at the base as illustrated on the packaging because drawing the blade through will topple it toward you and possibly get you cut), it produces a satisfactory edge on the cheap Pampered Chef paring and Farberware utility knives I use for motel camping and is a lot less expensive than professional sharpening.

However, the poorly designed finger guard prevents as much as 7/16" of a knife's edge from being sharpened depending on the knife's design. For a 2-1/2" blade I have, this means about 20% won't be sharpened. For a small knife like the SAK Classic model, close to a third of the cutting edge is left dull. That's unacceptable.

Unable to recall the brand name of the stolen sharpener that I liked better than the Smith's 2-Step and happening to run across the Lansky Quick Fix pocket sharpener, I bought one for US$5.95 and was pleased to find it the most comfortable to hold of the three pocket sharpeners I've used and able to sharpen the entire length of the blades the Smith's sharpener can't.

I advocate having a pocket-sized knife sharpener in your preparedness kit to touch up your knife should you have to leave home because the safest knife is a sharp knife since less pressure is needed to cut. A duller knife, needing more pressure, is more likely to slip and cut you.

With a pocket sharpener that has the angle preset for you, all you have to do is hold it firmly on a stable surface and draw the knife straight through three to five times although a hard stainless steel blade like a SAK, will need more than those few. The carbide side is for very dull or damaged edges while the ceramic rods are for touch ups. Inexpensive and easy!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Preparedness 2010 - Part 4

Basically, I'm the kind of person who rather install new flashlight batteries and forget about them until they fail and need replacing which always occurs while I'm using it.

Playing electronic solitaire gave me an idea. Why don't I replace all AA cells every six months whether they need it or not when I check my emergency food and water supplies and save the older cells to power my solitaire game that also uses AA cells?

That way, the flashlights for my home, car, and Grab & Go bag will always have the freshest batteries.

After all, it isn't much more effort than replacing the cells in my NOAA weather radio or home's smoke detector twice a year when we change to/from Daylight Savings Time.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Preparedness 2010 - Part 3 update

After putting the packages of food likely to be chewed into by mice into a plastic bin with a latching top, it occurred to me that if I enter the expiration dates on my new list in pencil, I wouldn't have to reprint the list until I change the contents.

If I do the entire list in pencil, I will save paper because I'll be using an eraser instead of reprinting the list.

Hooray for low-tech solutions!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Preparedness 2010 - Part 3

I've been doing it twice a year for two years and it's gotten old.

I'm talking about checking the expiration dates on my preparedness food supplies.

As I unpack everything from the two large shopping bags in which they're stored, I check each date, having rewritten those that are hard to find or read with a fine Sharpie before putting them in the bags.

Those expiring within 9-16 months, for example, January 2011 for this past April's food check and January 2012 for this month's food check, get moved to my regular food supply and are added to my shopping list to replenish my preparedness kit so I always have fresher food in my kit and nothing's wasted due to an expiration date. The rest are put back into the bags.

It's dull work and I'm doing it for only one person. Imagine how grumpy I'd be if I were doing it for a family!

This year, I decided to make a list of items with their expiration dates. The list is organized by meals: breakfasts, lunches and dinners with meat or fish, rice or potato, and veggie; followed by snacks and beverages. That would make it quick to check what I set aside and the quantities as well as their expiration dates because I have only to scan the list and won't have to remove anything from a bag until it's due to be moved to my regular food supply and replaced.

When I replenish items, all I have to do is write the new expiration dates onto the list until it's so cluttered and difficult to read that I have to make a new printout.

Ha! Let's see how well this idea works out.

[Update 3/31/11 - The list is working out well. I left the spaces for the expiration dates blank on my computer and filled them in with pencil so I can erase the old expiration dates and write the new dates for the replacements in the same spaces. As expected, the list is staying neater, longer.]

I also need to change from storing them in shopping bags to something more secure like a plastic bin and an ice chest. While shopping bags are easy to load into and out of my car in case of evacuation or while traveling, they're also too easy for critters to get into. Although canned food is secure and will stay in a bag, lined with another to hold the weight, the last thing I need in an emergency situation is to discover holes in my packages of instant oatmeal, potatoes, rice, or snacks where wee furry beasties helped themselves to the food as they would depending on where I stay and park.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Preparedness 2010 - Part 2

Another cause for concern last winter was that a part broke in the city's water supply system. The pressure dropped and residents were advised to conserve water until the new part, expected to be delivered the next day, was installed.

Panic ensued with people rushing to buy every single bottle of water in town, arguing and pushing to fill their shopping carts with as many bottles as they could get.

Although we might laugh at people over-reacting that way, the truth is that water is precious. The panicked response is proof.

The shame of it is that it was totally unnecessary not only because there was no danger of the city running out of water, but also because if everyone already had their three days to two weeks worth of water set aside for emergency use and checked it every six months as federal agencies advise, they never would have panicked.

Having the confidence that you can face an emergency situation is what preparedness is all about.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Preparedness 2010 - Part 1

This is the seventh annual National Preparedness Month.

One of the lessons of last winter was how important it is to be prepared for ice storms.

With power lines down, local officials asked residents to shelter in place because the iced-over streets were too dangerous for people to make their ways to the community shelters.

I was fortunate in that where I was lost power for only two hours.

Some neighborhoods went without electricity for a week and a half while rural areas between towns didn't get service restored for up to two months.

That meant, of course, that motels filled up and most guests stayed far longer than the 72 hours minimum for which we are supposed to be prepared making finances for lodging and meals the primary concern.

I'm thinking the simplest way for a family to save up the funds is to shave off a few days from the annual family vacation for two to three years and set the saved money aside for emergency lodging.

For those who vacation at home or restrict their traveling to day trips, it isn't that simple. They'll have to figure out another method to squirrel money away that works for them.

One friend, for example, returned home at the end of each day and emptied all the coins that accumulated in his pocket during the day into various big glass jars and piggy banks he kept.

That way, he managed to save up about $300 per year without feeling like he was depriving himself. The trick is that he always paid with paper money, never coins received as change from a prior purchase.

Another method might be getting cash back while paying for shopping with check or credit card and stashing into the emergency fund the extra $5, $10, $20, or whatever amount that won't be missed.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

No Way (Yes, Way!)

Rox just sent me a forward that I can't resist posting:

"I have often wondered why it is, that the conservatives are called the 'right' and the liberals are called the 'left.' By chance I stumbled upon this verse in the Bible:

Ecclesiastes 10:2 (NIV):

'The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of the fool to the left.'

Yep, that's gotta be it!"

Too funny!

Friend or Foe?

While working on my new journal pages for my website, something strange happened to my Facebook news feed. Whenever one of my Friends liked or commented on a status of one of their Friends, a stranger to me, the stranger's status and all the associated comments were displayed on my news feed. This happened one day, disappeared the next, and returned the day after. It was odd.

That's not what this post is about.

One stranger's status was about her ex-husband remarrying and her hope that someone warned his new wife about his alcoholism and abusiveness because none of her friends who knew him had the decency to warn her. She ended her status with, "SHAME ON YOU!"

I know exactly what she means because when I was 18, I got engaged to an abusive man before knowing he was abusive. A couple of my friends from high school knew what he was like but didn't warn me because I was so happy they didn't want to spoil my happiness. They said they didn't want to hurt my feelings. As a result, I ended up in the emergency room.

Fortunately, my friends owned up to their mistake and apologized although that didn't happen until several weeks after I got him out of my life with the help of the police, my apartment building's security guard, and my dad.

Years later, I discovered a true friend in Roxie whom I've mentioned in previous posts. Not only does she support me with my writing, when I got close to a friend with the expectation of more, she warned me about an undesirable aspect of his that had great potential for causing problems if we had married. Unbeknownst to her, I already knew about it and because he was in counseling for it, I thought it would work out somehow.

My affinity for the man ended when he abandoned me, not saying a word nor giving me a hug or anything but keeping his distance when my mother died unexpectedly. That's not what good friends do and there's no way anyone should entertain any thoughts of marriage whatsoever to someone who won't stand by you during a hard time like the death of a parent.

But, because of my supposed friendship with him, I learned that Roxie is a good friend because she has my back. She has proved that she wants only good for me.

Unfortunately, none of the comments for the Facebook stranger's status acknowledged her pain at the betrayal of her friends who should have warned her about her ex. The best comment reassured her that she will find a good man. The others told her to put it behind her and move on.

I was appalled. Although they probably had good intentions, what they did was like telling a victim of a traffic accident to get up and walk away after being hit by a drunk driver instead of helping her get to a hospital. As a result, I sent her a message telling her to ignore them and go get counseling because that's the best way to get over the kind of injury she sustained and be able to move on with her life. She thanked me for taking the time to give good advice to a total stranger.

Another type of friend was revealed when I posted "Understanding Rape." A woman with a rape recovery blog had linked to my post and when I went to check out her blog, I read that some of her friends blamed her for being raped. Yes, her own friends blamed her for being the victim of a violent crime! There are also supposed friends who are stupid enough to have the nerve to ask the rape victim if she enjoyed it. Who enjoys being violated?! Talk about revictimization.

Yet another type of friend was exposed when a woman was going through recovery and healing for being raped and abused by her husband whom she eventually divorced. The friend didn't simply say, "It's over. Move on," as another callously insensitive friend did, this one spent hours and hours over several days badgering the victim to abandon her recovery and healing process.

With friends like that, who needs enemies?

What kind of friend are you, a true friend like Roxie, or a foe in disguise like the others I described?

Friday, August 20, 2010


Returning to Wal-Mart today, I was surprised to see that only the orange plates are 75 cents. The other colors are US$1.50 for a set of four.

The bowls are 75 cents per set, not 50 cents.

Still a great price, I bought my bowls and am setting one aside for motel camping.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Double Score!

One of the challenges of traveling is finding suitable gear at affordable prices. Because I don't want to always eat in restaurants, my packing list includes a picnic set consisting of a plate, bowl, cup, knife, fork, spoon, salt & pepper shaker, and a can opener.

While I love my Orikaso plate and bowl that I've had for four or five years because they're extremely lightweight and take up practically no space, after a while on a long trip, I sometimes get tired of having to be careful of the plate's flexibility and my food trying to slide off the edge when I leave it flat to make the most of the 9.5-inch square. Although I can snap up the corners to make it less flexible and to raise the sides 1.5 - 2.75 inches, doing so decreases the usable surface to either 6.25" or 3-7/8" which makes a nice, square bowl.

(The current model Orikaso plate uses tabs instead of snaps and the resultant size may not be the same as mine.)

A Frisbee works well, but is heavier, thicker, and doesn't pack as well for air travel.

A Titanium plate, while durable and lightweight, costs too much for me to consider at this time.

A Corelle pie plate is a nice change from the Orikaso plate, but is suitable only for motel camping, being too heavy for air travel.

A coffee can lid is too small and too flexible for my taste.

A round, plastic plate costing US$2 - $3 seemed like the best alternative until I went to Wal-Mart a few days ago.

Walking past an alcove at the front of the store where the banking, hairdressing, and other services are located, a colorful array caught my eye.

The shelves were stacked full with plastic plates, bowls, tumblers, and aluminum and stainless steel water bottles on clearance.

Checking out the Mainstays polypropylene (resin ID code #5) square plates in fuchsia, blue, green, and orange, I was pleased to find them lightweight with very little flexibility. Generously sized at 9.75 inches, each plate has a slight, rising edge that stands 5/16" above the table top, acting as a speed bump for crumbs and other food items trying to make a fast escape, yet low enough for easy packing.

Best of all, the plates are sold for only US$0.75 for a set of four.


At only $0.50 for a set of four, I think I'll go back for the matching bowls. Since they won't pack as well, I'll continue to use my Orikaso for air travel, but I might use one of these bowls instead of the heavier Corelle bowl I've been using for motel camping. Considering the price, the loss will be negligible if it doesn't work out as well as I hope.

Double score!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Go to Now

Today, I'm finally getting back to what I thought I'd be doing before I was so rudely interrupted by the revelation that spammers have been using one of my domain name email addresses to forge their headers.

Such is life: God's will, God's way, God's timing.

Or, as I've heard it said in this part of the country, "...Lord willing and the creeks don't rise."

James 4:

13. Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain:
14. Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.
15. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.

Friday, August 6, 2010

D*@%! Spammers

Some low-down, no-good, dirty, slimy, frickin spammer(s) stole one of my domain names and an associated email address to forge email headers to escape detection and being shut down as they've done to so many other netizens.

As a result, I'm busy with damage control and what can be done to protect my other domain names.

Fortunately, the last few years have seen the acceptance of the Sender Policy Framework (SPF) record to help authenticate legitimate email. Had I known about and used it in time, it might have saved me from jumping through hoops getting up to speed this week trying to protect my domain from being blacklisted.

So far, I've set up and published SPF TXT records for my DNS to authenticate my outgoing email with the help of the SPF Setup Wizard. One thing I don't like about the wizard is that it doesn't give the option of -all which means the email is to be treated as spam if it doesn't match the passing criteria, although changing the softfail ~all to the hardfail -all is easy enough by manually editing it.

For the domain names that I'm not using for email, my SPF record is simply:

v=spf1 -all

because any and all email from those domains should be considered forgeries by spammers. Should I decide to use one for email later, it's easy enough to modify the record and republish it through my DNS.

I'm also transferring my domain name registration to another registrar, that I've been using since 1999, because it offers free privacy protection.

(I'd provide a link, except I can't find one for only domain registrations and the current website is all about packages. Using the same company for both domain name registration and web hosting is a really bad idea because you could lose both in one fell swoop. For an idea of how bad a situation can be, read some of the complaints at NoDaddy.)

Some registrars charge for the privacy service and my former registrar of the forged domain name doesn't offer it at all. I'm sure that's how the spammers got it because the email addy that I've seen in spam had to have been harvested from the public Whois listing since I use it exclusively as my contact email address for domain name registration and web hosting.

Just to make sure, I've also changed my contact email address on my website from a simple disguise that some might now be able to decrypt to an image that can't be read by computers. Visitors won't be able to click a mailto link anymore, but I don't get enough emails through my website to warrant my setting up an email form.

Maybe the slight inconvenience of having to read, manually call up their email client and enter my addy will discourage the weirdoes from emailing me like the guy who complained about my dissing pencils on one of my pen pages. (Please see the last paragraph for what I wrote about using a pencil and remember that I didn't make the rules; I was merely reporting them for my visitors' convenience.)

My next step is to set up a webpage to let any recipients of spam purporting to be from me know that I did NOT have anything to do with it. I've already created the page, but must wait for the registration transfer to be completed before I can set it up with my web host.


Luke 6:28b ...pray for them which despitefully use you.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Eye for Eye

Since the 1982 movie, Gandhi, a version of a quote attributed but never actually sourced to Mahatma Gandhi has been floating around:

"'An eye for an eye, tooth for tooth' leaves the whole world blind and toothless."

I pretty well ignored it, feeling that it was mocking God, until I saw an episode of a TV series recently that had a Jewish man say that scripture is about money.

"It is?" My attention was caught.

I looked it up and to my surprise, of the four references in the Bible, only one is about justice in general.

The first reference, Exodus 21:22-25, is about being careful around women, specifically a pregnant woman. It's saying that men can't cause harm to an expectant mother either on purpose or inadvertently.

It says that an unborn child is precious and the father will determine the amount of the fine as punishment for causing the miscarriage and judges shall determine how it shall be paid.

It also says that should the mother be injured, the person who injured her will receive the same injury. He will have to endure the result of the same injury he caused her to bear.

How good God is to have a law ensuring an expectant mother and her unborn child won't be harmed by instituting consequences if they are.

How sad it is that men were so disrespectful of women and children that such a law had to be written.

How sad it is that after all this time, there are still people today who don't value women, motherhood, or unborn children.

The second reference, Leviticus 24:17-20, says that someone cannot kill or physically harm someone else without being put to death or receiving the same bodily harm as punishment. I believe this is the scripture used for general retribution. However, I see it not as leaving the whole world blind and toothless, but as a deterrent. How many people would purposely kill or injure another person knowing that they will be put to death or receive the same injury? That's like putting out your own eye. It simply isn't believable that people would do that to themselves.

The third reference, Deuteronomy 19:16-21, is about a false witness who lies with the intention of causing harm to someone else. The harmful judgment the victim was meant to get is to be the liar's punishment. This scripture is to discourage people from framing others and to discourage lying.

The fourth reference, Matthew 5:14-16, 38-48; is the most interesting because Jesus tells His followers that we are no longer like everybody else, but that we are the light of the world. In our new position, we are to treat everyone as God does, with love.

Do we do that?

If we do, with the wisdom that the Lord gives us, don't some non-believers, and so-called Christians, too, misinterpret our obedience and trust in Him as weakness and try to take advantage of us? After all, they don't know God or understand that our turning the other cheek or going the extra mile is done out of strength.

Because we already know how the story ends.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Wal-Mart to Put Radio Tags on Clothes

"Wal-Mart Stores Inc. plans to roll out sophisticated electronic ID tags to track individual pairs of jeans and underwear, the first step in a system that advocates say better controls inventory but some critics say raises privacy concerns."

For the rest of the article, please see the Wall Street Journal.

I remember there being a huge squawk several years ago because of privacy concerns when Wal-Mart embedded e-tags into other, non-clothing, soft goods.

These sound better because they're removable, if they're removed at the checkout counter.

If Wal-Mart refuses to remove them before we leave the store, I think shoppers should remove them at their cars and toss them into Wal-Mart trash cans to avoid taking them home.

A keychain knife or multitool such as the 2.25 inches long (closed) Classic model of Swiss Army Knife and Leatherman Micra, Squirt, or Style include a pair of scissors that might be ideal for this purpose.

The Classic SAK is available in several colors and designs from Amazon from US$9.50 and in red at Wal-Mart (US$9.97). The Leatherman keychain multitools which have more tools and, as a result, weigh more than the Classic SAK, start at about US$21.

Definitely get an RFID-blocking wallet if you have a driver's license, credit cards, or other personal information with RFID chips attached to protect yourself from snoops and the bad guys.

Journal Excerpts Online

Finally! I put a baker's dozen worth of excerpts from my travel journal of my Road Trip 2006-2007 to The Reading Room of my website and invite you to read them.

One reason I wait is to get some distance to make it easier for me to see the glaring rough spots so I may edit them out. This time, other factors including the theft of my laptop in 2007 while I was in San Ysidro, CA, made the length of time several years longer than intended.

While reading them to select which journal entries to add to my website, I was surprised by the number of details I had already forgotten. One, a man telling me that he and his friends were in a local establishment during a storm when a tree fell on another patron's car, brought back the memory of my waiting in the lobby of that particular Motel 6 in Oregon so vividly, it was as though I was there right after the man finished his story.

As a result, I encourage all travelers to take the time to record their travels in a journal. Even if you're not a writer, or find writing difficult, whatever you write will bring back precious memories of your trip for you to savor years after it's over.

While I email mine to myself and other travelers may blog, all you need is a pen and a journal. Nobody else has to read it unless you want to share; it's up to you.

The benefit is immeasurable.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wonderful Seatbelt Ad

Thanks to my dear friend, Roxie, I've just seen the "wear your seat belt" ad the UK started doing in January. From the news articles I've read about it, it's being hailed across the world as a beautiful commercial and is so popular, it's gone viral and has its own fan page on Facebook.

If you're behind the curve and haven't watched it yet, here's the link.

Friday, July 16, 2010

This Week

It's another brief post as I'm working on new pages to add to my website.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

More LED Flashlights & Conversion Kits

Getting that 2-AA Mini Maglite LED flashlight for my friend last week prompted me to order more LED conversion kits for my incandescent Mini Maglites and finish this post I started working on last year.

My requirements for a mini flashlight are that it's affordable, costing less than $30, and is powered by one or two AA cells because they're inexpensive and widely available, a consideration for foreign travel since cells we're used to getting here are not always available elsewhere.

My intended use is general preparedness, household, auto, travel, and outdoors such as hiking, geocaching, and waymarking.

My research taught me that the best of the high output LEDs are made by Cree, Philips Lumileds (Luxeon and Rebel), Nichia, and Seoul Semiconductor (SSC). Lights that use these LEDs are likely to mention them on the packaging to assure you of getting a quality product.

The flashlights with which I've gotten familiar since posting "Let There Be Light" are:

1. 2-AA Coleman Max (Cree XR-E): 115 lumens, 5 hours runtime - This is the same length as the incandescent Mini Maglite but for the slightly protruding push-button on the tail cap that prevents it from standing on end. Unlike the push-button on the Duracell Daylite (below), the push-button on the Coleman Max is easy to operate. The Max weighs slightly more than the Mini Maglite LED (below) and has a really good feel in the hand.

However, the light is significantly warmer (yellow) from the hotspot throughout the corona.

If I didn't like the next generation Mini Maglite LED flashlight so much because of its white light and features plus the Accessory Pack or the incandescent Mini Maglite with an LED conversion kit, this would be my favorite.

Comes with lanyard. US$24.88 at Wal-Mart.

2. 2-AA Duracell Daylite: 80 lumens, ? hours runtime - The housing is attractive with a textured surface to enhance grip and the diffused beam is a nice white.

I didn't bother to look for nor test the runtime because I really don't like the flashlight. The adjustable focus doesn't vary much. The corona of the light doesn't really exist because it's so dark, it's not useful. It's marked by rather attractive circles at the narrowest focus setting and strangely-shaped light rings at the widest adjustment. You have to provide your own lanyard to attach to the hole on the tail cap.

Considering that it isn't comfortable in the hand and is more unwieldy being longer, larger around, and heavier than the next-gen Mini Maglite LED or the Coleman Max, and that the recessed push-button on the tail cap is significantly more difficult to use than that on the Coleman Max, in addition to it costing more than either of the other two, it simply isn't worth buying.

Not recommended. US$26.88 at Wal-Mart.

3. Next generation 2-AA Mini Maglite LED (Luxeon Rebel®): 69 lumens, 18 hours runtime at 100% setting, 31 hours at 25%. The one I bought last year didn't have ratings on the packaging and not finding any online for the next-gen Mini Maglite LED flashlight, I did my own runtime tests using new Duracell alkaline batteries for each test that performed considerably longer than what the package now says.

At 100% power, it dimmed and started flickering at 116 hours (4 days 20 hours) until it went out at 117 hours.

At 25% power, it started flickering at 192 hours (8 days) and went out some time during the next 6.5 hours while I was asleep.

As far as brightness goes, at full power it's definitely brighter than the 50 lumens of the TerraLUX TLE-5 conversion LED (below) and the center hotspot is brighter than the diffused beam of the 80-lumens rated 2-AA Duracell Daylite (above). It looks a bit brighter than the Coleman Max (above), but that might be because the Max is warm (yellow); it's hard for me to judge between the two.

I like the 25% power level for reading and, as a result, eliminated my formerly ideal, incandescent 2-AAA book light from my packing list because the 6-8 hours runtime for it is much too short by comparison to warrant taking it along anymore.

The strobe and SOS features make it ideal for preparedness for situations ranging from natural disasters like Katrina to getting lost in the great outdoors. Being shock- and water-resistant, it's just as good as the incandescent Mini Maglite that was the standard by which other flashlights were judged for many years prior to LED flashlights coming out.

Available in black, red, silver, blue, gray, and camo according to Maglite, I've seen only black and gray at the two Wal-Mart Super Centers I've visited. If you want another color, please be careful of buying online as some don't have the lanyard hole on the tailcap and, as such, may be the previous version that the Mini Maglite Accessory Pack doesn't fit instead of the next generation that does have a lanyard hole and for which the items of the Accessory Pack do fit.

My guess is that online stores such as Amazon are selling existing stock of the first version before getting the next gens.

Still my favorite LED mini flashlight, the next gen 2-AA Mini Maglite LED is US$21.88 at Wal-Mart.

For those who may have a hard time getting used to the twist on/off of the Mini Maglite, there are rear clicky conversions available. The best seems to be the TerraLUX TCS-1 Tailcap Switch for the AA Mini Mag for US$5 at Amazon.

If you already have an incandescent Mini Maglite (12 lumens, 5 hours 15 minutes runtime, currently US$8.88 at Wal-Mart), there are several LED conversion kits offered by Nite Ize and TerraLUX. These are excellent for giving new life to the outdated incandescent Mini Mags. At first glance, the conversion kits may seem expensive but what you'll save in batteries and/or gain in brightness will more than make up for the purchase price plus you'll never again have to change a light bulb.

Also, since LEDs are not to be shined into someone's eyes because doing so will cause retinal damage, you could give your children incandescent Mini Maglites for their own recreational use or preparedness kits and upgrade their flashlights with LED conversion kits when they're old enough to use LEDs responsibly.

Other than for children, there's probably no reason to buy a new incandescent Mini Maglite and an LED conversion kit unless it's to get a color finish like purple or pink or the American flag that isn't available (yet?) on a Mini Maglite LED flashlight. You're better off simply getting the next-generation Mini Maglite LED flashlight unless you want to assemble your own tactical flashlight (see TerraLUX #4 below) or need a specialty LED for another purpose such as a UV LED for hunting scorpions or inspecting hotel rooms.

Just be sure you're getting the next generation version that has a lanyard hole instead of the first version without the lanyard hole unless you're 100% absolutely sure you will never want to attach a lanyard or want to use the rubber head cap that is a great anti-roll device, a colored lens, or replacement clear lens of the Accessory Pack. A quick way to tell the difference between the two versions is that the packaging for the first version has three colored circles on the front while the packaging for the next generation has four colored circles.

Nite Ize:

1. The Nite Ize 3-LED Upgrade Kit is approximately 8 lumens and runs up to 20 hours. I bought one of these when I first saw them years ago at a local Gibson's and was disappointed because the incandescent Mini Maglite is brighter. My disappointment was such that I held off converting my other Mini Mags until last year when I found out about other LED conversion kits. However, using it as a map-reading light with the red lens from the Mini Maglite Accessory Pack to preserve my night vision redeemed its purchase. From US$4.50 through Amazon.

2. The Nite Ize LED Upgrade II is approximately 30 lumens and has a runtime of about 25 hours. About $9 through Amazon.

3. The 1 Watt Nite Ize LED Upgrade Kit is approximately 55 lumens with a runtime of 15 hours. About US$19 at Amazon. With the IQ Switch, the kit is about US$25.

TerraLUX offers the following Luxeon LED conversion kits for the Mini Maglite:

1. TerraLUX MiniStar3 TLE-3: 15 lumens, 50 hours runtime - This has 3 LEDs. Because this is about the same brightness as an incandescent Mini Maglite and because of the long runtime, it's ideal for your preparedness kit if you don't want to buy a new flashlight. Other than that, I recommend getting one of the others that produces a brighter light because they're so nice. From US$5.99 through Amazon.

2. TerraLUX TLE-20 (Nichia Regel), 0.5 watt: 36 lumens, 15 hours runtime - This produces a nice, white light. To avoid going bump in the night, I chose this one to upgrade my bedside flashlight. Also for the 2-AAA Mini Maglite. From US$9.95 through Amazon.

3. TerraLUX MiniStar2 TLE-5 (Luxeon III?), 1 watt: 50 lumens, 6 hours runtime - This has a distinctly yellow tint in the hotspot but not as yellow as the Coleman Max. This is my favorite upgrade kit because it yields suitable brightness coupled with a decent runtime. I put it in my kitchen flashlight. I got mine last year through Amazon for US$9.70.

4. TerraLUX MiniStar2 Extreme TLE-5EX (Cree XR-E), 3 watts: 140 lumens, 4 hours runtime. I got it just to see and... Wow! It's bright! Use this kit and the TerraLUX TCS-1 rear clicky conversion to turn an excellent general purpose incandescent made-in-America flashlight into an LED tactical light for about US$35.

I couldn't find a runtime rating, so I did my own test using new batteries.

At 4.5 hours, the circle of light began to get smaller and smaller until it was so tiny it was useless at 6 hours. I turned it off at 6.75 hours.

The nice thing about alkaline batteries is that they tend to recharge themselves when they're not being used which is the reason alkaline batteries for any LED flashlight will last longer than the rated runtimes if the light is used intermittently instead of continuously as during tests to rate the runtime.

As a result, I was able to use it for another hour a week after the test. (It didn't quit. I was through using it.)

After another week, I decided to resume testing with the same pair of batteries. It ran for 1.5 hours before going out. I let it rest for 8 hours and turned it on for another 3 hours with it dimming and shrinking over the last hour.

This LED produces a nice, white light and cost me US$17.95 last year through Amazon.

If you have other styles of incandescent Maglites, Streamlights, or SureFires, TerraLUX has LED upgrade conversion kits for them, too, as well as a couple of universal upgrade kits that work with other brands.

Something to keep in mind is that there are no industry-wide standards for rating flashlights. As a result, a flashlight rated n lumens with a stated runtime may be brighter or less bright and have a longer or shorter throw than another flashlight with the same rating and may run longer or for less time. Your best bet is to check independent reviews such as those on CandlePowerForums Reviews.

Another thing is that, although I've listed the wattage as do several manufacturers, watts are not indicative of the amount of light produced like we're used to thinking when looking at incandescent bulbs. In fact, watts only indicate how much power an item needs such as how much power an LED needs to produce its best light. For an example of how we can't use wattage to indicate output, a 26-watt CFL bulb produces light equivalent to a 100-watt incandescent bulb.

For more info, Flashlight Reviews and the flashaholics on the CandlePowerForums may be the most helpful sources.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Her First Solo Road Trip

This week, there was a three-day visit with a friend from high school I haven't seen in eight years because of the distance between us.

As a former flight attendant who married a pilot, my friend is, undoubtedly, an experienced traveler by air. She enjoys getting lodging through Priceline saying that's how she gambles.

Isn't she smart? She never loses money that way plus saves money by getting nicer rooms for less.

What makes this trip especially exciting is that it's her first solo road trip because her husband didn't want to drive from Texas to Nebraska and back with all the stops she planned along the way.

Among our sharing, reminiscing, and verbal battling caused by her pushing me to live my life as she sees fit (Yes, she lost points for that!), we discussed her preparations and the rest of her itinerary only changing her whistle for an extra Fox 40 Micro I happened to have because it's much louder and her keychain flashlight for one that's brighter that was leftover from a bunch I got to give out for Christmas.

(Isn't it interesting that I just happened to have them? Isn't God good?)

I also gave her a next generation 2-AA Mini Maglite LED flashlight because it has the SOS feature along with an accessory pack with a red lens so her night vision won't be impaired should she have to check a map at night.

Since I know many women who want to travel but won't go by themselves, I applaud her for not allowing her husband to deter her from pursuing her dreams.

Friday, June 25, 2010


I typed up a post and saved it as a Draft to verify something before submitting it.

The screen flickered.


The post disappeared.

Apparently, you don't need to read what I wrote because I can't find it anywhere and I'm certainly not retyping it.

Sorry, this is all you're getting this week.

Have a nice weekend! I'm going to practice playing "Yankee Doodle Dandy" on my tin whistle to see how good I can get by Independence Day.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Website Maintenance

Not much of a blog entry this week because I'm still busy with my website. Mundane tasks such as fixing a couple of pages that had the text listing to larboard, restoring missing borders, correcting ALT text, selecting a nicer-looking font for the header, and other similar maintenance that I put off long enough effectively drove all raves, rants, rambles, and thoughts of reviews from my head.

After I finish checking for dead links, I'll be ready to upload everything and carry on with whatever I was doing before.

I think a pink lemonade would go down nicely right about now.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Get Your Own Domain Name

Ever since 1998 when I first started doing websites, friends and acquaintances have come to me saying they think they'd like to have their own business or ministry websites. Although I quit doing websites for other people about seven years ago because it takes too much time away from my writing and because I don't want to have to keep current on the latest flashy website design or search engine optimization (SEO) for other people, the topic keeps coming up.

As a result, here is a blog post so everyone may read why they should get their own domain name sooner rather than putting it off until later along with some tips for how to get one.

(If you are one of those writers who doesn't want anything to do with having a website for your writing endeavors - and there are successful writers who eschew the entire concept of having a presence online whether it be a website, blog, Facebook, MySpace, or Twitter - please feel free to click away now and not waste any more of your time when you should be busy writing.

Yes, you! You know you're procrastinating by reading blogs instead of writing! If, however, you've read or been told you need to have a website and think you might agree, please read on.)

The first objection to getting a domain name now is that you're not ready for it. Deep down inside, you know you'll have your own website eventually, but not just now. You don't want the expense, you don't know precisely what you'd put on a website, or who will design and maintain it for you if you don't learn to do it yourself.

That's okay.

There are two components to having a website and the web host - where the website will reside - won't matter until you're ready to put up content.

However, the domain name - the URL, the address that tells everyone where your website is, for example, mine is - may be considered a prime piece of real estate in cyberspace and should be obtained as soon as you know what you want it to be to prevent someone else from getting it because, like real property, once it's gone, it may be gone for the rest of your lifetime and beyond.

It happened to a man I knew who was starting a ministry. He selected the ministry name and proceeded to set up his organization but ignored my urging him to get the domain name saying he wasn't ready for it. After several months, he was ready, but in the meantime, it had already been registered by another ministry with the same name in a different state.

It's more important for writers to get a domain name that matches their real or pen name since that's the first URL readers will try before resorting to a search engine to find an author's website. For example, back in 1999, I typed "" into the address bar of my browser and landed on a cybersquatter's website because, evidently, nobody in Grisham's corner was 'net savvy enough to have registered his domain name for him before the cybersquatter got it. To this day, if you try to visit his official website, you can't use; you have to use instead.

It may seem like a small matter, but really, it isn't a good idea to inconvenience your readers and potential fans by making them use a search engine or locate their copy of your book that has your URL in small type on the back cover in order to visit your website. If you decide later that you're absolutely certain that you don't want a website, you can always release it by letting the registration expire.

The second objection is the expense. What expense? Sure, if you're a starving artist living in a garret, the US$10-35 may be hard to come by, but if you're a writer who kept your day job, simply skip a couple of pizzas or dinners out and the registration fee for your domain name will be covered for an entire year. Or, hint to your friends and family that you'd like your domain name as a birthday or Christmas gift.

A related objection might be that you're not willing to pay the registration fee year after year with nothing in return on the purely speculative notion that you're going to need a website. Sure, the arts are highly competitive and there is the possibility that you won't make it big, but your domain name may be used as your email address while you're waiting to finish writing your current book or, if you're an artist, attain the level of artistry that will sell enough to pay for your domain name and web host and then some.

By setting it up in your registrar's control panel to forward your emails to your current email addy, a simple task that's a free service at many registrars, you can have a single, permanent, easily-remembered, individualized email address that will work no matter to what ISP you may decide to switch in the future and your contacts will never again have to change their address books.

Now that you have more info to mull over, you may be inclined to type your name into your browser's address bar with ".com" appended just out of curiosity. If you don't land on someone else's website, go to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), read the info for first-time visitors and the FAQs at InterNIC that is operated by ICANN, then register your domain name with one of the accredited registrars on the ICANN list or a reseller. (Here is a list organized alphabetically by country.)

What will you do if someone else's website comes up? You have several options:

1. Wait and hope that the owner forgets to renew the registration or changes his/her mind and releases it so it may be registered by someone else, hopefully you rather than another person - which may never happen.

2. Offer to buy it - which may be more expensive than your wallet can bear.

3. Register your name under a different generic top-level domain (gTLD), such as .net or .org, instead of .com. For example, John Sandford's domain name is

You may also choose to use your country's two-character country code (ccTLD) such as .us for the U.S. or .de for Germany.

If you're a licensed professional, .pro may be the best TLD for you especially since it's use is restricted. Just by seeing the .pro, clients will know you're a licensed professional.

If you want to put up a website to disseminate information about your area of expertise, consider using .info as your gTLD.

If you're a private individual who wants a non-commercial domain name, .name is designated for personal websites and email addresses. However, please note there is no email forwarding available with the second-level domain name (example: and no email SMTP sending capability with the third-level domain name (example:, only email forwarding, i.e., you can receive email using your third-level domain name but not send. To send, you'll have to use the address you set up with your email provider.

4. Pick a different name - entirely do-able especially if you intend to use a pseudonym - or use a different form of your name. For example, instead of firstnamelastname, try firstinitiallastname like John Grisham has with his Or, use only your last name like Janet Evanovich did: You might also use a hyphen as in firstname-lastname although hyphenated domain names aren't commonly known.

Many registrars have a search tool for you to check on availability of the domain name you have in mind that also displays a list of suggested alternatives in case the one you want isn't available.

Other tips I want to pass on are:

* Understand that you don't actually own your domain name. When you register it for your use, it's more like leasing office space.

* Use an ICANN-accredited registrar. This alone will greatly eliminate potential issues.

* When you're ready to register your domain name, be sure you will be the registered owner by examining the fine print of the registrar's policy. Some registrars or resellers register the domain you select and take your money, but put it in their own company's name so you can't take it with you should you decide to transfer to a different registrar. Be careful of the policy also, if you get a hosting package that includes a free domain name because some tie the free domain name to the hosting package which means you can't take the domain name with you if you decide to have your website hosted elsewhere.

* Don't ever let your domain name expire until you're ready to let it go!!! Many registrars charge oodles to reinstate an expired domain name registration. Depending on your circumstances, it might be safer to sign up for auto-renewal on a charge card so you won't be caught off-guard by an expiration date as one person was when he had a long-term disablement. His domain name registration expired while he was recuperating from surgery and it was a hard pill to swallow as it matched the name of his business.

* Geocities is closed, but there are other free web hosts or blog hosts if you want to forward your domain name to one of them. URL forwarding, typically a free service provided by the registrar, is useful for those who can't yet afford paid hosting but want to start establishing an online presence and who, rather than paying someone else, may want to learn how to create their own website perhaps using their word processing program's ability to save in HTML. A simple website is all a writer really needs until hitting the New York Times Best Seller list with translations in umpteen different countries.

Plus, an email address using your own domain name, with or without a website's URL, looks great on your business or contact card.

It's something to think about, eh?