An Electric Riding Mower?

More years ago than I care to admit, I bought a used 5 hp Sears riding mower.  Given the size of my yard, it did just fine.  Unfortunately, it only lasted three seasons.  (It was in pretty bad shape when I bought it.)  Even so, I only paid $100 for it and it saved me a lot of walking.

I wouldn’t mind having something similar today, but I can’t find a riding mower that is smaller than 8 HP.  Moreover, they like to make the things far more complex than they need to be.  For instance, the little thing I bought had hard rubber wheels and I didn’t need to concern myself with flats.  All the rider mowers today have pneumatic tires that might require repair or replacement.

There is one thing the little Sears mower lacked that I would have preferred, an electric starter.  Sometimes I had to pull on that rope 4 or five times to start it.  Back then, it wasn’t a problem.  Now, I am 70.  Pulling on starter chords can cause real back pains, especially if I have to pull on it multiple times.

For this reason, I now use an electric mower.  For quite a while, I used one with a power chord.  It was a nuisance.  I spent more time managing the chord than I did mowing.

So, I bought a battery powered mower the other day.  It cuts well and it is very quiet.  There is no power chord, and I’m sure the tree huggers would just love it.  I just hope the battery last more than one or two seasons.

Then, a few days ago, the thought occurred to me.  For years they have been pushing electric cars to cut down on pollution.  If it’s good for cars, why not rider mowers?

I don’t need a big one.  It would have two parts.  The mowing part could be very similar to the mower I have.  The second part would be the tractor like part.  Each part would have its own battery.  It would allow me to get around should the mower battery run low.

Other than the batteries, they would likely last just about forever.  The batteries would likely have to be replaced every 3 to 5 years.  There would not be a reason to make special trips to get gas, not to mention the hazards of storing it.  Also, of course, there would be no need for any belts.  The mower and both rear wheels would be powered by separate motors.

Also, it would negate the need for a starter, which adds quite an expense to the gas powered mowers.  If I want to go, I press a lever or pedal.  There would be no need to engage or disengage the cutting blade.  It would be a matter of toggling a switch.  (The mechanism for engaging the blade is not complex, but likely adds fifty dollars to the cost of the riding mower,)

I’m sure such a mower would not replace the big 12 hp mowers.  Some people have big yards.  Me.  If I got a 12 hp mower for my little lot, it would be like using a sledge hammer for a thumb tack.  Besides, if I was able to use the little electric riding mower, I could claim that I am doing my part for the environment.

Now if I can just figure out a way to put an air-conditioner on it.

Computers, Good and Bad

Ever since computers have become somewhat common, I have had an interest in them. It helped that my brother designed them. He had a master’s in math and an Electronics Engineer degree. When I went into the Marines, I went into Aviation electronics. Admittedly, I didn’t have my brother’s abilities. If I had, I likely would have never gone in the Marines. Even as it was, I almost went to work for Autonetics, the electronic division of the no longer existing North American Aviation.
After the Marines, I went into the repair of computers and then into operations. There is no way I ever thought I would start writing books. Most of my English teachers concurred. By the time I reached the 7th grade, I was starting to have problems. At the time I had heard of Dyslexia, but I had no idea what it is. Though I have never been diagnosed as dyslexic, I now realize I have many of the symptoms. Anyone who knows the symptoms and has read my books will realize what I mean, although it is more of a reading problem.
So during my youth, I spent a great deal of my time trying to hide my problems. Because reading is difficult for me and I read slowly, I generally shy away from reading. I am good at listening, which allows me to somewhat make up for it. I can attend a lecture and I remember it far better than if I read the same material. In spite of my efforts to hide my problems, teachers should have recognized it and taken proper actions. Instead they just punished me for not keeping up.
I am very bad at spelling. It’s not specifically part of dyslexia, but the two sort of go together. When I write, I leave words and even phrases out. I frequently use words like also at the front of a sentence and then too at the end. Homonyms drive me crazy. I really do know the difference between there, their and they’re. That does not keep me from using the wrong one in the wrong place. I haven’t the foggiest reason for it. I don’t know if that has is something common among dyslexics or not, but it does drive me nuts. In my more recent books, I do searches on many homonyms to make sure I use them correctly.
Actually, as I started this my purpose was to write about computers. I guess I got off on a rabbit path. Nonetheless, it isn’t too far off of the beaten path. The fact is, without computers, I’d never be able to write. It would be hopeless. I have heard of other authors who were highly successful. You can do a Google on dyslexic authors and there will be a big list of them. (Including Earnest Hemingway and Jules Verne.) The word processors, as great as they are, simply cannot find all my errors. I have no idea how the old authors managed it, but many did. Maybe they just had good editors.
Here lately, computers have really made a mark on recent history. The text-to-speech has really made things nice. First time I heard one, a man had a small box connected to a desktop computer. He had it set up so that anything he typed, it said, though it sounded a little like Robbie the Robot. Also, it did mispronounce things. In baseball, it pronounced the e. It sort of made it sound Italian. The problem was easily solved by separating the words… base ball.
Nowadays, the text-to-speech programs are very good, though some provisions have to be made for some words. The one I purchased always read the word read the same way, present or past tense. Nonetheless, I do use my program a lot. I use it to help me with my editing. Others might find the program far more useful. Even at seventy, I have full use of my eyes, for which I am thankful. Some are not so fortunate. People who are blind can listen to books. Before computers, the blind couldn’t read anything that is not in Braille.
On the other hand, computers help those who have a difficulty hearing. The old hearing aids, as great as they were had one problem; they amplified all frequencies about the same. That was fine for most, but sometimes people hear almost all frequencies but a small band, especially high frequencies. Current hearing aids are smaller, but they can also be programmed for a specific person. They are expensive, but for those who have problems hearing, they are well worth it.
Then there is the cochlea implant. What an invention that is. And it is only possible because of computers. Indeed, it is a type of computer. As far as I am concerned it is one of the greatest inventions of modern man. You might argue with me about it, but not with someone whose life it has changed.
I sat and watched TV one day and saw a cripple man walk. I was absolutely amazed. He didn’t walk well nor did he walk very far. He carried a computer on his back that had probes connected to his legs. …and when he wanted his leg to move, it moved, using his own muscle. I was floored. I worked around computers almost all my life and I was stunned to see what they did.
From that day, I understand that they have made large advances to help people walk with the help of computers. It is a wonderful thing, if for no other reason than to keep the muscles from atrophying.
What wonderful things these computers are. To be sure, they are a tool. They can be used for good and they can be used for things not so good. They can be used to spy on people. They can be used to track all that an employee does all day. For a while, I was even one of those employees.
I can’t help but think, why do people use computers for bad when they can be used for such good? Who knows? Maybe, one of these days they will make a word processor that can correct all my mistakes. I don’t think that will happen really soon though.

Listen! Please!

Recently, I went into a Burger King.  The woman behind the counter asked me what I wanted.  I told her a Whopper… then, before I could get another word out of my mouth she asked if I wanted the meal.

The woman had asked me a question and then didn’t let me finish my answer.  That is impolite, not to mention, not very efficient.  Nonetheless, I know it is part of their training to push the meals, so I ignored her interruption and told her, loudly I might add, “A large onion ring and a large drink.”

Then, when I received my order, guess what, there was a fry.  If I had looked, it was on my receipt.  I ask you, how did she hear fry when I said onion ring?  Did I make a mistake?  Highly unlikely, being as I made it a point to say onion ring.

I have heard it said, if you really want to be a success in life, learn to listen.  In this case, the woman didn’t listen.  She was so disposed to give me a meal that she thought I said fry.  I suppose, to some degree, it was my fault.  It is not the first time it has happened.  Most of the time I correct it before I pay for it.  In this case, it was a real problem.  I don’t like Burger King French fries.

Well, maybe it is just as well.  On this particular day, I cut down on my fried food intake a little.  However, it is frustrating.  In this case, I didn’t get my onion rings.  On the other hand, in industry, or in the military, not listening can be costly or even tragic.  It can cost lives.

I know it is a little matter, but maybe those who run Burger King, or any fast food outfit for that matter, should teach their employees to listen.  It might save more than a customer’s anger.

I might add, sometimes customers don’t complain.  They just go away, and the manager or owner never knows why.  By the way, it wouldn’t hurt for our representatives to listen now and then too.  For over a decade, most of us have been saying, build a wall.  The only one who seems to have listened is President Trump.  The rest ignore him and us.  Same for Obama Care, but more so.

Revisiting the Chairman of the Board Effect

There was a time that, when my headlight went out, I went to the local store and bought a replacement.  Oddly, they  were sort of standard.  There weren’t but about three types.  Then I popped the hood, got out a screwdriver, and a couple of minutes later, the light was replaced.

Not only did it take just a few minutes, it also took just a few dollars.

Today, things are different.  The little lamp is fifty dollars and it takes another fifty to put it in.  It is impractical to replace it myself.  The car has to go on a lift and the steering wheel has to be cut all the way to one side.  Even then, replacing the lamp is difficult.

That tells me something about those that built my car.  It is not used by those that design it.  It certainly is not used by the chairman of the board.  If so, things would not be built that way.

More than that, it does make me wonder about the motives of the design engineers.  It seems that they have made it difficult to repair on purpose.  They don’t want customers like me fixing our own cars with a screwdriver.  They want me to come back to their garage to get it fixed.  That is something I avoid.  I don’t go back to the dealer unless I have to.

The Big Hoax

I purchased a new laptop Sunday. After getting home, I began setting it up. Almost immediately, I was notified that it needed to be updated. Approximately two hours later, it downloaded the updates, checked them and started applying them. It was about 85% done when, inadvertently, I pressed the power button and the system powered down.
Honest, I didn’t mean to. It’s kind of the problem with computers. They don’t know if something is intentional or not. I waited a while, and then pressed the button again. The computer started, but not properly. It was about then that I wished I was working with my first computer. It was running on DOS 6.1 and Windows 3.1.
I used to reformat my drive and reload everything once a month. It took a little more than any an hour… and I was working with 3.5 inch floppies. If I didn’t have the latest version of software, it was of little concern.
Of course, I had to start all over with my new laptop. Actually, it was worse than that. Before I could start over, I had to restore the computer to the point it was when it was new. That took about an hour.
When the updates were done, HP decided it needed to update my bios and drivers, so I got busy on that, close to another hour. Then, as per the suggestion of HP, I created a backup copy of my system. By the way, they said I needed a minimum of a 16 GB thumb drive.
Again I wished for the good old days. My hard drive was 40 MB. It meant that the restore volume was more than 32 times bigger than the drive I was running my old system on. Fortunately, there is plenty of room on my new system drive… one TB. I’m not sure how long that will last. I am sure in a decade or two, I might need ten TB. I’m 70 years-of-age now. I likely won’t be around in a decade.
As I sat there watching my system generate the recovery volume, I pondered what all I have gained with my new system. Let’s see. I can now interface with many USB devices. My first system could only directly access 1MB if memory, actually, there was a limit of 640 KB, but there was something of a workaround.
The old system was limited to 8 bits, though my processor was able to run at 16 bits. As mentioned, I can store 1 terabyte. For all practical purposes, it is limitless. My DOS could only access a volume of 32 MB. The rest of the 40 MB had to be formatted as a separate logical volume.
Other than that, there really isn’t that much that I can do with the modern system that I wasn’t able to do with the old one. The fact is… if Windows 98 wasn’t so unstable, I would much rather use it as the new system, even with its limits. The biggest disadvantage of the new system is that the new system keeps trying to take control of my computer. Some might like that, I don’t.
However, there are other real disadvantages of the new system. I would like to format my system disk once a month, or at least every three months. With the current system, that is not practical. It might not even be possible.
As a computer professional, I learned one of the most important things a person should do with a computer is to perform backups on a regular basis. It would appear that Microsoft has gone out of their way to make this difficult if not impossible. At best, I can back up my data. Because of their registry files, backing up individual applications is not possible. This is especially important considering many programs are purchased on line.
(I paid quite a bit for one program. When I went from Windows seven to Windows 10, the program disappeared. It is gone. If I want it again, I will have to again pay for it.)
Maybe one of the most aggravating things with the new systems is that I can no longer write programs in Visual Basic 6. I can write in the newer versions but it is next to impossible to interface to the printers with the later versions of VB. (Even the Pros say as much.) I never wrote anything professionally, but I did write many programs for my personal use. By the way, they don’t work now either. In fact, when I went to Windows 7, I had to give up all my old software. I had to start all over.
I foresee, a big opportunity for the right person. If a person releases a Windows 3.1 look-alike, I will be one of the first in line to buy a copy. Anyone with an once of common sense would join me. We have gone from a system that helps us to a system that needs constant attention. Then too, we are always susceptible to all different kinds of malware. A windows 3.1 type system would not be subject to such things. …and, by the way, I could regain control of my system.
I might have to give up a few bells and whistles. Then again, I survived them before Microsoft took over my system. I think I could survive quite nicely without it all again.
As near as I can tell, it is a big hoax. They claim we need the bigger faster computers to run the software. On the other hand, we need the latest and greatest software to take advantage of the computer’s abilities. In the end, we have gained very little, other than, perhaps a headache.
All together, before I was able to use my new computer, I spent about 30 hours on updates and such. I certainly don’t want to go through this again. Maybe next time, I’ll just get one of those other little Chrome books. From what I understand, the things work right out of the box.
To me, the new systems are one of the greatest hoaxes of the modern era. Sitting, waiting on my new system was all it took to convince me of it. Apparently, I stand alone and I don’t think Microsoft is listening to me.
Well, I now have a spare system. I think I will use it to try out that other operating system, you know, the one that is free, Linux. I’ve kind of wondered about it anyway. Who knows, I might like it enough to replace Windows 10 on my new system and sat good bye to the Microsoft hoax.