Root Canal

Today I had what was possibly the longest dental procedure in my life! Two and a half hours in the chair. The pain was not too bad except for holding my mouth open for that long. Novacaine hasn’t worn off yet and I don’t know how it will feel when it does. At least the bad part is over. What remains is the expensive part (crown).

Tucson – Part 1

Last week Jan and I flew to Arizona to visit my son, Steev and his fiancee in Tucson. While we were there we did a lot of things so I will be posting about it in several parts.

Steev and GretaOn our first full day we went to hike in Sabino and Bear canyons In the Santa Catalina mountains which were conveniently located N.E. of Tucson. We got there fairly early but it was already getting hot by the time we were on the trail. Here is Steev and Greta as we started out.

The terrain is fairly rugged, dominated by cactus and other desert flora. Since it was just after the annual monsoon, the plants were quite green and many were in bloom.

There was also quite a bit of wildlife around, mostly birds and lizards such as this little guy who posed very patiently for us.

SaguaroHere is a shot of the ubiquitous Saguaro Cactus. Some of them are huge – I’d guess 30 feet tall or more.

Sabino CreekNot all of the canyon is sand and cactus. We came across this idyllic spot along Sabino Creek.

Next part – Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Pardon him, Theodotus; he is a barbarian, and thinks that the customs of his tribe and island are the laws of nature.
— George Bernard Shaw; Caesar and Cleopatra

This should be taken to heart by everyone, no matter what they do or where they come from. I know far too many people who simply can’t imagine anything but their way. Sometimes, when I catch myself thinking this way, I have to step back and consider if I am acting like a barbarian.

I’ve been following the ASUS Eee PC, ultra portable laptop since it came out. but I felt the original 7″ screen was a little small and the storage capacity limited. That changed when they came out with the next model. I finally gave in and ordered a Eee PC 901 on August 20th. I got the 1.6GHz 20GB, Linux model and it arrived on Tuesday.

My first impressions are quite favorable. It’s fast and lightweight. The 9.8″ screen is bright and very readable. The Linux distro it uses is a version of Xandros and it is very complete. I have had no real problems with any of the numerous software packages that are pre-installed. It is easy to set up and use.

Best of all, it boots up like lightning – maybe 30 seconds total. Not quite instant on, but close. It is very practical to keep it handy and turn it on just to check the weather or news and then flip it off again. No agonizing wait for boot up or shut down.

Some of the features of this machine I really like are:

  • 3 USB 2.0 ports, Ethernet port and an SDHC card slot that allows up to 16GB of additional, removable, storage.
  • Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
  • 20 GB solid state HD (no shock and vibration worries) and 1GB RAM
  • Skype pre-installed with a built-in Web Cam for video calls
  • About the size of a hardbound book – 2.2 pounds with battery.

There were only a few problems:

  • I had trouble getting the Wi-Fi to work. Then I found out I had set up the wrong type of encryption for my network. Once that was fixed all was well.
  • I had a lot of trouble with the “tap” feature of the touch pad. I finally had to disable that since I was forever clicking when I didn’t want to. An external mouse is still a nice addition. The touch pad is okay for a quick check of email or a web site but I’m much slower using that compared to a mouse.
  • Using Thunderbird for email and USENET. It just does not have all the features I want. Maybe a later version will fix some of its problems but right now it is a bit of a struggle. On the other hand, it does work with no real bugs that I have found.
  • I haven’t found a version of TrueCrypt that can run in the GUI on this machine. The command line version is too cumbersome for me. This is minor but a nuisance as I worry about keeping unencrypted private info on a laptop.
  • the shutdown process hangs if you have Wi-Fi enabled. I think this is a known bug and there will probably be a fix one day. The work-around is to either be sure to turn off Wi-Fi before shutting down or to use the “emergency shutdown” (manual power switch).

Here are some pictures of the unboxing. Click on the thumbnails for a larger image.

After opening the outer boxWhen I opened the outer box I was dismayed that Amazon had not filled all the empty space with plastic air bags as is there usual procedure. Still, everything looked to be in good shape.

Inside the boxHere is how the inside of the box looked. Very well protected and everything intact. I guess the lack of padding in the outer box was not a problem.

ContentsEverything from the box spread out on the table. The battery is not installed in the PC so the back edge looks a little strange.

Eee PC screen and keyboard

This is a shot of the screen and keyboard after I booted it up for the first time. Worked like a champ – looked cool.

In summary, I would recommend the Eee PC to anyone who wants a light, simple machine for email, web surfing and basic computing while traveling. You should not be afraid of Linux in this application. It works well and is easy to get used to. ASUS has put a lot of effort into making the interface as user friendly as possible while still retaining the parts that makes geeks love Linux.

I should caution that my personal biases should be considered before anyone takes my recommendation too seriously. As they say, “YMMV”.

  • I’m not a fast typist and don’t mind the small keyboard.
  • Low weight and small size are highly important to me when traveling.
  • I’m looking for ways to wean myself of Windows and Microsoft.
  • I am a nut when it comes to cool gadgets.


Yesterday Jan called me out to the kitchen to look into our back yard. There were two momma wild turkeys, each with four to seven chicks. They were on opposite sides of the yard, not straying too far from the tall grass where we don’t mow.

Mother turkey with chicks

Wild turkeys used to be almost non-existent in Iowa but several years ago were reintroduced with stock from Missouri. Everyone said that they were shy and would not do well in proximity to people. To the contrary, they are thriving now and we frequently see them strolling nonchalantly across our lawn. This is the first time I have seen them with young though. Maybe they are getting used to us.

Random Quote #5

Another good one for an election year.

If a large number of chimpanzees at typewriters will eventually write “War and Peace”, then Congress will certainly balance the budget. —Unknown

Tree Frog

We’ve had some very pleasant evenings in the last week and therefore have spent a lot of time on our deck. While out there we are frequently serenaded by the local frog chorus. Last night I decided to see if I could spot the closest performer. Here’s what I found:

Tree Frog

I was quite surprised to see the degree of camouflage on this little guy. I believe this is a Common Tree Frog, Hyla arborea. For reference, the branch he is sitting on is about 3/4 inch in diameter. He puts out quite a sound for such a little critter.

Random Quote #4

I don’t know why I like this little verse. Maybe a shrink could tell me…

If I don’t drive around the park,
I’m pretty sure to make my mark.
If I’m in bed each night by ten,
I may get back my looks again.
If I abstain from fun and such
I’ll probably amount to much;
But I shall stay the way I am,
because I do not give a damn.
–Dorothy Parker