Sunday, December 27, 2009

Best New Technology of the Decade

When is a mouse not a mouse?

When it is a guitar! The idea of creating a drum or guitar out of a mouse controller is one the best ideas of the new century.

Entertainment games, like Guitar Hero and Rock Band , always lead the way by thinking "outside of the box."

The software that generates the video players in Rock Band is called Reallusions.

It is available to animators and video producers. It works like Adobe Photoshop: you capture pictures or video with your camera, outline the images, and use various filters to edit the images.

Tell me you didn't see that coming: a mouse that looks like a guitar. Who'da thunk it?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Handmade Christmas

Dame Dragon is a cartoon I wrote when I was young. Eric and Clair were just knee-highs. The hand drawn cartoons were video-taped in the 1980s. My friend, Alex Wheddon, WLLN News, transfered the videos to digital format and uploaded them to Google Video a few years ago.

Here is a link to that video on Google:

The best gifts are handmade gifts, from the heart.
love, eBeth

Monday, December 7, 2009

My Town Monday: Hiatus

I debated long and hard today, but I decided to take an official hiatus from My Town Monday posts until the new year. I'll be working on some new material though, in part because next semester I'm teaching a Michigan & Local History class to my lovely students (assuming I can get enough of them interested in it!)

I'm hoping to have a few posts along the way, but it's entirely possible that the lights will dim on this blog over the next few weeks. I've got a lot on my plate both personally and professionally at the moment (the price of working too many jobs, methinks.)

See you in the new year!

Monday, November 30, 2009

My Town Monday: Dark Alleys and Streets

The alleys in movies look nothing like the alleys that we have around here. In fact, the alleys in Livingston County, what few we have, are hardly ominous.

In movies, alleys are always dark, narrow, and secluded. Around here, though, our alleys are short both in length and the height of the buildings (seeing as how are tallest building is 4 stories, with most being about 3).

Our alleys are also wide, well-lit, and fairly clean. Some of them are kind of charming.

So, as a writer, it does leave me without any real dark alleys for final showdowns or something. Especially since our little towns have this dreadful problem with illuminating a radius eight miles larger than the town itself (more or less) in all directions with the abundance of street lights. Street lights on otherwise empty, dark streets.

Now, I'll admit that I don't much see the point of most street lights. Downtown, sure. Though our local towns could turn off half their street lights and still have enough light to illuminated any person who happens to be out. Especially about three in the morning when there are NO shops open and about 1 or 2 cars driving within the entire city limits.

Once outside the city, what do we need lights for? Certainly not pedestrians as there aren't sidewalks much past the last building in town. My car comes equipped with headlights, and I believe this is standard. So why are there so many street lights here and there throughout Livingston County? They're blocking my view of the stars! And they screw up my night vision when I pass through the cone of yellow-blue light and back into darkness again.

I've got no dark alleys and lights on what should be dark streets. I suppose that's why I fit in here-- I'm as quirky as my county.

Windows 7: I wanted simpler, now it's simpler. I'm a rock star.

Monday, November 23, 2009

My Town Monday: Invasion

The Soviets came to my little town. In fact, they were just around the corner. More or less. Near Mt. Brighton (which I can see out my bedroom window), a scene for the upcoming remake of Red Dawn was filmed. It included scorching a stand of trees along the front of the parking lot.

There's still evidence of the charred trees last time I drove by Mt. Brighton. Most of it had been bulldozed into a pile for clean up.

There have been quite a few movies and scenes that are being filmed in Michigan, part of the tax breaks for filmmakers. The idea is that it will bring business and dollars to Michigan to be spent, thus helping our staggering economy. (Except the economy isn't staggering. It's comatose.)

This is actually the second movie that was right near me... and I didn't find out until after the fact. (What's that saying-- if I didn't have bad luck, I wouldn't have any luck at all?) The other movie was some small film that included a high school. It was filmed last summer at the local high school-- where I was teaching summer school. One of the teacher's took her class down to spy on the filming at the lake behind the school. Or so I heard the next day when the crew was gone.

Aside from meeting Barrie Summy last week, this is as close to fame as I tend to get. ;-)

Windows 7: I wanted simpler, now it's simpler. I'm a rock star.

Monday, November 16, 2009

My Town Monday: Livingston County v. Ann Arbor

The little country mouse left her country home and ventured into the city this weekend. I went to see Barrie Summy at Aunt Agatha's bookstore in Ann Arbor. Meeting and chatting with Barrie and the others was great. Driving into Ann Arbor, not so much.

See, where I come from, the tallest building is 3 stories high. And that's only in the one or two blocks of the downtown in Howell and Fowlerville. Most of the rest of the buildings are single or maybe two stories tall. No towers blocking out the sunlight.

Where I come from, we have spaces between most buildings. Occasionally there's a stretch or a strip mall where buildings are pressed up against each other. But usually, there's a space, a parking lot, or even grass. Not masses of buildings all squished together, block after block.

Where I come from, nearly every establishment has a parking lot. And they're free. Not so in a city like Ann Arbor. I only park in parking structures. And the parking structures in Ann Arbor are taller than our tallest building in Livingston County. Though, I did, for the first time in my life get my parking validated. The country mouse can learn new tricks.

Sadly, where I come from, we don't have very many bookstores. And we certainly don't have a bookstore as awesome as Aunt Agatha's with it's overwhelming collection of used and new mystery, detective, and crime books. Yes, I was drooling.

Where I come from, there's less traffic, less people, and fewer businesses to overwhelm the senses of a simple country mouse. As much as I enjoyed my visit to Aunt Agatha's for Barrie's signing, I was SO glad to get out of the city and back where I belong. Now, if only Aunt Agatha's wasn't in Ann Arbor...

Windows 7: I wanted simpler, now it's simpler. I'm a rock star.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Pumpky Pumpkin is a happy pumpkin, And do you know why?

Cuz he's a Jack-O-Lantern instead of being a pumpkin pie.

Monday, November 2, 2009

My Town Monday: Something Fun To Do

One of the common complaints from Livingston County Youth is that there's nothing to do. I think they're just not trying hard enough. There's lots to do.

Livingston County is home to several parks, including Kensington Metro Park, which boasts a water park along with beaches, dic golf, nature center and trails for walking, biking, and skating. There's also the Hudson Mills Park which has disc golf along with trails beside the Huron River. And the Lakeland Trail, which is a linear state park. Plus there are several beaches.

Hartland Consolidated Schools has a fancy new pool with water slides, lazy river and other things since, when building the new high school and it's accompanying facility, the community was in favor of making it a community center. Non-residents are welcome, for a small fee of course. Most local schools have open swim for a nominal fee.

There's a couple miniature (or putt putt) golf courses in the area, including one in Howell and one in Hartland. I believe Golf-o-Rama, the indoor putt putt golf moved into Great Escape, which is a one acre indoor attraction featuring putt putt golf, bumper cars, go carts and more. And it's all indoors, so even in Michigan's lovely winter months, there's a place to go play. We can't forget Rollerama, the indoor rollerskating rink that's about as old as I am. More recently, for the extreme sports folks, a skate park was constructed behind Meijer in Brighton.

There are two movies theaters in Livingston County (well, more or less...) the large MJR theatre with 20 screens and movie tickets that cost more than the hourly minimum wage. There's also a small historic, two screen theater in Howell that is currently supposed to reopen, likely showing dollar movies. Oh, and not far away, South Lyon's historic theatre also shows the older flicks for a dollar. (That's a price I can deal with!)

For the younger kids, there's the Imgaination Station and Castaway Cafe. The former is a massive castle and play structure on the Mill Pond in Brighton. The latter is a large indoor play-place-- like the McDonald's play place, but on steriods and away from the intoxicating scent of McD's food.

For the more extreme, there's Hell's Survivor's Paintball Park. I never saw the appeal in amassing bruises, but I'm told it's great fun. There's also skiing and snowboarding in the winter months at our own Mt. Brighton. Plus summer includes rolling a giant hamster ball down that same hill.

One of the state parks in Livingston County is a riding stable, where you can 'rent' a horse. (That doesn't seem like the right term!) There's hour long trail rides and if you're like me, you learn that the hours can tell you're a pansy...

There's also the usual assortment of fairs and festivals... honestly, I think there's something about every two weeks in one town or another in this county. Hamburg's Railroad days or the Balloon Fest or the Melon Fest or the Summer Fest or Fowelerville's Fair or something or other going on.

Fall includes the Terrified Forest in Pickney and a slew of corn mazes, haunted or otherwise.

Most of the attractions are fairly inexpensive. If you can't find something to entertain yourself in Livingston County, you're not trying hard enough. Besides, it's less than an hour drive to Lansing, Ann Arbor, and Flint, all of which boast their own set of attractions. We've kind of got the best of both worlds here-- small town charm and close proximity to the attractions of the city.

Hotmail: Trusted email with Microsoft's powerful SPAM protection. Sign up now.

Monday, October 26, 2009

My Town Monday: Metro Detroit... and beyond

Most of the population of Michigan is the area known as "Metro Detroit." It consists of Detroit and the areas surrounding it, until one gets about to Novi... or 20 some miles East of me. (Okay, technically, Livingston County is part of Metro Detroit, but really, it's so far out that the designation is, in my opinion worthless... see the red circle on the map?)

Now, believe me, I'm happy not to live in "Metro Detroit" because I'm NOT a city girl. But there are some problems that comes with not being part of that congolmerate of urban life.

My TV commercials are all geared towards those who dwell in Metro Detroit-- or at least have little aversion to making an hour plus trek out of the sticks and into the concrete covered land. Time and time again, there are advertisements for stores and restaurants that are miles and miles from where I live.

Take for instance my recent trek to find and purchase a new winter coat. Being a picky bugger and not into this years "hip" coat fashions, there was discussion about how and where to find one. My husband was also looking for a jacket and suggests going to Burlington Coat Factory. Supposed to be great selection and good prices-- according to the commercials.

Okay... google google. Oh. The nearest locations is... an hour away. And pretty much all the locations are in places that are foreign and terrifying. We finally picked a location-- one at the gigantic mall Great Lakes Crossing. This was selected because most of the journey is on roads I'm now familiar with. And, I know the mall is RIGHT off the e-way. (We were successful procuring a new winter coat for me. And then we missed our entrance ramp and ended up taking a different route home, but it was all good, because, like I said, I knew the roads.)

Most of the chains have never made it out to the sticks. And in recent years, oddly enough, several chains that had spread out this way actually retreated back into Metro Detroit. We lost our Dunkin' Donuts and our Little Ceaser's locations in Livingston County, for example.

We're not Metro Detroit, but we're not small enough to be a small town. We're kind of a strange in-between. If the folks here weren't so keen on driving miles and miles to get to the chain stores, we might just have better luck nurturing more home grown stores. But, being so 'close' to Metro Detroit (and Ann Arbor) we've got a bit of a problem with being a bedroom community.

It's good... and bad. It's those people moving OUT of Metro Detroit and trying to bring the live they left with them out here that ruins it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Friday, October 16, 2009

What do you want to be when you grow up?

My father had several different careers before I got out of school: soldier, electrical engineer, even a lawyer. So, I've always had an understanding that I could reinvent myself if I wanted to...or if I had to.

I get to teach people how to earn a professional certification in computers. Passing your Certification exam means more you can earn more money. Consider the following: Microsoft Office is used in over 97% of all businesses worldwide.

Sixty-nine percent (69%) of office jobs require some beginning skills and many need advanced expertise in the use of Microsoft Office.

● Students who pass the MCAS certification exams earn more (about 12%) than employees who are not certified.

In addition, 82% of the students who get certified report getting a raise upon completion.

● Many employers consider certification in determining who to hire – MCAS can be the difference in whether or not you get a job, or get a better job.

What do you want to be when you grow up? Would you need to computers to achieve your goals?
Memo to self: the Trolls are from Clair's collection. I have a few Trolls that I got when I was a kid in the 60's.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

All This Technology...

I got me some mad Word skillz. I can format, fix, and fancy-up all sorts of documents.

I'm slick in Excel. Formulas and logic functions and all that so all my required reports calculate and print automatically.

I can find anything on the web.

Download, upload, install... even some registry hacking.

But there's no undo command for catching a cold. No reverting to the previous saved version. Not even a "clear all" so I can start fresh. Nope. All I can do is cozy up with some orange juice, chicken noodle soup, and the internet until this nasty virus is gone. Maybe I should Google upgrades for personal virus protection...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Lost the Satellite Signal

(See the metal piece... without a dish? And it only stayed like that for three weeks.)

Where do I get these ideas?

The Ginks

A long time ago, in 1978, I made 12,000 flour and salt Ginks for American Greetings Corp.

Here is how you make the Gink dough:2 cups flour1 cup salt1 cup water (more or less).
Start with a little less than one cup water and knead the dough until it is smooth. If it feels dry and crumbly, add water a tablespoon at a time and knead some more.

Bake in the oven at 180' F for hours and hours.

The Ginks are done when the bottom of their feet is hard like a baked crust.

Each of the faces were hand drawn.
Here's looking at you, kid!

Monday, October 12, 2009

My Town Monday: Getting Out of This Godforsaken Town

Actually, the title is misleading. Unlike so many of my classmates-- and most of the young people in the county, from what I can tell-- I had no burning desire to get the hell out of the Livingston County area.

I never really minded the area. And growing up in this sort of mostly rural area made me rather averse to cities of any real size.

To this day, I still hate driving in Ann Arbor. Or anywhere that could be considered Metro Detroit. I prefer my roads with two lanes, maybe three.

I never really thought about where I would end up living once I reached adulthood. It all just kind of happened without much consideration beyond "for now." I got my first job at a local retail center... and proceeded to work there for 11 years. I went to college in Ypsilanti (about a 40 min drive to the south). And so, commuting to said college, I stayed put.

With family in the area, I didn't mind staying in the area. (Especially since my oldest bother maintains my car.)

Then, when I got my teaching job, it was in the same county. And so I stayed. We bought a house last year.

I think we've pretty well put down roots. It's kind of odd to think that I'll likely be raising any kids here. It's a nice place to raise a family. Not too busy or bustly. Plenty of shops and a fair amount of recreation opportunities that don't require me driving to places that have too much traffic or roads too complicated.

I don't feel trapped. I feel settled. I still don't want to leave this place. It is the quite, quaint, unexciting sort of place that's perfect for me.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Friday Feast

The garbage can sounded kind of funny....

We had a guest....

Bon appetite!

What are you having for lunch?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Makes Sense

Box Elder Bugs... on a Box Elder Tree.

Monday, October 5, 2009

My Town Monday: Grand River Corn Maze

Being that the western part of the county is still largely rural, it's not surprising that there are a couple corn mazes in the area.

Hubby and I have been going to the Grand River Corn Maze for several years now. Each year they have a different pattern. And for the last couple years, the Grand River Corn Maze has also included the Slaughterhouse Haunted Corn Maze. There was a haunted house, but it was shut down this year (amongst rumors of tension between the powers that be and the family that built it.)

Last year's theme was the Olympics. There are signs in the maze-- I'm not sure, but I think that if you're still finding signs than it's a clue that you're on the right path. The maze is always quite tall, and there are two patches of trees. (We used to think there was only one patch of trees... that was a problem.)

We usually make pretty good time in the maze. My family happens to be born with a pretty good sense of direction. Combine that with good observational skills, and we're usually out of the maze in a half-hour. Hubby has no sense of direction... I worry sometimes that he won't be able to find his way home. He's one of those folks who couldn't find his way out of a paperbag with a map, a flashlight, AND a pair of scissors. But he has other redeeming qualities that some day I'm sure I'll find. ;-)

Hubby and I go to the corn maze during the day time. Preferably during the day on a Saturday when there's less people. I don't do the whole 'wandering around in the dark' thing. Flash light or no. I still sleep with a nightlight because of my overactive imagination. (Good for writing, not good for trying to fall asleep when it looks like the shadows are moving...)

Needless to say, we do NOT go to the haunted corn maze. Nope. Not happening.

Once, when I was young, foolish, and brand-newly wed, Hubby and I went to a haunted house. I'd never been in one, having been to few carnivals in my younger days. So, we spotted one on Tourist Trap Clifton Hill at Niagara Falls on our honeymoon. Hubby suggested we go in and I (foolishly) agree. Then, Hubby, being the sweetheart that he is insists that I go first since my eyesight is better.

Overactive imagination. Tension from the knowledge that something is going to jump out of me. I should have left Hubby in the haunted house. No one would notice one more "dead body." I still don't let Hubby forget that one. No haunted places. No things jumping out at me. At least when it's one of my brother's I can punch them for scaring me.

But the corn maze is fun. In the daytime.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Murder in the Men's Room

Honestly, is there anyone who wouldn't think that after seeing this at the local JCPenny's?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Storage by Any Other Name

Flash drives.
Jump drives.
Thumb drives.
Pen drives.
USB key chains.
USB key.
USB memory stick.
Dongle (though this has a slightly different meaning.)
USB memory key.
That thing I plug into my computer that provides removable storage.

Many names for the same device. These handy little things provide removable storage, like a floppy disk that lasts longer and is less prone to corruption.

The most commonly used name is Flash Drive. (Or USB Flash drive.) The two main components of such a device is the USB plug that sticks in the port on your computer. USB ports are the same on desktops as they are on laptops. Flash drives hold your files, movies, music, and pictures so you can transfer them, use them on another machine, or back them up in case the computer runs its last RAM.

Flash drives come in large sizes now. As of this writing, the smallest Flash drive I could uncover is a mere 2Gig drive. And there were only a few of those, crowded out by the herd of much larger Flash Drives.

Flash drives are convenient. In an era when many computers no longer come with floppy drives, Flash drives are a universal storage media. There are no moving parts in a Flash drive, so they last longer and are less prone to failures.

Some flash drives come with programs on them (instead of the program coming with CDs). Others can even run a program off the Flash drive, for example, it's possible to get an email client or a web browswer (with all your settings and favorites in place) to run off a flash drive.

Wonderful little devices. I wholly recommend them for storage and file transfer.

Images from WikiMedia Commons

Monday, September 28, 2009

My Town Monday: Backroads

In Livingston County, there's usually more than one good route to get from one town to the next. Some rural areas have only a few routes between areas, but much of Livingston County is connected by paved (more or less) two- lane (ish) roads.

The older and more curmudgeonly I get, the less I like the main roads of Livingston County. I don't like driving on Grand River for long stretches between Brighton and Howell. Too many idiots in their fancy cars with their fancy phones distracting them from the overspending they've just done at one of the too many retail centers in the area. I've checked my car and it doesn't appear invisible to my eyes...

So, I'm learning more of the "Back roads." Growing up, I knew there were at least three ways to get into Brighton from points south--Brighton Rd, Brighton Lake Rd, and Rickett Road. Rickett's the most fun since it's completely straight. It's also a deer magnet. And the site of the my impact with said quadraped.

<-Rickett Road On the back roads, I can relax. I don't have to worry as much about being run over by someone who fails to notice the little car in front of them. I can listen to my music, talk to myself out dialogue for the next story, and just enjoy the drive. There's no rush. I can look at old architecture on the houses and take in the scenery.

And yet, given the opportunity (and excluding peak traffic times) I'd just as soon get on the expressway than wind through most the major roads of the county. I also don't care for dirt roads-- too much sliding of the car.

I don't like spending too much time in the car. But if I'm going to be there, I may as well enjoy the drive, one way or another. Preferrably with some good tunes playing and no other drivers trying to play Monster Truck Rally with me.

How do you like to get about your town?