Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Apple, security, and control of your life


Wired magazine tries to explain 'Why Apple Devices Will Soon Rule Every Aspect of Your Life'.

The biggest thing Apple showed off Tuesday wasn’t a product, or even a product line. It was the way all of Apple’s products—and thousands more from other developers, manufacturers and services—now mesh together. It is like a huge ubiquitous computer now, all around us, all the time. The interface is the very world we live in.

“The product isn’t just a collection of features,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said, announcing his company’s new iPhone, “it’s how it all works together.” And really, this is true of the entire Apple line, the entire Apple experience.

Tuesday’s announcements laid open the scope of Apple’s ambitions in making everything in your life work together. A computer on every desk? Chump change. With the new iPhones, Apple Watch, Apple Pay, HomeKit, HealthKit, iBeacon and even CarPlay, Apple is building a world in which there is a computer in your every interaction, waking and sleeping.

A computer in your pocket. A computer on your body. A computer paying for all your purchases. A computer opening your hotel room door. A computer monitoring your movements as you walk though the mall. A computer watching you sleep. A computer controlling the devices in your home. A computer that tells you where you parked. A computer taking your pulse, telling you how many steps you took, how high you climbed and how many calories you burned—and sharing it all with your friends. A computer in your car. All of it the same computer: The computer in the sky that connects to the computer in your pocket and on your wrist and in your car, your office, and your home.

This is the new Apple ecosystem. Apple has turned our world into one big ubiquitous computer.

There's more at the link.

The problem remains, as I pointed out at the time, that Apple has deliberately built security backdoors into its iOS operating system.  The software foundation of Apple's ecosystem is intrinsically untrustworthy.  Given that reality, why would anyone in their right mind actually trust that company with control over so many aspects of their lives?  I certainly won't!

There are, of course, other problems with the Apple ecosystem.  I'll give Gizmodo the last word.







Peter

"The Dying Russians"


That's the title of a very interesting article in the New York Review of Books.  Here's a brief excerpt to whet your appetite.

Sometime in 1993, after several trips to Russia, I noticed something bizarre and disturbing: people kept dying. I was used to losing friends to AIDS in the United States, but this was different. People in Russia were dying suddenly and violently, and their own friends and colleagues did not find these deaths shocking. Upon arriving in Moscow I called a friend with whom I had become close over the course of a year. “Vadim is no more,” said his father, who picked up the phone. “He drowned.” I showed up for a meeting with a newspaper reporter to have the receptionist say, “But he is dead, don’t you know?” I didn’t. I’d seen the man a week earlier; he was thirty and apparently healthy. The receptionist seemed to think I was being dense. “A helicopter accident,” she finally said, in a tone that seemed to indicate I had no business being surprised.

The deaths kept piling up. People—men and women—were falling, or perhaps jumping, off trains and out of windows; asphyxiating in country houses with faulty wood stoves or in apartments with jammed front-door locks; getting hit by cars that sped through quiet courtyards or plowed down groups of people on a sidewalk; drowning as a result of diving drunk into a lake or ignoring sea-storm warnings or for no apparent reason; poisoning themselves with too much alcohol, counterfeit alcohol, alcohol substitutes, or drugs; and, finally, dropping dead at absurdly early ages from heart attacks and strokes.

Back in the United States after a trip to Russia, I cried on a friend’s shoulder. I was finding all this death not simply painful but impossible to process. “It’s not like there is a war on,” I said.

“But there is,” said my friend, a somewhat older and much wiser reporter than I. “This is what civil war actually looks like. “It’s not when everybody starts running around with guns. It’s when everybody starts dying.”

. . .

Why are Russians dying in numbers, and at ages, and of causes never seen in any other country that is not, by any standard definition, at war?

In the seventeen years between 1992 and 2009, the Russian population declined by almost seven million people, or nearly 5 percent—a rate of loss unheard of in Europe since World War II. Moreover, much of this appears to be caused by rising mortality. By the mid-1990s, the average St. Petersburg man lived for seven fewer years than he did at the end of the Communist period; in Moscow, the dip was even greater, with death coming nearly eight years sooner.

There's much more at the link.  It makes interesting, thought-provoking and recommended reading, particularly in the light of Russian President Putin's expansionist and interventionist tendencies.  Is he trying to ignore the demographic chaos unfolding in his country's interior?  Or does he prefer to get involved in adventures on the periphery because they're the only success stories still available?

Peter

Rough roads and tough trucks


I've put up video clips of trucks in rough conditions before, but these two compilation clips of Russian trucks in that country's hundreds of thousands of square miles of wilderness are pretty impressive.  I don't think there are many Western trucks that would perform as well under those conditions.








Tough trucks, all right - and tough drivers too.

Peter

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A major threat to the Second Amendment in Washington state


I've been reading about the progress of Initiative 594 in Washington state.  It's on the ballot for November 4th this year.  Its official title is 'Washington Universal Background Checks for Gun Purchases, Initiative 594 (2014)', and it's described as follows:

Current law requires criminal and public safety background checks before purchasing a firearm from a licensed dealer. This measure would extend this requirement to most firearm purchases and transfers in Washington, with exceptions, including transfers within families, temporary transfers for self-defense and hunting, and antiques. Licensed dealers would conduct the background checks and could charge a fee. Violation of these requirements would be a crime.

The measure will also criminalize, with few exceptions, all temporary transfers of possession of firearms that do not involve purchases, such as for safekeeping, hunting, loan, recreational sharing, safety training, coaching, transport, etc.

There's more at the link.  The measure is supported by all the usual liberal, progressive and anti-gun organizations.

The Washington Arms Collectors association is mounting a major effort to educate gun owners about the dangers posed by Initiative 594.  It's published a list of 26 'Myths of Initiative 594' that makes chilling reading.  Here are a few excerpts.

Newspaper editorial boards and media coverage of I-594 continue to distort the purpose and effect of this anti-civil rights measure. The media regularly portrays I-594 as a background check on firearm sales which it is not; it is much more.

There is an effective media blackout on press releases and position statements opposed to I-594. The public, even the shooting public, does not yet realize what this initiative will do if passed.

. . .

Myth #4 – A person can loan a firearm, without going through a dealer, to another as long as it is returned to him.

Reality: Transfers are defined by I-594 to include any loan of a firearm. Any temporary loan of a firearm, no matter how short the time, without FFL dealer paperwork would be a crime.

. . .

Myth #10 – I keep a rifle in my truck and occasionally allow my daughter to drive this vehicle on our property – this can’t be a crime?

Reality: Unless you are in the truck with your minor child, this is a transfer requiring an FFL dealer at two points. There is a transfer when she departs with the truck and when she returns it to you – possession equals transfer under I-594.

. . .

594 is not designed to keep guns from criminals or reduce crime; it is intended to create overwhelming obstacles to the private possession and use of firearms. I-594 targets recreational shooters, competitors, hobbyists and collectors.

The passage of 591 is the only answer to the evils of I-594.

Again, there's more at the link.

The '591' to which the Arms Collectors article refers is a competing ballot initiative, the 'Washington Gun Rights Measure, Initiative 591 (2014)'.  It's described as follows.

This measure would prohibit government agencies from confiscating guns or other firearms from citizens without due process, or from requiring background checks on firearm recipients unless a uniform national standard is required.

More at the link.

It's intriguing that both 591 and 594 are to be presented to the voters of Washington state on the same day.  It's entirely possible that both measures may pass - in which case it'll be up to the state's courts to sort out the contradictions between them.  Frankly, given the liberal track records of many judges in Washington, I wouldn't be too confident that the outcome will uphold the Second Amendment and Supreme Court precedent.  Furthermore, if Washington state implements such measures, it'll encourage anti-gun activists around the country to try to implement similar restrictions in their states as well.

I think it's very important to gun owners in the USA as a whole that Initiative 591 be passed and Initiative 594 be defeated.  I'd be very grateful if my readers in Washington state, and those of you with friends there, would please spread the word about these measures and the harm that Initiative 594 would do to the Second Amendment and law-abiding gun-owners.  Let's try to mobilize right-minded voters before November 4th.

Thanks.

Peter

Some great low-level flying


Here's a great video shot by a Danish F-16 pilot while flying low over Greenland during a recent deployment.  You may want to turn your speakers down, because the music soundtrack is a bit loud.  I recommend watching it in full-screen mode for maximum impact.





You can read more about the deployment to Greenland here, if you're interested, as well as at the video's page on YouTube.

Peter

The pleasures and problems of writing


A couple of people have asked why it takes me "so long" (!) to write a book. They're impatient for the next instalments in the Maxwell and Laredo series.  I thought it might interest some readers to learn why it takes so long - for me, at any rate.  Yes, I know that someone like Kevin J. Anderson (whom I had the pleasure of meeting at LibertyCon last year) has produced over five novels every year, on average, for the past quarter-century.  However, he's so successful that he can hire assistants to help with every extraneous task - editing, cover design, writing the blurb, marketing and PR, and so on.  He's even set up his own small publishing house as part of the process.  I can't afford that, so I get to do it all myself, with the help of my wife.

To start with, let's look at the work that goes into writing a book.  I'm writing in the science fiction genre, so I have to build a consistent world in which the action takes place. I can't have something happen one way here, then change it to a different way there, because if the world I've constructed is to remain consistent then things have to happen in the same way.  Similarly, I base my fictional world on a real one, because I want to keep my novels rooted in reality.  Therefore, each book will draw on names, cultures, etc. from one or more geographical regions on Earth, and build on that foundation.  For example, right now I'm working on a book proposal - of which more later - that will draw heavily on two subsets of Filipino culture from the 20th century.  I'm looking up family and given names, geography, etc. to use it in the world I'm constructing for this book.  I don't just suck these things out of my thumb:  it takes a lot of research to get them right.  All those non-writing activities can become a real time sink.

Second, all my novels so far have been written as part of a series.  I have to work out what happens in the current story in the light of where I want my hero/protagonist to go in the next book, and in the books after that.  I can't have things happening at random that don't help him get where he needs to be (although minor random events are OK for the 'local' plot).  For example, I've plotted the Maxwell series out to a dozen books, of which only the first three have so far been published.  I may not write all twelve - that'll depend on whether I can keep them fresh and interesting, of which you, my readers, will be better judges than I - but if the series continues to attract your interest, I can work on it for several years to come. I can also add more books at a future date, depending on demand.

Then there's the problem of having other things to do.  Being partly disabled, I work from home;  so I'm also the house-husband.  I shop, cook and clean, and have various things that need to be done every day.  Miss D. does her share, particularly during her days off work.  Nevertheless, when she's at work I can't write exclusively, and when she has her days off I need to spend time with her - otherwise why would she stay married to me?  There's also this blog, which occupies at least two hours every day.  That's important, because this blog is my primary interface with you, my readers, so I give it a high priority in terms of keeping it interesting and enjoyable.  To make things even more interesting, my spine locks up if I spend too long in one position:  so I can't sleep for more than a few hours at a time before pain wakes me.  I therefore sleep for two periods every day, a few hours in the afternoon and a few more during the small hours of the morning.  To cap it all, we moved house in August and my pickup began to give all sorts of problems that aren't fully sorted out yet.  Both activities have taken up a great deal of time in recent weeks.

Putting all those things together, it means there aren't many days when I can write for an uninterrupted eight to ten hours.  I have to use what time I have available - and if the pain level is high that day or something else simply has to be done, I'm not going to write very well regardless.  That's just the way it is.  I do the best I can with the time I have.

Finally, the writing is (in my experience) only about one-third to one-half of the work in producing every book.  Editing, proof-reading, cover image selection and cover design, writing a good blurb, choosing the right keywords, formatting the book for publication in both e-book and print versions, setting it up on Kindle and Createspace . . . there's an immense amount of work involved over and above writing it.  Being a self-published author, that all falls into my lap.  I'm extremely grateful for all the help Miss D. gives me, but I still have to do a great deal of it myself.  I'd say that it takes me anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000 hours to write a 100,000-word novel, edit, correct and polish it, and format and prepare it for publication.  That translates to (at best) a production rate of about one novel every three months, or four per year, under ideal conditions.  Since conditions are seldom ideal, right now I'm averaging three books a year.  I hope I'll be able to write faster (and better) as I become more practiced and more efficient;  but there are many things that can interfere with that.

Right now I have three projects in progress.

  1. The fourth volume in the Maxwell Saga is currently being written.  I've thrown away a lot of my early work on it, because it just didn't feel right, and I'm re-working those sections.  I hope to have it ready for publication by late October or November.
  2. The second volume of the Laredo Trilogy has been outlined and is ready to start writing, but delays on Maxwell 4 and the work involved in project (3) below have prevented me from getting to it so far.  I had hoped to bring it out in late November or December, but I think it's going to slip to January or February next year.
  3. At LibertyCon I was invited by a leading SF publisher to submit a book proposal and three sample chapters.  I would, of course, continue to self-publish my existing book series, but this would be over and above that, and - if accepted - would get me into a mainstream publishing house as well.  I've tried and discarded three ideas so far. (Along the way I've learned that I just haven't got the right sort of mindset to write good fantasy - at least, not yet).  I've come up with a fourth idea for a SF novel that might work either as a stand-alone book or as the first in a trilogy.  I'm writing the first three sample chapters now, and will submit them to the publisher over the next month or two.  Here's hoping!

I'll do my best to keep the books coming.  They're my primary source of income, so I can't afford to slack off!  However, for those of you champing at the bit to get more books faster, I hope you can now understand why they're slower to arrive than you (and I) would like.

Peter

What's wrong with this picture?


Two headlines:


The US military - like any military organization worthy of the name - is designed to break things and kill people.  That's its raison d'être.

I'm not in favor of more US intervention in the Middle East.  We've failed miserably in both Iraq and Afghanistan - not the fault of our military, but of our political leadership, who've clearly learned nothing from Vietnam.  Nevertheless, the irony is cruel.  We're not sending our 'kick ass and take names' people to do precisely that to our enemies . . . but we are sending them to 'fight' a disease that's so far infected a hell of a lot of those who come into contact with it, and killed well over half of those who contract it.  It's likely to do precisely that to our people as well, unless we're very lucky.

I imagine ISIS is laughing its collective ass off at us right now . . .

Peter

Monday, September 15, 2014

More fun in the Middle East


Twice last month I wrote about the realignment of nations in the Middle East in response to the threat from fundamentalist Muslim terrorists.  Now it looks as if that realignment is exerting pressure on the states that support those terrorists.  CNN reports:

Several top members of the Muslim Brotherhood have been asked to leave Qatar, an Egyptian leader of the group said Sunday. The apparent sudden push from Qatar comes amid longstanding pressure against the Brotherhood in the region, which began with its ouster from authority in Egypt several years ago.

"We appreciate the great role of the state of Qatar in supporting the Egyptian people in their revolution against the military junta, and well understand the circumstances faced by the region," said Dr. Amr Darrag, a leading member of Freedom and Justice Party, said in a statement online. The Freedom and Justice Party is the banned political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The members were "asked by authorities to move their residence outside the state of Qatar," the statement said.

"In order to avoid causing any embarrassment for the State of Qatar, which we found to be a very welcoming and supportive host, some symbols of the Muslim Brotherhood and its political wing ... have now honored that request," Darrag said.

There's more at the link.

Qatar's been a major supporter of fundamentalist Islamic terror movements.  The five Taliban leaders released in exchange for Private Bergdahl are living there as 'guests' of the Qatar government.  If the pressure on Qatar from more moderate states continues (so far it's coming from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt), one wonders whether their status might also change soon . . . and where they might end up.

Peter

A great introduction to Boyd's OODA Loop


We've spoken before about the late Col. John Boyd, USAF, and his formulation of the concept of the OODA Loop.  He revolutionized many aspects of military strategy and tactics with his understanding of what goes into making decisions and following up on them.

The Art of Manliness has put up an excellent article explaining how Boyd conceived of the OODA Loop and developed his ideas about it.  The author says of the Loop:

It’s not “groundbreaking” in the sense of revealing insight never before conceived; rather, its power is in the way it makes explicit, that which is usually implicit. It takes the basic ways we think, decide, and operate in the world — ways that often get confused and jumbled in the face of conflict and confusion — and codifies and organizes them into a strategic, effective system that can allow you to thrive in the heat of battle. It is a learning system, a method for dealing with uncertainty, and a strategy for winning head-to-head contests and competitions. In war, business, or life, the OODA Loop can help you grapple with changing, challenging circumstances and come out the other side on top.

There's much more at the link.  If you haven't learned much about the OODA Loop yet, this is a great opportunity to do so - and you'll find it applicable in more walks of life than you'll believe possible.  Recommended reading.  (See also my earlier article on the subject.)

Peter

Idiots on boats


I was thinking of conferring on almost everyone in this video a collective Doofus Of The Day award, but I think the title of the video is sufficient.





I think I've been on the same water as some of them . . .




Peter

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The "mystery virus" - not a mystery after all?


The "mystery virus" that's affecting children all across the country is apparently not so mysterious after all.  A Powerline reader explains.

This is basically the same virus commonly seen in the equatorial Americas and South America. The very odd emergence of this virus at this time – especially just prior to the new school year and now fueled by the congregation of children in schools – demands an explanation. The only plausible one is that this has been brought here from south of the – now non-existent – border.

Although there will be a good deal of epidemiological work to be done before this can be scientifically associated, there is a deafening silence on the part of public health officials and the mainstream media in even speculating about this association. This is not simply a case of being politically selective about the news, it is downright dangerous and could be just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the emergence of diseases long absent from daily life in America now suddenly popping up “inexplicably.”

There's more at the link.  It's worth reading in full, for your childrens' health's sake if nothing else.




Peter

The economy, government statistics, and reality


Jim Quinn at The Burning Platform has a must-read article about the truth that belies comforting, upbeat government economic statistics.  Here's a sample.




I never believe government manufactured numbers. They will always be adjusted, massaged, and manipulated to achieve a happy ending for the propagandists attempting to control and fleece the sheep. Yesterday, the government produced retail sales numbers for August that were weak and the corporate MSM propaganda machine immediately threw up bold headlines declaring how strong these numbers were. Positive stories were published on the interwebs and Wall Street hack economists were rolled out on CNBC, where the bubble headed bimbos and prostitutes for the status quo like Jim Cramer and Steve Liesman declared the recovery gaining strength. Woo Hoo.

. . .

When you see the headlines touting strong retail sales, you need to consider what you are actually seeing in the real world. RadioShack will be filing for bankruptcy within months. Wet Seal will follow. Sears is about two years from a bankruptcy filing. JC Penney’s turnaround is a sham. They continue to lose hundreds of millions every quarter and will be filing for bankruptcy within the next couple years. Target and Wal-Mart continue to post awful sales results and have stopped expanding. And as you drive around in your leased BMW, you see more Space Available signs than operating outlets in every strip center in America.

. . .

Germantown Pike winds through the Chestnut Hill section of Philly [Philadelphia]. This is an artsy fartsy area with boutique retail, chic outlets, and fancy restaurants. The upper middle class frequents the area. The retail stores were always open, occupied and busy.

Not anymore. I saw dozens of empty storefronts, Space Available, and For Lease signs. The open stores had no customers. The trendy eating establishments had few patrons. Even the yuppie latte drinking areas are beginning to crumble. Every office park I passed had Space Available signs in front. The amount of vacant retail and office space in this country is too vast to comprehend and is being under-reported by the real estate whores whose job it is to rent space. Ignoring the facts and the truth doesn’t change the facts and the truth.

Do you believe the government and the corporate media, or do you believe your own two eyes?

There's more at the link.  Informative and highly recommended reading.

Peter

Something to look forward to


Given that the first snows of the forthcoming season have already fallen in some states, here's a reminder of what some of us (most emphatically not including yours truly!) will be doing once there's enough of it on the ground.





To each his own, I guess . . . although I must admit, I'd like to try out a snowmobile in a somewhat more sedate fashion.  I've never been on one before (or on skis, for that matter).

Peter

Yet another reason to abandon Facebook RIGHT NOW


I've complained before about the abysmal so-called 'security' offered by Facebook to its users - security that in many cases is honored more in the breach (by the company itself) than in the observance.  It hides its intentions behind smarmy weasel words in its privacy policy and terms of use, so that unless they research the matter for themselves, few users realize how they're being treated like online versions of laboratory animals, their data sold to the highest bidder.

Now comes news that Facebook has taken their cavalier attitude to new depths.

It should come as no surprise that most mobile apps run some sort of analytics on user behaviour. But in the case of Facebook, the social network’s Messenger app for iOS apparently tracks quite a bit more than most users likely realize.

iOS forensics and security researcher Jonathan Zdziarski spent Tuesday morning disassembling Facebook Messenger’s iOS binary, at one point declaring via Twitter that “Messenger appears to have more spyware type code in it than I've seen in products intended specifically for enterprise surveillance.”

In an email, Zdziarski said that Messenger is logging practically everything a user might do within the app, from what and where they tap, to how often a device is held in portrait versus landscape orientation; even time spent in the Messenger app, versus the time it spends running in the background.

Some of this is expected behaviour for an app developer, of course. But of greater concern are the other things Zdziarski discovered, whose intended purpose is less clear.

“[Facebook is] using some private APIs I didn’t even know were available inside the sandbox to be able to pull out your WiFi SSID (which could be used to snoop on which WiFi networks you’re connected to) and are even tapping the process list for various information on the device,” he wrote in an email.

On Twitter, Zdziarski said he’s worked for companies that write enterprise surveillance software that didn’t know this level of access was possible.

There's more at the link.

Anyone who continues to use Facebook after knowing this, and understanding all of the company's previous efforts to strip you of every last vestige of privacy, deserves all they get.




Peter

Saturday, September 13, 2014

How to set up a low-cost treadmill desk


Miss D. and I have fielded a number of questions about how I set up my treadmill desk, which allows me to work at the computer while walking and getting some exercise.  She recently took this photograph of my setup.




The computer is set up with dual monitors, both showing the same display.  One's plugged into the VGA port, while the other uses the HDMI port.  They're 23" units, one from HP (which came with the computer) and the other a cheaper, but entirely usable Viewsonic unit. I also use two USB keyboards (the Microsoft Natural 4000, which I find very ergonomic) and two mice, one pair on the seated desk and one on the shelving unit, using a USB hub to plug them all into a single port at the rear of the machine.

The shelving unit is similar to this one, 18" deep, 48" wide (I chose that width to allow plenty of space on either side of the treadmill, and to position multiple computer components along a shelf) and 75" tall on its wheels.  They're freely available at Lowes or Home Depot, or from online vendors.  I chose this type of shelving in particular because the shelves can be adjusted in height by increments of about 1".  That meant I could adjust them to slide the treadmill motor beneath the bottom shelf, position my computer, UPS unit, laser printer and other items next to each other on intermediate shelves, and accommodate a 23" monitor on the second-from-top shelf.  I cut a piece of plywood 24" deep and fastened it with clamps to a mid-level shelf, adjusting the latter's height so that it supports a keyboard and mouse at the right level for my hands.  The plywood extension allows me to bring them closer to my body, enabling me to walk naturally on the treadmill without having to reach forward too far.  I've covered all the shelves with thin (⅛") pieces of hardboard to provide a solid surface; if you don't want the hassle of cutting wood to size, there are low-cost plastic shelf liners to do the same thing.  This makes it easier to position computer components with small rubber or plastic 'feet' on the wire shelves, and also prevents small objects like pens from falling through them.

The treadmill is a LifeSpan unit.  The one I use isn't marketed as a stand-alone device any longer;  the current model is the TR1200, which is very similar to and several hundred dollars cheaper than I paid for mine.  It's a very good treadmill for desk use, being designed for extended walking with a heavy-duty motor providing lots of torque to keep going under heavy, slow-moving loads.  It can accommodate users weighing up to 350 pounds.  Miss D. and I sometimes walk for four to five hours a day between us, and our treadmill's worked just fine since we bought it almost a year ago.  To prevent it damaging the carpet in our office, we've put a sheet of heavy-duty plywood beneath it covered with a rubber treadmill mat, as well as a couple of planks on either side so that the wheels of the shelving unit can run smoothly (we have to move it now and again to clean behind it, or rearrange plugs on the computer equipment).

Thanks to my fused spine and nerve-damaged left leg I find it painful to stay in one position for too long, and I'm not able to walk fast or for very long without increased pain levels.  Therefore, this dual-desk setup gives me the best of both worlds.  I can sit and write until the pain increases;  then step onto the treadmill and walk slowly for 15-20 minutes while using the other keyboard, mouse and monitor;  then sit down again and continue working.  I get a decent amount of exercise even when writing for 8-10 hours per day, which is good for my health and (I find) helps me to concentrate and be more creative.

If you've been worrying about the real health hazards of extended sitting, you might want to try a setup like this.  It's often a lot cheaper to make your own using components like this than it is to buy one ready-made.  The major difficulty is finding a treadmill that can stand up to constant low-speed walking.  Most of them are designed for runners, providing more power and less torque (because a fast-moving body exerts less strain on the belt as it passes over the boards beneath it).  Consult professional sites (I found Treadmill Doctor particularly useful in comparing devices) and read user reviews before making up your own mind.

(On the other hand, I know someone who uses treadmills he picks up for next to nothing on Craigslist.  He buys one for $50-$75, removes the bits he doesn't need like armrests [taking out the cable to the control console if necessary, to make it a free-standing unit], adjusts his shelves to fit over and around it, and then uses it until it breaks down after a few months.  At that point he simply buys another cheap unit and throws away the old one.  He reckons that costs a lot less than buying a new, more expensive treadmill.  I prefer my arrangement, but if his way gets the job done for him, who am I to argue?)

Peter

Pleasant day


Miss D. and I spent the day helping a friend of Oleg's move her larger household items up to Kentucky in preparation for starting a new job there next week.  (When one owns a pickup and is willing to help, one's always in demand!)  It was a pleasant drive, with my pickup generally behaving itself after its recent repairs.  The cruise control hiccuped once, but only once, and behaved itself for the rest of the journey.  Considering that it was much worse before the repairs, I'll take that as a plus!  I hope it'll settle down and behave itself even better in future.

After delivering the furniture, we all stopped at a local Cracker Barrel for lunch.  I'm consistently impressed by the value for money there.  Every branch I've visited seems to have the same high standards of food preparation and overall cleanliness - a very valuable consideration, given the alarming differences in quality between branches of some other establishments.  (No, they're not paying me to say that;  I simply like good food and good service, and mention them when I find them.)

On the way home we paid a second visit to Beachaven Winery near Clarksville, TN.  We introduced Oleg's friend and her helper to the place as well, and came away with a couple of cases of wine between us.  We'll definitely be going back there - their wines are worth it.

Miss D. cooked up a mess of ravioli for supper, which we washed down with the remains of a bottle of Beachaven Riesling.  Right now I'm working on a book proposal, and Miss D. is using the treadmill desk next to my seated desk while working on projects of her own.  It's an enjoyable mutual domesticity, sharing an office and workspace like this.  Now, if I could just persuade her to take her 'tinkering' with writing and make a book out of it . . .


Peter