At peace with the news

At peace with the news – dove and olive branch

My father had a reputation as a very smart guy who, at the same time, was notoriously bad at taking care of his own health. He never exercised, he worked himself ragged, drank a fair bit, and smoked right up to the day the doctors put him on oxygen. Nevertheless, he also did a lot of things right, and – like any father’s son I suppose – I owe a great deal of who I am, to who he was.

As a kid I was lucky enough to be smart enough to appreciate Dad’s virtues as virtues, while understanding his vices were just vices. Any kid who’s paying attention has an opportunity to learn twofold from their parents, once by mimicking their strengths, and once again by seeing what doesn’t work, what not to do.

And so I grew into a man with my father’s appreciation of beauty, his love for nature and science, his decency and honesty, his eye for a good design and his love for anything that simply works. And an ability to tie a fast bowline. Conversely, I never smoked, I kept work and play in balance, I ate healthy, and I got outside for a run every day. These are all things I owe to my dad.

What’s this got to do with news? (more…)

Transrio – It is what it is

Transrio – It is what it is

Originally, this blog was to be a place where I could define Transrio. Now that I’ve been working along for quite a few years, I see clearer what Transrio wishes it could be, and what it’s able to be. My personal conception of the thing has evolved. I had hoped it would gallop forward, becoming a business. I’d still really love to invent a thing that made money. Money is not the only test of whether something is worth doing of course, but it is perhaps the only test that can’t be faked. Making money while doing Transrio would make me happy. But by now it’s pretty clear; I’m not putting enough hours in, to get that to happen.

So for now, Transrio is… just Transrio. None of the likely descriptions fit – work, hobby, trabajo, job, strong personal interest, (more…)

January… February…

January... February...

January and February were nice months for Transrio. The New Year’s resolution released lots of happy energy. First off, I started right in doing pronunciation every morning first thing. New habits are cantankerous at first, but I did stick with it, and now it IS a habit, and something I enjoy. I made lots of improvements, natural of course whenever you’re doing something daily. I got fascinated by TTS (text to speech) and upgraded my Spanish voices to Rosa from Acapela, and Penelope from Ivona. The quality, on both these voices, is incredible. It really makes my morning practice a lot more fun. Good TTS voices cost $35-$45 apiece, (more…)

New Year’s resolution

New Year’s resolution

I never try to make a New Year’s resolution; most years I don’t have one. But this time one popped into my head fully formed. It was a bright, cold, snowy day, late December. It popped in there like a true little vision. Laura had just settled herself to work sketching a pine sapling, she was sitting on a sitzpad in deep snow by the creek. I was following elk tracks. And it came to me in full glory, exactly like this:

“My resolution for 2013 is to get significantly more fluent in Spanish, and make steady progress in Transrio. To accomplish this, I want to specifically commit to: (more…)

“What did I just do?”

"What did I just do?"

(Progress update, November/December)

Looking back over timecards, I see that the last two months of 2012 were singularly unproductive for Transrio. In particular, I never got around to following up the leads I had from the Farm Progress trip. Truth be told, I bogged down badly in gadgetry.

That happens sometimes. When it does, I always go easy on myself. Just like a chicken or a lobster in molt, any modern person needs to go through yet-another ugly duckling phase while they re-organize hardware and software for themselves. (Much as I would like to call it metamorphosis, it’s molting.) I recently read an interview with Kevin Kelly, founder of Wired Magazine; he was talking about his new book "What Technology Wants." I like him; I always enjoy hearing what he has to say. The one new thought that stayed with me from the interview was (and I’m paraphrasing here, because Kelly talks English, the article was Spanish, and this is back to English) he said (more…)

Ultralight writing gimmick

Ultralight writing gimmick

I’m used to writing with no keyboard; I’ve been doing it for years. But just recently I switched to writing, at least sometimes, without a computer. In fact I’m doing it right now. Total weight for everything is four ounces. Battery life, days. It feels like using a Kindle, except for writing instead of reading – Kindle being a device minimized for reading and nothing else, here’s a device minimized for writing, writing, and nothing but. I was pushed into it by my daughter Sally. She writes with one of these, and she told me I needed to try it out.

What is it? It’s called an Olympus DS 7000 voice recorder. It’s expensive, considering how simple it is, but it’s smoothly designed to work with Dragon, giving clear output of anything you dictate. You simply write something, by voice, and later you plug the thing into your main computer. Dragon takes it from there and types clean text.

I had to take Sally’s strong recommendation on faith; it didn’t seem like something I would really use. But now that I have it, it’s my favorite way to write. (more…)

¿Que quiere decir?

¿Que quiere decir?

If you want to ask “What does that mean?” in Spanish, the phrase is “¿Que quiere decir?” I always liked that. Literally, it translates to “What does that want to say?”

This little blog is nearing its fifth birthday, and I’m thinking it’s done serving its original purpose. It’s been a good thing for me, and for Transrio, a place to experiment and learn. I’ve allowed myself to post about almost anything at all, as long as I thought it was interesting, and at least obliquely related to the business. Today, I feel like pausing, looking back at the last five years and asking, ¿Que quiere decir? I did 50 posts, giving them freedom to go almost anywhere. What did they want to say?

I started writing in 2007, and worked along pretty good through 2008, doing 19 posts. I finished all of the static informational pages explaining Transrio. I also populated an informal résumé, with links to articles about Great Harvest. By the end of that year I had a pretty good little blog up, something I could point to (more…)

Farm Progress tour

Farm Progress tour; Drawing of a corn stalk

I just returned from a really good trip, one that I’ve been dreaming about for the last two years. I flew into Chicago, and there joined a group of 108 Argentine agriculturalists; they were mostly farmers, plus some agribusiness and research people. The group loaded itself into two buses, and for the next nine days we visited a cross-section of US producers, factories, research projects and Ag schools across the heart of the Corn Belt. The focus was mostly on corn and soybeans, covering lots of the current advances from GPS-guided planting to biofuels. This is the 22nd year they have run the tour, which is timed to coincide with the giant Farm Progress Show held every August in Boone, Iowa.

The trip is an expensive commitment for all of the attendees, and most of them pay from their own pocket. So it was a hard-working bunch, serious about learning – for me, the schedule was intense. I really liked being the only US attendee (more…)

KML – a little goes a long way!

A little KML goes a long way

At the end of my last post I signed off saying "What’s next for me? … KML." In my mind I pictured learning KML to be like learning HTML, i.e. quite a project. To my happy surprise though, KML is easy. It’s a friendly little critter!

Here’s what transpired. I was thinking about this new route up this mountain, then suddenly I thought "Why don’t I give it just ten minutes and see what happens? Who knows, maybe I’ll get lucky." Well big surprise, in ten minutes I was done! I drew the route on my big computer Joe, moved it onto my little tablet Flaco, and got it to open in all three of my Android map apps. It being the weekend, we packed along the little path with our candy bars etc, and took the hike. That’s all there was to it. Hiking on the real mountain the route was anything but obvious, but following the little pre-made path and the blue dot, we stayed on track easily.

KML stands for Keyhole Markup Language. Keyhole was originally the company Google bought in 2004 so that they could own the knowhow which quickly became Google Earth and Google Maps. (more…)

The Blue Dot

Screenshot from Google Earth, Blue Dot beside Juniper

Last week, in a fit of simplifying and a leap of faith, I threw away my topo maps. Maps that had been carefully selected and bought, one by one across the many years; each one lovingly trimmed by my own hand, labeled in ballpoint around the margins, individually indexed – representing 30 years of precious family memories in Montana and elsewhere. Every one of my 7.5-minute quads for Beaverhead County, all my 30×60′s, the old 15-minutes, and every 1:250,000-series covering the state. I couldn’t help but count them: 440 maps in all! To buy them again would cost 440 x $6 = $2,640. Not mentioning the work of labeling, folding, and filing. Needless to say, I was aswirl with emotions – nostalgia of course, the sadness of saying goodbye to friends, but also mixed up with that an excitement of jettisoning weight. Freedom. Often it’s true, it’s the things we used to love the most, which need to go.

Last July I wrote a long post titled "Topo maps: what’s now and what’s next." In that article I said:

"Right now, in standard orienteering, you hold your GPS in one hand, about the size of a smartphone, and your map in the other hand. The devices are too cramped for map reading. That’s why GPS people are so fascinated by gridlines on maps, they sync their gadget with their paper, by brute force. When the map and the GPS merge and become inseparable in one device, that’s going to be fundamentally different. (more…)

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