I have my own little boys!

I have my very own little boys to play with. They have been living with us for a little more than a month with their mommy and daddy, my cousins Ben and Marie. When they came to stay with us is when life started to get better for me.

The littlest one is still a people puppy. Mom says they are called babies. Whatever mom. Anyway he is almost 10 months old. He wants to cuddle with my mom all the time. Then there is Chris and Norlin. They are 4 and 3 years old. They are my bestest friends forever. I don’t want them to leave ever.

Chris and Norlin like to do special things for me. They play with me and give me kisses. They like to sneak food to me when they are eating. They have to be very careful that none of the big people see them because they could get into trouble. But they still take a chance anyway. That is how much they love me. 

We like to go out into the back yard and play. That is the best. We like to run around and play with toys. And we love to dig holes looking for dinosaur bones. Norlin thinks that there is a T-Rex buried in our back yard. I think that he is right cause he and Chris are very smart for their age. Mommy says so. Can you imagine how big the bones will be when we dig them up. My mouth is drooling.

I am the luckiest dog in the world.

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Am I on the National Security terror watch list yet?


Last night I was thinking about a story I want to write. My thoughts lead me to several questions.

  1. Thoughts
    1. Lasers
      1. I know that lasers can be used to blind people there is fear that a hand held laser could bring down a jetliner.
      2. Though light is affected by gravity it is very minor and even over long distance can easily be calculated unlike lead.
      3. Lasers are not affected by wind.
      4. Lasers are used for surgery to make highly precise cuts.
      5. Lasers can cut through thick metal.
      6. I’ve heard of killer satellites that use lasers to kill other satellites.
    2. Drones
      1. They’ve been in the news a lot lately.
      2. We know the military uses them to hit targets deep behind enemy lines.
      3. Recently a drone crashed on the Whitehouse lawn.
      4. They are hard to protect against.
      5. Amazon and others are looking to use them for quick delivery service.
      6. A drown carrying drugs crashed near the California boarder close to San Diego.
      7. Apparently there is something called Drone Boning which uses drone mounted cameras to produce voyeur porn.
      8. Anyone can buy them now.
  2. Questions
    1. Lasers
      1. How big would a laser need to be to quickly kill a man?
      2. How much would it weigh?
      3. How much power would it need?
      4. Could such a laser be mounted on a drone?
      5. Why couldn’t a laser be used as a sniper weapon?
    2. Drones
      1. How far can one fly?
      2. How long can it stay air born?
      3. How much weight can they hold?
      4. Could a gun be attached to and fired accurately from one?
      5. If the can deliver drugs and other packages why not bombs?
      6. Wouldn’t they work great for spying?
        1. Video
        2. Directional mic.

As I’m researching these and other questions I knowing how much the NSA is monitoring American’s internet searches. Is Big Brother tagging me as a terrorist threat? Should I expect the FBI and SWAT to be knocking down my front door anytime? The joys of trying to become a writer.

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Proofing tools in Microsoft Word

Ever notice the red and green squiggly lines under text in Microsoft word? Most of us know the green line is a grammar mistake and the red a spelling one. These are great tools for writers off all types. No matter how good we are we still make mistakes and word gives us warnings and helps us fix them. Don’t get me wrong word is not a replacement for a live proof reader or editor. Word has an attitude and makes mistakes. It does help us overcome many of our mistakes before we embarrass ourselves by turning in a highly flowed document.

I tell people I use the biblical method of typing “Seek and ye shall find”. The problem is sometimes it takes a while to seek. Other times even thought I seeked, I still hit the wrong key. To make matters worse I am a creative speller. I create all new ways of spelling words which gives my spell checker a fit.

In the next couple of articles I will share a few tips on ways to make Word’s proofing tools work for not against you.

I recently updated to Windows 8 and Microsoft Office 2013. They are a different beast than windows 7 and older versions of Office.

In the upper left hand corner click on “File” then select “Options” last one on the list. A new window will pop up.

From the panel on the Left select “Proofing”

Some areas I want to point out in this window is

  • Auto correct options
  • When correcting spelling in Microsoft Office Programs
    • Custom Dictionaries
  • When Correcting Grammar in Microsoft Word
    • Settings


Have you ever noticed that sometimes when you type a word wrong or leave out the ‘ Word will automatically correct it for you. Auto Correct manages these corrections. Click on the “Auto correct options’ button for a new window. Toward the bottom is a list of common errors on their corrections.

Just above the list are two text boxes which allow the addition of custom words and errors. In the first enter a common mistake or an abbreviation, in the second enter the correction. My initials are “edh” if I enter this in the First box and my full name “Edward D. Hall” in the second box the add button becomes available. Select add and this correction will be inserted in the list. Now whenever I type my initials “edh” and hit the space key my full name will replace the initials. What if I want my initials to appear? Use the undo button or “CTR+Z” to undo the autocorrect then carry on with what you are doing. A word of warning Autocorrect doesn’t care if either are words. It will always make the change. If I tend to leave out the ‘u‘ in “four” so I add a correction to change “for” to “four” it will always make this correction. Yes you can go back, select a correction from the list and delete or change it.

Once you are done here click “OK” to return to the previous window.

Spelling in Office

There are several check boxes in this area that affects the way all Microsoft Office Programs not just Word. These are:

Ignore words in UPPERCASE

Words in uppercase are often acronyms which defy logic. Most of the time you will want to leave this box checked. As I often use names like UNIX which are expected to be kept in uppercase, I tend to turn this option off.

Ignore words that contain numbers

As for me I am more likely to type a number in a word by accident than because it should be there. I want this checked off so I see the errors as I type them

Ignore Internet and file addresses

This is one I leave on. It’s hard to accidently type an HTTP:// even the www. Is hard to make as a mistake. After all these years my cats have yet to manage to type a URL while dancing on my keyboard. I know they say that given infinite time a group of monkeys could type the complete works of Shakespeare. My cats must be defective

Flag repeat words

There are rare occasions where a word should be repeated such as telling my cats “no no” Believe it or not this is a common mistake, especially when pausing to think. I leave this one on.

Enforce accented uppercase in French

I confess I don’t know French so I really don’t care about this.

Suggest from Main Dictionary only

There may be times that I will want to use this but for the most part I want to be able to use custom dictionaries.

Custom Dictionary

The custom dictionary allows us to add our own words to the dictionary so they don’t show as miss spelled words all the time. When I was in the Air Force I was stationed at RAF Chcksands. Chicksands in not in the main dictionary, therefore, it shows as a misspelled word. If for some odd reason I was going to talk about Chicksands a lot like I have three times in this one paragraph. I could chose to “right click” on it and select “Add to dictionary” thus adding it to my custom dictionary.  From this point on whenever I type Chicksands, that’s four, it will be seen as correctly spelled.

As a fantasy Author many of my names are made up. I don’t want half my document underlined in red I also don’t want my made-up names stored in my default custom dictionary.

Microsoft Word allows me to create custom dictionaries. The problem is the only way I know of to choose which dictionary things are stored in is to manually input things or to turn off the other dictionaries.

French Mode and Spanish Mode

I have trouble enough with English as already stated I don’t speak French, I also don’t speak Spanish. I have no clue what these are for.



When Correcting Grammar in Microsoft Word

Check spelling as you type


Mark grammar errors as you type


Frequently confused words


Check grammar with spelling


Show readability statistics


Writing style



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I have been Distracted

This has been a fun week. I upgraded our computers from Windows 7 to Windows 8.1 as well as our copies of Office from 2007 to 2013. Now I have the latest and greatest of Microsoft software even if my hardware is still outdated.

A couple weeks ago we moved our internet from “Clear” a G4 service to “CenturyLink” an ADSL service that’s about 10 times faster than what we had. We are even saving money this way. With this we also dropped one of our cell phones replacing it with a Landline.

To add insult to injury my wife and I have been sharing a cold for the last two months. We keep passing it back and forth taking turns with it. This last week has been my wife’s turn now I am getting it back

Needless to say, this has taken me away from other more important things.

I have managed to finish Chapters 1 & 2 of Lord Candurn, Book 1 of the Elven Lords series. I reworked the Prelude and both it and the first chapters have been checked for errors. At this time I can’t afford professional editors so I am depending on friends and family to edit my book.

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Keeping the facts straight.

Some time back I was reading a story when half way through the story the facts changed. It’s one thing for a viewpoint to change. Two people might not agree on exactly what happened. The narrative should stay consistent.

I remember one story where it took a couple of days to go from point A to point B later it took several weeks. I’ve seen climate changes and even name changes within a story.

It can be hard keeping track of everything. I’ve worried about that myself. I may introduce a Character then we may not see him/her again for several chapters. How will I keep it all straight?

I’ve created my own fantasy world things to not happen here on Earth. I have several ideas I am working on that all take place in the same world. In order to keep track of things I need maps. First a world map. Next drill down to the continents, then to countries cities and in some cases specific buildings. My world started out when I was a Dungeon Master playing Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. These detailed maps allowed me to keep track of where everyone was, describe the terrain, etc. These same maps allows me to provide detail to my story. If we go into a pub what is the atmosphere, the lay out. Today there is a heath in the middle of the room with a deer roasting over the fire. The bartender cuts a slap off to serve the party members. Weeks later we are in the same city they remember how good the service and food was so return to the same pub only this time a fight breaks out. Does someone get knocked into the heath?

I use excel spread sheets to keep track of things. Each of my characters are entered in with their name maybe a nickname, a description, personality, speech, and so forth. It is important to make your characters as real as possible that includes habits both good and bad. Zentar the oldest son of an Elven Lord feels that because of his birthright he is better than everyone else. He goes on to take advantage of others claiming who and what he wants. When his greatest desire is denied him he goes off in a rage. His brother Candurn being the younger son does not hold himself in such high esteem. Instead He works hard learning to serve his family and his people. When the time comes for their father to select his successor because of his humility it is the younger Candurn whom is selected.

These spread sheets also contain governments, affiliations, guilds, etc. Not everyone who has pledged support of the king is true in their actions. Who can the king really trust? Little facts like these can add a lot to a story. Facts, stories, legions, histories are all things you should record. The king may not trust an adviser because of things that happened in the past. Yet that untrusted adviser may become the king’s best ally.


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New Year’s Resolutions

It’s that time of year again time to set our new year’s resolutions. For many of us we just did that twelve months ago and our goals died almost as soon as the ink dried on the paper. I know mine did. Part of the problem is that we set ourselves up to fail. We set goals that are too lofty or too general. We need to be specific setting goals that are obtainable Ones that allow us to see progress. Breaking big goals into smaller bit size pieces. One of my goals for last year was to lose weight. I did but then I gained it back again only to lose it again before repeating the cycle. Now we are at the end of the year and I am right about where I started the year. Maybe a better goal would have been to eat healthier or eat less.

In a recent Talk last Sunday Brother Nash mentioned that we all have weaknesses handicaps that hold us back. Some are visual, in that others can see or hear them. Watch me walk or attempt to do things and the effects of my stroke become apparent. Listen to me talk and I sound like I have an accent. Not apparent is my hearing problem that makes it difficult to distinguish between like sounds. Many weaknesses are invisible to the naked eye. Low self esteem, depression, dyslexia, are among the large list. God gave us weaknesses to make us strong. Whatever our challenges are we have the strength to overcome them. Sometimes however we need help.

There is no shame in admitting we need help to overcome a problem. In fact it is a sign of strength. In the Air Force Officer’s Candidate Training School. The obstacle course is designed so no one can complete it without help. It takes team work to succeed. So it is with life we can’t succeed alone we all need help. From our family, our friends, and even others. Everyone has been given weaknesses to overcome, and strength to help not just ourselves but others. I worked in the computer industry for much of my adult life. I know a lot about computer hardware but not as much about the software. Though I took programming classes as part of my training, it is not my expertise. In the 1990’s I took a series of classes to improve my skill with several office applications. Yet I can’t write a good database. I need help.

The Devil is the Father of Lies. He will tell us that we should be able to do it all on our own. That admitting our mistakes is a sigh of weakness. The truth is admitting out weaknesses is a sign of strength and the first step to overcoming them. As we face our challenges no matter what they may be we grow stronger. We will not reach perfection in this life but we will become better striving toward becoming the strongest we can be.

Be aware that even after we have worked hard to overcome a weakness it might return to bite us. An alcoholic who hasn’t had a drink in years may find him/her self tempted almost to the breaking point. The devil loves to bring up our past in an attempt to snare us. Even if we fail we can always pick ourselves back up and try again. You don’t learn to ride a bike without falling off. So it is in life we learn by making mistakes, backing up and trying again.

Life is full of trials and tests. You don’t have to enjoy them but you do have to pass through them. Make the most of things, be the best you, you can be. In adversity we find strength. Good people go through trials too make them better.

One of my goals this year is to finish my first book. I will do this by writing a little every day. I will miss a day now and then but that’s not failure it’s life. I will press forward and this will be the year I get published.


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Nature vs. Nurture

One of the main discussion points in early childhood development is nature vs. nurture. How much of a child behavior is based on upbringing vs. genetics. The same question can be asked about any animal. Is a pit-bull mean because of its breeding or because of how it was raised?

My world of Kavilion is based on Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (AD&D) in fact many of the ideas come from AD&D roll playing. In AD&D intelligent beings have an alignment. This alignment is like the points of a compass good vs. evil and lawful vs. chaotic. A creature may be lawful good, lawful neutral, lawful evil, neutral good, true neutral, neutral evil, chaotic good, chaotic neutral, or chaotic evil. At first glance one might think that lawfulness and evil are mutually exclusive. Hitler was an example of lawful evil. He followed laws though the rules were not in the best interested of society, he demanded order yet it was an evil order. In AD&D a creature’s race has a lot to do with their alignment some races like Humans can be any alignment others like Drow Elves are chaotic evil. Yet, in R. A. Salvatore books Drizzt a Drow Elf breaks off from Drow Elven society and becomes good. So we must ask is it nature or nurture that makes one the way they are.

In the “Elven Lords” books Lord Ferguson’s sister Moenna is raised by Dryads and becomes a Druid, rare for full elves. She embarks on a quest with her brother to battle an Evil Red Dragon that has been terrorizing the local area. Druids are priest of nature and by their basic character are true neutral believing in a balance of good vs. evil and chaos vs. order. They will fight with the underdog no matter which side against a greater force to restore balance to the world. In this adventure Moenna and her companions slay the evil dragon only to discover an egg. The bulk of the group wants to destroy the egg before it can hatch to become an evil dragon. Moenna insist on protecting the egg allowing the dragon too chose its own path in life. As they are actively discussing the issue the egg hatches our baby red dragon sees Moenna first and attaches to her as its mother. Throughout the remaining books Flame becomes a major part of the story as he grows up in a humanoid world raised by an Elven Druid mother and a human Thief father. He experiences such adventures as getting a claw stuck while learning to pick a pocket then in panic flaming his intended victim. Getting excited and burning their house down. He must learn that things in this world are not as straight forward as one might hope. Just because mommy screams when daddy tickles her doesn’t mean she needs to be protected. Flame goes on to become a Druid proving that nurture not nature is the rule.

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Protecting your digital Data

This last week Tom, my oldest friend and co-conspirator in All Things DOS, suffered a hard drive failure on his main computer. Luckily for him he didn’t lose his data, we were able to swap out his drive and using a USB 2.0 to SATA/IDE adaptor copy his files from his old drive to his new one. All was not lost. However all too often that is not the case. As a computer tech I don’t know how many times I had to tell a customer that his valuable data was lost and there was nothing we could do to save it. Even when we could we charged $70 an hour with a two hour minimum to copy your files. The sad thing is that by taking a few simple steps you can insure that your data is protected.

I’ve talked before about backing up vital records.  After this week’s fun and games I felt it was time to bring it up again. Unlike just a few short years ago, the costs of storage devices have come down to the point that there is no excuse not to have a good backup plan in place. I use several tools to help me insure my data is safe.

I have a free account on DropBox. I have this linked to my iPad, desktop computer, laptop computer, and even my wife’s gamming computer. Every time I update or add a file to my DropBox directory It is updated not only on the cloud but to every device connected to my DropBox account. One update is saved to the cloud and three other devices without me having to do anything. Currently I have four gigabytes of free on-line storage. Not a ton but plenty for my needs. I store my books, photos from my iPad, website files, and other important files in my DropBox directory.

Speaking of website files All Things DOS maintains over 200 gigabytes of files much more than I can store on DropBox. I currently have a one terabyte external storage device I use to keep backups of that and other valuable “large” data collections.

Last week I ordered a 512 gigabyte thumb drive which I will start backing up my files too. This thumb drive will fit in my fire proof box where I keep all my valuable paper documents. I’m not rich I can’t afford an off-site storage facility not even a safety deposit box. Hopefully in the event of a fire or other disaster my box will protect my valuable files.

It is important to remember that for this to be useful it must be current. My most valuable files are constantly updated to my DropBox storage; however each time I add to my other large data collections it is important to update my back up files as well. The plan here is to keep both my external drive and my new thumb drive current incase my computer crashes. My hope is I never need it. My goal is to not tempt fate.

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A visit from the NSA

A strange idea hit me over the head the other day. This is in line with my posting a few weeks ago about NSA, Facebook, and Google. Could a sniper rifle be set up with an electronic trigger, a small high quality camera aligned with the scope, and placed on a stand set up with electronic servos that are connected to a smart phone app that would allow it to be remotely controlled via an app on a tablet or computer? This would allow the shooter to not even be near the rifles, hence they could be put in place days ahead of time, and the shooter could even be out of the state or country. Take it one step further by placing an explosive charge that could help destroy any evidence. I did some research and apparently the army has an electronic trigger surprisingly you can buy one on eBay for a paint gun, I am sure it can be modified. Simple robotics could give ultra fine controls for aiming, better than what a man could do. Then I got thinking could two or more guns be set up allowing one person to hit multiple targets?

Now let’s put it all together we have a man who wants to take over the government, he identifies an ex solder maybe an ex ranger who has sniper back ground. He is unbalanced and has talked to his shrink about how bad the government is and how someone needs to do something. He I hired “just to buy the guns” on days he is known to be out someone enters his home and does searches on modifying guns, robotics etc. everything is setup to make it look like this one person did everything. On the day of the shooting, he is killed in such a way it looks like he killed himself. If the government takes the bait then the true killer is in the clear. No one will ever be looking for him. The perfect crime.

Well, would it work?

My mind does strange things to me sometimes, most be all the meds the VA has me on or the lack of sleep. I am still waiting for the feds to show up at my door and drag me away because of my internet searches and my posts. If you never hear from me again you will know why.

Ok honestly I am not one of those people who think the government is out to get me. I just think some of the things we do and say just might ring bells in the wrong places.  Writing can be dangerous but fun. J

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Microsoft Office vs. OpenOffice

A couple weeks ago I wrote about OpenOffice a free office productivity program from Apache. After testing it out on my new computer I chose to go back to Microsoft Office. It’s not that it was a bad program in fact there were a few things I prefer about it over Microsoft Office. However, I know my way around Microsoft Office And there are a couple things I prefer about it and a few thins it offers that OpenOffice doesn’t offer One key point is Microsoft Word offers a cover page, I can chose from several preformatted cover pages. These pages are great in that they are preformatted with an image, title, and other text which I can easily customize with my own images, etc. They look nice without me having to do a lot of work. I am basically lazy anything that saves me work is a plus. As a Microsoft Partner I do get a discount on my software. Though free is nice I’ve chosen to go back to what I know. One thing I wish Microsoft would change is the way it handles custom dictionaries. With Microsoft I basically have to go in and add words manually to the extra custom dictionaries while with OpenOffice I can right click on the word and select which dictionary I want to add it to. As many of my names are made up i.e. not real names. I use a custom dictionary for each book or series of books. I also have a custom dictionary for my computer stuff there are a lot of computer terms that are not in the Microsoft Dictionary. Surprising what a computer company leaves out. One last point I wish to make is about the Auto Correct function. On my iPad it can be a pain in the rear. In word it can save me a lot of work. The iPad wants to turn “its” into “It’s” all the time. But with Office I can program in special short cuts for instance one of my activities it “All Things DOS” I have customized Auto Correct so that when I type “atdos” it will automatically change it to “All Things DOS” the thing to look out for her is it will always make the change so don’t use something that you might need to use latter.

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