29 March 2016

Weighing Why Scott Walker Enthusiastically Endorsed Ted Cruz

A week before the crucial Republican Wisconsin primary, Governor Scott Walker called into WTMJ AM's Charlie Sykes program to endorse Senator Ted Cruz for President.

Wisconsin is important in the GOP primary process, as it is a winner-take-all state at a time in which Donald Trump needs to convincingly win delegates to lock up the Republican nomination.  If Trump fails to win in the Badger State, it is increasingly likely that the GOP will have a contested convention in Cleveland.

Governor Walker withdrew from the 2016 Republican Presidential field in September 2015, well before any ballots were cast. This may be attributable to running a prematurely bloated campaign, lackluster debate performances and wanting to clear the field so Republicans could elect a conservative. Walker obviously had animus against Donald Trump's campaign, as Walker lamented how the 2016 campaign had devolved into personal attacks.

However, Governor Walker's full throated endorsement of Cruz for President is noteworthy for his commitment.  Walker is a youthful politician with a bright future.  And there are no term limits for  Cheesehead Governors. Walker won three gubernatorial elections in four years (including the 2012 recall election).  If Walker endorsement translates to a resounding victory for Cruz in the Wisconsin primary, Walker vaults back into the 2016 GOP Election cycle.  

If Walker's endorsement is seen as turning point in the primaries, Walker would be a hero to conservatives by preventing an unprincipled populist enough delegates for a first ballot nomination victory.  If Cruz is able to win the nomination (even in a contested convention second ballot), Walker can be seen as Kingmaker and Cruz may feel compelled to reward him as a running mate, along with his virtues of geographical balance, outsider appeal and reputation to fight progressives (along with his sizable donors list). It is akin to Florida in 2008 when former Governor Charlie Crist (FL- R-I-D) late endorsement of Senator John McCain vaulting his prospects, without the orange tan and RINO tendencies. 

But in the event that the GOP Cleveland Convention becomes deadlocked, Walker becomes an attractive alternative choice. Walker could appeal to evangelicals, conservatives, populists, angry "Reagan Democrats".  Walker can rightly claim that he is an outsider, with a track record of accomplishments and who has fought political correctness and unions and won. Walker dropped out because of needless name calling, so he has not alienated large segments of the party. 

22 March 2016

Re-Kindling Appreciation for Amazon's E-Book Reader

Recently, I took a trip to a quiet rural retreat where there was no television, WiFi was non-existent and internet was iffy on my cellular phone. In times past, if one quickly finished reading the books brought on a rainy weekend, it would be time to bide time by polishing doorknobs. Instead, I was able to reach for my Kindle e-ink reader and the literary world was at my fingertips.

I have reveled over Kindles since they initially came on the market.  This travel saga rekindled my appreciation for the Amazon's extraordinary e-book reader. In fact, my household is so fond of our Kindles that each of them is named.  For example, my first Kindle was dubbed  Isadore (named after the patron saint of libraries).  

While I now own several Kindles, I brought my beloved Kindle 2 Keyboard on the get-away. The Kindle 2  series had two types of Whispernet (the complimentary Amazon 3G series).  Fortunately, “Striker” was on the AT&T network, where I was getting five bars of coverage.  So I downloaded a number of samples and tried to choose my next title.  Several of the sample books displayed no more than the table of contents. A couple of sample choices included some of the preface and the first chapter. By surveying the samples, I could narrow down my choice. In fact, reading the samples eliminated titles from a couple of favorite authors based upon style and content.  

When I made my pick, I was able to buy the book and download it in one click and read away. I was excited about a couple of key passages so I highlighted the notes and shared them via Facebook and Twitter through the Whispernet 3G connection.

Although I finished a good chunk of the new book, but my eyes were closing while my mind was still active.  Fortunately, this generation of Kindles still had the text to speech option and built in speaker so a synthetic voice could read me to sleep.   The next morning, my traveling companion who is a techno-luddite seem amazed that I bought and read another book even in this remote retreat.

The Kindle came in handy as I purused other books because of the built in dictionary. The Kindle 2 has a keyboard which is OK for short notetaking, but one should not expect to pen the great American novel on it, and transferring the files can be challenging.

The feature that I treasure from this version of the Kindle E-reader is the “Experimental” internet browser.  Later versions of the Kindle e-reader restricted internet access to the Kindle Store and Wikipedia.  The Kindle 2 allowed for some web surfing of text based websites.  This was a God send for a news junkie like me. 

One new glitch from “Striker” is that it would not display Wikipedia listings neither from the experimental browser nor the automated Wikipedia search.  As the weekend progressed, I was disappointed as I had grown accustomed to spot checking facts and could not do so easily with this Kindle.  Perhaps on a related note, this Kindle was not recognizing the Kininstant bookmark shortener.

“Striker” is my third Kindle e-reader, as two had to be replaced because of screen problems thru Amazon’s unconditional return policy (at the time) for Kindles. The design was a marked improvement over the large cheese wedge Kindle 1. That being said, the unit did have a replaceable battery and allowed SD card storage. But the only difference that “Striker” had over my first K2 was that it was on the AT&T  Whispernet  which could get international 3G as opposed to just the Sprint CDMA Whispernet in the USA.

Alas, “Striker” was showing its age, as the Lithium Polymer battery could only hold a charge for several hours and then would immediately drain out. Perhaps this was due to battery memory as well as a battery which needed to be replaced.  I have considered acquiring a Kindle replacement battery for around $25 but I worry about doing the installation myself and bricking it.  Unfortunately, computer repair shops don’t want to take on the challenge of installation either.

Most people would be inclined just to get a new device, as surely Amazon has developed the latest and greatest e-reader.  But a Thrifty Techie realizes that it ain’t necessarily so. The Kindle Voyager and Kindle Paperwhite models (7th & 6th Generations) do have lit screens for night reading and extended battery life.  The Kindles has have  some new features like Vocabulary Builder and X-Ray title summaries.  Alas, when Amazon giveth, it has also taken away.  No longer do e-readers have speakers or headphone jacks, so text to speech is out of the question (it is available on the Kindle Fire models though).  If you pay $50 more, a Voyage or Paperwhite can have 3G capabilities, but that it now restricted to the Kindle Store and Wikipedia.  Amazon also sells an 8 Gig Kindle Fire tablet for $49 (which has text to speech) but the color backlit screen can cause eye fatigue for prolonged reading stints and may be tough the see reading outside. From a Thrifty-Techie’s perspective, newer isn’t necessarily better.   

I was resigned to make do with what I had, but an imminent Amazon Kindle software update forced my hand. As I was prepping my vintage e-readers for the mandatory download, I noticed that “Herbie 2", a Kindle Keyboard 3rd Gen (with WiFi) that I inherited from an inlaw was showing dead pixels.  These e-reader screens can be quite sensitive to pressure.  Herbie 1 had to be replaced when a teacup poodle sat on it. All but the top of the screen displayed correctly, but it would be maddening to use it as an e-reader.

After some investigation on E-bay, I found an upgraded used Kindle Keyboard 3rd Gen with WiFi and 3G for $32 with shipping.  This means that it would have text to speech, the ungoverned experimental browser with about 4 gig of storage (enough for 3500 books). This design does not have a touch screen, which I consider is an advantage on a dedicated e-reader, so as not having fingerprints on the screen.  The downsides are that it does not come with a power cord (but I already have several).  Another variable is the condition of the battery. 

Although I will probably have to manually do the software update, it seems like it is worth the trade off. So I am happy to include another Kindle into the Thrifty-Techie family.

17 March 2016

Knights of Columbus Picks Up Its Crux

Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight Carl Anderson on Saving The Crux

Recently  the Boston Globe indicated that it would be withdrawing its financial support for "The Crux", a website covering "All things Catholic", on April 1st 2016, citing a lack of Catholic advertisers.   But within a week, the Knights of Columbus announced that it would partner with the website so that the Crux could continue to be "Keeping its finger on the Catholic Pulse".

The Crux coverage featured veteran Vatincanista reporter John Allen, Jr., who was respected on both sides of the Catholic spectrum.  When it  began in September 2014, The Crux sought to cover all things Catholic, appealing to active Catholics, "casual" Catholics and those who were just interested in spirituality, religion and Pope Francis.

This new partnership between the Knights of Columbus and The Crux will allow esteemed Vatican reporter John Allen, Jr. and Ines San Martin to continue to report on the Holy See, the Church and religious liberty around the world.

The Knights of Columbus plan to merge their current Catholic Pulse web effort with The Crux.  The hope is that the combination of skills and resources will bolster informed, responsible and fair journalism that sets the tone for consideration of Catholic issues nationally and world wide.

The Knights of Columbus will become The Crux's main sponsor and advertiser but it will continue to solicit appropriate advertising.  There is some consideration that The Crux may allow for co-sponsorship on specific topics which align with the Knights of Columbus and The Crux mission.

When the Boston Globe announced its intentions to abandon The Crux, national reporter Michael O'Laughlin and spirituality columnist Margery Eagan decided to leave The Crux.  Eagan's departure may be fortuitous, as traditional Catholics have been irked by some of her thought pieces, particularly on homosexuality and the Church.

Card. Donald Wuerl dedicates JPII Shrine altar 10/02/15
This is not the only high profile effort the Knights of Columbus have done to preserve and spread the faith.  The Knights of Columbus bought the struggling  John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington DC  for $27 million in 2011 and converted it into the St. John Paul II Shrine, featuring Redemptor Hominis Church, featuring the mosaics of Fr. Marko Rupnik (also the artist of Pope John Paul's II's personal chapel).

I believe that it is good news that the K of C has picked up its Crux, as the New Evangelization requires re-introducing the faith and standing for religious liberty, alas neither of which will occur through the secular mainstream media.