A 360 degree (compressed, to fit it all here in just 925px) of our Father-Daughter camping site in May 2010.

Suspect Information, Ideas, and Opinions - rarely updated and of dubious quality.

 

 

All articles from the Absurdments category

 

 

The world's best scream

Edvard Munch - the scream

Probably the best blood-curdling horror movie scream of modern times can be credited to Jamie Lee Curtis in the original Halloween movie. Hers was the scream that launched a thousand wannabe horror movie “sound-alikes”. The last of the Halloween movies I saw was Halloween H20; Jamie Lee was in that one too. She was more mature, a lot more self-assured while dispatching Jason, and didn’t scream a whole lot. Just as well, because these days Jamie Lee Curtis’ screaming crown is in serious jeopardy by none other than my own daughter Ellie, a four year old girl no less.

Ellie is my first child and I certainly do not have a lot of experience with children prior to her, but one thing I do know is that 4-year olds are afraid of their own shadows. She will not move 10 feet without an escort. She will not remain on any level of our house unless a parent is on that level with her. Sometimes I think that everything frightens her. Despite this, as far as I can tell, she simply loves it when I scare her.

When I jump out of a dark corner and Ellie screams, that scream is such a pure and totally unadulterated sound. Far louder than you would expect possible from such a small package, it sounds like she is mostly terrorized and just partly thrilled. Ellie’s screams actually hurt my ears, the pitch overloads my ear drums making my tympanic membranes thrum like the blown speakers in my station wagon.

Ellie throws her whole body into the scream too. If I take the time to recollect, I recall that she throws her arms out straight to her sides with her hands wide open. She jumps slightly. But all of this is ancillary. It is the scream that is the thing. It was just this afternoon that she let one of her patented horror-movie screams out. I tell you she’s got a real talent.

It is important that I not take her completely by surprise. Do that and I risk not getting any scream at all, just a very irritated little girl who does not appreciate being frightened that way and cries very loud as well. She must be complicit in the adventure. The game is best played when I tell her that I am coming after her and then chase her part way around our race-track shaped house interior, before ducking into an opportune corner along the way. As she rounds back to where we started, inevitably she will enlist the eyes and ears of her mother. Mom will usually attempt to throw Ellie off course (I think your dad went outside…), a ploy that Ellie is more than familiar with and one that never works. Ellie usually has a pretty good idea of where I am and will come towards me creeping slowly and call my name and feeling, I am sure, the same knot in the pit of her stomach, that I am feeling as I lie in wait.

It can be excruciating, the moments leading up to the scream, but when I feel the moment is right I will come out quickly and noisily like a large bear charging through the bush, and Ellie will sing out that scream that is so brilliant and pure - and just plain loud.

Afterwards, when I am feeling guilty, like maybe I am setting up my young daughter for an early heart-attack, Ellie will start begging sweetly: “Again, Dad? Can we do it again?”

A mysterious new French vegetable

It was not this African Horned Melon...

The other midday I had a few minutes to spare, and I was and kind-of-hungry and equally kind-of-lazy so I decided to grab a sandwich at the local patisserie a few meters from my place. I've had the sandwiches there before and they're always terrific and judging by the perennial line-up out the door, I'm not the only one who thinks so. It's a busy little place. Usually, where I get there, I stand in line and I can't see anything until I get close to the sandwich case and I certainly don't want to hold up the line like everyone in front of me always seems to do, so I usually have to think fast and pick something where I'm not quite sure of what I'm getting ... I only know that it looks good. This happens not only because of the aforementioned always-moving line, but also because the descriptions on the little cards in front on the sandwiches are always smeared and in cursive and I can't decipher most of the words for the local foods anyway.

Today, none of that mattered because the lady in front of me confidently, loudly and immediately ordered three of the last four "Savoyardes". Following the cashier's tongs with my eyes as she moved to the sandwich case, I could see that the Savoyarde is an open-faced sandwich on a thick, light-coloured, and seeded rustic bread with what looks like smoked meat on top, along with a creamy coloured vegetable of some kind, covered with an equally creamy butter-coloured fondue cheese - gratineed, and topped with fresh herbs. As I watched the cashier put those delicious-looking sandwiches into the lady's bag, and with the one remaining Savoyarde seemingly calling my name out loud (Stephan, manges moi!), when it was my turn I simply said (with not nearly as much confidence or nearly as loud as the lady before me) "Je voudrais votre dernier Savoyarde, s'il vous plait." And two minutes later my sandwich was back at home (along with a pain chocolat amandes, just in case it sucked) heating up in the oven for a bit. A few minutes after that I was digging into it.

I did not regret my choice; it was sandwich heaven. The marriage of flavours was amazing. The meat, cheese, and bread was fantastically fresh and this buttery-textured mystery vegetable really rounded-out not only the flavour of the sandwich, but also the mouth-feel of it as well. The only problem was that I couldn't quite place what vegetable it was. It definitely wasn't eggplant, though that would have been good too. It could have been artichoke, but I eat a lot of artichoke and after consideration felt it wasn't quite that either. I racked my brains and while I ate I found myself switching on my PC and searching Google for the identity of this strange yellow-beige French vegetable, much like I had months earlier successfully searched to determine the origin of the not-nearly-so-tasty flageolets...

As good as it was, as I finished the sandwich I was disappointed. I just couldn't figure out by sight or by taste what that damn vegetable was (or even if it was a vegetable) so that meant I wouldn't ever be able to reverse engineer this simple sandwich and make it for myself, or even know how to ask what that ingredient is the next time I am at the patisserie. Because if you think I can walk into a patisserie and ask about a mystery item, you can forget it. With my school-boy French, I would be all like, "I am here yesterday (since all I know is present tense) and I would like a sandwiches (because I suck at definite articles) like yesterday, with one vegetables (because I have trouble with indefinite articles too) around butter yellow or white. (because I can never tell if the adjective should go in front of or after the noun)

I had saved a little bit of the delicious veg while I was eating and searching online and now, pushing that last little bit around the plate, I realized I wasn't going to ever figure it out, so I popped it into my mouth and that's when it hit me.

It was potato.

2015 Shorts

2015 Shorts are thoughts that popped into my head during 2015 that didn't merit a post on their own. Each year, I set up this post and jot down whatever pops into my head and whatever isn't a link. (Those go into Link-O-Rama) Each time I update this post, it rises to the top of the front page; I'm sure that this throws the Google bot off during its biennial visit. At the end of the year, this post moves into the Dec 31st spot and serves as a signpost of my dementia. Let's get started!

Freaky!

Two psychics doing their thing.

While bored, quiet, and inconspicious in a local Tim Horton's, I closed my eyes and screamed "HELP!!" in my head as loud as I could to catch out any unsuspecting psychics. When I opened my eyes, a table of four in the corner, with two men and two women, were intently staring at me.


Coma.

cover of the novel: Coma - by Robin Cooke

If you’re reading this, you’ve been in coma for almost 20 years now. We’re trying a new technique. We don’t know where this message will end up in your dream, but we hope it works. Please wake up, we miss you.


Toilet Roll.

sTEpHan hOPpE's toilet roll

Getting up at 5AM every morning is sometimes tough. This morning while going to the bathroom, I noticed that I was out of toilet paper. So, I flushed and then grabbed the empty roll, bobbled it, and it went straight into the flushing toilet. Reacting like a cat I stood stupidly staring at the roll dancing around in the water. By the time I finally reacted by plunging my hand into the toilet to get it, it had disappeared out of reach. A second flush confirmed what I expected - that the cardboard roll is stuck in the toilet’s p-trap.

Luckily an hour later I had completely forgotten about it and I used the toilet again, only remembering about the stuck cardboard roll just a fraction of a second after I flushed, overflowing the toilet completely.

So…how long does it take for toilet roll cardboard to break down in cold water?

Ant Farm

An ant farm

You know, for many years I was never able to shake the feeling that I am nothing more than an ant in a huge ant farm. Do I really have free will or is my every move observed and influenced by some outside force? In addition, am I the only person who has this nagging feeling that society is manipulating me? From elementary school indoctrination into a life of carrying a briefcase to a job to provide a paycheque to support an ungrateful family ... to "environmentalists" lobbying to tax my bbq emissions in the name of saving the polar ice caps; this despite the last two summers being the coldest I've ever experienced ... all the way to the police barely resembling law and order anymore so much as being the societally approved street-gang du jour... it's pretty mind-bending when you think about it.

And then tack on some atheistic tendencies on top of that and it's easy to see why philosophers kill themselves young. Realizing that you have no choice, that you are merely a pawn in someone else's game as well as the realization that there is nothing after this, is a pretty shitty feeling. Despair is the word that comes to mind.

Sometimes when the weight of this realization exerts its full force upon me, I snap a little. Shortly after moving to Peterborough, I received a speeding ticket while on my way to a job interview. It was plainly a speed trap; I had not been living in Peterborough long enough yet to know where they were. The cop, like most sub-intellectual homophobes-with-latent-homosexual-tendencies - was surly. I'm sure I would be too if I had to compensate for my stunted genitalia with my police-issued sidearm.

2 years later, ever the obedient ant, I was driving past the very same spot with a cop behind me, and so doing 10 under the limit (because I figure that drives them nuts) when he pulls out and blows past me! I couldn't believe it! So, I gunned the engine and using my horn and with my lights flashing, I pulled the cop over.

I got out of my car and walked up to the side of his cruiser, leaving the sane little part of me floating above and slightly off to the right in order observe the whole scene and wonder what the hell I had gotten myself into ... and I put my hands on his car door and leaned down and said to him: "So, does the highway traffic act only apply to me?"

Moisture is the essence of wetness. and wetness, is the essence of beauty.

Today, I feel bitter. I am something that is bitter; or like some bitter food that tastes bitter. This bitterness is affecting my ability to create vivid similes and metaphors.

I am offically dry; bereft of any remaining literary spark. I sit here for hours on end, my fingers cramped into the obscene and mangled rictus of one about to type, yet nothing springs to mind, and without thoughts, there are no stories. My loins burn - that probably has nothing to do with my writer's block. I've described fully every significant event of my insignificant life - I am done, spent, finished...and yet:

I am still going to accept donations!

This is how this is going to work. I am accepting donations for the post here that I have already written. I know all of you (both of you) are living vicariously through me and paraphrasing my work and even claiming it as your own. Nothing in this world is free I'm afraid, except sunsets I suppose, but as Socrates once said, "You can't eat sunsets." Now about these donations. Regardless of whether you have enjoyed the articles, or whether you have even ever read one through completely, you are now obligated to make a donation into my paypal account. I am tracking your IPs, people. In particular, my most loyal reader 65.95.117.250 has spent almost 15 minutes on my site and has read two whole pages. Dude, you owe me $50 now. I don't know exactly who you are, but I do know you are either a Rogers, Videotron, or Cogeco customer using an IE6 compatible browser or similar - the rest is only a matter of time, hombre.

Now I realize this bold move may cost me either or both of you readers to my site. But consider what your $50 donation buys. Medicine, pencils, and enough rice for me to last a year. Clean drinking water, and a classroom where I can learn to read, a hospital where I can get my cataracts fixed and my leprosy cured before I die of AIDs, or of ebola, or by machete wound during some bloody coup. Wouldn't someone like you, want to help someone like me?

Seriously, the big reason I am going to be demanding donations for reading my site from now on is because I'm trying to raise money because I would like to fly my family to Nigeria so my kids can finally meet their Dad in the flesh.

Literary Gold from 2010

Superpowers.

"Dad, will you tuck me in?" She asked as she climbed up into her bed. It was a captain's bed and so was raised up a little higher than a typical bed. Because by now I was usually exhausted after a long day of work, I really hated this part of each day. Ideally my kids, Ellie and Nik, would just wander into their beds by themselves without any assistance from me, but I wanted to be perceived as a "good father" by whatever unseen force was out there that keeps me filled with fatherly guilt.

So I said, "Of course, honey." And made a big show of tucking the blankets tightly underneath her as she giggled happily, until when I was done, she resembled a cocoon, or a cigar...

"Dad, and will you tell me a story?" and she gave me the eyes that I'm sure are so hard for fathers anywhere in the world to resist.

"OK," I said. "but after that I am outta here or else I will have to smash you to smithereens." I don't know where I got this bad habit, but ever since my kids were young, I threaten them with the most horrible statements, so much so that both kids are now inured to it as far as I can tell. "I swear to god if you don't eat your carrots I will stab you..." It sounds worse than it is, I probably thought it was funny at one point...

"OK, give me a minute to think here." I said "OK, there was once this man. He was 43-years old and his name was dad..." I started all of my stories this way because it gave me a few extra seconds to rack my brains for a topic. We all have rituals we go through and Ellie was used to this one. She waited patiently for me to get this preface material out of the way. She waited for me to get rolling...

"And you'll never guess how many children, this dad had - he had two of them...and their names were Kelly and Rick!" This was an old joke, picking children's names that perfectly rhymed with their names.

"Anyway, the dad was very sad because his children were very bad..."

"Dad!" she said, looking at me with more disgust than a 9-year-old should be able to muster, "tell a REAL story."

"Fine. Fine. This dad of course drove to work each day on the curvy road that ran along side of the Otonabee river. Early one morning, there had been a cold snap the night before that hadn't quite thawed yet in the early morning sun, and the road was icy, especially in the corners. The dad, who had driven back and forth on this road literally hundreds of times, was as usual driving pretty fast (he was the only person on this road at that time of day) cutting across into the oncoming lane in the corners to maximize cornering efficiency, and like always, he had his music turned up - the dad had always thought that it was a lovely way to the start the day...when all of a sudden he hit some black ice at the worst possible moment, right where he had to make a hard right in order to avoid the deep water and stay on the road. The tires slipped totally. The dad attempted to steer ineffectually, and the car fairly shot out over the pathetic excuse for a safety embankment before becoming airborne for a moment and then plunging into the freezing river. Um, did I mention it was winter?"

"Dad, what's black ice?"

"It's just really slippery ice that you can't see until you are already slipping on it... so as I said, the car plunges into the freezing, frigid, icy water, but the man doesn’t! He flies right out the side window (which he had open to better enjoy the fresh and cold winter air...I forgot to say the window was open..." I was warming to the story now and actually knew what was going to happen so I could have fun embellishing.

"Anyway, instead of flying into the water, the dad flies up! Then he turns in a circle, and does a couple of loops, flies left and right, and barely has time to realize that instead of drowning he is actually flying, before he loses control and ends up flying straight down into the water, just as surely as if he really meant to go in there!"

"The dad tenses as he hits the water. He once did a polar bear dive and he knew that the water would take his breath away (and very likely even stop his heart completely) but this time the water did not feel cold at all. I mean, the water was still very cold, it was just that the dad couldn’t feel it. The next thing he knew, he realized that he could still breathe! He could breathe underwater!

So with all that realized, the dad swam around underwater breathing in the fresh cold water instead of air, and after a minute he flew back up out of the water and back on the shore. He didn’t know yet what to do with the car, but he was soaking wet and felt that he should do something with his clothes so he carefully took them off until be was completely bare naked and began to wring them out. Of course, no sooner was he completely naked than a priest and a bunch of nuns came right around the corner!" Ellie gave no indication that it was at all unusual that a gaggle of nuns would be walking along the river early on a cold December morning. "The nuns walked right past the dad and didn't even see him! Know why?"

Ellie had that disgusted look again. "He was invisible. Dad, these are the same super powers we were talking about at Costco two days ago." Because two days ago, I was eating a quality balanced dinner of hot dogs and poutine with the kids (hot dog and a drink for only a buck and a half?! That's value!) and the fact that Nik is a six-year-old boy meant that we had to spend a goodly amount of time fantasizing about which superpowers we would have if we could only have one.

"Yes, he was invisible! So of course, you know what he did next.”

Ellie rolled her eyes as only young girls can do and said..."Next, he went to all of the major banks and stole millions of dollars, just like you said you'd do if you could be invisible...Those superpowers sound exactly like the superpowers we talked about the other day. And you can only have one!

It's nice that my kids don't balk when I tell them that I am going to steal millions of dollars in cash, but freak out when I exceed my arbitrarily allotted number of superpowers.

Do Not Buy Dodge

I own (vicariously through my wife, Patti) a Dodge Caravan SE. The "SE" stands for "Sports Edition" which supposedly means a transmission cooler, a trailer hitch and beefed up springs and suspension, but what it really means is "just a trailer hitch." It's got a 3-speed, 3 litre, 6-cylinder engine with "random engine noise" technology - you just never know what the next sound will be coming from under the hood. Could be a whistle. Could be a fart. My children love it. Me? Not so much.

Now, as someone who rarely resorts to hyperbole and who eschews exaggeration in favour of calm and reasoned analysis, I can report that my Dodge Caravan is the biggest piece of shit to ever struggle across North American highways and byways. Everything on this van is either broken or has been broken (and repaired by me.) Literally. Stuff has broken that has had me shaking my head in wonder. Once, the horn broke. It didn't short out. It didn't rust on it's mount and lose its ground. It audibly snapped. I know this because I was standing in front of the van when it happened. There was nobody in the van. I think the horn just realized it was part of a Chrysler and committed suicide. And actually, the phenomenon of "parts suicide" explains many of Chrylser's historic and as-of-yet-undiagnosed ailments.

I have a fantasy. In it, it is a sunny and warm, beautiful summer day and Cindy Crawford and I are lying naked in the lush field of perfectly mowed grass that is the front lawn of Chrysler Canada's Mississauga Head Office. From a distance, Patti and the Chrysler Canada staff are watching with envy as me and Cindy writhe around on the grass. After an (embarrassingly) short time, Cindy and I get up; I start my Caravan and put it in gear and Cindy places a heavy toolbox on the accelerator. I jump out of the van and we watch, rapt, as the Chrysler does it's smoke-belching and pathetic version of hurtling towards the fronts doors of the Head Office. Just before impact though, my dream turns into a nightmare. Huge hinged steel walls swing up from the ground as the van approaches, protecting the front doors from the oncoming van. Only then do I see the wreckage of hundreds of other vans - evidently I'm not the first person to have had this dream. Cindy walks away from me disgustedly. My nakedness is now a silent obscenity. Patti's vituperative curses wash over me - again.

(written: 04/09/09)

Camping Alone

Last weekend - late September - I went camping alone at Rondeau Provincial Park. I wrote this on Sunday:

...with clothes on this time.

This morning, only because I forgot to bring my bathing suit this trip, I went skinny dipping in Lake Erie. Yesterday I swam in my underwear and ended up feeling stupid for doing that since I didn't see a soul for the entire time I was on the beach and I soaked a relatively clean pair of underwear that was only about half way through its 24-hour shift.

So for today, I was already committed to skinny dipping when I arrived at the beach. Of course the beach had to be populated like Club Med during the high season. I thought: "Fuck it." I stripped down to nothing and ran into the water. The nearest person was more than 100 meters away anyway...

First off, Lake Erie at 9AM in late September is cold. Who'd a thought? Erie is one of those lakes where there are like - dunes in the water. One second you in up to your knees, then your chest, then your knees again. I ran that entire expanse (at least a hundred meters) like Ben Johnson. Then I dove headfirst through a wave and when I came up I was warm. This is really one of the most glorious things about swimming in cold lakes. If you can just get in, then you can get more than comfortable, no matter what the temperature.

Once I was in I had another "moment." By myself in the water (nobody else is stupid enough to swim) naked as the day I was born, and crashing through some really incredible waves for an Ontario lake.

After about 15 minutes, I was done. Those waves were really powerful and I'm not such a young whippersnapper anymore (as is evidenced my use of the word "whippersnapper.") People were still around when I was ready to get out so in the interests of decency I decided to cup my precious gifts with my hands when I came out of the water. Actually there wasn't much left to cup. I was able to cover up with just one hand - using only two fingers actually - just the little finger and the ring finger I'm ashamed to say.

I walked back to my gear, wrapped my trusty beach towel around me, a towel by the way, I've had for at least 10 years - the perfect size for me, and then sat on a comfortable provincial park bench and let the sun dry me off without a thing to do, or think, about or worry about - at least for the moment.

That was a sweet experience, and one I wouldn't have shared with anyone on earth, except for maybe Cindy Crawford.

After a delicious crudite lunch (not really) I decided to try out "Rondeau's Favourite Trail" - the Spice bush trail. I hoped to get some good pics of the local flora. At only 1.5km, it's a pretty short hike but I knew within the first hundred meters, that it was going to feel much longer, for it was at that point that a great cry rose from all of the bugs in all of the forest..."Lunchtime!" and they descended on me in droves to feast. At times like this I always think briefly about those Manitoba moose, so driven to insanity in the Spring by the mosquitoes, that they throw themselves off cliffs. Animal suicide! Luckily for me the terrain was relatively flat.

And I must have been the only person foolish enough to hike the trail that day, judging by the number of spider webs I walked through face first. The Spice trail is supposed to be a prime example of a Carolinian Forest - Carolinian I believe - is Latin for "swamp." Still, there was lots to photograph, and for my part, I became a paragon of efficient shooting. The bugs were so many and so merciless that I would identify a photo op a few meters up, I would turn on my camera and alter my settings, - like color saturation, f-stop, shutter speed - then I would put the tripod down, hit the shutter (I had a two second delay programmed in so there would be no camera shake at lower speeds) and then would spin on my heel and back again, picking up the camera and check the shot - all without breaking stride. You see, in order to survive in a Carolinian forest, you must be like a shark in the ocean - never at rest or you will die.

You know sometimes when you get bit by a mosquito and when you finally swat it, it leaves behind a smear of blood because it turns out that it had been gorging on you for some time without you realizing it? Well, thanks to that little fact of life, I walked out of the Spice bush trail Carolinian forest, got in my car, and checked myself in the rear mirror and realized I looked like I had just massacred my family with an axe. Still, I got some good shots of a fungus.

I did not sleep well last night. My mattress was a one inch thick one of the self-inflating sort. On top of that I had a zipped up sleeping bag turned inside out (for traction) and on top of that, I was inside my main sleeping bag. It's the very same bedding equipment that has served me well in the past and has been responsible for many a blissful slumber, for some reason didn't do the trick this time. I reasoned that it had to be my choice of site for my tent. For the entire night, I felt like I was sliding down and to the right. Down alone would have been fine, but that to the right thing...I woke up constantly, my arms fell asleep (with me awake no less) and I got the king of all sleep induced disorders - the sore back. It's amazing how much pain my back can signal given the opportunity. I don't even have a bad back, yet if my pillow doesn't support my head at the perfect angle...well obviously I haven't figured this out because I still have sleeps like this.

Really, I live in fear of inadvertently sleeping with my head lower than my feet. The one I did that, I woke up with the hangover to end all hangovers. How did I let myself fall asleep like that? Well, reread the last sentence. (hint: I'd been drinking.) When camping, I do my due diligence, I set up my bed sober and then come bedtime, I drunkenly hope that my calculations pay off.

But today I feel amazingly energetic considering I really got a shitty sleep.

Good Thing I Like Fish

...and good thing I'm learning the guitar.

fish.

A boat docked in a tiny Mexican village. An American tourist complimented the Mexican fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them.

"Not very long," answered the Mexican.

"But then, why didn't you stay out longer and catch more?" asked the American.

The Mexican explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family.

The American asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"

"I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife. In the evenings, I go into the village to see my friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs. I have a full life."

The American interrupted, "I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you! You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat."

"And after that?" asked the Mexican.

"With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers. Instead of selling your fish to a middle man, you can then negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant. You can then leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles, or even New York City! From there you can direct your huge new enterprise."

"How long would that take?" asked the Mexican.

"Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years," replied the American.

"And after that?"

"Afterwards? Well my friend, that's when it gets really interesting," answered the American, laughing. "When your business gets really big, you can start buying and selling stocks and make millions!"

"Millions? Really? And after that?" asked the Mexican.

"After that you'll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish, take a siesta with your wife and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends."

A brush with stardom

pic of pornstar Ron Jeremy

Despite spending way too much time in various airports around North America, I only recently saw my first celebrity enroute to Chicago from St. Louis. It was Ron Jeremy. Honestly, of all the porn stars I lie in bed at night dreaming about bumping into - why did it have to turn out to be Ron Jeremy?!

 

Is this even remotely interesting?

the fascinating Epson TM-H6000III receipt printer I work in retail point-of-sale. Recently I troubleshot an issue with a receipt printer, and it required "refamiliarizing" myself with some concepts I haven't really kept on top of the past few years, and writing the short doc below:

A receipt printer must have some way to prevent the computer from sending data faster than the printing device can handle it. The Epson TM-H6000III employs 2 methods to prevent this from happening:
1. Either DTR/DSR (hardware) or XON/XOFF (software) flow control which involves sending special control characters from the computer to the printer and back to manage what gets printed and when. (Epson default is DTR/DSR. WinXP default is none.)
2. A print buffer into which the printer stores incoming data yet to be processed. (Epson default is 4kb)
In addition to the above, both the computer and the printer also manage their own baud rates, the speed at which the computer sends it's data and the speed at which the printer receives it. Baud rate can be loosely defined as the number of characters per second that a device can send to or receive from. (Epson default is 19200, WinXP default is 9600)
Because of the Epson TM-H6000III's large 4kb buffer, there is rarely any need to invoke flow control, but this may actually confuse configuration and troubleshooting efforts. This is because flow-control may be set incorrectly, and (should it be and instead of but here?) because of the printer's large buffer, flow control only rarely gets invoked - only rarely enough to cause trouble.
A good example of incorrect flow-control settings would be the default values for the Epson TM-H6000III and Windows XP. At their defaults and with a large print job, the buffer might fill up before Windows is finished sending the entire job. The Epson TM-H6000III would send a control code to Windows to "stop sending information for a second", but because Windows' flow control is set to "off", it would blindly continue to send data to the printer, overflowing the printer's buffer and causing printer errors.
And with respect to baud rate, on the surface, setting the printer's "receive" baud rate to 19200 characters per second vs. the computer's "send" baud rate of only 9600 characters per second would seem like a good idea to prevent the printer from getting overwhelmed, but keep in mind that serial printer communications are bi-directional, and setting baud rate in this way actually means you may overwhelm the PC! Generally, both the printer and the PC should be set to the same baud rate, and the rule of thumb is to use the slowest acceptable baud rate, because "more slow" equals "more stable".
Note: Since at 9600 characters per second you could literally deliver more than 6 feet of store receipt to the printer in only one second...9600 baud is a more than adequate baud rate setting for both the PC and the printer.
So, as you now can see, stable and reliable receipt printing can easily be achieved if certain configuration choices are made beforehand:
1. Turn off the Epson TM-H6000III printer.
2. Open up the dip switch panel underneath the Epson TM-H6000III:
a. Set DSW 1-7 from ON to OFF and DSW 1-8 from OFF to ON (Baud Rate to be 9600)
3. Hold down the "Feed" button and turn the printer back on enter Self-Test mode and to verify your settings.
4. To exit Self-Test mode. Turn the printer off, and then back on.
5. In Windows Device Manager Settings for COM1:
a. Verify baud rate is set to 9600
b. Set flow control to be "Hardware"
Happy printing!

The long and short of it is, I found this pretty interesting. Is it just me?

Another One-Million-Dollar-Idea (if you share with me)

the ego-soothing rock-of-Gibraltar belt rock... I certainly told enough people about it; and now all these years later, I'm surprised I've have never seen it in production.

What it is, is this: when I was a young man, long-haired, tall, and slim with perfectly flat abs and an upper body like Dakota Fanning - as was the style back then in the days of Miami Vice and Thompson Twins, I always had this problem when if I wore a belt with my pants, the buckle would ride up over the top of said pants. I was always reaching down to reposition the buckle back over the waistband of the pants. I should mention now that I most certainly do not have this problem anymore. Nowadays, my belt is way to busy struggling to keep from snapping, to worry about such impossibilities as creeping upwards into my belly. Right. So while this problem may not have been up there with say - whirled peas, it did get me thinking and I quickly came up with a solution - The Belt Rock (belt not included.)

Elegant in it's simplicity, the belt rock consists of only a fine hi-test line, like fishing line, and a rock. One end of the line ties around your belt buckle and the other is tied to the rock, which hangs freely at about knee level. I figure 10 lbs. would do the trick for the average male. There is an optional neoprene cover for the rock to save your knees when engaged in vigorous activity such as dancing or exercise. The Belt Rock could optionally be painted - a fashion statement. The Belt Rock could also be used for close-quarters self-defence. Associated games could be developed requiring the Belt Rock.

Note: Stephan Hoppe reserves all rights on One-Million-Dollar-Ideas. Stephan has about one One-Million-Dollar-Idea per week, but lacks the skill, energy, or inclination to do anything with his ideas. It is hoped that by merely expressing his One-Million-Dollar-Idea on the Internet, that should one of Stephan Hoppe's One-Million-Dollar-Ideas actually come to fruition, since the person executing the idea will not likely be able to prove that he or she did not first read about Stephan Hoppe's One-Million-Dollar-Idea on shoppe.ca; that the person will then become obligated to Stephan Hoppe in the amount of $500,000. This is another example of the fine line between futile hope and reasoned despair that Stephan Hoppe dances along each and every day of his life.

No-charge One-Million-Dollar-Ideas (if you share with me)

I've been told that men are hard-wired to conceptualize maps and directions from a birds-eye view, as a traditional map is designed for, while women have more of a ground-level perspective, sort of like the directions that Google Maps gives out. This is why a woman will say: "West?! Is that left or right?"

I won't get into the superiority of the former system over the latter, but if someone could figure out a map with more of a grounds-eye view perspective, with perhaps compass points of "Up, Down, Left and Right" instead of North, South, East, and West...why, they'd likely make a million dollars!

Note: Stephan Hoppe reserves all rights on One-Million-Dollar-Ideas. Stephan has about one One-Million-Dollar-Idea per week, but lacks the skill, energy, or inclination to do anything with his ideas. It is hoped that by merely expressing his One-Million-Dollar-Idea on the Internet, that should one of Stephan Hoppe's One-Million-Dollar-Ideas actually come to fruition, since the person executing the idea will not likely be able to prove that he or she did not first read about Stephan Hoppe's One-Million-Dollar-Idea on shoppe.ca; that the person will then become obligated to Stephan Hoppe in the amount of $500,000. This is another example of the fine line between futile hope and reasoned despair that Stephan Hoppe dances along each and every day of his life.


This background is: hoffman.jpg. It has an average lumosity of: 183.2 and came from: subtlepatterns.com
Maybe read No Big Deal, a story I consider to be the very best thing I ever wrote.