Random Randomness, 12/5/2015

Because sometimes you need a boominshootin to make a donut.

In the Frederation, every Christmas is a White Christmas – You may have noticed it’s snowing on my blog again, courtesy of WordPress. Looks sort of like dandruff, but I’ll take festive wherever I can find it.

Attack of the Pod People – Here are a few podcasts I’ve been enjoying on the way to work this month:

  • The Moth rekindles the ancient art of storytelling with an eclectic assortment of extraordinary tales spun by ordinary folks in front of a live audience.
  • Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History offers an immersive excursion into the people, places, and events that have shaped our world. Each episode is a 3-4 hour marathon, but Carlin is a gifted storyteller with a keen insight for the heart of historical matters, and I’ve found it difficult to stop listening once I start.
  • Tea and Jeopardy is a charming interview show in which hostess Emma Newman invites speculative fiction writers, illustrators, and other interesting people for a nice chat over tea and cake in a variety of subtly-perilous settings, assisted by her demon butler. There are also singing chickens.

Tour de Blog – Rhonda Parrish’s Giftmas Blog Tour got underway this week, and topics have included holiday beverages, Krampus, Christmas in Cajun country, wassailing, and more! I’ll be guest-posting about my family’s favorite tasty holiday tradition, and its unsavory history, at Manda Pepper’s blog on Monday, December 7th.

Road Warrior Kludge of the Week – I travel a lot, and internet connectivity is a real pain in the neck for me. Here’s a way to turn crummy hotel internet, plus a smartphone or tablet, into something you can do actual work with. I have ops-checked this myself, and I kinda like it:

  1. Connect a portable wi-fi router to the hotel room’s wired internet connection (most places provide at least one wired connection) and power it up. There are lots of travel routers on the market now. I use one I picked up in Korea for about $20 that supports current networking protocols and security encryption. It’s the size of a wallet.
  2. Connect your phone/tablet to the router’s wi-fi (not the hotel’s) and open a web browser.
  3. If necessary, log in to the hotel internet gateway with your phone/tablet. You’ll only have to do this once. The gateway “sees” only the router, no matter how many devices are connected to it, so you don’t have to wrestle with multiple device logins on the hotel wi-fi network (for example, some hotels restrict multiple wi-fi connections, requiring you to disconnect your phone to connect your computer, and vice-versa). You now have a private** wi-fi network that’s not subject to spotty hotel wi-fi coverage or in competition with other users for wi-fi bandwidth (the more users, the slower it goes). At this point, one of my top three travel headaches is already slain.
  4. Connect a Chromecast ($35, and well worth it) or other wireless casting device to your hotel room television (most have HDMI ports now). Use the casting device’s associated app to connect it to your router’s network. You can now broadcast internet video from your phone/tablet to your television and are no longer wedded to lousy hotel cable TV. One more headache cured.
  5. Pair a Bluetooth wireless keyboard ($20 – $80…watch for sales) to your phone/tablet, and use your casting app to clone your phone/tablet’s screen to the television. You can now do text-intensive work on your phone/tablet wirelessly, using the television as your monitor, for half the cost and a fraction of the bulk and weight of a basic laptop—and nothing you have to haul out for TSA to inspect at the airport.
  6. Or, you can forget the writing and just watch YouTube or Netflix instead of crummy hotel cable TV. Your choice.
  7. Yes, Sheldon, you can do the same thing substituting a hotspot-enabled smartphone for the hotel wired connection and router, but you’re probably paying extra for that hotspot capability, you’re relying on cellular network connectivity and bandwidth (which may be marginal depending on your cell provider, the locality, and the building structure), and you may be racking up data charges, depending on your cellular service plan.

** As private as anything wireless or internet-connected can be. This assumes you’ve set up your router’s security encryption and password protection beforehand. Otherwise, you’ve just opened a public wi-fi hotspot for the rooms next door, above, below, and across from you. I suppose it’s one way to make new friends.


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