Nextbook Flexx 2-in-1 10.1

So, my tired old TF101 Transformer tablet finally bit the dust last week and I went looking for a replacement. I really wanted something that had a decent display and could act as a laptop replacement if so desired, as I hate carrying my full on (and heavy) laptop around, but would still function as a tablet. Oh, and it couldn’t cost more than $200. Well, while at Wal-Mart, I stumbled across this little gem for only $180. It runs Windows 8.1, so it’s actually a full laptop with a display resolution of 1280 x 800.

nextbook flexx 10.1
Nextbook Flexx 10.1

The keyboard detaches from the screen so you can use it as a tablet as well. It runs Win 8.1 pretty well, considering the limited RAM (2 Gb) and has an SD card slot for expanding the built in 32 GB of storage. There are two cameras on the display half, front and rear facing, that are each 2MP, they’re obviously for video conferencing, you’re not going to be using them to take pictures with. The speakers aren’t bad, located on the rear of the display half, in the lower corners. I’ve found the best way to get good sound out of them is to hold the unit in such a way that your hands redirect the sound forward, but frankly, most people will use headphones.

The Windows App store is a bit light on some things, particularly Google apps, but there are reasonable substitutes for most of the applications I use on a daily basis. The latest version of Internet Explorer is pretty good, I’ve not yet had a reason to install Chrome to get anything to work. So far, the biggest lack I’ve seen is a Metro app for Google hangouts, they work in Internet Explorer, but only in desktop mode. It’s not a real problem, though, I tend to use my phone for those anyway. It will, surprisingly enough, run Minecraft (in desktop mode) well enough that it isn’t unbearable to play, but you still aren’t going to buy this for its gaming ability.

The keyboard isn’t anything to write home about (or with [I’m not writing this on it for instance]), but it is serviceable for light duty. The touchpad is, in my opinion, the weakest link, it can be tricky to click on things, I find myself using the touchscreen or an external bluetooth mouse instead.

There is a micro USB to Go port on the display half, along with a microSD card slot, headphone connector and a micro HDMI connector. There are two USB ports on the keyboard half, but they don’t provide a lot of power, so don’t expect to plug something like a USB hard drive into them without a powered hub in there as well to provide the added juice they need. Speaking of power, the battery so far has lasted me all day, with intermittent reading, web surfing and watching video. The charger is a 5V 2.5A unit with a barrel plug, so you can’t use just any old USB adapter to charge it, more’s the pity. However, finding (or making) a proper USB to barrel plug adapter should be possible.

All in all, I’m pretty happy with the unit, it is somewhat hackable and it should be possible to run Linux on it, which I plan to try in the future. I’m also interested in the possibility of putting ChromeOS on it and running it as a Chromebook. For now, though, I’m going to stick with Win 8.1 and see how well I adjust to it. There is an 11″ version with essentially the same specifications, except for 64Gb of storage instead of 32 and a backlit keyboard. It runs about $50 more, and for me, wasn’t worth the additional cost.

If you’re in the market for a new computer and are on the fence over whether you should get a laptop, or just a tablet, this may be the computer for you. It’ll easily handle basic word processing, etc. as well as web surfing, videos and basic photo editing. It’s not a gaming machine, but it doesn’t claim to be, and frankly, hardcore gamers will spend more on their video card alone than this machine costs, but it is a good all around, everyday use machine that can be used as a tablet or a laptop as the situation requires.

The Bug-A-Salt

Bug A Salt Gun
The Bug A Salt

Tired of houseflies and other pest? Finding your old fashioned fly swatter to be ineffective? No longer get a “charge” out of your hand held bug zapper? Have I got a tool for you! This is the Bug-a-salt, an assault rifle for hunting insects. About the size and feel of a larger NERF gun, it fires table salt like a small shotgun. It’s an absolute blast to use and very effective. You load it up with table salt, cock it, and release the safety. A sight pops up, aim at the offending six legged  critter and pull the trigger. Out flies a bit of salt at high speed that, in the best case, kills the insect or at least shreds its wings, making it an easy target for a second shot. A third shot is seldom necessary. It does take some practice to get your aim down, but, like a regular shotgun, absolute precision isn’t necessary. The best part is, the effective range is about 5 feet, so the little annoyances never know what hit them (if you can’t get within five feet of a housefly without spooking it, you seriously need to work on your stalking skills). It’s effective for most insects and arachnids, although larger insects (like palmetto bugs in Florida) may laugh it off and pull their own weapons.

The ammunition is standard table salt, anything coarser or finer doesn’t work as well. It’s essentially an air gun, so there isn’t any residue other than the salt, in fact, I’ve heard of people using it to salt meat on a grill. Some of the Amazon reviews mention problems with durability, but I’ve had mine for over a year without any issues. It’s gone up in price since I’ve bought mine, it’s now about $50 on Amazon. As for safety, you wouldn’t want to get shot in the eyes with it, but anywhere else just stings a bit, I wouldn’t worry about the kids getting a hold of it, just supervise them when using it. It does leave some salt residue, it’s not a lot, but it is there.  All in all, highly recommended and a really fun way to get rid of pesky houseflies.

Gluten Free Chicken Strips

Gluten Free Chicken Strips

A deep fryer is handy for these, although not entirely necessary.  A skillet with couple of inches of oil should suffice if the strips aren’t too thick.


2 cups masa harina
1 cup corn starch
1 cup rice flour
1/8 cup brown sugar
seasoning to taste
4 eggs
1/2 cup of water.
1 lb sliced chicken breast

Preheat the oil in the fryer to about 375 deg F.

Mix half the corn starch with the seasoning. I use Montreal/Canadian steak seasoning, but you can use whatever you like. Salt and pepper are the essentials. Wash and pat dry the chicken and throw it into a gallon zipper seal bag with the corn starch/seasoning mix. Shake until the chicken is well coated.

Beat the eggs thoroughly with the water. Mix the masa harina, remaining corn starch, brown sugar and the rice flour in a bowl. Dip each piece of coated chicken into the egg mixture, then into the masa mixture, then into the hot oil. Cook until golden brown and floaty, 3 to 5 minutes, you don’t want it raw inside.

The brown sugar helps give a nice brown, crispy breading while the masa gives a bit of a corn chip taste. You can play with the seasonings, but the key is to make sure they go on with the first layer, not the last (although mixing a bit of the seasoning mix into the masa enhances it’s flavor as well).

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

These chocolate chip cookies are so good, you won’t care that they’re gluten free.

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup tapioca starch/flour
  • 8+ ounces chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350° F (325 in a convection oven).

Cream together the sugars and butter until light and fluffy, add the eggs one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next, then add the vanilla. Combine the salt, soda, coconut flour and tapioca starch, then mix slowly into the egg/sugar mixture. Add chocolate chips to taste. Drop by the teaspoon onto cookie sheets (I line mine with silicon baking sheets or parchment paper, makes clean up much easier) and bake for 15 minutes (about 12 minutes for a convection oven). Your times may vary as ovens aren’t consistent.

Remove from the oven and let cool, then hide them from everyone else.

Almost 10 years? Really?

Decided to do a bit of maintenance on the blog today and happened to notice that the first entry in the archives is dated July of 2004. So that means I’ve had this site up for nearly 10 years, it hardly seems possible. I’ve gone through seasons where there were no posts to seasons with multiple post per day (not many of those!), but one thing has remained unchanged: God’s love for me and all mankind. I’ve always felt that theologians try to make Christianity too complicated, Christ Himself kept it very simple, confess, believe and accept. Confess you need Christ, believe He loves you and will forgive you, and accept that forgiveness. All the rest will follow in good time. Christianity is not a religion of law and taboo, it is all about being free in Christ. This freedom is not license to sin, but rather the freedom of knowing that our sin will be forgiven if we turn away from it back to Christ. As Christians we shouldn’t be acting out of fear that we will be smitten when we make a mistake, we should be living in the joy that we don’t have to fear making a mistake.


I’m not a huge Christmas person. Don’t get me wrong, I like Christmas carols and enjoy some of the traditions, but I find the relentlessness of the season to be exhausting. It’s hard to escape it short of hunkering down in a hole somewhere far from the rest of the world (an admittedly tempting prospect at times). Add in the faux controversies (Happy Holidays vs Merry Christmas, Keep Christ in Christmas vs Xmas, etc.) and I’m ready find that hole well before the actual holiday comes around. It can be hard to remember that, while the birth of Christ is important, it’s His death and resurrection that really matter. Sometimes I think Cromwell and the Puritans had the right idea when they outlawed Christmas, as it strays further and further from its roots. Perhaps it would be better to have a secular “Solstice” celebration for everybody and then, for Christians, follow up with a quieter, more contemplative Christmas celebration. The gift giving and commercialization could follow the secular holiday, leaving Christmas proper to the Christians. We just have to make sure we avoid creating a Robot Santa Claus that will attack holiday mirth makers. Merry Christmas!

Gluten Free Pound Cake

My wife is gluten intolerant, so we do a lot of gluten free cooking. We’ve found that cakes and cookies tend to work pretty well with gluten free flours. This recipe is based on the traditional pound cake recipe (1 lb butter, 1 lb eggs, 1 lb flour, 1 lb sugar) and makes a rich, slightly heavy cake.

1 lb softened butter
1 lb sugar
1 lb eggs (approx)
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp xanthan gum
1/4 lb coconut flour (approx)
1/2 lb rice flour (approx)
Preheat oven to 350 F
Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy, incorporate eggs one at a time. Blend in vanilla. Slowly mix in coconut flour, xanthan gum and baking powder. Continuing to beat, add just enough rice flour that the mixture is the consistency of normal cake batter.
Put batter into buttered and floured pan (or pans) and bake until a cake tester comes out of the middle clean (Approx 20-40 minutes, depending on pan size and shape).
Cool in pan on a rack, then turn out.

Salted Caramels

2 cups sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
3/4 cup corn syrup
Kosher salt

Bring sugar, butter, corn syrup and 1 cup of the cream to a boil.
Add remaining cream slowly, keeping the boil going.
Continue to boil until temperature reaches 245 to 250 deg F, slowly reducing the heat as the temperature increases. 245 deg F will yield softer caramel, 250 firmer caramel, above 250 will give you something like Werther’s.

Pour into an 8 square inch dish, either buttered or lined with parchment paper and let cool. When the caramel has formed a skin on top and is slightly firm to the touch, sprinkle with kosher or coarse sea salt, fairly liberally. Allow to cool until fairly firm, then cut into squares with a pizza cutter liberally coated in butter. I have no idea how long they’ll keep because they never last more than a day or two around here.

Warning! These are highly addictive and extremely rich.

If you use a good heavy saucepan, you shouldn’t need to stir much once things come to a boil. A good candy thermometer is a must though.

Salted caramels on holiday plate
Salted Caramels


I sit here in in a coffee shop, typing this on my Nexus 7, thinking about the changes that 2013 has wrought. It’s been a strange year, as I was laid off at the beginning of the year, but still received severance through July. In one way, it was welcome time off, a chance to spend more time with my son, but in other ways, it has been anxiety inducing as I’ve pondered over my future and the family’s finances. Odd Job Computing is starting to take off, albeit more slowly than I’d like, but it’s still a long way from being able to pay the mortgage on a regular basis. And thinking about the tax situation for this year is enough to make one break out in a cold sweat. But God provides, He always has and always will, so I concentrate on doing what I can and try not to worry about things that are out of my control (and if I can control something, why would I worry about it?). It’s a new stage of life, and one I’m not sure I was quite ready for. In the meantime, I can work on getting the house fixed up and support Kara as she pursues her dreams through the church and Thirty One.


I’ve decided to do some redecorating around here, I’ve not changed the backgrounds or theme on the blog for something like 7 years. So if you notice some dust about or things not quite where they should be, it’s just me reworking things in the background.