Sunday, 10 October 2010

Water Ice

Water Discovered on Second Asteroid


So water on hunks of rock flying through the cosmos may be a lot more common than expected. Shouldn't we  start spending taxpayer money on more profitable pursuits? Last I heard there was plenty of water in the ocean even if it is laced with killer salt. Therefore I suggest we set our sights on finding only asteroids that haul unlimited quantities of cold beer around the universe and as a sideline discover a few with cupboards full of snack food - oops, up pops the salt problem again. Nasa scientists could arrange some method of it raining beer and chips during all sporting events. Fans could pay via Paypal which would fund the continuing exploration of space and relieve the burden on teetotaling taxpayers.
Now as to the " theory that asteroids may have hit Earth and brought our planet its water", I'm not sure. When I've gazed out over the Pacific or flown over the Atlantic, there seems to be one heck of a lot of water which means a crap load of asteroids must of hit the earth to fill up those huge depressions with H2O. Of course we may have overlooked the fact water molecules may have been randy little lifeforms in the long ago past and given birth to many multiple broods of droplets. 

Friday, 1 October 2010

Counting Problems!

KEITH BALDREY, SPECIAL TO BURNABY NOW




Quote "it doesn't follow that an elected government should bend to the demands of an unelected minority." 
SEPTEMBER 29, 2010

Mr. Baldric might have to upgrade his math skills starting over in those early grades. In the last British Columbia election the Liberals were able to collect the majority of seats with 751,661 votes which represented 45.82% of the total. Clearly not a majority of the electorate who turned out at the polls. Now the recall campaign was successful with just a bit over 700,000 votes. Agreed - it is not a majority as Mr. Baldric explains in his professional article but how is this different from the election results. A minority of voters sanctioned the Liberals under Gordo to implement the HST even though they were less than truthful about their agenda during the campaign. My conclusion. A long winded argument brought to its knees by poor math skills.  

Curious Sign #2

European Chafer




No. These are not some annoying visitors from Europe being detained in a quarantine area, although I've run into a few at some of the hotter tourist spots in the Rockies. Having some of the sightseers penned up to protect the flora and fauna might be a novel practice. The warning relates to the exotic European chafer beetle which lays its eggs in nearby lawns giving life to nasty little grubs who chew up the lawn from below. And just in case you are not aware of pests hiding in the grass, other wildlife are drawn to their presence. First the crows swoop in to pick and peck. Then the skunks move in to rake over the sod in search of the more elusive ones. Of course, once fattened and lazy, the skunks are an easy target for wee hour drivers causing their malodorous scent to linger on the air through the morning hours. Since the adult beetles are a rather flighty bunch, I would assume trying to entice them into settling on specially marked bio-control public verges instead of private property has not met with overwhelming success. Trying to control the habits of crows and skunks would also be a formidable challenge. So the warning or informational sign remains strictly for the human population most of whom have at least a smattering of knowledge in how to decipher the English language. Are we not to tread on the disturbed grasses or should we fear the nearness to the nasty nematodes? Best to rush straight home and Google 'nematode' before succumbing to incurable itches, foreign maladies or the desire to eat a living lunch. Now if I could only remember the difference between scaramouche and scarabaeid - one of them causes me to do the fandango. 

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Curious Sign #1

Seniors Crossing



Not your usual crossing sign, in fact the first I recall seeing. Much more attuned to school crossings as well as those for deer, moose, mountain sheep, elk, cattle and of course logging trucks. Maybe I've just sped by too fast to notice! Turned out I didn't have to worry about a bunch of retirees wandering aimlessly from curb to curb hell bent on using up their extra time. Perhaps it was only a small enclave. Never-the-less it did bring to mind a slew of questions.


Who is a senior? Would that be 55, 60, 65 or is 80 the new 60? Or don't ask!
Do you need ID to cross?
Is there a fine for misuse?
If somebody is underage can they obtain fake ID to prove they are over the age limit?
How much does it cost on the black-market?
Do seniors travel in herds?
Are they nocturnal or only mobile during the day?
Do Boy Scouts hang around ready to do a good deed?
If the pedestrians don't meet the seniors qualification do you have to yield the way?
Is there a full government bureaucratic department in charge of overseeing such venues?
Can you get training to be a seniors crossing guard?
Would it be better to have a cane in the sign?

Tried to follow the path thinking it led to either Palm Springs or Phoenix. My trusty bloodhound lost the scent Maybe old people odor is an urban myth
Reminds me of a joke. Why did the senior cross the road? Oops! Forgot the punch line.




Friday, 24 September 2010

Queenly Advice

 

Terrible to hear the bad news concerning Queen Lizzie's crumbling finances. Having to apply to  government ministers for a poverty handout to heat her homes seems an act of quiet desperation, not to mention pleading cap in hand before commoners certainly takes you another step down from being only accountable to God. However rather than simply harp about her situation, I decided to suggest possible ways to redeem her fall from absolute monarch and to restore her stiff upper lip.

1. Snuggle up closer to Phil on those cold stormy nights.

2. Have Charlie find green employment to help out Mommy.

3. Demolish a couple of older castles and sell the stone for really high class counter tops.

4. Move to warmer climes - Jamacia mon!

5. Sell off some of the crown jewels. Oops! That may have already occurred. Even the Tower exhibition makes passing reference to pasty items.

6. Try having a garage sale. All that antique bric-a-brac should bring in a few shillings or pence or whatever currency is currently in use. Table setups at Buckingham, Windsor, Balmoral etc. should keep the family warm and busy for quite a few weekends.

7. Grow some of those high return crops on royal properties, you know: mary jane, doda

8. Bring back beheading at the Tower and charge admission.

9. Start up a mail order peerage business.

10. Rent out rooms to immigrants. Just set up a kiosk at Heathrow. Charge heavy for the extras!

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Kiss Me Coldly

74815605_071f41afa7_m
Avoid kissing the snakes in the Okanagan. Yes,Really
Like riding a bike one never loses the ability to snaggle a snake.
Lightly tread on his tail and a quick pin to the ground with a finely tuned forked branch. Then a thumb and forefinger gently around his neck to hoist him to eye level view. A fine specimen of garter snake, close to 4 feet long hanging docilely, probably unsure how he ever got into this mess. Meanwhile, the group I was impressing were content to run a 100 meters in almost world  record time before goggling my catch from afar. While we possibly had eye contact, there were no allusions of mutual love. BTW. How does one go about sexing a snake? Would it be a proper before dinner conversation item? Even though not as dynamic - and lacking entirely the poisonous punch - as his rattler cousin (pictured), moving in close enough for a peck on the lips would inevitably cause me some pain. Once I startled a field mouse while picking up a bale of hay to toss up on the wagon. Little blighter neatly and swiftly lodged onto my middle finger and proceeded to hang on for dear life, refusing to be flung off or release his grip. Hard core persuasion with the tine of a pitchfork finally triggered a release mechanism, leaving me with  four blood gushing holes. But I survived. The mouse - well on with the rest of the story. My vain attempt to convince everybody that snake skin was dry to the touch and as far from slimy as you can get fell on deaf ears. The bravest of the bunch got within ten foot peering carefully with widened eyes. For this wriggler a happy ending as I plopped him on the ground and he slithered away at high speed disappearing under the first available log. And even with scientific explanations, I still marvel how they manage that side-winding, slithering method of travel.
Photo by Flickr user Mike Johnston used under Creative Common

Thursday, 16 September 2010

10! Blog Ideas

3513465880_a11696f86d_m

Blog Suggestion # 152 - Catch Their Attention with a Numbered List

Boy have I seen a lot of these. Ten, fifteen, twenty five and more ways to cook dandelions, smoke banana peels, redecorate your one room walk-up, buy a used stolen bike, organize your ten emails on four different accounts and, of course, write a blog (understand this will lead to a following in the hundreds of thousands within one week plus fame and fortune beyond your wildest expectations) with your eyes closed  and both hands wrapped around a beer. Problem appears to be a limited number of possible suggestions and a lot of déjà vu. One of my elementary school teachers mentioned that a productive method of obtaining story ideas was to "listen to people on the bus" and use their conversations as the basis for a composition. Pretty sure another teacher repeated the idea a few years later. With a little digging through the synapses I might even come up with a name and home room, although I might just nod off instead. As an experiment I just Googled "listen to people on the bus" and was presented in .21 seconds with about 187,000 results. Yikes! Change the words even slightly and I can imagine the returned pages mushrooming into the millions. With the constant crush of information who knows anymore whose blog said what and when. Pretty positive some writers may be recycling their old posts, not that I want to tackle the messy job of sorting through my recycle bin. BTW - if a blogger reuses his old material without a rewrite, is he/she guilty of plagiarism? 

All of which really got me to thinking - pardon me whilst I check my email - okay back again, (reminder: 15 ways to ignore the email sound while typing) about a productive blog with a daily schedule, solid information, a differing setup and simple to crank out. Then a scheme coalesced in my cranium sans any help from me. Take ten truly magnificent suggestions on how to find material for your blog, write them up with genuine concern for the readers, let them sing with excitement, ring the creative bells and create confidence. Once each of the ten are trimmed and polished, allow the power of math to take over before publishing. Now remember the whole post has to be different every day to maintain attention by the masses. Recall that factorial symbol up there in the title? Okay now you have 10 possible lead items to put in the #1 position, 9 items left for the #2 position, 8 items left for the #3 position............... See where this is going? Factorial 10 calculates out to 3,628,800 discrete ways to arrange those limited 10 items. Not a whole lot different and it may transcend the spirit of the blog god, but it still can be considered different output each and every day. Divide those millions by 5 and voilà 725,760 weeks, divide by 52 and ergo approximately 14,000 years. And your estate will garner income for fourteen millenniums.

Photo by Flickr user SergeyRod used under Creative Commons

Awesome Stones

P1010096

At the Henge in Wiltshire

Catching up on part of the European jaunt. Getting the opportunity to visit Stonehenge was worth enduring: the lengthy bus trip, the dank medieval castle of the Windsors' and the tourist trap of Bath. A week late for the summer solstice so no magic sunrises, modern day druids or new age mysticism. Not quite as dramatic as expected. Of course having only experienced the site via film or television, I forgot the power of the camera to deceive. How else has Hollywood managed to portray Bogart (5' 8) or Cruise (5' 7) or a plethora of shorties as tall handsome leading men towering over their more statuesque leading ladies? Then again, I've never bothered to do any mind projections to imagine  pushing up close to 30 foot 50 ton boulders or dragging them from faraway sites. However, walk around the circle a couple of times and it begins to seep into the brain - no cranes, no bulldozers, no backhoes, no flatbed semis and likely not even decent crowbars. Not a bad engineering feat! I've never delved too deeply into all the theories purporting to explain the significance or use of the earlier works or the final  structure. Observatory, temple, meeting place, healing site or a combination may all be acceptable answers. Hard to subscribe to the Von Daniken notion of aliens beaming them from afar and planting them just to wow the locals. Even though built over a number of centuries, it is amazing the effort and expended by a Neolithic people - presumably not under duress - in creating a monument still mostly extant down through the ages. Too bad about the traffic noise, if anybody from the past was attempting to contact me the ring-tone got lost in the din. Still, to be on the safe side I purchased a trilithlon amulet to create a permanent link to the site.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Brain Drain

neuron-model-colorpng220

BRAIN EXERCISES CAN ACCELERATE MENTAL DECLINE

Read the above sentence quickly without at least scanning the full article and you might decide just to let your brain lay fallow for a few years to extend its awareness. My gosh! Using and exercising the brain will accelerate its journey to uselessness. Makes sense. That's what happens to all the vehicles I've owned. One minute they're glistening clean with an aromatic new car aroma and a scant few years later broken down, rusted and awaiting the final hook up ride to the wreckers. Ninety-nine point nine percent of the time whatever lurks in my cranial cavity feels fine, just that last drink once in a while gives it a dull, achy, throbbing presence almost impossible to escape.  Once I buckled down to reading the article with focused attention I realized the acceleration can be confined to the far end so as to speak.

Let's assume one day in the future - say twenty years to the day - my brain will lose complete touch with the outside world, sort of like a door closing shut for the last time. So if I choose: to loll lazily on the couch munching goodies staring at the copious quantities of inane programming emanating from the LCD screen, to never visit the library or pick up a newspaper, to scream for the calculator to add up 2 digit numbers and over, and to abstain from all conversations requiring complete thoughts or logic; then I can expect the door to begin moving towards the locked position in about ten years, give or take a few days, as I commence a decade long process to obscurity. However, getting at the crosswords, Sudoku, reading and engaging in stimulating discussions would appear to delay for a number of years - be generous and say seven - the ability of the door to start swinging shut. Now the period of decline has been reduced to only three years even though the final closing remains the same. Obviously the next step is an attempt to shorten the withering away period even more. Best case scenario would be to have the door untouched and resting comfortably until that specific morning twenty years in the future when I could gracefully orate my goodbyes and final thoughts to the assembled crowds just in advance of the final slamming. Therefore, time to remove the sawdust and cotton batten holding my neurons in place and reason out just how many crosswords I have to complete to hit the twenty year mark unscathed!

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Art Garburator

Okay, if you're expecting a drive-by pick up of that weird statue thing inherited from sweet auntie May or online plans for an under-sink eradicator of velvet paintings of Elvis, you will have to stumble about elsewhere on the web. At some point during an exhausting surfing session looking for nothing I chanced upon this amazing art website. MOBA - Museum of Bad Art - 'the world's only museum dedicated to the collection, preservation, exhibition and celebration of bad art in all its forms'. Finally a group dedicated to the idea that not all art is good and deserves accolades. Many aspiring painters, sculptors and well-meaning dilettantes should have buried the crayons and modeling tools on graduation from kindergarten. Even talented artists miss the mark on many occasions. With almost 500 pieces in their collection MOBA has barely scratched the surface of the less than commendable art junk pile. At least the ability to have an online catalogue allows the world to view more than can be physically exhibited.

Having spent my fair share of time wandering through galleries and museums, I always have questions but generally agree that the vast majority of works deserve to be viewed. However, in the spirit of MOBA I do harbour doubts about why curators have supported particular artists and  nailed their works to the wall. To that end I nominate the accompanying picture (maybe his entire opus) to be included in a separate web based catalogue of bad art submitted by believers in MOBA.

Picture-3 (2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptan

When I first cast eyes on this canvas I immediately assumed it was a humorous jab at the 'Pink Panther' movie series or a veto against the use of fibreglass insulation. Much to my chagrin the title ' MacMillan Bloedel Eco-System Destroyers and Their Preferred Weapons' made me aware it was simply a diatribe against all forms of logging. This particular canvas would definitely not be out of place walking through elementary school hallways. A passerby might even suggest with encouragement the young talent might possibly aspire to a career in art when he grows older. Maybe he is just a late bloomer.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Revisiting Visa

 

Visa

 

 

Time to bash Visa again! They're colossal - it won't hurt then. Besides, without telling anyone they packed up the public relations department together with their illustrious handbook, 'A Thousand and One Excuses Why We are Not at Fault' or is it 'A Thousand and One Ways We are Always Right', laid off all the two legged homo sapiens employees and located the new call center just north of south in Antarctica. Once a contract is hammered out and the local penguin population agrees to a three fish per day stipend, your complaint calls will be cordially received by a cacophony of clacking clucks and your whiny gripes will thence be deposited on a slippery slope and washed out to sea. 

I alluded in a previous post to their sneaky method of sending your monthly bill out a tad late in hopes of ensnaring everyone in their late payment scheme. It just so happens my Visa and MasterCard bills arrived the same day which allows me the opportunity to compare systems. MasterCard: statement date August 26, arrival date August 30, payment due date September 19. Visa: statement date August 17, arrival date August 30, payment due date September 7. All these dates are basically the same each month so having Visa blame it on the postal service is sour grapes on their part. Let us be gracious, allow three days for our postal buddies to pick up and transport our check to its destination and another full day for internal handling before the dreaded late payment guillotine descends. Under this scenario MasterCard allows me 15 days to sort out my previous months mess and remit my payment, while my Visa overseers permit me a scant three days to ponder the bill and hastily send my shekels off in the sometimes provided envelope. Should the bill arrive Friday, by the time I steam open the missive on Monday I'm already treading on the deadline. On a long weekend all hope is lost by Tuesday. A couple of years ago when I called the service center on another matter, I had the temerity to question the telephone representative about this delay in sending out bills. After waiting on hold for fifteen minutes - on their 1-800 dime - it finally occurred to me their answer was a total lack of interest in my question.

Ahh! I hear what you are about to tell me. Why not just have them email my bill monthly and electronically remove funds from my account? The simple answer. Much easier to deal with a problem on your bill before handing over the money. Once they have cash in hand Visa tends to have a lot less interest in your niggling problems and your next call may be met with a resounding cluck.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Petit Froggie

Pea frog

 

How cute! Question? If you live in a carnivorous plant, is it best to be a vegetarian? Since your host eats all the meaty ants and bugs dropping in unannounced, there must be precious little left to dine on except for stray seeds and plant particles. Interesting to find froggie's offspring swimming happily in the liquid inside the plant. Does missy go out on the town to find a beau or is there sufficient room to invite ones paramour over for a meal and side benefits? Unlikely this species will turn into a prince when kissed as any sudden inhalation would turn him into a small morsel of junk food. Question 2? How many pea sized frogs does it take to provide a decent plateful of frogs legs for supper?

Thursday, 26 August 2010

The Frog Kisser

216439217_692534182f

Ah! Sweet Prince

Had me worried for a second that I would have to return to France to ward off any possible viruses. Only six weeks ago, it would have been easy to kiss enough frogs for a lifetime - does air-kissing count - even if the frenchies exhibited some distain towards  people residing in the old colonies. Alas, I will have to confine myself to the four legged froggies whispering sweet ribbits in my ear although kissing is off limits due to my requirement for a princess.  The Grimms and Andersen might have given this item more thought when dreaming up fairy tales; perhaps frogs were only considered to be male and toads were female.  Could take a risk on kissing a toad if a pretty one hopped by on my way to the swamp.  Hmmmm! Aren't one or the other hallucinogenic when licked? Anyway, this latest research may just result in a heavier reduction in the already decimated population of various frog species. Disappearing habitat, deadly highway crossings and a penchant for frogs legs in Mexico has some families retreating to the far side of the pod. However, here comes the rush to capture froggies to use as live luffa pads or sweaty condiments! Maybe a side business in terrariums is in my future.

Photo by Flickr user marmota used under Creative Commons

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Copies and Fakes and Forgeries

P1000821

China Wholesale Oil Paintings Wholesale China Xiamen Oil Paintings

An accidental find while searching for images.
Nothing remarkable about another painting mill churning out masterpieces by the thousands. Although one might wonder how many sweat shop ateliers are dotted about the vast Chinese landscape. How many artists slaving at 25 cents an hour does it take to fill up a warehouse in Europe and another in the United States? And why are you invited to visit the European facility while the US building is off limits? Perhaps they are merely guarding industrial secrets in the US of A! Lower costs in the country of manufacture must be the reason shipping is free or seems to be depending on how one interprets the shipping guidelines.

Shipping from warehouses in Europe or the United States.
Because it is in our US or Europe warehouse. Free Shipping for North Of America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand !

So your fine art purchase will be free of shipping charges only if you live North of the named areas. Canada must be in this zone being located north of America and technically traveling north of Europe also leads to Canada. Heading north from New Zealand involves mostly ocean dotted with a few islands. Most of Asia could be considered north of Australia so I guess free shipping applies.

Now they consider it good business to produce copies or fakes or forgeries; however, they appear to think it would be a violation of their business rights to reproduce their original works of art. Hence, the warning attached to the images - 'Warning! CopyRight Codes Inside, New Crafts Co.'. There goes my brilliant idea of buying item 23799 -  Vincent Van Gogh Seascape at Saintes-Maries - and mass producing it for the African market.

BTW. The image accompanying this post is an original art work by yours truly done in the style of Picasso and protected by copyright, throughout the known Universe, and not to be copied or reproduced in any manner especially by New Crafts Co.!

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

What!! Me Disturbed?

2122520113_71b04190e9

Are some things just better left unknown?

1. The Earth is not the center of the universe. 
I never got past Apollo yarding the sun across the sky in his chariot. It has bothered me from time to time why I am unable to catch a glimpse of the sky god since I have watched for him galloping over the horizon just an instant before the sun appears and causes temporary blindness. See item 10 as he may be composed of dark energy! Besides I know a number of people who definitely perceive (impossible to convince them otherwise)  themselves as the center of the cosmos and the Earth and the rest of us are of scant importance.
2. The microbes are gaining on us.
Of course they are!!  You can't fight what you can't see and they know it. Once the zillions of them gather at the bi-millennium microbe/bacteria convention - Vancouver in 2012 - and meld into one gigantic brain , it will a cinch for them to outsmart us once and for all. Chances are they won't kill us. We could serve as pets or biological vehicles to speed up their working day.
3. There have been mass extinctions in the past, and we’re probably in one now.
I know I will eventually be called on the carpet to explain my complicity in endangering one of our bellwether species. So a confession is in order and as they say - confession is good for the soul. Years ago acting as a normal preteen male at summer camp, I engaged in the ecological harvest of a now diminishing population of frogs. Remember this was before the advent of 'catch and release' programs as dictated by government. Soo! Having heard of a delicacy called frog legs, a bunch of us decided it might be much better than canned ragout de boulet for the evening repast. And therefore began one of the steps leading to the decimation of the amphibian genus bullfrog. A number of them gave up their earthly lives and donated their twitching legs to be sautéed up by yours truly in a cast iron frying pan. Very tasty and close to chicken. And thus they became part of summer canoe trip menus. Next time in Mexico off we go to Señor Frog's.
4. Things that taste good are bad for you.
Frogs legs taste good and if anybody starts ragging on me about eating them, it could be considered bad. Otherwise, a Mediterranean diet passes muster with the 'experts' and tends to please the palate with gusto. Poor eating habits aren't totally a matter of paleo or Neolithic survival. They can be acquired tastes. Being fed salt as a child leads to sodium dependency. Grow up with only sufficient salt to fend off the goiters and one tends to avoid packaged and restaurant fare due to being overwhelmed by salt - not to mention all the non food additives.
5. E=mc²
Yes. Mr. Einstein definitely could outthunk me. For myself, the non-equivalence between weight and mass would still be a problem to explain in mixed company - you know, geeks and non-geeks (moi being in the latter category or at least in the proto-human category). C² on paper exhibits none of the qualities encountered in a real life application such as watching the destructive power of an A-bomb drop. Only a die-hard physicist could scan the figures and instantly exclaim 'that be one big mess of energy'.
6. Your mind is not your own.
Never thought it was. Somebody else has control of my fingers for this blog post.
7. We’re all apes.
Oh boy 75 percent of the population will instantly disagree since the Earth is at best slightly over 6000 years old and except for some relatives on my mother's side, no one in my family has any apelike qualities. However, in truth we are not  apes since we are parallel lines from a common ancestor, possibly a creature with the unpronounceable name of Ouranopithecus macedoniensis - does macedoniensis mean we are all from Macedonia?
8. Cultures throughout history and around the world have engaged in ritual human sacrifice.
Unless the Mayans suddenly reappear requesting entry to professional baseball I'll shelve my worries about human sacrifice. Although with the sorry state of the British Columbia Lions - 1 & 6 as of this date - team management may want to consider sacrificing one or two under performing players (lots to choose from in this category) as an appeasement to the football gods (John Madden should know them) to draw 5 or 6 fans back to Empire 'field', 'stadium', 'place' or whatever for the one year it is needed.  As long as I'm not on the menu or weird, painted, chanting figures do not come knocking at my door, I'll rest easy that my blood will not be spilled on some cold, stone slab.
9. We’ve already changed the climate for the rest of this century.
Not our fault. A stone tablet chiseled by Zog circa 8500 BC warned about a warming trend from all the camp and cave fires, unnecessary travel all over the globe, unsanitary landfill practices - which we are still digging up in modern times - poor recycling practices - tools and bones strewn all over the cave - and the wholesale slaughter of large game animals such as the mastodons. Never mind the last 50 or 100 years, look how far the glaciers have retreated since 10 or 12 thousand years ago. Our undisciplined forefathers and mothers drove the the ice out of all of the northern hemisphere except for Greenland and some insignificant high peaks. With better canoes they might have settled Antarctica and it would now be a sunny, warm beach resort.
10. The universe is made of stuff we can barely begin to imagine.
Shadow people living in between the molecules and atoms and strings of our universe. Belly button lint which only travels in one direction. Smog doughnuts. And the fact much stuff we cannot see resides in our imagination.

Photo by Flickr user JustUptown used under Creative Commons

Friday, 13 August 2010

Odds and Ends #7

 Rampaging Chimpanzees

Not long ago it was monkeys attacking people in Japan. Apparently the simians were less than enamoured with the Olympic guests crowding into Nagano. Now the chimps in Guinea seem to be bent on retaking lost habitat. Sure hope the zoos here lock the gates at night (and be careful with dropped keys) as our wildlife are less than impressed with our encroachment. Nightmares about giant marmots already are a concern for venturing out hiking in the hills. Being ambushed by irate apes may be one danger too many! Where is Charlton Heston now that we really need him?

Nothing Boring About Watching Paint Dry

Once I got to the part about colloidal coatings, I lost interest. Despite the best efforts of the scientists involved to invoke a thrill in microscopic magic, spending an afternoon at the park watching the protective coating on a newly sprayed bench will not be on my bucket list.

Mica Sheets

Those billion year old molecules must have possessed very tough skin. Mica definitely loses to 400 thread count Egyptian cotton in the comfort department. Possibly an answer to population control once WalMart sources a cheap, third world manufacturer for a new line of 'organic linens' - heavy and scratchy mica natural - for the discerning buyer.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Para Hablar Español

 

Free Can Be Better!

After a few trips to Mexico relying on about thirty words left in memory from many years previous, it came to me in a flash to spend an occasional otherwise useless hour (mesmerized by the television) in learning how to speak Spanish. Or more to the point Castellano with a Mexicano flair. Dos cervezas, por favor can be extremely useful for enjoying a week at the beach but it can be somewhat limiting once even slightly removed from prime tourist areas. So off to the book store to purchase a beginners tome in Latin American Spanish acquisition in mere minutes a day. Problem with books starts with trying to pronounce words relying on weird references to words in English - say the a like the a in father while holding your tongue on the tip of your nose - difficult and unsanitary. And you quickly realize you're crucifying the language even to your own ears.  Next was a visit to the library to look over some of the CD courses, one of which  seemed to fill my needs. Actually listening to Spanish instructors gets all those vowels and consonants streaming out of your own mouth with a much greater degree of accuracy.  I think I may have mistakenly copied the CDs as they are still lingering on my MP3 player - quite handy! Then a short wait until some Spanish-English dictionaries went on sale and I began to study to my hearts content. On the next trip south, my endeavours paid off making it easier to converse with local bus drivers, store clerks and have a half-baked understanding of what I was attempting to read.  Then with Barcelona on the travel horizon, I thought listening to more Spanish would help because pleading with everyone to slow down so I can silently interpret leads to a really drawn out conversation.. Radio didn't help much with the ninety mile an hour speed demons blaring out the speakers and poor me still working on the second word. A quick jaunt through the net yielded either high cost pros or many broken down half completed sites or 3 page dissertations on the correct usage of por and para or even more esoteric grammar usages. By accident I ended up reading The Independent online  and a little reference to learning Spanish tiptoed by slowly enough for me to pounce on it with the mouse. A combination of audio and PDFs with the audio portion replayed at slower speeds with translation. Now I could get all those nuances and some everyday slang at a speed and clarity I could appreciate.  And I'm still wondering why the conspiracy to give away this resource for free; although I'm not complaining. Unbeknown to me until my arrival in Barcelona was the knowledge that Catalans much prefer to converse in catalán. But that's another story.

Monday, 9 August 2010

A Friend Indeed

humanoid-robot-telenoid-standing_24250_600x450

Certainly does not look like great Aunt Clara from Yorkshire, at least not the way I remember her. Perhaps a few night frights have caused a restructuring or a case of minor cosmetic surgery gone completely wild. Plus she has shrunk dramatically and  lost a ton of body mass - we always warned her about those fad diets and special pre-packaged suppers. Also she has lost much of her femininity as I recall her being much bustier. I assume from the lack of arms, I should not expect the usual Xmas present next year:  a genuine lambs wool cable knit cardigan and perhaps a box of homemade biscuits. However they assure me that with a powerful eye squint the rather formless dummy, er robot, will prove to an excellent stand-in for Clara or any other far away relative or friend. And once my eyes begin to lie to me, my ears will pick up the monotone voice and Wernicke's area will hastily deceive me into believing the presence of a warm human voice. Now pardon me, but shelling out $8000 for a half built dummy with no clothes so that no one will catch me talking to myself seems quite expensive. Once I find the correct email address, I may begin to barter with the manufacturers. I'm hoping to chisel them down to about 4 thousand for just a head if they throw in a pretty red wig.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Only 50 thou or 100 thou - Mucho Cheap!

538217557_ee13edb6d9

Can I breathe a sigh of relief? Yes I can. Only a couple of years ago it was going to set anyone back a cool $20 million US to hop aboard a rocket to the International Space Station. Had I started saving. Yes! Just like those old Christmas accounts at the bank, I religiously began stuffing my pennies in a sock knowing that in a millennium or so I would be blasting off into the outer regions of our atmosphere or ionosphere or somewhere at the outer limits of our globe. Back then a potential space tourist needed to submit to medicals, training, eating and bathroom protocols, spacesuit adjustment and cultural sensitivity indoctrination to cope with Russian cosmonauts. Not only that but one couldn't explore the American section without an invitation or escort (note: if an Arizonian was in charge a green card was mandatory). Now, for next to nothing you can go sub-orbital as long as you promise not to puke on Virgin spacecraft leather seats. Of course the journey will be a quickie. Straight up until you hit the glass ceiling and straight back down to Earth. No spacesuit, no docking station, no squeegee food, no baggies for bodily fluids - please take advantage of the loo prior to boarding - and no camaraderie on the orbital science station. And remember when you alight from the taxi at the spaceport to converse pleasantly with the driver plus present a generous tip, just in case Sir Richard Branson has assumed his cabbie impersonation trick once again.

Photo by Flickr user Mike Rollinger used under Creative Commons

Friday, 6 August 2010

Bats in Peril

Bats facing regional extinction in Northeastern US from rapidly spreading white-nose syndrome

They may eat their weight in insects every night but that doesn't seem to reduce the rampaging population of gluttonous mosquitoes from still covering every exposed square inch of human skin for a blood-fest.

What with all the twilight hysteria, just maybe vampires are responsible for introducing the infectious virus in an attempt protect the available blood supply by batacide.

White nose or frothing at the mouth - sign of rabies or over productive saliva glands or fungi - not that may people are willing to get close enough to differentiate.

Folklore suggests bats should only reside in belfreys or caves; therefore, colonies should cease and desist in using human habitations as condominium units.

Who are the people building bat boxes? Why would people build bat boxes for placement in the forest? Does this obsession tell us something about the psychology of the builder/placers?

Perhaps the government should fund their eviction and transportation to warmer, southerly climes where they could stay awake and do their job twelve months of the year. Ergo, no dormant period for fungi to sneak up and attach itself or themselves as the case may be.

Perhaps hospitals for bats need to be constructed, they could be driven there in batmobiles.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Online tool launched to find aliens in US custody

1126900171_8b26f742f5

First thought on the headline was: ' How stupid, everybody knows all the aliens are sequestered, questioned, studied and dismembered somewhere within the secret confines of Area 51 near Groom Lake, Nevada. I'm guessing at dismembered as it is realistic to surmise aliens may not have members of any kind and may just be levitating eggs. But I surmise it is just 'tit for tat' as all our extraterrestrial visitors seem to indulge their curiosity by performing weird medical procedures on western cattle. Hearsay would have us believe these experiments have also been completed on human abductees; however, it may be noted that the two legged ones always live to tell the tale while the four legged are summarily dispatched. Shades of Animal Farm!
Wanting to move on to other news, me not the story,  the story was dispatched to Evernote for closer perusal at three in the morning when my screen turns the appropriate shade of green and my eyes have the glassed over vision necessary to focus on the supernatural.
Of course, as soon as I click on the link and the full web page opens up, I realize the article refers to the other kind of alien and my thoughts plunge immediately back to earth. So much for a foray into the unknown and the ultimate search for the truth out there.  Then I'm left to contemplate the meaning of online tool. Quickly punch that one into Urban Dictionary.  Ah yes!  Obviously one of the new requirements for Arizona state law enforcement officials.

Photo by Flickr user Nachiket  Kapre under Creative Commons

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Beware the Giant Marmot

P1000343

Just when you thought it was 'relatively' safe to hike and scramble up in the high country,  thanks to global warming  a new hazard looms behind every rock and boulder.  Stealthily, summer after longer summer marmota flaviventris packs on the grams and quite likely develops beaver sized incisors for bone gnawing. Up until now keeping one eye open for the big furry things on the ground - bears, grizzly or brown or the odd albino - and the other for the big furry thing in the trees - cougars - was sufficient to avoid danger from wilderness beings. Not to discount the dire consequences of enraging mother moose or deer by strolling too close to their offspring.

Okay, an 11 % gain in mass over 33 years to now average out at 3433 grams or about 7.6 pounds has yet to turn them into ferocious predators, but what happens once all the snow is gone and they no longer have to hibernate. Won't sitting around year long in the sun accelerate the weight gaining process? Now I have never run into marmota flaviventris:  however, I have had many chance encounters with its cousin the marmota caligata who lives further north,  at slightly less altitude and who averages out at three times the size. Let us assume  a four month summer - that means eight months curled up not getting bigger - dramatically changes to a full year running around eating, sunning and procreating non-stop. Once they hit the forty to fifty pound mark with chisel incisors and run around in small herds, will we all be so quick to attempt to entice them into cute posing situations for the camera?

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Norton and Me

norton360icon

Late October 96 and I picked up a brand spanking new computer loaded with Windows 95 and Word Perfect for business use. First two items actually loaded: presents from Christmas, WarCraft and a Norton utilities program (cannot recall the version or name) for maintenance and anti-virus. Major annoyance was the periodic launch of an ‘imaging’ check on my system which caused the screen to go spasmodic - particularly brutal in the middle of an Orc campaign - eventually bringing the computer to its knees by way of freezing. So I became well versed in the ctrl+alt+del method of regaining control and restart.
At other times, some minor flickers - I assumed one of the Norton utilities was trying to call home but lack of an  internet connection just caused it to give up. Once online, however, the flicker ceased as I imagine the wee program could now upload my files for perusal to Symantec. Pretty uninteresting stuff at the time, mostly Quattro files. However the imaging got worse and no replies from my numerous pleas to head office somewhere in cyberspace. Finally tiring of the battle for control, I removed Norton by removing the folder, since it lacked a uninstall feature, and tossed it into the recycle bin for immediate disposal. Swore I would never use Norton again.
Kept that machine for 7 years without ever installing an anti-virus program and never had problems. Upgraded to a cheap used computer running Windows 2000 and an outdated copy of McAfee. Upgraded the system with memory, bigger hard drive and newer software and still no attacks or intrusions I was ever aware of.
When I purchased this latest machine loaded with Windows 7 and a free years worth of Norton 360 “all in one security’ , I figured what could go wrong!  Nothing for a month or so. Then mysteriously, the once weekly background scan suddenly began to occur every hour or so. Left alone it busied itself for ten minutes and shut down. Since it had a tenancy to annoy me, I opened the program and hit stop scan. Mistake! Computer froze.

micro_n360-mainUI-s

Once up and running again I reopened the program and there on the screen in the upper right hand corner was a ’Help and Support’ button, so I hit it to see the menu. Clicked on ‘Get Support’ and waited for a download to occur to connect me directly to a faceless technician.  Since it seemed to be taking a rather longish time, I clicked the close button with no effect, but instantly recognized the computer had once again departed into freeze mode. Back to the ctrl+alt+del to access Task Manager and of course a “Norton is not responding’ message.  Lucky me I stopped trying this method of contact after the second shut down.
Instead I went online to the Norton 360 site to seek aid in rectifying my problem. Nice long form to fill out and eyestrain trying to type in the product key number - why so long and tricky?  A nice thank you popped up and a promise to reply back within 24 hours. Now back to business but the background scan pops into existence again and immediately freezes the system.
Ah! Why wait? Phone them direct on the 1-800 number and clear this mess up tout-de suite. Only a 30 minute (the screen with my incident number said the last customer only had to hold 1 minute) wait listening to weird music cutting in and out until I was on the line to India. Tried to explain the goings on, but a geek/non-geek conversation just went in circles. Better just to agree and then let the techie take over my machine. Then I got to watch for 90 minutes as the mouse flung itself everywhere, opening and closing files until I noticed Norton 360 being uninstalled. Then a 30 minute virus scan of the computer which came up empty and the re-install together with some ‘minor changes’ to the program without any explanation. Probably too technical for me anyways.
Once I resumed control all the glitches appeared to have been resolved and just to be positive I also brought up the Help and Support which connected without a hitch.Next day the techie called and I said everything is okie-dokie.

A week or ten days have  passed. Ever since the re-install by the techie, every time I start up in the AM the ‘Activate Norton Online Backup’  popup notice bounces on to my screen and I dutifully hit the ‘never remind me again’ button to no avail. Next morning follows in like Groundhog Day as the inquiring screen pops up again. Hey, just hit that help and support button, go directly to online help and check how to stop the malfunction. Unfortunately, the ‘loader is not responding’ scenario repeats itself and freezes the system. Shut down, start up and go online to Symantec/Norton, fill out the long form, type in the product key, hit submit, receive the thank you for contacting us and we will get back to you within 24 hours.
Poking about I did go into start up manager and there is a way to shut off  the ‘active backup’ pop up (I’ll wait until tomorrow to verify). Perhaps I’ll chat with my techie tomorrow.

Which reminds me, I always wonder what the Norton (or just fill in any competitors name) program does in the computer innards besides updating and scouring for evil viruses and malware. Maybe I should not entertain so much suspicion. After all, the great god ‘Google’ pontificates that if I have nothing to hide why should I worry needlessly about any Tom, Dick or Harry sniffing around my hard drive. Fortunately, my subscription still has 281 days to run giving me ample opportunity to find a replacement for Mr. Norton.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Sleeping Beauties

112010582_1352c6e6bd

On reading this item, the salient factor to grab ones attention is the guinea pigs of the study - civil servants.  Is there a country in the western world where government employment does not rise at much quicker rate than general population growth?  By even instituting a 10% reduction in ‘work load’ per year, government mandarins or municipal state or county officials can bloat their departments and double their size in a decade. Which means, of course elected or appointed bureaucrats whine constantly of their heavy work loads and responsibilities which only pay raises and benefits can assuage. Ditto for their underlings to keep them both quiet and complacent.


So a sharp reasoning group of scientific investigators - taking advantage of generous grant funds from the same governments - reaches the startling conclusion that sitting about all day on ones butt leads not only to boredom, but a possibility of an earlier death. Plenty of other studies, finished and published, also have discovered the identical conclusion. Slumping in a chair all day, wolfing down coke and doughnuts, has a detrimental effect on your health leading to obesity, medical complications and more chance of a truncated lifespan.
At the rate we’re going in another couple of decades, everyone will be on some level of government payroll with nobody left in the general population.  At last, we will have achieved the perfect bureaucracy - all systems functioning smoothly with nary a public soul to create day-to-day problems and foul up the machinery of government. And the added benefit will be lowered life expectancy. No more worries concerning increasing old age medical costs or unfunded pension liabilities.
Gee! An easy answer to over population, climate change, war plus numerous other difficulties facing the world - or to be less egocentric, humankind - simply bore everyone to death by giving them useless tasks to fulfill or just let them sit in a room staring at empty walls.

Okay, that last bit sounds a little too much like a prison cell. Could someone please unlock the door or at least allow me to change the television channel?

Photo by Flickr user EdgAr H. used under Creative Commons

Friday, 5 February 2010

Toyota & Others - Preordained Malfunctions?

P1000880

The accompanying picture represents vehicles in general although my Subaru engine compartment happily raised its hood for this revealing photo-op.  Look closely and discover the numerous electronic gadgets. Each blessed with its own wee chip and who knows how much built in instructions. Floating through the cyber world one hears the interesting rumours that Toyota’s brake problems have less to do with straight mechanics and may be directly linked to weird electronic mishaps. This point has been vigorously denied if only because the blame can be nimbly shifted to parts suppliers. This despite the fact that Toyota engineers have to okay the designs, test and formally accept all of their outsourced components.
The reasons for all the electronic gear packed under the hood, dashboard  plus other various nooks and crannies: more smoothly operating vehicles, better gas mileage, greener air blowing out the tailpipe, tons of onboard dash goodies (voice activated only), and of course easier diagnostics. Then why when automobiles hit the shop has it become so difficult to read the computer and find the problem. Subaru relies on something like 100/150 codes; however, it appears codes are solely an aid in pointing to ‘a maybe’ certain direction and in no way lead to any malfunctioning parts. Over the years since electronics have been introduced, the explanation - and the rising cost of diagnostics - for the inability of the computer to locate the problems have led to some very convoluted explanations from service advisors at more than one dealership.
As to other uses for installed electronic goodies. How hard can it be to implant a microscopic chip with very simple instructions - keep count of times this item is used and once it hits a predetermined or random number fry the part or otherwise cause it to malfunction?  Remember we have to keep all the dealerships, repair shops and parts manufacturers joyously supplied with faulty vehicles to keep their sales high and their profits higher still.  Determining well ahead how often your new car will have to spend a few hours in the shop and the required parts , enables the entire industry to plan ahead.  Or should! The past year reveals that the auto companies - even with all the chips on the table - are still unable to figure out the game. However, with governments as their willing backers, intelligence in this industry no longer surfaces as a requirement for upper management.
Besides all the crash testing done by the IIHS and emission analyses, it may be time for independent investigation and research into just what instructions may be built into car parts.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

604-310-2255

TELUS

Ah! What’s in a number? Well the title digits belong to Telus. And yes it is their call centre telephone number - one of many I suspect - but it is the particularly annoying one employed to irritate me. Over the past three years a seemingly random series of ringing intrusions designed as a psychological ploy to endeavour drawing me deeper into the Telus network. Not every day but sometimes 2 or 3 attempts per day. And then a 2 or 3 week break whereby I relax into believing they have lost my number. Not a chance!
Since I already use a Telus landline - once upon a time I was also a pathetic dial up internet customer (need I explain more) - I am deemed to have a business relationship; therefore, I cannot appeal to have my number removed. However, one moment of weakness a couple of months ago caused me to pick up and begin a conversation. Nothing much to do but sit back and try to digest the set piece which must be delivered without pause or interruption. So all the wonders of Telus digital TV and improved high speed Internet come gushing and cascading through the already overloaded wire. Then my opportunity comes to pose my questions and since I have little better to do, I blurt out every concern I might have with the service.


How much down time (none!), quality (10° above excellent), number of channels (hundreds and rising), installation (free as long as I stay at home constantly for the next three weeks), support (instantly online or the phone - forgive my scepticism), my satisfaction guaranteed for pennies a day, at least for the initial 1 month offer.
Yes then, could I inquire as to the size of my bill after the regular rates kick in sometime in the next 60 days or so?
Well that is difficult to say because it really depends on the final package you choose.
Well could I choose a package?
Well we are not certain of the number of channels or Internet speed at your particular address so you would have to wait until after signing up for the final cost.
Ah yes I see.
Now this is a month-to-month package so I will be able to cancel at anytime?
Why, of course you can cancel by paying a cancellation fee.
Didn’t you inform me only a few scant minutes ago that there was no contract involved and no length of agreement?
I assure you no contract is involved as long as you do not terminate any of the services for the next three years.
I get it: a contract which is not a contract involving a rather large fee to end service even if it is sub par, pay for high speed internet even if it arrives at dial-up slowness, number of channels promised in the hundreds but more likely to be around the 30 to 40 range, quality maybe so-so as you are still trying to upgrade your system.
Could I get back to you on this as I am delirious with joy contemplating wasting precious moments considering your inane offer?
Of course. We will place you on the call back list so you don’t even have to worry about calling back.


Present situation. Same as before. Random calls which I ignore. On the bright side, it is a small price to pay for not having to deal with Telus and their problematic digital television which according to the rumour mill has been blessed with a plethora of bugs or the difficult to deal with techs on internet service.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

What? Me Text!

3370614568_3828bfd31c
Did TransLink not get the message or they above the law? All the restrictions on cell phones and operation of electronic devices have pretty well been communicated to the public by the media as shown by a story on Global BC. Apparently, Solicitor General Kash Heed neglected to forward a copy of the legislation to the TransLink head office or in the interests of national security surrounding the Olympic Games the transportation authority has carte blanche to ignore the rules.
Just this evening around 7PM as we drove west in the far left lane on Lougheed nearing Willington, a Translink supervisory vehicle A729 weaving in the right lane nearly clipped us as he swerved almost 3 feet out of his lane. As we passed just before coming to halt at a red light, we were surprised to see the vehicle driver merrily typing away on his laptop with his eyes firmly glued to the screen. Too bad we couldn’t have slipped him the following note quote “No holding or operating any electronic device including cellphones, hand-held radios, BlackBerrys, video game consoles, iPods, gps, or laptops”. Even though the laptop is mounted to the dashboard, it is operated by hand and not voice. And by-the-way there were no buses in sight so any excuse of tracking the rolling stock would not hold up.
Wonder if the police, RCMP or VPD, - the so-called Translink “police” could hardly be expected to ticket their buddies - have considered fining or at least warning these transgressors?
Which reminds me. Don’t the police units also come with installed computers which the officers are always plugging away at while cruising about town?
Photo by Flickr user R. Flores used under Creative Commons

Friday, 29 January 2010

Visa Surprises Again

3258378233_46ac9b316d

Having had a financial fellowship with Visa from way back when it went by the moniker Chargex,  I sometimes think I understand all of their devious schemes. But not so grasshopper.
Only once or twice in the past have I taken advantage of their low 24% per annum interest rates and not paid off in full at the end of the month or billing cycle.  Which reminds me  that the statement always is sent out rather late after the billing date; thus forcing you to mail out your payment immediately before you miss the payment date and incur penalties.  Not Visa’s fault of course, must be the post office hanging on to the outbound mail.

Anyways, for one of the monthly services I decided to get, the provider insisted on billing my Visa account by the month - with all the security guarantees that my number was safe with them - and I cheerily signed on board. After using the service for four years, I decided to go with a new company. Simple enough: give the old company a month’s notice (as per agreement), send them a letter, confirm the termination with an email and just to be super safe back it up with a personal phone call to the billing department.

No problem.
Except! Two months later the payments are still being charged to my Visa account. So I give the company a quick call, however it is too early to discuss the matter so I leave a message requesting somebody attend to the oversight and refund my overpayments.  To be on the safe side, I telephone Visa on their I-800 number figuring it will be an easy matter to have the recurring payments stopped while the misunderstanding is cleared up. Hmmm! Seems I am not allowed to summarily stop regular monthly payments under any circumstances, only the firm or service provider can terminate the agreement. If they choose for any reason not to do so, there is no other recourse for a Visa customer except to request a new card with a different account number. However, if the company keeps sending in the bill, Visa will happily accommodate them by transferring the bill to your new account number. You can of course close your account  and shred your card.
Possibly two things at work here. One, Visa salivates over all the monthly, ongoing bills being routed through their system. They get to skim 2 or 3 or 4 or more % right off the top with a pretty good idea of the income from this source alone each month.  Not their problem  to get into a free enterprise battle between you and one of their more worthy customers. Second, if you choose to call Visa to whine about your problems, they would rather you rip up your card so they never have to deal with you again.
Later I managed to contact the firm and they apologized for the oversight, agreeing to reverse the billing error right away.

THANKS FOR YOUR HELP VISA!                  Visa

 

Photo by Flickr user borman818 used under Creative Commons

Technorati Tags:

Our New Senators

4095239142_6e3057d7c9

 

Unfortunately the new appointees to the Canadian senate did not have time for the facial photo-op, but chose to get down to business immediately!

 

 

I had high hopes of landing one of these positions.

I have spent the better part of a year learning to double talk, take all sides of a position, take naps at a moments notice, and follow the explicit directions of his Right Honourable Stephen Harper.

My oh my!

There goes the opportunity of a lifetime not to mention the benefits.

  • The grossly padded pension.
  • Cheap parliamentary cafeteria meals.
  • Living allowance.
  • Free first class flights.
  • No responsibility.
  • Minimal work time.

And the list goes on.

My resume must have gotten lost in the mail!!

Photo by Flickr user William Joyce used under Creative Commons