Wednesday, February 10, 2016

TV or no TV?

Two days ago, I found a notice in the elevator saying our TV was being shut off on February 9th, because Shaw Direct was pulling our plug. We've had their half-assed service of seventy-two channels of crap for decades here. They suggested we sign up for their cable service once the satellite service stops.

They didn't even send out official notices, not even to my rental management company's office. When I contacted the girls there, they said I was one of only two people who let them know about it. So after I confirmed with them that it is about to happen whenever Shaw gets around to it, I decided to try something.

I got out an old pair of rabbit ears I've been saving, and switched the source of my signals from the building's feed to the rabbit ears antenna. Here's what kind of picture I'm getting....

....and this isn't costing me $40 a month, like the analog signals from Shaw, and this is a digital signal like I've never seen before around here. I should have got out the rabbit ears a long time ago!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

More "This and That" - a potpourri, s'il vous plaît.

I was watching a movie last night on Vumoo, while in bed, and fell asleep with my glasses on. I woke up this morning with the glasses still on, wondering how the movie ended.....

I love swashbucklers, and this one swashes and buckles with the best of them. And I can remember when Antonio Banderas was the sexiest man alive, and Salma Hayek, who voices Kitty Softpaws, is still one of the sexiest women alive. It has a great cast. Too bad I fell asleep. But I can always watch it again...

Moving along here, yesterday, while I was trying to make that New Year greeting for our Chinese friends, I made an interesting discovery. If you want to paste one image inside another, Gimp 2 can do this.

Just copy the image to your clipboard, and then select Edit > Paste Into, which will let you paste it into the image already showing in the program. You can also drag the new addition to whatever location within the larger image you wish. And that's your Windows 'Tip of the Day' for today. And if you have Gimp 2 and Paint.NET then you probably don't need Photoshop. And both are freebies and they work fine in Windows 10. Incidentally, Gimp is the image editor used with Linux Mint, so if you're dual-booting Linux Mint with Windows 10, like I do, then you already will be familiar with it. It isn't terribly user-friendly, but it has a wonderful selection of various options, such as this feature mentioned above. And you really should try it.

Monday, February 8, 2016

To our Chinese friends

My oldest digital camera....

This is a panorama using my oldest zoom camera, a Pentax X70 from 2009, with only 24X of zoom. I haven't used it for a long time, so yesterday, I recharged the battery, and today, with the weather better, I put it to work. I'm pleasantly surprised that it still does quite a respectable job, and it compares quite well to the images from newer cameras. Its image stabilization isn't quite as good as the more recent ones, but on a small tripod it works very well.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

About Paint.Net, the image editing program

This is comparable to Gimp or Photoshop, or other similar editing programs, with the exception that this has a huge collection of plugins, which can do almost anything. There are also collections of these, in packs for easier installation. "So, give me an example of one of these plugins," you say. - OK....

Here's a screenshot taken recently. I'm going to use the 'Water Reflection' plugin on it, to turn part of it into a reflection on water of the rest of it..... first, here's the unaltered image....

And now here's the image with the 'Water Reflection' applied. You can configure it for how much of the image it covers, the density of the waves on it, the effects of wind on those waves, etc. so as you suspect, there's a lot of adjustments you can make.  And this is just one of hundreds of plugins for this program. You can have a lot of fun with it.


Spring has sprung

This is a composite, and for some reason, parts of it are better focused than others. Same camera, same time. Don't know why. This shows a neighbor's garden across in the next block.

Same scene, different camera. The first was a Fuji SL-1000, this is a Nikon P510. A little less zoom, but sharper. Also a composite, five images.

A little more "This and That"

I will be just delighted when the presidential election in the USA is over. I can hardly believe the quantity and quality of the bullshit being circulated about it. To the outside observer, like myself, it almost seems like we're seeing the decline and fall of a great nation. It seems to be consumed with political rivalry to the exclusion of common sense and the best interests of the nation as a whole. I can't believe grown men in responsible positions can act like this. It is really bizarre.

And that brings me to Facebook. In twelve short years, its boss has gone from obscurity to being the sixth richest man on the planet. And it makes several dollars in advertising revenue for each user it has. 

My problem with Facebook is its bullshit content; the seemingly factual stories that look like authentic news sources, but are really just opinion pieces being cranked out on someone's personal website, and passed off as real news. That, and all those childish or mean-spirited messages arguing politics or religion, most often done by people who haven't the foggiest idea what they're talking about most of the time. People who frequently couldn't spell 'shit' if they had a mouthful of it.  People who insult my stupidity.

And all of that is being seen and being read by the 95.6 percent of us who do not live in the USA. Many of us are increasingly thankful we can say this. And just as many of us are most likely wondering what's wrong with those people.

As for news in general, and print news in particular, the following is an interesting article about the newspapers of today, and what is happening to them.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Looking out the window

Mountains in the mist - the big picture.

The close-up.

Grouse Mountain Skyride, Upper Terminal

Looking up the valley, in search of Winter.

Friday, February 5, 2016

About Writing

For years, mistakenly, I've fancied myself a writer. I'm fascinated by the ability to string words together into sentences, frequently too long, while enjoying the thrill of creation. I get carried away.

I should read 'Words Fail Me' more often. It is a wonderful book for anyone who writes or aspires to, and I'd like to reprint a couple of parts of it here to show how it goes. Chapter 12, 'Too Marvelous for Words', begins: Like a superhighway, the sentence is a triumph of engineering: the stately capital letter, the procession of words in their proper order, every arch and tunnel, bridge and buttress perfectly fitted to its job.

It continues: If many writers believe bigger is better, who can blame them? Building a sentence can give you a thrill. It's easy to become infatuated with your own words, and once you get started you hate to stop. The noble pageant goes on and on, especially if you've discovered dashes and semicolons, and gluey words like however and nevertheless. Your mighty sentence swells, as does your head.

And that, Dear Reader, is a too-accurate description of my writing style. The rest of that chapter suggests what to do about it. Yesterday on Facebook, the subject of punctuation came up. So let's move along to Chapter 18, 'Grammar Moses', Thou Shalt Not Embarrass Thyself. Patricia says, "I certainly can't tell you in a few paragraphs everything you need to know about punctuation. But I can hit the high spots, the problems that show up most often."

Then she continues: 
* A comma by itself usually isn't enough to hold together two expressions that could be separate sentences: Jack broke his crown, Jill wasn't seriously injured. (This is sometimes called a run-on sentence.) If you want to join those expressions with a comma, add a linking word, like and or but: Jack broke his crown, but Jill wasn't seriously injured. There's more on joining parts of a sentence in chapter 12.
* The semicolon may be the most unappreciated and underused punctuation mark. If you find semicolons intimidating, relax. They're handy for joining expressions that could stand alone, like the ones above: Jack broke his crown; Jill wasn't seriously injured. Semicolons can also be used to tidy up a series of items with commas inside them. Imagine how hard it would be to read this sentence if only commas were used: Jack broke his crown, which was fractured in two places; scraped his knee, nearly to the bone; and ruined his lederhosen. Lincoln found the semicolon a "useful little chap"; you will, too.
* Dashes and parentheses shouldn't be abused. They do roughly the same thing - they let the writer say something (like this) in an aside - though dashes  are somewhat more in-your-face. If your writing breaks out in dashes, try using parentheses for variety (and vice versa). But if commas would work as well, as they often do, use them instead.

I don't want to copy too much of Pat's wonderfully helpful book, but I suggest you try to find your own at a bookstore near you. It's from Harcourt Brace & Company, and the ISBN is 0-15-100371-8.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

This is where the new wallpapers go...

This is because I have a favorite image editor in Windows, so I did the editing there, but the wallpapers are really for use here in Linux....

Another panorama...

Fun with Wallpapers....

Tuesday, February 2, 2016


Winter in the hills, and spring in the valley...

It's still winter up in the hills nearby, and the skiers and boarders love it....

While across the street in the next block, an old fence that was completely covered in wonderful shrubbery and vines is coming down. It won't be the same without that mass of color we saw each spring as those vines and shrubs came into bloom in various shades of red.

And this is another look at the hills, as they slowly emerge from the clouds.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Earlier today...

As I write this, it is once again overcast and trying to rain, but earlier today, it looked like this. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The U.S. political circus....

I'm surprised it took this long for people to get wise to this pompous ass. He has been making a fool of himself for much too long already. And as I keep trying to point out, the whole world is watching this disgusting performance and wondering why.

It is a very unusual selection of candidates competing for their party's choice to run for President, especially among the Republicans. Very few seem to have what it takes to be President, and some of them are pitiful. On the other side, Democrats have a choice between two more experienced candidates, but both of them are old enough to be pensioners. It's an unusual situation.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Spending too much time on Facebook....

Weather like this is my excuse. It's not very nice outside today. It's 46 F and raining.

Speaking of Facebook, I can hardly believe some of the things people say on there. It's like their brains are out to lunch, or closed for the weekend, or something. And hardly anyone seems to be thinking of the fact that it is being seen all over the world. It is like telling the world "I'm a babbling idiot, and I am actually proud of it." Einstein may or may not have said this, but it is worth repeating anyway: "The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits." 

Something I was reading the other day said we should not sit for long periods because it doesn't let our major muscles in our legs or butt get enough exercise, and so we should stand more and sit less. I have an extra keyboard and mouse so I stacked up a couple of short stools, to get enough height, then placed a board on top, large enough for that extra keyboard and mouse, and tried standing up for a while, as I worked on the computer. It works alright, but it isn't as relaxing as sitting down, of course. Maybe standing at his typewriter worked for Hemingway, but I'm no Hemingway. And I'm already 21 years older than he was when he died. So I will probably continue sitting for most of my writing chores. But it is nice to have a choice.

The following is from

In 1954, George Plimpton interviewed Hemingway for the literary journal he co-founded the year before, The Paris Review. The interview came prefaced with a description of the novelist’s writing studio in Cuba:
Ernest Hemingway writes in the bedroom of his house in the Havana suburb of San Francisco de Paula. He has a special workroom prepared for him in a square tower at the southwest corner of the house, but prefers to work in his bedroom, climbing to the tower room only when “characters” drive him up there…
The room is divided into two alcoves by a pair of chest-high bookcases that stand out into the room at right angles from opposite walls….
It is on the top of one of these cluttered bookcases—the one against the wall by the east window and three feet or so from his bed—that Hemingway has his “work desk”—a square foot of cramped area hemmed in by books on one side and on the other by a newspaper-covered heap of papers, manuscripts, and pamphlets. There is just enough space left on top of the bookcase for a typewriter, surmounted by a wooden reading board, five or six pencils, and a chunk of copper ore to weight down papers when the wind blows in from the east window.
A working habit he has had from the beginning, Hemingway stands when he writes. He stands in a pair of his oversized loafers on the worn skin of a lesser kudu—the typewriter and the reading board chest-high opposite him.
Popular Science, a magazine with roots much older than the Paris Review, first began writing about the virtues of standing desks for writers back in 1883. By 1967, they were explaining how to fashion a desk with simple supplies instead of forking over $800 for a commercial model — a hefty sum in the 60s, let alone now. Plywood, saw, hammer, nails, glue, varnish — that’s all you need to build a DIY stand-up desk. Or, as Papa Hemingway did, you could simply  throw your writing machine on the nearest bookcase and get going. As for how to write the great American novel, I’m not sure that Popular Science offers much help. But maybe some advice from Hemingway himself will steer you in the right direction. See Seven Tips From Ernest Hemingway on How to Write Fiction.
For more on the benefits of the standing desk, see this post from the Harvard Business Review.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Signs of Winter, Signs of Spring

First, a sign of Winter, still with us on the hills nearby...

And now for a couple of signs of Spring on its way.....

Flowers sprouting in a neighbor's garden over in the next block...

And a tree beside a neighbor's home across the street, showing signs of Spring.

These were taken with a Fuji SL-1000 at 50X zoom.


Linux Mint

I have not used this for a few days, so I'm making sure it is updated and all is well. And speaking of that, updating Linux Mint is a lot faster than Windows. You will be pleasantly surprised, I'm sure. And the history of its ancestors goes back to the first release of Unix on November 3, 1971 by AT&T, so this is not some "fly-by-night" system. It has been around longer than Windows. You should try it.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Image Composite Editor - Doing the impossible....

In a previous blog's comments, we were mentioning Spring, so I stuck the camera out the window, and took two almost-unrelated shots showing the local lawns and greenery here today.

Then, I decided to see if Microsoft Research's Image Composite Editor could put them together...... and surprise, surprise,  - it did! Here's what it looks like.....


And here's what that would have looked like, if I had taken ten exposures instead of only the two.....