Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Coming Soon: A Faster Web (not a moment too soon!)

Question Everything:
If there's a conflict loading a page containing images and other elements, and the one is being loaded before the others, slowing the process, why couldn't we have the whole page, images and all, formatted ready for display not as separate elements requiring different treatments during loading, but as one thumbnail PNG which, once loaded, would be automatically resized to fit whichever size of available screen your device uses? Could we do that?

Those Autumn Leaves

Let's not forget upper Michigan around the great lakes, and across the border into the Ontario shores of Lake Superior. It's marvelous! And with today's digital cameras, you can capture its splendor easily, and get exactly the pictures you want. So what are you waiting for? Grab your 'superzoom' digital, a spare card and battery for it, and go get 'em!

"The Lights Are On, But Nobody's Home!"

If you're enjoying one of those delightful manic 'highs', or you're doing a little risqué 'trapping', Darling, please try to remember that 'All the world's a stage, and we but actors in a play'. An ounce of prevention is still worth a pound of cure, even in Hollywood, and even if you're 'twenty feet off the ground and rising' - would I lie to you?

A wee bit more about writing...

There's been many books written on how to improve yours, but a couple of the very best are:-

Patricia has been an editor at the New York Times Book Review, and she writes with wit, style, and brevity, and The New York Times said "Strunk & White combined with S. J. Perelman". This should be compulsory reading!

And speaking of Strunk and White, if you haven't, then get it now. 

This little gem I've doodled all over is so old I can't remember when or where it came from, but it is a pocket-sized 64-page cure-all, from long ago. For example, page 8:-
Ten Principles of Clear Writing

Keep Sentences Short
Prefer the Simple to the Complex
Develop Your Vocabulary
Avoid Unneeded Words
Put Action Into Your Verbs
Use Terms Your Reader Can Picture
Tie In With Your Reader's Experience
Write the Way You Talk (Careful There!)
Make Full Use of Variety
Write to Express, Not to Impress
("Big men use little words; little men use big words.")

I've had this one since 1993. Some day, I fully intend to read it! (Just kidding!)

Monday, September 1, 2014

How To Be A Great Writer, by Stephen King....

1.) Stop watching TV. Instead, read as much as possible.
2.) Prepare for more failure and criticism than you think you can deal with.
3.) Don't waste time trying to please people.
4.) Write primarily for yourself.
5.) Tackle things that are hardest to write.
6.) When writing, disconnect from the rest of the world.
7.) Don't be pretentious.
8.) Avoid adverbs and long paragraphs.
9.) Don't get overly caught up in grammar.
10.) Master the art of description.
11.) Don't give too much background information.
12.) Tell stories about what people actually do.
13.) Take risks - don't play it safe.
14.) Realize that you don't need drugs to be a good writer.
15.) Don't try to steal someone else's voice.
16.) Understand that writing is a form of telepathy.
17.) Take your writing seriously.
18.) Write every single day.
*Note: There are three more, but these pertain more to writing books, and have been left off this list, because not all of us want to write books. I have copied this list for all, but especially for my old friend Pete, who seems convinced I need help with the ways of the word. Let's consider this a short review.

Computers: Possibly useful hint...

If you get tired of sitting at your computer constantly to use the keyboard, I've just discovered that if you have a spare, you can plug in another keyboard into any handy USB port, park it on a tall stool (or two short ones, one atop the other) and then stand up to do your typing, like I'm doing at the moment. If he were still with us, Hemingway would love this idea, because he often stood while doing his writing on that clattery old typewriter of his.

Experts, defined as anyone more than ten miles from home, tell us we ought to change our position or stand up and stretch every few minutes to avoid fatigue or circulation problems from constantly slouching over the computer's desk, and this is a great alternative. If sitting tends to give you a numb bum,
this cures it. And you can do a few deep knee bends, while you're thinking up your next line.... 

This just in from Pascal's Facebook page....

You and Your Internet Connection: hints

Check for DNS hijacking. Ping yourself at (Everybody's got it!)
Or: Ping to: thevpnguru-dns-exposed.tld and if you get the same results as those shown below, then you're OK, and you haven't been hijacked.


Sunday, August 31, 2014

When I was young, and the Dead Sea was still alive...

The first hydro-electric plant I operated after finishing my training as station operator, back in the 1950s. In those days, this plant had glass in all its windows, and I had all my hair and teeth. There was housing for the operators who manned it 24 hours a day, as well as a Chief Operator's home, and another for the resident Handyman and his wife, who did the cooking for us single types.
That railway line (upper right) is the main line of the CN Rail, running between
Toronto and Sudbury, and on across the country. One morning about five a.m.,
just nicely daylight on a summer's day, two freight trains collided on the embankment just off-camera to the lower right, and the coupling off one of the
engines landed in the river just outside that lower window, second from left.
The wreckage missed the cookery & handyman's house by maybe 25 feet.
I was supposed to start my annual vacation that morning, coming off a midnight shift, and I couldn't get my car out of there until they moved the train cars blocking our crossing, and they wouldn't move anything until they found one 
of the train crew who was still missing after I got off shift at 8:00 a.m. - so I
volunteered to help look for him, and I crawled under a tangle of boxcars on the embankment, and finally found his boots, nearly buried in the gravel. 

He was still in them, and I clawed the gravel away from him, and got him out of
there. I think every bone in his body must have been broken. A couple of hours
later, they did move the remains of the train off our crossing, and I could get my car out of there, but after that experience, it wasn't much of a vacation for me.

After I left Ontario Hydro, I worked for several years for a private power company called Great Lakes Power with headquarters in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and hydro plants on two rivers flowing into Lake Superior north of there, at the eastern end of that lake, as well as one really old-timer hydro plant on the St. Mary's River, right in Sault Ste. Marie. I worked mostly at the plant
in this picture, which was the control station for two and eventually three others
downstream on the Montreal River there. The trestle above our dam is the main line of the Algoma Central Railway, and at one time, and possibly still, this was or is the longest curved railway bridge in North America. It is still very much in use, and the railway runs special scenic tours in the autumn for those wishing to see the glorious fall colors along the line. There's a band of hardwood forest along this eastern end of Lake Superior, extending from the beaches back for several miles inland, and when those leaves turn various shades of red in the fall, people come from hundreds of miles around to see them. So the railway
runs special trains for tourists at those times. It's a sight worth seeing, for sure.

Along the far shore of our lake above the dam, just a short distance from that western end of it (left) there was and possibly still is a popular fishing and hunting camp, which in my time was operated by an American from Michigan, and any time we wanted to go fishing, he would let us use one of his steel-hulled 16-footers for free, as long as we bought his gas. It worked out very well.
After he closed it up for the winters and returned to the U.S., we kept an eye on it for him until he came back in the spring. Some of the biggest Northern Pike I've ever seen came out of that lake which ran for about 30 miles above our dam. 

At the upper end of it, where the river flowed in, there was a rapids with several steps in them, and the river water was a shade of light golden brown, so we called that "The Golden Stairs". Below it, there was always a large patch of thick
foam on the water for some distance out from the 'stairs', and some really large fish hung around under that foam to feed on whatever washed down from above. One day my buddy Eddie hooked into one there, and after some struggle managed to reel it up to boat. When he pulled its head up through the foam,
he took a look at it, uttered a couple of choice cuss words, grabbed his handy belt knife, and promptly cut the line. I asked, "What the hell did you do that for? It might have been a record!" Eddie replied, " That monster was at least five inches between the eyes! We're thirty miles from home, and I'm not sitting in the same boat with that for two hours, record or not!" If you pulled one of those into the boat and its tail slapped the underside of your seat, it was like being spanked with a paddle. I caught one there that was big enough its nose touched one end of my 21 cubic foot chest-style freezer while its tail touched the other end, and that's a large fish.

And that's how I spent some of my wild and crazy younger days back in the '60s, before I decided to have a look at the west coast. 

These are old pictures off the web, and I couldn't clean them up much, but it gives you an idea of what that trestle over the dam looks like with a train on it
in the fall. You really have to be there for the full effect.

Angelina and Brad Joli-Pitt: Wed or not?

Having had a couple of 'Altar-cations' myself, following which I crashed and burned, the most relevant wisdom I could offer you would be this: a piece of paper will not bring to a relationship anything which was not already there, and it will not prevent the departure of anything that was already quietly slipping away.