Tuesday, November 30, 2010

They're b-a-a-a-c-k !!!

Some good news - always welcome.

I was a little late for my appointment at the cancer center this afternoon, because I stopped along the way at Commercial Electronics, to get a new cartridge for my old Technics turntable, and we got talking among 2 or 3 customers and the staff, about vinyl versus compact discs, and the verdict is that vinyl still rules - it's all in the mixing, they tell me. 

I was also pleased to see they've still got a few very good turntables for sale, and these are good quality, in the $400 to $550 range. And pickups these days start around $50 for the 'cheap & nasty' low end model, up to around $150 for the best quality Grado. I settled on the next-best Grado, at $79 plus tax. It has a nice set of specs, and sounds very good. (I think I'll keep it.)

While sorting out spare parts for the stereo equipment yesterday, I found a new unused pickup for this turntable (P-mount type) and it had a price sticker on the box saying $45, so I had a spare all along and didn't remember it. But the one I got today is supposed to be better than that and better than a Shure M92E, which itself is pretty hard to beat. The Shure is the one I've been using until now on the turntable. This replacement is said to be one step up from that. And the guys at Commercial Electronics still had me in the computer, from 1993. I felt right at home.

I got to the cancer center about ten minutes late, but luckily, the doctor was running a bit behind today too, so it all worked out very well. And the news is good. Looks like my prostate cancer is history. My PSA is down to 1.8, and that's better than most guys my age, and a huge improvement over its 15 from back before the brachytherapy in April. There are angels of mercy in the world, and I was lucky enough to meet one, Thank God.

It's one of those days....Monsoon weather

Monday, November 29, 2010

Those old recordings in my collection....

Now that I'm rediscovering my old record collection which has been quietly gathering dust in the stereo rack for years, it's almost like finding old friends. Looking through that couple of shelves of LPs is like looking back at my life and the music that was being played as the years went by. As a kid, I remember popular music being mostly 'big bands' like Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Wayne King, Benny Goodman, Les brown, and Frankie Carle, and they usually featured a great piano player (like Count Basie, who later got his own orchestra, and ended up in a movie called 'Blazing Saddles' from the ever-radiant Mel Brooks!) along with various combos of brass, woodwinds, and rhythm sections. And back then, people actually held onto each other as they danced - unless it was the Jitterbug. Speaking of that, I've seen recent demonstrations of it on TV, and I'm here to tell you these kids today have no idea what the real thing was all about at all. You had to be there, Kids. You had to feel that beat right in your bones, and move with it wherever it took you, and we didn't rehearse for a week beforehand - we just hauled off and made it up as we went along. Sometimes, the furniture got in the way, but usually no lives were lost.

And who could forget Disco? Valiantly though we tried... Goofy clothes, goofy music, and it being played by the most unlikely music-makers. I'm thinking now of The Armada Orchestra, and a hit from one of their LPs - maybe their only LP - called 'The Hustle'. The Armada Orchestra were actually 30 musicians from the London Symphony Orchestra, and they toured Europe as a dance band during those heady Disco days. The Hustle was a snappy tune, though, and a lot of us liked it. Some of us even liked it enough to buy the record. There's just no accounting for taste!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Found: My old 78 RPM record from the 1930s

Now, all I need is a 78-RPM turntable...... ( Dear Santa: .....)

A shaft of sunlight.....

There's still leaves on some trees

Even at the end of November, we've still got a few trees with leaves on them. Maybe they were late starters, or maybe their internal clocks aren't right, but here's a look at one of them. Everything around it has already lost the leaves.

On TV just now, Mannheim Steamroller is playing Christmas music for some famous skaters performing on ice, and an ad says we should buy their 25th Anniversary edition of a Mannheim Steamroller Christmas. At the moment, I'm listening to their 1984 version of Mannheim Steamroller Christmas, and I don't think it gets much better than this. But I'm going to check it out the next time I'm near a store selling music. Actually, this isn't the best time of year for playing Christmas music, because everybody's doing it. Try a hot day in July.... shake up the neighbors! I've got a jazz version of "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" that's a real mover, and it does that just fine....

And once again this year, all I want for Christmas is the 2nd of January! I got it last year, and I loved it..... I'd like it again!


Friday, November 26, 2010

Strolling down Memory Lane.....

Remember LP records? Remember James Last and his orchestra? Look him up on Wikipedia just for fun - you may be surprised at how many albums he's sold, and his orchestra is still going strong in Europe.

Anyway, I dusted off the old wind-up Victrola the other day, and got it going again.... actually, that's not strictly true - it's a Technics direct-drive Quartz, and it works very well even after all these years. I'm going to treat it to a new pickup cartridge now that I've located a place still selling them here. And that new cartridge is going to cost much more than this turntable did originally, but if I want to preserve my record collection, I have to keep the needle in good shape. Another trick is to always wash off a record with a warm water spray after your remove it from its jacket, and before playing it. That way, you are always playing a clean record, and it lasts much longer. I have some that are 50 years old and still quite playable. But why am I telling you this? You can't buy a 12-inch LP these days anyway, unless you find it in a second-hand store, and those likely won't be in very good condition. So I'm trying to preserve my three or four hundred for a while yet. So far, so good.

Winter's over, at least temporarily

If you didn't get your winter tires installed the other day, because of the rush and the panic, don't worry - be happy! You don't need them now, unless you're planning on going out of town or up the mountain to the skiing and boarding areas. Speaking of which, let me remind you that those all-season tires are not considered adequate winter tires by our law enforcement or motor vehicles department. So forget what they told you when you were buying them - if winter tires are required, and you think your all-seasons will do, you're wrong. Back to the tire shop, Kiddies!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

More winter weather -

This isn't the blizzard of 2010, but it will have to do for now, because the monsoons are scheduled to return by the weekend. Just one thing after another.

An update on my Brachytherapy and its follow-up....

To review, I had a PSA reading of 15.0 and rising just before Brachytherapy on April 13, 2010.  That procedure, by the way, takes about 45 minutes and was less painful and much less messy than a standard prostate biopsy. I had two of those biopsies before being chosen for the Brachytherapy procedure, so I know.

About two months after that, the first follow-up showed a PSA reading of 8.2, which was good, but not really something to write home about. This latest test this week, at about the seven-months-later mark, shows a PSA of 1.8, which is very good. This tells us that the 100+ radioactive pellets (or 'seeds' as they are called) did in fact create the desired radiation cloud around and within the prostate, and that localized constant radiation has killed the cancerous activity in it. 

It being now just past seven months since the 'seeds' were implanted, and those having a half-life of about 90 days, the radiation  level within the prostate is now considerably reduced from its initial level, but its job has effectively been done already, and from now on, it's a matter of the radiation continuing to fade to none, and the body's normal cell activities resuming their usual functions, wherever possible.

I never did "glow in the dark" or set off any electronic security alarms, and that's been a definite disappointment, but I can live with it in view of the rest being such a success. And before I go, let me assure you that I can recommend this to anyone whose tests indicate a suitable candidate for the procedure. So if your urologist is one of those guys who believes in "watch & wait" until your PSA goes through the roof, get him to give you a referral to your local Cancer Clinic and get doing something positive about it.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Another invention of mine.....

This building is now 37 years old, and its fixtures are from the early 1970s, and there have been a few advances in lighting technology since then..... including one or two that I've made for myself. All these fixtures were designed to cast their light directly around a room, causing bright spots and dim spots, and glare on any shiny surface you might be trying to look at - like a monitor screen, or the keys on a keyboard. So I grabbed some handy junk, and put together this one which uses the ceiling as a reflector and diffuser. It's basically a plastic bowl, lined with aluminum foil, shiny side up, to bounce the light from two bulbs onto the ceiling, from where it spreads around the room very nicely. Maybe it looks like hell, but it works better than anything that came with the place, and now I don't need an eye shade to keep the glare off my glasses. Works for me!

Let in Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow......

I had to get this today, because it will be warming up and turning to rain by the coming weekend. Our snowflakes are so big out here, it only takes four of them to make a dozen.....

Older Than We Thought -

Would I lie to you ? Are you sure ?

Does your Windows PC need a CPU tune-up? - Probably....

And I have found a nice little program that can do all that automatically for you without you needing to jump into the act hardly ever. It's a freebie for home users, but a buy-it for commercial applications. It installs easily, and it seems to work OK. 

You can find it right here.

How long to keep it in the cupboard/fridge/freezer ?

Here's a set of scans I did of a little household hints book in the section about how long to keep things in the cupboards, or the fridge, or the freezer. For a lot of us, it's a topic we don't often think about, and yet we should - so here's the list, for you to save for yourself......

You should file these somewhere handy, or print them out for reference.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Do these look good, or what?

I took this scan just before I washed them off and put them into a bowl with some vanilla ice cream, and commenced to enjoy them. They were delicious! Look for them in your nearest Safeway store.

Dark Side of the Moon

Pink Floyd, where are you when I need you? And please don't say "1973".....

Meanwhile, back here in The Great White North, the sun is coming over the hill and it's going to be a humdinger of a day. Try to enjoy it, because there's only 32 days left until you-know-when, Kiddies. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas....

Since this was taken this morning, there's been a nasty north wind which has now blown a lot of the snow off those trees, and it's colder than a mother-in-law's heart out there. This would be a great evening to sit around the open fire, roasting chestnuts, or toasting marshmallows, or just gazing into the fire as you sip on some well-aged grog. Or maybe have a couple of fingers of genuine Moskovskaya in your coffee. Now that's coffee - especially when it's 25 F outside.
Stay warm, Tovarishch !

Sunday, November 21, 2010

It's Winter out there - Time for fresh Raspberries!

Fresh from Driscoll's in Watsonville, California, the very best raspberries  I've tasted in the past 40 years, with Safeway's vanilla ice cream - Yummy!!!

Where's Watsonville?  Right about there.... and they maybe should have named it Driscollville. There's Driscolls all over there. One of their places is called 'The Berry Store'......

And this is The Berry Store....that parking lot full of what looks like a row of big filter cigarettes is actually a row of 18-wheelers for hauling the produce in and out. And they also have a website with recipes and all like that, if you just click this link. 

Did I mention that Safeway still has these berries on sale in West Van? 

Here's the farm where my berries were grown. How do I know? There's a code on the label on the bottom of the little clamshell pack they come in, and if you go onto their website and follow the link for finding the farm, you can enter that code into a form, and then click a link which takes you to the farm's page.
Is that a nice touch or what? When these folks say they're the best they aren't kidding - they can prove it.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Another panorama test....

This is a 2-image panorama taken with the canon G9, mostly to test the G9's Image Stabilization, but also to get Microsoft's I.C.E. (Image Composite Editor) installed and working on this particular PC. Everything seems to be OK.


First snowfall in the city this winter....

A flash image out the window showing how thick it is out there.....

Looking down toward the parking lot across the street......

The view across the street without the flash creating interference. It's not a full-blown blizzard by any means, but you'd be surprised at how just a little snow or slush on our streets here can cause absolute chaos in the traffic. These local yokels, for all their supposed expertise in skiing or other winter sports, seem to have absolutely no clue about winter driving techniques or how to prepare their vehicles for it. So the smart ones among us wait for a few hours after a snowfall, until the streets are once again usable and the initial panic and fender-benders are over. Then, we can enjoy driving through the snow, listening to "Santa Claus is Coming To Town" on the stereo, and feeling all warm and Christmasy. And feeling rather smug, because once again we've avoided the fate of many of our fender-bending fellow motorists. The trick to winter driving in slushy, slippery, snowy conditions? Don't make any sudden moves! Do everything gradually, carefully, and gently. Don't stomp on the brakes or jerk the wheel - if you do, you've just lost it. And stay the hell away from the rear of that idiot up in front of you. Togetherness is NOT the object of this exercise.  Get the picture?


Friday, November 19, 2010

Late Night - Too Late ?

Each of these self-important ego-trippers thinks he's a real wit, and is only half right.

Late night TV is proof that we can't solve problems at the same level of intelligence with which those were created. Real humor is more than fart jokes and sucking up to celebrities who are there simply to flog their latest projects which try to prove that mediocrity is the new excellence in entertainment.  Uncle Miltie and Red Skelton are probably rolling over in their graves. The world isn't going to self-destruct with a huge bang - it's slowly dying of boredom and disgust.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Complaint of The Week !

If my readers are reluctant to click on the word 'Comments' below, and then use the little box provided for those, then perhaps I ought to do a little rant after all here myself. I got onto this aggravation the other day when I noticed in the renovations mess at the nearby supermarket a new set of eight checkouts, all designed for self-serve checking out of your own purchases.

Speaking to a couple of the gals who work there, I learned that if management chooses to put one of the staff in charge of those 8 checkouts, it would only be the one staff member, not one for each of the checkouts. I was also told that management says these will not lead to any cuts in normal staff. I don't believe that for a second - I'm 78 now, and I've already heard, smelled and sometimes tasted every variety of bullshit, pure and otherwise, known to man or beast on this overpopulated warlike little planet, including statements like that which usually precede the handing out of pink slips amid gnashing of teeth, depression and often cussing. Management was also reported to have said that these self-serve checkouts were meant just for the computer-literate younger set who didn't want to wait for personal service. I found that one rather insulting, because I'm very computer literate myself, and I'm no pimply youngster, but I do get impatient when the bullshit gets up around my knees, or some bastard takes me for a retarded Mongoloid idiot and tries to feed me what the birds eat.

More recently, I went shopping at Safeway in West Vancouver, and had a little chat there with one of the gals who has been there for quite a long time about all this self-serve stuff. She gave me the Safeway perspective on that, and told me that it really is an industry trend, although it remains to be seen if it's a good one or not. She said Safeway, like the now-renovating Save On Foods in North Vancouver, does have these new checkouts in some stores, but she quickly added that they wouldn't likely put any into the store in West Van (where we were) because, as she said, "Our clientele simply wouldn't stand for it." I replied, "And as part of that clientele, I heartily endorse that point of view, because I'll be damned if I'm going to do my own checkouts to save the store the cost of a staff member, and still pay them the full prices they expect for the merchandise. There's a difference between being a little crazy and being just plain stupid." She said, "That's pretty-much how most of us feel about it too - enjoy your day!"


One of the best CDs there are.....

Linda, wherever you are, I could kiss your cute little posterior until you barked like a fox! In the words of Star Trek's Spock, "May you live long and prosper."

This is Linda in 1976, the year before the first Victoria's Secret store was opened and before she really needed to visit one. Like the man said, "It's what's 'Up Front' that really counts!" and Linda leaves very little to our imagination here. Linda obviously had a lot more going for her than just a world-class singing voice, and she wasn't afraid to prove it. Good on her!


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

After the storm front passed

The Moon came out, and went surfing on some thin clouds about 1:30 a.m.


Monday, November 15, 2010

We're getting some wild weather this evening.....

But first, a look at this evening's sunset, slightly improved by a trip through PhotoStudio 5.5 and some cropping. It wasn't quite this bright in real life. Ah, the marvels of editing programs!

And as long as I'm editing things, here's a preview of the full moon on November 21st..... and do I hear you asking "What are we - stupid?" - No, Kiddies, you ain't! So, what is this, then? This is one of the best shots of a full moon I ever took, except it isn't a moon at all - it's the 10-inch milk-glass globe of my hanging lamp over the bed, taken without flash of course, and then with the background blacked out to simulate a night sky. Works for me! It's even a better color than the real thing I think.

Meanwhile, what about this wild weather? There's another strong frontal system going through this evening, and it brought with it a brief but very loud thunderstorm a while back, followed by clearing sky and stars visible, and lately some strong winds. My pie-plate "flying saucer" out on the deck is certainly flying tonight. It keeps periodically crashing into another one nearby and getting dented, so after this I'll have to fix it I guess, or make a new one. But one thing that I'm learning from it is that the air currents outside on the deck are a lot more complex than I'd ever imagined. Those two pie-plate "flying saucers" are doing loops and dives and circles and all sorts of wild maneuvers and clanging loudly whenever they hit each other. Who needs wind chimes?


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Friday, November 12, 2010

Today's 'Question Everything' -

If 'geese' is the plural of 'goose', why isn't 'meese' the plural of 'moose' ?


Friends keep sending me pictures....

A lady friend sent this the other day, with some comment about the male shutting up the female here, and being the impetuous fool that I am, I put a suitably smart-assed text into the upper left corner, and sent it back to her..... Bad Move, Exlax!

She asked me to remove it, and send back the now-enlarged image - so I did, and here's what it now looks like, without the comment, "Aw, Shut Up! You're all the same - all feathers and no ass!"


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Last sunset as a 77-year-old.....

Told ya it was gonna be a nice day! The Weather Gods must have agreed, because it was.

If this looks slightly out-of-focus to you, that's because (A) there's thin clouds up there, and (B) it was taken on the Pentax X70 at 24X optical zoom, which means there's a lot of noise in it, and I do mean a lot. I haven't found any totally effective removal program for that noise, including the one called 'Neat Image' which brags that it's the best there is.  To them, I would say what my first father-in-law used to say about such things: "You should try to get the best there is, because the best is usually none too good." And to the folks at Neat Image, may I simply say, "Keep up the fair work - you'll get it right eventually we all fervently hope."

And Dear Mr. Google - you poor misguided code-writer you - please try harder to fix the formatting here for text so that when I reach the end of a line, or wish to reach the end of a line, or want to reach the end of a line, I can actually do so by hitting the 'Enter' key and having the cursor move DOWN one line - not up several, or freeze where it is, or require itself to be forced into moving by means of a combination of the down arrow + Enter key. Today's Question Everything has got to be: "What the hell were you thinking when you got to this part of the design process?" Or did you even get that far? Did you quit early for lunch and forget to finish this afterward, or what? Will you ever re-visit this project and actually finish the goddamned thing? If so, prove it! - Go Ahead, - Surprise me!


Today's Snow Report, right from the hills....

It's going to be another lovely day in Lotusland, folks..... Don't you wish you were here?


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Just when you think you've seen everything, you haven't !

This came in the afternoon's emails.....

Congratulations Ray,

My name is Matthew Feldman, and I work for Pioneer Emergency's web team.  We have been searching the blogosphere for interesting and timely senior blogs.  You have been selected by Pioneer Emergency as a top senior related blog!  We scoured hundred of blogs and you have been selected as one of the best on the Internet.  Please accept our hearty congratulations from Pioneer Emergency!  We were very selective in or criterion, and so many blogs did not get included in our top
blog list.

Firstly, we would like to send you a $20 Amazon gift card as a prize. Please tell us the email address to send the gift card to and we will have it sent right away.

Secondly, you can see a link to your blog as well as the other winners online here: http://www.pioneeremergency.com/top-senior-blogs/.  Tell your friends, blog about it, or just link back.

Thirdly, each prize winner is entitled to display an e-trophy with the name of the award on it.  Please go to http://www.pioneeremergency.com/top-senior-blogs/award_images_page.php, and select the trophy that matches your category.

Fourthly, we would invite you to try or gift 3 months of our Medical Alarm system.  A medical alarm system is a combination of a medical alert pendant and a base unit.  In case of an emergency, a fall, a stroke, or another acute condition, pressing the wireless button alerts the base station which calls the central station.  The central station is manned around the clock with dedicated medical alarm operators.  Depending on the type of situation, the paramedics or family may be notified.  To take advantage of this offer, write me back with the name and phone number of the person who you would like to receive the unit, and we will call them and arrange shipping and set up.  If you want to continue after the 3 month gift, the monthly rate is $29.95.

Thanks for your time and congratulations.  Again, please let me know how you want to receive the Amazon gift certificate. 
Matthew Feldman
I thanked him for his award, but graciously declined his offer. I don't provide free advertising for products or services that I haven't yet tried and can't personally vouch for. I don't shop on Amazon, and so the $20 voucher wouldn't be of any use to me. And I resent having someone try to manipulate me perhaps because they think I'm some dull-witted old fart who wouldn't see through their little scheme. I can't say I'm older than 'bullshit' but I am certainly familiar with that pungent aroma as it wafts my way.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Not about UFOs - maybe about DKIs.....

This picture isn't of this morning's conditions, but it is so much the same, I'm using it anyway - it is from yesterday morning early - before it went bad again. If we don't like the weather around here, we simply wait for half an hour. Sure as God made little green apples before big ones, some different stuff will come flying over the hills.

Google here still hasn't fixed the text formatting for these new-style blog templates - and I'm still cussing as I try to outsmart the cursor as it flies off in wrong directions when I try to get it to come down one line and start at the left end of it, like any other text editor might. Was this designed in India perhaps? Where they think they know English, but they're sadly mistaken? I mention that in passing only because my phone just rang, at 8:30 a.m., and the caller was one of those DKIs from a call center somewhere, I'm guessing, in the Punjab or some other part of Bunga-Bunga about two generations removed from what's happening on this side of the world at shortly after the crack of dawn on a Monday morning when I'm not in the mood to argue with some jabbering semi-literate disembodied voice on the phone!

And I hear you asking, "What's a 'DKI', Ray?" - so I'll tell you. I got this straight from one of our own proudly North American Indians - 'buckskins' as we affectionately call them - whose name is Sandy Bull, not to be confused with 'Sitting Bull', 'Standing Bull' nor 'Shooting Bull'....and my pal Sandy said: "Whazaamatta wid youze? Born stupid and been losing ground ever since, or what? Everybody in the tribe knows that a 'DKI' is a 'Different Kinda Indian' - not to be confused with us Good Guys!"  Sandy almost always was accompanied by his helper and sidekick, Norman, who was almost-never called by his name. When I first met them, I asked Sandy who his friend was, and Sandy replied, "That's '99'!" I replied, "Stop kidding around and just tell me his name please." Sandy forced himself to be serious  for a moment, and said, "His name's Norman, but we all call him '99' because he's too short to make a full buck."

I turned to Norman and said, "Norman, can I hold this guy for you while you bite him on the ankle or kick him in the kneecap or something?" Norman said, "Nah! but thanks anyway - I'm used to it by now and I just consider where it comes from. He's still trying to adjust to the fact that when you Whiteys first showed up, we had the land, and you had the Bibles, and now we have the Bibles and you have the land." I said, "Not me! I don't own a nickel's worth of it. But let me buy you a coffee anyway...."


Sunday, November 7, 2010

The UFO, close-up, after dark. (It just won't go away!)

And do try this at home, Kiddies! All you need are two matching aluminum pie plates, a stapler, some string, your camera, and an editing program for photos on your computer.

Before you staple the two plates together around their outer rim, mark the center of the one you will use for the top, and punch a small hole in it, just big enough for a string to hang it up. Be sure you tie a big knot on the end of the string that's inside the plate, so it won't pull out through the hole. Then, staple the rims together like the picture, and hang it up somewhere like out on the porch or the balcony, where you can take its picture as if it were actually flying.  Later, after the photo is on your computer, you can use the photo editor program to remove the string from your picture, and then do whatever else you like to make it look like a UFO..... I didn't do this very well, but this is only my first attempt. I will probably get better next time..... if those guys with the white coats don't get me first. Enjoy your day, everyone.


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Forget Little Green Men ..... these are much bigger

It was a dull afternoon, so I built myself a UFO and took its picture, just for you!

Friday, November 5, 2010

The mists of time......

It's that kind of day, Folks..... between the Bikini Season and the Ski Season, we have this. The good news is, it's easy to shovel, and it's good for the lawns.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Today's best looking tree.....

The traffic on the highway behind it is on the Trans Canada Highway in West Vancouver, B.C.


Before and after.....

Before sunrise.......

And after - with the sun on the windows in British Properties, West Vancouver.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Almost obscured by clouds....

There's an always-changing pattern of clouds around these peaks.


Monday, November 1, 2010

More leaves....

A solitary yellow among all that green.