Friday, September 30, 2011

Last sunrise of September, 2011

From this.............

 To this......... in just a few minutes. Aren't sunrises and sunsets wonderful? But we don't dare take our attention away for a moment, or it's all different.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Another night, another 3:00 AM, another bathroom trip -

Isn't 'old age' simply delightful? Waking up at 3:00 A.M., when most people are sleeping peacefully, and stumbling half-awake into the bathroom, and then sitting there, waiting for nature to get on with whatever it brought you here for, and yes, I do sit, mostly because I'm too tired to stand around feeling stupid while there's nothing happening. 

Actually, I do some of my best thinking sitting there on the 'throne' contemplating the human condition while my sleepy old brain returns to the conscious world from dreamland once again. This morning, for example, I was thinking back over a nice conversation I had yesterday with my youngest son, Jason. He and I are so much alike in so many ways that it's actually frightening. As I inadequately tried to tell him yesterday again, I fervently hope that he can somehow avoid the pitfalls of relationships into which I tumbled headlong and impulsively. Neither of us is stupid but neither of us was given a whole lot of natural self-control, either. So we have to use the artificial kind, prescribed by our doctor, and contrary to our own personal convictions, we are not smarter than medical science and biochemistry. Inside me, for example, there's a scared little kid, wishing he had the right questions, never mind the right answers. And we all need whatever help we can get, usually.

From there, to the bigger picture, I got thinking that it's really not a lack of any scientific or technological advancements which are holding us back as a species. It's always been our continuing lack of self-control both as individuals and as nations which has kept us in the 'dark ages' of real progress. So if we tried a little harder to 'look before we leap' and to resist the urge to ignore the advice of better heads than our own, and perhaps 'taste our own words before turning them loose on others' who knows how much better the world around might be?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Part of the Family Tree....

My maternal grandparents and their children, from about 1904. My mother is the little girl in the back, wearing the white-collared dress, beside her older sister.  I had never seen this picture until this copy was emailed to me about a week ago by my cousin Dale's wife, Barbara, and my sincere thanks to them both for it.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Making your own quick shutdown for Windows 7

This is a screenshot of Command Prompt's little window which appears when you choose it from the little menu which pops up if you click the Start button, or if you type in 'CMD' (without the quotes) into the little Search box above Start. I've got it showing the various parameters you can use for its various functions.

For example: Let's say that I want to make a desktop shortcut which with one click will immediately shut down the computer. And let's say I want to tell it just how I would like it to do that. I would use some of those parameters from the list above. (To see them more clearly, please click the image to enlarge it)

To make the shortcut, pick an empty spot on your desktop, then right-click for a menu. Choose 'New' and click it. On the sub-menu which appears, click on 'Shortcut' to open another little window. At the flashing cursor in the box under 'Type the location of the item', type in the following, exactly as shown, because the spacing is important, and this is where we use those parameters expressed above as forward slashes followed by a single letter, after we've typed the main part of the address.

C:\Windows\system32\shutdown.exe /s /f /t 05

So that's C:\Windows\system32\shutdown.exe(a single space)/s(another single space)/f(another single space)/t(another single space)05. And what does that tell Windows? It says: Using shutdown.exe, shut down my computer (the /s), and force-close any open programs without notification (the /f), and do that within five seconds (the /t 05). You can leave off that /t for time and the 05 for the number of seconds if you like. That part's not really essential, because there's a default time setting of 30 seconds anyway - but if you want to make sure it shuts down quickly, then you can add that /t and a space and two digits for the number of seconds.

You can also make a similar shortcut for a quick Reboot, and it would be composed like the shutdown one, except in place of that first /s you would use a /r and you can still use the /f for "force-close" next if you wish, but you don't need anything about the timing, because it's not necessary. So the one for the Reboot looks like: C:\Windows\system32\shutdown.exe /r /f

After typing either of those file-path addresses into that little box, then simply click on Next down below to continue. That takes you to a new window where you can name your new shortcut. The first would simply be Shutdown, and the other of course would be Reboot. Then find yourself a couple of icons to use for those in place of the generic ones that will appear as you've gone through that creation process, and you're done. One click on either of those, and your computer does what it was told. But I hasten to add here, you have to have it set to respond to a single click instead of the default double.

And for those of you who are thinking 'this is the same trick we used with XP' you're right - but there's one key difference: the one for XP used a dash before each letter in the parameters, instead of a forward slash. That's important if you want it to work properly. So remember: slash not dash.

About writing.....

Recently, I was 'discovered' by my long-lost American cousin and his wife, the family's genealogist. She has written several nice 'newsy' emails, while my cousin has exercised admirable restraint by contributing only a couple of briefer ones. He excuses the brevity by saying it comes from his training as an engineer.

I'm more of the James Michener school of writing. He said, "In six pages, I can't even say 'hello'." So this morning, I started looking through a little book of quotations that I've had for a few years now. Its title is 'Quotations With An Attitude' (Roy L.Stewart, Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., New York, NY) and its pages are mostly loose from the binding now. That's why they were numbered, and I'm thankful for that. 

I was looking in it just now for a quote I thought came from Oscar Wilde, because old Oscar usually had something to say about almost everything, whether he had any real knowledge of it or not. But this time, it wasn't from him it came; it was from good old Anonymous: "In Ireland, a writer is looked upon as a failed conversationalist."

Someone once said that those who pepper their writing with quotations are either lazy or lack imagination. Not necessarily. Why should I wrack my brain for something witty when I can simply 'borrow' the wit of better writers? It's the results I'm after. And as our electrical engineering boss at the old Power Commission in Ottawa many years ago once said, while admiring my little shelf of engineering handbooks, "Half the battle of being an engineer is knowing where to quickly find the answers, and you've got most of those right there in those handbooks." I replied, "Dave, please help yourself to them any time you like. That's why I got them - so that they are handy when needed."

Dave insisted that I should attend the weekly brainstorming sessions where the various engineers and our bosses would discuss the latest ongoing projects and offer improvements or suggestions. I felt totally beyond my depth, being a 'gold-plated nobody' as one of the technologists put it so well. I sat there usually with a letter-sized pad and a soft 2B pencil, making quick sketches of subjects under discussion - sort of an 'artist's conception' of what Joe, our boss, had in mind. Dave told me that he wished some of our engineers had that gift of visualizing how a project might come together. He sounded rather envious at the time. So maybe 'the gold-plated nobody' made a useful contribution after all.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Hard to believe, but........

This was last evening's sunset. Looking out at the windy, rainy weather of today, it's safe to say that's not happening this evening.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Speaking of exceeding the speed of light.....

With all the chatter about scientists having broken the 'light barrier' like the sound barrier was broken in October, 1947, this immediately prompts today's 'Question Everything' - "How can we see where we're going, if we're going faster than our equipment is capable of detecting and delivering information on what's ahead?"

And that probably calls for a new definition of 'ahead'. How do we determine a safe distance in front of our craft, for accident avoidance and navigation, if we're unable to 'see' anything that's out there? So if you're thinking that all that seems like some kind of suicide mission, you may be absolutely right.

As long as we're contemplating things like this, how about those guys who talk about parallel universes, and black holes?  I don't doubt the possibility of the existence of parallel universes, because truth is stranger than fiction, but if as they say, black holes are gobbling up matter in our universe, and probably spewing it out at the other end of that inescapable vortex within its event horizon, then why doesn't that process in our neighboring parallel universe result in their own black holes spewing out 'new' matter into our universe here?  If we're sending them the hearts of our galaxies, what are they sending us?

Or maybe we're looking at this all wrong - maybe this is the inevitable conclusion to the original Big Bang. Maybe those black holes are how everything in our universe will eventually fade away again into wherever it originated from in the first place. Something like the way a cloud of steam evaporates into thin air.

On the subject of the Big Bang, and the fact that hydrogen is said to be the commonest element in the universe, is it just me, or have any of you put those two thoughts together and come up with 'hydrogen bomb'? Is our universe the product of someone else's nuclear testing program in some gigantic parallel universe? Old Uncle Albert was working towards a "theory of everything", and so far, that remains undiscovered. Maybe if we had it, we could 'reverse-engineer' whatever's here now, and work it backward to that original Big Bang, and compare it to whatever happens within a really big hydrogen bomb during its explosion. So I guess what I'm asking is: are we the product of God, or the product of some unknown madman in some other universe unleashing forces best left in their natural state? We'll never know for sure, of course.

In a lighter moment, Old Uncle Albert once said: "The commonest element in the universe is not hydrogen, but rather stupidity." He followed that up by saying "The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits."

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The speed of light has been exceeded - maybe....

One headline says 'CERN Scientists 'break the speed of light' ' while another one says 'Einstein may be wrong - relatively speaking'.

The scientific world is all a-flutter because scientists in Switzerland fired streams of neutrinos at collectors 500 miles away in Italy, and those neutrinos arrived at the target collectors 60 nanoseconds faster than the speed of light, and 60 billionths of a second isn't a whole lot.

So today's Question Everything is: "Has the accepted speed of light always been incorrectly measured by a miniscule 60 nanoseconds, making old Uncle Albert's theory currently still correct, or is Captain Janeway foretelling the future as she confidently orders 'Ahead warp six!' and everything emitting light around them, except inside Voyager of course, blurs to elongated streaks just prior to vanishing into the gloom?"

To digress a moment, (may I?), when Voyager accelerates to warp speed, why aren't all the crew plastered all over the walls like fresh paint?  Haven't you ever wondered? That kind of acceleration logically ought to create such powerful G-forces that almost nothing could survive it, probably including Voyager itself.

And Old Uncle Albert's famous theory isn't only about who gets there first, - the electromagnetic radiation known as light, or the neutrinos normally produced during nuclear reactions such as inside the sun, hence the name solar neutrinos. His theory also says that as we approach the speed of light with any object of significant mass, the required energy to create the necessary acceleration or perhaps I should say 'speed' approaches the infinite - so we can't exceed the speed of light ourselves, because we can't harness enough energy to do it. Neutrinos might, because they have an extremely small mass - almost none, and no electrical charge to slow them down passing through normal atoms. So they don't play by the same rules that we'd have to, if we wanted to fly around the universe at speeds exceeding that of light. And don't let the good Captain Janeway tempt you to believe otherwise, Kiddies.

The Google Doodle today....

Pete replies to my apology....

You are forgiven ---Geez I feel like Father Sullivan --- just say 3 Hail
Mary's ---- and of course put some extra coin in the collection plate.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Time flies when you're answering email

Today, I learned that I'm not very good at multi-tasking.  I was trying to reply to two different sets of emails, and I made a mistake with at least one of them. I was receiving and replying to emails from a long-lost cousin and his charming wife down in Georgia, while my old pal from my days with Ontario Hydro in the 1950s was sending me emails asking about his Windows 7, and how to find one of its normally-hidden system folders.  He sent me a marked-up screenshot  of his problem, but I was so wrapped up in the other conversation, I didn't notice that there was an attachment included on his.

So Pete, if you're reading this, again my humble apologies. And I hope that by now, you've found the Windows Themes folder that's tucked away inside your normally-hidden AppData folder, using the path C:\Users\(your user name)\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Themes. Creating your own new Theme in there is easy and fun. Just create a new folder in that Themes one, and give it a name like MyPics, and then open that new one, and inside it create another new one named DesktopBackground. Into it, put the pictures you'd like to use for a new theme, suitably re-sized to match your desktop's native resolution. (Example: mine's 1680 by 1050). Number them consecutively, and the easiest way to do that is to select them all, and then right-click one of them and choose "rename" from the little menu, and then under the first one in the series, type a left bracket, then your number, then a right bracket, and click on Enter.So that's (01) and hit the Enter key. That will not only number the first one, but all the rest of the series consecutively if they were all selected.

Now that you have them numbered, and still all selected, and inside that folder called DesktopBackground, you can again right-click on one of them in the selection and from the menu that appears, choose Set as Desktop Background. When you click that, your monitor's background image will immediately change to one of your new images, and your new theme will be in use. You can exit those windows, clear the desktop, and then right-click an empty spot anywhere on your desktop, to bring up a little menu, on the bottom of which you will see the word Personalize. Click that to open a new window showing your installed Windows Themes. Your own new one should now be displayed in there as a thumbnail under which it says Unsaved Theme. Click to get a little menu on which you can choose Save, and give it a name. Just add a number to that name you used while creating its new folder earlier: MyPics-01. Then look along the lower portion of that main window for the words Desktop Background under another little thumbnail icon. Click on that to open a new window, inside which you will see your currently-running new theme's DesktopBackground folder's contents, with a little check-mark in the upper left corner of each thumbnail. You can remove or add those check-marks by clicking on them, and by doing so, you will be adding or subtracting those particular images from the ones being actively displayed as the theme changes from image to image. They all remain available, but only the ones having a check-mark will be used on your monitor.

Before you leave that window, look along the lower portion for the choices for Picture Position (usually "fill" to fill the whole screen) and Change Picture Every, where you select a time in the little window below those words. The choices range from ten seconds to 24 hours to keep each image visible on the monitor. Pick whatever makes you giggle, and then click on Save Changes, and close the window. You have now created your new theme and it is operating in the Windows system Themes folder, just like Microsoft's original equipment ones. You can make as many as you like. I have over fifty in mine and they're all happy with one another.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Our American-Canadians hunted by the IRS.....

Margaret Wente, herself an American who moved to Canada many years ago, has written this column in The Globe about how the American IRS is after its former residents for not filing U.S. tax returns even if they have no U.S. income or assets.

Even those who are now Canadian citizens aren't considered as such by the IRS, which seems to have trouble with the meaning of 'Internal' in Internal Revenue Service. I have to wonder why they aren't going through proper channels and dealing with our own Canada Revenue Agency, which now collects taxes from the people the Americans are seeking. This is the most bizarre story I've read lately.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Climbing past my window....

I hope it didn't walk all the way up from the ground, 16 floors.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Tonight's sunset

Into the sunrise.....

Looking outside, before sunrise...

Tommy says it's a nice day back in New York, the state where he lives, and so I thought I'd show what it looks like here at about 20 minutes before 7:00 A.M. - It improved nicely overnight.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

This is the kind of day it is

My thanks to KatKam for the use of this image.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Annual visitor

Getting this little guy's picture isn't easy, because it kept moving quickly, so I had to work fast. After I got it, I put it back outside again. Every year about now, two or three of these find their way past the screens, and get inside. They can walk around on the ceiling like we would on the floor.

Friday, September 16, 2011

I think summer's over.......

It looks like this just now, and it's 55 F outside at the moment, almost like we have around here in the winter. And Sears hasn't yet received this year's supply of new long-johns yet. They said yesterday that I was too early. So is the weather here.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

They call it 'Snail Mail' because......

My sister in Ontario mailed a letter to me on August 30th, and it finally arrived here in North Vancouver today, September 15th.  And I bet they're wondering why they are losing business to the couriers and electronic media like email. A popular courier service can deliver packages from Toronto to Vancouver overnight, so why does it take Canada Post 16 days to deliver a letter? Thirty years ago or more, we had much faster service, because the long distance mail was put on commercial aircraft which had space in their cargo hold to carry it. These days, it's like the old 'Pony Express', except I think that was faster. This is totally ridiculous, especially at today's prices.

It seems like only yesterday.....

Well, maybe not "yesterday", but not all that long ago that I was downloading the first test beta of Windows 7, and anxiously installing it to try it out. That was back in January of 2009, which isn't that long ago.

Earlier this week, in California at a developers conference, the first parts of the new Windows 8 operating system were shown off. Here is a video from the first day of the conference, with Steven Sinofsky, the boss at Microsoft, talking about the new Windows 8. I should add that this is a two and a half hour presentation, so you may not want to try watching it at work.

A lot of us who use only the mouse and keyboard tend to forget that Windows 7 is also touch-enabled, and if you had an HP TouchSmart desktop, you could use the touch features instead of the usual mouse and keyboard. I don't have one of those HP TouchSmart computers myself, but I've tried one out at the mall, and they are a very nice machine. The phone company used to have a motto that went "Let your finger do the walking" and that's what happens on a touch screen. We're being told that the new Windows 8 will run on machines using Windows 7, and in this case, I tend to believe it. During that video and demonstration shown during that conference, they showed comparisons of the resources used during typical tasks on a Windows 8 machine compared to a Windows 7 machine, and it looked to me like the Windows 8 machine was using less resources than Windows 7 does now. But there's always a 'catch' of course - Windows 8 will have new features that require new hardware, so we will still be looking at buying a better computer if we want to use all the goodies.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Remembering summer

This was taken on September 8th, as part of a larger panorama.

Was this the last day of summer?

Today is overcast, and I can't help wondering if yesterday was the last nice day of summer for us. This was taken from the pier near the boat launch ramp at Ambleside Park in West Vancouver last evening about 5:30 PM.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Testing a hard-drive.....

If you have a hard drive in your computer that can't be tested by one of the almost-universal test programs like SeaTools for Windows,  then you will have to search on the manufacturer's site for a test program that can tell you if the drive is healthy.

I have an Acer with a Western Digital hard drive, and after quite a bit of looking, I found Western Digital's link to Data Lifeguard Diagnostics for Windows. This has a set of tests similar to the ones contained in SeaTools for Windows, which I have used on my other Acer with a Seagate hard drive. If using tests on these drives, be careful you don't choose one that might erase your data. It's a good idea to have an external hard drive back-up, just in case.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Before sunrise.....

This was taken about half an hour before sunrise this morning. For a larger view, don't forget to click inside the picture.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

You know summer's over when......

Sunrise is at one minute before 7:00 a.m.

Friday, September 9, 2011

A panorama -

This is the center section of a long panorama I did yesterday, and it shows the beach at Ambleside Park in West Vancouver on the left, and Lions Gate Bridge in the center, and Vancouver's Stanley Park on the right.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Here's where the Hibiscus trees are....

On Bellevue Avenue, in West Vancouver, near Ambleside Park.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Hibiscus, I think.....

In case I'm not correct, please leave me a comment here.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

About touching

All about touching, or not, and how 600 bananas equals a chest x-ray.

It's this kind of day.....

There was a nice outdoor pool behind where they are sitting, until about three years ago, and then it was removed and filled in. Now, there is only one other one on the other side of that property. It has nice deck chairs around it, and I have no idea why they aren't over there.

Saturday, September 3, 2011


Still some last winter snow

That little white 'V'-shaped patch near the center is left-over snow or ice from last winter not melted yet. It's normally long gone by now.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

From Africa....

If I've done my homework properly, this is Pennisetum Setaceum 'Rubrum', and it is native to Africa, and doesn't like the cold or too much water. It's hard to walk by this without being tempted to 'pet' those foxtails. It's about 2 feet high or more.