Monday, December 31, 2012

Sunday, December 30, 2012

"Have we fallen over the Fiscal Cliff yet?"

From the relative safety of the sidelines, I'm watching the game, enjoying my munchies, and not making any bets. Good old Anonymous put it this way: 'A politician can appear to have his nose to the grindstone while straddling a fence and keeping both ears to the ground.'

Why haven't they reached a compromise yet? Because: too many of them spell the word 'compromise' as 's-u-r-r-e-n-d-e-r', and this is a confrontational system in which too many of them would rather die than surrender. Trouble is, it's their own survival and future well-being they're so willing to die rather than surrender to, and they're quite determined to go down with guns blazing, intractable to the bitter end.

As long as I'm leaning heavily on 'Quotations With An Attitude', here's one from George Burns: 'Too bad the only people who know how to run the country are busy driving cabs and cutting hair.' And Gallagher, the guy who liked to smash watermelons on stage with a big wooden mallet, once said: 'You couldn't get the Ten Commandments through Congress if Moses was buying the drinks!' Right on.

Here's a novel idea: why don't they just go ahead and fall over that fiscal cliff, and then learn how to live within their means, instead of going around saying things like: 'Our credit's good - everybody's got it!' Warren Buffett, the third-richest man alive, says that America will survive, because its womenfolk will rise to the occasion and save its ass, or words to that effect. The implication being America's wives and mothers have more sense than its menfolk and especially its politicians. He could be right.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

More musings from 'Oldest Living Blogger'...

When I first started using that 'handle' or nickname, on a community blogging site here that is now defunct because its sponsoring company changed hands, I got a lot of flak from others in our yappy little group because 'you're not old enough!' Well that was then, and this is now, and I'm certainly feeling 'old enough' these days at 80+.

It's once again the middle of the night, or morning, or whatever you'd like to call it, and I'm once again awake from a combination of impatient waterworks and late-night TV. When I woke up, one of those middle-of-the-night infomercials was going on about some kind of superwhite toothpaste that costs about $40 a tube. Hell, I can remember when $40 was a respectable week's pay. And why can't my bladder or kidneys sleep as long as I'd like to? Who's running this show anyway - me or them? Obviously them.

The good news is we're better than halfway through The Silly Season, during which we celebrate traditions of Christmas that aren't really old enough to properly qualify as real honest-to-God traditions, and include mostly ingredients which have little or no actual connection to any legitimate history of Christ or Christianity, if we get right down to it. So we're basically celebrating some popular folktales or myths with which we're just perpetuating the ancient winter solstice celebrations popularized during the days of ancient Rome with their Saturnalia festival which usually was from December 17 to 23. It celebrated their main agricultural god Saturn as well as the 'birth of the sun' as the solstice once again marked the beginning of the lengthening days. Like the old song says, 'Everything old is new again'.

We're now at the part of the Silly Season where we make and break resolutions, and mentally re-bury the famous and semi-famous dead of the past year, and begin to look forward to falling over the Fiscal Cliff, or being snowed in, or taking some of the profits from Christmas business and quietly sneaking off to some tropical vacation spot, if we're lucky enough to be able to do that. And even though prognostications do not appear favorable at the moment, here's hoping we have a Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

New version just released

This really works too. Just today, it found and removed two of the 'bad guys' from my Windows 7 after I'd been surfing on an infected website. I should also add that Avast 7 and Microsoft Security Essentials didn't notice them, but this one did. Now you know why I have it. I also have SuperAntiSpyware which is very good at finding adware and spyware. You can find it here. 

The fiscal cliff explained.....

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

"Yes, Virginia...."

Back in September of 1897, a little eight-year-old girl named Virginia O'Hanlon wrote a letter to The Editor of the New York Sun newspaper, asking if there really was a Santa Claus. An editorial writer there, Francis Pharcellus Church, promptly wrote back to her in the form of an editorial in the paper, published on September 21, 1897, and it has become famous all over the world as "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus". Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

From The Huffington Post, a list.....

Guns keep on killing Americans, as this article tells us.

With roughly one gun per person throughout the country, is it any wonder?

The NRA would tell you that guns don't kill people - people kill people. That's just playing with semantics. The fact is, people can't be trusted with guns because not all of us are responsible and trustworthy. Even those who are don't always remain so, and those who aren't shouldn't be allowed the capability of hurting themselves or others around them. It's called 'common sense' and it is apparently the most uncommon thing around these days, especially in the USA, where the Constitution's Second Amendment has been mistaken for the word of Almighty God on the subject. 

The Second Amendment was adopted on December 15, 1791, along with the rest of the Bill of Rights, which is the collective name for the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution.  And 1791 was 221 years ago. The French Revolution was in full swing, and had been for two years. Sex had been invented, but it would be another 31 years before anyone could photograph it. And it would be another 44 years before Sam Colt patented his famous revolver and 75 years before Winchester introduced the repeating rifle. See where I'm going with this? It was one hell of a long time ago when that Second Amendment was adopted, and the world of 1791 was a very different place than it is today. Back then, the Pope wasn't even considered infallible. It would be another 79 years before he was considered any better than the rest of us two-faced lyin' bastards. Things were different then. Very different. America has come a long way since then. Isn't it time its gun laws caught up with the rest of it?

A very useful program....

I haven't used this particular computer for about ten days, so when I started it up this morning, it obviously needed some updating.  And in addition to your Windows Updates, the handiest program to help you with updating and keeping everything up to date is this one from Secunia called Secunia PSI, for 'Personal Software Inspector'. It will scan your computer and tell you if any of your programs need to be updated. If they are all up to date, it shows a window like this one:-

If any need an update, it can help you obtain it and install it. As we know, keeping programs up to date is one way of maintaining good security on your PC and this helps by reminding you if you have any needing an update.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Media reactions to the NRA

Blaming the media for some of the responsibility for the massacre wasn't the NRA's smartest move, in case they've got one, as they're finding out.

Here's some of the reactions from the press and you've got to admire their restraint.
And perhaps I might be permitted to point out here that in the book of Matthew, in Chapter 26, verse 52, as Jesus was being arrested and one of those with him had taken a sword and cut off the ear of the high priest's servant, Jesus said to him "Return the sword to its place; for all who take swords will die by swords." Logically, the same may be said of those who take up guns. Statistics would seem to bear that out.

More musings from 'Oldest Living Blogger'...

It's another middle-of-the-night bathroom safari time again, and now that I'm awake, I thought I might as well check the news, just in case the world ended after all, like those Mayans predicted. It didn't end, and I think I know why, but that's for another rant entirely.

For now, let's talk for a moment or two about this local 'Catholics Come Home' campaign currently in progress around the Archdiocese of Vancouver. It's a very slick and elaborate 'spin-doctoring' campaign with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. It wants us non-practicing Catholics to 'come home' because they desperately need our bums in the seats and our collections on the plates. They're telling us we've been staying away because we've simply been "too busy" or we had objections to their rules on abortion or contraception. They very carefully avoid any hint of their past sexual abuse scandals, their priests breaking their vows, or their unrealistic attitudes toward divorce and other disgustingly frequent human failings common to not just us Catholics, but everybody.

They did a survey a while back, and found that they had 96,000 Catholics attending Mass around here, out of a possible 460,000 of us. So about 20% of us go to church. I'm tempted to say "the rest of us know better" but that would be an unnecessarily facetious remark. I'm sure there's a lot of very good and decent and righteous people still attending Mass. I haven't been one of them since my divorce in the 1960s, but that also is a rant for some other time. 


I mentioned sexual abuse scandals, and here's why we have a problem with all of that. We're not convinced that there's been a real clean-up, and not just more smoke and mirrors 'spin-doctoring' instead of real action. It appears we have legitimate concerns.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Security programs: Some don't like others

And some that did like others don't after becoming 'new & improved' as I found out this morning during the start-up process on this machine. For a long time, I've been using three different programs, consisting of two anti-virus ones and an anti-spyware.

Today, the anti-spyware kept flagging 11 items in a mix from Avast 7 and Windows files, and yet three other security programs scanned the machine and found nothing wrong. So I had to conclude that it was a false alarm. Then when I tried to send an email to the offending program's home base, I'm politely informed that from today until January 2nd, their customer service is closed for the holidays.

I disabled the offending program's real-time protection which was the part causing the problems, and all's well. But without that real-time protection, their professional version isn't any better than their freebie version, and they aren't even going to know there's a problem for another two weeks.

Update: A reply from SuperAntiSpyware on my problem:-

 " We greatly apologize for the inconvenience.  Due to an issue with a definition release early this morning, SUPERAntiSpyware incorrectly detected and removed certain components of AVAST! software on affected customer PCs.  While we are still trying to determine the cause of this error, we can tell you that it is quite easy to remedy the situation on your computer."

I must confess I misjudged the folks at SuperAntiSpyware - they are aware of the problem and how to fix it, and I'm very grateful for the reply from them. No lives were lost, and all's well that ends well. And while I'm on the subject, their program really is good at finding spyware on a computer - even if sometimes, like today, it gets a little too enthusiastic. What it was detecting as spyware and trojans were actually the parts of the Avast downloader and installer executables which were at that time active in trying to update my Avast program with its latest database files, and all that activity was being seen as a series of threats, when in fact it was just the normal events that always occur during the start-up phase of the program's daily use. Normally, these two programs get along together just fine, and this is the first time I've ever had a conflict between them. Both of them are designed to be compatible with many other security programs, and so this was really quite an unusual event.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Greetings from my federal government...

I got my annual seasonal greetings from my federal government of Canada today, in the form of next month's pensions payment. This means that the federal money that arrived today has to last me for the next 43 days, during which there are two major holidays and the well-known January sales. 

If this is how they express their affection for a life-long citizen and regular taxpayer, then I certainly don't want to find out how they might act if they didn't like me.

Thoughts while reading the news...

Surfing Google's News today, this article caught my eye. That picture is becoming an all-too-familiar sight in today's world, and my next thought had to do with what we really and truly believe in - God or guns?

Another search on the web found an article in which it says a Gallup poll recently found that 41% of Americans say they regularly attend religious services. You have to wonder how those folks define a religious service, when another website claims to have checked those figures and found that only about 21% of Americans and 10% of Canadians actually go to church one or more times a week, while many say they have when they have not. This leaves me with the definite impression that about half of those claiming to be religious are in fact merely lying about it because they'd rather not have others know the truth.

And I'm still wondering: what do Americans really place their faith in - their God, or their guns? Based on the observable evidence, it would seem that they pay lip service to their God, but put their money on their guns. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Need a gift idea?

For someone who watches a lot of TV movies, or even for someone who asks, "Who was in that movie?" you just can't beat VideoHound's Golden Movie Retriever. This is a hefty book, with loads of information, written with brevity and wit.

For example, the other night, I was watching an old Billy Crystal epic on the late show called 'Memories of Me' and I wanted to recall the name of one of the actors, so I grabbed VideoHound's book, and looked it up. I not only found what I was looking for, but got a good smile out of their description of that movie:- "...Story of child/parent relationships attempts to pull at the heart-strings but only gets as far as the liver. Co-written and co-produced by Crystal, this film never quite reaches the potential of its cast." This is just one of about 31,000 reviews in the book.

And for those of you who aren't bookish, here's VideoHound on line. I hasten to add here however that the on-line version, while still containing plenty of nearly-current information, hasn't been kept up since June 5th, 2011. The book itself is revised on an annual basis, to include the latest releases, and perhaps the website was competing with the book sales. The book also contains information on directors and others who are associated with these productions, and is a paperback of 1921 pages. The last year's copy also makes one hell of a doorstop, in case you need one.

The morning weather...

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

More pictures...

The sun is breaking through the clouds in places...

And this is also part of West Vancouver's British Properties,
looking very Christmasy indeed.

Today's pictures

Monday, December 17, 2012

Sunday, December 16, 2012

After the massacre

An opinion writer in The Washington Post asks us in effect 'How often must this happen?' That's an excellent question, and overdue. 

I'm not living in America myself - I'm 35 or 40 miles north of your border in Canada, but let's face it, America - you've got the world's number one military with more firepower than anybody. Here's the website that says so. So today's Question Everything has got to be: "Why do you need gun laws that allow any mentally challenged or disturbed individual easy access to automatic weapons that most of the rest of the civilized world considers restricted weapons the access to which is limited to trained and authorized personnel for specific purposes?"

Who is running America these days - the government or the goddamned NRA? Some of us bystanders in the cheap seats here would really like to know. Does the NRA support the survivors of these massacres, comfort the loved ones, and replace lost incomes, or even apologize for its own stupidity? Of course not! So why are you letting them go on misinterpreting your Constitution's section about the right to bear arms? Remember the context in which that Constitution was written. It was a long time ago, and prior to that, the original colonies were under British jurisdiction and they made the laws, some of which regulated who could run around loose with guns. There were definite restrictions because those Brits were shipping their convicts to your colonies, and they feared an uprising, and justifiably so.

Your Constitution's part about the right to bear arms in its original context was intended to allow ordinary citizens to bear arms for their own defense against a possible attack from outside their own colonies - to repel an invasion in other words, and prevent the British or anyone else from imposing their will on the American people against the wishes of the citizenry. It wasn't meant to allow just any trigger-happy nitwit the right to carry all the weapons he could lift, and blast away at anything that seemed like a likely target. The nation's founders weren't idiots, and neither should you be, no matter what you hear from the NRA or its lobbyists and special interest groups.

Season's Greetings

The only thing constant in life is change, as they say. Traditional greeting cards have had their day, and the latest trend is an electronic variety. You can go to a special website where they will send out an animated greeting card on your behalf for a moderate cost. In other words, you hire some total stranger to send a friend their version of what you would like to say to that distant friend. How personal is that? 

So I like to make my own. There are a couple of ways you can go - if you have a nice graphics editing program and a pen tablet, or your computer is capable of that job itself, then you can make your own 'by hand' as it were; the other way being as above, wherein I found a nice picture of a peaceful pastoral scene, and added my own caption.

The cheapskate's basic all-purpose generic greeting with minimal personalization, in other words. So, to everyone out there in the nebulous indistinctness of cyberspace, I wish you all the very best of this festive season, whatever you choose to call it.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Microsoft Support..... or not.

When I got this computer new, it came with an Nvidia graphics card that was quite adequate but certainly not spectacular. It worked OK on Windows 7, and it did have its own built-in RAM, but not a lot. So when I first started testing the beta for Windows 8 I had it replaced by an ATI Radeon HD 5450 which has one Gig of its own memory, the reasoning being that Windows 8 is even more graphics-intensive than Windows 7. And the new graphics card works wonderfully well.

The problem isn't with the graphics card, it is with Windows Updates which keeps trying to offer me updates for the long-gone Nvidia graphics card. So I thought I'd send a little 'heads-up' to Microsoft about it, and I contacted Microsoft Support. After providing my Microsoft I.D. and all that, I finally got onto a page that offers live chat with one of their resident experts. There's only one problem with that: if they actually do something for you, then there's a charge of $99.00 for the service. My Windows 7 Home Premium cost me a little more than that, but not much, and my Windows 8 Pro cost me less than half of that - just over $44 with tax. So if you have problems, it's probably cheaper to throw out the operating system entirely and install a fresh version rather than pay Microsoft to try to fix it. You can re-install Windows in about 45 minutes, and you won't have to play "20 questions" with a Microsoft Tech, or spend another hundred bucks for doing it. ( I didn't buy their help, by the way - I was simply trying to let them know that Windows Updates can use a little more work on its fine tuning.)

And if you get really choked up over your Windows problems, and want to try something entirely different and yet entirely free for the taking, you can always get a copy of PC-BSD 9.0 which looks and acts a lot like a cross between Windows and a Mac, and comes with plenty of also-free add-ons in the form of programs with which to fluff it out and pump it up and make it a real 'giant-killer'..... So I just wanted to mention all this, before you whip out your credit card and make Microsoft considerably richer without sufficient provocation. Because? Because - there's always more than one way to skin a cat. 

This is a screenshot of the desktop of PC-BSD 9.0 showing a few of its Widgets - the main ones - which open up all sorts of other possibilities. I'm still learning about most of those, so I can't give you a long story just yet, but I can say that I'm very surprised and impressed by everything that this operating system contains, and the many items that can be added to it. It is a very detailed and carefully planned system, and you ought to take a look at it for yourself. You will, of course, need to create a new partition on your drive to make a place for it, but that's not a big problem. And in case you may be wondering, there is a very nice selection of programs, and more than one of each type, from which to choose when you want a particular application for a specific set of tasks, so there is a variety of things available and you aren't limited to simply one or two or 'take it or leave it'. There's plenty of choices.
It puts its competition in a whole other light, lets say - and if you try it, then you'll see what I mean. This is a very nice operating system.

Here is a different background, and the main portion of it is displaying the many choices available in graphics programs - just to illustrate what I said earlier about having plenty of choices. Very nice!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Another look at winter



Something Google would rather you didn't discover...

No wonder governments are having trouble collecting enough taxes to cover all of their expenditures when multinationals like Google stash their cash in tax havens like Bermuda to avoid paying their full share in various nations where they make fortunes.

And on top of that, Google's 'in your face' promotions of its services are becoming a real pain in the ass, and an insult to our stupidity.

How much do retailers depend on the holidays?

And the answer is from the National Retail Foundation saying about this much.

The holidays being when they sell us all those non-essential slow-moving items that we can usually live happily without during the rest of the year when sanity prevails and we're more mindful of that 20% interest being charged on our credit card balances, if any. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Re-freeze the melting Arctic?

Some days, the more I read about the health or lack thereof of the world's environment, the less faith I have in mankind's long-term future. When we get right down to it, everybody's looking for the easy way out, and there really isn't any. And like it says in this article, trusting  the same people who caused the problem with finding a suitable cure seems excessively foolhardy, if not downright stupid.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Fermi Paradox: "Where are they?"

One day in 1950, the physicist Enrico Fermi asked his colleagues during lunch this now famous question: "Where are they?" meaning where are all the aliens, if there's so many presumably habitable planets probable in the rest of the galaxy. And that lunchtime conversation led to what's now known as the Fermi Paradox.

The world's eggheads have picked it up and ran with it, and made what I have to believe were tongue-in-cheek formulae for 'solving' the problem, even though there's no possible way to verify half the unknowns in their calculations. Maybe this is how the brains of the world amuse themselves, who knows?

But I like impossible problems and unanswerable questions, so sit back and give me a whack at this one. We haven't seen verifiable evidence of aliens from outer space, or E.T.s, or however you'd care to describe them - and for very good reasons. If they're capable of interstellar travel, then they're also smart enough to have already detected our radio and television broadcasts flying outwards into space and in effect forming a large 'bubble' around us. Even though those signals get weaker with increased distance, they would act as an 'early warning' for any approaching alien spacecraft. Once they tuned in and cleared up the signals, and discovered that we've got a collective intelligence not much above an unwashed turnip, and that we'd rather fight than eat, and that we're too busy trashing this planet to spare the resources to go to another, then they'd wisely decide to avoid us for the sake of their own sanity.

On a more serious level, the main problems with interstellar travel are rather obvious: the distances are enormous, the resources required are almost unimaginable, the expense would be prohibitive to say the least, and the time involved would be far beyond anyone's lifetime.

I have a tattered paperback book with a lot of loose pages, kept together by tying it closed with string when not in use, titled Beyond The Moon, by the Italian astronomer Paolo Maffei, in which he takes us on an imaginary space flight from here beyond the moon to the outer limits of the observable universe. It's a fascinating 377 pages and a wonderful read, if you can find a copy, which isn't likely, because this is from 1980. A lot of it is still very relevant however, because the universe is still much like it was back then, even if we're not. In the preceding paragraph I mentioned the time involved in traveling through space. Here's what Paolo Maffei says about traveling from here to the nearest other star system, Alpha Centauri - "Traveling with the average speed of the spacecraft that now (1970s) go to the moon and back, the voyage would take 500,000 years."

How could we make something which could last that long and still keep operating normally, and who or what would operate it, and how would anyone know if it ever arrived safely? Life on this planet might be extinct long before it arrived at its destination, if it ever did. This is just one of many reasons why most intelligent life in the galaxy might wisely decide to stay home and hope others do the same.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

A little more music....

'Oldest Living Blogger' says: "I'm too old for Quantum Mechanics!"

The Internet is a marvelous place to visit, isn't it? I was reading something about the Mars rover Opportunity still in action on Mars, and how it has found all sorts of tiny little spherules in the rocks there....

and these are quite small, the biggest ones being only about 3 mm in diameter, but there are different kinds, and at many different locations where Opportunity has been.

That got me reviewing what I've learned so far about Mars, and then checking other related topics on the Internet, and somehow or other, I ended up reading about Quantum Mechanics, or more specifically an introduction to the basics of Quantum Mechanics for Dummies. And there's a high probability I won't live long enough to get a grasp of Max Planck's constant and quantizing of energy, and why in an atom only certain energy levels are allowed while others are forbidden, and I'm having a lot of trouble trying to picture something being both a wave and a particle simultaneously.

That latter because a wave implies something made up of more than one, while a particle suggests a single item on its own whizzing around its proton or nucleus or whatever. I found the old classical definition of an atom as depicted in a planetary situation more logical than this modern system describing a "95% probability of it being in this region here..." and the author of the article was right in saying that we would find ourselves having trouble getting our heads around some of these ideas. I agree with 'Uncle Albert' when he said "I can't believe God plays dice with the universe."

But I can understand that there would need to be different rules for microcosmic objects which of necessity operate on a different time frame and at different speeds than those of the macrocosmic world with which we're more familiar. Electrons orbiting their nucleus are obviously going to be traveling at a different rate than for example a planet like Earth travels around its nucleus, the sun. And if the Earth is moving through space in 8 directions simultaneously, then it's no wonder we need some conversion factors to explain the motions of those atomic and subatomic particles/waves making up this whole unidentified flying object here. And today's Question Everything is this:
Do those electrons and other subatomic particles have their own versions of the moons/satellites flying around our planets, and is that why their behavior fits both the wave and particle model?

Sunrise on a frosty morning...

Friday, December 7, 2012

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Big Bang and Black Holes....

Question Everything:-

Is there a relationship between our Big Bang and Black Holes? Specifically, super-massive black holes, and the primordial superheated 'soup' from which our universe eventually coagulated. Approximately 75% of our universe is hydrogen, and the other 25% is Helium, and the other elements we're familiar with make up less than 1% of the total. 

Our familiar atoms are made of subatomic particles, such as electrons, muons, quarks, and leptons, and of those, we haven't yet found any subdivisions of either electrons or muons. So could those survive ingestion by a super-massive black hole and ejection from its other end, to form the plasma we postulate as the initiation of our universe? In other words, is this a natural cycle of events? Does matter eventually get swallowed by black holes, to re-appear elsewhere as fundamental subatomic particles in a superheated state corresponding to conditions similar to those of the Big Bang? Is it a recurring cycle?

Sometimes, I wish I could sit down with some of the brains of the world and just ask stupid questions like these, and see what they might say.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Winter on the mountain

Meanwhile, on Mars...

The rover Curiosity is busy chomping on sand and spitting out reports on its contents and lack thereof. There's chlorinated compounds, and an unusual ratio of deuterium to hydrogen in water samples.

Deuterium, it turns out, is a significant indicator of the initial formation of the universe during the period immediately after the Big Bang, and the ratio of deuterium to hydrogen (protium) hasn't changed much since that Big Bang. There's an interesting statement in Wikipedia's page on Deuterium, which reads as follows:-

"In fact, the discovery of deuterium/protium ratios in a number of comets very similar to the mean ratio in Earth's oceans (156 atoms of deuterium per million hydrogens) has led to theories that much of the Earth's ocean water has a cometary origin.
Deuterium/protium ratios thus continue to be an active topic of research in both astronomy and climatology."

Now then - let's turn that around and look at it this way:-  It would be more logical to assume that a planet's oceans had become comets following some cataclysmic event such as the collision of that planet with another similar body from space, rather than to assume that somehow, magically, a bunch of comets were attracted to a planet where these dirty snowballs then melted to form its oceans. 

Older texts report that Mars about three and a half billion years ago was struck by a meteoroid of between 100 and 200 Kms in diameter which punctured its crust causing a major tectonic event. That 'major tectonic event' probably involved an interior explosion inside the core of Mars which would then cause immediate if momentary expansion of the planet's core. That in turn might have thrown off its skin of hard surfaces, or most of those, including its oceans. This debris then very probably drifted off in space, forming what's now called the Asteroid Belt and our periodic Comets, samples from which have indicated sodium content, suggestive of salt water origins.
I think my theory makes more sense than some kind of reversed process involving mysterious comets forming oceans on planets in some unexplained manner.

But getting back to Mars - today's Question Everything is: How can they tell whether the elements found on Mars are those which are native to its own origins, or whether those have arrived later, such as via that meteoroid which collided with it long ago?  

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Cheese Doughnut

Melt a slice of cheese singles over a glazed doughnut for 25 seconds in a 1200-watt microwave, and voila! C'est magnifique....

Not a 'golden oldie' by any means...

Just to show that my musical tastes aren't all in the Stone Age, here's another of my favorite performers, Sarah Brightman. This lady has a voice like an angel.

Another Moldy Oldie...or two...or three

Der Bingle, as Al Jolson once referred to him, cut this original with the Dorsey band back in 1936 for a movie called 'Rhythm On The Range' featuring a mess of drugstore cowboys pretending they knew which end of a horse points toward the front. He cut other versions of this over the years, but this one must have been a favorite, because it was included in a 1977 'two-fer' (double) album on MCA titled 'The Best of Bing Crosby'. The year Bing cut this record, I was four years old. Ain't technology grand?

Speaking of Al Jolson, here's one of his that I think is very typical of his style, titled 'California Here I Come', which captures Jolson during his best years.

And here's the original of a great cut by Bing and Louis that was re-released in 1977 on Capitol/EMI's LP Bing Crosby - Louis Armstrong called simply 'Sugar'....

More 'Oldest Living Blogger' - Sleeping in The Big Chair

I did it again. Fell asleep in the big chair at the table, watching TV after supper. Now, I'm awake, my back hurts, it's 1:48 A.M., there's nothing worth watching on my 72 channels of satellite TV, the coffee's hot, and I'm not especially sleepy after my nap.... So the question is, "What do I do now?"

It's a question I've arrived at under very similar circumstances all too often lately. And it's my own fault, of course. A few months ago, I wandered into the big office supply store about four blocks down the street from here, into its furniture section at the back, where a nice young man and I got into a long conversation about office chairs, and which is better, the traditional types, or the kneeling style ones.  I tried them all, and bought a kneeler for $145. It works very well, and does improve your posture and keep your lower back in a better position - but as the name implies, it does affect the knees. So I went back to the same young man at the office supply, for something else.

He asked, "Was there something wrong with the kneeler?" And I replied, "No, the something wrong is with my knee - the one I wrecked showing off on Blackcomb one day about 25 years ago. I thought it had healed years ago, but that kneeler got it all upset again - so let's try something else, shall we?" He said, "Would you like to return the kneeler?" And I said, "No way! I really like that crazy thing, and it's great for when you want a change from the usual, but now let's look at 'usual' - make me a deal I can't refuse..." So he did. And I've got this big deluxe office chair, leather, adjustable five ways from Sunday, very comfortable - did I mention you can sleep in it?

The Italian aerator on my kitchen tap set finally wore out last week, and I went looking for its newest incarnation at the big building supplies supermarket near the waterfront yesterday. Sunday is a good day for that, because all those self-employed contractors who usually haunt the place on weekdays are all at home sleeping in, or out golfing or skiing or fishing, and you've got a nice relaxed atmosphere in which to browse to your heart's content. Anyway, there I am admiring a rack with almost every imaginable kind of fixture there is for sinks and tap sets, and I found the thing I wanted, plus a couple of its other family members. There's now a deluxe model with a little more chrome and a double swivel action between the spout pipe and the wet end of it, and it's got a fat middle section, like one of my old girlfriends, for easier handling. Costs $15.58 + tax. I only bought one. That and one 150-watt CFL (uses 40 watts) light bulb for the desk lamp came to $35.69 with the tax. I must be getting stronger in my old age - years ago, I couldn't hardly lift whatever you got for $36 at the lumberyard, which is really what this elegant place really is. It's a lumberyard with a hardware section that got out of hand, and now includes $3,500 hot tubs, and $4,000 barbeques along with the floor tiles and nuts & bolts and glue and paint and gardening supplies. It's a man-trap is what it is - you get in there, and if you're lucky, you escape in time for lunch. So in retrospect paying them $35.69 to turn me loose and let me go home wasn't so bad after all.....

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Everybody Wants To Rule The World

Morning in the hills

About half an hour after I took this, it clouded over again, and it's been raining ever since. Our bright sunny morning was lovely while it lasted.

Meanwhile, back in 1978: Nightflight to Venus -

I feel better just listening to it...

In the news.... man-made brain

Just when you think you've seen everything, along comes something like this and proves you haven't.

Today's 'Question Everything' is:- "How can we get this thing elected to Parliament in place of our P.M., the ever-radiant 'Hairspray' Harper?" (If 'Stodgy Stephen' had one more brain cell, it would be a miracle! - Would I lie to you?)

Remembering Disco.....

Boney M was very big back then, and because they were black, a lot of us made the mistake of thinking they were African-American, but they were really from Germany, and nobody did it better. We've all got a favorite Boney M album - those of us who were around back then, that is.... That beat was just irresistible. Go onto YouTube and give this a listen. And those costumes were 'something else', weren't they?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Anyone remember Disco ?

There's some nice Christmas songs on here, though, and it moves right along....

Starting a new month with a cautionary tale...

Once upon a time, there was an old guy who liked to frequently add items to his blog, and at other times, he liked to review what was already on there, to see if anyone had left any new comments. This old guy was doing that reviewing again today, when he had an accident....

There was a cup of coffee sitting in front of him, too close to the edge of the desk, and as he reached beyond it to pick up a pen, his sleeve tipped over the cup. There was about half a cup of coffee in that cup, and it went flying all over him and the carpet. And the cautionary tale part of all this is that it took a couple of hours to do the laundry and use the Hoover SpinScrub on the carpet, to clean up all that mess. One thing leads to another, and time flies when you're having fun. The good news is, I've now got a clean shirt & pants, and the carpet looks much nicer too. Even though I hadn't planned any of that for this afternoon. I was about to go to the supermarket before that happened, and I'm still planning on getting there sometime today.  

Friday, November 30, 2012

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

Up the hill, Jim Pattison's place is once more lit up with his traditional Christmas display, which can be seen for miles across the city, and is lit every evening from dusk to midnight from December 1st until after New Year's. It wouldn't be Christmas without it.

More on the Universe....

Our collective ignorance is a magnificent thing, and this fellow's book about the Universe raises more questions than it answers. For starters, it speaks of 4% that we know about, and 96% of it that we don't know thing one about....

So, today's Question Everything is:- "Where did the author get his numbers, if nobody knows for sure exactly how big or small the universe actually is, by reason of the fact that we are unable to see or detect more than a relatively small representative sample of the entire whole?"

In the previous posting here, the commentator mentions: "To assert that the universe has a purpose implies the universe has intent. And intent implies a desired outcome."

The universe could have a purpose without implying intent. The intent in question could be that of its Creator, whose nature or intent remains completely beyond comprehension. We can speculate, and my speculations are as good as yours, but these are all only speculations. There's no proof beyond the very small percentage of the physical reality we are capable of observing.

Is that physical reality an infinite continuum of variously-sized objects arranged from smaller to larger ad infinitum, as seems to be the case? If hydrogen is the commonest element in this universe, then was that universe created from the residue of the explosion of some hydrogen-based thermonuclear device? Were we produced as the byproduct of someone's experiments with thermonuclear weapons perhaps in some infinitely vaster dimension than we are presently capable of comprehending?

See what I mean? This whole topic opens up a veritable Pandora's Box of speculative possibilities, proof of which remains absolutely impossible. Your guesses are just as good as mine or Uncle Albert's, or anyone's, because we're all punching at shadows.
Examined intimately enough, religions and philosophies and scientific theories all blend
into one confusing primordial soup of bittersweet speculation rife with doubts, errors, insecurities and wishful thinking. In short, we just don't know for sure, and even those who think they do know really don't. Or, as Will Rogers said, "It's not the things we don't know that get us into trouble; it's the things we do know that ain't so." 

Here's where more of these heavy-duty ideas can be found in case you'd like to read others in the series, or review the one I made reference to here.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Video: Does the Universe have a purpose?

This is a presentation worth watching, so give it a look and listen, Kiddies....

Palestine: the U.N. voting and Canada...

Canada's John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs, speaking before the U.N.'s General Assembly in New York City, ensures that Canada is one of only nine nations to oppose Palestinian symbolic statehood in the recent voting on it.

Today's 'Question Everything' is: "When will Canada stop butt-smooching the U.S.A. and Israel in international affairs, and simply make up its own mind based on the facts?"

The shin-bone is connected to the knee-bone, and the knee-bone is connected to the thigh-bone and the thigh-bone is connected to the ass-bone, of course, and we just love making asses of ourselves in front of the whole world's assembled nations' representatives. We're just like that mythical 'Ou-Ou Bird' whose gonads hung lower than its feet, so that every time it landed it cried out 'Ou! Ou! Ou! Ou!' - we just don't know enough to sit down and shut the hell up, instead of trying to fly against the winds of change blowing with near hurricane force around the globe. What dumb-asses we are! And John Baird? If he had two more brain cells, he could qualify as Parliamentary Washroom Attendant, which is the nearest human equivalent to a toilet-paper dispenser.

My 'Pet Rock'....

I picked this up on a beach along the west coast of Vancouver Island one day just after a really wild west coast storm had pounded the beaches for a couple of days with huge waves and very strong winds. This was back about the time that the 'pet rock' craze was upon us, so I named it my Pet Rock.

It's about six inches long by about 4 inches wide, and it looks like a sponge, all full of tiny little pipe-like holes, somewhat similar to volcanic pumice, but this is heavier than most of the pumice I've ever seen.

"Too Much Information"

'Too Much Information' is the first cut on side two of the 1981 A&M Records release 'Ghost In The Machine' by The Police, and I thought of it because of this headline in New Scientist making news on Google News today.

I've got a white-hot flash for these pseudo-eggheads at New Scientist:- It isn't any of those topics you're babbling about in your article which is causing our problems with climate change or global warming or wars, pestilence, famine, or whatever. The underlying real cause of all of those things is something that if my memory serves me correctly once appeared in Walt Kelly's 'Pogo' comic strip. Little Pogo is commenting on the nature of an enemy, and says: "We have seen the enemy, and he is us!" 

'Us' being all of humanity, and there being just too damned many of us, using up too much of our natural resources and polluting too much of our environment too quickly for Mother Nature to cope with its assimilation and recycling. In short, we're breeding ourselves right out of Spaceship Earth, and we're going to regret it, but not forever. Nothing's forever, including what you're standing or sitting on right now. Nobody wants to talk about this, but we must if we want our human race to survive into the future. The population of the world has tripled within my own lifetime, which is presently just over 80 years. If that thought doesn't bother you, then you've probably got an I.Q. about the same as my Pet Rock.  

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Angus T. Jones apologizes, or tries to...

Here's the sequel from the dumb-ass on the couch doing fart jokes for a third of a million per episode, proving once again that you don't get a second chance to make a first impression. Like I said earlier, 'Two and a Half Men' died when Charlie Sheen had a classic bipolar meltdown and got fired. Everything since has just been the burial and memorial services, and anyone who thinks otherwise just hasn't been paying attention.

And I hear someone asking "What would you know about being bipolar, you Old Fart?"
To which I'd reply, "A whole lot more than you might imagine, Schnookie! I was bipolar before it was popular, away back in the days when they gave you Lithium Carbonate and took away the keys to your big V-8, and I could probably write a book about the highs and the lows and the in-betweens of it all, and the nervous fellow workers, and the frightened spouses, and the unfriendly neighbors, and the pill-pushing shrinks who got overpaid for pumping you full of toxic chemicals in the name of 'control'. So please don't ask me what I know about being bipolar, because I might just tell you."

Some of my very best friends are similarly bipolar and most of us have above-average I.Q.s. Our problem isn't that we're stupid, it's that we don't have enough self-control,
and that's a characteristic of the disorder, which is genetic in origin, and caused by defects in our genetic codes related to damaged or missing genes in our DNA. Those cause our bodies to reject essential trace elements normally found in our food and water which are necessary to maintain a balanced body chemistry and correct values for our blood plasma electrolytes which regulate the performance of our central nervous system. We are what we eat, and if we aren't accepting all the essentials, then we aren't getting all the benefits. So medication is required to force acceptance of the elements being rejected in order to re-balance the system. And that's my nutshell explanation of the remedy for being bipolar.

 It only took me several months of digging through the library's medical texts section deciphering all those Greek and Latin rooted medical terms into plain understandable English. After that, the rest was easy, because I know what it's like being on the inside of that problem looking out. Sometimes, it's Heaven, and other times it's Hell. The trick is to swallow your pride and your medication and minimize those times when it's Hell. Some of us are more successful at that than others are, as we see in the news from time to time.

It's a quarter to four in the morning....

And I'm sitting here drinking a hot coffee and eating a warm carrot muffin, and thinking back to the bad old days when I worked the midnight shift for our local electrical utility, and about this time of the morning, felt like I had maybe three weeks to live, if I was really lucky. Constant shift work is very debilitating, and also puts a serious strain on your domestic affairs, because it's almost impossible to sleep in the daytime anywhere there's other families with little kids raising hell nearby. So I spent a lot of those years being sleep-deprived and bitchy and miserable, and it's no wonder all that resulted in two divorces. It's a wonder we all survived as well as we did.

Now that I'm retired, I can sleep whenever I'm tired, and stay up whenever I'm not, and eat whenever I'm hungry, and please myself about when to do it. It's sometimes fun to stay up in the wee small hours of the morning, when the rest of the world is sleeping, and there's no crying baby next door interrupting my train of thought, or making me wonder if someone's abusing the little darling.

The world is a rather contrary place. These six high-rise residential towers here were originally designed and built as 'adults only' type accommodations, without any of the usual  amenities associated with families having children. Along came a provincial government trying to solve a housing crisis by ruling that former 'adults-only' premises would now admit families with children, and here we are with little tots in buildings that have no facilities for them. No play areas, no bikes allowed, no this and no that - it seems everything's a 'no-no' if you're a kid around here. And being one of the very oldest kids around here, I thoroughly resent that, and I'm sure other kids do too. But you can't argue with politicians and their lawyer pals. And most politicians are the kind of people who would steal a red-hot stove and then go back for the smoke, if they thought you weren't watching. That's because most of them were lawyers first, and ever since ancient times, there's stories about lawyers. Like the one about the two farmers disputing the ownership of a cow. While one farmer pulled on it from the front, and the other pulled on it from the rear, the cow was milked by a lawyer.....

So, if I'm up during the middle of the night, and somehow manage to find among my 72 channels of nothing on TV something worth watching, how do I do that without annoying the neighbors while listening to it?  Simple: I have a set of wireless headphones that work very well. I set the TV sound to 'Mute', crank up the volume to the transmitter unit, turn on the headphones, and enjoy my show without anyone else hearing anything. Those headphones are 'JVC' of Japan, but made in..... - do I really have to tell you? Sometimes I wonder how we made things before the Chinese got into the act. A lot of things used to be made in Japan, and now the Japanese are farming out the work to the Chinese. Pentax and Nikon cameras are two recent examples, and they work very well, too. Are we looking at the decline and fall of North American industry? I could argue that we are, and it's probably our own fault.

More 'this & that' from 'Oldest Living Blogger'

I got an email yesterday from a nice young lady at the CBC, asking if I might be interested in helping her project of researching people who have done extraordinary things in their golden years, or if I might know some other Canadian extraordinary seniors who have done unusual/brave/inspirational things in their senior years. Those are mostly her words, not mine.

She is looking for a senior "who is savvy with social media" and somehow decided to include me in her search, having seen my blog here. I replied that I'm flattered that she should consider me worth her attention, but that I don't consider myself to be really very 'savvy with social media' because blogging is about all I do in that area. I've always avoided Facebook and Twitter because those have rather 'iffy' security procedures for safeguarding your personal data from the identity thieves we hear about regularly.

And as I also explained to her, bloggers are usually rather lonely and self-important people who often-mistakenly assume that they've got something to say to the world at large that the world actually gives a damn about hearing. In most cases, we're wrong about the world giving a damn - it usually doesn't - but this is still a useful pastime, because it keeps us off the streets, and out of bars, and sometimes even learning something useful while we do our research for the next rant - in case we aren't just 'winging it' as I usually prefer to do. There's no fool like an Old Fool, because you just can't beat experience! And I am nothing, if not opinionated.... as you know by now if you've been reading much of this stuff.

I started blogging because there was a community blogging site downtown here which encouraged us to sign on for our own blog page, and the bright young people who were running that were actually using the blogging site as a proving ground for a new open-source program they were working on which they hoped to sell commercially if they got the bugs all out of it. So we bloggers were in a sense the guinea pigs helping them find those bugs and get them fixed. Eventually, they accomplished whatever they had set out to do, and were bought out by others who rather quickly put most of the originals out on the street, and ignored the routine maintenance required by the once popular community blogging site, on which I was by then one of its more popular contributors.

So I said, "The hell with this nonsense - I'll find a blogging site that isn't about to get trashed by lack of interest." And I signed onto Google's 'Blogger' - which turned out to be a mixed blessing. Google, as some of us know from experience, likes to leave its projects in an almost continuous state of beta, or 'half-baked' or unfinished, and this can frustrate the hell out of guys like me, who like things that work properly and work reliably and work consistently and aren't unfriendly to their users. Google, please take notes here. You've got some good ideas, but your theories don't always work out worth a damn in actual practice. For example: why do I have to re-select my chosen font every time I pause to add a picture or link, or look up information before continuing? Why can't the coders write that program so that it stays on the same font the user selected until the user changes that selection to another? What is there about that concept that you find so incomprehensible? And don't tell me - just fix the damned thing, will you? Doesn't anybody in California know how to play this game?  Sally at Microsoft or even I could probably give you some suggestions, and you might even be wise to listen to them. It works for Microsoft.....

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Marine Division of the Air Force...

There are beaches along the west coast here where you can ride a mountain bike through flocks of ten thousand of these things, and the seagull droppings fall like rain, but here I only have three or sometimes four of them regularly on patrol watching for munchies. One of them will land on the little removable tray here, and if it doesn't find anything in the dish fastened to it, it will sit there and make little clucking noises to let me know it would like something to eat. One morning, I held a slice of bread out the window, and it took it right from my hand, while hovering momentarily in mid-air. But I have to 'ration' these guys, or they'd eat me out of house & home.

The news from La-La-Land....

Question Everything:

What's going on at 'Two and a Half Men'? This is the second cast member to self-destruct so very publicly and bizarrely.

This kid gets a third of a million dollars per episode, and the little nitwit isn't happy with that. Does he realize how long it takes an average 'Joe Lunchbucket' to earn that kind of money? 

And what's all that bullshit about God speaking to him personally and telling him to clean up his act? I have news for that kid - God doesn't grab you by the collar and tell you anything - you have to ask, and ask very politely and very sincerely, and that frame of mind isn't usually found around Hollywood production studios nor among your teenaged pals of the 'young & horny & desperate' crowd. But God did say "Bite not the hand that feeds you, lest you quickly become an unemployed homeless bum."

I'd have the drinking water analyzed at that production studio if it were me - I think there's something really strange going on there. They seem to have discovered something that turns rational greedy actors into wild-eyed babbling idiots with no respect for their employers or their audience. And Angus T. Jones' advice to stop watching comes a bit late. He evidently hasn't noticed that the show died when his pal Charlie Sheen threw away his meds and went ape a while back.... 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Your Computer: programs to have on it...

Just a reminder, Folks - Here's three very useful programs to have, and they're all free ones. Just follow the links here to their home pages, to download your own copy.

 Secunia's Personal Software Inspector better known as 'Secunia PSI' will automatically warn you and update your other programs not handled by Windows Updates, so that you will always have the latest updates for those others, and be more secure.

Auslogics Disk Defrag is in my humble opinion the best and probably quickest disk defragmenting and optimizing program there is anywhere. You can go into its 'action' column and choose what you want it to do, beginning with Analyze to find out if you do really need to use it. You can then watch it in action as it goes through the segments and does its thing. Or you can set it to a schedule to run automatically, or you can include it in Windows Explorer's right-click menus. It's a very good program.

Glary Utilities Free is the free version of this program, and it can clean up and tune up your computer with one click of your mouse, and easier than that, you can't get. And the good news is that it really works. I've been using it for years, and it really does what it says it does, and your computer will be cleaner and will run better.

I've mentioned these before, but quite a while ago, so I'm doing it again in case you've missed that earlier one. By using these programs, you can keep your computer up to date, and keep it free of junk files, and keep the files that it does have unfragmented so that programs work better, and files load faster because they aren't scattered around on the hard disk in bits and pieces. These programs can help you to keep your computer out of the shop and ready to work when you want it.

Recalling old movies...

The critics, bless their pointy little heads, gave this one a thumbs-down, but either I'm a tasteless clod or else it wasn't that bad, because I thoroughly enjoyed it. Unfortunately it's almost impossible to find a complete copy of it, and whatever's around of it now has been copied from somebody's television set, and not very well. But if you like the music of Cole Porter (and I love it!) and you'd like to see some unexpectedly entertaining performances by people you might not ordinarily consider 'song & dance' types, this one's for you. I just wish I could find a copy that's not all frazzle-assed, or comes with Russian subtitles plastered across it. Something is definitely lost in the translation, Tovarishch!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

About the Egyptian situation....

A very insightful article here in The Times of India by a professor of international affairs is well worth reading, and gives us some valuable insight into that hotbed of intrigue.
Please take the time to read it.

Just visiting....

And today's 'snow report' looks like this....

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Sundown over Vancouver Island

And this was heading into the sunset toward the Island.....

Mars Curiosity Interactive

It's been a while since I checked in on this, and if you go here there's a nice interactive player you can install which lets you drive and position the rover using a control panel at the bottom of the screen. It looks like this:-

After you get the player installed, you will see a screen like this....

And by using the Drive and My View controls on the left and right ends of the panel along the lower edge, you can move and turn the rover. You can also change its speed (to the left of 'Drive') and zoom in or out (to the right of My View) and you can also use your mouse wheel for zooming.

Here is another view of it, before I moved it....

And after I turned it around a bit ( its tracks tell the story)...

Here, I'm testing the zoom controls....

And here we go, following its previous path, with the balls marking points of interest along the way. You should try this, Kids - It's fun! Even for old guys...