Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What's wrong in America? - a video to watch

My friend Tommy in New York, on his blog 'Tommy's Ramblings' on Friday, the 20th of January, has a link to a video about 'Engineered Inequality' and it is about half an hour (38 minutes) that is well worth watching. Here's the video.

My thanks to Tommy for providing this link. This interview with the book's authors and their comments about the problems make fascinating listening.

Turning your Blog into a book.....

My longtime friend Pete, now wintering in Florida, sent me this in an email this morning, and at first glance, it seems like a nice idea...

This is yet another wrinkle in the vanity press business, and it's a fishing expedition aimed at those of us with big pockets and an ego to match, who may be thinking that the world really needs hard copies of our daily blog babblings to put on a bookshelf or to send to relatives and friends who may or may not be all that desperate for reading and dusting materials.

How much of an average blog could we print in 20 pages of stylishly laid out text and images? Maybe a week's worth? Two weeks' worth? And you've been doing your blog for how many years now? 

Maybe real hold-in-your-hand books aren't going to become extinct, but they aren't going to be very affordable at fifteen bucks for 20 pages. An eBook makes more sense, until we realize that our blog itself is virtually the same thing, but without requiring any special $200 tablet on which to access it. And that's why Google's Blogger is such a great idea. A great idea that's absolutely free!

Wikipedia, in answer to the question of "How many blogs are there?" reports that as of February 16, 2011 there were "over 156 million blogs". And I'm not even going to talk about the 800 million Facebookers out there, who could be blogging if only they had more to say, or knew how, or cared to learn.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Name this bird - please!

Just when I want the camera to work perfectly, it doesn't focus sharply, which is probably my own fault for being in too big a hurry. I was afraid this might fly away before I got a picture. The second one shows it compared to a crow nearby. It's about the size of a gull, but has a different shaped head and beak, and gulls don't usually land on power lines. It is probably a juvenile, because the back and wings have gray speckled patterns like some young birds have. My bird book doesn't have a picture of it. It is somewhat similar to a Ross's Gull, but it doesn't have a gull's shape, and gulls don't sit on wires usually. Whatever it is, the crow doesn't seem to feel threatened, and both seem comfortable there. If anyone knows what kind of bird this is, please leave a comment below.

More about freeware programs...

I was checking for something new on Majorgeeks last evening, and found one for manipulating pictures, called FotoSketcher but after playing with it for a while, I decided that it isn't quite as good as Paint.NET for the actual picture manipulations but it does have a very nice feature called "Add a Frame" which will add a very nice and quite realistic frame around an image of your choice. So it might still be worth having in your collection.

You can choose to add the frame without first altering the image, by looking at the bottom of the drop-down menu in 'Drawing style' which is the first item on the list of 'Drawing parameters' accessed by clicking on the icon for the artist's pallet on the taskbar. Use the up and down arrows at the right-hand end of the line titled 'Drawing Style' to navigate through the list of options, and for the frame-only choice, look at the bottom of that list.

Paint.NET doesn't have a framing option, and while there is one in PhotoStudio from Arcsoft, it doesn't have as many options, and the ones it does have aren't as easily used as these in FotoSketcher. The Arcsoft program is not a freebie, but it is a very good program for editing your images. I've been using it for several years. But if you don't want to spend the money for it, by far the best other one I know is Irfan Skiljan's Irfanview - this is one of the best and most popular image editing programs on the web, and it's a freebie with all sorts of additional plug-ins, although the main program comes with a selection of the more popular ones. Irfan lives in Bosnia, and he appreciates a little donation if you use his great program. I should add here that it also does batch editing such as resizing and renaming batches of images, and it works perfectly. There are literally millions of us using Irfan's program and loving it. You should try it.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Grouse Mountain Skyride upper terminal

For an after-dark shot, this turned out better than I expected. This is the upper terminal and restaurant, seen in the glow of its own lights of the ski hill reflecting from clouds above it. This was taken with the Pentax X70 at 24X optical zoom and the camera wasn't set for a night scene. I tried one of those, but it didn't come out as well as this one set on 'automatic'. I'm quite pleased with this one.

The flying appetite

Snow in the high rent district overnight

Days like this, I'm glad I can't afford to live among the rich and famous.
It's nice to come home with the same four fenders I left with.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Real Cheese......

Yes, there's real cheese in the cheese bread.
And it's delicious!

Much the same on both coasts today....

Tommy in New York says his weather is much like ours today.

And shooting passing gulls is harder than it looks.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Today in the hills.....

Not the greatest, but at least we can see them today.
There's been a few days lately we couldn't.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Our snow has turned to rain again

We had more snow overnight, but it has now warmed up to just above freezing, and the rain has returned. This white stuff won't be here for long.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

After the snowstorm...... (Your daily smile)

Looking for something to plow, and not finding much. I wonder what his wife is thinking about all that....  Two kids with brooms could do better in half the time!

This just in....

For the whole article, please click here.

Read more: Please click here.

Isn't it nice when common sense wins against special interest groups? And perhaps the politicians in Washington should be congratulated for listening to the voice of reason. And good on Google and Wikipedia and Mozilla's Firefox and others for raising hell about this. 

Here's something we should all be concerned about.....

7:40 a.m., 25 F., and snowing lightly....

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Monday, January 16, 2012

It's the Awards Season, and..... (here come the critics!)

The headline in our local daily rag says: "Fashion flops at the Golden Globes", and in the selection of photos, it includes this one of the ever-radiant Nicole Kidman:

 I don't think country music had anything to do with it. Nicole and Lucy Lawless of "Xena: Warrior Princess" are almost the same age, and just maybe, Nicole was going for the Xena look. Someone please tell Nicole that series ended in 2001, and it's not likely to be revived. But it's a nice try anyway....

Sunday, January 15, 2012


This is about to become a background on the desktop.

And it looks like this!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Fun with Microsoft Research's I.C.E. and Photosynth and a video

First of all, let's get the video on here, to start this little experiment:

Then, after I'd made this video of what's basically a moving panorama of the scene outside today, as the storm cleared away, I wondered what might happen if I took this video and simply used drag-and-drop to drop it into the processing window of Microsoft Research's Image Composite Editor ('I.C.E.' for short) which accepts many separate images and turns those into one big or even huge image made of all the separate ones. At this point, I hadn't read all the specs on 'I.C.E.' you see, so I didn't know it's also designed to gobble up videos, separate them into their component images, and then re-assemble those for viewing as panoramas or navigable larger images, like this.....

So when I discovered that 'I.C.E.' can process a video as well as stills, I went one step further, and signed into Photosynth, which can take a project from the 'I.C.E.' program, and turn that into a 2D or 3D navigable composite which you can then upload to the web for others to enjoy. It looks something like this:

You can move it left or right, zoom in or out, and if it had more to it vertically, you could also move up or down in it. My original was a very simple one, but if I had shot it differently, such as both forward and backward, as well as up and down, then Photosynth and 'I.C.E.' could have turned it into a 3D image that could be viewed in detail using all the various controls. You can find the program for 'I.C.E.' by clicking here, and Photosynth by clicking here. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

In-flight Refueling - The Movie (very short!)

This gull sits on the rooftop next door, and waits for me to hold something out the window, and then it's right there, so this whole thing only took about 40 seconds.
But today, I actually got its picture taking the bread from my hand.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Seabirds: Seagull washing its face

Today's snow report....

The clean-up crew

Notice how many pieces of bread it has in its mouth.
It came back later to take the last two,
and then returned a third time to look at the clean board,
and then stare in at me as if to say "More, please!"
I removed the platform for today.

Note: The spokes in that railing are four and three-quarters inches apart, and the bird is covering about seven of those spaces, so if its wings were straight out from its body, the wingspan would be over three feet.

More birds....

Monday, January 9, 2012

"In-flight refueling"

Through a screen door, quickly....

I had the card out of one camera, trying to edit a video taken through the window earlier today, when this guy showed up. I had to quickly grab the other camera and take the shot, without thinking about the screen on the doorway interfering with the results. But I got it, and now I know my plan will work. Incidentally, that board it is sitting on is about 11 and 3/4 inches wide - not quite a foot - so that will give you an idea of the bird's size. From beak to tail it would be nearly two feet. Next time, I'll try to have that screen moved out of the way. 

Here's one without the screen door in the way. They're still quite nervous about being close to people, so I had to turn off the lights and stay away from the window while getting this. But it didn't take them long at all to figure out that this new contraption on the railing had food on it. And since it slips easily on and off the railing, they are rather puzzled by its sudden disappearance after feeding time is over and I've got my pictures. Speaking of which, I'm learning that photographing birds close up is a lot like kissing a duck's ass without getting a mouthful of feathers - you've gotta be quick! Lucky helps too.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


Not my sharpest shots, at 24X zoom,
and my excuse is the weather and
the cameraman. That would be me.

I'm better with crows and seagulls. If I hold a piece of bread out the window, the crows won't quite come close enough to take it, preferring that I leave it on the window ledge and back away. But a couple of days ago, one seagull got brave enough to actually fly up to my outstretched arm, and take the bread from my hand. When one of them is that close, and hovering in midair like that , they are an impressive bird. I wish I could have taken a picture of that. It would be a real keeper.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Hot from the oven - Chunky Cheese Bread....

Once again, I got to the store just after the bread came out of the oven, and before it cooled enough to be sliced. So this is today's still-warm loaf of Chunky Cheese, with the end crust ready for eating. And just a hint for you lovers of warm bread: that tablespoon's underside does a lot better job than a knife, for applying a spread on it. It rides over the soft surface without snagging, and doesn't damage the bread. And now you'll have to excuse me, because it's time for another slice!

P.S. - Click here for a recipe to make your own!

How's your computer running? Need more memory?

If you're using Windows, there's a nice little program that can (and does!) optimize your memory, by shutting down unused processes running in the background that use up your available memory without any real benefits to you when you're busy doing something requiring a lot of memory. It's called CleanMem.

What's so special about this one as compared to other memory-cleaning programs? Unlike those others, this one doesn't simply push some of your memory functions into the hard-disk's page file, thus slowing down your performance, because the hard-disk doesn't respond as fast as your RAM usually can. So this keeps everything still active in your faster-responding RAM (Random Access Memory) while still weeding out the non-essential 'standby' items you probably don't need right now. Result: Less memory is tied up waiting for further requests, and more of it is free to do what you ask of it right now, and none of it got pushed off into the Page File where it takes a longer time to recover it again. Your computer is happier, you're happier, and you didn't have to buy additional RAM, which you might or might not have enough room to install on the motherboard. 

To get yours, just click on this link.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Another sundown....

As the sun sinks slowly in the west, and one of the many floatplanes of the local 'Vancouver Air Force' flies off toward Vancouver Island, it's the ending of another pleasant afternoon on the West Coast. I almost missed it, with my afternoon nap.

Here's an update on this sunset, as darkness approaches and details fade.

American politics: What the hell are they thinking?

To an outsider like myself, American politics would be very amusing if only they weren't so deadly serious about it.

Take Rick Santorum (Please!) for example: In a recent speech before a crowd of suitably impressionable fans, this intellectual giant stands up there in front of God and everybody and says, "Thank you for taking the first step toward taking back this country!" 

As if the good old U.S. of A. had been loaded up, lock, stock and barrel and hauled off kicking and scratching to darkest Africa, to become one of those black-assed African fiefdoms everybody loves to hate because their leaders can't even spell the word 'democracy'. 

Know what's wrong with democracy? Too many of the voters are intellectually challenged burger slingers, and not enough of them are Ph.D.s in Economics. Too many of the candidates think that being able to throw shit at their competitors qualifies them for the job of leading the country. 

And "taking back this country" implies that it was better off under that idiot 'Dubya' and his pals like Bernie Madoff and those Wall Street whiz-kids who thought up those schemes to peddle junk bonds and hustle people into mortgages that couldn't possibly be paid off. Looks to me like the country is already back far enough as it is, with a debt of over $14-trillion. If I lived there, I think I'd be learning Chinese or Japanese so I could speak to the new owners in their own language. But don't worry - there's always Google Translate....

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

To Monsieur Beep -

About your blog entry of Monday, January 02, 2012:

 Mit Liebe wie bei anderen Dingen lernen wir aus unseren Fehlern.
Ich hoffe, dass Sie Ihre wahre Liebe finden und sind nie aus dem Palast geschoben.

The Microsoft translator doesn't work quite as well as the one from Google which is now not available as a desktop gadget, so in case the above doesn't read quite right in German, here it is in English: "With love as with other things, we learn from our mistakes. I hope that you find your true love and are never pushed from the Palace."

It took me a while to translate your blog entry, and some of the translation wasn't very good, but I'm hoping I got the right sense of it, Monsieur. You are into some deep waters with that subject, and I hope it all works out for you. 

To 'Uncle Ron' .....

Uncle Ron said..."You two guys kill me...It's all about food...I never heard of Chunky Cheese bread...Does it have big chunks of cheese in it? If it does then how can you toast it? Does the cheese melt down and end up in the crumb drawer?"

 Good Morning, Uncle Ron!

"It's all about food", because our sex lives are only two-thirds as good as ever; we are still able to think about it, and we are still able to talk about it.... and I'm surprised that a guy who loves to cook, like yourself, has never heard of Chunky Cheese Bread. "Does it have big chunks of cheese in it?" - Not any more, but it started out with actual chunks of cheddar cheese in the dough, and those would melt into the bread as it baked. These days, for whatever reasons, it doesn't have those actual chunks, but it does have a nice cheesy taste and color, and there are some melted cheese spots in the crust, making the crust one of the best parts. "How do you toast it?" - Very carefully! No, I'm just kidding you - it toasts very well and it's delicious with orange marmalade on it. I think the toasting problem may have been the reason why it no longer has actual chunks of cheddar throughout the bread, but has cheese in another form mixed in the dough. "Does the cheese melt down and end up in the crumb drawer?" Sometimes, there might be a piece from the crust get into the crumb drawer, but on average it isn't a big problem. You won't find yourself dumping the crumb drawer any more often.

"Don't mind me...I'm just sitting here with my first cup of coffee reading your blogs...I've got my sixth to last radiation treatment this morning at 8:30 AM...I told the doc yesterday that I felt like my visits were part of my normal daily routine...What will I do when they're over? ...(pause)...Only an old dude like myself would make such a dumb statement...."

I'm just having my first cup of coffee as I write this. The doctor said the other day "Cut out the sugar!" but I've never enjoyed a cup of coffee without sweetener, and that artificial stuff just doesn't do it for me. I don't think it's all that healthy for you either. My blood pressure was already enough of a problem without having an artificial sweetener making it worse. So instead of choking down a cup of coffee without sweetening in it, I treat myself to at least this first of the day with real honest-to-God sugar in it. 

It's a damned shame you didn't catch that Prostate problem in time to get the brachytherapy with the radioactive pellets inserted directly into it. Those worked like a charm for me, and as I mentioned before, it's a one-time thing, so you don't develop a long-term relationship with someone who is trying to pay off his expensive radiation treatment equipment. What will you do afterward? Hopefully, you'll outlive us all, and get rich from introducing Chunky Cheese Bread to the hungry shoppers all over South Carolina.  Enjoy your day, Ron!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

No picture today - it's a nasty day here.

I didn't take any pictures today, because it has been raining and stormy all day, and not at all a good day for taking pictures. The weather people are predicting  heavy rain and windy conditions until sometime tomorrow. The seagulls aren't exactly walking today, but they are flying quite low. It's a typical winter's day here on the 'Wet Coast'. The good news is, it's only 179 days until July 1st, and the  kick-off of the local bikini season.

Monday, January 2, 2012

A little more of This & That.....

Today, while watching the neighborhood crows flying by my 16th floor window, and a couple of seagulls cruising around looking hungry, I got a piece of bread from the kitchen and held it out the window to see if anyone was paying attention. In only a moment, there was a seagull right there, hovering near my outstretched arm with the bread. It didn't quite get up the nerve to come that last couple of feet but it was very near. It seemed to sense that I meant it no harm, so I laid the bread on the window ledge outside and closed the drapes for a few minutes, so the interior with the lights and computer screen wouldn't spook the birds. The bread was gone within a minute.

Later, shopping at Safeway, I was looking for their Chunky Cheese Bread because theirs is usually made better than their competition down the street. There was no sign of it, so I asked the gal behind the bakery counter when they would be baking more of it. She said, "We won't - we've stopped making it and the Raisin Bread because there just wasn't enough of it being sold. But if you really want some Chunky Cheese Bread, we can bake you a couple of loaves, but you'd have to ask us to do that." I thanked her for the information and declined her offer to make me some. I figured if it's a special order, it will likely cost more, and it was already quite expensive. So their competition is now the only source of Chunk Cheese Bread, and it isn't as carefully made as the Safeway product was. It usually has a lot of fairly large bubbles in it, and those aren't very nice if you're trying to spread something on it. When you're paying over four bucks a loaf for bread, you expect bread, not holes with bread around them.

I got my Christmas present.....

It's now officially January 2nd, and just what I wanted for Christmas, so once again I got what I asked for. Now we can all relax for a while, because it's 357 days until next Christmas. You heard it here first, Folks! So what's next? That would be the Chinese New Year, on January 23rd. In the Chinese calendar, this will be the year 4709, and the Year of The Dragon.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The New Year Snow Report....

How close can I get?
This is about it - 24X zoom.