Thursday, February 28, 2013

Another would-be Martian heard from...

At first glance, this whole thing sounds crazy. At second glance, it still sounds crazy to me. Why risk two lives on a dangerous mission to Mars if the closest they get to it is 70 miles above it? And lets not forget that we're talking about a barren, airless, frozen desert out there in space with no means of supporting life as we know it, just in case they might need to land on it.

Traveling in space to other worlds has captured the imagination of many of us, but the reality of that situation is that reaching other star systems would require a journey far exceeding anyone's lifetime, and it is most unlikely that anyone could survive a lifetime's radiation in space, not to mention all the other problems of daily living. And then there's the spacecraft itself and whether or not it could hold together and maintain its integrity for such a long time. All of that suggests that we'd be crazy to try it. And all these billions we're pouring into space exploration could be better spent right here on earth, solving some of our more obvious problems. But as Albert Einstein is said to have once pointed out, the commonest element in the universe is not hydrogen but rather stupidity.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Trouble in Paradise?

The Church is having the same problem as the rest of us; in the struggle between good and evil, it has always been more fun being bad. So among the 1.1 billion Catholics, there's bound to be more than a few bad ones. And simply ignoring them hasn't worked out very well. Putting all that another way, the stand-up comic Lenny Bruce once said "Every day people are straying away from the church and going back to God." And Laurence J. Peter once said "Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than going to the garage makes you a car."

Monday, February 25, 2013

Remember the Image Resizer for Windows XP?

Well, the good news is that it's back and modernized for Windows 7 and 8, and 
you can get yours right here and it's still a freebie. This adds the item to your right-click menu in Windows Explorer, or File Explorer in Windows 8, and it works just like you remember it only better.

You've seen one of these often...

But how about three of them on the same project? These are working on the expansion to the north mall at Park Royal in West Vancouver. Park Royal was the first covered mall in Canada, back in the early 1950s, and it has been expanded several times, and now once more.

Our tree barbers came back...

They were here last week, working out front, and now they're doing our other
local road. There's been some debate about how much these trees ought to be trimmed, because their roots are about all that's holding up the embankment which in turn is keeping the back street beyond them from sliding down onto our own driveway. Originally, there was a timber cribbing retaining structure to hold that embankment in place, but the timbers of it have rotted now, and these
tree roots are taking its place in holding up the back street. Or so we figure. And
there would be a real mess if that street came down into our back yard. So the longer these trees stay healthy, the better for everyone.

Barbarella at the Oscars....

And still fabulous!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Winamp, my favorite player, in Windows 8

 The regular size player...

And the Windowshade size...
(Fits into a title bar)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Futuristic VW to go into production

(From USA Today)
All this on 47 horsepower? 2 cylinders plus a battery? Hotwheels it ain't! 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Windows 8: Needs all the help it can get, they say...

That being the situation, here's 50 top tips and tweaks for Windows 8 from an article last November in the U.K., and I've tried a couple of these, and they work. After all the publicity during its launch, it seems the actual sales of the new Windows 8 are running considerably behind expectations, and Microsoft is reluctant to say exactly what the real story is on all that. That's too bad, really, because this is a solid operating system, thanks to its Windows 7 foundations, and it has a lot of potential. 

It seems, though, that the computer world isn't quite as ready for touch-screen technology as the folks at Microsoft thought. That figures, because even if you do have a touch-screen and are skilled at using it, there are still going to be jobs for which you will need to use a keyboard and mouse. Also, those fancy all-in-ones often have components which have a limited capacity because of the size limitations imposed by the compact design of the unit, and there's little or no room in them for bigger and better components if you wanted to upgrade.
So your fancy all-in-one might actually lack the kind of performance you could expect from your big bad desktop with its separate components.

I've got Windows 8 Pro on both of my desktops, in a dual-boot format with Windows 7 Home Premium, and I like it, but I can see where it might not be to everyone's taste. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Tonight's sunset

Today's 'snow report' ....

Desktops market share by versions

The desktop world is still mostly using either Windows XP or Windows 7, and everything else is pretty much an 'also ran'.  If you'd like more info, please click here.

This is what the Mobile and Tablet Operating System Market Share looks like.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Reminder: Handy programs to have....

A handy program to have is Seatools for Windows, from Seagate the hard-drive maker. This program also tests other drives not made by Seagate, such as Western Digital, etc., so if you're wondering about the health of your hard-drive, you should give this a try. And by the way, they say this only works up to Windows 7 of Windows, but I've also used it on Windows 8 Pro and it works fine.
Generally speaking, whatever works in Windows 7 also works in Windows 8.

Another very useful freebie is the Belarc Advisor, from Belarc which is a great little program that does a scan of your computer, and then shows you a complete report on everything that's on there, such as your security updates, your licensed programs, your Windows Key Codes, and other vital and important information. If you've ever wondered where you could find all these things, this is the program that does it for you. It gives you detailed information on your various main components, as well as what's been installed on your computer, and it will update that information periodically to keep itself up to date.

Another don't-be-without-it program is Glary Utilities from Glarysoft, and this one can clean up and correct mistakes in your system with just one click, if you wish. I've used it for a long time, and it does its job nicely without causing more problems than it fixes. It's a very useful little program.

Lastly, from Iceland comes EMCO's MoveOnBoot and this little program is worth its weight in gold if you've ever come up against a file or folder that refused you access to it, but you still wanted to get rid of it, and wanted to do that quickly,
as in cleaning out a virus, for example. How does this work? It is called MoveOnBoot because it works its special magic during a reboot, in between the shutdown part and the reloading of programs into Windows again. So this gives it access to whatever's on your machine, whether system files or restricted files or whatever. It can remove a locked file or folder during that part of the reboot process while those aren't protected, and it works like a charm. Incidentally this
process is similar to the Boot Scan feature in Avast Antivirus, which does a complete scan of your computer during a similar reboot, while the machine is in between shutdown and reloading, and it can access everything on it. The problem I found with that Avast Boot Scan was that it takes so long to complete it, I could have reformatted my drive and re-installed Windows faster. But that's
not a problem with MoveOnBoot - it works quickly and very well.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

More this and that, from 'Oldest Living Blogger'...

With recent events in Russia involving that meteor exploding above the city and blowing out all those windows, it got me thinking of what it might have been like on Mars about 3.5 billion years ago, when something about 150 or 200 Km across came flying out of space, hitting the planet and puncturing its crust. So the story goes in the Larousse Guide to Astronomy, anyway. And that would probably have resulted in an almost unimaginable kind of explosion beginning from within the planet's molten core. Which probably explains why there are no Martians today. And why that planet is a barren and frozen desert these days.

Today was a nice sunny day for a change, and I drove out to the farther regions of West Van, to visit the Optometrist office where I get my glasses. Dr. Debbie there has been doing my glasses for me for over 30 years - ever since I first needed those first reading glasses - and today I went in to get these latest ones adjusted a bit. Dr. Debbie I think is trying to get ready to retire, and she has some new assistants now, but the service is still first class, and my glasses were adjusted free of charge as usual.

And the California raspberries at Safeway today were just delicious. They also had a sale on those little grape-sized tomatoes, and those things are so tasty they're almost sinful. Try eating just one. I bet you can't stop there. I couldn't, anyway.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Looking east...

The big picture: Mount Seymour beyond North Vancouver

And now for a close-up:

And even closer:


Those tax preparation programs - (continued)

It pays to ask questions. I was at the pharmacy in the big supermarket yesterday morning, to ask about one of my medications, and after leaving there, I decided to stop in at the Postal Outlet in the little strip mall beside the supermarket to pick up an envelope for mailing in my tax return. 

The Oriental gentleman who runs that Postal Outlet is a really nice guy, and we got talking about these tax preparation programs. I said I'd tried a couple and wasn't very impressed because they didn't seem to be able to handle everything I wanted to include. He said that he has been using one of them for years, and it works very well, so I asked him which one. He showed me the program in a package for sale, and I asked him the price. He said, "$15.00 plus tax." I said, "Sold!"

It's called 'Intuit Electronic Tax Forms Tax Year 2012' and includes all the government approved forms, the 2012 tax guide, and it does 2 returns if you need to do that.

I brought it home, installed the program from its CD, went through the registration process, and then prepared my tax return. The results of that came out to one cent different for my refund compared to a pen and calculator paperwork copy I had done the day before. So I went ahead and completed the Netfile to the Canada Revenue Agency, and they sent me back my confirmation number for reference, and I was all done about 1:00 PM yesterday.

So my Oriental friend at the Postal Outlet was absolutely right - it is a really good program and it works like a charm. I especially liked it because it uses the same forms as if you were doing it on paper, so you can be sure you have it all entered correctly and haven't left out anything. It also checks the finished version for errors or mistakes, and confirms that you don't have any before it tries to send it in for you. So I would have to say it was money well spent. And the good news is, if you have a refund coming, it will arrive much faster when you file your return electronically.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

City Works Project....

One guy operating the machine, and three guys watching - it's almost like the Mexican Army, with three colonels for every private. I never had a job like that....

Not a great Valentine's Day outside

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Those tax preparation programs vs my calculator

Our Canada Revenue Agency has an approved list of providers of the software we can use to file our tax returns over the Internet, and some seem to work better than others. I've tried three different ones, and I'm not terribly impressed by any of them.

A couple are freebies entirely or if your total income is below a certain amount, and others cost between sixteen and twenty dollars to deliver your completed tax return to the Revenue Agency. An envelope and a stamp are still a lot cheaper.

We're being encouraged this year to file electronically, and Revenue Canada tells us that two-thirds of us are already doing that. Maybe so, but the electronic system seems to me to be a lot more convenient for the folks at Revenue than it is for me. The blurbs about it say we can do our taxes in as little as ten minutes, but that hasn't been my experience at all. By the time you get all your information ready, and learn how to use the program, you've already spent a lot more than ten minutes on it. And then it starts asking you questions, and you have to put the answers into it. It says it does all the work for you, and the problem there is that I immediately start wondering if it really has done this or that or the other, and got a correct result. I think I'm better off doing my taxes the way I've always done them - with my trusty calculator and the government's forms on the table, where I can read the instructions, and fill in the blanks, and not wonder if something was missed.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Monday, February 11, 2013

Eagle in a tree

This was taken in the ragged digital zoom area of a 42X Nikon on a day that's so foggy we can barely see the treetops, so that's my excuse for a poor image. But I wanted to see how it would come out, and this is it.

Today's big news....

This is probably the big news of the day, and the first time in hundreds of years for a Pope to resign.  But now that I'm 80 myself, I can understand why he would do this. There comes a time when we simply aren't what we used to be, and they say it's a wise man who knows his limits. I wish him well.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

"ET call home!" and all like that...

They've recalculated the demise of the dinosaurs, it says here, and are still figuring out how many earth-like planets may be out there. Not that we're going to any of them any time soon, or ever.

If there's one of them 13 light-years away, that's still further than anything we've got could possibly make it in one piece in a time frame longer than anyone could possibly survive. So it's a purely hypothetical situation.

And if small, cool red dwarfs are the most common stars in our galaxy, as reported, then our galaxy must be in either its middle age or perhaps its old age, because a red dwarf is usually one of the final stages of a star's life.


Still digging out after the big blizzard of '13 along the east coast.

A neighbor's back yard here on the west coast this morning.

Starting off nice....

Off in the west, though, there's more dark clouds coming our way.... but so far so good.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

My favorite columnist, on getting older...

I'm not alone, struggling to adapt as we all get older, and here's a good article on the subject written by my favorite columnist in The Globe and Mail.

Friday, February 8, 2013

First spring flower...

The poor little thing looks a bit ragged, but it's doing its best...

Speaking of health news....

Speaking of health news, here's something on atrial fibrillation which explains it and describes what they can do about it now. It caught my eye because this was one of the reasons I was in hospital for a week lately.

They now have me on one of the new blood-thinning medications to treat this, and I thought I'd pass this along for anyone else who might be interested in it.

These new monitors they mention are an improved version of the Holter Monitor, which now can communicate by telemetry back to a central receiver to display your real-time readings on a panel in the cardiac ward's main station, and also display it on other panels around the hallways of it. I imagine a similar method is used for those worn outside the hospital. These devices can be set to trigger an alarm if the actions they detect go beyond predetermined limits, and 
then help is dispatched. 

When you're walking around wearing one, the traces from your heartbeats are often quite a jumble of just 'hash' or artifacts as they call them, and to get a good reading, you need to stop moving around and stay still for a few moments,
but these are marvelous pieces of technology, and are worn 24 hours a day when required. There's a problem though, if you want to have a shower, because you need to have them remove the five or six detector pads attached to your chest around the heart, so you can take off the little pouch containing the device, which must not be allowed to get wet.  

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Tonight's sunset....

This is what's wrong with the world....

From USA Today
This is what's wrong with the world today: These Bishops want to keep us breeding ourselves out of standing room at the table, and this NRA nutcase wants to run his own army and keep the loonies shooting each other and us.

A look at the hills today...

There's still lots of snow up there, but that blue sky looks nice...

This and that....

Now that I'm home again, I've been trying to think of something to write about, and I've been checking the news on Google for some inspiration.

So far, I've learned that the day after you're out of the hospital is not a good day to be reading the latest medical news about heart problems and cancer,
both of which I'm already acquainted with. 

As Mark Twain once said, "You should be careful reading medical books, because you might die of a misprint."

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

'Oldest Living Blogger' came back....

"From where?" you ask....  From the Cardiac Ward at our local hospital, and therein lies a tale, of sorts. Depends how desperate you are for tales, I guess....

A week ago today, in the middle of the night, I went to Emergency there, because I was told that I had pneumonia, and fluid on the lungs with a nasty, bubbly cough. They checked me over, and decided that my heart could also use some testing, so they put me into the Cardiac section in bed, and I've been there for a week, until earlier today.

Besides the obvious lung problems, partly caused by 60 years of smoking until 7 years ago, they also discovered some Atrial Fibrillation, and put me on blood thinners to help prevent blood clots forming during fibrillating periods. So that was probably a fortunate dose of pneumonia which got me in there. And that's my story, and now I'm off to bed to try out my own bed, instead of those $28,000 ones they have now in hospital. Those tell your weight along with everything else, and are air-filled.