Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Question Everything:

Question Everything:

Is this the doing-to-death of a Star Wars franchise that began 37 years ago?

As Obi-Wan Kenobi might have said, "There are no second chances to make a first impression."

Changing Subway

So what is this all about? Here's an article that will help us understand it....

You can read this complete article here. This involves a special method of preparation and handling of meat, somewhat similar to Kosher, but different
in the particulars. It seems to be a method emphasizing a healthy procedure
for handling meat, and only certain kinds are permitted.

(If you check out the menus in the above page, they seem delicious!)

In the news this morning...

Mark Twain, or possibly former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, reportedly said: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." And Benjamin Franklin said: "Believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see." Edgar Allan Poe switched that one end-for-end, but the meaning's the same. But enough with the rhetoric - please tell us who makes that cute little 4-thread serger in this picture. It's a lot more compact than those made years ago. It's probably an industrial model and expensive. These are fun to use, if you're into that sort of thing. You can turn two bath towels into a bathrobe in half an hour, but the question arises: 'Do I really want to spend between $1200 and $1500 on a machine that makes a bathrobe in half an hour, or remodels old jeans into shorts in 20 minutes?' How often do we really need to do that? Not that often, most likely. 

But if sewing is one of your hobbies, and you enjoy making things, these are a lot of fun. You can turn out a finished result that is even better made than stuff you buy off the racks, and that's because you're going to be taking more care with it, and finishing off the loose ends of threads, etc., which aren't always done in a factory operation. I only recently discarded a fleece jogging suit that I made about 25 years ago using a 4-thread serger and a Bernina free-arm sewing machine. It almost refused to wear out. I took up sewing as therapy for my being pushed into early retirement, and it really worked. I learned something useful, and had a lot of fun doing it. The neighborhood kids teased me a lot, but they stopped when they saw what I could do with the machines.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Restore Aero Glass to Windows 8 or 8.1

If you look closely at the above, you'll see that the window frame and the bottom taskbar are now nearly invisible. That's because I've just installed this program. It restores the glass effects to Windows, like those in Windows 7, and it does it natively, meaning that you can adjust those effects from within your regular Personalization window.

Just go into Personalization, to the Color button along its bottom edge, and when that opens, simply select the desired tint from those shown, and then adjust the slider for more or less transparency/opacity. Less color is to the left, more to the right.

And where did my blog page go while I'm showing the color selections? That's another great little 'freebie' called Winroll. Right-click on the upper edge of the window frame, and it rolls up into that part of the frame, conveniently out of the way. Another right-click and it's back again to full size. You can get that one here.

And this shows what it can do on a crowded desktop. It's very handy - try it.

Like I've said a couple of times before, there are lots of ways you can customize your Windows 8, if you don't mind spending a little time on it, and it can be fun! And in case you're wondering why I'm making it look like Windows 7, that's easy - I really like Windows 7, but I also like features in Windows 8, and so I've got the best of both by doing some tweaking here. In fact, you can end up with something more than either one by carefully selecting the 'freebies' you add into it. So I've now got something that isn't quite Windows 7, and isn't just Windows 8, it's a little more than both of those combined. Let's call it Windows Universal for want of a better name. 

Please note:
When using AeroGlass, shortly after Startup you will see a little window that
shows you a machine code for your machine, and asks if you wish to save it to your Clipboard. To continue using this feature, you must click on 'Yes'. It is also a good idea to save that code as a text file in Notepad, just in case.

Update on that Internet Explorer bug....

As you may or may not already know, Mighty Microsoft today sent out patches for fixing the problems with Windows and Internet Explorer. Their cure isn't exactly like the one I suggested earlier, but mine was close. I recommended disabling Adobe's Flash Player. Microsoft didn't go quite that far, but uses a rather complicated method for preventing the activation of that Flash Player by web sources you haven't authorized. My way was simpler, but might prevent certain visuals on web pages from being shown. Microsoft's method avoids that.

But for whatever it's worth, after I killed Adobe's Flash, and began using the Google Chrome browser instead of Microsoft's, I haven't noticed any problems in the way that web pages are displaying. Everything looks just as nice as it did before that problem came along. I hasten to add that I don't usually use the Internet Explorer except for times when I might want to search a Microsoft site to find a particular Knowledge Base Article, or find something relating to Windows. Most of the time, my browser of choice is one of the others, such as Firefox, or Chrome, or Opera, and I have all of those installed, ready to use.

And if I may say so, I think it's disappointing that after all these years of being software experts, Microsoft's people haven't yet come up with a browser that's
'bulletproof' against hackers and malware attacks. Other browsers like Firefox or Chrome seem to have better protective features, and that's becoming more important with each passing week lately. I have to wonder if Microsoft is putting enough resources into keeping its browser, Internet Explorer, up to date. And that is why I usually use someone else's. I like Firefox, because it has a large selection of add-ons and extensions, such as 'Better Privacy' which can root out and remove those LSOs, or 'Supercookies' that ordinary cookie-handling software can't detect. 

Those LSOs (Local System Objects) have been called supercookies because they never expire, and they can perform executive tasks like a program does, and they send home your information like spyware does, and you don't have any way of detecting them without a special program like the add-on 'Better Privacy'. Normal anti-virus programs do not seem able to detect them, and there may be dozens of them in your system if you have never done a search for them using this special program. And it isn't available for Internet Explorer. It's a Firefox add-on. Need I say more?

Floppy disks ? Really ?

If memory serves, these 8-inch floppies were replaced by 5.25-inch which in turn were replaced by 3.5-inch which are now difficult to obtain, and were replaced by USB and Flash Drives. This got me searching for a source of the 3.5-inch floppies, which are used in my Canon Starwriter 30 word processor.
That in turn got me looking for its IR-100 ribbons, and those are really scarce.
A source in the U.K. wants 21 British Pounds for one ribbon. That's $38.79 in Canadian dollars.  Canon originally sold these in a box of 3 twin-packs for 
$39.45 plus taxes and delivery, for a total of $50.90 for 6 ribbons, or $8.48 each. So those Brits have tacked on $30.00 per ribbon to the price. Luckily, I still have two boxes of six ribbons each on hand. And that's now worth about $465.48 according to those Brits' prices. Fortunately, 3.5-inch floppies are still available from Staples Office Supplies, in a pack of 10 for about $10.00 + tax.

Forgive the digressing above, please - the article prompts me to ask how long those disks can be tested for accuracy and completeness before they begin to fail mechanically or otherwise become unreliable? Several decades is a long time to be using the same stuff without having serious problems. I'd be concerned about that if those were mine. Granted, we hope it will never be necessary to use those weapons, but if it ever was, it would be much better if they worked as planned rather than malfunctioning during launch or en route to the target. Can fifty-year-old technology be trusted? Where do you find the replacement parts for it? At what cost? 

Time marches on, trampling everything underfoot.

Monday, April 28, 2014

More on the Internet Explorer bug...

Meanwhile...This vulnerability is made possible by Adobe Flash, and that is an ActiveX control, so if you enable ActiveX Filtering and go into Control Panel, and remove Adobe Flash from your installed programs list, you will be safer. I can't tell you this is a 'cure', but it certainly is better than not doing anything. Here's a snipping from an Adobe Forum page about this filtering.

The remarks above for I.E.9 will also apply to newer versions most likely.
If you get rid of Adobe Flash, and enable that ActiveX Filtering to stop ActiveX on web pages, you should be safer. And you will be even safer if you use another browser until Mighty Microsoft issues a fix.

Note: After you have removed Adobe Flash using Programs and Features in Control Panel, navigate to your C:\Users\yourname\AppData\Local folder and remove the Adobe folder and its contents. Then while still in your AppData folder, go into its Roaming folder, where you will find another Adobe folder containing a complete copy of the Flash Player. Be sure to delete that also.
Then, go into Control Panel -> Internet Options, and scroll down to the Security section. Make sure there are check-marks in the boxes in front of:

* Empty Temporary Internet Files folder when browser is closed.
* Enable Enhanced Protected Mode.
* Enable memory protection to help mitigate online attacks.

If you had to add a check-mark to any of those, do a restart of your computer to enable that feature.

I use this, and I know some of the experts say we shouldn't use a registry cleaner, but this has worked well for me for a long time, and it gets rid of a lot of junk from several places, not just the registry. It is updated quite frequently, and has been steadily improved over the years. This is one of my favorite 'freebies'.

Who's running the country? The NRA ?

Obviously, the NRA doesn't want guns that are smarter than they are, and it won't take a hell of a lot of software to do that, because those guys can't even interpret their own Second Amendment correctly. And they probably also think that Manual Labor is a Mexican Obstetrician. People that smart shouldn't be allowed to play with guns. They could hurt somebody.

Look at it this way.......

Look at it this way.... You're Microsoft, and one of your best products from yesteryear is still so popular, it's interfering with sales of newer products that you'd desperately like to move. What can you do? You've widely advertised that official support would end, and now it has, but still the users cling to their old Windows XP. What else could you do? Start a rumor that continuing to use it poses a known security risk. That ought to get some action....

But wait a minute.... the almost 28% of users still running Windows XP likely includes some of the business community that simply can't afford to play the
old 'engineered obsolescence' game with you, and their old XP does everything they need to do. Do they really need to throw it out, if this vulnerability you describe concerns the browser being used? Of course not! Just don't use that browser. Instead, use Mozilla's Firefox, or Google's Chrome, or Opera. And if you're worried about security issues, get a good third-party security program  from one of the top ten providers of those. And remember that some of the free versions these days are every bit as effective as some you must pay for.

Let's connect the dots...

Sounds good, but....

Is this a great idea?

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Today's weather

The hills are alive with the sound of.....snowflakes!
(Tell me more about Global Warming, please...)

Today's best comment on the news...

In the comments under another story about this, elsewhere on the web, in addition to all the inevitable idiotic babbling between self-styled know-it-alls, there was one person's comment that stood out: 'Unbelievable! Here we have men telling God who should be in heaven!' I think that sums it up very succinctly.

This is also of course an exercise in reconciliation among Catholics, and an attempt to 'paint over' the sins of the priesthood that weren't sufficiently addressed by one or more of these Popes while they were in a position to do so. And none of this 'patching up' would have been necessary had the church been following its own rules instead of breaking some of them with disgusting regularity. There have been divisions amongst the faithful and declining attendance at masses because there's been an obvious reaction to this whole 'Don't do as I do, but do as I say' mentality throughout the priesthood and its hierarchy.
Sinners don't become saints with a few Latin phrases, and actions still speak louder than words.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

From (appropriately) Business Insider:-

The ancient Egyptians, arguably the world's most famous 'pagans' didn't have 10,000 saints, but they probably had that many gods and goddesses, if we added up all the individual household deities, the village ones, the town ones, the city ones, and the nome or provincial ones, not to mention the favorites of the national ruler, the Pharaoh, who was the Chief High Priest, and also the patron of the biggest and richest temples in the land. A land where the largest temple had thousands of acres of land, vast herds of cattle, and a priesthood that included many of the rich & famous as well as the working clerics who collected the offerings, and shared part of the spoils among themselves.

Those temples were grand and gilded palaces with vast and impressive columns and tall stelae in the forecourt recounting memorable events, to impress the throngs awaiting the start of ceremonies.... Does any of this seem familiar by any chance?

Ah, if only those ancient Pharaohs could see what we've done with their main act.... the only part we haven't yet copied and improved on is the part with the nearly naked dancing girls and their accompanying musicians....but give us time. We've already got young priests dancing in the streets, so it shouldn't be too long now. Maybe next year, we can combine this with Rio's 'Carnaval'.... Then, the show would be complete!

Religion: Can it pass the smell test?

Question Everything: When did religion become about worshiping other mortals rather than God? The ancient Egyptians were among the first to convince the unwashed masses that a mortal could also be a god, but we've always considered them to have been pagans. Now, it seems we're openly imitating them. Come to think of it, there's a lot more than just one example of similarities between those ancient Egyptians and today's Roman Catholics.

All this showbiz-like whoop-de-do is more like the build-up to a rock concert than a solemn religious occasion. Is this religion or deviltry? - or don't they know the difference? I have to wonder, and so should you.

Today's Trivia:

Think high school yearbook superlatives - if Lindsay Lohan and Julia Roberts were classmates.
Julia is definitely in the wrong class, and my Time Machine is overdue for its 20-year warranty servicing.

News most likely to put a frown on Smilers' faces: Miley Cyrus postponing U.S. tour dates.
Was it a heart attack? nervous exhaustion? virulent stupidity? Will we ever get the truth?

Most successful attempt at providing (almost) instant gratification to fans: Jack White.
And who the hell is 'Jack White'? 

Most awkward boy-band beef: Joey Fatone dissing the Backstreet Boys.
You could probably count on the fingers of one hand all the rock group reunion tours that were NOT prompted by the need for more money.

Saddest reality-show revelation: Lindsay Lohan says she had a miscarriage.
And the world needs another little LiLo because....?

Most anticlimactic White House petition response: "No Comment" on Justin Bieber.
It's not Canada's fault if you set the bar lower than we do for these types...

Most heartbreaking quote of wisdom: Julia Roberts.
Someone once said that we don't begin to grow up until we've lost both parents, and I think that same process applies to losing one's siblings or children. We become much more keenly aware of the harshness of reality and the brevity of our existence.

In the news....

While I was looking at this picture of the solitary sister kneeling devoutly before all that man-made splendor, something made me think about Biblical references to Scribes and Pharisees, and that in turn led me to St. Matthew, Chapter 23. It's a very instructive chapter, not only for what it says about Scribes and Pharisees, but also what it says in verses 9 through 12:-
"And call no one on earth, father, for one is your Father in heaven. Nor be called leaders, for one is your leader, the Christ. But he who is greatest among you, let him be your servant. For whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted."

I wish I'd been more interested in things of this nature before I took my instructions to become a Catholic back in the 1950s. Am I proof that 'fools rush in where angels fear to tread'? I guess the moral of the story here is to do your homework and look before you leap, and apparently, I should have done more homework beforehand, rather than after.
But there's a reason for everything, so perhaps it's all part of the learning process... 

Managing your contacts....

This tells us about a new program that attempts to collect all your contacts info into one file, but the reviewer writing this says that it isn't quite there yet, but may be by next year. This raises the question: "Do I really want all my contacts in one conveniently-hackable file?"

Friday, April 25, 2014

Sometimes, I wonder....

Katy Perry is a very well assembled young lady, and I enjoyed the 'Roar' video very much, but sometimes I wonder where these ideas come from. Wherever she got the idea for the green hair, she should forget it. Bald would be better than that.

Opinion, from The Moscow Times...

The opinions expressed in the above article are those of the author, and I'm passing this along for information purposes only. I think we should know what others are thinking.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

At the supermarket

"Is there anybody out there?"

This postulates that habitable or inhabited planets elsewhere aren't good for us,
for various reasons, all insufficiently explained, and it doesn't say much about the vast distances between here and whatever's 'out there'. But first of all, let's have a look at Enrico Fermi's pet paradox....

Perhaps the answer to Enrico's famous paradox is that being really intelligent, these other civilizations took a hard look at the cost/benefit analysis, and the distances and times involved, and wisely decided to stay home and renovate the old homestead instead. Charity begins at home, and all that.

So, is intelligent life extremely rare? Old 'Uncle Albert' reportedly said, "The commonest element in the universe is not hydrogen, but rather stupidity."
To which I'd be inclined to add, "If we're this smart, why are we doing all these stupid things with such disgusting regularity?" But I'm digressing. Is intelligent life really rare? Or is it being too economically utilized?  Even smart people make stupid mistakes, so it isn't just a question of raw intelligence. It should also include an element of discretion or control. Intelligence without adequate control can be disastrous. Ask any manic-depressive. We could write books about it, and some of us have.

Does intelligent life go extinct too quickly to make any interstellar contacts? Now that's a more likely postulation, I'd say. Look at our own planet. We're reasonably intelligent, give or take a few I.Q. points, and yet we're overpopulating the planet without regard to its ability to assimilate our waste, and we're actually altering its climate in the process. Continued unabated, this will bring civilization as we know it to a screeching halt much sooner than common sense might dictate. And that's very likely what will happen, because doing something else will be too painful and too expensive for the establishment to willingly accept, so the status quo will be maintained until the bitter end. And that will come a lot sooner than it needed to, because we really weren't as intelligent as we thought we were, and that will prove it. 

Added note:
Sending out little spacecraft containing 'Greetings from Earth' is probably a  useless ego trip, because if it ever did stumble into the proximity of another inhabited planet, it might very likely burn up in their atmosphere, like many stray meteoroids do here, without ever being identified correctly. Maybe we've already been sent similar greetings without recognizing it. Visitations from others in space don't require mysterious UFOs containing little bug-eyed aliens. Hollywood, after all, is a local phenomenon. Not everything 'out there' might resemble Forbidden Planet or the scenery in Star Wars; it might more likely resemble When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth or perhaps One Million Years BC, without, of course, the ever-radiant Raquel Welch in her fur bikini.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Attention Climate Changers...

What's wrong with this picture? Plenty! The leaves are coming out, and it's snowing in the hills at a time of year when we might normally be frolicking in our outdoor pools. This kind of climate change is all too visible, and entirely too close for comfort. 

Related to 'Dubya'? One wonders....

I could say something derogatory, like "If he had one more brain cell, it would be very lonely!" but I won't. Instead, let's pause for a moment to consider the effect upon history and the present which is the result of the misinterpretation of the intent of the Second Amendment and its resulting psychology of 'guns everywhere' promoted by the NRA and enshrined in law by gutless politicians who would rather bow to pressure from conniving gun interests than stand up for the prevention of senseless slaughter going on in the world.

That particular mindset which glorifies firearms, and the long-gone 'wild west' and the idea that anyone with a gun can play God if they're crazy enough or angry enough or stupid enough has had a seriously detrimental effect all over the world - not just in America. That's because Americans have roamed the world believing that with enough guns and enough ammunition, they can and should do anything they damned well please. And that simply isn't how the civilized world ought to be conducting its interpersonal relationships, because it prompts others to respond in kind - and then all Hell breaks loose. And that's just what we've got going on right now.

Woof! Videohound might say.

You can watch this video here and decide for yourself if you think it's a 'train wreck' or not. When I watched it, I had a lot of trouble believing this gal is really 29 years old. It seems like it ought to have been done by someone closer to puberty - much closer. Woof!

Obscured by Clouds...

If smart business types are questioning the wisdom of placing too much faith in 'the cloud', shouldn't we be equally cautious? How many strangers are you willing to trust?

Another question: (You know the answer.)

If Daddy wasn't famous, would we be subjected to this sordid but all too common tale?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Today's trivia...

Who says things don't last? I made an interesting discovery this afternoon.....

My Canon Starwriter 30, similar to the one shown, purchased in 1995, still works just as well as it ever did. I wrote a letter on it today to send by fax, and my almost-as-old 1996 Sanyo Fax Machine works equally well. I'm quite pleased that both of these well-used but carefully cared for machines are still able to do their thing as well as ever.

The Canon word processor might have been a real world-beater, except for two things: Windows 95 came out right on top of it, and its computer language isn't the most popular one used by the vast majority of computers. But for its time, it did (and still does) some amazing things. It can type in 20 languages, in case you know that many and most of us don't of course, and it can calculate using formulas and add columns, and even print your own greetings with illustrations, if you wish. And if you ran out of ribbons, it can use the heat-sensitive fax paper, if you're absolutely desperate - but you wouldn't want to use that for anything you were sending out, of course. This word processor is very possibly the best of the breed anywhere, and I've written thousands of pages on mine, and it is still working just as well as the day I first unpacked it from its shipping container. And it's 19 years later. That's a pretty good testimonial for Canon, and it's a shame it got clobbered in the market by full-blown computers, because it is about 95% computer itself. If it had a built-in fax machine, you could probably throw out your computer and avoid all that malware, and still be able to transmit messages just the same. 

An explanation about yesterday's posting...

To Tom and Ron and my other American readers (the whole three of you!) my apologies for choosing an inappropriate response to that article (above) and its remarks about results on the question of technology being used to improve intelligence. I'd like to explain....

The subject of technology being able to help with intelligence, or in other words 'genetic engineering' is something that I'm  sensitive about, because ethically applied genetic engineering could possibly eliminate problems like being born bipolar (manic-depressive) which is the result of chemical imbalances in the body caused by defective or missing genes in the DNA. These missing or damaged genes are responsible for the chemical imbalances because they are unable to instruct the central nervous system to save and use certain trace chemical elements which are essential to maintaining a normal balance in the chemistry of the blood plasma electrolytes and central nervous system generally, without which, the system tends to 'swing' or 'hunt' for its proper balance point, never successfully finding it unless supplemented by additional doses of specific medications designed to compensate for these missing trace chemicals. So the person experiences mood swings expressed sometimes as 'temper tantrums' or periods of wild elation or severe depression, and episodes of inappropriate behavior because of this lack of control which came with the system.

All of that can result in life becoming much more difficult than it needs to be, and result in loss of friends, difficulties with employment, marital problems, and a generally unpleasant kind of life, involving prejudice, discrimination, and a few other antisocial consequences. And I would know, because in the spring of 1977 I was confined to a Psych Ward for just over a month, during which extensive tests of several different kinds including brain scans and ECGs and blood tests galore were done on me, and the doctor then informed me that I'm a manic-depressive, and needed to take my medication regularly if I wished to enjoy any kind of 'normal' life. - His 'normal', not mine, because my 'normal' apparently wasn't, but it needed to be, obviously.

So, to make this story shorter, yes - I would favor genetic engineering if it was conducted ethically, scientifically, and only for certain specific deficiencies. I wouldn't want it misused as today's plastic surgery seems to be, and I wouldn't want it leading to anyone trying to create some kind of 'super race' like 'Der Fuhrer' envisioned in Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. There would need to be controls in place to prevent that for sure. But it might be nice if we could augment the intelligence of guys like 'Dubya' or Wayne LaPierre of the NRA, to improve their cognition and 'common sense' factors by a few points. That might be very tempting....

And to Tom and Ron, I'm really sorry if my yesterday's remarks offended you. That was not my intention. I was trying to be a smart-ass, and I wasn't thinking it through, and I apologize. I sometimes even yet open mouth before engaging brain, and yesterday was one of those.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Note to the Royal Plasterer....

Is it my imagination, or is some of the crack-filler coming loose? 

Another Question:

It says here: "And when it comes to altering our DNA to improve our intelligence or resistance to disease Americans are firmly opposed."

Translation: "We insist on our right to being born stupid, and losing ground ever since."

And will someone please tell me why these robots must look like people, rather than like a vacuum cleaner or an R2D2 ? And speaking of R2D2, has anyone seen him lately?

Uncle Ron points out that we can have our very own R2D2 for a mere $200.00 + taxes and shipping & handling. But he's only 15 inches tall (R2D2, not Uncle Ron!) and that's $160/ft., batteries not included, which seems a bit much for a 'bot that can't reach the door knobs or answer the phone. But I'll bet it could drive the cat crazy!