Sunday, August 31, 2014

When I was young, and the Dead Sea was still alive...

The first hydro-electric plant I operated after finishing my training as station operator, back in the 1950s. In those days, this plant had glass in all its windows, and I had all my hair and teeth. There was housing for the operators who manned it 24 hours a day, as well as a Chief Operator's home, and another for the resident Handyman and his wife, who did the cooking for us single types.
That railway line (upper right) is the main line of the CN Rail, running between
Toronto and Sudbury, and on across the country. One morning about five a.m.,
just nicely daylight on a summer's day, two freight trains collided on the embankment just off-camera to the lower right, and the coupling off one of the
engines landed in the river just outside that lower window, second from left.
The wreckage missed the cookery & handyman's house by maybe 25 feet.
I was supposed to start my annual vacation that morning, coming off a midnight shift, and I couldn't get my car out of there until they moved the train cars blocking our crossing, and they wouldn't move anything until they found one 
of the train crew who was still missing after I got off shift at 8:00 a.m. - so I
volunteered to help look for him, and I crawled under a tangle of boxcars on the embankment, and finally found his boots, nearly buried in the gravel. 

He was still in them, and I clawed the gravel away from him, and got him out of
there. I think every bone in his body must have been broken. A couple of hours
later, they did move the remains of the train off our crossing, and I could get my car out of there, but after that experience, it wasn't much of a vacation for me.

After I left Ontario Hydro, I worked for several years for a private power company called Great Lakes Power with headquarters in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and hydro plants on two rivers flowing into Lake Superior north of there, at the eastern end of that lake, as well as one really old-timer hydro plant on the St. Mary's River, right in Sault Ste. Marie. I worked mostly at the plant
in this picture, which was the control station for two and eventually three others
downstream on the Montreal River there. The trestle above our dam is the main line of the Algoma Central Railway, and at one time, and possibly still, this was or is the longest curved railway bridge in North America. It is still very much in use, and the railway runs special scenic tours in the autumn for those wishing to see the glorious fall colors along the line. There's a band of hardwood forest along this eastern end of Lake Superior, extending from the beaches back for several miles inland, and when those leaves turn various shades of red in the fall, people come from hundreds of miles around to see them. So the railway
runs special trains for tourists at those times. It's a sight worth seeing, for sure.

Along the far shore of our lake above the dam, just a short distance from that western end of it (left) there was and possibly still is a popular fishing and hunting camp, which in my time was operated by an American from Michigan, and any time we wanted to go fishing, he would let us use one of his steel-hulled 16-footers for free, as long as we bought his gas. It worked out very well.
After he closed it up for the winters and returned to the U.S., we kept an eye on it for him until he came back in the spring. Some of the biggest Northern Pike I've ever seen came out of that lake which ran for about 30 miles above our dam. 

At the upper end of it, where the river flowed in, there was a rapids with several steps in them, and the river water was a shade of light golden brown, so we called that "The Golden Stairs". Below it, there was always a large patch of thick
foam on the water for some distance out from the 'stairs', and some really large fish hung around under that foam to feed on whatever washed down from above. One day my buddy Eddie hooked into one there, and after some struggle managed to reel it up to boat. When he pulled its head up through the foam,
he took a look at it, uttered a couple of choice cuss words, grabbed his handy belt knife, and promptly cut the line. I asked, "What the hell did you do that for? It might have been a record!" Eddie replied, " That monster was at least five inches between the eyes! We're thirty miles from home, and I'm not sitting in the same boat with that for two hours, record or not!" If you pulled one of those into the boat and its tail slapped the underside of your seat, it was like being spanked with a paddle. I caught one there that was big enough its nose touched one end of my 21 cubic foot chest-style freezer while its tail touched the other end, and that's a large fish.

And that's how I spent some of my wild and crazy younger days back in the '60s, before I decided to have a look at the west coast. 

These are old pictures off the web, and I couldn't clean them up much, but it gives you an idea of what that trestle over the dam looks like with a train on it
in the fall. You really have to be there for the full effect.

Angelina and Brad Joli-Pitt: Wed or not?

Having had a couple of 'Altar-cations' myself, following which I crashed and burned, the most relevant wisdom I could offer you would be this: a piece of paper will not bring to a relationship anything which was not already there, and it will not prevent the departure of anything that was already quietly slipping away.

Baudelaire's "Les Fleurs Du Mal" (Flowers of Evil)

Fleurs du Mal - These have been re-translated and misinterpreted almost as often as The Bible! I'm an old man. I have lived. I have an active imagination. I don't need some dead Frenchman from the dim and dusty past instructing me on ways to be naughty, or thoughts coming to mind while doing so. I also could write about such things, but have never had any desire to become a starving poet. And I've already been in far too much trouble romantically speaking, so Les Fleurs du Mal il fait inutile et superflu, n'est-ce pas?

Saturday, August 30, 2014

To Facebook or not to Facebook, that is the question...

I prefer blogging, because there's something about the rattle of keys and the mumbling of muttered curses when mistakes are made that tend to stimulate my creative instincts and get juices flowing to my babbling mechanisms.... but I have relatives.

Relatives from whom I've been estranged for decades, and it happens a couple are genealogically inclined, and determined to add more scalps and mugshots to the charts and graphs and branches on Ye Olde Family Tree, and being otherwise very nice and charming souls, I acceded to their request to join Facebook, to facilitate communication with others.

It's a terrible, tangled web out there! Engrossed in fascinating preferences of others associated with mutual friends, I've just ended up reading French poetry by Charles Baudelaire, Les Fleurs du Mal....

And I hasten to add, this may not be for everyone, because it relates to the sensual and erotic themes. So how did I get into that, you ask? Blame it on a possibly topless picture of an intriguing-looking 'friend' of Pascal's - my old blogging buddy in Lebanon. She said she was reading Les Fleurs du Mal, so I thought 'maybe I'd better check out this pot-boiler for myself...' and that's how
I got into erotic French poetry from the 1850s. I blame it all on Facebook!  And
now, back to Les Fleurs du Mal... bonsoir, mes amis!

If using this newest theme (below)....

You may want to choose 'auto-hide taskbar' so its picture frames show better.

Yet another new theme for Windows 8: Scientists

When push comes to shove...

There are those who will push others until someone pushes back, and so.....

Maybe it's time for a joint military training exercise of our own, with NATO forces staging 'war games' in Ukraine, and any Russian soldiers found there will be used for target practice.... How do you like the idea so far? Let's get this over. There's been entirely enough 'butt-smooching' already. 

Will Rogers said, "Diplomacy is the art of saying 'Nice Doggie' until you can find a rock."

Friday, August 29, 2014

Speaking of books....

This is what the two-volume set of the hieroglyphic dictionary looks like....

There are several hundred hieroglyphs including variations on some of them, and one wonders how those ancient scribes learned them all.

This is my well-thumbed copy of The Papyrus of Ani, more commonly known as one of the best examples of the Theban version of The Book of the Dead. And another way of describing it might be to say this was 'The Bible' for ancient Egyptians.

What would you find in it? Does it offer us any guidance? Yes, it does......

2.) You shall not cause terror (literally, confusion, abuse and strife) among men and women for this is against the will of God.

2.) This tells us how we should pray, and it reminds me of a passage in the modern Bible in St. Matthew 6:5 advising us "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who like to pray, standing in the synagogues and at the street corners, so they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you that they have already received their reward." And again, in verse 7: "And when you pray, do not repeat your words like the pagans, for they think that because of much talking they will be heard."

If we 'connect the dots' from back along the Nile three or four or five thousand years ago, up until more modern times, there's definite traces of a certain continuity of thought and belief and ideas around the concept of God. I don't think it's right that any of us should feel confidently secure in our conceptualizations of our Creator.  I think we're all like little kids in a strange and frightening place, seeking solace as best we can with our limited knowledge, and none of us should feel superior to the other. I can't believe God plays favorites or values one soul above another, having made them all.

What does this remind us of?

Remember when Dubya was trying to drum up support for an invasion of Iraq and we were being shown generic or poorly-drawn sketches of supposed 'Weapons of Mass Destruction'? Imprecise and amateurish artwork hastily thrown together to keep a pot boiling? So let's not take the same bait twice, shall we?

Having said that, would you buy a used car from Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, formerly Lieutenant Colonel in the KGB? Not if you have two brain cells to rub together you shouldn't, because he is the kind of guy who never lets the right hand know what the left hand is doing. He wants to rebuild the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, over our dead bodies, if necessary, while pretending to be a humanitarian defender of human rights and an all-around nice guy. But nice guys do not rise to power as fast as he did. And if he really wanted the fighting 
to stop in Ukraine, it would be over in five minutes. You can bet your Lada on that, Tovarishch.

Dear Mr. Google ( You sweet thing, you!) May I apologize?

I owe the gang at Google an apology! Why? Because: I just signed into Facebook and tried to answer about a zillion questions, all but three or four of which are, in my humble but considered opinion, absolutely none of their cotton-pickin', chicken-pluckin', guitar-playin', nose-pickin' business!!! They've got more angles than a college professor's geometry text, and I even know a couple of professors who can testify to that, if we get right down to it. And now
I know why Mark Zuckerberg is always smiling. He's hit on a method for picking the brains of the unwashed masses even surpassing that of the GoogleBots!

Fortunately, I have an excellent defense. I can just play stupid. What books do I like? There wasn't one on that Facebook sampling that even came close. Have they ever heard of E.A. Wallis Budge, former Curator of the Egyptian Antiquities Section of the British Museum, and his many books about Ancient Egypt? Or maybe Adolf Erman's 'Life in Ancient Egypt'? Admittedly rather obscure these days perhaps, but a little more authentically educational than Stephen King's stuff. Another book I like, but loaned to a friend and wish I hadn't, is on another of my pet subjects, outer space. It's titled 'Beyond The Moon' by the Italian Astronomer Paolo Maffei, and if you can find it, you're in for a treat. He takes us
on an imaginary spaceship flight from here to the outer limits of the known universe, with frequent stops at all the interesting and unusual phenomena along the way. And there's lots of them, trust me.

Books! Want a 'pot-boiler'? Try Tom Harpur's 'The Pagan Christ' if you want to start a riot in the Bible Belt....Or a treasured 'oldie' perhaps? 'God and the Astronomers' by Robert Jastrow. A home-grown adventure? Stephen Coonts tale  'The Cannibal Queen' about his flying a restored Stearman all over the lower 48, making at least one landing in each of the states, and describing it
all for us. Famous movie stars? You can't do much better than A. Scott Berg's
book 'Kate Remembered' about his wonderfully talented friend Katharine Hepburn.

My point? If Facebook is going to pick our brains about our likes, dislikes, desires and aversions, would it kill them to use a little intelligence arranging their selections? Or am I expecting too much from the nouveau riche?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

USA Today: "They Did It!"

I fervently wish them much more success than I enjoyed in my second marriage. 

We happily 'lived in sin' for three years or so, until after the birth of our first son, and then decided we ought to 'make it legal' for the sake of the children and 'posterity' and the tongue-wagging busybodies who make such things their primary entertainment. Big Mistake!

While we were there because we really wanted to be, not just because conventional society dictates one ought to honor one's commitments to a piece of documentation signed in front of people you hope you'll never require to be witnesses again, everything went just 'ginger-peachy' and we had a great time, for the most part. But once we became officially 'man and wife' instead of just being that sinfully romantic couple with the cute little baby, things changed.
And I'm not talking about the kid's diapers...

Where did we go wrong? I've asked myself that question about a million times,
and the only answers I get are insufficient excuses for things I can't fully explain nor perhaps even adequately comprehend. Simply put, I just don't know. And I
once thought I knew just about everything about anything. Obviously, I didn't know much about a lot of the things I should have done more 'homework' on,
and asked more questions about, instead of 'assuming' or 'jumping to conclusions'. 

In the beginning, because we both came from divergent and colorful backgrounds, and there was a not inconsequential age difference, we had a deal; once each day, for just a few minutes, we'd take a break from whatever we were doing, and we'd sit down with a coffee or a soda, and ask each other one simple question: "How am I doing today?" And we promised each other to be brutally frank and honest with our answers, so that we could make adjustments if and when required. And it worked out quite well, for as long as we took it seriously and continued doing it. It wasn't until we got overconfident and careless and neglectful of our deal that trouble reared its ugly head amid our formerly placid relationship, and as they say, "the mung hit the fan".
And there's a moral there someplace, if we look for it, I'm fairly sure.

Things you didn't want to know about....

What's it like, waking up in the morning, in your eighties?

And the answer is:-

It's a lot like what's involved in starting up one of those old WW2 training planes we called Harvards, and you may have called the AT-6; you have to go through a rather lengthy pre-flight check, while the battery cart arrives, and then after testing the controls to make sure they are all still capable of full normal travel and functioning, you switch on the ignition, prime it, adjust the throttle and mixture, hit the starter and confidently await the inevitable coughing and spitting and belching of smoke and sometimes flames as it reluctantly comes to life, and then begins running smoothly..... any questions? - I thought not!

These did an inside loop beautifully, unless you got too enthusiastic and pulled the stick right back against your belt buckle, and then it would do a snap-roll
out on top of the loop, and you'd be higher up and flying more or less level. You were cautioned not to try an outside loop, because there were only four big bolts holding the wing on, and if those pulled loose, you'd very quickly become a parachute-tester, and they frowned on that.

This became airborne at about 80 or 81 MPH, and landed at about 85, especially if the instructor had a hangover, and I had control, and we were fence-hopping trying to get onto the hot strip before the other two dozen 'newbies' above us.
It was a dirty trick, but it worked - unless the CO caught your performance.
Then, you piloted a floor-polisher in the barracks for two weeks, to encourage you to become more of a team player.

Once upon a time, I had nightly visitors...

...and I just found some old pictures of them...

They really liked peanut butter and honey sandwiches...

...and Mom brought the little ones to meet me...
And if they ran out of snacks, they came to the door to ask for more.

Did you notice that one lone eye, peeking through the empty knot-hole in the fence, behind the one on the left?  These little guys were practically family, and
even though that was over 25 years ago now, I still miss them. When they weren't enjoying their evening snacks, they'd sometimes sit on that bench and watch TV together. They seemed to enjoy Star Trek, and I'd love to know why....
Was it the Klingons? The Romulans? Unfortunately, I couldn't speak Raccoon.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Confucius Say....

"When cloud in agreement with mountain, most auspicious for picture."

Greed vs. Environmentalism: And the winner is...

Today's weather

Photo Op: Nothing is Forever

Award Shows: Are 96 too many?

The only ones missing from a too-long list are "The Pimply-Assed, Knock-kneed, Pigeon-toed, Cross-eyed Viewer Award", and the "World's Worst Lover Award".

By the months held in, the list looks like this:-
January = 10
February = 8
March = 6
April = 6
May = 3
June = 13
July = 4
August = 8
September = 5
October = 5
November = 12
December = 16
Total = 96

New Windows Theme...

This is how the sky looked yesterday afternoon here, so I took a few shots of it, and turned them into a new Windows Theme.

Let's talk 'Malwarebytes Premium'...

The 'Premium' means you pay an annual subscription fee, and when I try to get it to run as it normally does and normally should, I don't appreciate seeing a pop-up informing of a "Runtime Error at blah-blah, External Exception EO6D7363" - the cure for which seems to come down to removing Malwarebytes from your Control Panel -> Programs and Features, and then downloading and running their "MBAM-Clean" which is a special cleaner program that removes all the hidden vestiges of Malwarebytes Anti-Malware from your computer. And then following that, you need to begin to re-install and re-activate your licensed version of the program. Time required: about an hour, give or take.

All of that is a distinctly annoying and time-consuming procedure for something about which they make strident and in-your-face claims of its magnificence and protectiveness against nefarious and evil malware intent on sabotaging your system. About that: the only program recently coming close to "sabotaging my system" has been this goddamned Malwarebytes, for which I paid good money, not realizing I was buying a definite pain in the ass! There - I've said it, and I'm glad!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Meanwhile, back in Ukraine....

But only if no shots are fired.

Here's where you are:-

As I said in a previous entry here, I hope everyone is enjoying my blog, and if you have any comments, please click on the Comments button below each entry and leave me a message. Don't let your language stop you - I have Google Translate to change it. That is not perfect, I know, but it works quite well. And let me say "Welcome" to you in Ukraine. We hope peace returns to your homeland very soon - and don't take any shit from those neighbors!

And to my readers in China, if you are sending me those spams about study courses or like that, please stop. As you must know by now, I cannot speak or write your language, and I am much too old to begin learning it. I thank you for your interest in my blog, and I hope you continue to enjoy it. Why can we not watch Blue Cat videos here? Can you put those back on the Internet please?

Here's a sample Blue Cat video, for those who have never seen one.....

Typewriters, Fax Machines, and Dear Editor....

Back before everyone had computers, we had typewriters, fax machines, and Dear Editor at the local daily paper, and we aspired to having our letter chosen for publication on the day's Editorials Page. Sometimes, I even made it...

Here's three examples from back in 1995, just before computers really took off.

Monday, August 25, 2014

This evening's after-sundown...

This was taken on a Nikon Coolpix P510 in Night Landscape mode.

Who writes this s*** ?

We should care because...??? And what's that guy on her right doing? Checking to make sure?

Windows 8 Self-diagnostic and Repairs...

A lot of us may not be aware that Windows is capable of doing self-diagnosis and performing certain repairs to its operating system. Please have a look at the following Command Prompt which was run in Administrator mode....

I did a routine "scan now" with System File Checker (SFC) which is part of Windows Resource Protection. It found corrupt files, some of which it said it couldn't fix. I then ran DISM.exe (Deployment Image Servicing and Management tool), with the instructions shown, and it corrected the problems. Then, as a double-check, I ran SFC once more, to confirm everything's OK.

This is a handy routine to make note of, and to perform periodically, to keep your system in good operating condition. And it's a lot more convenient than hauling the box away to a shop for an expensive check-up. 

Additional Note:
The Deployment Image Servicing and Management tool also works in Win-7, but without the "/RestoreHealth" option. The Windows 7 version of it isn't quite as sophisticated as that in Windows 8. But it will restore your system's image just as well.

Periodically in here, I do a little rant about Mighty Microsoft, and give them a bit of static over their Windows 8.1, and I really ought to clarify all that for the benefit of anyone who hasn't been following all this over the past several years.
I was one of the ten million who jumped at the chance to download and test Windows 7 during its Beta phase, before actual public release, and I loved it from day one. Most of us did. And when Windows 8 came along, using basically the same chassis, power plant, and transmission as we'd become familiar with in Windows 7, many of us also jumped at the chance to test it. And in a certain sense, I'm still testing Windows 8. And what have I found?

I've found that Windows 8 can and does happily run programs as old as those intended for use with Windows XP. Programs like Arcsoft's PhotoStudio 5.5 which came out in 2003, long before Windows 8 was even a gleam in Daddy's eye. I've found that it doesn't need any modifications to its startup or reboot or shutdown procedures, if you've bothered to actually "read the directions", but it will happily accept and obey desktop shortcuts for those functions, if you write them correctly for its C:\Windows\System32 (I've got 32-bit Windows) and there's an instruction for that, if you Google the web for it.

And, as you've no doubt noticed from my screenshots on here, Windows 8 also accepts other modifications such as those provided by 8GadgetPack which will restore those much-loved Desktop Gadgets similar to those in Windows 7, but with an even wider variety of gadget choices. There's even been a program made in Germany called AeroGlass8 which restores the full transparency to the window-frames and the Taskbar, etc., but after testing that one for a while, I found that even though it works well, meaning without problems, nevertheless it is resource-intensive, and tends to slow down your system's responses just a little. So I removed it again, because, as Microsoft itself concluded while designing Windows 8, it isn't terribly essential to the performance nor the aesthetics of this system. And it slows it down because it utilizes most of the same Registry items as those used by Windows 7, and in doing so, it re-routes some actions that are 'streamlined' in Windows 8 - so in effect, it's reverting parts of the Registry back to a Windows 7 mode, and that's why it slows down.

I keep saying here that I wish Microsoft would just stop nagging me to upgrade my Windows 8 to the newer Windows 8.1, and there's a very simple reason for my feeling that way. I'm familiar with Windows 8, it does everything I ask of it,
including accepting and running some of these third-party add-ons that I'm so fond of, and I honestly don't feel the least deprived by not having its upgrade to version 8.1. My trusty old Windows 8 with its modifications does everything for me that I could be doing with Windows 8.1, and then some. So I'm reluctant to scrap it for something I'd have to begin all over again to customize. In other words - you guessed it - "If it works, don't fix it!"

Sunday, August 24, 2014

More fun with Themes...

It just doesn't get a whole lot nicer than this, really.

Nice little cloud...

This cloud seemed so nicely centered in the valley north of here, I took its picture, and it will likely end up as a screen background on the monitor.

Sexology 101, or something...

Good old Anonymous tells us: "Eros spelled backwards gives you an idea of how it affects beginners."

Hester Mundis said: "Birds and bees have as much to do with the facts of life as black nightgowns do with keeping warm."

Clare Whitting said: "A kiss that speaks volumes is seldom a first edition."

Rita Rudner said: "I got kicked out of ballet class because I pulled a groin muscle. It wasn't mine."

Joan Rivers said: "A man can sleep around, no questions asked, but if a woman makes nineteen or twenty mistakes, she's a tramp."

Gloria Leonard said: "The difference between pornography and erotica is lighting."

Robert Byrne said: "Sex drive - A physical craving that begins in adolescence and ends at marriage."

And the Earl of Chesterfield said: "Sex: The pleasure is momentary, the position ridiculous, and the expense damnable."

Another shake...

Saturday, August 23, 2014

A nice sunset

First, here's the view from Katkam, downtown....

And now the view from my place on the North Shore....

Today in history:

It was on this date in 1950 that I ran away from home to begin my career in
power stations, at a little 2-unit hydro plant belonging to the Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario, later known as Ontario Hydro, and now known
as Hydro One. That little plant is now under water, submerged in the lake formed by a larger development further downstream. And as I sit here this evening doing this, that summer evening 64 years ago seems like another lifetime ago, which, of course, it very nearly is. There's been a lot of water over the old dam since then. And it's been a very interesting experience. I've worked at some of the smallest and at least one of the biggest hydro-electric projects in the country, and I'm now part of history, because technological changes have rendered my old original job as a power station operator redundant, replaced by a cabinet full of electronic equipment and relays.

There used to be a full crew of shift operators working three shifts around the clock at every power station in the country, and now one central control center can run a whole province or a whole state, and they do. If something goes bad somewhere, that unit is automatically shut down until a repair and servicing crew can check it over and fix it, and its output is made up by others until it can be restarted. So yes, Virginia, time marches on, trampling everything underfoot.

Am I sad about all that? Not at all. Working shift work in some of the most remote locations known to man, often many miles from emergency medical aid or any kind of shopping facilities, is something that calls for a special kind of guy; one that either enjoys living dangerously, or one who is old enough to know better, but still young enough not to give a damn. And it's a hell of a place for the wives and children. So technology has improved all that, and I'm glad.
Would I do it all over again if I could? You can bet your sweet bippie I wouldn't.

Is America just one big zoo?

And did the Keepers leave all the doors open on the cages?

Has racism in America become a popularity contest in which your dollars decide which side you're on? And how about that lawyer for the Browns, who set up the Michael Brown Memorial Fund, saying "The funds will assist his family with costs that they will acquire as they seek justice on Michael's behalf."

Translation: "They haven't got my bill yet!"

In this little book 'Quotations With An Attitude' my favorite proverb goes: "Trust in Allah but tie your camel." And then there's a Jewish one that goes: "Two farmers each claimed to own a certain cow. While one pulled on its head and the other pulled on its tail, the cow was milked by a lawyer."

While I'm in that little book, here's one more from Laurence J. Peter: "A lawyer is a man who helps you get what is coming to him."

Friday, August 22, 2014

Is this a 'work-around'?

Are we witnessing the laying of groundwork for a 'work-around' to the President's promise not to put 'boots back on the ground' in Iraq? Politics being defined as 'the art of the possible' and all like this a not-so-sly bit of manipulation to soften up the critics for another full-scale 'mopping up' operation in a struggle which was really never successfully concluded in Iraq?
Or is my old Crystal Ball deceiving me?