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Showing posts from 2014

Let's Dance!

One of the things I like about the movie Flashdance is that, at the end, Nick has overstepped his bounds by getting his girlfriend, Alex, an audition for the ballet school. She is angry with him, maybe rightfully so. It makes her question whether or not she has the talent to 'make it on her own.' But she goes to the audition anyway. She goes, she dances her ass off, and she makes an impression. She lives her dream. She's happy at the very end, but we don't know for sure if she made it; maybe she's just happy that she tried and did her very best. Maybe she got a call back or was asked to join the school. It doesn't matter, really.

The point is, she got over her anger at Nick and took a chance. She seized the opportunity given her. She, hopefully, made the most of it and felt vindicated or at peace with herself and her talent.

Too often lately, in my own life, in the lives of my friends and family, and even on TV and in the media, I see people being given opportu…

News Media

Dear News Media,

You seem to be confused on a number of fairly obvious things. I thought I would help you with a few of them.

Use the proper terminology when presenting information. "Going viral" does not mean something that is temporarily getting larger notice than usual. For example, that article about the guy who had some (good, quality) suggestions for the BC Ferry? 800 "Likes" does not equal "going viral." Thousands (multiple) of Likes/Retweets/Plusses/Views, if not millions, are needed to make something "go viral." It needs to be seen/read by people nowhere associated with the thing and passed along by them. Misusing "going viral" actually denigrates the source. The 800 Likes the BC Ferry comments received is not a "rant" that has "gone viral" -- it is a well-written example of issues with the BC Ferry program that a number of people in the area agree with. BC Ferry should listen to and consider the information…

Compromise?

Every woman has the right to breastfeed in public. Everyone else has the right not to watch a woman breastfeeding in public. As with every right, yours end where another's begin. So, in a case like this, who is right? Where should the public establishment come down? Where is the compromise between these two sides?

Compromise: (noun) an agreement or a settlement of a dispute that is reached by each side making concessions.

This controversy has come up on a number of occasions recently, in the US, Canada, and abroad. In some cases, the woman was asked to use a nursing blanket (or anything similar and handy) to cover her breast so others didn't have to watch. In many of the cases, the women were obliging and did so without rancor or issue. In some cases, either at the time of being asked or later, the woman complained to management and made a big deal over it. There have even been lawsuits filed or threatened.

Where does the woman's right to do this very natural act end and th…

Mid-Term Elections 2014

The mid-term elections are just a month away. I have a suggestion for every voter, regardless of party affiliation or conservative/liberal leanings: do NOT vote for any incumbents. The incumbents of both parties have proven they cannot do the job for which we hired them, so show your disapproval by voting as many of them out as possible.

Our founding fathers did not think that anyone would want to serve for longer than a term or two, so they didn't put term limits into the Constitution. And, for the first 150 years of our country, the number of people who served more than two terms was very small. However, in the mid-20th century, people started to realize that politics could be a lucrative career. Priorities shifted to spending more money to get in, and stay in, Congress.

Since the 1950s, we see incumbents slowly dominating all of the elections until today we see about 90% incumbent success rate. This has led to cronyism, graft, and the further widening of the political divide un…

A New Appreciation

I think my wife may have opened me up to a new appreciation of music. She was following links in Facebook and it took her here. As you can see, the link provides an example of a very complicated bass line in an otherwise "pop" or even "bubblegum" song. Due to choices made in mixing the song, that bass line gets lost in the background unless you really are listening for it.

Since she played that for me, I am now hearing bass lines in everything I'm listening to. My hearing isn't great (not bad enough to need a hearing aid, yet, but bad enough that music just sort of blends together), but I seem to be keyed on the bass now. I'm listening to the beats and the rhythm of it and hearing how it drives a song or keeps it on track.

I've heard some surprisingly complicated bass lines in some surprising artists, like Alanis Morrisette, the Beatles, and Prince. For the most part, though, it seems like the bass is pretty generic in most songs. Most seem to follo…

Presidential Debate

As I now live outside of the country, I have easier access to non-American news media and outlets. All this week, the BBC and CBC have had reports talking about how one of ISIS's goals is to compel America into attacking them, returning to the region with "boots on the ground," because they know how bad that will look to radical Islamists and jihadists in the region (and around the world) and will give legitimacy to the group's goals, swelling their membership and funding to allow more terrorism.

The non-American media is praising the American administration for its restraint in handling this current regional crisis; by staying mostly out of it, we are not inciting the terrorists and swelling their ranks and coffers. Food drops to the dispossessed and the occasional drone strike aren't enough for ISIS to wave its flag and gather support.

What I find incongruent is switching to and watching some American news media. Fox News, of course, is continuing its never-end…

Sewer Flood Follow-Up

A year ago we had a sewer flood into our basement. It took us a while to clean up from that issue. We also felt that finishing the bathroom in the basement would help close off many of the open holes and pipes that helped allow the sewage to back up into our house. One of the outstanding issues involved was the "belly" in the sewage line that they found when they scoped our line after the flood.

We finally saved enough money and found someone to dig up our yard and go looking for the belly to repair. They started on Monday. After two days of digging, they found the line nearly 12 feet below the surface of our front lawn. However, after exposing nearly 30 feet of sewer line, they could not find the belly described. We came up with a plan to have the same company come back out and review the line again and pinpoint where the dip in the line actually was. Unfortunately, it was found to be underneath our porch, below and behind the asphalt walkway, and underneath some very large…

Abuse of Women Must Stop

The NFL had a chance to do something wonderful, and show its female viewers just how seriously it takes abuse. Instead, it laid an egg.

Ray Rice, a running back for the Baltimore Ravens, was indicted for punching his wife (girlfriend at the time of the incident) so hard he knocked her unconscious. For this egregious behavior, Rice is suspended two games and docked a little over two paychecks (equally over $500,000).

When there was a hint of allegations (but no arrests, charges, or convictions) of Ben Roethlisberger sexually assaulting a woman at a party, he was given a six game ban that was reduced to four games. Rice, on the other hand, was indicted for his assault. This means that a person or group reviewed the evidence and found there was enough to warrant a criminal charge, arrest, and possibly a trial.

There are two videos of the Ray Rice incident. The first was released to the public and shows Rice dragging the already unconscious woman out of the elevator like a sack of potatoe…

I'm Just SO Busy

Lately, most every email I receive seems to start or end with something along the lines of "I'm just so busy," "sorry, I'm so swamped lately," or "work has been murder lately." It is stated as a reason but I only find it an excuse.

Most everyone is busy these days. Economic times are hard; we're working longer with fewer people doing more. When we have the time, we have projects we need to get done -- fixing, cleaning, cooking, raising children, and caring for pets or family or friends. Yet, through all of this, some of us make the time to get to the things we say we will, when we will.

The statement "I'm just so busy" is purely selfish. Either make the time or don't. I don't need an apology or an excuse. It is also a subtle way, similar to people who are habitually late, of saying, "My time is more important to me than yours is; I'll get to you/with you when it is convenient to me."

If something is importan…

Race Switching

DC Comics, in their New 52 ongoing relaunch, has finally re-introduced a much-loved character: Wally West, aka Kid Flash. There is some nerd-raging going on over the character because DC chose to take this re-introduction from a Caucasian redhead teen to a black teen. My complaint is not over the changing of the race of the character, it is the changing of the personality of the character.

Wally West was first introduced in 1959. He was a suburban white kid who liked science, was fairly happy, had a good home life (in general), and was a bit cocky. He was a good sidekick to the Flash (Barry Allen) when originally created, but soon branched out and became a member of the Teen Titans in most of that team's incarnations. He was a "glue" character; someone that may run off half-cocked and may think he has all the answers which causes him (and the team) to get into some trouble, but who holds the team together through his personality, personal relationships, and his senior ra…

Hyperbole and Then Some

I know I'm as guilty of this as the next person, so it is a little hypocritical to complain, but have you noticed how it seems like so many people use negative hyperbole when something doesn't work?

For example, I have a friend who is having problems with the game application conglomerate Steam. She wanted one game and she can't seem to get Steam to download or install it. The result is a steady stream of Facebook posts about how much Steam sucks, that it is awful, its support is horrible, etc. I interjected that it is normally a pretty solid application and game installs can involve a lot of variables. But she's having nothing to do with that. In the end, the fact that both myself and many of my friends use Steam without trouble or incident is ignored and the entire company, at this point, "sucks" because she's having trouble.

A similar instance happened this weekend. A group of friends got together. Most (all? not sure) use Chrome to connect to a specif…

Let Us Service Our Servicemen

It is absolutely disgusting how we have treated our veterans via the VA. This seems like a no-brainer and something that is easily resolved.

Questions or comments I have about this situation:

Why can't we hire some high school or college aged interns who work 8 hours a day scanning or retyping a case file into the system? It seems like doing this would very quickly resolve the issues of so much paper not being in the system. I have some smart programming friends and some of what they have had to do is write "rippers" to grab data from one system and map it to a different system. Why can't we hire programmers to do this in order to get one VA system talking to another.Meanwhile, hire a second set of programmers to start building a new system that interconnects everything and that can use the databases the rippers use in order to populate everything. This seems like it would resolve the issues of interoperability between the various systems very quickly. Why is it the Rep…

Medical Reaction

There is so much going on in the world that I am at a loss. I am truly dumbfounded. I have been at a loss for words,saddened, angry, and shaking my head at each new stupid thing that is going on both in North America and around the world. I'll try to get to those items as I make sense of all the stupidity in the world right now.
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The reason I have not written in over a month is because my wife had her first serious brush with illness. On May 12th we went to see her new doctor, who prescribed her a new medication (Plaquenil) to go with an existing medication (Methotrexate) to help with some issues that seemed to point at arthritis. She took the first pill that evening and the required two more the next day. That night she noticed a rash on her forearms. The next morning we noticed a rash starting to cover her arms and torso. The itchiness was off her personal scale, and she didn't sleep well that night. On Thursday it was slowly covering her back and her legs. By Friday, her…

I Guess I Just Don't Get It

Most of my friends enjoy The Big Bang Theory. They rave about the humor. Most of them claim to laugh out loud while watching it. I have tried to enjoy it. I originally watched the premiere and the second episode when it debuted, and didn't laugh at all. Didn't even crack a smile, actually. Since then, I have repeatedly watched episodes on the cable channels that air it ad infinitum. I would guess that I have seen somewhere around 40 episodes at this point (it is hard to say because it seems like the same 15 episodes are on a lot). During that time, I have smiled a couple of times and have chuckled or outright laughed twice. Yes, twice.

My issues with it, and so many other "comedies" currently on the air, is that it pokes fun at the audience. And I don't like being made fun of, I guess. I, and many/most of my friends, enjoy comic books, sci-fi/fantasy movies and shows, science, and tend to be on the smarter side of society, yet the four main characters on The Big …

The Death of the PC has been Greatly Exaggerated

The "death of the PC" has been greatly exaggerated by the media for the last few years. The PC, which, by the way, stands for "personal computer," is simply in  moment of flux as the concepts around personal computing change.

Most people in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s did not need a full blown desktop or laptop computer for how they used the machine. The vast majority of people only needed someplace to store and retrieve photos and videos, a way to connect with the Internet, a way to connect with their friends and family (via email, blogs, and now social media). The vast computing power provided by a desktop, whether Apple or Window's based, was not needed nor used by the majority of people.

Tablets and smartphones have been around, in some form, since the early 1990s. However, it took significant leaps in technology and user accessibility before either became truly successful in the early to mid-2000s. It required additional refinements for each to become the …

Random Thoughts, April 4, 2014

Quick thoughts:

The Republican party, in general, is considered the party that wants small government and government to stay out of peoples' lives. So why is it that it is currently the party so incredibly invested in making decisions for women and homosexuals? Why do they want government so involved in the private lives and bedrooms of females and gays?
On a related matter, you cannot provide something that so many people want for so long and then take it away without repercussions. Which is why the backlash against the (primarily) Republican party's assault on women's rights will have severe repercussions going forward. Abortions and reproductive issues have existed for over 2,000 years; just because you make it illegal now does not mean it will stop. You just make it into a "back alley" scenario again until the women get mobilized to legalize it once more. And/Or make the politicians who took it away pay for their arrogance.
It is April and we still have snow act…

Unwanted

The American justice system has its flaws. The rich get away with more than the poor because they can hire the best law firms. The use of precedent overwhelms the system and creates loopholes and unintended consequences. And, in today's mobile, online, instant news society, the law doesn't always keep up or make sense to the masses.

The goal of this system is to provide an unbiased result based on the facts of the case. The biggest benefit to it is that an (supposed to be) impartial judge or a jury of one's peers is used to arbitrate between the accused and the accuser. This is especially essential for instances where the hierarchical power system in place most everywhere (between employee and employer, between the government and the individual, etc.) would unnecessarily bias one side against the other.

However, there is one glaring area where an impartial system does not exist: the military.

In the military, everything is kept "in house." In many cases, your com…

Now Comes the Hard Part

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I had my last physio session with my therapist yesterday. While he recognizes that my back is still weak, he likes the direction it is going, he thinks I've got a lot better mobility and flexibility, and he thinks I'm on the right path. To that end, he gave me some suggestions and "graduated" me from the program.

My father in law has a device specifically made to help strengthen the back. He loaned it to me and I have been using it multiple times a day for the last two weeks.
By doing a "reverse sit-up," I can stretch and strengthen the back in the specific area I had the herniated disc. In addition, I can use the handles to do a nice, deep push-up.

What I've been doing is, every time I go down to put wood on the fire, a set of 10 push-ups and a set of 10 back extensions. Since I feed the fire about once every 60-90 minutes, this means I get about 8-10 sets in each day with plenty of rest between. This has helped my arms, chest, and back to start feelin…

More TV Woes

My wife wanted to buy her mother a Blu-Ray player that was both wi-fi capable and had a USB port, so she could share with her mother movies and other files from our very large collection. Seems simple enough, right?

Wrong.

My MIL has some very nice, but older, technology in her house. Also, her house is old enough not to be wired for internet. Hence the desire to have the player by wi-fi enabled. Her 36" CRT TV is a rugged, nice machine, but it is old enough not to have current, modern connectors. She doesn't have a receiver through which she runs everything.

Knowing/discovering all of these facts as we pursued this avenue, we stumbled on the need to get an HDMI to RCA converter in order to plug the Blu-ray machine into her TV. This is because we could not find a Blu-ray player that has RCA jacks AND wi-fi AND a USB port; if they have wi-fi, they pretty much all have only an HDMI port.

After our trying and not finding the device, or eschewing going to some places because we w…

Oscars, 2014

The Academy Awards were on last night, and I watched pretty much all of it. And it was boring. Very, very boring. I have fairly specific desires for what I want to watch during the Oscar telecast; last night's show wasn't it.

Opening. I like the opening song and dance number. Either that or some sort of funny and interesting monologue. Whatever it is showcases sort of the theme and general direction of the show. Ellen's opening was brief, which is always nice, but also boring and not very funny, which is unlike her. And, not surprisingly, the show itself was sort of boring and not very funny.Tributes. Unless there is a reason for it (i.e., a significant-year anniversary or the passing of a legend), I don't want to see tributes. Last night's show had a ham-fisted tribute to animation and one to movie heroes that both felt tacked on and without focus. Why were they added? Taking both together, that was at least 10 minutes that could have been cut from the show.Present…

It's Not What You Say, But What You Don't Say...

My wife and I like pulled beef/pork sandwiches and we use our slow cooker to make the BBQ sauce and cooked meat. Because we've had some issues cooking this meal since we got our new slow cooker, she decided to get a mix from the same company as our slow cooker (Crock Pot).

The Ingredients list is simple:
3 lbs pork1/2 cup ketchup1/2 cup brown sugar1/3 cup cider vinegar1 pkg. Crock Pot Pulled Pork BBQ Seasoning1 cup water The Preparation section is even easier (I will type everything exactly): PLACE pork in slow cooker.MIX seasoning packet with ketchup, brown sugar, and vinegar until blended. Pour over pork.COVER & COOK 8 hrs. on LOW or 4 hrs. on HIGH. REMOVE pork from slow cooker. Shred, using two forks. Return meat to slow cooker. Mix with sauce and heat before serving. That's it. Notice anything? That's right, that 1 cup of water listed in the ingredients is not used anywhere in the preparation. Why is it needed? After some discussion, we decided the water was designed…

Musically Speaking

I will start with a caveat: I don't really know music. I don't know a treble from a clef. I do know what I like and I do know what "sounds right" and what doesn't to my ear. This post is about the difference I hear in two performers I know.

We have a friend, TL, who is a professional musician and singer, as well as a music teacher. She is respected and asked to adjudicate musical performances all over this area. She performs publicly. I happen to really like her voice. When she performs, she often teams with a male friend of hers I'll call C. He is similarly a singer, a teacher, and a respected adjudicator. Both have performed all over the province, and he has performed nationwide. They both enjoy performing and they seem to have fun together on stage.

When I watch and listen to them sing, I come away with the same feeling every time: no matter how "into it" he is, no matter what he sings, I simply don't feel the passion from him that I do from …

TV Woes, Part 2

An additional issue we were having with our entertainment center was that our Series 2 Dual-Tuner TiVo was not receiving the remote signal consistently. Sometimes it would work okay, but most of the time it was taking multiple presses to get the signal to the TiVo and, sometimes, it would go through long stretches where it wouldn't accept the signal at all.

This came to a head recently as well. It got to the point where we could barely control our TiVo at all. Once again, I turned to the Interwebs for information to see if others were having this issue.

It turns out that modern LCD/LED TVs have a function called "backlighting." This feature can send out a strong enough signal that it can override your remote's IR signal, effectively blocking it from reaching the IR sensor on the TiVo (or, perhaps, other devices). The backlighting feature is used to make the screen brighter and the colors sharper. It has different settings depending on the way you are using it (for ex…

TV Woes, Part 1

A few years ago we bought a Samsung LN46C630 TV. We love it. It is a nice size (although my wife now admits we could go bigger), a quality-name product, and has a very nice, clear picture. Recently, however, the picture started suffering from a problem: it flickered. By "flicker" I mean that the entire picture would start strobing brighter and darker rapidly while never actually losing the picture. This strobe effect would sometimes turn off when a new signal was received, like the station going into or out of a commercial break, or when a DVD would move to a new chapter, etc., and would occasionally fade or stop on its own.

It was getting worse, though. When it first started, it was only our main (Component 1) input that was affected. If we switched to any other input, the flickering would stop and we would be left in peace. However, over the last few months, switching inputs stopped working to resolve the issue. We were at the mercy of some sort of signal change. Then the …