Friday, July 30, 2004

Another man from Vermont dead in Iraq

Lt. Col. David Greene has been killed in Iraq. He leaves a wife and two children. He was a marine pilot and flew Cobra helicopters. He was shot down. He is, as far as I can find out, the 12th Vermonter to die in Iraq. He moved here with his family a few years ago from the Raleigh, NC area.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Apple musings...

Apple has just sent me (and about a million or more others) a nifty deal where if I buy a new Mac with various accoutrements, I can save up to $330. Well, they don't understand that I need to pay for the one I have! A nice no-interest loan but I have another 6-7 months to go. Oh - to dream. I am still learning and enjoying the eMac. It is so easy to USE that one can put off the exploring and delving into the innards. I do like to go romping through the file directories to see what's on the inside, what's behind the pretty window dressing. Actually, on the Mac, the innards are as pleasing looking as the display! I still like to look at the folders in various views and see what sort of folder looks best in what view.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Bloggers with credentials....

BBrrr...sounds like a disease....credentials...getting into your distal portions and making you crepitatious and gnarly. Well, enough levity. The Democratic convention has "credentialed" some twenty+ bloggers to augment the press corps. The thinking is that these cutting edge techies will have a unique perspective on the whole Democratic process. Interesting thought, and the one interesting thing so far in the convention. While Kerry is out slogging down the campaign trail, his minions in Boston are conventioneering. I was surprised that Kerry wasn't there (he gives a speech there Thursday night to accept the nomination), I had supposed he would be. So all that is happening is rhetoric. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, new we are presented with. It seems that the Democrats don't dare run on a "Get out of Iraq" platform, and frankly that is all I wanted to hear. Healthcare and "Get out of Iraq." And I hardly think the Demos can deliver on either thing, and the Republicans don't even want to. So far, the election is the most lackluster one in decades. We'll see.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Camera bug bites again....

Again I was bitten by the camera bug. It seems to be a summer infestation. I have plenty of cameras. Some funky items I have had for years. And you never know what camera I might be taken with next. Reluctantly I also face the possibility that my little Mini 3 might give out on me due to the fact that I have dropped her about four times. But she trucks on and is giving me fine pictures. I also have a Minolta SLR, a Yashica Mat, and now a little Rollei Prego. None of which are top of the line photo equipment by the criteria of serious photographers, but they all have excellent glass compared to most consumer level point and shoot cameras. I love to take pictures and I always have. I got the Rollei because she was on sale used at B&H Photo for a very good price, as far as I was concerned. And I was amazed to find when it arrived, that included was the manual in new condition, and the original box, though sadly the case was missing. However, in the ad online, B&H had made no mention of anything included at all - just the camera. Factory refurbished (interesting definition - refurbished is to furbish again, according to the OED online). As usual - great dealing with B&H.

Back in 19?? I got my first camera, a little Kodak Brownie Holiday which took 127 film on a roll. Yes, kiddies, film used to come on a roll. It then wound itself up unto another spool as it took the pictures. I loved that camera. I have still got some "super-slides" that it took. They were larger than 35mm slides, but fit into the same mount, so you could show them on a standard projector. I had that camera for several trips to various scenic spots in the West, and then for the trip to Spain. While living in Spain my mother bought me a used Zeiss Ikon folding 35mm camera at the "thrift shop." I haven't a clue which model that was, all I know was it was small, and it was all manual, and you have to cock the shutter before you took the picture. Excellent lens though. I had that camera for several years, until the urge for glitz and convenience sadly led me to sell it for a song to a friend. I then rushed out and bought a Kodak Instamatic 304, with the cool new-fangled "electric eye" exposure meter.

This lasted until I was living in Okinawa, at which time the camera bug seriously bit the whole family. This is where the Yashica Mat comes in, as well as my first SLR, of the trusty Pentax K series. This camera is still working fine as my daughter's main camera. She loves the manual nature of the Pentax and it's excellent glass. Somewhere in those years I bought and loved a little Kodak Cameo 35mm with the flip flash that also acted as the lens protector, and the lens retracted when the flash flipped down. That was a keen little camera. It was so small and convenient that I sacrificed using the better lenses I had on my other cameras to go for the convenience of size and portability.

I inherited the Minolta SLR from my mother. It is a flexible camera which can be used in manual mode, aperture priority, or fully programmed. I always use fully programmed, but the fact is that I have not got the confidence in it that I have in the Pentax or in my little P&S cameras. I don't know why, because it always gives excellent results and has an excellent lens. It can focus the closest of any of the cameras I have ever used.

After the Kodak Cameo's flash just stopped working about five years ago, I had to get a new camera or take all my pictures outside. Since I wanted convenience, small size and all automatic, I knew I had to move up the ladder into the more expensive point and shoots. I knew I wanted a better lens. I had a family wedding coming up, and I needed really good results. After much suffering and comparison shopping, I bought the Mini 3, and I have never been more pleased with a camera. As I say, I have dropped her four times, and two of those times were rather harsh. I was all set to take my punishment in finding her dead, but the camera works fine, and the lens is still excellent. That camera is built like a little tank. I just bought the Rollei prego to have as a backup camera, and because I want to have a camera with B&W film in it sometimes.

I know that to lots of techno-persons I am a troglodyte when it comes to cameras. WHAT! NO DIGITAL? Nope. I like film, negatives, archival storage and the fun of getting the film processed. Call me old fashioned, I know you will. My mother was teaching photography classes when I was in grammar school, and I had the pleasure of a period early on when the family had a small darkroom and did our own B&W, including enlargements. I even sold my prints to friends when I took pictures of the high school basketball games. I never intend to do that again, but the memories remain of the good times, and that is a part of my fun with cameras. And, once in awhile, very rarely, I see a print of one of my pictures, and it is good.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Healthcare and Iraq

In my previous post, I may have overlooked mentioning that the war in Iraq and the state of the nation's healthcare are the two most important issues before us in this country. As usual, we are in a sticky position in the world, and I hope the Democrats have a plan to oppose any more troops and actions in Iraq. We need the money for the domestic front - we need Healthcare reform and we need it badly.

So for what it's worth, the conventions will have to address both these issues.

Summer heat, humidity and politics

I had this all written, and the prose was astoundingly beautiful, and then Blogger hiccupped and away went my post. Really. It was a work of art. I cannot hope to do it over again, so here is a synopsis:

Political conventions are not that exciting anymore, and do they have them in the middle of summer in order to distract our attention from what goes on at the convention? Most of us are enjoying the summer, and we don't really want to deal with the issues at this point. I know, I know, shame on me. And then there is this: can any of the parties actually do much about the "issues" anyway. Well, the Democrats have had their turn at saving the country, and so have the Republicans, and on the whole I prefer the Democratic approach. But I am not certain the difference is apparent. The main product of the conventions will be billowing waves of hot air, and the proof will have to come later.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Added Blog links

I added some more "Blogs I Like" down there on the right...I want to add that the link to "My.......Programming Blog" is NOT mine! That's the title of a blog located in Calgary, Alberta. Great photos and lots of stuff that's not programming.

Rain followed by torrents and wetness...

Weather the last few weeks has been, in the main, wet. The tomato plants haven't had enough warm sunny days to extend foliage growth, but they are filled with tomatoes, so that works out. Perhaps the only tomatoes we will get. The beans are the happiest, having grown sevenfold in the last two weeks. Blooming purple flowers attest to the future bean harvest of Royal Burgundy Bush Beans. The grass is deep green and the tropical rainforest ambiance is lazing us out.

Political conventions are coming up soon, and I will try to follow the events until the rhetoric gags me, and then once again, duck under the whole "current events" scene with my computer and books. As mental health treatment, books and Macs are up there with the best. Not to mention Jimmy Buffet CDs.

I see that the random ads from Google now advertise Alaska to anyone who checks out this blog. I am so tempted to put a string of key words into every post...heh. Like this: Beef Council, Coca-Cola, Mount Etna, the BBC. That should suffice for this time.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

GMail discussion and PBS

The above topics are not really connected, though they are both running around in my brain. There is a discussion group for GMail issues. The same site has other email services advertised, and forums dealing with other webmails as well. Some very interesting and useful tips for users of several specific webmail services. I read these forums regularly.

Now for the PBS aspect of tonight's entry. "Foyle's War." Excellent program with three more new episodes after the first one tonight. Against the pall of early World War II, a policeman goes about his duties and is often met with official interference because the lines of national defense often cross those of the local police. A thoughtful and articulate look at England in one of her most trying periods, excellently plotted and acted by a cast of familiar faces from British drama.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Mac users - Blogger loves you!

HEY - good news! Mac users all clap! Blogger has a Help site which gives Mac users the option of uploading graphics straight into blogs. Good to know. And new. Have fun!

Alaska Pipeline

Last night on the History Channel, they told the story of the Alaska Pipeline. On the one hand, it was and still is an engineering marvel. On the other hand, it occurred to me that the enterprise was a monumental example of the SHOW ME THE MONEY philosophy of greed which has permeated the economy of the world probably forever. I hardly think it is a new phenomenon.

The men who literally powered that pipeline through all obstacles were a fascinating story. They went through and over mountains, they went under and over swamps and rivers, wide and narrow, they powered across the tundra and right through the Alaskan peninsula from North to South. From Prudhoe Bay to Valdez, they built it at a cost of 8 million dollars. Price was really no object, as the oil companies knew this project stood to make untold millions.

Of course, old age has now set in, the pipeline is 30 years old and maintenance is at a premium. At some point it will all have to be environmentally taken apart at another huge bunch of millions. I can only speculate what the environmental cost has been. Alaska, like many states in the lower 48, such as Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado, could be rapaciously shorn of her natural resources by outsider companies, who then disappear when the mines and the oil run out, and leave the land to recover as best it can.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Blogs of Summer...Zzzzzzzzzzzz...

Well, yes. There is blogger burnout. More like LazyBloggerSyndrome(LBS). Like last summer, this summer is enervating...feels like I should just flop over the edge of the back deck like a Dali clock. I keep trying to force myself to find a topic worth rambling on about, and believe me, several have occurred to me, but I just don't have the ambition while the thermometer exceeds the upper seventies. For one thing, there is the Bush administration's environmental policies - bad. For another, there is the war in Iraq - bad. Another possibility is further words on healthcare - situation remains bad for so many. And then there is the picayune daily irritants: people parking in the ten minute spot, people parking in the employee lot who shouldn't, people who don't clean up after themselves, and on and on. But, on the whole, this part of summer is so short and sweet that the short sabbatical from holding forth at length is justified.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Finished two books...

Over the weekend I finished both "Topper" and "Listening With My Heart." "Topper" I have previously discussed, and it finished with Topper sure to begin enjoying himself more, and his little wife was apparently going to join in the fun. The book is dated yet somehow the quaintness is fun.

"Listening With My Heart" is life story of Heather Whitestone, Miss America 1995. Of course she was in her twenties when she wrote the book, and she had not yet become a mother, nor had she gotten her cochlear implant. I was touched and inspired by her story. She certainly worked hard to get her voice, quite literally. I saw her on television within the last year, after her surgery for the implant, and she was still getting used to hearing so much at once. It was so sad to hear of the confusion and disorientation suffered in the years necessary to get used to the implant. She said the doctors say an adult might take 5 years getting used to differentiating sounds. Apparently the noise of the crowd is of equal import to the brain to the sound of a close voice - any background noise is "frontground" noise to the new cochlear implant recipient. So the brain is trained to differentiate, as a hearing person's brain does in our earliest years. I look forward to seeing her again and hearing about her progress. She is truly an inspiration, and a wonderful role model for deaf children. Whatever method of hearing-speech a person is trained with, the important thing is to be able to communicate with the largest number of people possible.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

GMail - O.K...I broke down...

Blogger keeps offering the GMail thing, so even though I not only do not need another email account, but have stated thus in this blog, I signed up. There doesn't seem to be any way to change the colors, and that's too bad because the interface is extremely bright. The "labels" thing is a bit too contrived. After all the years of neatly arranged folders, I guess that's what most of us will do with "labels." Anyway, I am going to give it a try and see how it all goes. Free amusements are not that common. By the way, I was amazed to see in so many places on the web that people are clamoring for a GMail account, and that did play into my getting one. I want to see what all the noise is about.

Hearing colors...

Last night on the news they had a feature about a neurological condition in which the brain synapses do not untangle as they should as the child develops prenatally, and thus the person has two senses intertwined. One man think about the days of the week and he sees them in color. Each day has its own color. A woman sees colored shapes flying through the air when she hears music. Each person thinks everyone has this same experience, and at some point in life they discover that the rest of us do not have this going on. Interesting, and thought provoking. How many children are told they are imagining things, and how many people have been thought mentally ill after people discover their differences in perception.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Weight and alcohol...

All over the media I seem to encounter the war against fat, fat people, fat children, and all things fat. Health warnings are issued daily, and half of America is on either the "I hate carbs" or the "I hate fat" diet. When will the crusade against booze start? And I don't mean the "prohibition era II", but the media war on drinking to excess.

Several decades ago the crusade marched on smoking, and with good reason, but the fight took years and years (and still goes on), and certainly diverted attention from the massive numbers of alcohol related deaths, highway accidents, accidental deaths on the highway and in the home, family misery and brutality, and all the disease processes known to be exacerbated by alcohol. The old saying "You're never too thin or too rich" has never been more true. At the same time people are becoming addicted to exercise.

I see two reasons for all this emphasis on overweight. 1. It is a new crusade of attention that diverts the culture from facing its alcohol problem which affects social life even on the highest levels of society and government, and 2. So many people think they will be able to exercise their way and diet their way to eternal life. And by eternal life I mean the complete denial of death.

I am overweight. I have always had this tendency, and many times I have dieted to slenderness. I do not deny the possibility of weight playing a factor in illness, but it has not been shown conclusively that weight "causes" all the diseases that are at this moment being advertised as weight-caused.

It is a good idea to exercise and to watch ones intake. It is a good idea to try to live a healthy life. But philosophically speaking, I must tell you that at my age I know that to really go after the overuse of alcohol in this country (and I am not talking about any other country here at the moment) would just be such a revolutionary idea that any other crusade will always come first. "I can hold my liquor" and "I always stop at two" are probably the biggest lies we hear, and sadly they are often told by people who believe them to be true.

I see the college aged men and women drinking to excess as a "fun" pastime. They didn't get this idea from emanations out of the ozone, they got it from their parents generation. Drinking is nothing new, but the amounts and the spreading damage from the numbers of drinking students as young as junior high is amazing. This is sad, and will not be fixed by a few pious public service messages.

When you drive fat you don't kill, but when you drive drunk you do.

Good call, Senator Kerry...

This is not a blog which will follow the parties, the conventions or the election. Plenty of people are doing that. I will of course make some personal remarks about the thing from time to time. That said: excellent choice in a VP running mate, Senator Kerry! John Edwards is an excellent complement to John Kerry. Interesting election, and the decision was made much easier today.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Books and Apple computers

Has anyone thought much about the Google ads generated on your BlogSpot site? Interesting selection. I was a tiny bit annoyed at some of them because they were pretty much outside what I would have wished for, as in the case of all the links up there after the death of a former president whom named once more will generate more ads like the previous ones. So the title of this entry is a ploy to generate ads for two of my favorite things, heh.

The news from Apple today is the end of the present configuration of the iMac and a new model announced for September. I am looking forward to seeing the new model. No rush for me; I am happy with my present system, but it never hurts to look at the newer ones. Oh joy.

And as to books, why there just isn't time to read them all. I have just checked out a new non-fiction work by Tim Holland, entitled "Rubicon: the triumph and tragedy of the Roman Republic." This looks terrific, and if the first few sentences are anything like the rest of the book, I am in for an enlightening and well written treat.