I am Vertically Challenged. Years of Hope did not make me taller than 5 ft 2 inches. At least, I tell myself I was once 5 ft 2, but every visit to the Doctors office suggests either my memory is faulty, or I am shrinking.
In the photo below is our Vertically Challenged toy shopping cart at the cabin. I parked it between the two golf carts. I could imagine the little cart saying, “Wow, when I grow up, I hope I am as big as them!”
It’s a new era at Disney. From now on, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs will be known as Person of No Color and the Seven Vertically Challenged Individuals.
– Argus Hamilton –
The topic of weather is often how we start a conversation in Canada. While we don’t always enjoy the extreme climate that nature sends our way, we sure do like to brag about it.
Here at the Red House, it has been a very cold, snowy winter. Just what is very cold? Well, we have had many, many days with temperatures below -20 C. Just how much snow? Lots… but snow is a flighty substance. The least little bit of wind sends it scurrying about the yard, piling deep in some areas and leaving others with just a skiff. A skiff of snow. There are all kinds of words to describe snow. Skiers beg for powder snow, which ends up as packed powder at the end of the day. Avalanche patrols look for new snow on top of crusty snow. Snow fences try to control where snow drifts. Whiteouts mean you should stay home, because you won’t be able to see much of anything. Soft snow is good for making snowmen. Slushy snow means that maybe the snow boots can be replaced with rain boots.
All this snow gives us one more snow term: Snowbirds. These are not really birds, but flightless mammals that head south for part or most of a Canadian winter. Actually, some of them fly, using carriers such as Air Canada or WestJet. But lots of them prefer the open road, navigating all types of recreational vehicles destined for the warm weather of Southern USA or Northern Mexico. It is estimated that the Snowbird population is approximately 9 million strong, though not all of them would be Canadian.
Winter can be a very pretty time of year, though the temperatures might mean I just run outside and take snow photos then dash back inside.
Canadian Seasons have been described as: Six months of winter, and six months of poor sledding. These can be broken down into: almost winter, winter, still winter and road construction season. To be more specific, the four seasons are: June, July, August and Winter.
I just finished reading “Extreme Vinyl Cafe” by Stuart McLean. I love these stories about Dave and Morley – you’ll want to read the one about how Dave got to know the inside of the trunk of his car while looking for an escaped pet rat…
Robert Fulghum Robert Fulghum is one of my very favourite authors. (Not a Canadian, unfortunately, but no one is perfect…) One of his essays last month discusses Fulghum’s Tool Rule: “Unpredictable complexity that replaces reliable simplicity is not progress.” He gives the following examples of simplicity that would be hard to improve on:
A pencil made of wood and graphite, with an eraser on the end.
A paper clip.
A clothes pin.
A claw hammer.
A pocket knife with two blades.
A classic mouse trap.
A broom. Can you think of other examples?
Last night we watched a Movie called Rare Birds. Filmed in Newfoundland and Labrador, it stars William Hurt, Molly Parker, and Andy Jones. Mary Walsh has a cameo appearance. If, after watching the movie, you want to see this part of the world for yourself, head over to the Newfoundland and Labrador website (which tells you what kind of Rare Birds you might actually see!) to plan your trip. Don’t forget that Icebergs and Whales can sometimes be seen off the coast of this dramatic land.
TED Talks TED is a nonprofit program dedicated to spreading Ideas. Themes include Technology, Entertainment, Design, Business, Science, Culture, Arts and Global Issues. To date, almost 900 talks have been filmed, and are available for viewing at the TED website. Try Sir Ken Robinson speaking on how Schools Kill Creativity then move onto his Bring on the Learning Revolution.
My just about favourite TV show was Top Gear. We got it here on BBC Canada. Yes, it was about cars, but it is a British Show, so it was nothing like anything made in the USA. We used to watch it when we lived in the UK, and were happy to find that we get it here in Canada too. One of the three presenters, Jeremy Clarkson, apparently lives in the Cotswolds, in or near Chipping Norton. We have toured through that area on several occasions and it remains right near the top of my list of best places in the world to visit. I love all the old place names – Chipping Norton, Chipping Campden, Morton-in-Marsh, Stow-on-the-Wold, Bourton-on-the-Water.
Top Gear Guest
Last night it was a Comedian by the name of Michael McIntyre. He did a short monologue about overtaking a Porsche on the motorway while driving his old British Leyland Princess. Of course, it might not seem quite so funny if your ear isn’t tuned to the British accent, and you don’t know what the Loser Lane is…
Harley Owners Group
With the addition of a Harley to the Car Guys fleet, came the absolute need to join the Harley Owners Group (H.O.G.). The HOG Magazine arrived in the mail a few weeks ago, and one article was of particular interest – Sky to Sea. It tells the story of a couple, Bob and Candace, who had planned to ride across Canada. These plans ended when Candace died from cancer. Bob eventually decided to undertake the journey alone, and his blog, Sky to Sea, chronicles the trip. Very interesting blog, even if you don’t ride a motorcycle.
Have you ever read the headline “Grandma Drives Pick-up Truck INTO Electronics Store”?
I came close to making that headline. I went to Toon Town on Wednesday to run a few errands. The Car Guy was using our Daily Driver, so I took the back-up vehicle, a “plow through snow drifts” Dodge Dakota 4X4 pick-up truck with a Magnaflow high performance exhaust system. I love driving it – makes me feel very tall and I like the rumbly sound it makes.
One of my stops was the local Electonics store. You know, the people who sell everything from crayons to computers. I wanted a new wireless router. The router aisle had a bewildering variety of products to choose from. I wondered what to buy, and I wondered how long it would take for a sales associate (SA) to come and help me. After many minutes, I began to wonder if I had become Invisible again. It always happens when I least want it to. If I want to be left alone in a book store, SA descend upon me. If I want help in an electronics store, I am invisible. I’ve described this before, so it is not a new phenomenon to me.
Eventually, like a tiger stalking prey, I identified my target SA, who nimbly sprinted past the router aisle in order to attend to new customers as they walked in the door. After about ten minutes, I finally caught him. I dragged him back to routers, a place where I was now quite comfortable, having read most of the literature on the router boxes.
Dallying with him, I opened with “I want a router that won’t interfere with my wireless music system. It has to be able to plug into the desk top computer, and be wireless for my laptop.”
He looked relieved. “You want a Simultaneous Dual Band router, then.” He pointed to the most expensive box on the shelf and tried to depart.
“Really,” I said. “Why would that be? Wouldn’t I need a Selectable Dual Band so that I could, well, pick a band that doesn’t interfere with the music?” At least, that was my interpretation of the difference in meaning between simultaneous and selectable.
He nodded, and tried to leave. I continued, “I want to be able to use a wireless printer. Will the Selectable Dual Band product do that?”
His answer was, “Sure.” And he tried to leave again. Let me stop here, and explain to you what the word “Sure” means in our family. When one of my children looks me straight in the eye and says “Sure, Mom” it really means “I’m saying yes because that is the answer I know you want to hear.”
With one “sure” under my belt, I moved in for the kill. “Are routers any easier to set up than they used to be, or do I still have to try to answer a bunch of unfathomable questions before I get the thing working?”
At this point, the SA was joined by another SA who had come in, I believe, to rescue him. They both mumbled something that confirmed my suspicion that both of them were more comfortable in the crayon department. In fairness, I expect SA at Staples don’t know much about setting up a router, which is why they offer a service that does just that. For $40C, a person who knows all about routers will set it up for you so that “Works right out of the box” actually does that.
Which brings me back to the headline about driving the pick-up truck into the Electronics store. That was exactly what I thought about doing as I got into my rumbly Dodge truck. I could see myself gunning the Dakota down the router aisle, yelling “Can you see me now?” The store had, apparently, experienced other grey haired grandmas in pick-up trucks before. They have installed security bollards in front of the doors…
In my last post, I told you about Four Footed Browsers. In this post, I will tell you about Internet Browsers. Actually, I won’t bother to tell you too much. You are reading this blog because you have an Internet Browser, so you already know about as much as I do.
As for a War, two browsers are locked in combat on my computer as I write. Each one wants to be the Default Browser on Start up. Why would they be so insistent? I would have to say it isn’t just for the prestige. There has to be a big financial pay off somewhere, yes?
All the major Internet Browsers are free. The features are all pretty similar, with most of them now offering security items such as pop-up blocker, anti-spyware, anti-virus, and anti-phishing. The most popular are Firefox, Google Chrome, Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE), Opera, and Safari.
I was using IE8, but now I am also using Firefox. Some of my WordPress.com blogging account features work best with Firefox. Firefox is a great browser for folks that like to add stuff on to the basic package. I added a tool called Adblock Plus. When I open a web page that has an advertisement I really don’t want to see, I call on my Adblock Plus tool. Like a Super Hero, Adblock tells the offending ad to go away. Most of the time, anyhow. I’m still learning how to use it properly. IE8 has a built in adblocking feature called InPrivate Filtering which you have to initially turn on, then invoke each time you open the program.
It is not that I don’t want Ads at all. Just like magazine or television ads, advertisement is what pays the bills so that users like myself don’t have to pay a gazillion dollars to read or watch the interesting stuff. I just find some ads on the computer more annoying than others because the same ad appears over and over again. I got the “unwanted belly fat” and “cheap coupons” message the first 10 times I saw it in 5 minutes. How they know I have unwanted belly fat is what bothers me most…
So who is going to win the Browser War on my computer? Right now it is Firefox, but when IE9 comes out, maybe I’ll switch. Or maybe I’ll try one of the others. I don’t think there is that much difference between them. The most important thing is, no matter which browser you use, use the latest version, keep it updated, and understand how to configure each of the safety features.
That is the great thing about the Browser Wars. It means there is competition, and that is what keeps making the product better and better. What more can you ask for in something that is Free!
We’re being attacked by a group of cunning Browsers. Yes, we are being invaded by a herd of White Tail Deer.
We have a fenced area behind our house. It is about half an acre in size, and I try to grow vegetables, ornamental trees and flowers. For many years, the White Tail Deer respected the fence, with only the occasional delinquent crossing into My Space to feast on the tulips in the spring, or the garden in the summer (beans are their first choice). Then, this winter, they decided that My Space is their space, and they have started to camp out in the backyard. They are browsing everything in sight.
They show no timidness, venturing right up onto the patio on many occasions. When I fly out the door and bear down on them like a crazed Banshee (the stunningly beautiful woman, not the ugly, frightening hag), the deer cast me a glance that says, “I dare you.” Which causes me to pause for a moment, and wonder what would happen if he/she turned on me. We stare at one another for a few moments, and then one or the other of us retreats.
We investigated the cost of Deer Deterrent #1 – raising the fence from 4 feet in height to 6 feet. $15,000 seemed a bit high for a fence that still might not be, well, high enough.
That is when Car Guy started testing Deterrent #2 – the Motion Sensor Bright Glaring Light to ward off the evil deer at night.
The Car Guy and his dad decided to make use of the old phrase about “Deer in the headlights”. But instead of stunning the deer into inaction and inadvertently mowing them down with the car, a light system is intended to startle the deer as they raid seed from the bird feeder. After several seconds of thoughtful conjecture, hopefully the deer will decide to leave the yard.
On the top of the post is a motion sensor, and below it are two bright spotlights. Rather nicely done, isn’t it? The deer usually arrive shortly after the sun goes down, so the lights should be quite bright. And certainly unexpected.
It may have worked at night, but it didn’t stop the day incursions. Next he put some energy into designing a solar powered, motion sensor, bright glaring light with siren. This project has gone from design phase to purchasing, but is now stalled on the work bench.
Deterrent #3 was a Paintball Gun. Loaded with white non-toxic balls, the Paintball Gun has been shot several times at the deer that were tasting the lilacs. Paintball Guns are not particularly accurate in the hand of a novice. Not a single deer has acknowledged it has been hit – yet. But the deer are a bit more motivated to move along when The Car Guy, a 6 foot 2 inch man with a weapon in his hand, bears down on them.
Recently arrived in the mail is Deterrent #4 – two sets of a product called Wireless Deer Fence. These work like a mild cattle prod. The Car Guy (and his friend Airplane Guy) will attest to the fact that a cattle prod isn’t something you test on a friend more than once…
These units were installed several weeks ago on the paths the deer frequent. So far there are no deer tracks in the snow around the units to indicate the deer have encountered them. But there are also no new deer tracks in the snow inside the yard. We hypothesize that perhaps other people in our neighbourhood also have used these devices, and the smell they give off is warning the deer to stay away. (The smell is supposed to attract the deer to the device and then give off a mild electric jolt when they touch it.) We are cautiously optimistic.
Deterrent #5 could be beefing up the chain link fence with electric fencing. I think The Car Guy is quite enthusiastic about this. He has always thought he would like to protect our house (from unwanted incursions by two footed mammals) with the judicious use of cattle prod technology.
Deterrent #6 is a starters pistol. I have found that if I slam the screen door shut a few times, it makes a sound like a gun going off. If the deer are close enough, they take off. A starters pistol should do the same thing, and save the screen door from being destroyed. If the effect of the starters pistol wears off, then the person carrying it can resort to running after the deer, brandishing the gun, which seems to have some effect too.
Deterrent #7 has something to do with venison. I think The Car Guy was just joking about that. He knows our deep freeze is way too small.
I am very thankful to The Car Guy for all his efforts to keep My Space free of things that eat up everything I plant. Gardening in this part of the world is challenging at best. With 112 frost free days, but only 80 days of productive growing season, gardeners don’t have a second chance at a crop if rabbits or deer eat everything in sight!
Update July 2014 – Success! We raised the chain link fence to 6 feet. The deer have not tried to jump it!
There are many words to describe Heaven. I think immediately of dark chocolate. You might think a little further ahead than snack time. You might conjure up a vision of Heaven as a fluffy home in the Clouds. Which is pretty much what someone must have been thinking when they came up with the term Cloud Computing.
Doesn’t that make you think of all your precious computer data and applications stored safely in a white cloud somewhere above your house in Podunk, ready to beam down to you at a moments notice?
The reality is, of course, that the Cloud is made up of many, many computers called servers (or some such name), some of which could be sitting in someones damp basement two blocks away. So, Lesson Number One in Cloud Computing is: Choose a reputable Cloud Company to look after your data. You have probably already done that when you selected the people who shuttle your Emails back and forth to you. They keep all your emails in an Electronic Post Office (that computer called a Server). This Server lets you look at your emails from your computer at home, or from someone elses computer.
Which brings us to Lesson Number Two in Cloud Computing – choose a method of backing up all your precious data. Many people download their emails onto their home computer where they can delete all the tedious ones and save all the good ones. Alternatively, you can leave your emails in your Email Cloud. But all Clouds are as vulnerable to disaster as your house is, and the Cloud may be no better at making back-ups than you are. So think about how important that document is that Auntie Margy sent you. Would you be devastated if you lost it forever?
Lesson Number Three in Cloud Computing is – understand how private your information is. Many of you use Cloud Computing Social Networks, such as Facebook. A Social Network means you wish to be sociable, but your definition of social might be different than the provider of the service. So be sure to check your privacy settings, and remember that what you divulge to your friends could come back to haunt you some day. “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” doesn’t apply when it is released on a social network.
Lesson Number Four – what you will do if the Cloud takes a walkabout. Sometimes a Cloud Server just doesn’t want to work that day. If time means money to you, will this be an issue?
That’s all the Lessons I can think of for now. Maybe you have some more you can share with me.
What else can you use the Cloud for? Well, I have mentioned Email and Social Networking. Photo Clouds are a very popular way to make photos available to friends or the public. Sales Clouds, such as eBay and Amazon let you buy and sell. To all these I could add Blogging, such as I am doing here. Yes, I send all my wisdomy words off to WordPress.com and they store them on the WordPress Server Cloud which apparently is in about three places in the USA.
Did I use the four lessons above when I chose to blog with WordPress? Yes, except I made up the lessons after I chose WordPress, not before… 1. I think WordPress is a reputable Cloud, 2. I back-up my blog on my home computer, 3. I have no expectation of privacy and 4. Sometimes I go on a walkabout for weeks, so I don’t mind if WordPress takes a few days off!
It was the start of Day 3 of the installation of the new kitchen counters. It was going well, but it was not over yet. It was a bit inconvenient not being able to use the kitchen sink or the cook top. And I was always looking for the telephone, because it wasn’t where it should be on the kitchen desk. All the pots and pans were on the table in the family room. All the cookbooks were on the dining room table. Toaster, coffee maker, the knife block – all were residing in places they shouldn’t be. We ate take-away a lot.
Last night, however, The Car Guy connected up the wires for the new Induction Cook top and we were ready to try out this amazing technology. We decided to start out boldly – we would Boil Water! Before you scoff, Boiling Water is actually a very complicated process. The simple act of heating water involves quite a few variables, including altitude, weather, water hardness and anything else that is in the pot such as salt. We chose to boil just plain water.
We chose three pots of different sizes, put some water in each, and set them on the cook top. I put the manual beside us on the counter top and opened it to Page 13 – Getting Started. I had, of course, read up to that Page at a previous sitting, because I am a Manual Reader. It might seem to you that there must be a lot of information to grasp before even turning an Induction Cook top on, but this manual doesn’t actually have Pages 3 to 6 for some reason. Pages 7, 8 and 9 are Important Safety Instructions and 10 through 12 talk about Things Never to do, Things Always to do, and Proper Cookware.
Before I had even got past the Familiarize Yourself with the Appliance on Page 13, The Car Guy was stabbing at the On/Off button. “I’m ready to boil water,” he said impatiently. “How do I make this thing go?”
I skipped forward to Page 15. Operation. Switching the Cook top On and Off. Adjusting the Elements. (I’d have to go back to Page 13 afterwards.) “Press the O symbol on the corresponding element,” I read to him, “Then press the number on the number bar for the required heat setting.”
He soon had all three elements turned on, and then stood there expectantly. It wasn’t very long before the water was merrily boiling in each pot. Satisfied that water would boil fairly quickly, he was eager to test out how hot the element is as soon as you turn the element off. He started with the saucepan. Element off, pot removed, gingerly put finger on the element. And sure enough, it wasn’t hot enough to burn anything. Next he removed the fry pan, and that element wasn’t too hot to touch either. The last pot was a simple small pot intended to quickly melt some butter or something like that. When he turned that element off, and removed the pot, the element indicator warned him that the element was too hot to touch.
Then, like a kid with a new toy, he returned all the pots to their home elements, and turned them all on again. Soon they were all boiling. Then he turned the elements off, and suddenly they weren’t boiling. On – off – on – off. Satisfied that he could boil water, he wandered off. I think he hoped that the new cook top would also wash up the pots and put them away.
What he really would like to do is duplicate the video demonstration where they have cut a fry pan in half, set it on the element, then crack an egg into the fry pan, such that half the egg is in the fry pan, and half is on the element. The egg in the fry pan cooks, and the egg on the element doesn’t. I think it would be a good party trick, but I’m not ready to sacrifice a fry pan for it.
A nuclear power reactor is just a fancy way of boiling water.
– Leslie Dewan –
In a previous post, I rambled on about Religion. Today I’m going to talk about the Devil. But not very seriously, so be forewarned.
In many religions and cultures, the devil is considered to be a powerful entity – evil, and the enemy of mankind. He shows up in many common phrases: speak of the devil; the devil made me do it; between the devil and the deep blue sea; devil’s advocate; better the devil you know than the devil you don’t; the devil incarnate; devil of a job; devil may care attitude; full of the devil; give the devil his due, the devil is in the details.
I’ve written this word so many times now, that it doesn’t look like it is spelled right… Do you have any idea where I am going with this discussion?
Or Devilled Eggs – you can spell it either way. Lots of things can be deviled – it simply means it is highly seasoned. I made some eggs yesterday, and they are devilishly easy to make. Or so I thought. It turns out the devil is in the details when it comes to making this delicious cold comfort food. According to this recipe for Devilled Eggs, there is far more to boiling an egg than I had taken into consideration. And the way I hard boiled my eggs yesterday was all wrong. Which might explain why one of them cracked.
I actually looked up a recipe for Deviled Eggs in the Joy of Cooking. (My edition was the 45th printing, September 1988.) I like this cookbook, but I wish it had pictures. Then I would know how close I had come to what the recipe was supposed to look like. This cookbook, however, is well worth the effort of jumping from page to page (how to cook the eggs is not on the same page as the recipe for Deviled Eggs) because of the way the execution of the recipe is described. The description for making the filling says, “Crush the yolks without packing them and moisten them pleasantly with...” Let me repeat – moisten them pleasantly – have you ever read a recipe before that said that?
There are probably thousands of ways to make the filling for Devilled Eggs. Here is one from The Domestic Goddess who seems to have put considerable effort into deciding how best to make this recipe. Her eggs look much better than mine. She did the piping thing. Which is a good idea if you hope to get all the filling back into the egg carcasses (barrel-shaped container is how the Joy of Cooking describes them.) The filling is going to act just like a can of worms, which, once opened… well, I’ve never opened a can of worms, but you can imagine how hard it would be to put all the worms back into the can. Same with egg filling. I ended up with more filling than I had space to put it, but that was probably partly because I had one very badly distorted egg that really couldn’t be stuffed properly.
So here are my eggs. What I lack in finesse, I make up for in something…
I can’t finish up talking about eggs without sending you off to a recipe for kids called Funny Egg Fish. It also tells you how to hard boil eggs, and their way of doing it just goes to show that there is more than one way to boil an egg. So pick which way works for you best – better the devil you know than the one you don’t…
Internet Addiction Disorder
There has been an increased buzz the past few days about Internet Addiction Disorder. I thought I’d better check this out. Since I started blogging, I have been spending an awful lot of time on the internet. What with researching, writing, reading, organizing, thinking, and corresponding, I probably spend 4 or 5 hours a day on the computer in the wintertime. Last summer, it was more like 1 hour, and at the cabin it was 0 hours. Nevertheless, if I have developed a full blown Mental Disorder, (other than any of the other ones the family suspects I might have), I would like to be the first person to identify it.
The Encyclopedia of Mental Disordersseemed like a good place to start. The first sentence that caught my eye was: “Many people believe that spending large amounts of time on the Internet is a core feature of the disorder. The amount of time by itself, however, is not as important a factor as the ways in which the person’s Internet use is interfering with their daily functioning.”
Daily Functioning – that was a key clue to investigate for sure. I jotted it down in my Blue’s Clues Notebook (I sure miss watching that show with the Grandchildren – they outgrew it) and headed off to find the “Functioning Inspector” (my Spousal Unit). He’s my go-to guy when I want to find out how badly I am misinterpreting things. “So,” I said casually. “Do you think I’m functioning okay?”
He looked at me like he often does when he can’t figure out why on earth I said what I did, and responded with a pithy “What!?”
Clearly I hadn’t explained the situation very well. “Daily Functioning. Am I functioning, daily, pretty much the way I always have?”
He responded, cautiously, “Why?” He wanted to test the waters to see if there was a safe way to reply to this.
“Well, I was wondering if this writing thing I’m doing is interfering with my day to day functioning.”
He didn’t answer right away. I think he was running down his mental check list of things I do for him. Clean underwear – check. Whatever else he thinks I should do – check. “No, I don’t think what you are doing is interfering with your daily functioning.”
So far so good. “What about socially? Is this affecting my social life? Am I using the computer and the internet as a replacement for social interaction?”
He thought for a moment, a brief one at that. “No, you’ve always been a Loner. Extroverted at times, but a loner, still the same. That hasn’t changed.”
I jotted a few things down next to Daily Functioning – Good – Loner. I was making real progress here. Steve (of Blue’s Clues) never looked for more than three clues, so I figured I was pretty much done with my investigation. I plunked myself down in my Thinking Chair, and started to write this post.
I concluded that… oh, wait, you should see some of the interesting things I found when I was researching this disorder, and pondering how disordered I might be:
Correct Use of Quotation Marks
I used a lot of quotation marks while trying to relay to you what the verbal exchange was between my Spousal Unit and me. I may not have got all the punctuation right, but I didn’t feel like wandering off in search of punctuation today. I also enclosed “Functioning Inspector” in quotation marks, which, according to some sources probably isn’t entirely right, but I liked the way they looked.
I couldn’t complete my assessment of whether I had a serious disorder or not without thinking about what it means to be a Loner. While Loners are often considered to be Introverted, I decided I leaned towards being an Extroverted Introverted Loner. You know, the kind that can easily meet and talk to strangers, but would sooner read about someones life than listen to the person explain their life.
After all my sleuthing and consulting, I decided I don’t have an Internet Addiction Disorder. In fact, I think I could spend 8 or 9 hours a day on my computer without appearing any more addicted than the millions of other people in the world who spend all day tippy tapping on their keyboards all day. The only difference is, most of them get paid to do it.
How about you? Have you thought about whether you are addicted to the internet?