Friday, December 30, 2011

my first Senior Citizen luncheon

My 100+ year-old mother-in-law is visiting, and along with one of our friends who is helping out while Karen and I are otherwise occupied, has gone out to lunch at our local Senior center a couple of times, and the lunches have gotten rave review from Sylvia, who is *somewhat* picky about these matters.

In other words, the soup must be HOT and the food not 'tasteless' (her usual complaint).

Since I am now officially over-60 (as of last month), I believe I will join the two of them today.  This should give me an interesting premonition of my future life, I should live so long.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

it drives me nuts (what, again?)

I watch the NBC Nightly News regularly, to play the game I call "are the reporters lazy or merely dispicable?".

Reporting on the poison-pill bill passed by the (cravenly corrupt and evil) House majority yesterday, the serious reporter mentioned that the White House has promised to veto the continue-the-Payroll-tax reductions bill (which, as Peter DeFazio reminds us is a bad idea anyway, since focused spending creates far more jobs than piddling tax-cuts, but I digress) because, in her words, it included support for 'a big oil pipeline project'.

Anyone who falls into the 'largely misinformed' category might interpret that to mean that that (America-hating) Obama just won't do anything that might help people and create those badly-needed construction jobs.

Too bad she didn't take 8 seconds to mention that the Keystone XL project is generally recognized as an environmental folly of possibly catastrophic proportions (i.e. 'Game Over for the global climate').  Nah, it's much simpler to keep folks riled about 'both sides engaging in Washington gridlock'.

Network news: You're fired.

Friday, December 09, 2011

asking for trouble?

My current phone (Samsung Captivate) is running Android 2.2 and there is now a 2.3 upgrade available.

I am utterly happy with this phone - its only issue is that the battery seems to drain quickly, and one of the touted benefits of the upgrade is 'improved battery performance', so that, in itself may be a sufficient reason to upgrade.

Except for one thing: fear of disruption.  Yes, I can back up the few critical data files, and am already syncing my personal data (especially that all-important Calendar) with Google, so why delay?

It's just 40 years of computer experience (wrote first program in 1970) that has shown again and again the profound wisdom of the "if it ain't broke..." mantra.

Anybody convinced that taking a phone from 2.2 to 2.3 is both relatively painless and absolutely worthwhile?

Thursday, December 08, 2011

has it really come to this?

Rick Perry accuses Obama of conducting a 'War on Religion'?  I know that Evangelicals are major factors in Primary voting, but Perry's "I am a proud Christian" ad shows a new level of creative political writing.

In one short spot, he manages a blatant nod to both the 'Obama is a Muslim' lunatics, as well as the 'Beware of those heathen Mormons' lunatics.

Wait a minute - maybe those two groups of lunatics are really the same!

Regardless, you have to admire the flagrant desperation of an ad like this.  Thank you, Rick, for letting the rest of us know that you really are as dumb and/or craven as you appear to be.  Oh, and by the way, give that writing staff a raise - they deserve it!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

too much technology?

So, my son Ben presented me, at my birthday a couple of weeks ago, with a certificate informing me that he had purchased a Kindle Touch for me.  Thank you, Ben.

It arrived yesterday, and I am still forming impressions.  However, the following sequence of events just took place:

1)  I was on Karen's laptop in the kitchen, using the home wifi.  Earlier this morning, I sent an email to a friend (you know who you are) discussing the Touch and asking about his new Kindle Fire.

2) Leaving the laptop on, I went into the living room with the Kindle, and was busy browsing and downloading free eBooks.  Using the funky browser on the Kindle, I was able to get into my Gmail account, and tapped out a reply to my friend, as an experiment (cc: to myself).  It seemed to work.

3)  very soon after, I heard a 'ding' from the kitchen, announcing the arrival of an email.

4)  using my cellphone (Android Galaxy S), I quickly got into my regular email and saw the item I had just sent from the Kindle and heard announced on the laptop.

5)  I am writing this on our Acer netbook, which is normally signed onto my Gmail account, rather than Karen's laptop (which is normally signed into hers)..

I need to get this posted, so I can load some MP3s and other audio onto my teeny MP3 player (that also has an FM radio), that I will be taking to LA next week for Thanksgiving.

This is getting out of hand.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

cable installed!!

Well, it took them a few hours, but Internet speed is noticeably faster, the new router is already configured for WiFi, and there are a heck of a lot of channels now on the TV.

Here are the Qwest numbers:

 And here are Comcast's:
Yes, there appears to be a difference.  I've been with Qwest DSL for MANY years, but Xfinity finally made me an offer I couldn't refuse, so off we go 'To Xfinity and Beyond'...

the cable saga (yes, it continues...)

To bring you up to date, I signed an agreement with Xfinity/Comcast to install broadband and TV service back on September 14th. 

There have been many delays, due to the unique situation of our old house (set back from the street) and my demands (I want the modem and router in the cellar).  It's taken over a month until the crew buried conduit from a nearby power-pole to the house and, this morning, the technician arrived to complete everything.

Within the first 5 minutes, he was definitely giving off 'oh shit' vibes, and has called for reinforcements.  Seems that connecting the buried cable to the top of the power-pole is 'problematic' (he thinks it can be done, but 'will take a while') since he may have to jigger the connection from the street to the power-pole.

Then, of course, a hole has to be drilled to get the cable from outside the house to the TV, and he said I have to drill that hole myself, since it goes thru 'furniture' (a wall-unit that's been in place for decades).

Reinforcements are arriving, but the guy says that he has to go get lunch now, and will be back later.  Time marches on.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

cemeteries and taxes

I had an odd dream in the early hours this morning.  I was in a cemetery, and I was distressed that my parents were, for some reason, buried there in separate graves, some definite distance from each other.  I pictured their spirits looking for each other, but sadly not being able to find each other.  It was quite disturbing.

I woke up to remind myself that, indeed, they are buried side-by-side, in a little cemetery on the other side of the country.  My father joined the crowd there a long time ago, my mother arriving a couple of years ago, having survived without him for over 25 years.

They are surrounded by their own parents and contemporaries - the folks that comprised my little Upstate New York home town. The people who paid their taxes to educate and protect me, back in the 50's and 60's, before I, like so many of my schoolmates, moved away.

They paid for the public library where I spent countless hours exploring, discovering everything from H.G. Wells to the Tao Teh Ching.  The library where I was so well-known that the librarian gave me free-range in the stacks, and let me poke around in boxes of unfiled books in the back, since there was not enough shelf-space for them.

In my public school, there was an abundance of music classes - singing, band, music theory, choir. I gravitated to all of them. Most remarkable of all, my town paid the salary (how much could it have been?) for a wonderful, curious woman named Miss Ewing (this is long before 'Ms.'), who arrived in our classrooms regularly, wheeling in her record-player, for a class called 'Music Appreciation'.

She made sure we knew our 'Nutcracker', 'Hall of the Mountain King', 'William Tell Overture', and other obvious classical kid-pleasers, but she also made sure we could identify each statement of the main figure in the Bach 'Fugue in G Minor'. Can you imagine, in today's world, a school deeming this to be an important, essential part of 'education'?

I'm not going to assert that the folks of my parent's generation happily paid their taxes, fervently believing that our little town would be a better place if all the kids knew how to spell Tchaikovsky (I didn't have to look that up) or that the Lone Ranger theme was actually written by an Italian guy named Rossini.

And that's the point of taxes.  It's a simple notion, to pool our resources for the Common Good without knowing exactly what the long-term benefits will be, but trusting that investing in the future is better than starving it.

And, make no mistake, we are starving the future by continuing a system where obscene amounts of money are devoted to shallow politics, coming from shallow Military, Petroleum, and Financial interests whose only concern is to buy shallow people to promote their narrow, short-sighted, highly profitable goals, while the bridges and roads are crumbling, the public-school education of my generation is passe, and the media fog is determined that serious questions about who we are as a society are pepper-sprayed into silence.

If today's Republicans had been active in Elmira, New York in 1955, perhaps the title of this blog would be 'just an aging slob'.

Instead, I am humming Bach as I remember public-school heroes like Miss Ewing, Mrs. Ripley, Mr. Holmes, Mrs. Chatfield, Mr. Bentley, and Mr. Thayer (who, I see, is still at it, 43 years after I tried to understand why so many of his choral choices mentioned Jesus).

Friday, October 14, 2011

8 am on an October morning

I was down in my cellar office early this morning.  I had finished the routine stuff: my overnight email, my traditional bowl of cereal, and cup of coffee. 

I was scanning my frequently-read blogs for any interesting news or opinions.  I was putting off getting on with some database programming that I hope to flesh out this morning, when I heard Sasha, our surprisingly-large black cat, upstairs by the back door, asking to be let out.

I walked upstairs, poured a second cup of coffee, and noticed the clear bright sunlight streaming into our yard, opened the back door and, with Sasha, stepped outside, still in my bathrobe.

We live less than five miles from the heart of downtown Portland, but in an old house built in the 1930's, in what realtors would call a 'park-like setting'.  As Adrian Monk would say, "it's a blessing, and a curse."

Right next to the house is an enormous old maple that we recently had thinned out, so, for the first time in years, it now has an open, visible, fractal structure.  The sun, still quite low, had just cleared the line of trees to the east, so the tree was bathed in that wonderful light that happens this time of year, and is especially obvious when, unlike the past few days, the morning sky is clear and blue.

I paused.

As the sound of Sasha's collar bell receded as he headed off to survey his territory, I noticed the bird-song and the swirling birds criss-crossing the scene every few seconds.  I sipped coffee.

I felt the sunlight on my face, and marveled at the power of nuclear reactions 93 million miles away being able to be felt here. This led to a cascade of thoughts, ending with the marvel that those same nuclear reactions made possible all the green things and animals (including me) in the scene, not to mention the ancient fossil fuel that had been extracted, refined, and delivered to my house, to warm the water in my coffee cup.

Yes, I thought, the Sun is the source of all Life on Earth, and it's entirely sensible that the first religion should be to honor the Sun. I feel this is how religions got started - one Sun god.  Humans being as we are, we then have the inevitable development of some men (or women, but I bet it was men) who convince others that they know how to insure that the Sun will definitely return to its summer strength, as it appears to be dying every mid-December. There is nothing like a priest(ess). 

But I digress.

It's a lovely morning, after several very damp, grey days.  I have work to do, clients to visit, and chores to tick-off my list.  It's mid-October already and I am approaching my 60th birthday next month.

I genuinely enjoy coffee.  I genuinely enjoy my cereal in the morning.  I appreciate the Sun and don't feel the need for an earthbound perspective on how it got there.  The Universe is, apparently, a very large place and our local star is apparently located on the outer fringes of a very large galaxy, that is only one of a zillion others. That's OK.

We have cats and birds and trees and each other, and miles to go before we sleep. We've had Kurt Vonnegut and George Carlin. I'm happy to be here. Nothing lasts. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

times have changed

Remember back in High School Civics class (for people born after 1970, that was a mandatory class where the fundamentals of American Democracy were explained - things like 'promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty' - you know, that charmingly antiquated stuff, but I digress...), when you were taught that the US Senate is the “World’s Greatest Deliberative Body”.

Heck, that phrase “World’s Greatest Deliberative Body” is right there on the US Senate's official web site.  Yessir, that's my Senate.

I think we can safely retire that moniker (which now can be spoken only with utter cynicism), now that 100% of Senate Republicans voted to not even bring the Obama Jobs bill up for discussion/debate.  The bastards.

The US Congress, both houses, have been taken hostage by a hostile force, that has committed itself to subverting the President (even this wishy-washy one) as well as the People, in order to protect its benefactors from any attempt to undo the damage done to this republic since the days of St. Ronnie, of blessed (and utterly distorted) memory.

Shame, shame, shame on them, and shame on us for letting it happen.

It all boils down to this:  November 2012 is our last chance to rid ourselves of these traitors, and, frankly, given the compromised integrity of the electoral process, the only way it's going to happen, short of violent revolution, is for a vote turnout so massive that its mandate cannot be stolen away, again.

In the meantime, millions of suffering Americans are not going to get any reason to hope for any halt to the downward national slide into desperation, for another year, and, long before then, there should be an 'Occupy' encampment in every town, filled with angry people looking for someone to blame. 

Haven't we seen this movie before?






Friday, October 07, 2011

more techie travails

So, after working a whole bunch of hours yesterday, did I take the evening off and relax? Of course not.

After dinner, I went down to the computer dungeon and tried 'one last thing', and disaster ensued.

I have an Access app that links to another Access database (trivial) but it also uploads data to a SQL Server database. I am using SQL Server Express on my development PC, and it works great.

However, I am using Windows Authentication, so no Userid/Password is required for the data access - it just works. In the morning's conference call, one of the attendees envisioned a scenario where the app would need to connect to a SQL Server database over the internet, requiring Userid/Password authentication.

Fair enough, I thought it would be 'interesting' to create a 2nd System ODBC DSN for the same local database that I'm already testing with, but this time specifying password authentication, just to see what would happen. Not only did it not work, but, suddenly, my entire SQL Server instance was throwing error messages and the original stuff was no longer working. In fact, SQL Server Management Studio could no longer connect to SQL Server.

YIKES!!!!!!! I broke it.

Believe me, ladies and germs, when I tell you that I spent the next 4 hours screaming (silently) as I tried everything I could think of, uninstalling, downloading fresh install packages, installing them, failing, uninstalling them, etc. In utter defeat and total failure, I shut the computer down and went to bed.

This morning, as I awoke from uneasy dreams, I did not find myself transformed into a giant cockroach, thank goodness, but I did come downstairs, try again, hit the Google, and found one guy on one site that recommended checking whether TCPIP was enabled within the SQL Server configuration. Huh?

Needless to say, that worked, but my databases were not showing up. Another 15 minutes of messing around and, lo and behold, everything got restored, and I am now back where I was at 6 pm last night, when I prepared to 'try one little thing to see if it works'.

Is there a lesson in all this? Probably not.

In the meantime, does anyone have any experience writing an Access app that connects to a SQL Server database that was set up with 'Mixed Mode' authentication? Anyone? Hello?

The fun never ends.

UPDATE:  In case you are unsure exactly what 'travails' means, here is the precise definition:

Definition of TRAVAIL. 1. a : work especially of a painful or laborious nature : toil b : a physical or mental exertion or piece of work : task, effort c : agony, torment ...

Thursday, October 06, 2011

occupy portland - lead-off rally

I arrived at the rally site around 11:30, with a hot Vietnamese coffee (with condensed milk) warding off the chill.

There were maybe a couple of hundred people milling around, but, by noon, there were thousands, with more pouring in by the minute.

In short, it was a lovely, HUGE crowd, all cooperating and interested in a safe-but-loud statement. There were lots of creative signs, and folks of all ages.

I took a few photos - here's one, showing just one tiny portion of the crowd, which extended on all sides and behind me:

The plan was to have speeches for over 2 hours before marching thru the streets of downtown. I left after a bit, not ready to wait until 2:30 to get moving.

All the local media was there - here's hoping that nobody causes trouble, and that the coverage captures the energy and scope of the crowd.

Friday, September 23, 2011

geeky tip-of-the-day

Some months ago, I built a project for a client that pushes Access data into a SQL Server database. For development, I installed SQL Server Express and it worked great.

Now another client needs something quite similar so I went to start up the SQL Server Express service and Windows said "sorry, I can't start it." A check of the Event Viewer revealed a couple of files that had been compressed, the last time I ran the 'Disk Cleanup' function, and SQL Server could not deal with those (critical) data files being compressed.

So, the problem is how to decompress files that have been compressed by Disk Cleanup. No, you can't use WinZip!

It took 20 minutes of internet searching until I found a thread discussing this, where one guy casually posted the following in a long list of comments:

1). Click Start
2). Click Run and type “cmd” to open a command prompt
3). Type “cd \” at the prompt to goto the root directory
4). Type “compact /u /s /a /q /i *.*” to decompress all files in all directories
You can run that command in ANY directory and it will decompress.

It took a while to use the DOS window to drill down to the appropriate directory (I always have to lookup the parm for showing the 8.3 names (dir /x), but I pasted in the above command, there was a heart-stopping pause of about a minute, then an 'all files decompressed' message.

Voila - the Service started up as normal and I am off and running. It's weird things like this that suck up an hour here and there, when you're trying to get real work done.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

adventures with the cable guys - moving forward

The specialist recommended by the Xfinity guys stopped by this morning, as promised. He was the quintessential grizzled old guy, who has seen everything.

He walked thru the house and listened as I explained the two routes into the basement that I had discussed with the young guys (who threw up their hands and said they didn't know how to make either work, guaranteed).

45 Minutes later, he was done, having taken a 3rd path, entering the basement a couple of feet from the aborted one that they explored the other day. Labor + materials + 30 years experience = $55. Such a deal.

So, now we're back on track for the full install, which is scheduled for next Tuesday. For the record, the guy's name is Ken Taliaferro, at 503-453-5025. Call him for any kind of custom wiring problems - glad I did.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

adventures with the cable guys - the saga begins

So, an Xfinity (i.e. Comcast) guy came to the door the other day, and he made me an offer I couldn't refuse, for cable TV and high-speed Internet. We've been pretty happy with Qwest DSL for over 10 years, so this is a big change.

It wasn't too hard to figure out where the cable needs to enter the house, to connect to the TV. The problem is where I ideally want the modem and wireless router to live, down in the basement, so I can connect my main PC directly to the router via ethernet, and have the WiFi centrally located in the house.

I've spent MANY hours thinking about various alternatives, and believe I had a scheme that involves only one risky hole-drilling, up from the playroom ceiling and, hopefully, into an enclosed cabinet a few enclosed feet from where the TV box will live.

Also, we are a far distance from the street, so just getting the line from the street to our house is a challenge, to comply with the many regs they need to follow.

The Xfinity guy arrived, we spoke about the complications, and he immediately called for reinforcements.

After an hour, we all agreed that there were three possible routes to get the line into the basement, and, of the two that did not involve destroying the clean look of a (relatively) freshly-remodeled room, both had difficulties.

Eventually, they gave me the name of the local wiring guru, and he's coming over Thursday to assess the situation. They apologized and left.

End of Phase I. Phase II tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

fun with Microsoft (the never-ending saga)

Many of my clients have upgraded to Office 2010 and several users have reported that SOME forms do not display correctly (as they do in Access 2003 and Access 2007). Clearly, Microsoft changed SOMETHING in Access 2010 in how Tab controls are drawn (in 2010, tabs are sometimes invisible, preventing the user from switching from one tab page to another).

But, before I could begin to delve into this, I had to install my (totally legal) Office 2010.

I spent many hours trying to get Office 2010 installed, while leaving intact my Office 2003 apps as well as Groove 2007. I was never able to do this, without the install obliterating Groove (my workspaces were unaffected, but the GROOVE.EXE program and associated stuff was removed).

At one point, I had both Access 2003 and Access 2010 launchable, but, alas, Groove was gone and my Groove install CD said it couldn't reinstall until I uninstalled it, and there was nothing to uninstall. I ended up uninstalling Office 2010, then reinstalling Groove, and, after many hours, I was back where I started.

That was yesterday. Hours of fun.

This morning, I bit the bullet and told Office 2010 to REPLACE all existing Office apps. The Office 2010 install appears to hang indefinitely once the progress bar is entirely filled in, but I patiently waited (almost an hour?) until it actually finished normally.

The Office 2003 apps are indeed gone, and Groove 2007 is replaced by its rebranded successor ('Sharepoint Workspace', which, ironically, is still launched with GROOVE.EXE). Best of all, it had no trouble communicating with the Groove 2007 install on my laptop. This was a major relief.

All programs now appeared to work and I finally got into the guts of Access 2010 to find out why SOME of my forms were not displaying correctly.

Turns out that Microsoft made a small change between Access 2007 and 2010. In a 2010 Tab control, apparently, at least one tab page MUST be defined as Visible = True. I sometimes use the technique, when the tabs to be displayed depend on the context in which the form is opened, of defining all Tab pages as Visible = False, and programatically turning on the page(s) I want the user to see, during Form_Load.

Again, this works great in all versions of Access PRIOR TO 2010. Making the first tab page Visible = True (and then adjusting the code accordingly) permits everything to function exactly as expected.

Thanks again, Microsoft.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

android - final hurdle resolved!

So, to recap, connecting the Captivate to my Windows 7 laptop via USB easily mounted it as a drive, and permitted browsing folders, creating new folders, and copying files.

However, kept getting 'USB device not recognized' on my XP desktop. Uninstalled and reinstalled all relevant drivers, but no change.

One commenter in one thread somewhere out there suggested changing USB cables. I knew the cable worked OK on the laptop, so it definitely was OK. Another guy said to try a different USB port.

'What difference could that make?', I asked myself.

Plugged the computer end of the USB cable into a front panel port, and everything worked great, soon bringing up a normal window onto the phone's file system. If you have a rational explanation for this, I'd love to hear it.

This concludes the Quest for New Phone saga. Here's a recap:

Step 1 - issues with my old WM 6.5 phone

Step 2 - let's try a Windows 7 phone - oops!

Step 3 - maybe Android will come to the rescue

Step 4 - Captivate is promising, but major setbacks cause anxiety

Step 5 - maybe everything will be OK, after all

This post - everything may actually be OK, after all.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

android - break on thru to the Other Side!

Thanks to Dave for suggesting two things:

1) Before I get totally frustrated about the Captivate NOT being unable to be seen by my main (Windows XP) Desktop as a drive (for copying files), why not try it with Windows 7?

I connected the phone via USB to my Win 7 laptop, and it just worked. Not only was I able to copy an Excel file to the phone, but, when I opened the 'QuickOffice' software on the phone, it instantly saw the Excel file and opened it as normal. This is a big thing.

2) Before I get totally frustrated about issues syncing with my USA.NET email account, and having the UCWeb browser not able to do a Send when accessing that account via WAP, why not just attach to my gmail account (that I have automatically picking up USA.NET mail). That worked great for offline reading, and the UCWeb browser displays gmail wonderfully, when connected via WiFi.

One gmail feature worked great on mail sent from the phone, that I was sure would fail. When I send mail from gmail on a computer, I want the sender to show up as 'blavine@usa.net', my primary mail service. I sent mail to myself from gmail on the phone, and, sure enough, the sender was stamped as I want, not as my gmail address. This was, for once, a pleasant surprise.

So, after a lot of teeth-grinding and imprecation-muttering, I popped my sim back into the Captivate, and will work with it for a few days.

Now I need to find out how to get Android to see the MP3 file, that I copied to the phone, as a selection as my ring-tone. How hard can it be?

All absolutely-critical functions are now working, and I can tinker with getting my XP computer to recognize the Captivate at my leisure, of which you must be thinking I apparently have far too much.

android - trouble in paradise

I had gotten so many things working on the new Android phone, that I decided to pop in my sim and start using it as my main phone, since there were only a couple of functions I had not yet tested.

This morning, I set up the connection to my POP3 email account, and it started downloading messages (over WiFi). So far so good. Unfortunately, it proceeded to download ALL messages in the entire mailbox, not just the current Inbox.

I had to keep downloading and deleting messages, going back to 2007. That was cumbersome, but I eventually got to the point where it downloaded two new messages, that had just arrived. This was exciting, especially since it was clear that, unlike the unfortunate Windows Phone 7 POP3 client, this did NOT cause messages to be deleted from the Server (there is a visible switch controlling this in Android). I even replied to one, saw it in the Outbox, and successfully sent it. This was big - the POP email client was fully functional.

So I thought.

But wait - a couple more messages arrived in my server Inbox, but the phone email client was UNABLE to see them and bring them in. This is bad, but I figured I could resolve it later. Onward...

Next, I wanted to connect the phone to my computer (Win XP) via USB, and see if I can drag and drop files. No go. A quick Google search brought up this unfortunate news. I assume it's true, and I will have to, once again, wipe the phone clean, resync my Contacts, configure POP3, add the couple of apps I've installed, etc.

This is a hassle, and I am not amused.

Finally, I had previously tested using the UCWeb browser to access my web email, using its great implementation of the WAP interface. I had previously read mail, but had not done a 'Reply'. Everything else had worked great, but imagine my surprise when I hit the Send button, but the cursor highlights the address line (which is correct) and the Send does not happen.

Why would it fail at that point? Grrrrrr.

So, where I am now, two days into the Android phone, is a phone that almost but not quite does everything my old Windows Mobile 6.5 phone does. I have not been able to connect to my PC, the POP email client isn't picking up new messages, and the browser interface to my email won't do a 'send'.

The camera is great, though, BUT my sim is now going back into my Tilt 2, and it's back to Square One with the Captivate. If this continues, I will have to dump it and, finally, try a (wait for it...) iPhone.

Of course, I could probably get a great deal on a different WM6.5 phone, but is horizontal progress really progress? Nothing comes painlessly in these modern times.

Friday, September 02, 2011

the phone fun continues

So, having concluded that the Windows Phone 7 Samsung Focus just wasn't going to work for me, I went back to searching craigslist.

Yesterday afternoon, I saw an ad for the other phone I've had my eye on (Samsung Captivate). One popped up at 3:30 pm for a reasonable price (I've been watching), I called the seller at 4, was at her house an hour later, and bought it.

It's running Android 2.2. Maybe it was my time spent with the Focus, but I found the interface pretty intuitive, once I figured out how to invoke the Settings menu.

I wiped it and proceeded to play around with it a little, this morning. In record time, I had brought over all my Contacts, had synced with my Google Calendar, and had downloaded from the Android Marketplace both a free widget for turning off Cellular Data AND my favorite WAP-compliant browser, that I had been using under Windows Mobile 6.5.

The first thing I checked on the Captivate is that it's easy to configure the email sync function to NEVER delete server mail when you delete it on the phone. This option is present in Windows Mobile 6.5, but NOT in Windows Phone 7. Why? Did the WP7 development team decide that the 6.5 guys had given users too much power, or did it simply never occur to them that this option is critical for some of us (there have been many online complaints about it).

Unfortunately, my email service is currently down for maintenance (quite unusual), so I didn't complete the mail account creation. That's the last unknown essential function that, if successful, means I am good to go with this phone.

This morning, I posted a new craigslist ad for the Focus and, 10 minutes ago, sold it for $10 more than I had paid.

At any rate, I believe all my show-stopper difficulties with the Focus will disappear with the Captivate. If this is misplaced optimism, you'll read all about it here, and see another craigslist ad shortly thereafter. Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Windows Phone 7 - the Verdict

So, I've had a Windows 7 Phone (Samsung Focus) for four days, with the goal of getting it set up to do everything my old Windows 6.5 phone did, and more.

Let me say that there are certainly many features that I liked. The interface is cool and very responsive, and options offered for most functions were logical and easy to configure. Installing applications from the Marketplace is totally simple.

But, to spoil what little suspense remains here, I'm not going to keep this phone.

There were three deal-breakers for me:

* The POP/IMAP setup certainly connected to my web email without any difficulty, but (unlike the Winddows 6.5 mail client), there is no option to leave email on the server when you delete it on the phone. This is a killer for me - good thing I tested it with one deleted message before I accidentally purged my entire inbox! Strike one.

* My email service provides a VERY lean, cool WAP interface, and the free UCWeb browser does a masterful job of presenting that interface, under WM 6.5. Alas, the developer does not yet have a WP7 version, and Internet Explorer for WP7 is confused by the WAP instructions. Furthermore, viewing my email's normal web interface with IE on WP7 was unusable. Strike two.

* No Google Maps for WP7. The 'Maps' application that is included is OK, but really lacks a lot (no links to restaurant reviews, satellite view, etc.). I love Google Maps. Strike three.


I have a couple of other quibbles, and some things were certainly extremely nice (SkyDrive/Windows Live integration is excellent, not surprisingly). Phone call quality was excellent, and the Focus attaches to my home WiFi two seconds after turning it on.

Final verdict on Windows Phone 7: for me, sadly, it's a thumbs down.

Next up: an Android 2.2 phone.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

adventures in phoning

So, after watching craigslist cell-phone ads intensely for the past couple of months, I leaped into the unknown two days ago. Here's the setup:

I have been on AT&T since my Enron days (my first cell phone). We have 4 phones on our family plan, so that makes switching to another carrier a challenge, especially with Dylan living in Ashland (we pay for his phone, in the curious hope that he will call us often - ha ha).

Furthermore, since I have been a customer so long, I am grandfathered into a situation where I am NOT required to purchase a data plan, UNLESS I buy a phone from AT&T and renew my expired contract.

I am generally quite happy to rely on WiFi for internet access on my phone (have had a 'smart' phone for several years). If I am somewhere where I absolutely need to get on the internet, I either find an open WiFi site, or ask one of my ubiqitous iPhone friends to look it up for me.

There are two significant benefits to this: I save $300/year on Data Plan charges, and email I send from my phone does not have the highly-annoying 'Sent from my iPhone' signature.

I was extremely happy with my Windows Mobile 6.1 HTC Tilt - it did everything very well, including taking pretty sharp photos and videos. It was set up exactly as I liked it, and was stolen in Costa Rica last December. No identify-theft took place, but I lost a bunch of photos and videos of Zacky.

I replaced it with a Tilt 2, running Windows Mobile 6.5, purchased from a craigslist person for an amazing $65.

Over the course of the past few months, I had it set up exactly as I liked, with effortless Calendar sync (using a 3rd party tool), a free WAP-enabled browser for my email service's very-lean-very-nice mobile interface, the (free) Freda eBook reader (populated with many free epub files, both downloaded from Project Gutenberg and created myself, using this wonderful web service which permits you to convert Word files to epub), and a cool Task Manager, to easily kill background processes that were consuming memory.

Really, I like Windows Mobile 6.5 on the Tilt 2 a lot. It also has an FM Radio and Google Maps, not to mention Word and Excel. Moving files to it (using ActiveSync via USB) is trivial. Managing files and editing the registry is easy. Vertical scrolling via a finger-swipe is smooth. Using a stylus to tap the keyboard is pretty fast and accurate. All in all, a pretty darn good phone.

The only drawbacks to the Tilt 2 are:

1) lousy camera - photos always out of focus
2) decreasing battery life over the last month
3) unable to see my home WiFi from places in the house where the original Tilt worked great
4) increasing problems with AT&T phone signals here at the house - did they change something?
5) beat-up case and somewhat-scratched glass cover (my fault)

So, moving to a new phone went onto my To Do list a couple of months ago - no hurry. I just knew I wanted a good craigslist deal, to maintain my don't-need-no-stinkin'-Data-Plan cheapness (and minimizing my internet-data-consumption footprint, unlike all you folks out there who are using the internet to listen to the freaking radio and continually update the current temperature, for God's sake, but don't get me started).

I knew I didn't want an iPhone, since, on principal, I must resist Apple fascism, no matter how good their products are (as you all keep telling me, ad nauseum).

That meant either an Android or another Windows phone. Since Microsoft is getting props for Windows Phone 7's innovative interface, I figured it would be nice to go that route, rather than get another Windows Mobile 6.5 phone.

So, as I said, I've been watching craigslist obsessively, and, on Monday, spotted The Deal. I met up with the guy Monday night, and bought his Samsung Focus for a pretty-darn-reasonable $100. It's running Windows Phone 7, with the Mango beta installed (the guy is a hacker).

What I like:

* I can now see my home WiFi from the in-front-of-the-TV couch, which is a mixed blessing.
* totally easy to sync my Google Calendar with the phone's calendar. This was absolutely essential. No need for a 3rd party sync tool (which they haven't ported to Win Phone 7 anyway).
* Word, Excel, and PowerPoint (can't imagine ever using this) are included
* two-finger pinch-to-zoom works great
* camera seems fine, with flash
* Win Phone 7 Marketplace seems full of good stuff, and installing stuff is easy - this is how it will be on all phones from now on.
* the interface is 'interesting', very responsive and seems well thought-out
* integration with my SkyDrive is, naturally, excellent.
* telling AT&T to not do any data-pulling is controlled by an easily-accessible switch, which I will leave turned off until I break down and sign up for a Data Plan, someday.
* word suggestions when typing text are amazingly-apt

Less than cool:

* it was easy to import my Sim Contacts, but Contacts that had multiple phone numbers (i.e. Home and Mobile) generated separate Contact entries, rather than one entry with multiple phone numbers. Dumb!

* the POP3/IMAP setup for my email was easy, but there is NO OPTION to leave mail on the server when you delete it on the phone. Grrrrrrr. So, I have my Gmail account set up to pull mail from my usa.net account, and the phone pulls in Gmail, which I can delete as I wish, without impacting my main mailbox.

* I miss the ability to mount the File System as a drive on my PC. I no longer have the ability to drag-and-drop files, and haven't quite figured out the best way to move files to the phone, short of emailing them to myself (clunky).

* My WAP-enabled browser (see above) has not released a Win Phone 7 version yet, although I understand it is in final beta now. Internet Explorer does not display my email very well, which is a genuine bad thing, for now.

* no 'Message Sent' confirmation when sending a text message. Anyone know how to turn this on?

* the 'Maps' program included is pretty good, but I'd like to get Google Maps installed (love the ability to tap a restaurant and get reviews). Does anyone know if this is possible?


That's where I stand, two days into the new phone. I am writing this to record my first impressions - let's see if my gripes are ever resolved.

In the meantime, call or text me anytime: 503-860-4514

Monday, August 29, 2011

the recession gets closer

A friend we've known for MANY years called Saturday morning, to tell us that his (or her) home has been foreclosed, and he (or she) needs to move out of the house immediately. We were truly shocked, as we had had no inkling that this person was in trouble with (did you guess correctly?) Bank of America.

This person just found out last Thursday that he (or she) had to get out NOW.

Anyway, we spent MANY hours yesterday helping with the move. We are storing in our garage a fridge, washer, dryer, oven, dishwasher, couches, bookcases, tables, chairs, boxes of books, etc. etc. etc. A giant garage sale is planned.

After moving all that stuff here, we ended up the long day moving bed and other necessities into the spare bedroom of another friend. It was 12 hours I had planned to spend in other ways.

This is the first person we personally know who has been directly affected by the double-whammy of drop in home values and loss of job. He (or she) is admirably philosophical about it, accepting the loss and preparing for the next phase in life.

All we can do is stand by and help as we can.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

are they stupid or shameless?

First thing every morning, I run thru my list of Favorite web sites, to make sure that I get my initial dose of correct (i.e. non-GOP) thinking.

At the top of my list is Talking Points Memo. This morning, here are two stories (the links are live) that grabbed my attention:

Romney Backs Away From Climate Change Support


and

Rubio: Social Security Harmed America


So, are they simply pandering, to curry favor with their financial supporters (who certainly have agendas contrary to the Public interest), or do they actually, totally, believe these positions (i.e. stupid)?

The only alternative is even more horrifying: perhaps, it is a complete synthesis of both.

'Compassionate Conservatism' will go down in History as one of the most clever marketing slogans of All Time (or is that End Time)?


Monday, August 15, 2011

my clever son

It's great to see that my son has managed to be his own friend. The question remains, how the heck do you do that?


good-bye, Mitt

The gaffe about 'Corporations are People' is fascinating, for many reasons. Obviously he didn't mean it in the sense of the Citizens United decision (which, in effect, declared virtually exactly that). However:

1) The Media that seeks a good story ignores that context and piles on, ironically stoking the Progressives (as if we need any more reasons to roll eye-balls at Mitt). This is unfair to him, of course, but nobody cares since 'knocking off the Front Runner' is the chief sport at this phase of the race.

2) It reveals the world in which Mitt lives, where he honestly does hob-nob with fellow Rich Guys, who all own corporations. He just simply sees them as the People who make up Corporations. Ergo, Corporations ARE People.

3) Didn't John McCain use the 'my friend' rhetorical gimmick a lot, too? Just sayin'.

4) Either Mitt was oblivious to the consequences of such an off-hand statement (which calls into question his qualifications to speak as a President), or he knew what he was saying and didn't care how folks reacted (which calls into question his qualifications to speak as a President), or he honestly subscribes to the notion of Corporate Personhood in its fullest sense (which calls into question his qualifications to speak as a President).

I don't see any way he can escape being branded with this for all eternity. This is Mitt's 'I can see Russia' event, and this fodder for ridicule will scare supporters.

He obviously has enough personal wealth to pursue the goal, but once the common meme is that you are a doofus gets established, your political prospects are in jeopardy. Think Steve Forbes.

Of course, there are exceptions - a former Texas governor comes to mind, although I believe there was eventual consensus reached on him (unfortunately, much too late).

I gotta go.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

obama's sinking poll numbers

Let us remember.

During his first two years, when there was a 'kinda' Democratic majority in the Senate (but not the magic '60'), the GOP Senate launched a record number of fillibusters, intended to deny Obama any of his progressive measures (had he taken the trouble to fight for them).

Thus, he was 'forced' to cripple the Stimulus bill, by accepting a ridiculous amount of 'tax-relief', which was certainly enjoyed by the folks who benefited (hint: not you).

The Health Care overhaul that, from the start, was missing a Public Option is another story - don't get me started.

Then, after the 2010 elections, we see the crackpots in the House dominating the show, preventing any reasonable compromises (except for the ones Obama made - that's another story).

So, do I blame Obama? Kinda, but let's keep in mind the reality that the GOP decided from Day 1 of his administration that nothing meaningful (i.e. counter to the GOP philosophy that 'give good stuff to the Rich and everything will be OK) will pass Congress.

Add to this toxic mix the corrupt, utterly disgusting Supreme Court majority, and this explains why an argument can be made that the Obama Administration failed.

Oh yes, there's the unpleasant memory that the GOP ran on 'jobs, jobs, jobs', but I've heard nothing but crickets from them, on this issue. And yet, the media (ah, the Media) covers the Horse Race as if it mattered.

Very sad. Our Republic is in bad shape, and I know where I place the blame.

The Backmann candidacy is the one bright spot in all this. I am hoping that the seemingly-endless bamboozlement of the American public will reach a tipping point with this. Certainly there can't be enough Evangelical idiots to actually propell this woman to the White House. You read it here.

I gottta go.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

is blogging dead?

I gave up on Twitter, as being too superficial.

I like Facebook, because I can tell, at a glance, what my 'Friends' are thinking about, and there is always someone posting something of some interest. It's not quite as superficial as Twitter, and often leads to some valuable links.

I used to love blogging, since it gave me unlimited space to rant, post photos, and link to sites I find valuable.

Now, these days when I am consumed with the sense that we are seeing general Collapse (climate, economic, social, you name it), all I can think of to write about here is that stuff, and who needs to be reminded?

Today I am taking my 100 year-old mother-in-law to the airport, so she can fly back to her current home in Santa Cruz. She's been with us for two weeks, and it has been alternately inspiring and infuriating. She is a character and, despite problems with sight, hearing and memory, constantly shows that not only is she quite engaged, but has retained a zany (hence, infuriating) sense of humor.

So, the tomatoes are coming along nicely, the beans are beginning to blossom, there is chard to pick tonight. I should have no complaints.

But today is Recall Election day in Wisconsin, and I hesitate to write to my brother, hoping that he gets out to vote for his local Democrat, because, after a number of conversations and forwarding-to-me-of-inflammatory-emails-about-Obama, I simply don't know who he would vote for.

It's all so complicated, but the main thing I wonder about is, with the rising tide of hooliganism (just who was Hooligan, by the way?) in Britain, what will it take for the copycats to think this would be great fun here, too?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

sick of it all

The Washington Circus is so damn distressing that I can't deal with it anymore.

The 2010 voters sure picked a crop of outstanding citizens to represent us. The only satisfaction I am getting, and it's minimal, is knowing that the Chamber of Commerce plutocrats who pushed the Baggers on us are now watching uncomfortably, as the idiots pursue their uncompromising idiot dreams, which are now counter to the interests of the Big Boys.

Time will tell whether Obama has been truly suckered or is truly a Machiavellian genius.

Time will tell whether the barely-paying-attention voters will blame the disruptions on the Baggers or the Black Guy. I am beginning to sense a shift in the Media Guys narrative, who are just loving the 'Civil War in the GOP' angle.

Bah! It's just another symptom of a crumbling Empire, where, once again, the Super Rich have overplayed their hand. Happens again and again.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

delayed gratification

As an after-thought, we planted some teeny garlic starts last Fall. Haven't done anything with that patch except some casual weeding and pinching off flowering tops a few weeks ago.

Dug 'em up this morning - will let them dry out a bit then braid them. Then, we shall see how they taste!

Friday, July 15, 2011

the Netflix price-hike

It's a no-brainer for me. We sometimes keep our one-DVD-at-a-time for weeks before watching it, and I have found MANY gems (umm, and a few duds) streaming on-line. We will be cancelling the DVD service.

But, I don't get it, from Netflix's perspective. By maintaining both distribution methods, they are not saving money. The cost of supporting the aquisition, storage, and distribution of physical media is not going to be reduced - as long as they still have customers paying for that service, they need to maintain the entire infrastructure.

A few months ago, KPOJ was playing frequent (!) commercials inviting entrepeneurs to get in on the DVD-rental-kiosk franchise business and I scoffed, thinking that that was already a business that had peaked. Now I'm not so sure.

Do they really think that most subscribers will elect the hybrid option, in THIS economy? I have to believe that most will choose one method or the other, reducing Netflix's monthly take by $2 per subscriber. Great business plan. What am I missing, business school graduates?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

why the American republic failed

We never voiced discomfort when the News Media collectively decided that any knowledge or mention of History was now considered irrelevant.

Instead, we permitted Media to get away with (out of laziness, or fear of antagonizing Corporations?) speaking only of today's or this week's controversies, with a total absence of what a little historical reflection might add to the presented picture.

That is why I am awake at 4 AM today.

I woke up at 3 worrying about a purely domestic issue relating to freshly-painted closet doors (don't get me started), and found myself plugged into NPR Morning Edition for an hour.

They reported on the 'impasse' between the President (more about him later) and that consistently-infuriating Mitch McConnel (don't get me started) and then actually mentioned statements by several members of the consistently-infuriating Republican presidential challengers, mostly along the lines of 'no new taxes'.

There, for a brief, crystalline moment in time, was the opening for a voice to quickly remind us of the devastating Bush Tax cuts for the rich, two VERY expensive wars of our (well, the Republicans') choice, the horrendously-expensive Medicare Part D (GOP written), and other major Corporate concessions/malfeasance, all of which brought us to our current National Debt situation.

But, no. Instead, NPR devoted a healthy (sic) segment to a review of the offerings on the new Oprah network, from a male perspective.

So, I ask, if historical perspective is banned from the media, what's the point of pretending that this Republic is possible to salvage? Without an audible voice to put the daily bloviating into context, we are doomed, and the Bachmanns win.

Obama, I like you and so wanted you to succeed. But you caved when we would have supported you standing firm against the Greed (single payer, repeal of Bush tax cuts, Afghanistan, etc.), and you were silent when you should have gently, firmly reminded Us that the Republican economic philosophy of 1980 was the beginning of the End of the America we thought we posessed.

I don't think I will be able to go back to sleep.

Gore Vidal's term for us is totally apt: the United States of Amnesia.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

help me, please

I am behind the times, in the cell-phone world.

My current phone, an HTC Tilt 2, runs Windows Mobile 6.5, and I bought it used for $60 (craigslist) after my prior Tilt was stolen, in Costa Rica last December. I do NOT have a data-plan, and am grand-fathered in at AT&T so that I am not required to have it.

I am quite happy with it, but it's been a little flaky lately, so I am looking to replace it.

I use WiFi to sync my Web calendar and Web email with the phone's calendar and mail clients, and browse the Web with a very lean, free, WAP-compatible browser (UCWeb). I don't really feel deprived, not having always-on Internet - WiFi only works generally fine for me.

It's got Word and Excel, which I use.

I don't use it to listen to music (have a teeny, dedicated MP3 player, that also has an FM radio).

I don't use the camera, since the camera stinks and I have a nice camera.

I have a free eBook reader (Freda) and have loaded several books on the microSD, which is very convenient. Therefore, I don't need a dedicated eReader (although I am very intrigued by the Nook Color).

I have resisted buying into iPhone world, mostly because I feel the need to deprive Steve Jobs of the satisfaction.

Here are the features I want in a phone:

* Sync my calendar
* browse the web
* read eBooks
* Google Maps
* word and excel, or equivalent
* calculator, notepad
* standard Phone stuff

Here's what I don't need:

* Twitter, Facebook, and myspace integration.
* GPS navigation
* fancy games
* movies

I am looking at Windows 7 phones, and Android phones. Anyone have any suggestions?

Monday, July 04, 2011

the relative importance of having been Ernest

Thankfully, the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Hemingway's suicide is over, and, despite the general admission that the man wrote English prose in a notable manner (i.e. using only one-syllable words), can we please acknowledge that he was a nasty bully, who demeaned his many women, and aggressively terrorized poor Scott Fitzgerald?

A little Hemingway goes a long way. The novels are mostly ultimately laughable, but, I must admit, the short stories are frequently stunning.

I never want to meet Robert Jordan again, but will continue to say hello to Jay Gatsby every few years. Also, I have no need to attend a bull-fight.

Friday, July 01, 2011

laugh at your own risk

A friend (you know who you are) forwarded me an email from Newsmax.com, inviting me to respond to a poll whose questions were so skewed to be anti-Obama that is was (almost) laughable.

Now I am on Newsmax's email list, and just got the first one, entitled: 'Bachmann Lived on a Kibbutz, Staunchly Pro-Israel', and contains this sentence: "Today, Bachmann is a member of Christians United for Israel and one of Israel’s strongest supporters in Congress."

This woman, unlike Newt and Sarah, has a team behind her that is highly focused. She is not going away, and ridicule, no matter how richly deserved, will not decrease the effectiveness of the campaign that will continue to propel her to the front of the (dismal) pack.

We must be very careful here, although, to give you an idea of Newsmax's audience's concerns, here are the links that accompanied the email:

Vinegar Secrets: Heal the Heart, Brain

Doctor Cures Arthritis With Antibiotics and 3 Nutrients

Reverse Type 2 Diabetes. New Strategies Show How.

A Tiny Bit of B12 May Cure Your Brain, Heart Ailments


I get the feeling that many Newsmax/Backmann supporters are on Medicare.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

home again, after a few days in LA

Pasadena, to be exact.

Sure was hot down there, and our tomatoes here in Portland are doing fine. Unfortunately, our fruit trees (apples and plums) are producing virtually nothing this year.

Potatoes are flowering - should be ready to dig in another few weeks. Raspberries still about 2 weeks out.

Big party planned here for 4th of July - lots of mowing and weeding to be done before that.

Have gone out to eat dinner every night the past week, with various family members. Odd being the youngest at the table.

There's no place like home.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The long sunset

9 pm PDT, somewhere over the western US.

It's about 24 hours since we woke up in Paris, and just over an hour until we land in Portland.

Long layover in Charlotte, NC - the price to be paid for the great fare that Dave got, last January.

It's been a constant sunset on this entire last leg, but now darkness is taking over and some distant city lights appear far below.

Was just listening to old Beatle songs on my player, and the last ones to come up were 'Long and Winding Road' and 'Two of us (on our way back home)'.

End of trip.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

It's getting very near the end, but...

Amazing things keep happening.

When Dave was in the neighborhood doing laundry the other day, he spotted an attractive, old restaurant, that had a signed photo of Woody Allen in the window.

We went there for dinner, and, of course, this restaurant was in the movie we saw this afternoon.

By the way, the Polidor was fabulous - successfully feeding Parisians since 1845, they also fed us thoroughly and deliciously.

Also, the Polidor's menu solved a mystery from the night before, when I ordered the evening's specialty, and could not manage more than a couple of bites. What I thought was andouille sausage (in all fairness, the waiter DID ask 'do know what it is?') was, in reality, sausage filled with tripe (and covered with a grainy mustard sauce), that probably evoked tender memories in all French folks. For me, not so much.

We walked that meal off, with a big circle thru the neighborhoods surrounding the Pantheon, with the distant Eiffle Tower anchoring the sunset, and a crescent moon hovering above the Odeon as we turned into our street, entered the hotel, and are now preparing for bed and an early departure for the airport.

A final Paris evening.

Home, in our own bed, with our own two cats, tomorrow night.

Stranger things have happened

After the post-catacombs refreshments, we parted company with Sandy and Dave, planning to meet for dinner, three hours from now.

On the first day in Paris, as we wandered without a specific goal, we came upon an antique book/art sale in the plaza in front of St. Sulpice. A couple of things attracted us but we didn't buy then, so we returned, only to find all books gone, and the antique dealers moving into the same space.

We strolled back towards the hotel, and then came to an antiquarian print store, which is what i was hoping for at St. Sulpice. It took but a few minutes to find the perfect memento - a small, authentic (he said) 19th century engraving of Sainte-Chapelle. I am very pleased.

We walked back to the hotel neighborhood, and popped into a quick sandwich place, buzzing with Parisians, and bought and devoured panninis.

Since we still had the entire (rainy) afternoon ahead, I happened to check out the theater next door, and saw that the new Woody Allen film was playing, in an hour, in English, with French subtitles! Even stranger, the film appeared to have 'Paris' in its title.

We walked around the block for a half-hour, then went into the theater.

A lot of commercials were shown, and then the movie started.

Unbelievably, it began with a montage of the very places we have been, the past four days, including (I swear!) the VERY THEATER in which we were sitting.

Not only that, but this is not the first time this has happened, but that's another story.

The film was loaded with places we have just been, including the Monet water-lily murals at the Orangerie.

The film itself was surreal, but so much more so as it ended with Owen Wilson walking in the rain in Paris, and we then walked out of the theater and walked in the rain, in Paris.

None of this was planned. Honest.

Last night in Paris coming up. Can I manage to spend my last 100 Euros in the next 16 hours?

No problem.

I see dead people

We had an early breakfast and headed to the catacombs tour, arriving at 9 for the 10 am opening. We were not first in line, but close and, by 10, the line stretched around the corner.

Creepy and fascinating. You start out descending 100 or so steps, to dim stone-lined passages.

Eventually, you reach the ossuary area, chamber after chamber of neatly-stacked bones and skulls. Millions of them, identified by source cemetery.

First awe-struck silence, then the inevitable 'humor' burst forth.

Since we were the first party in that morning, we were mostly alone. Actually, as with yesterday's Eiffel Tower visit, it was (wait for it...)wall-to-wall people.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Last mango in Paris

Tuesday morning in Paris-when-it-drizzles.

Heading out for breakfast shortly, then to the catacombs, for what should be the final organized tour.

Tomorrow morning we leave for the airport and home.

We made a pledge last night: no more churches, museums, or long walks.

Being a tourist is hard work.

But a great trip is worth the blisters.

They weren't kidding about the sizzling

It's been hot in Paris, especially in the afternoon, when only a VERY large beer can began to reverse the effects of large crowds, tourism-fatigue, high humidity, sardine-like Metro journeys, and sore tootsies.

But, we have seen sights. There have been many great moments, many good coffees and croissants, and, it bears repeating, cold, welcome beers.

Two particular moments:

1) standing in the gravel looking up at the east side of Notre Dame, away from the crowds. This was one place where i can say without any doubt, that i stood exactly here in 1967.

2) a couple of hours later, after a snack and waiting in the hot sun in two long lines (one security and one for tickets), climbing the circular stone steps and emerging into the sublime, mystical astonishment that is the upper chapel of Sainte-Chapelle.

After that, we took the Metro up to Montemarte, and did more touristy things, including a formula tourist dinner at a tourist restaurant in the tourist square (at least the waiter was hilarious), followed by a ride around the butte in the surprisingly-fun tourist train, where we observed the shocking boards of tourists emerging from big busses, only to join the existing line of tourists waiting in line at the (tourist recreation of the long-gone, actual) 'Moulin Rouge'.

That's Paris. A theme-park with many cheap facades, and genuinely-authentic gems of Western Civ, the sort of places that make you aware of people long ago getting motivated to create something truly remarkable, and those that came along later, despite their inclinations for plunder, having the sense to say "don't mess it up".

Last night, safe, showered and confusing in our hotel room, there was a thunderstorm of biblical force. The morning, the air is clean and cool. Breakfast soon, then more tourism. Two full days remain.

----------

MANY hours later.

We did a museum (the Orangerie, filled with Masters of Impressionism).

We walked up the Champs to the Arc d'Triumph.

We metro'd to the Trocadero, for the amazing view of the fountains, gardens, and a certain Tower.

As long as we were there, we figured we might as well join the crowds and take the elevator(s) to the top. Nice view.

Tired now, we hobbled to a metro station and got ourselves back to the hotel, for a very-welcome hour of down-time.

Being a tourist is hard work.

We went back to the neighborhood bistro, where we've happily eaten three or four times.

I couldn't resist ordering the evening's special, which appeared to translate as andouille (sausage) with mustard sauce.

Big mistake. Not as expected. Not something i wanted to finish, after the first three bites. At least the accompanying potatoes were good, as was the glass of wine i had luckily ordered.

Sometimes, in the game of travel dining, you lose big. It was my turn.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Paris, again

Not counting the hour we spent here last week, 'again' means 'after 44 years', for I was here as a 16 year-old in the summer of 1967.

European trains are punctual, and the trip from Liege to Gare du Nord was smooth. We were tired.

Getting from the train station to the hotel, lugging luggage thru the crowded, hot metro cars and stations, was a drain, but thanks to the power of momentum and GPS, we made it, by 9 pm.

By 10, we were refreshed, sitting in a lovely bistro looking onto a VERY bustling boulevard, filled with masses of beautiful, smoking and jabbering people, and eating a perfect late dinner. I had a simple omelette with potatoes and sweet, carmelized onions, and a tall beer. Karen had what she termed 'one of the best burgers ever', which came topped with a lovely fried egg.

We walked thru the twisting, busy streets to the Seine, reaching it just upstream from the Cite. There was the glittering river and above it, as I saw it as a naive kid from Upstate New York (just a bit older now), the soaring, floodlit Notre Dam.

Again.

Very tired, we managed to find the hotel, near the Odeon, and got to sleep, thanks to earplugs and eyeshade. It is now 8 am Saturday morning. We are here until Wednesday morning.

Vacation phase 3 begins, with coffee and some certain-to-be-amazing etceteras.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Meandering around Maastricht

We dumped our luggage at lockers in the train station (5,45 for 24 hours, after you figure out the process).

We wandered for several hours, interspersed with breaks for snacks and drinking. We climbed the 218 very narrow, dim, twisty steps to the tower lookout of Sent-Janskerk. Nice view.

Shopping was achieved, and goodies purchased for the train to Paris, later this afternoon. Time to chill for a bit.

Last evening on board

We joined the throngs of people swarming thru the streets of Maastricht.

Near the main square, we snagged a sidewalk table and ordered beers and a small nibble. Very pleasant, now that we've decided to sample several brands of cherry fruit-beer. It's better than it sounds.

We strolled, seeking dinner with wifi, and found both at a pleasant place, Cafe Forum.

We had a spicy, savory onion soup, big chicken caesar salads, and more fruit beer. Now, back on the Miro for the final cruise to the boat harbor, and bed.

Nice day.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

If it's Thursday, we are leaving Belgium

7 am and sunny, as the Miro casts off from the Huy sea-wall and heads north.

We have been rating our restaurant dinners as the trip evolved, and last night's vaulted in position #1.

First, we had beers at an outside table in the main plaz, beneath the town hall's ornate facade. Every 15 minutes, a short tune rang out - La Marsailles, Ode to Joy, etc. The beer was delicious, especially after the day's (relatively) strenuous bike ride, with its attendant butt-soreness.

Then began the ritual hunt for dinner. We wandered, examining menus, prices, and reviews that one Dave's thousands of iPhone apps retrieved.

We searched in vain for one place, lauded as the 'best italian restaurant in Belgium', but either the app or the GPS lied.

We found another place with great smells and lots of people and were thinking that our collective brain-rot would end, but the host turned us away - 'all full.'

I had noticed a menu board outside a place a block or so off the plaza, that looked like it might be ok. We decided to check it out, and were somewhat nervous as we were led into a quietly elegant totally empty room.

Then the magic began.

First came an unadvertised appetizer of a little cup of perfect gazpacho accompanied by a little bread slice, topped with a dollop of absolutely fresh ricotta, seasoned with chives, with a swirl of balsamic on the plate. You get the idea.

My first course was a portion of nicely cooked spaghetti with tender calamari and bits of zucchini. Karen had a gorgeous round plate of tuna carpaccio, with a bit of salad in the center. Sandy and Dave had a scallop appetizer, that was pronounced very fine.

Then the Mains arrived. I should mention that, by this time, the room was filled with very happy people.

Dave had pork, Sandy chicken, Karen lamb. All were pronounced amazing.

I had the menu item that had caught my eye earlier - medallions of kangaroo, dressed with a rich, dark, lightly-vinegary sauce, accompanied by a short stack of alternating layers of polenta discs and red onion, all topped with several leaves of arugala.

Got it?

The name of the place is 'Restaurant Sur Cour'. You might want to check it out the next time you are in Huy.

It's now 8 am and we are tied up waiting to enter a lock. Time for breakfast, then we continue towards Liege and the start of the final bike ride, ending up tonight back in Maastricht.

See you later.

--------------

Many hours later.

Despite the persistent, strong head-wind, we had a lovely day biking from Liege to Maastricht.

Much of it was along industrial stuff, but there were many more-peaceful stretches, too. We crossed a couple of large bridges and the area around Vise, the last town in Belgium, was especially nice.

We crossed one last dam and, imperceptibly, the road signs changed from French to Dutch. If there was any sign of a national border, we surely didn't see it, but the bike-path now left the Meuse, and we rode thru gentle, quiet fields and neat little Dutch farmhouses.

We stopped at the castle at Eisjin and spent a quiet half-hour strolling thru the lovely grounds, and sneezing from all the unfamiliar allergins.

By now it was after 2 pm, and we were getting tired. We peddled slowly along the flat, smooth, precisely-labeled path, the last few kilometers back to the boat harbor. The biking part of this trip is over.

The rest of our group is filtering in. We will get cleaned up and then cruise into Maastricht for a farewell dinner.

We have much of tomorrow to see more of Maastricht, before the train to Paris, at 5.

It's all very good.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Wednesday in Huy

It's pronounced 'wee'.

We left Namur around 10 am. A partly cloudy morning changed into a totally clear, warm day.

Our route was partly along the first day's ride. On the day, the head-wind was formidable. Today, three days later, we were going in the opposite direction, with an even stronger head-wind. How could this be?

There were some lovely stretches along the river. We stopped in Ansemme (must check spelling later) for coffee, but the traffic, narrow gobbled streets, and major city commotion suggested that we get out of town soon.

We arrived in Huy around 4, pretty winded. We sat in the old church that is beneath the sinister Citadel of Evil (former prison, concentration camp and place of general nastiness) for a long time, enjoying the coolness, vast space, ancient stained glass and thundering organ practice. Nobody else was there.

Everyone is getting cleaned up for an evening in town. I am definitely ready for a beer or two.

Tomorrow is the last biking day.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tuesday morning - plans change

Our cabin was hot and stuffy last night and we slept poorly. In the early hours, it began to rain, and it was grey, wet, and foggy as we sat down to breakfast.

The plan for today had been to bike a round-trip - upriver to Givet, France, then back to Dinant, then cruise downriver a bit, mooring the boat in a secluded place for the night. Mart came up with an alternative plan that was greeted with total approval.

We are cruising up to the Chateau of Freyr, where we can tour with minimal time-pressure. Then we will cruise back to Namur, for a possible short bike ride and a definite opportunity for sightseeing and dining. Everyone loved Namur, so this is great.

Time to read and relax - just what we needed.

---------------

Three hours later.

The Chateau and gardens were fascinating, with far too much information about the abundant historic paintings, furniture, and restored rooms.

We wandered the groomed gardens in the light drizzle, especially appreciating the 300 year old orange trees, prune like bonsai.

It is a real treat, after two days of great biking, to be a slug today.

Monday, May 30, 2011

we dined in Dinant

Lovely day biking up the Meuse, ending up in Dinant around 5 pm. You can see lots of photos on the Net, showing the giant bluff with the cool church down below.

We were toasted from the sun, wind, and exertion, so we all showered then headed into town.

Fortunately, the zillion steps up to the citadel were closed by the time we got there, so we spent a few minutes in the old church (begun around 300 AD, and extended and rebuilt many times over the centuries). Lovely stained glass.

We wandered around a bit and ended up at a riverside cafe with outdoor seating. The speciality of Belgium, I was told, was mussels. I asked at last night's restaurant and the waiter said they were not in season, but at this restaurant, they were available.

I hesitated, but the couple next to us had enormous buckets of mussles before them. They seemed to savor them, but I noticed a definite slowing down as they worked their way thru the lot. I had a seafood stew, which had a few mussles as well as other choice bits, in a nice sauce. Also a couple of glasses of wine. No complaints.

We sauntered back to the boat, moored right next to a hotel, so we are poaching WiFi while sitting on the boat, so this is my first entry typed on our netbook, rather than laborously tapped into my phone.

We skyped Ben and Dylan (just got his phone message, as usual) and talked to Lola in Santa Cruz. It's kinda amazing to be able to do this.

Night coming on now. Another day of biking coming up tomorrow. This is all good.

What could be better?

A glorious day, biking leisurely up the Meuse valley, in the sun.

We stopped at a roadside strawberry stand, for a treat.

We continues, past the Chateau de Dave, where we took a photo of Dave.

Now we are sitting at a sidewalk cafe in Profondeville, eating fresh pastries and drinking strong coffee.

What's wrong with this picture? Not a thing.

---------------------

Two hours later.

We biked up the steep hill at Annevoie, to the (rightly) famous gardens, and spent a long time eating lunch, wandering the paths, and appreciating the incredibly well-groomed landscape, bubbling fountains and picturebook scenes.

It's a very warm day, but this has been a delightful break. Still a bunch of kilometers to Dinant, where the boat, a shower, and tea will be waiting.

A night in Namur

It is now monday morning in Namur. The boat is just waking up - breakfast in a half hour.

We had a splendid evening.

After mooring near the Sambre/Meuse confluence, we climbed the heights of the imposing citedel, as every tourist must. This maze of battlements is one of Europe's largest, and the expansive views from the top, make it clear why there is a city here.

It was late afternoon and the light was perfect. This is a lovely place, with a rich and fascinating skyline. Will our many photos show this?

We descended on trails to a Sambre bridge, and entered the old town. Our destination was a brasserie that was mentioned in the pages of some guidebook, that i had photocopies months ago, near thru church of St. Albin, described in that book as one of Belgium's ugliest.

We never found the restaurant, which is ok, sine the outside garden of Brasserie Francois provided the setting for the best dinner of the trip, so far.

I had a large bowl of a soup of creamed baby peas, seaoned with mint, a scattering of TINY red, sweet tomatoes and a few baby scallops. It was remarkable.

My main was a warm goat cheese salad, nested on a golden crouton, with a sweet dark red dressing, pine nuts, walnuts, and salad veggies. Oh yes, and a very tall cold beer.

You get the idea.

After this amazing dinner, we strolled around this charming city, marveling at the distinctive buildings and busy squares, and losing the women, when Dave and i stopped to poaching some free wifi.

The two of us wandered around the streets, looking for them in vain, until we gave up and headed back to the boat. Crossing the Sambre bridge, we all found each other again, by chance.

By now it was dark, with tbeautiful reflections of the houses and bridges on the still rivers.

Almost breakfast time now, as i sit beneath the citadel heights, feel the warm sun on my face, and tap all this into my phone. wouldn't want to write a novel like this.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sunday afternoon in sclayn

The bus to maastricht took about an hour. I was watching for the netherlands border but never saw a sign. Instead, the signs marched from 100% german to 50/50 to 100% dutch, over a kilometer or so.

At the Maastricht bahnhof, we got a taxi to the boat harbor where, with a minimum of panic, we found the 'Miro'.

We met the captain (not a shy character), got the basic orientation, and soon were off for Liege, Belgium.

The day was cloudy, breezy, and cool. After a while, the rural views were replaced by increasing big industrial stuff, and soon we were in a big city and pulled into a moorage along the Liege seewall.

Captain Mart then led us on a walking tour of old Liege. He surely knew his way around the old, twisty alleys. We followed like the helpless sheep we are.

Eventually we grabbed a quick bit at an always-reliable kebab joint near the Perron fountain, then he led us to an old tavern where we drank beer and listened to the regulars singing their old familiar cabaret-like songs. By then it was after 11 and everyone was toppling over. Back to the barge and bed.

Sunday morning was grey and chilly. We had a welcome breakfast on board, then had an hour or so to wander thru the vast open-air market, where everything from food to electronic gadgets to live rabbits was for sale. Quite a scene - beautiful cheeses and veggies.

We headed out, past steel mills and other large industrial plants. It was very cold on deck and everyone was bundled up, having put on their cold-weather biking gear.

Then, a miracle! As we got past the final lock, the clouds gave way to blue sky and the temperature warmed to shorts weather.

We moored, unloaded the bikes, made the final adjustments and were, amazingly, after all those months of planning and staring at maps, we were actually biking in Belgium.

It was glorious.

We did about 25 km, passing tidy little towns and along quiet, shady stretches of the river.

Eventually, we ended up in Sclayn, as planned, and the Miro soon pulled up, the bikes got stowed, some beers were poured, and it is now almost 5 pm, and we are headed for an evening in Namur.

Whew!

Friday, May 27, 2011

gothic encounter

At the Aachen train station, a helpful attendant helped us find the group-discount fare to Cologne, and the trip was under an hour.

The Cologne Bahnhof is a one-minute walk from the cathedral, which provided a significant amount of one's daily requirement of buttresses, chapels, amazing stained-glass, gargoyles, and religious images. Even the floor mosaics were astonishing.

No wonder that it took 600 years to build.

We spent quite a bit of time there, and even though there was a large number of fellow gawkers, the place is so enormous that we didn't feel crowded at all.

After a bit, we walked around until we found the perfect place to sit down, drink cappucinos and eat a croissant. Then we headed over to the tree-shaded walkway along the Rhine river, enjoying the views. This is a very big city - so much larger than little old Aachen.

The train back to Aachen was easy and we are now back at the hotel, with our only concern being where dinner is to be.

We leave Aachen tomorrow on the bus to Maastricht, where we meet up with the bike-and-barge tour. We are all relaxed and happy, and why not?

off to Cologne for the day

Just had a nice breakfast at a local cafe, then went to the market to buy goodies to takeaway.

We are heading to the train station for the short hop over to Cologne, to see the cathedral that I first heard about in German class, many decades ago.

We all feel great.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

still enjoying Aachen

More exploration of this low-key, charming town. At the Rathaus early this morning, there was a farmer's market, featuring, among all the usual flowers, fruit and veggies, enormous stacks of white asparagus.

We spent quite a bit of time at the Dom again, both inside to wonder at the incredible mosaics, vaulting and stained glass, and in the Treasury, filled with reliquaries, gold and jewel-Encrusted objects of great value, depending on the context.

This evening, we attended a performance of Don Giovanni at the Aachen Theater. It was done in modern dress, with a minimalist set, in Italian with German text projected above. To further complicate things, one of the singers had a voice problem, so he mimed his part while an understudy singer stood to the side and sang his part. It was all rather surreal.

I found myself able to comprehend most of the German, which gave me an edge over the others, who went in and out of consciousness at times. The orchestra was very fine, and our front-row seats (purchased months ago) gave us great views of the players and singers.

We emerged into a breezy, cool night. Karen is on the netbook getting ready to Skype friends - it is 2 in the afternoon back home.

Tomorrow we may go to Cologne, then Saturday it's off to Maastricht for the beginning of the biking and barging. I am starting to have German verbs in my dreams. All is well.

sight-seeing is hard work

We spent a bit of time at the Aachen Dom and treasury. Incredible mosaics and architecture - so different from anything we saaw in Spain or Italy.

Met up with Sandy and Dave for lunch at some point. Now we are back at our hotel, chilling until dinner tonight, after which we have tickets (purchased months ago) to see Don Giovanni at Theatre Aachen.

Getting cool and windy - maybe rain later? Oops, there's the sun. Oops, it's gone again.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Typo in last post's title

Was it severe jet-lag or aggressive word-suggestion on my phone?

Of course, it should have said 'addled', not 'added'.

It is early thursday morning in Aachen. I think we slept very well, despite the traffic noise (the rooms i had requested, away from the street, were not available). Thank you, good ear-plugs.

Today should have fewer brain-rot moments, he said optimistically.

Aachen is charming.

Somewhat added in aachen

A couple of hours in a pretty fast train got us to our hotel by 3 pm. We unpacked a bit, showered (ahhhh) and started our explorations.

It's disturbing similar to Epcot, only cleaner and more disciplined.

We found a quiet outdoor cafe quite near the amazing cathedral, and had food and beer. Very nice, indeed. Weather is perfect.

By this time we'd all been up for over 24 hours and Dave was near catatonia.

We are back at our room at 8 pm local time, and ready to drop. The sun still shines brightly, but we won't care. We made it.

In and out of Paris in one hour

We had just enough time to take the train from CDG airport to Gare du Nord, find the area where the Aachen train departs, eat ham and cheese omelettes and drink very good coffee at a nice sidewalk cafe outside the station, and have our first Euro sticker-shock when the check arrived.

The train to Aachen was 20 minutes late departing, but we found our reserved seats and are now hurtling thru the French countryside. It's a lovely day - clear, blue sky.

We have been travelling for many hours now, with next to no sleep. However, we are all still reasonably coherent. That could change.

Landed in Paris

Waiting for bags.

Under way

8:30 pm Philadelphia time, somewhere over the Atlantic - dusk.

The first flight was uneventful - our time in the Philly airport was short, but the plane to Paris was an hour late taking off. No problem.

We've had our airline dinner and the Seth Roger 'Green Hornet' is showing.

I look out my window at the growing twilight, deep blue above, nursing a Jack Daniels on ice. This is all pretty good.

We land in Paris in six hours. Hope to sleep at least a little. Very happy.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

getting ready to head out

Here's the plan.

We leave Tuesday morning for Paris, expecting to arrive there Wednesday morning. We'll hop the train to Gare du Nord, and then wander around the neighborhood until noon, when we board the train north to Aachen, Germany.

By the time we get to our hotel in Aachen, we will have been travelling for far too many hours.

We'll be there until Saturday morning, with a few interesting sites and activities planned. We will take the bus to Maastricht, Netherlands, where we will board our barge for this 6-day bike-and-barge trip.

After that, it's the train back to Paris, for 5 days, then back home to Portland, via beautiful Charlotte, NC (4 hour layover). That should be a pleasant day, too.

It's a whirlwind, but we hope to see a lot of cool stuff, including the Lindt Chocolate factory outlet in Aachen (I have done my research well).

Our friend Robert will be staying at the house, watching the cats and supervising the finishing touches on our upstairs remodel, which has been going on for far too long, but that's another story.

I hope to do regular blog posts while we're travelling, so watch this space.

Now, if only the Dollar would continue to gain over the Euro, and that new Iceland volcano doesn't get too dramatic...

Monday, May 16, 2011

the coolest thing in the world (nerd edition)

I don't have an iPad.

When we travel, we take our compact Acer netbook, which nicely does the job of getting to the web for news, maps, and (especially) email, and doubles as a Skype machine, for making virtually-free calls to friends and family.

I've had a 'smartphone' for a long time - several incarnations of Windows Mobile devices, going back to the days when I was writing software applications for Windows CE devices (mostly ArcPad scripts). I've always appreciated the ability to read Word documents on my phone, and, in the past, have often travelled with a (very) small library of essays, short stories, or whatever, stored on the phone's SD card.

These are especially helpful to have on hand while waiting at the checkout areas of stores, while others were shopping.

I used Pocket Word (or whatever Microsoft now calls it) to scroll thru the documents and it worked OK, especially with the dedicated 'down' button on my former phone (HTC Tilt). It was inconvenient not having a 'bookmark' feature, but that was a small price to pay for the reading pleasure.

That Tilt got stolen in Costa Rica last December (long story), and I replaced it with a Tilt 2, running Windows Mobile 6.5 (craigslist - $65), which, actually, I have come to like a lot.

I've looked at a (rooted) Nook Color as a possible Android tablet (I resist 'i' devices - iPhone, iPad, iPod, iZod - stubbornly), but really don't want to carry another device, when we fly to Europe next week.

A few weeks ago, I discovered 'Freda', a free ePUB book reader that runs on various platforms. I downloaded and installed it on my phone (required a .NET common library), then downloaded a couple of ePUB books from Project Gutenberg, and I was hooked.

The Library management and reading tools in this software are great. A single screenful of text is an easy chunk to digest at a glance, and a simple swipe or touch of the screen changes pages quickly or takes you to the menu of options (set a bookmark, see the Table of Contents, etc.).

Project Gutenberg is great, for getting a zillion classic works of literature. I read 'Journey to the Center of the Earth' and some wonderful PG Wodehouse stories on my phone recently, and these were great. I have loaded my phone with a dozen assorted books from Gutenberg, and look forward to many hours of happy reading.

However, what about content that is NOT on Project Gutenberg? This morning, a blog I routinely read referenced a long John McPhee article that appeared some years ago in The New Yorker. Having been a New Yorker subscriber for MANY years, I felt no guilt about calling up that article, doing a 'Select All', pasting it into Word, and saving as a .doc file. So far so good.

An internet search brought up this site. I followed the instructions to have Word save the file as an '.htm' file, then clicked the buttons to upload that file, generate a Cover page, and save the ePub file. It was amazingly fast and easy, and, once I loaded the epub file into my phone and launched Freda, there it was.

A whole new world is now opened up. I find this pleasing. Happy reading.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

asparagus - year 3 at last

Year 3 is the first year you can harvest as much as you want, and there has been a lot of care and effort leading up to this point.

Yesterday, I counted 27 stalks (some just the teeniest bits just emerging) and last night we ate the first half-dozen. Yum.

We should be able to pick enough so that, in two weeks when we leave for Europe, we will be gloriously sick of asparagus.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

no news is good new, right?

I'm in Santa Cruz for a week, helping/watching my 100 year-old mother-in-law while the rest of the Santa Cruz crowd is doing a 3-week Grand Canyon float trip. We heard from them the other day, via a phone at Phantom Ranch - apparently everyone is having a swell time.

We play a lot of cards, go for walks, and do our minimal chores. Yesterday's highlight was finding, at Petsmart, a $7 laser-pointer cat toy, for driving cats nuts. It works great - probably just as good as the $50 one carried by Office Max, and the cat is truly mystified.

Today's major event: HAIR APPOINTMENT!!

In other news, two weeks from today we fly to Paris, for the start of a greatly-anticipated vacation. Watch this space for updates, when that happens!

Back in Portland Friday afternoon.

Monday, May 02, 2011

bye, bye Osama

Yes, it's probably for the best that he's dead, but before we congratulate ourselves for living in a country where incredibly brilliant, subtle detective work finally revealed his whereabouts to patient, determined covert operatives, keep in mind that...

He was ensconced in a luxury compound near the following:

* Islamabad
* an airport where visitors to the compound frequently came and went amid great security
* Pakistan's "West Point" facility
* a hospital, where he could get his frequent dialysis treatments.

Remember the ending of 'Lawrence of Arabia', with Faisal and Allenby negotiating the politics of the situation, while Lawrence (to Anthony Quayle's horror) was dismissed as no longer politically valuable to either of them.

My guess is that folks in the Pakistan hierarchy simply concluded that Bin Laden had become more of a nuisance than an asset, and that it was finally time to make 'the call'.

Mission Accomplished.