Sunday, September 30, 2012

Windows 8 Upgrade

Microsoft is going to be offering to upgrade every computer now running Windows XP, Vista or 7 to Windows 8 Pro for $39.99. See here. This is the download price, if you want the DVD it will cost considerably more but they say you can make your own DVD from the downloaded file.

My desktop and my new laptop (which I use in the motorhome) have Windows 7. I am happy with Windows 7 so I think I will leave them alone. Norma's desktop runs XP but is only used for email and the odd Word document so it can keep plugging along as is.

That leaves my Asus EEE Netbook, the 10 inch, lightweight, long battery life, $300 computer I bought for packing around Mexico in search of a WIFI signal. There are few places in Mexico where I have to do this any more so this computer has become my bedroom computer. I check email on it in the mornings and read Blogs at night when Norma is watching something I am bored with on TV. It is running XP.

I will have to upgrade the RAM from 1GB to 2 but I think I shall load Windows 8 on it. It is in good shape and really has not had all that much wear and tear. It is a nice little machine and updating it will keep me from buying one of the new tablets. I can't think of anything a tablet does that the Netbook does not except for being able to run that satellite finding app that I really do not need anyway. 

I will again be at the cutting edge of technology!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Unions And Politics

I was involved in the Union Movement and I know how Union members think. They are, on average, more progressive than non union workers, they understand the value and effect of collective action. I always figured that about 60% of union members and their families will vote for the more progressive party and 40% for the party that does not support their best interests, the party on the Right. This number is a pretty consistent regardless who is in power at the time. I suspect this 60/40 split is true in the USA as well as in Canada. It is a voting block that cannot be ignored.

The biggest problem unions and politicians have is to actually get these union voters in front of a ballot, same as any voter. If you can do this, they will do the right thing. Unions tend to become far too complacent on this issue.

This was easily seen in the Wisconsin effort to recall Governor Walker who had stripped public unions of their bargaining rights. There were many very noisy rallies and it looked like walker was history. Such was not to be the case.

On voting night CNN showed one of the fat cat union leaders leaning back in his chair with his feet up on the desk prematurely congratulating himself for causing Walker’s defeat. I was yelling at the screen, “Get off your fat ass and start phoning your members! Load them into cars and drag them to the polls!” Yes, they will do the right thing but you have to give them the chance to mark their ballot!

Many people complain about unions involvement in politics. They say their union might support something they do not agree with. I have a different attitude. I pay taxes but often a Government I do not support or vote for gets in power and does things I do not agree with. I still have to pay taxes. I still have to finance the things they do whether I approve of them or not. Same as Unions. If your Union does something with your dues you do not like, like supporting Democrats, get involved and change the policy. Get off your fat ass, go to a meeting, make a motion and vote against spending that money. If enough of your fellow members agree with you, the policy will change. The California Air Traffic Controllers Union did this when they voted to support Ronald Regan for Governor. They supported Regan right up to the point where he fired all of them! They quickly found that voting to support people who do not have their best interests at heart does not work. Unions are more democratic than politicians but complaining the day after the meeting you did not attend is not the way to affect policy. Same as Politics, if you don’t like a policy, change it. Simple. Vote.

I have always said, “When politicians start leaving Unions alone, Unions will consider leaving politicians alone”. Until then, game on!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Obama's Popular Vote

Here is a tracking of the popular vote polls in the USA for the last couple of months. It shows the after-effects of the two conventions, the Libya attack and Romney's "47%" blunder. It seems Obama got a much better and steadier post convention bounce than did Romney and it also shows that the voters did not blame Obama for the Libya attack. 

It is also pretty obvious that the "47%" tape has hurt Romney some but his death spiral had started before that.

Chart from New York Times

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Polls - Not The Dancing Kind

I have become addicted to watching the USA Presidential race! Politics in the US are much more fun than here in Canada. They are fought over things that have become non issues here. Things like Medicare, gay rights, same sex marriage, abortion and legalization of drugs (well, this one is still an issue here). Things I believe passionately in and therefore can sink my teeth into. In the US campaigning is almost a blood sport while in Canada people are almost too nice to be rude.

The USA loves polling. Every day it is easy to track the effectiveness of each campaign by reading the polls. I love polls, specially when my guy is leading, as Obama is now.

When Norma and I were more involved in Canadian politics, typically with her as Campaign Manager and I as the money man, we had a different take on polling. In Canada, the media does not do polling right from the start of a campaign. They never started serious polling until near the end of the two month campaign. Early on, most polls were conducted by and for the political parties themselves and results were not made public, they were for the use of the campaigns. We would not allow polls to be discussed among the campaign workers. If we were far behind, our volunteers would get discouraged and quit working and if we were far ahead, our volunteers would think it was in the bag and quit working. Donations would dry up for the same reason. A bad situation either way. Discussion of polls was limited to late nights in the back room with key organizers after the volunteers had left and were usually accompanied by a shot of scotch. Our work days were usually 7 am to 11 pm, 7 days a week for the entire two month campaign.

In the USA right now, Obama is ahead and is stretching out his lead every day. Romney is in a tailspin, a death spiral. Nate Silver is a pollster for the New York Times and has taken analysis of polls up several levels. He has an enviable record predicting results. In the 2008 election he correctly predicted the results of every State. Right now he is giving Obama a 337 to 201 lead in the Electoral College vote, a lead that is almost insurmountable and the only result that counts. In popular vote, a figure that is not all that meaningful in their Electoral College system, Obama leads 52.1 to 46.6, a virtual landslide in American political terms where people are usually split almost equally between Obama's Democrats and Romney's Republicans.

For President Obama and his supporters, Life is Good.

Monday, September 24, 2012

President Of Uruguay

This is President Jose Mujica of Uruguay:
His nose was injured when he climbed onto his next door neighbor's roof to help secure the roofing during a storm. He was struck in the face by a piece of sheet metal roofing material that had blown loose.

Wouldn't it be great to live in a country where your president could and actually would climb onto a neighbor's roof during a storm to help out? It would never happen in North America.

He looks like a good guy to invite over for a cold beer as well. His family is in the wine business so it would probably be the other way around, we would get invited for a glass of wine.

I just did a little research on this man. He has quite a colorful history including being shot six times and imprisoned in the bottom of a well for two years by a previous right wing government of Uruguay. He is the descendant of impoverished immigrants who made their way from Italy and was inspired by the newly formed Tupamaros movement, an armed political group inspired by the Cuban Revolution. After the democracy movement in his country, he rose through the leftist coalition government and ran for president in 2010.

Blog Changes

I made a couple of changes on Blogger today. First I "embedded" the comment section to make it easy to reply to comments. I did this as a result of reading an older post by my blogging friend Rick. I asked Rick for advice on backing up my Blog under the new Dashboard interface and he sent me to his old post on the subject. In the same post he described going to the embedded comment format, something I had been thinking about as well. Thanks for the inspiration Rick.

While I was in the new Dashboard I noticed a method to publish the Blog in Google+. I have been using Google+ to express some of my political thoughts (rants) and links so I already had an account. It was a simple matter to publish the Blog there so I did.

Calypso, another blogging friend, also questioned my disallowing anonymous comments. While he is correct in that Bloggers spam filter catches 99.9% of the spam comments, it has also deleted some legitimate anonymous comments. Maybe I am throwing out the baby with the bathwater here because losing even one commenter would negate anything I have gained. The only real downside, besides missing the very odd comment, is having to delete all the emails that arrive with each of the spam comments. Maybe I can configure Gmail to send them directly to the trash bin. I will have to think about it.

OK: I am back to accepting anonymous comments. Viagra salesmen, do your best but you will be filtered out (99.9% of the time). I have also created a filter in Gmail to nuke the notices. Lets see if it works.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Starchoice Upgrade

Yesterday I tackled a small job in the motorhome that I had been putting off. The Starchoice receiver in the front of the motorhome was standard definition which worked fine with the old monster CRT TV that came with the unit. A couple of years ago we upgraded to a new digital TV but never upgraded to a high definition receiver. We had an HD receiver in the guest room in the house that hardly ever gets used so I decided to swap them out. Guests can put up with standard definition.

First I dealt with a slight de-lamination problem in the plywood enclosure for the receiver. I took the face piece off,  squirted a little wood glue into the end grain of the plywood and clamped it overnight. That fixed it. When I took the face piece off I began to wonder if I had enough room for the HD unit which is much wider than the old unit. I measured and found I had a quarter of an inch to spare. I was good to go!

I passed the power cable out the back (they could have made this a little easier to do!) with a minimal number of scratches on my arm and hooked the receiver up to the TV and to the video distribution box that sends the signal to the entertainment centre on the outside as well as to the bedroom TV.

Now all I have to do is to take the Starchoice PVR receiver out of the bedroom in the house and install it in the bedroom of the motorhome shortly before we leave. Norma has it loaded with about a hundred movies we can watch while parked overnight in Walmarts and Pemex stations. Having two receivers also allows me to watch "guy stuff" (hockey and football) in the living room while she watches her programs in the bedroom. Life is Good!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Anonymous Commenters

I have had to turn off anonymous commenting. I hate to do this as I have two long time and much appreciated commenters who comment anonymously but sign their names to their comments. Bill from NE and Kelly from Whistler, I hope you go through the process required and continue to add to this Blog, I appreciate your comments very much.

I have just cleaned out my control panel's spam section and I had more than 1,200 spam messages in there! This is far too many to sort through individually to keep the one or two legitimate messages that might be there so I deleted all of them.

Sorry, but it had to be done.

EDIT: I have undone this action. After second and third thoughts on the subject I decided to create an email filter in Gmail to send notifications of anonymous comments directly to the trash bin. This stops me having to deal with as many as twenty email notifications per day, all of them describing spam.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Garmin Grumbles

I am sure that like me, you can all think of a better way to spend the better part of a day than on the phone with Customer Support. Well, that is what I did today!

I plugged my Garmin into the computer and it told me there were map updates available. I hit the download button and was told I did not have enough room to store the maps. My 1350 model Garmin has limited internal memory of 2GB and I require the full North American maps including Canada, USA and Mexico. This is a huge file that takes up almost 1.8GB. This has always been a problem so quite a while ago I added a 4GB micro SD card. This gave me room for the maps and everything worked. Until today. I tried restarting everything but still got the same message. The SD card did not have enough room and refused to download the maps, even though I could look at the card in Windows Explorer and see that it had almost three GB free, more than enough room.

I called Customer Support and got a real person within ten or fifteen minutes. She had me re-do everything I had already done and and then suggested I format the SD card! I reminded her that would delete the maps I already had but she assured me they would get it working. Well, it didn't. It told me I did not have enough room. After telling me there was a known issue of their system failing to calculate free space on the SD card. She then kicked me up a level to "Software" Customer Support.

Once there a nice woman took over control of my computer and finally got the maps downloading before she logged off. The process took an hour and you guessed it. It told me my SD card did not have enough room. Another call to CS and and after getting her to kick me up a level without doing all the tests again, I got another software expert. He could not fix the problem but was able to manually move the files onto the card and to rename the files so the Garmin would recognize them.

It is working but they think I might have the same problem next time as well. He installed a program that is supposed to make it easier. We shall see!

Garmin Customer Support was very good. They were friendly and helpful, staying on the line until I was happy. As a bonus, they were all in the USA!

Monday, September 17, 2012

New Westminster Quayside

Our friend Sharon has a condo on the Quay in New Westminster, BC. It is on the 15th floor and has a wonderful view of the Fraser River where there is always something going on. Freighters drop off new cars and tugboats pull huge log booms along. I could sit on her balcony for hours, watching the activity.

On Sunday the four of us walked down the waterfront walk to a great little pub for dinner. It is almost (but not quite) enough to make me want to move to the mainland.

Here is the view from her balcony:


And the walkway to the pub about ten minutes away:


Park And Ride Home

We stayed with friends in New Westminster and the party was in East Vancouver near the PNE grounds.  We drove there in one car and when we were ready to leave we phoned up a new service in Vancouver. They drive to your location and one of their people drives your car home with you in it, followed by their vehicle. If there are too many for your car, you can overflow into their vehicle. You are driven safely home without having to go through the process of taking a cab and then returning for your car the next day. The cost was $54, split between us. It was no more than a one way taxi ride would have cost.

It was a great party. Not too many people so you could talk to everyone. Politicians, union organizers and back room boys (and girls) from our more active political days. It was a blast and my left wing roots are renewed!

We are on the ferry back to Vancouver Island using their free WIFI. Now it is home to rest up for November when we leave for Mexico. It has been an expensive couple of months so we will be on an austerity program till then. I just told Norma this news but she refuses to respond to me. It will be a quiet sailing.

Well, half way across we lost the WIFI. I will have to send this from home.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sepia Treatment

I converted a couple of the wedding photos to sepia tone using Google’s Picasa. I have Photoshop installed and I could do it with that but it is so much simpler with Picasa and I am sure the results are almost as good.
Linda sepiamike photo sepia

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Quiet Times Coming To An End

It has been a few very quiet days in the Randle household! I had my final visit to the chiropractor so everything is good there and my eye doctor gave the OK for another year. I danced maybe a little too much at the wedding, sometimes with four women at once and my back held up. Thanks Dr. West.

We are off to Vancouver for the weekend. Some old Political friends are having a party and invited us. It will be fun getting together with those folks, some we have not seen for over ten years. We have a reservation on the 3:15 ferry from Duke Point to Tsawwassen tomorrow and will be staying with another long time friend.

EDIT: Commenters are asking if we are all like minded politically. Yes, we are. We all worked on various election campaigns (NDP) together over the years. One of the group is having some minor medical problems and wanted to get everyone together before we have to say, "We should have". It is a good idea but it is too bad we had to wait for a medical problem to inspire the get together.

Monday, September 10, 2012

They Did It!

Linda Lee and Brooks got married! The bride was gorgeous and in complete control, choreographing the whole process. The table full of the Terrace Mafia (Brooks’ childhood friends who know him maybe a little too well) behaved themselves and everyone had a great time after dinner and the dancing went on well past midnight!

Jayde and Sierrah were lovely and did everything just right, with Sierrah delivering the hand carved rings at just the right moment and Jayde delivering a beautiful, moving speech at the reception, requiring Linda Lee to grab for a towel to soak up a flood of happy tears as she was welcomed into the girls lives! Brooks’ longest time friend Jason (who is also our house sitter) did a perfect job as Best Man, keeping control of the aforementioned Terrace Mafia as well as Brooks’ fellow workers from the Merritt Mountain Country Music Festival where Brooks worked in security for many years.

Everything went perfectly, there was enough food and booze and just the right amount of drama but no one got hurt. My nephew Norman totaled his van on the way out from Saskatchewan and his son had to go pick him up in his airplane but he made it on time, none the worse for wear. My other nephew, Darcy, had a late night run in with a piece of furniture but walked away with just a minor head injury, nothing to slow him down.

Brooks built the very nice pergola they were married under which he later sold to the resort for future weddings.

Here are a few shots:


Friday, September 7, 2012

It's On!

The wedding weekend officially starts at 3:00 this afternoon. We are moving out to the resort for three nights. There are about 100 people coming and there is food for at least 300. Literally! Norma and her friend are stuffing and baking 6 huge salmon and there will also be shrimp, lasagne, seafood jambalaya, baron of beef, vegies and salads. No one will go home hungry.

The fun (work) starts!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Calm Before The Storm

I just got back from my second chiropractor appointment and am stretched out in my chair. I should be helping more with wedding preparations but everyone seems to have the running around frantically thing going well without me.

I am watching the Democratic National Convention in the US, They have a way better class of speakers than Romney had. Speaking of Romney, he is asking the question, "Are you better off than you were four years ago?"

In case you don't remember back that far, here's a short refresher: In September 2008, George W. Bush was president and would be for another four months. Senator John McCain accepted the Republican presidential nomination a mere three days after vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's 17-year-old daughter Bristol revealed she was pregnant. On September 15, 2008, a gallon of gas cost an average of $3.84, according to Consumer Reports. The unemployment rate spiked, Lehman Brothers filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the Fed agreed to bail out AIG, and the stock market crumbled.

Just before Obama took over the Presidency, the Dow was hovering around 8,000. Today it is at 13,278. That is about a 70% gain!

So, are you better off now? You bet!

It is also a pretty sure bet that Romney himself is better off today than he was in 2008. This is another reason he refuses to release his financial information, he does not want us to know how much better off he is. He is frantically digging up worn out Ronald Regan cliches to try to make a nonexistent point. 

NOTE: Some wise person once said, "Throw a rock into a pack of dogs and if one of them yelps, you know you have hit something". That is what that post did. ;)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Blogging From Convention

If you are a political junkie like me, fellow Blogger Joe.My.God is blogging live from the Democratic Convention.

Flurry Of Activity

Brooks and Linda Lee's wedding is on this weekend. They have taken over all the rooms at a beach side resort near here for the whole weekend so the festivities start on Friday night with a Stag party on one end of the property and a Stagette (?) at the other end. Linda Lee and her friend are coming up to stay with us later today and Brooks will be here on Wednesday night after he finishes a fencing job they were working on. It will be busy around here. There are many out of town guests and they will be feeding and entertaining just under 100 people on Saturday night. They have two or three volunteer bartenders to keep everyone's glass full.

My back has settled down to a dull roar with a constant pain on the left side and a partially numb left leg. I have a chiropractor appointment at 11:30 so hopefully he will be able to tweak it for me. If not, I can live through it. It has been worse.

As I was leaving for the chiropractor one of the friendlier condo owners next door came over to ask the color of the fence stain. I asked him why and he said he was going to buy some stain and stain both sides of the picket portion of the fence between us. I told him I had almost two gallons left over that he was welcome to so Larry and his wife spent the day staining. It does not look bad now that it is all the same color.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

40 Years Ago Today

It was 40 years ago today (in 1972) that the New Democratic Party, led by Dave Barrett, first swept into power in BC. "The Socialists Are At The Gates" was the cry from the right. Dave responded by cracking a joke and wearing a button saying, "I wear red shorts".

That was the day I decided I would never be left standing on the sidelines of BC politics again. I worked in some capacity on every election since then for the NDP, Federal and Provincial. My favourite gig was Official Agent, handling the campaign finances. I have only gotten out of it since I retired because we are out of the country so much. It was quite a ride and I do miss it. I have many friends from those days, Dave and Shirley Barrett among them.

What An Idiot!

I was working on finishing the gate in the new fence yesterday and wrecked my back! The 100 pound panel I was going to convert into a gate was jammed in between two posts and I yanked it to get it out. Wrong thing to do! My back is killing me. None of the chiropractor offices are open on Saturday so I will have to suffer through till Tuesday as Monday is a Canadian holiday. Damn!

I have had a delicate back since my 30's and have been a regular once or twice a year customer of a chiropractor since. When I retired twelve years ago, I stopped having problems except for once when I picked something up the wrong way. I ended up flat on my back for a couple of days. This might be the same thing although it is not as bad this time. I am usually very careful as I have learned over the years what causes it.

The good news is, the gate works well. Here it is from the neighbor's side: