Sunday, September 30, 2012

Bye bye Blackberry

I had a difficult relationship with my two Blackberries over the past few years.  I was a long time holdout against the Crackberry craze, even going so far as to buy the Motorola Q in order to avoid buying a BB.  I believe the Q was the end of the road for Motorola in terms of smartphones – if not it certainly should have been – and mine drove me into RIM’s arms.  And initially I was pretty happy with the BB experience.


Ours was a difficult relationship from the beginning and yesterday it came to an end.  There were two main frustrations for me:

  1. No apps.  Its not that there aren’t any BB apps but more that the platform is so ill suited to creating easy to use apps and as a result there aren’t as many to choose from and the ones that are out there aren’t cool.  And for the most part they weren’t free either. 
  2. Unstable OS.  I don’t know what else to call it.  You’d think that after all the years that RIM has been creating software they’d have it figured out by now but they simply don’t.  Every BB owner knows what a battery pull is and I counted on doing one at least once a week.  I tethered my BB for computer access and when tethered I had to pull the battery probably every 6th time I used the phone to access the internet.  And talk about a cludgy access system – hook the phone up by cable, run the BB Desktop software, wait for Desktop to connect to the phone – sometimes a long wait – sometimes requiring a battery pull to complete – and then finally connect to the internet.  If a battery pull was required you could literally drink a cup of tea while the phone rebooted.

On Friday we drove up to Saskatoon in the afternoon so that Marilyn could attend a memorial service for a woman she worked with at SIAST.  That evening we stayed with Doug and Jo.  Doug calls himself “retired guy” now but despite his age he’s always been my techno-geek hero.  So there we were Friday night sitting on his couch with him showing me the wonderful shit his iPhone will do.  And telling me about his son-in-law who has an Android that he think is even better than the fruit-phone. 

I’ve always thought that if you were going to own an iPhone and make use of all its features then you needed to drink the Kool-aid and go the whole hog with the Apple experience.  I’m simply not prepared to do that.  I’m quite happy with my Windows machines and I have several of them.  I’ve got a lot invested in Windows software that I’m not prepared to give up in order to start over on an Apple.  But Android is another matter altogether and I had seriously considered that whenever my BB finally puked completely I would likely replace it with some kind of Android phone. 

That’s probably as far as it would have gone except for one of those strange twists that fate often puts our lives through.  Saturday morning we had a leisurely breakfast with Doug and Jo.  About noon we finally got motivated to start back to Regina but Marilyn wanted to check in on a friend that she hadn’t been able to contact for a couple of weeks so we went around by her apartment and Marilyn ended up getting the building supervisor to let her in.  It turned out that her friend was actually in a fairly serious emotional crisis so Marilyn ended up spending the rest of the day with her & I needed to keep myself entertained.  Somewhere along the way I ended up standing at a kiosk in the mall talking to a kid about phones and it wasn’t a great leap from there to me walking out with a new Galaxy SIII Android phone. 

Galaxy s3

And what a phone it is – I can’t believe I have waited this long.  The only part of the process that was even remotely challenging was figuring out how to sync my Outlook calendar, contacts, tasks and notes to the new phone.  That’s not completely seamless and it wasn’t with my BB either.  The Android solution is significantly different than the BB solution – I’m not sure which one is better but it appears that the Android solution works.  OK – figuring out how to answer the SOB was a bit stressful too but I’ll come back to that later.  I’ve got a couple of weeks to evaluate it after which I could return the phone but I doubt that will happen.  The apps are wonderful.

I’ve got a weather app that works – I can see cloud cover, look ahead, get wind speeds – all the stuff that should be easy and was next to impossible on my BB.  Last night I followed the Rider/Pussies game on my Rider app.  I had the CFL app on the BB but it was a joke c/w the Android version.  I’m really looking forward to getting back to the boat so I can try out some of the nautical apps.  And best of all it was almost free.  The kid in the kiosk hooked me with “free” and then reeled me in for about $130 but it was such a pleasant experience I never felt he had deceived me. 

OK – I do have one bitch.  When it rings the screen lights up with a big green phone on one side and a big red X on the other side.  That seems simple – touch the green phone to answer – touch the red X to ignore?   Right?  Not a freaking prayer it could be so simple.  It rang once yesterday and I couldn’t get it to answer but I didn’t think much about it because it was all so new at the time.  However this morning when it rang multiple times with an Alberta number I was getting more than just a little frustrated with my inability to do something as simple as answer my phone.  Of course the “manual” that came with it was no use.  If you can imagine this – the so-called manual never once mentions the fact that this is actually a phone – you know – for making phone calls. No, it talks about how to text and how to browse and how to take pictures and and and.   But never once does it mention that when that green ringing phone appears you have to wipe it, not touch it.  Thank goodness for Google.  And thank goodness for some other poor sap with the same problem I guess. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Morally bankrupt

If anyone doubts that the EU is morally (as well as fiscally) bankrupt then they need look no further than the UN this morning.  While the madman from Tehran was frothing at the podium the Canadian and American delegations were noticeably absent.  Noticeably though by virtue of the fact that none of the Europeans joined them. 

We expect that kind of churlish behaviour from the Mohammedan puppet states but up until today I had expected more from Europe.  The North American vets who shed their blood on European soil to secure their current decadent lifestyle would surely regret their decision if only they knew.  I guess we can at least be thankful they don’t know how their ultimate sacrifice has been squandered.

Too good to be true

The news today is all abuzz with the likelihood that Justin will run for the Lib leadership.  Some of you may know that while I respected Pierre Elliott himself as a great leader I disagreed completely with the directions he lead us in.  There’s no doubt that the changes he accomplished live on after him, mostly for ill so you can’t argue with his effectiveness as a leader.  It appears that his spawn thinks he has the stuff to be a 2nd generation leader and it appears that there is a significant percentage of the Canadian population who have either forgotten that daddy’s policies were a disaster for the country or were too blind to understand that in the first place.  Regardless, the kid appears likely to run and some percentage of Canadians seem inclined to support him. 

Since that support can only come out of NDP territory it can be nothing but good news for the Conservatives if Justin actually gains the Liberal leadership.  Even if he doesn’t ever get elected leader the excitement and enthusiasm that his candidacy will generate for the Libs has to be good for those of us who think more deeply about this country’s direction.  Finally vote splitting will work in our favour.  So you can likely imagine my excitement when I learned this morning that I might actually be able to vote for the 2nd coming without having to become a member of the Libs. 


Alas – like most things that sound too good to be true this one turned out to be that way.  I tried registering without checking the “supporter” box thinking that perhaps they would let me under the tent without professing belief in the manifesto.  No such luck and there’s no way I can check that box so the best I can do is send Justin some money and wish him well. 

They should run that little cutie on the right side of the webpage.  On the other hand she looks young enough to be an NDP MP from Quebec.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Home again

I’m back in Regina after an extended trip to Missouri.  I was working pretty hard while I was down south so didn’t get around to posting anything other than my brief rant about Mohammedanism run amok.  I did manage to work in a visit with Michael Hargis at his RV park outside Dixon, Missouri.  It looks a lot different now than it did when I was there this spring.  Michael has been working really hard to get the park in shape and his effort shows in the rebuilt restaurant, the light stand for the outdoor stage and the rebuilt pull through sites.

Much as I enjoyed seeing Michael, it was really good to get home again.  Particularly so because I think I’ll be able to stay put for a couple of weeks now.  I’ve got several projects underway that I need to clean up but nothing that will take me long distances away from Regina.  In fact I doubt I’ll have more than maybe one or two overnights away from here until mid-October.  I’ve got a trip to Nebraska in October and after that I hope to get out to the boat for an extended period.

Today I tried to get the fuel gauge sender in the Lincoln replaced.  Its been throwing a code which lights the “service engine soon” light.  Evidently the computer uses the sender information to calculate fuel economy which means it can tell when the sender starts to stick.  It was throwing the code before we could see any evidence of sticking on the gauge but recently the gauge has been obviously sticky and today it dropped completely to E a couple of times – which is pretty alarming even when you know its total BS.  The fact that I have been trying to run the tank down so that changing the gauge will be easier just made it all that much harder to look at the gauge pegged on E.

I generally avoid Canadian Tire but father had really good luck with the South Albert store over the years that they lived on Castle Bay and I got a good feeling about them when I had them troubleshoot the non-functioning AC in the Exploder.  So today I took the Lincoln around to Larry at the South Albert store and we eventually agreed that I will bring it back to him tomorrow morning by which time he will have received the parts.  Nobody stocks anything anymore which means we the consumer get to pay for “rush” shipping on parts that should be stock items.  1/2 of the cabs and 90% of the cop cars in this town plus countless privately owned Crown Vics and Grand Marquis have exactly that same sender in them but “nobody” stocks a sender so it has to come from Saskatoon. 

After I got done dealing with Ukrainian Tire I came back to the bus and fixed the shitter.  The spring in the flush mechanism broke a couple of weeks ago.  We were able to use the toilet but after you flushed you had to lift the mechanism back up with your toe so it was kind of a pain to use.  Marilyn had a new spring cartridge on order when I left for Missouri and it was waiting for me when I got back last night.  Of course when I replaced the cartridge one of the hose connections started leaking but a new hose clamp seems to have cured that and all is well in the bus head again. 

Meanwhile the idiot cat has been enjoying having me home.  Normally he doesn’t give me the time of day but today he’s been a real cuddle bug all day.  Right now he’s draped over my arm in what looks to be a very uncomfortable position but he seems content. 

This little park is remarkably busy, particularly for the end of September in Regina. 

The park is considerably more rundown than the video would suggest.  Evidently selective camera angles and creative editing can work miracles.  However its not the worst place we’ve ever stayed in and it is convenient for our circumstances right now.  Marilyn is working hard to line up a place for the winter but so far hasn’t pulled the trigger on a final spot.  She’s holding out for a house-sitting gig if she can find the right one and the current owner here at Dyer Straits is making that wait a lot easier.  Unlike some places which close by the calendar this guy has the brains to close by the weather.  So all his services are still active and he says they will remain that way until the weather forces him to do otherwise.  It appears to be working for him because there’s a lot of us jammed in here waiting for winter. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Its not nice to say “I told you so”

….. but I bloody well did.

I told you so.  And in the words of the Zen master, only time will tell what happens next.

I don’t mean to trivialize the death of what by all reports was a very good man but I’m sick and tired of hearing apologies for Islam.  Winston Churchill nailed it over 100 years ago:

“How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property - either as a child, a wife, or a concubine - must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the faith: all know how to die but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome.”

I doubt that Winston would be very happy to see how our obsession with political correctness has now trumped the reliance on the scientific method which he championed.  The results of that foolish choice would not likely surprise him.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Separatism, round III

So the big buzz in Canada this week is Pauline Marois’s somewhat lacklustre win in the Quebec election Tuesday night.  Jean Charest put in a much better performance than anybody expected but just couldn’t defeat the ABC (anybody but Charest) factor.  Too bad because he was a good man.  He is likely responsible for the failure of the last separation referendum. 

I’ve been a long time federalist.  I don’t subscribe to what is becoming an increasingly common sentiment in western Canada – namely “Let the bastards separate and see how they like it”.  Balkanization is never good.  We’ve managed to keep this country together for going on 150 years so it seems that there might be some strong reasons to at least try to hold it together for a few more.  At the same time I don’t think the solution is to roll over and give the PQistes everything they ask for.

I had a very informative conversation in the departure lounge in Calgary a couple of weeks ago.   The woman sitting next to me turned out to be one of those idiot students that has been revolting in Quebec over the summer.  She was on her way to visit someone in L.A.  We both ended up getting the third degree from U.S. Homeland Insecurity and then recognized each other at the bar. 

I asked her directly what the hell the students think they are entitled to given that their tuitions are already dramatically lower than any other region of the country.  Initially I thought her answer was sensible but as I thought about it more I came to believe that it was more informative than reasonable.  Her logic for continued bargain basement tuition levels was that Quebecois pay higher taxes than any other Canadian jurisdiction and therefore expect more from their government.  OK, sort of makes sense, right?

Not a prayer does it make sense.  Rather what it does is highlight the entitlement culture that prevails in Quebec.  She simply had no understanding of how dependant that province is on the rest of the country for support and I confirmed that through further questioning.  So how do we go about keeping them in confederation without giving away the store?

Quite simply I think we elect a strongly strategic Prime Minister with a western focus and an economics major.  What a bit of good luck, we already did that.

Here’s what I think we know:

  • Quebec gets more than it gives.  Quebec currently receives over half of total equalization payments in this country
  • At a maximum, 37% of Quebecois support separation (sum of the popular vote for Quebec Solidaire plus PQ).  That compares with 45% in 1994, immediately prior to the last referendum.
  • There’s little political risk for Harper to take a hard line stance on Quebec’s demands.  The Conservatives won 5 seats in Quebec the last time around and we all know that Smilin’ Jack swept the province.  Not wishing him any ill but Smilin’ Jack won’t be able to help the NDP next time round.

I can’t say that I know that Quebecois like to vote strategically but I think that’s a fair conclusion and I think its also fair to say they screwed up last time.  Voting against Ignatieff, Harper and Duceppe simply gave Quebecois a bunch of unknown clueless Layton acolytes.  My guess is that less than 1/2 of them ever get re-elected, let alone in the 2015 contest.  Meanwhile Harper, ever the master strategist, has a chance to present the case to Quebec that they are both:

  • Better off in Confederation, and
  • Better off with seats on the government side of the house.

I think we’re going to have a fun 3 years and I intend to sit back and enjoy the show.  Oh and one other thing that I think we know is that Pauline Marois is not even close to the calibre of her predecessors, she sure as hell is no Rene Levesque.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Dumb and dumber

Apparently there’s a pair of fools who have driven their tractor from Ontario to BC dragging some kind of shack on a wagon – sort of a slow moving agricultural RV for want of a better description.  I’m not sure what the purpose of this grand adventure was supposed to be.  They managed to cross three provinces without me becoming aware of their travels and I think I’m safe to bet that you hadn’t heard about them either.  CTV just alluded to some grand message regarding farming but either they weren’t too clear what the message was or they just didn’t care to devote enough time to the story to make the message clear.  Either way it appears that all this foolish pair has accomplished is to have a very slow look at western Canada and no doubt wear the lugs down on their tractor tires.  Nothing wears out tractor lugs like running in road gear on pavement.

But wait – the story gets even dumber.  Now that they have entered BC, AKA the land of Canadian fruits and nuts, somebody has finally noticed their travels.  That somebody being the gummit of BC.  Apparently BC thinks they should have a slow moving pilot car join their parade.  This makes no sense whatsoever to me.  Absent the pilot car we’ve got a slow moving farm vehicle to get by on the highway.  No big deal – it happens fairly regularly in the summer in BC.  If the BC gummit gets its way though the parade will be lengthened by maybe 100 yards and now all of a sudden its not so simple to get by it. 

Perhaps if we were talking about some 500 HP 4 wheel drive prairie behemouth dragging an overwidth attachment behind it I could see BC’s concern.  But this foolish twosome has one of those baby-toy tractors that acreage owners like to buy.   I found a picture online of their rig but I don’t recognize the tractor.  Whatever they’re towing looks like a mobile outhouse.  Most of the time they can probably fit on the shoulder of the highway so motorists likely pass them before they even realize there’s anybody there.  I’m really glad we aren’t BC residents anymore.  I think stupidity can be contagious.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Its the little things that matter

Just because its a cliche doesn’t make it untrue.  When I started doing projects for Growsafe they insisted on giving me a laptop that they weren’t using.  They clearly thought that whatever I was using at the time wouldn’t be current enough technology to serve me in my new duties.  I’m not sure exactly what high horsepower computing they envisioned me doing – Excel, Outlook, Powerpoint – that’s pretty standard fare these days.  The fact that my Dell at the time was likely already 5 or maybe 7 years old certainly lent credence to the assumption that it would be outdated technology but as it turned out that wasn’t a true assumption. 

I’ve always had a habit of buying leading edge laptops and then keeping them for a really long time so it didn’t come as any surprise to me to learn that the “new” Asus that I ended up using wasn’t measurably better than the “old” Dell D830 that it replaced.  In many regards the Asus was a serious step backwards.  It did have a nice big wide shiny screen that seemed pleasant at first.  Then I discovered that while the resolution of my Dell would go to 1920 pixels wide, the physically wider Asus was limited to somewhere around 1600 pixels of screen width.  Which meant that when I want to have multiple windows open simultaneously I simply didn’t have the screen real estate available to do what I was accustomed to.  And then I tried flying with the Asus.  The physically wider screen was nothing short of a PITA – it wouldn’t fit in any standard computer bag, didn’t fit easily under the seat on a plane and was physically too wide to comfortably use onboard a plane. 

Meanwhile my old Dell was serving us just fine as a nav computer up until our trip to Port Angeles this spring.  Somewhere along the way the keyboard failed and on those Dell Latitude models the keyboard contains the on/off switch so the laptop was 100% dead at that point.  I had my nav software loaded on the Asus so we were able to find Port Angeles and subsequently Seattle but I had to do something and I was lucky enough to find someone who could repair the Dell.  “Repair” in this case meant swapping in a keyboard that can be bought off eBay for maybe $30, at the most.  Of course in that case it was $30 for the keyboard and $100 for knowing that the keyboard needed changing but the whole process got me to thinking that all my computers should be the same model.  Since the Dell had served me so well, despite the keyboard failure, I decided first to start looking for a spare identical nav computer.  That would allow me to simply swap hard drives in the event of a non-drive failure and assuming I had the spare computer properly configured, in the event of a hard drive failure I should be able to get back running in relatively short order as well.

I soon discovered that this particular model of Dell still sells for over $300 on eBay.  There’s D830s out there for less than that but for a 2.5 GHz model with 4 Gigs of RAM that’s what you still have to pay.  I ended up buying 3 spares, parked the Asus and I’m using one of the “spare” D830s right now.  Which brings us to the topic of this morning’s post – its the small things that matter the most.  The D830 fits easily in a computer bag, is easy to use onboard, draws less power because it isn’t running that big shiny screen so the battery lasts WAY longer and is just generally a treat to travel with. 

I got to Baltimore BWI three hours before my flight time this morning, found a relatively quiet corner of the terminal complete with a plug in and a row of seats to put my feet up on and I’ve been happily catching up on some work that I had been procrastinating during this trip.  And that brings up another small pleasure – airports that provide free wifi connections.  This morning I had to watch a 15 second video in exchange for the privilege but I left the sound muted so it wasn’t any great hardship.   The only real annoyance this morning has been a surfeit of God-music blasting out of a nearby food booth.  Normally I doubt I would even be able to hear it from where I’m sitting but this morning the terminal is so quiet that I can hear and be annoyed by it.  In the big scheme of things though a little bit of God music while travelling is a relatively minor annoyance. 

Yesterday I spent a few hours in downtown Baltimore.  I didn’t know where I was going but I let Streets and Trips guide me to the harbour and then followed Marine Drive or Harbour Road or whatever the hell they called the street that runs closest to the water.  At first I landed in the commercial section but after following the water for a while I saw a sign for the Rusty Scupper restaurant which turned out to be a great place for dinner.  From there I walked around the harbour for a while and eventually caught a water taxi back to where I started.  As it turned out if I had been coming from any other direction I likely wouldn’t have made it to the harbour because there was some kind of Grand Prix road race going on in the downtown.  There were bleachers set up in a couple of places and blue plastic screens to keep the unwashed from viewing the formula cars for free.  I couldn’t be bothered to pay anything to watch very fast cars zip by occasionally but I could certainly hear and smell them whenever they went by.  Judging by the crowds not sitting in the bleachers I wasn’t the only one who felt that way.