Saturday, February 28, 2015

Filters and stuff

I like to think about the world in different ways. That terrifies some people, but that's their problem. 

Lately, I've been musing about filters. 

There's many different ways to use the word. In one sense, much of what I've been doing at work the last several years has been using SQL to filter out various bits of data for various purposes. Thursday it started with a set 3850 or so pressure vessels. Then I started filtering out those with certain issues, ones I knew about. This makes it easier to find other things, often new things that hadn't existed before, but sometimes things I just hadn't noticed. Sometimes I fix them in source, and sometimes I keep moving because the fix isn't possible. The filter functionality in excel is a wonderful thing. Pity it is so slow, and doesn't really deal with more than 10,000 records at once. 

Our brains filter information all the time. We decide what to think about, and what to ignore. For many years I've had a reliable filter on advertising. Print advertising. My eyes would slide past it, looking for what I wanted to see. In case you were wondering about my opinion on advertising, I think most of it's loathsome, and the industry as a whole is comparable to politicians and lawyers. Sure, there are some exceptional bits of advertising that do much to redeem the industry, but these come along about once a year.

But then the internet happened, and those despicable popup adds. The browser fixes them for a while, then the advertising industry breaks the browsers again. 

I've been struggling with Facebook and even Twitter. I'm still pissed at Facebook. It puts things on my timeline just because one of my friends liked something. Bah! And it doesn't tell me about things that some of my friends actually say. It's simple, if I'm friends with someone, I want to see what they say, not what they think of someone else's post, someone I can't see. Even Twitter is getting a bit unpredictable. I wish there was a way to filter out people's retweets from what they say for themselves. 

So much information. Such a low signal to noise ratio. I still might bail on the whole darned thing.

I discovered today that I need to revise my workflow for paying bills. It used to be the only place I reliably saw email was on the home computer. That's where my mail lived. I liked to stack up my paper bills, and pay them toward the end of the month. I'd figure out how much was needed, and shuffle around the money electronically. Best invention since sliced bread!

But then I started getting email on my phone and iPad. Linda is often on that computer now, and I'm often on my laptop, away from the desk. I don't see the paper bills as much. And there's another thing, not all of them are paper now, and I have to look up an email to find out how much I owe. You see where this is going.

Today I realized that some of the bills were due yesterday. Oops. Part of the problem is that I've been overloaded at work lately, and I'm not thinking about much at home. Plus we broke our routine on Thursday, and that didn't help. 

I know perfectly well there are bills to pay toward the end of the month. But as Sherlock Holmes said, "Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones."

It's even worse, the useless ones don't have to elbow out the useful ones. They merely need be between you and it. Obscuring it. If you think of your brain as a giant sieve, catching what you want, and letting the rest go, it works, as long as there is room for the rest to flow through. But when the filter gets clogged, it doesn't work anymore.

Lately, my brain has been feeling clogged. It's hard to find things I know, or knew. It's harder to process current stuff. I lose paperwork. It's not gone; it's not like the cats have started eating paper, or carrying it off and hiding it. No, I just forget where I put it.

For example. Last time I serviced the car they told me the tire tread was getting low, and they would need to be replaced soon. Fair enough. I don't have even the faintest idea how long they've been on the car, or what their milage is. It's been a long time, and a long distance.

I almost by accident discovered Costco will charge me $660 plus tax to install the tires. I don't know if that includes alignment, but suspect not. I got a couple of other prices from local places, then remembered that the dealership had given me a quote. That meant I needed to find the paperwork. It only took about a half hour of puttering about organizing other paperwork that needed to be done, so it wasn't a total waste.

The desired paperwork was found by accident, in a place where I had not realized I'd put it, but once I found it, I recreated the chain of events. I still don't remember any of it, but that's fine. Which reminds me that tax time is coming up, and there will be more paperwork to sort. It seems that is happening quicker and quicker. Sigh.

Back to filters. They said the paperless world would be easier. Bah! And BAH again! Maybe it is, and I haven't updated myself to take advantage. Somehow my filters are still working at work, at least I think so. In a few weeks I'll find out if my supervisor thinks that, but I digress. It's at home they seem to be failing. 

Looking for an object of some kind. It doesn't matter if it's a photo I want to be on my laptop so I can put it on my blog, or an estimate of how much it costs to replace tires. Maybe it's a tool I want. Heaven help me if I should have urgent need for a half inch chisel. I know I own one, and might own two, but I don't have the first idea where it might be. There are days I seriously contemplate the work involved in attaching an RFID chip to every single object in the house, right down to my socks and underwear, and itemizing it in a database. 

Part of it is being buried in information. On Thursday we walked through the Home and Garden show. I conservatively estimate there were a bazillion booths, and we walked past them all. Think of what we were subjecting ourselves to! Looking at every booth and deciding if we have any interest in them. Navigating around other people walking erratic courses. Looking to see if we know those people so we could say hi. Which happened!

I was getting pretty tired at the end. Not so much physically tired, but mentally. It's hard work ignoring people you don't want to talk to, when they are actively trying to gain your attention. I admit to feeling a little sorry for some of those people. They sit there, and nobody talks to them. Or what might be worse, they put themselves out and nobody talks to them. I hope they didn't choose to be there.

Swam on Wednesday, after saying hi to Katie. No specific workouts, though I tried to keep up to her and lasted only 50 m. A bit of fast, and bit of slow, and into the hot tub after. Massage was all about finding even more muscles that hurt. Yoga was total fail. Breathing hurt. Bailed out of workouts Thursday (though the H&G show was a workout of a kind) Friday, and today. At least I did some stretching and core yesterday and today. That's one advantage about not being on a schedule; technically, you aren't breaking it or missing a workout if you skip a day.

Mostly sat and vegged today, letting my filters empty, and unwanted stuff evaporate from my brain. Racked and stabilized the Riesling and the Nebbiolo. They smell wonderful! Still working on my various novels, amazed at what I find in there.

The orange-y photo a couple days ago was a frosted up window shot at dawn. I'd give you a link, but blogger is being pissy. Look in this blog

Looking forward to a swim tomorrow.

And here's the surprise photo of the day. I really like how this turned out.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Note to self, and to other guys

First of all, what about that sunset the other night! This is unretouched. You can hardly see the moon, but to my eyes it was huge.

Monday, swimming in the big pool! This is the first time swimming long course since I tweaked my stroke. I had no idea how that would turn out. I'm often about a minute slower per 1000 m in the 50 m pool. I didn't want to go all out or anything, just wanted to see where I was.

I was feeling a little clunky at first, but settled in, working on various parts of my stroke. It took about 700 m to feel warmed up. I ended up swimming the K in 19 minutes almost exactly, nice and relaxed. In the short course pool I'm 18:30 nice and relaxed for that distance. Make of it what you will.

5x 100 m on 2 minutes, all were done in about 100 to 102 seconds. Those felt pretty good. Cool down.

Tuesday I was feeling a bit of hip niggles throughout the day, but I still headed out for a short run. 3K 22 minutes. Started feeling clunky and out of breath. The clunk went away, mostly, but a 7:15 pace should be chatchatchat, and it wasn't. I wasn't gasping, but I was breathing harder than I should. Good walk and stretch after.

The note to self comes in while getting ready. I was putting on a pair of tights, ones I hadn't worn since last fall at least, and maybe even last spring some time.

These are the only tights I own where the cord is actually a loop. They came that way. At first I thought it was a great idea. I've had to go digging into the waistband to retrieve a cord that disappeared. Tonight I revised that opinion. The tights are a bit small, and I was yanking up firmly. I failed to consider exactly where the loop was during the firm yanking process. Let's just say I'm glad some nerve circuits are still working and leave it at that, shall we?

A couple more photos for you, just because. Anybody want to guess what this is?

I took this on a whim, to show a buddy what sunglasses that fit over prescription lenses look like. She was very complimentary. A buddy at work said I had to put it on my blog. The things I do for my readers.

Re-wrote the first chapter of Bone, based on a chunk I had set aside. It doesn't have quite the same creepy atmosphere of the current opening, but it introduces the main character right off, and sets the stage for her better than the current opening.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Battery recharging

No, not NiCad. Or even Li-Ion ones, though that is a regular thing here.

This is Keith batteries getting recharged. We slept in Saturday, and it was wonderful. That doesn't happen to me much. Normally I don't sleep well, so when I'm awake I get up and do something. Stabilized the Riesling wine. It's going to be a beautiful light straw colour. I had a nice stretching session in the evening, but no thunks.

After a slow start we ended up at a budget round table hosted by our provincial MLA. Wait! Don't go! This is important!

I was a bit impressed by Dave Rodney. He actually kept pretty good control of the meeting, and while moving things along, actively looked for people that hadn't spoken yet. He kept asking for the specific things the government should do, and there was no shortage of advice.

There were about 3 dozen people there, most of them our age or older than us, but a few younger, which was really nice to see. I have no idea exactly what is going to happen to the questionnaire we filled out. Only 3 dozen responses isn't exactly a statistical universe, so they could probably cherry pick any results they wanted.

Some of the comments were foolish. One guy wanted to lay off provincial workers till the budget balanced. I guess he figures he doesn't need health care, or has no children that go to school. One guy was totally on about gays getting more rights than the rest of us. Rodney sidestepped that one a bit clumsily, but did it. I don't know where he stands, but his point was that people were here to talk about the budget. There were lots of angst about raising taxes, but then when he turned it around and asked which services get cut, people were all over the map.

Some of it was cut civil service pay. They couldn't think of any reason why Alberta should be paying the highest rates for such people, but the 800 pound gorilla is the oil and gas industry. They can, and do pay well for their people, and that drives up other costs. We fortunately didn't hear the phrase "gold plated pensions". What these people are not considering is that almost all the money paid to the civil service gets circulated back into the economy, and that's a good thing.

I'm pretty sure I heard the phrase "respect the existing union contracts" and that's a good thing. Bargaining hard for the next one is fine, but keep in mind there are a ton of people on the verge of retiring. Push them too hard, and they'll go. Then who takes care of you when you have to go to the hospital?

Supposedly there is no thought of a provincial sales tax, which is dumb. The no thought part, not the sales tax. I'd happily trade the Alberta income tax away in exchange for a sales tax. Why? I don't buy much stuff. A sales tax is not regressive, like the current flat Alberta provincial tax.

But let's take it at face value. On the income side, here's my suggestions:

  • Sales tax in place of income tax.
  • Get together with the other oil and gas provinces to coordinate royalties, and raise them. The oil and gas companies are getting the raw materials at a bargain basement price. There aren't that many other places to go, and they're all more expensive. Put the royalties on a sliding scale related to the world price of oil.
  • Health care user fees, tied into the tax system so that low income people get it rebated. Everybody should get a statement of how much their health care costs each year, with a note about the average, mean, mode, and peak costs.
  • Raise corporate taxes. There's room to go up, and still be the lowest in Canada. What's more, make the big companies pay more, so it's a progressive tax.
  • Double cigarette taxes, or more. Earmark some of those funds to preventing people from starting in the first place. The rest to health care. Increase booze taxes, but not so much. People can't grow tobacco in their back yards here, but they can make booze in their bathtubs.
  • Raise gas taxes.
  • Borrow money if required. It's cheap now, and will be for a while yet. Require paying it off early when oil prices go back up.
On the cost cutting side:
  • Health care is the single biggest driver of the budget. When you think of it, nearly everything can be marked up as an improvement to the health of Albertans. The big way to cut costs is to stop people from getting sick. I'd love to see tax incentives for people to be healthier. 
  • Injuries and deaths from auto collisions (driver incompetence) are a huge burden on the health care system. Invest in driver training simulators, similar to how airline pilots train. Everybody goes through them every time their license is renewed. Standard and objective testing standards will weed out the testosterone fueled teenagers and the seniors who can't cope anymore. Anybody that is in a collision goes through retraining before they can drive again.
  • Rather than trying to manage all the hospitals as if they were one facility with one set of spending controls, set up hospitals as individual units. Let them experiment with ways to improve service and cut costs. Share best practices. People can understand one hospital, where a province wide system is incomprehensible. 
  • Promote the use of bonds for capital investment. The long desired cancer hospital and the SW Calgary ring road are examples of billion dollar infrastructure that will be there for generations. Encouraging people to buy bonds that are paid back at reasonable rates over a long period is one way to spread out the cost of funding these. Especially if people could put such bonds in their RSP or TFSA.
  • The most vulnerable people in our society cost huge dollars in emergency services. Find the people that cost the system the most, and solve their problems. Don't manage, solve. Build or convert a residential building for the highest cost users. There is evidence that giving them an apartment helps build the stability that keeps them out of the emergency services system. The apartment and a social worker are much cheaper than the hospital emergency room.
  • Stop funding the post secondary institutions. Fund the people that want post secondary education, instead. Let them figure out where they will get the most bang for their buck and have institutions compete for those dollars. What the province gives to them for education gets paid back over time through the tax system. The current institutions are white elephants. Use internet technology to share knowledge.
  • Yank out the VLT's. They are a bad deal. Yes, the government gets a cut, but the social costs are far higher.

Sunday was a sleep in day, and once it warmed up a bit I was out for a run. Lovely. 8K in an hour, legs feeling pretty good. Perfect weather for a winter run. Hanging out and cuddling cats is the rest of the day.

Oh, and The Bone in the Digester. I was going over some material I'd deleted, and thinking about new ways of organizing the book. I had an idea. Stay tuned.

Friday, February 20, 2015

A good bad movie

It's been a heck of a work week. Way too many hours. Probably the most stressful deadline week on this job. My poor boss. I'm reasonably certain we saved her from being fired. That's what work is these days, right? Working like a dog, stressing over an artificial deadline that you had no input or control over.

I could explain the structural details of the Maximo database that were the real hurdle for us, but I won't. You can thank me later with dark chocolate.

When I got home Thursday night after the longest work day in several years, I was in no mood. I poured a big glass of wine, got some cheese and crackers, and settled in for a good bad movie. There are times when that's exactly what you need, and the one Linda picked out was perfect.

Sharknado. Need I say more?

We happily chortled our way through it and I was feeling much better when it was over. Bedtime right after, sleeping like a log.

The plan was to go for a swim on Friday, but I didn't. For the first time in a long time I didn't want to. I rolled over and slept in a bit more.

Now I'm home again, sipping wine, writing this blog. There will be a bit more wine, and I'll sleep in tomorrow. There is wine stuff to do. I'm sure I'll be busy, but I hope not too busy.

Curtis has done something to his left paw, and is favoring it. But he wouldn't limp for the vet, so he asked for some video footage. Given people love photos of him, you ought to be falling all over yourselves to watch a short video of him. I confidently expect there to be a zillion views by morning.

You can totally understand how well he blends into the floor, and how he's nearly been stepped on a few times. Not that the cat judge will believe it.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

We touched the bridge

Tuesday, swim. 1K warmup, feeling clunky, 18:35. 10x50 aiming for 45 seconds on 1 minute, getting 45 at first but most were bang on 47 seconds. Those started feeling pretty good.

Really pleased at no hip crankiness. Got a nice meaty slow thunk in my back while doing some core.

Wed, run. Again, yes, I know! I'm so pleased. Michelle tried to talk me into running from work. Just as well I didn't have my gear with me. After work we ran from my place down into Fish Creek, touched the first bridge, and ran back. Nice and easy, chatchatchat. She ran on to her house and picked up her stuff later. The sunset on the way back was stunning! If we'd been a few minutes later I'd have had to stop for some photos. This is after the main show as I was getting home.

Our pace was a bit slower than usual, but that's ok. It was so nice to be out running again. No niggles, no breathing hard except maybe a little up the hill out of Fish Creek. That's the first time down there since about October.

Still no runner's high, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was musing that at my age it's nice to be able to go for a run. Lately I've read in the news of people my age or younger dying, and that's a sad thing. I'm sure eventually I'll be decrepit, but I want to put that off. I'm positive that if I hadn't started getting active a decade ago, I might or might not be having muscle aches and pains, but I'd almost certainly have diabetes or some form of heart disease. I think I made a good choice there. Here's the splits.

There was a moment on Twitter this morning for me. I've been shoveling through a mound of crap data that has to be sifted very carefully. Just at the end of the day I realized I might have goofed on something, and need to check. Fortunately there was a fire alarm so I didn't have to. It will still be there tomorrow, but I can get a cup of heavy duty coffee to fuel me up. Not hard, just tricky, like so much else I deal with.

Anyway, to save you squinting at the photo, it says "We all want to be data driven, But you know, sometimes the data has had more than a few drinks and really shouldn't be driving." My coworkers love it.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The old future

Once upon a time Star Trek was the most amazing thing on TV. I'm talking way back in the day, the one with Shatner, Nimoy, and Kelly. The Enterprise went between the stars at many times the speed of light. There were sensors, tractor beams, phasers, photon torpedoes, and many other staples of science fiction. While never a Trekker, I always looked forward to getting home from school to watch it on a black and white set. There were some spin off books I read and liked.

I watched the first episode of TNG, and wasn't impressed. I'd drifted away from the science fiction community by then and was busy with other stuff. The movies came along at some point, but after I fell asleep during the first one (so disappointed!) I didn't pay much attention. Well, there was the whales one, it was ok at best. There were other spin offs, and I passed over them too, though I did see a bit of Voyager while on vacation. It didn't give me any desire to get the DVD's and work through it. I don't think I'd recognize Deep Space Nine if I saw it without the opening credits.

We were in the library the other day looking through their selection. Let's just say it's eclectic and move on. I found these. (detour because, of course per Saturday's rant, the photos are not on this laptop. Grrr.)

I picked them up without hesitation. It was great watching in colour. In a kind of horrified way I enjoyed watching Kirk strut about. What little we could see of the corridor design made much more sense than the starship in SG-1. But I couldn't get over the buttons! Buttons everywhere! Mechanical buttons that clicked! I'd forgotten how often the control panels blew up, implying the designers had forgotten about fuses. The sliding doors were so cool, and now every supermarket has ones that work better. Why would you only have one way on or off the bridge? And those communicators (A Piece of the Action) looked clunky even in comparison to the rest of the tech around them.

Aside from a warp drive that we don't know how to build, we could make a much more modern looking starship now. There are a bunch of places where the story goes clunk, but part of that is TV show conventions from then. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed myself, drinking wine, inhaling most of a large pizza, and binge watching a show from my childhood.

One of the reasons I was so hungry was being in the water for almost a couple of hours, mainly doing drill. The fun part was watching Michelle put together her best swim to date. For the last part we worked getting her to bend her elbows as she swims. She is looking more and more like a swimmer every time.

Monday was a sleepy day to start, which is really nice. Eventually I was inspired to run by the enthusiasm of the cats.

It turned out I guessed right about what to wear for the run. This is a complicated issue here, sometimes. Tights, jacket, gloves, cap and glad of it. There was a stiff wind out on the bike path. I wasn't sure what to expect, but 5K in 36 minutes totally exceeded my expectations. My feet felt light for almost all of it, though oddly enough I wasn't feeling really strong. I chugged along and throughly enjoyed it. There was the slightest niggle in my right hip, but barely noticeable.

When I was running regularly, this would be a so-so run, not too far, not too fast. But in the context of not running regularly since mid-Novemember, I'm really happy with this one. So nice to be out and feeling pretty good. Let's see if my hip is cranky with me in the morning. Here's the run splits. Considering I wasn't trying to run fast at all, this is good. My breathing was just slightly beyond chat chat pace. I'll have to see if my run buddy will put up with me some more, to keep me honest about pace.

The rest of the day was enjoying an extra day off, and puttering with reorganizing The Bone in the Digester. I thought I had a grip on what needed to be done, but I didn't. I have struggled with this one right from the beginning. Elixer is straightforward, though a couple readers have said there's lots to keep track of. There's a few little bits to add here and there. Bone to Elixir is still very raw, with some scenes I'm not so sure about. It's a bit tricky since it starts where Bone leaves off, and I don't have Bone nailed down yet. It's also the most science fiction-y of the 3, and will be the jumping off point for an entire series, if I get up the energy and imagination.

I think I need to go back to pen and paper and sketch out the story for Bone. I know who dunnit, and how, even why, so it ought to be easy, right? Not so much. Then again, I've been working on this a couple decades, what's a few years more?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Organoleptic again, with an e-rant

A little while ago our book club read The 100 year old man who climbed out the window and disappeared. It was delightful. Last night, completely by accident, we discovered it had been made into a movie. Even better, the move is equally delightful. If you haven't read or watched, do so. Both. Thank me later.

One of the fun things about making wine is the process. It's generally the same for all kits, though there are subtle differences. They would have you believe that you have to follow the instructions exactly to get drinkable wine, and their process is specially tuned to that exact kind of wine. As if.

Consider it as an overall process. Each kit starts with grape juice, some bentonite, and yeast. Later on there are some agents to help settle and stabilize the wine. Some kits have oak dust, oak chips, special yeast nutrient (that I suspect is sugar), whole or crushed raisins, or wine sweeteners or finishers. How much different can the process be? As long as everything gets added in the right order, about the right time, it will all work out. Give the wine time to do it's thing, keep your equipment clean, and all will be well.

Today is the day to transfer a Meglioli Nebbiolo kit from the primary to the carboy. Their kits have all sorts of extra instructions, and I find they are poorly written. Most kit instruction are very clear.

The extra in this case was some dried raisins added at the start. They should be crushed and the juice added back to the wine. This adds to the oranoleptic qualities of the wine. It says so right there in the instructions.

The first few times doing that, many years ago, were a little fraught as I was trying to figure out the best way. Today that all went smoothly. The Brunello started the degassing process. As always, using the right tool makes the job so much easier.

Putting the chuck in the drill itself is a little trick I learned years ago. I once spent the better part of a weekend looking for a chuck, when I knew perfectly well I had three. Somehow three, in spite of only owning one drill.

It's nice out and my hips are feeling pretty good, so I tried a run. That was just over 2 K, feeling heavy all the way. Nothing actually hurt, but it was work. More work than I like, so I called it off. Walked and stretched after, no big clicks.

Settling in for a quiet afternoon puttering about.

Back again after a very frustrating event. I had promised Gerald I'd send him some photos we have of Bernard. They are in my iPhoto. I'd flagged them so they were handy. This was on my laptop. First surprise is that they are not flagged on my desktop where there is email. Second surprise was that I couldn't deal with them as a folder. I didn't like any of their sharing options. After a bunch of floundering around I managed to get a folder of photos on my laptop desktop. From there, eventually after more floundering, onto dropbox. This was all a lot harder than it needed to be. From there I made it public and sent a link. Even that was hard. I had to copy the link to another app, so that I could open another browser window to get at Twitter. At some point we will find out if that actually worked. If I must, now I can email them one at a time. I think. I hope.

I can see why people get so frustrated with computers and related technology. I'd just assumed that iPhoto kept my laptop and desktop folders synchronized along with the photos themselves. Now I need to go and see what organization has been done in various places. I've been meaning to get Photosweeper and do a major clean up on iPhoto, and make sure, again, the photos are backed up in a normal folder.

The problem is that there is a new photo app coming, and I'm terrified. I barely understand iPhoto some days, and this is all cloud related, which I most emphatically do NOT want. I do not want my photos in the cloud. I do not want to be shelling out a few dollars a month for all eternity to keep my photos, and paying cellular rates every time I want to look at one when I'm away from home. I want them on a hard drive I own. Call me old fashioned if you must.

Back in the day when you had to plug in your phone or camera, and iPhoto transferred things, I understood what was going on. Mostly. Things went where they were supposed to go. Mostly. Every month or so I'd plug into the computer and update things. Life was good. Mostly. The advantage was that you knew when it wasn't. Now we walk along, our head in the iCloud, never knowing when we will bump into something, or what to do about it when it happens.

Now, there are days I seriously contemplate life without the whole digital thing. I have to forcibly prevent my devices from updating themselves. My laptop nags me, and it doesn't seem to understand that I LIKE IT THE WAY IT IS NOW!!! I don't want it to change. Change means getting a new, abominable version of iPhoto. Change means having to learn new ways of operating programs or apps, when I've barely mastered the old ways.

I now have zero patience with apps. If they don't work, or I think the interface is stupid, I delete it. I used to like Evernote. The idea is brilliant. The problem is they keep changing it. Every time I want to use it, I have to figure out the interface again, and it isn't easier, it's harder. I haven't deleted it yet, but I've come close.

Back to photos and iPhoto. I take pictures on my iPhone 6. Linda occasionally tries to take photos on the old 4, and adventures happen. Rarely, I take pictures with the iPad, but I will occasionally dress up photos using Snapseed on the iPad. The saved photos go into the camera roll, and are supposed to go into my photo stream. Mostly they do, except for the one that I want to use in my blog, which I write on my laptop. Then I'm trying to force it to update. Or I'll save the blog, check the desktop, if Linda's not on it, see that the photo I want is there, and finish the blog. Such a pain the behind. The only way I know of to force photo stream to update is to turn it off, then turn it back on again, and wait while it refreshes the last 1000 photos, or whatever it does. I will admit to not fully understanding it.

One of the things that bugs me is that the file numbers are starting to overlap. Why can't we tell our devices to use a particular numbering system for photos? A file name like KCIP6_20150205_0001.jpg is perfectly nice but there are others. It should be a configurable setting.

Once upon a time I could pick something up and know how to use it in a few seconds of playing with it. That time is long past. I once stared in baffled anger at an "updated" phone bill I could no longer understand. They had stopped listing the date, time, phone number, and cost of each call. There are days I love and loathe my various electronic devices. I have much more sympathy with people who ask their children or grandchildren to explain "the google" once more.

Don't even get me started on damnyouautocorrect. Just don't.

I know you've had e-adventures, and probably recently. Feel free to vent in comments.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

54:45 but no fight. how to swim

This isn't a history lesson, and even if I'd been 5 seconds faster there still wouldn't be a history lesson. I see some blank looks. Google is your friend.

I'm on about swimming again today. Roll your eyes, I don't care. I'm a very happy puppy. The other day I did the fastest K in many many years. During yoga class I was thinking about that and what it meant for my longer swims. I was doing math in my head and ended up with this.

An 18:30 K was a fast swim a short while ago, but I was thinking I should try to maintain that pace. I've been wanting to get in a 3 K swim for a while, but it hasn't worked out for one reason or another. Here's how it turned out.

Distance Planned Actual 100 M pace
1K 18:30 18:25 01:50.50
2K 37 37:05 01:51.50
3K 54:30 54:45 01:51.50

So I'd say that was pretty consistent, though at the beginning of the 3rd K I blew a couple of flip turns and had a couple of poor laps. I lost my concentration doing some mental math about timing. Note to self.

What made the difference is keeping my elbows high and recovering with my thumb close to my ears. I tried to keep the kick a little stronger, which helps my body position in the water, which is the main reason I'm going faster with less effort.

And make no mistake, this was the least effortful swim in a long time. I was relaxed, barely breathing hard for most of it. The third K I worked it a bit to make up for the time I lost, but I was never even close to being short of breath. Most of the time I was gliding along, passing the people in the lanes beside me that were working much harder.

My hands were on top of their game, getting a good catch. My roll was coordinated with the pull in a way that I don't often have happen. I could feel my shoulders working in a way I hadn't noticed before, helping me stretch out before the catch. The only thing I missed was that I didn't count strokes at all, so I have no idea about that. I didn't have to worry about anybody else in the lane. This was short course, and it seemed like I was doing a flip turn all the time. It would be fun to try this in the long course pool.

Best of all, I didn't have to stop at 3 K. I could have kept going, but I thought this was a big enough step for one day. Plus, there is this day job thing. They don't really care when I get there, but I have lots of work to do, and a deadline next week. A lot of people are going to be looking at my results.

I can hear you asking, so how do I do this? Easy. Swim lots, thinking about every stroke, trying to make it perfect. Time every lap. Some swims are relaxed and longer. Others are shorter and faster. I think the CSS thing helped. Get a video of your stroke and someone that knows their stuff to critique it. Then apply what they say. Think about the water feel. Look at the bottom of the pool. Relax. Commune with your inner shark or dolphin. The water wants to be your friend.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The lane divider was hungry, but I conquered!

In the pool today. I ended up with two things.

This is a result of the lane divider trying to eat my hand. It looked redder and angrier than that in real life.

The other thing is the best 1000 m swim time in several decades! Back in the day, before some of my readers were born, I'd routinely swim a sub 18 minute km. It's been a long, long time. This is a better swim than anything done since I started training for Ironman.

The number?


That is 40 seconds better than just a couple weeks ago for the same distance! This is what stroke improvement will do for you.

Even better, I know I can go faster, since my catch sucked the first part of the swim. The improvement is mainly cleaning up my recovery, and kicking a bit harder. This gave me a better roll. At least some of the time I was trying to breathe out during the stroke. No idea if that makes a difference.

So yes, I'm pleased.

I was pretty out of breath at the end but not ready to puke. Another 500 m of drill and kick rounded it out.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Super Heros, a short rant

When I was growing up, reading comic books was frowned upon. The thought was that the sooner you graduated to real books, the better.

I remember coming across a stash of The Hulk, and marveled (no pun intended) at the simplicity of a life where smashing something or someone was the solution.

There was the Superman TV show, the one from the 50's that I watched in reruns as a child. I remember a scene where Superman is turning over a miscreant to a police officer. Except the police officer hadn't witnessed the crime, and had only Superman's word that this was the guy. I always wondered how that worked out in court. Did Superman have to testify?

Lately the movies are full of various super-heros. Hollywood fails at making a movie of a comic book. You disagree? Then why do they keep rebooting the series? And why do the super-heros resemble overgrown children? Answer is, they are. If we can't invent a plausible super-hero, why does anyone think we can create a plausible god?

But my biggest objection is that the whole idea of super-heros combatting enemies, bringing justice, and all that, is that it infantilizes us. It teaches us that we can't cope ourselves, and that's simply not true. We can, if we work at it. But the powers that be know this, and use it. That myth makes us susceptible to the strong leader making choices for us, for our own good. Has anyone seen what Harper is up to lately?

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Amused by spam and inner shark thoughts

I don't get a lot of spam comments. Maybe that's tempting fate, but since they are all moderated out I don't mind. Blogger hasn't made a mistake in a long time, and dealing with spam hasn't been a chore at all. I hope you don't mind it might take a few hours to have your brilliant comment displayed to the world. Have I ever said how much I like to get comments?

Most of the spam is pretty inane, but this one amused me. I tried to copy paste it, but that didn't work, and I wasn't so amused I wanted to retype it. I can't tell if this is someone running another language through a machine translator, or if it's a computer set to work to composing the spam from scratch. There's a certain artfulness about the use of the language.

This might actually become the slogan of my blog, "You managed to hit the nail upon the head and defined out the whole thing with no need side effect."

In Acadia pool this morning. Still murky. I don't know if this done special for the morning swimmers, or in preparation for all the kids coming in after we leave. I am suspicious of small kids in the pool. There was one time swimming in Weyburn that comes to mind. I'm sure that you'll know exactly where that is if I say about half way between Moose Jaw and Estevan. Yeah. The water there was not just murky, but murky green. A huge number of kids got out just before I got in. It was much too warm. I showered very, very thoroughly afterward, both at the pool and my motel room.

But today was good. Very good. I had received some tips from a swim buddy and worked really hard in trying them out. My arms behave now, almost all the time. I think that right arm getting off the reservation was just laziness. Today I was thinking of scratching my ears with my thumb as I was recovering. It also seems to lead to a cleaner entry and a better catch. Much better rhythm and better roll.

The other thing was kicking a bit better. My kick sucks. More laziness. There were several times when I was swimming faster than expected, with less effort from my arms, and the water feeling a bit different on catch. So far so good. I was a bit shorter of breath, but that shouldn't be a surprise.

The breathing out throughout the strokes is a bit harder for me. I'm not sure how much of a difference it made. Normally problem solving theory is that you change only one thing at a time. That way when it works, you know what fixed it. Mostly.

But today I was changing several things at once as I merrily passed everyone swimming in the two center lanes. The one woman was there again, polite as ever about letting me by. A couple other people were less than polite and had to be passed. We were doing up the rope and down the middle, and some people seemed to lose track of which lane they were swimming in. One guy was doing a sort of figure 8 pattern near as I could tell.

None the less, my inner shark was totally enjoying it. One girl in the next lane pushed off as I did, and headed up the pool flat out. I passed her, nice and relaxed. One guy (I think he's the usual big dog of the pool at that time of the day) was going all out trying to keep ahead. My inner shark basked in the draft, then we got tired of it and blew past him. He didn't get the message though, and the next time I caught him I had to do the same thing all over.

So much fun doing some sighting and defending my space from people that don't swim a straight line, even when looking at the lines on the pool bottom. The water wasn't THAT murky. The downside of changing a bunch of things at once is that I don't know which thing has the biggest impact, or none at all. Oh well. I'm swimming faster and you've gotta love that.

Coffee after was one of the best conversations I've had in a long time.

After all that activity, what do I see when I get home? They didn't even notice. Such is the life of being cat staff.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Odds and sods

Friday I was in the pool again, thinking about my stroke. I had been strangely reluctant to go, but I'm not sure why. In the end, as always, I'm glad I did. The pool was pretty crowded. My choice was to join Katie and two other people swimming as fast or faster, or join a lane with two people in it, one swimming about my speed and a floatie. I joined them. The floatie was considerate, or so I choose to think. He spent a lot of time resting at the ends of the pool.

This stroke thing is interesting. As soon as I stop thinking about it my right arm goes back to the old swing return. When I do think about it my stroke is much better. I tried some of the suggested drills, and that went pretty well. Band is a killer.

The hard one to change will be my breathing. I hold my breath and then blow it out all at once just before turning my head. You're supposed to slowly let it out throughout the stroke. Hmmm.

One of my buddies is fascinated with pens and papers and related things. She likes paper calendars, and notebooks. I'd known there was an app called Paper by 53 that gets rave reviews. It was one of the things that I thought I'd download and try one day.

Well, it and the all the drawing tools are free just now, so why not? I've inflicted you with photos, now some "art" sketched while figuring out what the tools do. I used to draw a lot a long time ago. Seems like a fun app so far. And yes, I know the perspective of the front left corner is off. I'd like to say I meant to do that.

Here's the current dessert situation. Yum bakery. A salty caramel chocolate mousse.

Here's the current wine situation. The first carboy is a Brunello, the second is a Reisling, and the primary is a Nebbiolo.

I was noticing that the price of oil, the TSX, and the share price for Penn West were all up on Friday. This is good, but there's a long way to go. Meanwhile cynical and opportunistic politicians are taking advantage, trying to cut spending on things they don't like. In Alberta that's a cancer hospital and public servants, among other things.

I've blogged about the hospital. Now to public servants. Disclosure, I was one once, and Linda works for the City. One of the sure fire ways for both of us to be seeing red is to hear the words "gold plated pension". The idea is that all government workers retire with a lavish pension that allows them to live an opulent lifestyle, jetting off to warm places on a whim in January. I only wish it were so.

Linda has worked for the City 33 years and a bit. Technically, she could retire now, what with the 85 factor and all. Let us just say her pension is not lavish and leave it at that. We would be struggling if that was our only source of income in retirement. Even if I had somehow survived 30 years of shiftwork, my pension wouldn't be much bigger.

During the brief time when the Alberta government floated a bill that would rape the pensions of government workers, I was astonished to discover how small the pensions were for most of the people involved. The overall pool of money might be huge, and thus a tempting target for incompetent governments or rapacious corporations, but amounts doled out to retirees is not large. The average pension paid out by the Local Authorities Pension Plan is just under $15,000 a year. Is that something you would like to live on?

And remember, this is not some anonymous "them" that is affected. These people are your neighbours. They teach your kids. They work in hospitals to take care of you when you're sick. They drive ambulances, firetrucks and cop cars. They pick up the garbage and run your waste water treatment plants. They make sure you have clean drinking water and maintain the streets you drive on. They provide a myriad of expertise around inspections and certifications that are one of the main reasons we life in the safest human society yet invented.

Go talk to any of these people and ask what they get paid. For many of them that information is publicly available. Let's take a heavy duty mechanic for example. They get paid around $40 an hour, plus or minus a bit depending on years of experience and certifications. That comes out to maybe $75K per year, in a city where an average house costs about $450K. Don't forget to take taxes and other deductions off that, and remember their pension is going to be a fraction of that. Still think they're getting rich?

Now take a look at the pension plan for elected officials. The reason they talk about gold plated pensions while pointing to union people is to distract you from their own snouts deep in the trough. Your trough. You and I are the ones filling it.

A general thought on pensions has to do with demographics. The whole idea wasn't well thought out, and things have changed a lot since they started. But the essence of fairness is that you can't go back on a deal once people have retired on the information they were told. If pensions need to be restructured, it has to happen on a go forward basis.

There are a number of cases where corporations have essentially robbed the pension plan because they didn't contribute their share when the plan was in surplus. Or they just took the surplus. Then when they get behind they go crying about gold plated pensions, and the burdens limiting their ability to compete, and waa waa waa. Some companies intentionally declare bankruptcy to escape their pension obligations, and that's just wrong. Pensioners should be the first in line, not the last, when picking over the remains of a company. Why? Because they're people, and people should come before corporations.

Having Prentice and sycophants taking a measly 5% pay cut doesn't mean anything. They think it will give them leverage to ask for similar cuts elsewhere. The difference is they can give themselves a raise just as easily and quickly whenever convenient. They won't even notice that cut. Prentice is rich enough he can fly to Vegas, and participate in a car auction to buy his dream car (56 Ford T bird) for $71,000 (Canadian). How many of you can afford to pay $71K for a car? How about that heavy duty mechanic I mentioned earlier? How much a dent would a 5% pay cut put in your budget?

The union workers use collective bargaining to come to a deal because otherwise it's divide and conquer. Both sides go into the deal hoping to do the best they can. Unions want to deal when times are good, as they're more likely to get a raise or increased benefits. No union wants to be bargaining now, but those are the breaks sometimes. Frankly, the company holds most of the cards in these negotiations, good times or bad.

None the less, a deal was struck, agreed to by both parties. This recession isn't so bad that we should be going back to rescind a legal agreement. Especially since the nurses and teachers have already been whacked in the recent past. The next deal might be a different game entirely, though, and fair enough. If times are still bad the employer might be able to force the workers into taking some concessions.

Part of the problem here is that the oil and gas industry drives up wage prices for everybody. The big O&G companies can pay well in good times, and do so to get the expertise they need. Then, as we've seen recently, they lay them off again if they must. Part of the balance is that some of those jobs are out in the boonies, working long hours doing difficult and sometimes dangerous work.

Contrast that to the public employees. They don't make so much money, don't run as much of a risk of layoffs, and generally live in the same town or city they work. Some people prefer big cities, and some small towns. All those places need the workers I mentioned earlier.

Some workers go from one to the other as the circumstances of their life change. I've worked both sides, and there are lots of people that think the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. I know I've received far larger wage increases as a contractor, and have received a far larger wage. However, I also was out of work for a year during the last economic downturn. You spin the wheel and take your chances.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Padding cat paw swim stroke

Swam Wednesday, trying to think about my two different arm recoveries. The left is doing what I want, but the right is not. I was trying to keep the rhythm of my arms doing a nice recovery while thinking of a big cat padding along. Have you seen a cat doing that? The front paw is picked up in a relaxed way, with the paw curling under, then going forward to land gracefully and inexorably.

The first K was 18:45 nice and relaxed, with my arms mostly behaving. The next K was a bit more sloppy, and a little bit slower, 19 minutes even. I think I'm going to have think about this, and try some drills that have been suggested to me.

Our yoga class is fun, and we love our teacher to bits. She is looking forward to some surgery and we were joking about what she could do while she was recovering. There were several suggestions.

The best one was wheelchair cat roping. Yes. Then that night I dreamed of it, on a big scale. Rules (of a sort), timing chips, wheelchair standards, judges, everything. What made it interesting is that the human in the wheelchair didn't know if they were getting a housecat (a very small, nimble target for roping, but easily handled when roped) or a cougar (a much bigger target, but much less easily handled). The cats are induced to enter by the promise of playing with the slowest human. The winning human wins some tempting prize. This fits in well with other thoughts of making sporting events more interesting and, well, competitive.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Not the throughput blog yet, but swim video!

I'm still working on that throughput blog. Let's just say it grew in the telling, and it will need to be a two episode blog. We're talking a serious wall o'text there. I hadn't quite realized it was such a big subject, or I'd have so much to say about it.

In the meantime I'm distracted by the antics of our politicians. This time it's Harper and his new anti-terrorism bill. Considering he's labelled environmentalists as terrorists, and there is essentially no oversight to the new and improved CSIS (that's sarcasm there, for those that think I've gone soft!) I don't have any doubt it will become a secret police dedicated to serving our Dear Leader's needs. His enemies can confidently expect a knock on the door. They've even said they'll do that. That's the first step towards disappearing people in the night.

Lèse-majesté hasn't been a crime in Canada, but I wouldn't be surprised if Harper has included that in the small print of the terrorism bill that nobody has got to yet. Not that I think he's noticed me, but the professional paranoids that find their way into secret police organizations could well consider some of the things I've said in this blog to be worthy of professional notice.

After all, I openly say that Harper is incompetent at governing, though I admit he possesses more cunning than usual about becoming and staying the government. I fully urge people to vote against him and his cronies. I am looking forward to putting an x beside someone else's name, when Harper's name appears on the ballot, which it will for me. If he calls another election.

In other news I took a break from the pool Monday and Tuesday. Michelle had taken some video of me swimming on Sunday and I finally got a chance to look it over carefully. I had not realize my arms were doing something completely different during recovery. See if you can see it. Youtube link here.

My right arm has a faster, higher, and more fluid return than the left. The left skims the water and is a hair slower. I'm not entirely sure why. I just wish I could swim further at that pace.

Saturday is looking nice and I'm hoping for a run.

Thank you everyone for your condolences about Bernard. Our two current cats are coming up on 3 years living here now, and seem to be doing fine, amid the usual complaints about inadequate attention.

Monday, February 2, 2015

RIP Bernard

Some of you may have noticed that I'm partial to big orange kitties. First was Sebastian, before even we bought this house. He lived a good long time. There are no digital photos of him, but picture a very big, muscular, dignified orange cat, and you'll have the right idea. He was an in and out cat and bossed the local neighborhood. I once watched him run off a german shepard dog. No histrionics, he just got up and trotted towards the dog, totally, "time to go beat up a dog, ho hum". The dog turned and ran.

I still miss him.

We got Amelia to keep Nefertitti company after Sebastian passed on. Then it was Nefer's turn and Amelia was alone. We though she wanted company when we saw her meowing at a cat outside in what seemed to be a friendly lonely way.

Thus Bernard entered our lives.

Unfortunately he and Amelia didn't get along. It started a bit rocky, which is not unexpected. Then it got a bit better for a while, then started going downhill. Bernard turned into a bit of a bully where Amelia was concerned. She was generally a very amiable sweet kitty, and just couldn't cope. She was never the same after.

For a while we were keeping them separate, one upstairs, one in the basement, alternating. The changeover was fraught. We hoped they would learn to get along.

Then one day we were having friends over for dinner. Friends that were mildly allergic to cats, but they assured us that without carpet they would be fine for an evening.

Linda got home first and phoned me in horror. Somehow the basement door had got opened, and the two had fought. All over the house. There was a bit of orange fur here and there, but mostly it was black and white fur, along with blood, dribbles of urine, and even a bit of poop.

I left work early and we worked like dogs to clean up the house and the cats. The dinner was fine, and our guests didn't mind, but it was the last straw. We started looking for a new home for Bernard. There was lots of discussion leading up to that.

Enter my buddy Gerald. He had mused about looking for a cat. We got the two of them together, and Gerald did a very credible interview with Bernard. We sent them off together. What was annoying about the whole affair after the fact, is that Gerald got a room mate, who had a cat, and those two cats got along fine. We visited Gerald periodically, and it was always nice to see Bernard again. I'd like to think he remembered me, but you never know.

Big orange cats are prone to kidney disease, and that's how this story ended tonight. Gerald took him to the vet mid last week, and he never came home again. The lab tests said there wasn't much they could do. The fluid was building up in his lungs and he would start to choke. I went to visit to say goodbye to an old friend and give Gerald some company.

Bernard would have been about 16 or so. Up till last week he was his normal self, and I wish I could have seen him once more like that. But we don't know. All we can do is enjoy them will we have them, and do that final favour when the time comes.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

What kind of blogger are you?

I've had some new readers on my blog just lately. All are welcome, please make yourselves comfortable and don't be afraid to comment or check the little feedback boxes at the bottom of each posting. I moderate, but I only remove spam and trolls. Contrary opinions with supporting reasoning are more than welcome! I admit to some surprise that while my most recent post got lots of readers, there are no comments. Maybe nobody actually read down the wall o'text to get to the comment form.

There are bloggers that concentrate on one topic. There are mommy/daddy bloggers, food bloggers, fitness bloggers, gadget bloggers, movie bloggers, book bloggers, well, you get the idea. They wanted to know what slot I fit into.

I'm sorry (no I'm not!) but I refuse to limit myself like that. Except for the first, since I'm not a parent, I've touched on all of those, some more than others. My blog started as a fitness blog. Between you and me the first several weeks, and even mostly the first few months are pretty dull. The first one that isn't dull happened about a month into all this. You can find out about the attack of the yogurt container here. Don't be drinking anything.

Even though all the advice says to stick to one topic, pump your readership, and monetize your blog, I won't do that. I write what I want to write, on a wide variety of topics. My readers can read or not as they please. I'm almost certain some of them look at the title and say "He's on about THAT again? Don't need to go there." But then they come back for a Curtis photo, or something else they like. (Everybody likes photos of Curtis or Celina. Scroll down.)

I've come to think of myself as an essayist rather than a blogger. Yes, there is often fitness stuff that gets mentioned, or the current status of my various projects. But more and more I have an opinion on a topic, and I use the blog to share it. It could be anything from indecision in a doorway to macro political economics.

I don't try to be funny, exactly, but I do try to be witty, and there's a big difference between them. If I can make a reader smile at how I've presented an idea, that's a win for me. Spraying coffee through the nose all over the computer is a bonus. What you will get is almost always reasonably well written and organized. Mostly blog posts get done to second draft status. I could certainly clean up almost all of them, but there are time limits.

I have induced potentially window shattering screams as one particular reader floundered around with eyes closed trying to find the tiny little x to close the photo window. She knows who she is, and I did warn people first. If you want to see what induced the internal scream, you'll have to search for it yourself using "graphic followup" as the search term in the little box at the top of the page.

The first real essay, though I thought of it as a rant at the time, was about the Olympics. It just boiled out of me and needed very little rewriting. I've just read it again now, and I'm still pretty pleased with it. You can read it here.

Since then there have been a variety of rants on a variety of subjects. People seem to like them, at least so far. The impact on my blood pressure is wonderful! But a buddy of mine was looking over my blog because he was about to start one, and he pointed out that my labels are not as well chosen as they could be. I have to agree.

When I started I didn't include many photos, so a label for photos was useful. Except now it says there are 455 posts with photos, and I know I've missed some. "But photos of what?" my buddy asked. Good question. I can't tell, and neither can you.

I was thinking of going through all 1800+ posts and redoing the labels, after creating a criteria for them. Would that make any difference? Do you decide what to read based on the labels (right up there below the title)? Umm, have you even noticed the labels? Maybe I don't want to know the answer there.

Some bloggers post on a regular schedule. I'm not that organized. Over the life of the blog new posts arrive every day and a half. Sometimes that means every day for a month or two, other times it means several days between. It all depends on life, the universe, and everything.

If you don't want to miss a post there's a couple ways to keep track. You can follow me on Twitter, right now that's in my blog roll just under the labels. You can follow by email, that's down near the bottom of the blog roll. Just above that there's the Member's thing, but I don't know if that still works. You can subscribe in a reader, though to be honest I don't know if that's working. Twitter is the best bet. I'm not in Blog Loving, or Feedly or any of the others.

Swam a clunky swim on Friday. No water feel at all. Hip and core feeling cranky again. For complicated scheduling reasons (we are too cheap to buy a second car) I walked from the pool to my office. It took 12 minutes. I'm reasonably sure that's faster than driving. I'll have to time it next time to be sure.

Swam a nice swim on Sunday, lots of technique work and drills. Stretching at home after produced a very nice hip thunk again.

I am having no luck working on my books. I'm stuck on something at the moment, but the bigger problem is the cats. For some reason I'm the lap of choice lately. If I'm sitting, they want my lap. If I try to write, this is what I get. Does anyone have any doubt what Curtis is thinking?

So (as the saying goes), that's enough of me talking about myself. What do you think of me? (badumdah!)

What kind of a blogger are you?