Vagaries of Canadian Television

January 30, 2012

Something that will always keep me from getting full immigration points to Canada is my lack of interest in hockey.  I just don’t follow the puck as well as is necessary.  Curling, well no.  Soccer though works fine.

In that context, a couple of weeks ago the most compelling televised sports event on Canadian television was the lopsided defeat of the Dominican Republic by the US women’s soccer team to open the regional Olympic qualifying tournament.  I watched portions of this 14-nil game.

In the Canadian way, CBC this morning was reporting that both Canada and the US had qualified for London, while still energizing interest in the championship game of the tournament:  Canada-US.  Low stakes, but considerable national pride.

And so I made note that the game was at 5 p.m.  But is it televised?  No!  The NFL Pro Bowl instead.

Twitter tells me that US leads 4-nil in the 58th minute…

Thomas and Me

January 26, 2012

We get many fewer unsolicited calls in Canada, but they are so much more interesting.  My recent favorites are from Thomas who called last week and then again today.

Thomas purports to be from the “International Security Department of Windows”.  He asserts that my “Windows computer” has been compromised by hackers and I am generating spam and that he will help me solve the problem.  Quite insistently.

English is not Thomas’s first language, so I was much too direct.  I said I did not have a Windows computer.  He said I did.  I said I didn’t and hung up.

Imagine my surprise at being called back today.  (Why continue to robo-dial people that listen briefly then just hang up?  I suppose that I didn’t hang up with enough vigor.)  Tonight I engaged more thoroughly, though it was brief.  Same initial pitch.  So I ask “Thomas, who do you work for?”  “Windows”  “Thomas, Windows isn’t a company.”  “I work for Windows.”  “Thomas, who makes Windows?” [silence]  “Thomas, what is my IP number?”  [silence]  Damn, Thomas hung up on me!

Beware of Thomas.  I think he is FoS.


My Exploding AA Duracell Battery

January 15, 2012

Last night I heard a loud pop and was hit in the chest by the outer casing of a AA Duracell battery.  No bruise.  This a a first for me, but a quick Google search reveals it is reasonably common, at least for batteries installed in devices.  Mine was not, it was in a Ziploc bag sitting on the granite ledge that separates our dining area from the kitchen.  This picture sets the scene: the bag was sitting just to the left of the basket with fruit and avocados.

The battery was sitting in a Ziploc bag just to the left of the basket of fruit.

The remains:  The top of the bag is detached and covered with battery innards.  The outer casing hit me, just where the picture was taken from.  The base piece with the short wire and the inner packing were found in the hallway just under the pictures in the distance.  The plastic bag was still on the granite ledge.

The strength of the Ziploc seal compared to the bag itself is impressive

The debris field covers about a 4 ft x 4 ft area on the wall, with splatter on three of the picture frames and the wall itself.

Typical of the debris field. The largest spot is about 3/8 inch across.

I’m not sure what lesson this is suppose to teach me.  Hadn’t seen such in my 60 years, so probably won’t again.  I guess I am simply thankful that the battery was pointed such that I wasn’t the target of the debris.

Legacy of Integrity?

January 14, 2012

With the change of leadership at UW, I have been imagining a new leader and style of leadership that reverses the downward spiral of the past several years.  Perhaps the clearest, but not only, sign that the trend is not good is a recent letter to all hands dated January 3, 2012.

Our new President, Michael Young, set a piece of context that was striking:

Persons entrusted with academic, administrative, and athletic responsibilities at institutions of higher education have been found to have actively betrayed that trust — or to have stood by passively allowing the destructive behavior to continue.

Then he continued:

In contrast, it is clear to me that the University of Washington’s century and a half of success has been built on a strong foundation of integrity. When problems have been discovered, they have been dealt with promptly and appropriately, as one would hope. Overall, the UW has nurtured a culture of responsible conduct, which has sustained our perennial success in attracting scholars and administrators who share a visceral inclination to act honorably.

And began his conclusion by exhorting:

Having inherited such values, one of our duties is to periodically renew our commitment to maintain these high expectations of ourselves and of one another.


Excuse me, but what part of UW legacy does he imagine demonstrates anything resembling values that are any better than those elsewhere including the cheap shot he takes obliquely at Penn State and for that matter many other top private or publics? A litany of UW wrongs, not dealt with promptly and appropriately, come to mind.  In athletics, just read Scoreboard Baby and then explain both actions taken then and thereafter in the ensuing women’s softball drug scandal and the  men’s basketball date rapes.  In the medical school, the billing scandal and the action that brought the serious sanctions: coverup.  At the heart of the university, total disrespect for shared governance exemplified by a multi-million dollar class action settlement for faculty and exacerbated by unilateral retreat from a salary policy supposedly designed for good times and bad.  Compounded by a narcissistic, sociopathic Provost, left to her own devices, now gone but leaving a wake of dysfunction and lack of trust.  Integrity requires accountability.

David Brewster writes thoughtfully in Crosscut about the challenges that President Young faces, and I agree with much of what he says.  But the last sentence (which I am partially taking out of context) speaks to the concerns expressed here:

The risk is that time is running out, morale is sinking at the university, and Young loses the momentum of his honeymoon year.

It is true for the political arena of which Brewster writes and it is equally true in restoring integrity.  Take off the blinders.

BCS (Bowl Championship Series)

January 7, 2012

There are lots of reasons not to like the BCS system.  The one demonstrated this year is the idea that the ten best teams should appear in the five bowls.  In other words their mean ranking should be 5.5.  It was 8.7.   The Cotton Bowl did better:  7.0.  Maybe I should be glad that the BCS games have not televised in Canada (at least in a 80 channel cable package).

Whistler Politics

January 5, 2012

Our second home is Whistler.  I pay attention, reading both local newspapers most weeks.

In an unprecedented election in November, every incumbent on the council was swept from office.  Given the dysfunction over the past year and level of anger (some of it very Tea Party-like), I was surprised for there seemed to be two sides and I thought one would prevail and one not.  Not the case: total change.

The outgoing Mayor Ken Melamed is a friend and a great person.  He navigated the Olympics in 2010 and I think history will treat him well.  I’ve now gotten to know the new Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden a little and while a conservative for my taste, she is committed, smart, and anxious to diffuse the evident anger in the community.

But gnawing at me are the many letters and claims leading to the election that our taxes go up and up.  So here is a reality check.  My property tax  bill in 2003 was CAD3355.  My property tax bill in 2011 was CAD3420.  It has been up and down a bit:  range CAD3321-CAD3596.  Spin is everything?

Redistricting in Washington

January 5, 2012

The Washington State Redistricting Commission completed its work at 9:55 p.m. on December 31, a full 125 minutes before the process would be taken on by the Washington Supreme Court.

I have been worried.  All of the early proposals (save one, a very rare shoutout from me to Slade Gorton!) would have created a very bizarre, conservative district connecting my rural Snohomish home with all the like-minded people of Wenatchee and Yakima and the long imagined Freedom County.  In the end rural King County was awarded this cross-mountain, cross-divide district.  Instead I will move from the 2nd Congressional District (incumbent Rick Larsen, who keeps “urban” Snohomish, Skagit and Whatcom county) into the 1st Congressional District (incumbent Jay Inslee running for Governor instead).  Basically upper east side and everything up to the Canadian border this side of the Cascade crest.  Will be interesting to see the mix of candidates that emerge.  Both the Republicans and Democrats on the commission call this arguably the most “balanced” district in the U.S.  Good for them…

All of this saved me with respect to my state legislative district.  I remain in the somewhat rational 44th instead of being popped out to the 39th with loonies like Val Stevens.

Be forewarned if you visit the commission’s web: the pdf maps are horrible.  You will only figure out where you are by downloading the Google Earth layers and zooming in…

Computing Update V

January 5, 2012

This is an addendum to Computing Update IV, part of which detailed Tobae’s adventures with presentation software, aka PowerPoint.  But I forgot to mention an important piece of the puzzle.  She very much wanted to imbed a video from YouTube produced by the Utah Avalanche Center.

To be clear, doing so is a violation of the Terms of Service of You Tube.  You may only use their “embedded player” for showing their content.  In other words, you must show the video in a web browser and to do so be connected to the Internet.

I am quite certain that is not the intent of the Utah Avalanche Center.  They are trying to help people stay out of avalanches and create awareness.  But they have made the poor choice of minimizing their outlay for providing video by using YouTube.  Lesson to all that want their material widely propagated.  Of course YouTube is owned by Google, the “do no evil” company.  Enough said.

Ironically Google will gladly do searches with terms like “capture YouTube video OS X”!  A tremendous number of the tools don’t work; a cat and mouse game?  I leave it to the reader to ponder whether I found one or not.

I know Tobae will do good and do well in the  sans Internet mountain cabin meeting venue.

Computing Updates: IV; Pac 12; Eat Your Peas: II (Really!)

January 2, 2012

Today’s computing update is more about Tobae and less about me.  Other than without son and technogeek Mark at home, I am now her technogeek.

Tobae is an avid backcountry skier and for many years part of the team that teaches the Everett Chapter of the Mountaineers’s avalanche awareness course.  And to keep doing that she needs to take an instructors course from AIARE which she will be doing Wednesday through Friday this week.  And she has assignments, the difficult one being to deliver a five minute lesson using “instructor mediated video clips” with the thought these would be imbedded in PowerPoint and run on “somebody else’s computer”.   I’d never plan on doing such a thing myself!  PC vs Mac and different software versions, what are they thinking?   (Tobae “reassures” me that these are ski guides, not technogeeks, but she is the one doing this, not me…)

So instead of skiing today we spent the day in (okay there were many football games on so that was okay, more on this later).  She studied the huge decks of PowerPoint slides in the instructor resources trying to find some slides to illustrate her topic, the “wind slab” avalanche type, and finding appropriate video.  And around 2 p.m. I help her piece together five slides and an imbedded video in OpenOffice Impress.  For we have never had Microsoft Office on her computer, for her entire use of such functionality is that she keeps a spreadsheet of vertical climb (several 100k feet last year).  Then we saved the presentation on a flash drive in old style PowerPoint (ppt) along with the media file and I tried to look at it on my computer.  Mac PowerPoint 2008 would not read it.  LibreOffice would (I’ve abandoned OpenOffice as have many), but couldn’t save it in a form yet PowerPoint compatible.  Keynote read it and let me save it such that Mac PowerPoint 2008 would read it.  Of course it didn’t behave the same as her slide show, but the video did work.  (That this would be difficult I already knew, see above).  But is was workable and I saved it in many forms (some of which didn’t work at all back on her computer, also see above).  And I took advantage of the Microsoft at Home program afforded by the UW contract to buy Microsoft Office for the Mac 2011 on the cheap and install it on one of our personal computers, hers.  So she has it in the most modern format possible which actually imbeds the video right in the file.  But of course who knows what she will have in the conference room at Stevens Pass!

There is a simple rule here.  Never ever use any advanced feature of any presentation program and expect portability.  Ever!

Now to football.  Today was the “January 1 is Sunday” version of New Year Day.  TSN (Canadian cable channel “The Sports Network”) shows some content from ESPN.  We enjoyed the Georgia-Michigan State game.  Tobae is from Georgia, enough said.  But did the Rose Bowl follow?  No.  Or the Fiesta Bowl?  No.  I was reduced to our desperation system.  Finally finding my notes on how to create a proxy through Mark’s hacked router in Menlo Park, using the Firefox “Advanced > Network” to connect to it, and using the ESPN privilege of his cable provider we were able to watch both games.  Tobae had a year of trail-breaking with her friend Tim riding on Oregon-Wisconsin.  Sorry Badgers and sorry Tim, I was pulling for you.  I had to go with Stanford to honor Mark’s girl friend Christie, but I’m sure Miles Logsdon is quite happy with the outcome and that will have to do.  Why neither of these Pac 12 teams could put up points like the Huskies remains a mystery!

So how does this all connect with Eat Your Peas?  I believe I have come on the solution to the lack of a functional US Congress!  While Canada may not have ESPN, they have mastered the art of votes of no confidence and rapid fire elections.  Thus the simplest solution to my need for ESPN while in Whistler and my desire for a functional Congress is to have Canada invade and annex the US.  No longer would Rick Perry have to worry about his gaffes about Canadian oil being domestic, no more “rights” and “sovereign content” issues around material on Canadian cable, and no need to wait more than 90 days to replace Congress when it doesn’t do it job.

German Apple Pancake

January 1, 2012

I don’t often write about my cooking, especially with two friends that have completed culinary programs and do amazing things in the kitchen.  But I am so pleased with my dessert for New Year’s Eve dinner that I can’t resist.

I expect that I have made this pancake at least 100 times.  Sometimes with apples, sometimes with pears (or apples and pears), sometimes with blueberries and strawberries.  Most often for breakfast and very occasionally as a dessert.  The pancake batter is simple:  3 eggs, 3/4 c milk and 3/4 c flour and 2 T of sugar.  After melting a couple of tablespoons of butter in a cast iron pan, add the batter, then bake for 15 minutes at 425 and 10 more minutes at 350.  A common past frustration is that about ten minutes into things, bubbles will form and I have to keep poking holes with a fork to keep my pancake from becoming a very odd souffle.  And despite my cast iron pan being pretty well seasoned, there are occasional sticking problems.  This often requires me to curse.

We are in Whistler.  I had never made it here.  Partly because until two years ago we had no cast iron in the kitchen.  But just before my trip to Creekside Grocery, inspiration struck, and I added apples to my shopping list.

My key decision…at least I think it led to the excellent result…was to use convection baking, always a feature of our oven here.  (I’m excited to get back to Seattle and try this there in our new oven, hoping for the same result.)  So 15 minutes at 400, 10 minutes at 325.  No bubbles.  Fully detached from the pan.  Sautéed the apples in butter, added some sugar.  “Poetry on a plate”

The pancake after baking...


Prepping the apples

Ready for dessert!

Happy New Year!