July 31, 2004

Discount Coupons Boost Computer

I had one of those "Duh!" experiences today. You know, finally seeing an obvious solution to a problem.

I have a four-year-old computer with a motherboard that supposedly supports up to 7 USB ports, and that came with 5 installed, none of which work. Years ago I tracked the problem down to a motherboard bug, and since I had other machines on our network that handled USB devices, I left it at that.

Today I was walking around Office Depot with $40 worth of loyalty reward coupons in my pocket, looking for something to spend them on.

And there it was, a Belkin Hi-Speed USB 2.0 5-Port PCI Card. Duh!

I grabbed it, brought it home, installed it in my USB-deficient machine, and voila -- I had USB connectivity. Why didn't this solution ever occur to me before?

Posted by Paul at 06:08 PM | Comments (0)

Cruising Vancouver Harbour

Last night we cruised Vancouver harbour courtesy of my Mom, who bought us tickets to a McGill University Vancouver Branch alumni event.

We sailed on the MPV Constitution, billed as the only authentic paddlewheeler in Vancouver.

It was a hot, clear summer evening, and we marvelled at being out in the harbour for the first time since we moved here five years ago. I don't know what it is, because I love being out on the water, yet having lived for a total of 20 years in two cities on the Pacific -- Tokyo and Vancouver -- we've done this sort of thing very rarely.

The cruise took us around Stanley Park, under the Lion's Gate Bridge, and out along the West Vancouver shoreline. We got as far as Lighthouse Park to a hazy sunset glowing orange from all the particles hanging in the air from northern forest fires.

vancouver_lighthouse_sunset_20040730.jpg


Then it was across to Spanish Banks and east into English Bay, before we again rounded Stanley Park and back into the harbour. The lights of the city were fantastic.

The food was excellent, the weather was just right, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We'll have to do it again some day. Thanks Mom!

Posted by Paul at 05:52 PM | Comments (0)

July 28, 2004

Review - What Went Wrong?

What Went Wrong: The Clash Between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East.

Bernard Lewis

This book was written based on a series of lectures and originally published just prior to 9/11.

It's a short, highly readable look into how and why the Muslim world fell behind progress elsewhere around the globe over the last 500-600 years, and the anger that has fueled.

The gap appears to boil down to an inflexible dogmatism that refuses to allow the separation of religion from politics, governance and law, and equality for women.

What is terrifying is that the backlash against the West that is resulting in a return to rigid dogma is perverting even positive Islamic principles.

I didn't see much in the book to reassure me, however it did help me get some idea of where the anger is coming from and why. Not encouraging.

Posted by Paul at 07:05 PM | Comments (0)

July 25, 2004

Turtle Meets Cat

Our red-eared slider turtle Midori met Gadget, our neighbour's cat, this evening, and it was hilarious watching them interact.

It's been very hot and dry here in the lower mainland of BC, so we've been using dirty water from Midori's tank to water our outdoor plants. I lugged Midori and her tank outside, and my wife Yumi watched Midori as I spread the water around, and took the tank back inside for cleaning and re-filling.

When I got back outside, Yumi whispered to me, "Midori is going down the slope toward Gadget!"

Sure enough, Midori was trundling along the dirt slope beside the concrete stairs, straight toward an extremely interested, focused, and somewhat perplexed, Gadget.

We're animal lovers, however we've never been able to win over Gadget, who is a very aloof cat. In nearly 3 years living here, he's allowed me to touch him only once, and has never come within range of Yumi.

Anyway, as Midori neared Gadget, who was getting increasingly twitchy, I thought I'd better close quarters to referee the encounter.

Midori got within half a meter of Gadget before she noticed a possible predator -- she's been an indoor turtle all her life, and I think her instincts have been blunted. I decided to intervene, and picked Midori up and extended her toward Gadget, who responded by sniffing at her furiously as Midori "went turtle" and retracted all of her extremities.

Gadget was so interested in Midori that he began winding himself between my legs as I held her about a foot off the ground. He even submitted to petting before back-tracking Midori's trail to get another whif.

He came back down to us and did the wind again, so Yumi thought she'd try her chances and came down to join us. Lo and behold, Gadget twined her, too, and allowed Yumi to pet him.

Midori was semi-extended at this point, but as soon as Gadget stuck his nose in her face again, she turtled and disappeared. We figured Midori was getting enough stress for a first encounter, so we broke off the engagement and retired inside to regale ourselves with our observations.

What's going on in the heads of these two animals? You can't read too much in, however Gadget seemed to understand that Midori was "with us," and Midori showed some signs that we'd "back her up" before instinct completely took over.

Gadget I can understand, but what about Midori? Some books say certain species of turtles appear to learn to respond to names and such. Those brains may be the size of peas, but sometimes I find myself wondering if they process more than we humans think they do....

Posted by Paul at 08:25 PM | Comments (0)

July 23, 2004

Heat Wave Endangers Fish in Byrne Creek

Joan and her dog Toby joined me in taking a series of water temperatures in Byrne Creek today. The results were worrying.

We also found a dying cutthroat about 15cm long in the Settling Pond with no visible external damage. We tried to assist the fish by moving it through the water, and even took it to a cooler, fresher area, to no avail. It fluttered a couple of times, but kept turning belly up when released, and eventually gave up the ghost.

The scary numbers:

2:40pm Griffiths Pond near Edmonds Skytrain Station
Water temp 18C, air in shade 23.5C

2:55pm Walking across Ron McLean Park in hot sun 31.5C

3:10pm Bottom of ravine stairs off Brynlor Dr. Tag 521.
Water temp 17.5-18C, air in shade 24C

3:30pm Footbridge at lower end of ravine. Tag 516.
Water temp 18.5C, air in shade 24C

3:40pm Walking across Southridge Dr. in hot sun 33.5C

3:50pm Lower end Settling Pond. Tag 514.
Water temp 20C, air in shade 32.5C

4:00pm Upper end Settling Pond.
Water temp 19C (faster-moving, fresher water).

Salmon and trout start experiencing problems near these kinds of temperatures, and with more hot days forecast, I hope the dying cutthroat today was not a sign of things to come....

Posted by Paul at 08:36 PM | Comments (0)

July 22, 2004

Shaw Email Sucked Into Black Hole

All email sent to our Shaw email addresses disappeared for several hours this afternoon.

I know it happened, because I have our email processed by another hosting provider and forwarded to our Shaw addresses, plus I have our business email forwarded to a Yahoo email account for backup.

This has saved our bacon several times when Shaw's email servers mysteriously die. Our Shaw accounts are working again now, however many messages that the Yahoo account received have yet to show up through Shaw, many hours later.

Posted by Paul at 10:03 PM | Comments (0)

July 21, 2004

Sluggish Computer Solved

In the last entry I wrote about my wife's sluggish notebook computer, and all the things I tried to bring it back up to speed.

Solved. Turning off Norton Internet Security brought it back to its former speed.

The mystery is, it ran fine before with Norton IS, so what caused the change?

I dunno, but this adds to my growing questioning of Symantec/Norton products after a decade of being a loyal user.

Posted by Paul at 10:17 PM | Comments (0)

Sluggish Computer

My wife's IBM notebook computer is becoming increasingly sluggish, and I wonder if it's acquired some spyware program that's slowing it down.

It's protected by a router and anti-virus software, and I've checked it out with Spybot Search and Destroy, to no effect.

I just downloaded Ad-aware, and it has come up with a few extra suspects, however most are tracking cookies and none appear to be very malicious.

I've deleted all unecessary programs and defragged the HD.

If things don't improve, I might have to wipe the HD and do a fresh install of Windows ME.

Posted by Paul at 08:40 PM | Comments (0)

July 19, 2004

Record High Temperature in Tokyo

Tokyo was hit by a record-high heat wave today, with a station in the central Otemachi business district reaching 39.5C.

Yikes! I used to work in that area, and it must have been terrible. I used to always wear black pants so the sweat wouldn't show as much while I was commuting, and often took an extra shirt to work from June through August.

Now after five years in Burnaby on the west coast of Canada, I start grumbling when the mercury climbs past 23 or 24C.

Hope the electrical grid is holding up in Tokyo!

Posted by Paul at 11:48 PM | Comments (0)

July 17, 2004

CFL Alumni Allstars Beat Vancouver Police 21-19

CFLPA Pro Players Alumni Allstars beat a Vancouver Law Enforcement slow-pitch baseball team 21-19 tonight, helped by a touchdown that put the allstars out of reach.

A touchdown? Yep, well behind on the crisp performance of the police, the Canadian Football League alumni allstars pulled out a football and ran a play that took them around the bases for a 7 pointer.

It was all in good fun to raise money for the Children's Wish Foundation.

There were skydivers and all sorts of silly antics on the field. One highlight was when a couple of "ruffians" ran onto the field and "stole" a ballglove, only to be taken down by police dogs. Man, those are some well-trained animals. They displayed single-minded focus despite the roar of the crowd.

It was a fun way to spend a glorious sunny evening.

Posted by Paul at 09:41 PM | Comments (0)

July 16, 2004

King Arthur Was Ukrainian!

Yep, according to the latest movie interpretation, King Arthur was Ukrainian.

Thanks to a friend of a cousin for sending me this link.

I wondered when somebody would make the Sarmatian connection....

It's a stretch, but it's good for a laugh!

Posted by Paul at 07:08 PM | Comments (0)

Quickbooks Pro 2004 Oddities

We subscribe to an Intuit Quickbooks monthly plan which keeps us up to date with new releases of the software and payroll management updates.

I recently upgraded to Quickbooks Pro 2004. I took my time because our accountant always grumbles that we upgrade too quickly, forcing him to do the same :-).

When I tried to email a client an invoice the other day, the program plugged in a link for online payment by credit card, instead of simply attaching a PDF of the invoice, as it had done in the past.

When I checked our registration information, I was suprised to see that we suddenly had an online payment "token." Hmm. Some years back we had signed up for Intuit's credit card processing system, but when they instituted a $35/month fee, we dropped out.

So are we suddenly enrolled again? I have yet to get a response to an email I sent earlier today. There better not be any extra entries on our VISA bill!

Posted by Paul at 06:47 PM | Comments (0)

Spontaneous Reboot on W2K Boxen

Our two main work computers both spontaneously rebooted at the same time today. It was eerie.

The machines are nearly identical. Both have Asus A7V motherboards, with slightly different revisions. Aside from one having 512MB of RAM and the other 256MB of RAM, and one having a CD writer while other has just a plain CD drive, that's about it for differences.

Both run Windows 2000, are behind a router, have the latest OS patches and updates, have updated antivirus software and Spybot software...

I hadn't installed any new software recently. I wondered about a power surge, however a old Dell box running Fedora Core 2 was not affected.

I searched Google, and there are many reports of W2K boxes spontaneously rebooting for a variety of apparent reasons.

This is the first time it's happened to us in the nearly four years we've had these machines. And why both at the same time?

I just hope it doesn't happen again, as I was in the middle of editing an article for a client. Fortunately only a few changes were lost.

Posted by Paul at 06:19 PM | Comments (0)

July 13, 2004

Byrne Creek Mailing List

I recently signed up with PairList for a mailing list for the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers.

Members of the group and other interested people communicate extensively by email, and it was becoming difficult to maintain CC lists. I hope people will transition to the new list.

In the 24 hours since I announced the list, five people have signed up, so that's a start.

Posted by Paul at 07:40 PM | Comments (0)

July 07, 2004

Trying Open Office

I've been gradually trying out Open Office for word processing and spreadsheets. It saved my bacon the other day when a client sent me a file that kept crashing Word 2000.

I opened the file with Open Office Writer and started working on it. However, I soon discovered that I wasn't up to speed on OO, and I really needed to pump out the job quickly, so I saved the file and tried opening it again in Word, and voila, no more crashes.

One thing I've noticed that I miss in OO Writer is indication of cursor line and column position on the status bar. I get a lot of work editing newspaper articles, and I need to know these stats for headline length, etc.

I searched the OO website, and discovered that OO Writer can't do that, yet. However my search didn't turn up if the team plans to add the feature. I hope they do!

Posted by Paul at 07:42 PM | Comments (0)

July 06, 2004

Frustrated Turtle

Our red-eared slider turtle Midori is going through her "eggy" phase, and it's tough to watch her apparent suffering.

You see, when we brought her to Canada from Japan where we orginally got her as a pet when she was not much bigger than a toonie, we were told as part of the import procedures that we were not allowed to breed her.

So late spring every year she starts getting antsy, and unfortunately gets no relief. Placid throughout most of the year, as the hormones surge, she becomes increasingly active, pacing throughout the house searching for a mate.

She sniffs the corners, scratches at the carpet, looks longingly at herself in any reflective surface, and demands increasing attention from us. Whenever she spots us, she comes trundling over, begging to be cuddled and stroked. She stretches her head upward and pushes up with her front legs in an "uppy, uppy!" motion.

I guess the contact takes her mind off her struggle.

I sometimes get the feeling that in hopes of finding a guy, she drags out the process, causing herself additional pain as the eggs get larger. Then again, what does a guy know?

Eventually she'll start laying, but until then, she'll be doing laps in and out of her tank and around the house.

She can't even sleep through the night anymore, and lately often wakes us up when she pushes chairs around in the kitchen nook at 5:00 a.m.

turtle_midori_emerging_from_bed.jpg

Midori sometimes likes to sleep in a cushy basket on top of a hot water bottle. Here she is emerging one morning a few weeks ago when she was still sleeping through the night.

Posted by Paul at 08:00 PM | Comments (0)

July 05, 2004

Edmonds Reborn

Stream of Dreams co-founder Louise Towell wrote an eloquent letter about the rebirth of the Edmonds area of Burnaby that appeared in the Burnaby Now newspaper on Saturday.

It's a vision of hope, with the community, business and the natural environment co-existing and improving. It's a definite read for anyone who cares about our community.

Way to go, Louise!

Posted by Paul at 08:18 PM | Comments (0)

July 04, 2004

Policeman's Helmet Overruns Byrne Creek

On our daily walk today we went downstream on Byrne Creek below Byrne Bridge, and were shocked to see thick stands of invasive Policeman's Helmet, AKA Himalayan Balsam, lining both sides of the creek as far as the eye could see.

This highly prosperous plant is not native to Canada, and loves water, choking out native species and clogging waterways.

Streamkeepers have been plugging away at removing it, however the task seems overwhelming.

I'll go back again when I'm wearing heavier clothing, as I could only get as far as the confluence with John Matthews Creek. Thick Himalayan Blackberries (another highly succesful invasive plant) and stinging nettles blocked my path today, and I wasn't going to fight through those painful species in a T-shirt!

Invasive_Himalayan_Balsam_Byrne_Creek_20040704.jpg

The tall plants with the purplish-pink flowers along both sides of the creek are Policeman's Helmet. Some are well over 2m tall! You can't even see the creek, which runs on a line from the top center of the photo to the bottom right.

The BC government recently announced it will spend more on fighting invasive species. You can read the press release here.

Posted by Paul at 06:44 PM | Comments (0)

July 02, 2004

Firefox Bug Resolved

I've been using Mozilla Firefox 0.9.1 for a couple of days now as my default browser, and it's been a smooth switch, aside from one bug.

When I'd click on a link in an email message, Firefox would fire up OK, however a "what program do you want to use" box would also pop up. After several annoying instances of this happening, I decided to choose Firefox, even though it was already opening.

That resulted in *two* Firefox windows opening each time I clicked a link in an email message!

There is a fix, posted by CritterNYC to the MozillaZine forums, and it can be found here.

1. Open Explorer
2. Select Tools and then Folder Options
3. Select the File Types tab
4. Select Extension: (NONE), File Type: HyperText Transfer Protocol
5. Click Advanced toward the bottom of the window
6. In the Edit File Type window, select open and click Edit
7. Clear the DDE message box (which should contain "%1")
8. Click OK, Click OK
9. Repeat for File Type: HyperText Transfer Protocol with Privacy

Posted by Paul at 07:22 PM | Comments (0)

July 01, 2004

Happy Canada Day!

We spent a gorgeous, sunny Canada Day volunteering at the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers booth at Richmond Park/Eastburn Community Centre.

City, provincial and federal politicians showed up, and we spoke with several of them. It was fun checking out the other displays and watching the crowds.

Several people who dropped by our booth had interesting stories to tell about Byrne Creek and its neighborhood. We really need to record some of this oral history before it is lost.

ByrneCreek_CanadaDay2004.jpg

Posted by Paul at 06:36 PM | Comments (0)