"When faced with a problem you do not understand,
do any part of it you do understand; then look at it again."
~(Robert A. Heinlein - "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress")

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Check Where'd my Comment go?!!! to avoid losing it.

Monday, December 31, 2012


This is a Ricoh Singlex TLS (Through the Lens System) single-lens reflex 35mm camera ...

This model was developed in 1967. In early 1972, I bought one very much like it (along with a 300mm telephoto lens) for the events I posted about in Adventure of a Lifetime, and its sequel The Adventure - Continued (about my trips to Cape Canaveral to watch the launches of Apollo 16 and Apollo 17). 

I used it for fourteen years, until mid-1986 when I had to sell it during an extended period of unemployment.

It was totally manual, with the only electronic part being a built-in light meter, using the match-needle exposure system.  Other than the rewind knob (with folding lever) on top of the camera, at the right end of the picture above, the main controls were here ...

You'd open the back, thread in the film (up to 36 exposures on a roll), close the back and thumb the advance lever to move the film (one frame each time) and cock the shutter.

The shutter speed and film speed controls were combined on a single knob. You'd pull out on that knob (I think. It's been over 26 years now) and turn it to the ASA number for the film you are using (I favored Kodak High-Speed Ektachrome, at 160 ASA). The camera in the picture appears to be set at 100 ASA; that's a 64 showing below it). With the knob back in its normal place (it's spring loaded), turn it to the shutter speed you want (in the picture it's set at 1/500th of a second).

With the match-needle system, a combination of aperture (lens opening) and shutter speed control the exposure.  While looking though the viewfinder, adjust the aperture (set with a ring on the lens) and/or shutter speed until the needle visible in the viewfinder is centered.

What I liked so much about it was that the controls were relatively simple, becoming instinctive with practice, and easy to use just by feel. The shutter button I've pointed out above is actually a top button that presses on the real button inside the camera. The part that protrudes above the rest has a tapered threaded hole in it, to which various release cables or timer devices can be screwed in that use a rod to press the button (or lever or whatever) inside the camera.

That button, with that raised part is easy enough to find by feel, but it can be improved even further with a screw-in "soft button", like this one ...

i had a black version screwed into mine, and it allowed for a more sensitive touch when trying to shoot without unduly disturbing the camera, especially at slow shutter speeds.

As you can see from the picture below (of a different camera) ...
It would also make it even easier to locate by feel.

For an air show, I would use the telephoto lens I mentioned above, presetting my exposure by picking an airplane on the ground that showed a good combination of light and shadow, setting the slowest shutter speed I could get away with using that lens (around 1/30th of a second). I did that because a lot of the planes I would be shooting had propellers and really fast shutter speeds would freeze those props.

I preferred color slide film because, with it, "What you shot was what you got."  When shooting an airplane in the sky, you got a lot of very bright sky in the background. With color negative film, automatic processors would interpret that as overexposure, and would "correct" it when doing the prints. The only way around that with negative film and prints would be to pay for custom developing, trying to explain just what you were after (surprisingly difficult; I'll get back to that in a bit).

With that old-fashioned manual antique, I could even take shots while driving. Just preset the exposure and focus and, if something interesting showed up, pick up the camera with one hand, thumb the advance lever and shoot. Piece of cake.

Ok. So much for past history. What do I try to take pictures with today?

At the moment, I have two cameras. An Olympus D-520 ZOOM pocket camera I've used for some blog pictures recently. I've had it for years, but nothing at all instinctive about it. And, a Canon Power Shot SX-10 IS (IS is for Image Stabilization) that I bought around late October of 2009.

I liked it a lot, but in late 2010 I began experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome leaving very little feeling in my finger tips. It was (and still is) like trying to do things with gloves on.

Both of the cameras have very small controls and shutter buttons that are flush with the camera body. I simply cannot operate them by feel alone.

This became glaringly obvious when I took the Canon to an airshow in October of 2010. I vented about it in Airshow, after not being able to get even one decent shot, because I had to keep taking my eye out of the viewfinder to make sure my fingertip was even on the shutter button.

If you want to to try and preset either one, you have to wade through several menus, and your settings only remain while the camera is switched on.

As for quick shooting, you look through the viewfinder, press the button halfway down (really fun when you can hardly even feel it) and wait a second or two while the camera automatically tries to work out exposure and focus, and finally tells you it's happy and you can finish pushing the shutter button.

Such is progress. :(

(And, YES! I'm actually considering going for an old 35mm camera. Scanning the slides (especially if there are a lot of them) can be a nuisance, as is waiting a day or two to even get the slides back. I'll have to find out what services are available -- and affordable.)

The thing I said I'd get back to was about explaining things to people. The most frustrating thing about this is talking to camera salesmen and seeing in their eyes that I might as well be speaking in South Martian -- They haven't a clue as to what I am talking about.  Never, never think that just because they sell the things they actually know something about them. That is an assumption; all too often unwarranted.

What I'd love to find would be a digital version of that old Ricoh Singlex, as manual and mechanical as possible, and of course with controls I can actually feel.

Any ideas?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Two Movies. (Updated)

Right now, I'd rather talk about them than about politics.

You may have guessed that I absolutely love movies, and devour them.

Since the disaster of November 6, I haven't felt like seeing anything until I finally went out and caught Skyfall (2012) Monday evening. I'll get back to it in a bit, but if you surmise from the fact that I've even mentioned it here, that I liked it a lot, then (in Yoda speak), "Be mighty correct you would!" :-)

I don't recall what was the last thing I saw before the election, but the best thing (about three weeks before) was Argo (2012).

What's it about?  In late 1979, when Iranian militants stormed and took over the American Embassy in Tehran, six Americans (seeing what was likely to happen), slipped out of one of the back doors and made their way to the Canadian Ambassador's residence where they were given refuge.

The CIA worked up a plan to get them out of the country by giving them false identities as a Canadian film crew scouting out exotic locations for a science-fiction movie named "Argo" (actually based on a real script that was never  produced).

Not at all far fetched; a few years prior George Lucas and company spent some time in Tunisia shooting desert scenes for this little thing called "Star Wars".

CIA operative Tony Mendez, who was a specialist at getting people out of very bad places, went in with the necessary (and false) documents and handled the operation.

Ben Affleck directed this, and played Mendez.

Sometime back, I posted Presence in which I tried to define the term with examples of what it was. In that post, I mentioned Affleck as an example of what it was not. Give it a look, Ok?. It's one I'm rather fond of.

After seeing "Argo", I updated the post, noting that it was time for me to stop picking on Affleck. He has greatly improved as an actor, and as a director he is absolutely first rate. This is his third directorial effort (after "Gone, Baby, Gone", and "The Town"). For a while this year, I considered "The Avengers" as the best movie of 2012, just for its pure entertainment value. I still love that movie, but I now consider "Argo" the best. If it's still showing in your town, I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Ok, then. The title of this post is "Two Movies". So let's get on with "Skyfall".

This is the third time for Daniel Craig as James Bond, and was directed by Sam Mendes (who had worked with Craig before, in a Tom Hanks movie, Road to Perdition (2002), set during Prohibition in which Hanks is an enforcer (with a Tommy gun) working for mob boss Paul Newman. Craig played Newman's son, whose actions result in all out war between Hanks and Newman.)

In "Skyfall", MI-6, and especially M (played again by the wonderful Judi Dench) come under attack by a former MI-6 operative who feels that he was sacrificed by M, that this was a betrayal, and is just not going to get over it.

That operative is played by Javier Bardem, the killer in No Country for Old Men (2007), and he is something else as an adversary. I think I'm correct in using that term instead of villain, as his motive is vengeance, which he feels is entirely justified.

Everyone in "Skyfall" is first rate, but when Bardem shows up he makes the movie his own. Simply put, the man is mesmerizing. Should I ever expand my "Presence" post further, he would be a perfect addition.

Seeing how menacing he could be in "No Country" and "Skyfall", it's difficult to believe that, before "No Country", this Spaniard was mostly known for romantic comedies in Europe. When the script for "No Country" was submitted to him, he called the Coen brothers to say, "I can't drive. I speak bad English. And, I hate violence! Are you sure you've got the right guy?"

Maybe it was something that only the Coens could see, but they certainly had the right guy that time. As is also the case for "Skyfall".

After fifty years of 007, this latest is, if not the absolute best, is certainly damned near the top of the list.  Am I recommending it?

Do you really have to ask? :-)

Update - Thu, 13 Dec 2012 - The # 1 reason to check out "Skyfall" ...

Top photo from explore.bfi.org.uk, lower 
photo from bjjjicjalapicture.blogspot.com

Those two photos are of Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh in "No Country for Old Men". Supposedly, his first reaction to the hair style he would wear for the film was, "Oh, Great! Now I wont get laid for months."

He was nominated for a best supporting actor Academy award for that role, and WON.

And now, here he is as Raoul Silva in "Skyfall" ...

The top photo of this pair is from weblogs.variety.com, and the lower 
(a behind the scenes picture of his character, obviously in disguise 
as that character is not on the side of the angels) is from ifc.com

I mentioned above his nomination and win of an Academy award for "No Country". Well, it could happen again. I've just read that he's been nominated for best supporting actor for this role. I wouldn't be terribly surprised if he wins this time too.

Update - Tue, 22 Jan 2012 - Well, HELL!!! - Don't recall just where I read of Bardem's nomination, but I've just now seen the Academy Awards list.  He has not been nominated this time.  Dammit!  He shoulda been!.  :(

Sunday, December 09, 2012

"I'll be back."

  ~The Terminator (1984)

I rather doubt that my entrance will be nearly as dramatic as the one it made, when it kept its promise a few minutes later.

It's been almost a solid month since my last post ("Things could be worse!"), which was a "whistling past the graveyard" effort to disguise the fact that, since the election, I've slipped into the blackest depression in memory.

But, there's only so long that one just stay in a hole and cover it over him. This mess will be with us for years now, and I'll just have to live with it.

I'm a bit burnt out over politics now (for some unfathomable reason), although I'll eventually get back to that.

I'm going to try and catch up on some movies (if you look at the "Categories" list in the left column, click on "Movies", and wade through the results, you'll discover my true passion.

I'm also considering a post or two on hank Williams songs. While I've never been married, I've seen plenty of other people's marriages. and while most are good, more than a few can be described perfectly by his songs ...

      "I remember when you were nice and sweet.
      "Things have changed; you'd rather fight than eat!"
        (Middle verse of "Long Gone Daddy".)

See! There's a whole world of things to write about that are far less depressing than politics. I just need to get to it.

A couple of days after I posted "Things ...", I got this email from a former boss of mine whom I'm proud to consider one of my very best friends ...


Some of your posts are really good so don't stop! 

But how did a Texas Hill Country boy, from the heart of German rational liberalism get to where your views are today - don't answer that?

Your friend, Bryan

Well, to answer what he said not to, I got to where my views are today because I learned!

But, as to his advice on posting, who am I to argue with his logic?  The fact is he is simply one of the smartest people I have ever known. 

And he knows it. :-)


Sunday, November 11, 2012

"Things could be worse!"

... my neighbor would reassure me during the early days of the Great Depression. No matter how bad things got, he would trot out that saying.

And -- you know something? -- He was RIGHT!  -- Things got worse!

~Will Rogers, supposedly. I do recall reading of him saying something like this, but have been unable to confirm it through google. But, "Life's too short!" I'm gonna stand by my recollection.

Our nightmare has now been renewed and there's nothing for it but to survive it.

I'm removing a lot of posts that concerned the debates, as their "sell by" date has expired.

One post I am not removing is Criminally negligent manslaughter ... , my indictment in which I accuse President Barack Obama of needlessly allowing four Americans to be killed, while neither sending in a support and rescue mission nor allowing anyone else to do so.

My original intent was to take down that post when Obama left the office of the Presidency, which I fully expected to occur on Sunday, 20 Jan 2013.

BUT, I've heard that God answers all prayers; sometimes the answer is NO!

I suspect that, a reply from HIM would be ...

"Some of you Republicans got into a snit over Romney not being conservative enough for you and either sat out the election or wasted your vote on 3rd party candidate Gary Johnson. For whatever reasons, you gave Romney fewer votes than McCain got four years ago. And now, you come crying to ME over what's just happened?!!! This is YOUR mess to clean up. Give me a call when you feel up to doing your part."

So, it would appear that Obama's leave-taking has been postponed for up to four more years.

On reflection, my original intent for that post mentioned above still sounds like a plan, so its removal has also been postponed for -- oh, I don't know -- say up to four more years?

As it's not practical to keep it at the top for all that time, I've replaced my header (just below my site's main picture) with a link and invitation, that will be promenent on any page of my blog.

I'm not going to let this go.

Back to God ...

HE might continue ...

"If you think I'm so unforgiving, you might consider this tender mercy I've bestowed upon you. I did let you hang onto the House, so that on Inauguration Day, 20 Jan 2013, you will NOT be presented with this as Speaker of the House ..."

Nancy Pelosi - from papatodd.com

"I wouldn't do that to anybody. Even the guy below feels remorse for having inflicted that upon you before. So, STOP WHINING!  And get on with it."

"So, could things really be any worse than they are now? Oh, you betcha!"

Update 08 Feb 2013 - I HAVE removed the "Crimially negligent" post I mentioned above, for reasons cited in "Do what you have to do."


Saturday, October 27, 2012

A clue that you may be taking blogging WAY too seriously:

- When you wake up, curious and eager to check the site meter to see the reception of your latest blog post -- a post that is IMPORTANT, a labor of love, one of your best pieces ever -- in short, really, really good -- only to discover that it never happened; you just dreamt it.

Sure wish I could remember details of that post; what it was about and what I wrote.

What I do remember is that it was really, really good.

Damn!!! :(

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Diphenhydramine HCl + Phenylephrine HCl =

... about one step above a coma.

For my first spell in Houston (1964-1984), I could count on coming down with sinus problems and/or allergies about twice a year, usually following the same predictable pattern of a week or two of self-medication followed by finally giving up and going to a doctor to get a shot or something.

When I returned to Houston in 1994, for several years I didn't have this problem. Later, the old patterns returned.

When my job was outsourced in 2004, having a regular doctor was a luxury I simply could not afford. If things got bad enough, I would go to one of the many walk-in clinics we have down here.

A couple of years ago, on one of those occasions, I was prescribed a very expensive oral liquid containing the two ingredients of the title (The "HCl" is for "hydro-chloride"). It would have been about $80.00 for a four oz bottle. I don't recall what the brand name was, but CVS Pharmacies found a generic version for about $40.00. Still expensive, but Damn! - it was effective.

When you were suffering from a runny nose dripping mucus almost like water and dealing with it dripping down your throat, you'd swallow the dose (5 ml; maybe a couple of tablespoons worth) and begin feeling the mucus spigot turning off while the dose was still in your mouth. That's no exaggeration; I suspect it operates much like a nerve agent, perhaps being absorbed by the tongue.

About a year ago, during another bout, I went to CVS to see if I could get a refill, only to learn that neither the original prescribed drug nor its generic equivalent were still available. The girl I talked to looked up the ingredients  and then pointed me towards Delsym Night Time Cough & Cold medicine, for which I would not need a prescription.  Only $9.99 for a four oz bottle.

Every bit as effective as the prescribed version. But, it does pack a wallop. Diphenhydramine hydro-chloride is a key ingredient in many sleep aids.

The top line of this post (about "one step above a coma") is no exaggeration; I'm on it now, and just sitting here in front of the computer, composing this, is a Herculean task.

So, be careful with it. :-)

Monday, October 15, 2012

"... you tend to write about zombies from time to time."

- That's news to me, unless you count some of my political posts. :-)

Got this astonishing email this morning ...
Subject: Question about paulinhouston.blogspot.com

Hi there!

I stopped by paulinhouston.blogspot.com earlier today and noticed you tend to write about zombies from time to time. Because of that, I thought it might be worth it to share an article with you published by CB Structures Inc. with detailed information on how to prepare a barn or garage for the zombie apocalypse.

Check it out here:


If you have a second, I'd love to have you check it out and see if it may be of interest to your readers or tie into one of your upcoming stories. Or, if you'd be willing to share it with any of your fans and followers, that would be great, too!

Any questions, please let me know. It's also cool if you want to give me a call at the number below. And thanks for taking a second to check out this article.

Have a great weekend! Oh... and if you watch it, enjoy the premiere of 'The Walking Dead' on tonight!

J******* B****
425 North Prince Street
Lancaster, PA 17601
PH: 717-***-***

To be CAN SPAM compliant, we need to give you an unsubscribe link... so here it is.

Now, this is an example of serendipity in blogging. I ask you, if given that line I used as my title, how could you not make a post of it in reply?

As far as I can determine, CB Structures is a legitimate outfit, headquartered in Pennsylvania, specializing in pole barns and various kinds of steel-frame structures.

Apparently someone in their organization with a sense of humor (is that allowed in business? :-) put up that page linked above. It is a fun read and you'll be going, "That even makes sense!".

I censored part of the sender's info because of the following ...

ProspectMX, LLC is an internet marketing services agency, established in late 2007, and I'm guessing that CD Structures Inc is one of their clients.

The email to me is almost certainly an attempt to get some exposure for their client, and I have to question their judgment in sending it to me. Let's face it: As much as I love my blog, my site is not Michelle Malkin's nor InstaPundit's; either of those will get more hits in a few minutes than the few hundred or so this post of mine will get in several months.

Also, the same Google search I used to get that info turned up this as well ...


It makes for interesting reading, but I'm not at all sure how much credence to give it.  It's mostly a "he said - she said" account that could be accurate, could be the gripes of a disgruntled employee, or a mixture of both.

I'm not in a position to recommend anything here except to read and enjoy the zombie apocalypse link above.

If you go beyond that, well, I didn't take you to raise. :-)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

THIS is unconscionable ...

... if this story is accurate.

From The Strata-Sphere ...

Deployed Military Having Serious Trouble Voting Absentee

Yesterday, I sent that link to every blogger I follow, hoping that someone with access to Romney's campaign would check it out and bring it to his attention if verified.

I'll see who I can find to send it to (while realizing that this would only be one tiny drop in a very large bucket).

Update 1520 CDT, Sun, 14 Oct 2012 - So far, the best ones I can think of to send that post to are my U.S Senators (John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutcheson - both Republicans) and my U.S. Representative John Culberson - also Republican -- if I lived a few blocks away, I would be in the district of Sheila Jackson Lee, in which case my appeal would be in vain.

It's not difficult to find contact pages for these people but, as they receive an enormous amount of email, they only accept such from people residing within their districts.

As the two senators each represent the entire population of Texas (over 25 million now), and Culberson only represents Texas Congressional District 7 (we have 32 now -- to be increased to 36 in 2013 ) with a population of a bit over 650,000, that suggests that he might get only about 1/40th the volume of email the others get. That makes him my best hope at the moment.

Anyway, I emailed them. So, we shall see.

Friday, October 12, 2012

You CANNOT make this stuff up.

I dare you to even try.

The wit and wisdom of Obama deputy campaign manager, Stephanie Cutter ...

Cutter: This Benghazi thing is only a big deal because Romney and Ryan won’t stop talking about it

What could one possibly add to that?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Sound of Movies ... (Updated 06 Oct 2012)

... is just too damned low when the classics are presented.

Seen ...
1) 23 Aug 2012 - 7:00 PM - Sundance Cinema, Houston
      Jaws (1975)

2) 31 Aug 2012 - Midnight - River Oaks Theater, Houston
      The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)

3) 19 Sep 2012 - 7:00 PM - Edwards 23 & IMAX - Houston
      The Birds (1962)

4) 20 Sep 2012 - 6:45 PM - Sundance Cinema, Houston
      The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

Coming up ...
5) 27 Sep 2012 - 7:30 PM - Sundance Cinema, Houston
      The African Queen (1951)

6) 05 Oct 2012 - Midnight - River Oaks Theater, Houston
      Casablanca (1942)

What do all of those movies have in common? Every single one of them has monaural sound, and in too many cases the theater people don't seem to have a clue as to how to handle it.

Five of the six movies listed above have been digitally remastered, and are being digitally projected in theaters prior to release on blu-ray.

Of the four I've seen, Jaws, The Birds, and Bridge were beautiful visually, but horrible in sound, being played way too low so you really had to strain to hear anything, totally ruining what should have been a wonderful experience (seeing them once again, on a big screen, with an audience that absolutely loves movies).

The odd man out of the bunch was Creature, which was a film presentation (in two-color 3D) and while I wasn't too thrilled trying to watch it through red and blue cellophane in cardboard 3D "glasses" that wouldn't stay in place (see Marquee (Updated) ), I had no problems hearing it, as the River Oaks Theater people seemed to understand what a volume control was for.

With the others, you don't really have a film at all.  Instead, there is a removable hard-drive (about the size of a large paperback book, of several hundred gigabytes capacity) that's couriered into the theater (for security reasons), plugged into a digital projector (Sony 4k, probably) and is already preset as to volume (and other) levels. I suspect the projectionist is very reluctant to over-ride the preset levels.

As to why they are set so low (for mono), I haven't a clue.

But I'm here to tell you that they are.

I had an argument discussion with a ticket collector at the Edwards, who asked me how I liked The Birds, and when I told him of my problems, tried to tell me it "was always like that, you're dealing with sound technology over 40 years old."

Well, my response (not voiced then) should have been ...


When those movies were first released, you had no problem hearing them, as they were presented by people who knew what the Hell they were doing.

Could this be the whining rant of a 70-year old man whose hearing just ain't what it used to be?

Well, you're free to think that, BUT ...

I absolutely love movies, and go to a Hell of a lot of them. So far, it has only been the examples above that I've had problems with (with the rare exception of the presentation problems mentioned in John Hawkes - Man of Steel, which turned out to be a projectionist either ignoring or failing to notice a tag attached to the film specifying the sound level it should be played at).

While arguing discussing this with that ticket collector I mentioned above, I was waiting to go in to see Dredd (Karl Urban's venture into the world of the British comic book series Judge Dredd). Enjoyed the hell out of it, and being a modern production, had no problem whatever with hearing it.

I talked to the theater manager at the Sundance Cinema about this, expressing concern about the same for the upcoming showing of The African Queen.  He promised to pass it along to his projectionist.  We'll see. And I'll update this and let you know how it turns out.

This time, I'm going to try one of their hearing-assist headphone devices, just in case. But, considering that I have no problem at all with hearing the normal fare for these theaters, it's inexcusable for this to be necessary.

By the time of the upcoming Casablanca showing, the River Oaks Theater will have completed installation of a digital projection system, so that will be the format it will be shown in.  We'll just have to see if they are similarly cursed when they show it.

I have a very specific agenda in listing the time and place of the showings I griped about. I saw others also straining to hear the movies there. When I talk to managers there, they insist that they've never gotten any complaints.

Well, here's one now. I'm claiming this is a real problem, and asking,
   "What the Hell's the matter with you?!!!"

If you really don't know how to present a monaural movie properly, then please LEARN! If nothing else try turning up the volume a couple of notches.

Maybe that way, you'll avoid ruining yet another experience.

Thank you. :(

Update 2203 CDT, Thursday, 27 Sep 2012 - 
To the powers that be at Sundance Cinema, Houston:  OUTSTANDING!
Just got back from seeing The African Queen. Unlike the horrible experience with Jaws and The Bridge on the River Kwai, this time the sound volume seemed a couple of notches higher. Made all the difference in the world.

That was fortunate, as I couldn't get the hearing-assist headphones to work (carpal tunnel syndrome leaves me with almost no feeling in my fingertips, and that could have been a factor). But I didn't need them. I just regret not being able to report on their effectiveness.

I would so love to believe that someone actually read this post, and that my pleas made a difference. But, I'll take what I can get. Whether or not I had anything at all to do with the tremendous improvement with the audio, the bottom line is that I had a wonderful experience tonight, and I'm cool with that. :-)

Whatever you guys did this time, that is the way to go.

Update 1355 CDT, Sunday, 30 Sep 2012 - In five days, I'll catch Casablanca at its midnight showing at the River Oaks Theater.

As this will be on their brand new digital projection system, I fear the same problems mentioned above are waiting to happen. I forwarded my previous update to Landmark's customer service department (the River Oaks Theater is part of the Landmark chain), requesting it to be sent to the managers of the River Oaks Theater, desperately hoping to avoid yet another major screw-up in presentation.

I also sent it to FathomEvents (who handled The Birds and have some more restored classics on the way).

Those outfits could do much worse than to discuss this with the manager of Sundance Cinema, Houston. When you talk to him about a problem, he actually listens -- and comprehends.

I'll keep you posted on whether that can be said of the others.

Update 0220 CDT, Saturday, 06 Oct 2102 - 
To the managers of the River Oaks Theater, Houston - You done good!
Just got back from the midnight showing of Casablanca.  My worst fears were unrealized. Even with their new digital projection system, they still know what a volume control is. Absolutely beautiful presentation, with fine sound. So nice to know that there are still people you can count on.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

They're rioting in Africa.

They're rioting in Africa.
They're starving in Spain.
There's hurricanes in Florida
   and Texas needs rain.

The whole world is festering with unhappy souls.
The French hate the Germans. The Germans hate the Poles.
Italians hate Yugoslavs. South Africans hate the Dutch
   and I don't like anybody very much!

But we can be tranquil and thankful and proud
for man's been endowed with a mushroom shaped cloud.
And we know for certain that some lovely day
   someone will set the spark off and we will all be blown away.

They're rioting in Africa.
There's strife in Iran.
What nature doesn't do to us
   will be done by our fellow man.

~"The Merry Minuet" - Performed by The Kingston Trio (1959)
    Copyright 1959, by Sheldon Harnick,.

"The more things change ..."

Sunday, September 16, 2012


- The definition of "Computer Science". :(

This so-called "science" is in fact, a "black art", in which the ritual incantations (aka "programming") are sometimes followed by the Manitous residing within the machines and software doing what you want, and sometimes not.

When I learned, in late 2003, that the entire IT department I was in would be outsourced, I replaced an old Compac computer with a new Hewlett-Packard machine, as I anticipated a very long (and ultimately unsuccessful, because of my age) search for a new position.

For a long while, I just used the Internet Explorer browser that was already on the machine. Over time, the subsequent upgrades only increased the size of the browser, and its insatiable appetite for memory usage, to the point where the browser would almost freeze during use.

Not being able to afford upgrading the machine (still the case today), I eventually downloaded Firefox on the advice of a blogger that found it to be far less of a resource hog. This was back in the days of Version 3.03 (I believe we're up to 15-something now) , and I truly did find it to be a great improvement.

But, it too was cursed with upgrades that grew more and more bloated. Having been warned by others, I stayed with Version 3.03, until Blogger.com (the service I use for my blog) no longer supported it, making it impossible for me to edit posts while using it.

This forced me to give Google's Chrome browser a try (Google being the parent of Blogger.com). This worked extremely well, after I got used to its different layout and I was quite cool with it. But, you gotta admire their respect for tradition; it too grew and grew and grew.

A while back, I downloaded Opera, having heard great things about its low-resource performance, and it's been my browser of choice for most things (I find most of my credit card and payroll accounts appear to be optimized for Internet Explorer, so I use it for them, and Chrome is best for editing my blog).

On Sunday, 09 Sep 2012, I visited my site meter (StatCounter) and found the display had gone to Hell ...
This is the Summary page, at which I've set to open this site.

Scrolling down, I approach what I came here for.

Now, I've gotten there. BUT, all that blue crap preceding shouldn't be there.

Having clicked on "Recent Visitor Activity" (at lower left of screen above), the new page opens with the same blue mess before arriving at this ...
Ok, we've gotten there, but it's in the wrong format, only displaying 
in two columns.  Worse, some of the page links no longer work.

This screen, from the Chrome browser, is what it should look like ...

I emailed StatCounter support about that, attaching the screenprints above, wondering, "WHAT have you DONE?  WHAT has Changed?", and expressed that wonder.

They responded ...

Hi Paul,

Sorry to hear this.

May I suggest updating your opera to most updated version if any and also
deleting browser cookies once, rebooting your machine and then re-logging
at statcounter.com

Let me know how this goes.

Ok. My reply to that ...

  I have done this
  Updated to Opera 12.02
  Deleted all browser cookies.
  Logged back onto Statcounter.

Same result, Summary page and Recent Visitor Activity page beginning with that dark blue area shown in the pictures I attached to the initial complaint, seeming to say "We need your feedback" (I think; black text on dark blue background not easy to read.

Visitor page shows in two columns (see pictures), instead of the four displayed on other browsers..

About the links that don't work: this begins about halfway through the fifth visitor entry. From there on down, no response to cursor moving over the links.

There used to be a couple of tabs or something along the right edge of the page; one a toggle to revert to the older version of statcounter, the other I don't remember. They're gone now, and it seems the problem started around then.

As far as I can tell, it is only on Opera that this occurs; IE, Firefox, Chrome doing just fine.

As you've not said otherwise, shall I assume you've tested on Opera, and have been unable to duplicate this?

Their reply ...

Hi Paul,

Yes - StatCounter is working perfectly for me in Opera.
No - not able to duplicate the problem which makes things difficult!

Have you tried a full refresh? (press CTRL and the F5 key simultaneously)
One possible explanation would be that you have an out of date CSS file
stored in your browser.

May I ask - are you using extensions or add ons in Opera?
Are you using anti-virus software?
Updates in either of the above cases could cause an issue.
Let us know what(if any) you're using.

Have you tried Opera on a different machine? If it works on another machine
for you then we have narrowed the potential causes down a bit.

I'm sorry about the open-ended questions - but they are necessary to try to
diagnose the problem.

Note: we have lots of Opera users actively using StatCounter as I type so
this would appear to be something of a local issue rather than a widespread

Please let us know you comments on all the above. Thanks!

At that point, my first reaction was "Life's too short!!!"

I experimented with some other browsers, seeking low-resource alternatives.

I tried Ace Explorer and Avant, which are both stripped versions of Internet Explorer. While there were some things I liked in each of them, they both had problems (not with StatCounter's site) that made me decide to not stay with them.

Last night, I removed them. A bit later, I pulled up Opera and went to StatCounter.

It's now working just the way it's supposed to.

I suppose it's quite possible the Un-install processes I ran may have cleared out something that was causing the problem (without even attempting to explain how it got there in the first place).

BUT, having spent a generation in IT (as programmer and trouble-shooter - favoring a .45), I can attest that ...
   "When the moon is in the Seventh House
    And Jupiter aligns with Mars"
       ~The 5th Dimension, "Age of Aquarius"

and ...
   "The phase of the moon"

are equally plausible as explanations for the random and capricious behavior of software.

I let them know, giving the opinion on "computer science" I voiced at the top of this post and added ...

I suspect we differ mostly in which entities we pray to; mine sometimes being Native-American to appease the Manitou's within the computer, and yours perhaps being Celtic*. :-)

Bottom line: We're good!

(* - StatCounter is based in Dublin, Ireland)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Inferiority Complex

There's nothing more dangerous in a culture acquiring nukes.

We're speaking now of a people who, many by choice, are a millennium out of date, can never catch up and compete with the West, and probably know it to the depths of their souls.

In such a situation, would they question their beliefs (under which they have been raised for generations) and alter them?

Not bloody likely;  that's just contrary to human nature.

What's much more likely is to feel that others are holding them down and, when their only talents seem to be destruction, try to level the playing field by bringing those others down with them.

From Michelle Malkin's If it’s Friday in the Muslim world, it’s time for another Islamic Rage Boy riot!!!! ...

The dhimmi media continues to insist that the latest anti-infidel conflagration is about the stupid Internet film that none of the brigades of Islamic Rage Boys care about or have seen. Tools.

For years, we’ve chronicled the wholly manufactured “Friday is jihad riot day” phenomenon in the Muslim world.

 Teddy bear named Mohamed? Time to riot!

 Salman Rushdie knighted? Time to riot!

 Mohammed cartoons? Time to riot!

 Documentary critical of the Koran? Time to riot!

Problem is, while absolutely ridiculous, there's nothing remotely funny about lunatics with deadly weapons.

Stating the problem clearly is an essential step towards finding a solution. I hope I've done a decent (and accurate) job of so stating it. Unfortunately, I have no solution (unless I'm just refusing to face it -- also quite in keeping with human nature).

Commentor DesertLover, on Malkin's post above, provided a link to this ...
from www.desertlover.com

DesertLover claims no credit for it;  someone sent it to him on his facebook page and he posted it as is.  Being linked on Malkin's site, I wouldn't be at all surprised if it goes viral. I'd like that.

Is that the solution? Most likely only a part of it (but, an essential part). It bought time (25 years; that ain't chopped liver), and sometimes that's the best one can hope for.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I've updated my 9/11 post.

A year ago I posted ...

  CALL it "The Freedom Tower" ...
  ... Not that mind-numbing bureaucratese of "One World Trade Center".

I've updated it and added a few new pictures.

But, those of you who only follow me on Google Reader and other RSS readers would never know it, because the updated version doesn't appear at the top of the RSS feed and I've yet to find any way of changing that (short of republishing the post under a different URL).

So, until I manage to suss that out, I'll just have to point you there with the link above.

If you know of how to re-position a post within an RSS feed, I'd love to hear from you.

Thanks, in advance.

Addendum - 1848 CDT, Tuesday, 11 Sep 2012 - Some of my attempts to move its location in the RSS feed resulted in temporarily messing up the URL of the post, so some people got a Page Not Found error. That should be fixed now.  If that's what you got, give it another try with the link above.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Marquee (Updated)

(Originally posted Thursday, 30 Aug 2012 - Updated below)

This pretty well mandates where I will be late this Friday evening (Aug 31) and past midnight. ...
Taken Thursday afternoon, 30 Aug 2012

That is the River Oaks theater, of which I've written before in The Zen of Firefly and Serenity ... and "You keep using that word.

It is our Mecca for art films. The listing at the right is for the normal daily schedule, and is pretty representative of what they schedule.  The panel on the left is usually for whatever they schedule for their weekend (Friday and Saturday) midnight specials.

And what does that panel promise this weekend? ...

I first saw Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) (but not in 3D) as a kid in San Antonio, in the mid '50s, at a 16mm showing in an elementary school.  I recall watching it with my hands over my eyes, peeking through fingers. (Not at all sure how that kid would have handled the "chest burster" scene from "Alien" 25 years later.)

So, YES, I'm going. But, I've had several instances of seeing again something I fondly remembered from years ago only to discover that I was remembering it as better than it actually was.

I'll try and keep my expectations within reason and hope for the best. :-)

For those in Houston, here's the latest Midnight Movie schedule ...
Right-click on it and Open in New Tab for easier reading.

Update - Tuesday 04 Sep 2012 - I went to see it that Friday night.

As I feared above, I remembered it as better than it actually was. Not bad, but the movie a twelve year old kid watched peeking through his fingers might now be considered as "quaint".

The worst part of the experience was watching it through cardboard 3D "glasses" with red and blue plastic filters to see through. Just trying to keep them in place was a serious detraction.

To give the movie a fair shake, I got the DVD (not 3D, so much clearer and less headache inducing). From one of the bonus extras on the DVD, I learned that the original 3D process they used in the '50s used two separate projectors for the left eye and right eye images, through polarizing filters and had polarized lenses in the glasses to make for a better viewing experience.

I knew about polarizing, but did not know about the separate projectors (assuming they had put the double images on a single film as they do with the two-color process - which was the version shown at the River Oaks).

The use of two simultaneous projectors made for a much brighter picture, but was a nightmare for the theaters, as they had to be in perfect synchronization for it to work. Get out of sync by just a few frames and the image went to Hell when any motion was involved (as did the viewer trying to watch it).

I saw one of those polarized 3D movies when it first came out (a western called The Charge at Feather River (1953), which of course had things coming at you in 3D, including a rattlesnake strike) and it was a thing of beauty.

But very few theaters could afford projectionists professional enough to handle the complexities of properly showing the films. I'm pretty sure that's a major reason for 3D dying out for such a long time. Modern day digital equipment makes it possible for a minimum wage projectionist to manage it without screwing up (although one should never underestimate the possibilities in that regard).

Bottom line on "Creature":  An underwater version of King Kong (1933), with one of the most iconic monster suits in movie history ...

(Screencaps from DVD)

Pleasant dreams. :-)

Sunday, September 02, 2012

To Friends & Followers of Blogger Wolf Howling ...

Early last December, after one of his occasional absences, I posted Wolf Howling is BACK ... in which I noted:
After a seven and a half month absence (since May 22), one of my favorite bloggers ( Wolf Howling ) has put up five new posts in the last two days.

In a comment to one of those posts, I wondered "What happened?", and suggested that that was worthy of a post of its own.

If he picks up on that, I suspect that a quote from John Lennon would likely cover it:

"Life is what happens while we're making other plans."

He answered me in a comment to my post noting that the Lennon quote covered a goodly portion of it, along with Blogger.com ceasing to work for him with the introduction of their new user interface. He finally got back into action after switching to Chrome as his browser of choice. (By the purest of coincidences, Chrome is a product of Google, which also runs Blogger.com. Go figure.)

Well this time, after a four+ month absence (since Apr 22 -- is there something about the 22nd which makes him decide, "Ok! I'm outta here!" ?!!! :-), once again he has put up five new posts in the last two days.

Beginning to see a pattern here?

Maybe something similar has occurred this time, or maybe something else. If he wanted to talk about it, he probably would have posted something by now.

"I suspect it's one of those great universal mysteries which will either never be explained, or which would drive you mad if you ever learned the truth."
  ~Narn Ambassador G'Kar in "Babylon 5"

At the moment, mine is the only new comment on his blog, so many who have followed him may not be aware that he's back. So, some of you might want to pass this news along. Ok?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Practical effect

- In movies, an effect produced, not in post-production nor with computer-generated imagery (CGI), but live on the set with materials of the real world.

Sometimes, simple is best.

Looking up something in the HBO TV series Rome (2005-2007), I came across episode 8 of the second season ("A Necessary Fiction") in which the girl Eirene, taken as wife by Titus Pullo has been poisoned. In her death scene, you can literally see the life fading out of her eyes, and a second look made me realize what I had to have been seeing.

Screencaps from DVD. Watch the eyes ...

Going ...

Gone ...

In fact, it was the light I saw leaving her eyes. Have her look at a particular point while a light is reflected in her eyes. That light is on a rheostat (dimmer) which is cranked down at the appropriate time.

I doubt this is the first time this trick has been used, as all of the materials required were available as far back as Edison's time. About as simple as you can get, and startlingly effective.

But often the very best effects really are so simple.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

WHAT is going on here?

I confess to being addicted to my site meter, checking it often to see what posts of mine have attracted any attention.

What's been getting the most hits lately is Gook, which I published in January of this year.

The hits are coming from people looking for images of the Korean alphabet (I have a couple in the post) and are mostly from the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia.

Is something going on over there that makes a lot of folks feel they should check out the language?

The world wonders.

(Or, at least I do. :-)


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Apocalypse Not:

A link to a link to a link.

Anthony Watts of Watts Up With That? has just posted
 Apocalypse Not: I love the smell of skepticism in the morning,

which in turn links to an essay by Matt Ridley in WIRED Magazine ...
 Apocalypse Not: Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Worry About End Times

WHO or WHAT will cause the 2012 Apocalyse? This is the question posed by the website 2012apocalypse.net. “super volcanos? pestilence and disease? asteroids? comets? antichrist? global warming? nuclear war?” the site’s authors are impressively open-minded about the cause of the catastrophe that is coming at 11:11 pm on December 21 this year*. but they have no doubt it will happen. after all, not only does the Mayan Long Count calendar end that day, but “the sun will be aligned with the center of the Milky Way for the first time in about 26,000 years.”
Case closed: Sell your possessions and live for today.

That is the prompt for Mr. Ridley's essay and he replies ...
When the sun rises on December 22, as it surely will, do not expect apologies or even a rethink. No matter how often apocalyptic predictions fail to come true, another one soon arrives.

The "money quote" is ...
Over the five decades since the success of Rachel Carson’s "Silent Spring" in 1962 and the four decades since the success of the Club of Rome’s "The Limits to Growth" in 1972, prophecies of doom on a colossal scale have become routine. Indeed, we seem to crave ever-more-frightening predictions—we are now, in writer Gary Alexander’s word, apocaholic. The past half century has brought us warnings of population explosions, global famines, plagues, water wars, oil exhaustion, mineral shortages, falling sperm counts, thinning ozone, acidifying rain, nuclear winters, Y2K bugs, mad cow epidemics, killer bees, sex-change fish, cell-phone-induced brain-cancer epidemics, and climate catastrophes.

So far all of these specters have turned out to be exaggerated. True, we have encountered obstacles, public-health emergencies, and even mass tragedies. But the promised Armageddons—the thresholds that cannot be uncrossed, the tipping points that cannot be untipped, the existential threats to Life as We Know It—have consistently failed to materialize. To see the full depth of our apocaholism, and to understand why we keep getting it so wrong, we need to consult the past 50 years of history.

Mr. Ridley then proceeds to lay out his case in examples from that history.

My conclusion from reading them?

If your thinking of the "Case closed:" scenario above, and maxing out your credit cards in an orgy (perhaps literally?) of fun and games and whatever, the odds are that on Dec 22, there will be a "morning after" (in all senses of that term). the new bills will still be there and will still be due.

So, you may want to reconsider. :(

(* - at 11:11 pm on December 21 this year)
 "Is that Eastern Standard Time?"
   ~Arnold Schwarzenegger as Jericho Cain in "End of Days",
      when warned about an apocalyptic event predicted for
      the end of the millennium.


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