Saturday, June 25, 2016

Roses and Lilies in Tanya's Garden

Tanya's flower gardens are responding to the good moisture we have had and the heat we are getting.  The roses and lilies are blooming, with the gladiolas to start in a week or two. Thought you might like to see some pictures.  Click to enlarge.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Exercises in Futility

Britain has beaten America in the race to vote against their own best interests and destroy their country.  However America will catch up in November.  Old white guys get one last kick at the can and are making sure it is a good one.  Frankly my dear (Don't call me Frankly) I don't give a damn about either one other than it is one step closer to throwing Ukraine and the rest of Eastern Europe under the Russian bus.

To keep my mind off of serious things, I have engaged in a series of make work projects.  My sock drawer doesn't take much time so I organized my music, see previous post.  And fight with my new smart phone whenever the spirit moves me. With PC in one hand and phone in the other, I Google "how do I . . ." on the PC and then try it on the phone. Finally got Skype to work on my phone and Viber on my PC. And downloaded a few useful apps.  My credit union has an android app but signing in has proved a problem.

I moved all my phone numbers from my old phone to my new phone via the SIM card.  If I had more than one number under a name, it broke them all into individual contacts, then duplicated some of them for Viber.  So instead of 75 names I have 300.  And will have to hand sort which will be even more work than if I had manually copied them in the first place.

Up to now, Tanya and I have been using wireless dial-up modems on each of our computers but performance has been mixed, with top download speeds of maybe 2 mbps.  Andrei just bought a Huawei EC5321 3G mobile WiFi transceiver and router with speeds of up to 14 mbps and brought it out to our place to try.  Worked like a dream.  I was downloading a movie at 4.4 mbps, unheard of in our location with our technology.  So I bought one, picked it up today.  About $100 CAD. Stuck it in the window and connected both mobile phones and both laptops.  Mobile phones worked wonderfully well. Laptops not so much.  S.L.O.W.  Packed it up and took it back to the Intertelekom dealer at Mir, along with my computer.

No idea what the problem was or what she did but 45 minutes later I was on my way home.  Worked as advertised.  Tanya and I both used our computers at the same time, everything loaded and downloaded faster than usual. I think we have moved our internet technology another step forward.

Not bad for a country where 15 years ago in rural areas it took four hours of trying and retrying to connect to a dial up modem on a land line and any file over 350 KB would not download before the connection was lost.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016


Over the years, I have collected a fair bit of music, going from LPs to tapes, to CDs and computer HD. Since I am not afraid of my own thoughts, I never went the Walkman, iPod, constant noise in my ears route, preferring decent speakers to earbuds.

My new laptop, when it arrives, will not even have a CD/DVD player, so I decided to rip all my remaining unripped CDs to HD.  That along with downloaded music and contributions from others added up to about 6400 songs when I was finished.  Not a lot compared to some but enough.

One would think that ripping a CD to HD would be simple enough. The files would include the cover, the names of the songs and the artist(s).  No such luck, unless they were high priced commercial single artist(s).  Compilations are a problem, as are private label CDs, CDs from tapes or from LPs. My Music folder was an absolute mess and Windows Media Player was no better.

Seeking a make work project that did not involve physical effort, I decided to organize my music.  Someone said iTunes worked well.  Nope. Maybe on Apple stuff, not on PC. Decided to stick with WMP and do the best I could.  I pass on the following in case it is useful to someone. 
  • Set Windows Explorer to View hidden system files on all folders.  Also set all folders to open as large icons.  This makes it easy to clean up album cover messes.
  • Download and install MP3tag  The is a free program though the programmer would appreciate a few bucks if you like it.  It will list all music tracks with all information (tags) and can be sorted 16 ways to breakfast. 
  • With Windows Explorer, Windows Media Player and MP3tag all open and switching back and forth, it is easy to add titles to tracks, names and artists to albums, and album art.
  • To change individual tracks with oddball formats to MP3, I found this on line: Audio converter -

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

What to Write?

Muhammad Ali and Gordie Howe both hung up their gloves in the past couple weeks.  Tremendous losses to their sports.  And to humanity.

The Orlando massacre brought the usual Christians out to rejoice in the murder of anyone not like them and provided grist for more outrage about America's lunatic gun culture.  As one editorial put it, Sandy Hook marked the end of any serious attempt at gun control.  Once you decide it is OK to kill children, anything goes.  And the ammosexuals are now claiming Wounded Knee as the perfect example of why citizens need guns to protect themselves from government.  US Cavalry disarmed a group of Sioux and then shot them all including 200 women and children.

There is a great deal less difference between American and Russian democracy that one might think.  Anyone following the Democratic primaries knew the fix was in.  Now they have proof and are going to court.

Racketeering Lawsuit Exposing Nationwide Vote Rigging in DNC Primaries Could Derail Clinton


Those electronic voting machines are something wonderful.  They gave Bush the presidency the second time when Ohio suddenly switched sides.  They have been shown time and time again to be totally unreliable except for fixing votes.  So why use them?  Other countries managed to actually count ballots, though I hear Putin is interested in them as busing people from poll to poll is expensive.  Erdogan should try them too.  Then the electricity wouldn't have to simultaneously go out during ballot counting in all major centres across Turkey.

Do Russians Want War? 

This article from Carnegie Moscow Centre is a long read but if you want to know what is going on inside Russia today, worth your time.

Oh, yes.  And Saskatchewan's beloved Premier, Harper wannabe Brad Wall successfully won reelection by hiding the true nature of Saskatchewan's finances, only to reveal afterwards that the province is begining in to look like it did in 1987 under Grant Devine.  After negotiating a 1.9% raise for Saskatchewan's teachers for this year, he has just announced that the government will fund only half and the school boards are stuck for the rest of it.

This is old news but does indicate a return to business as usual with the Canadian government of Justin Trudeau.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Outdoor Irishman, Paddy O'Furniture

Our cheap plastic lawn chairs and tables were getting old and brittle.  Since Tanya and I are also, we decided it was time to upgrade to something a bit more sturdier.

Our taxi driver friend Vitalik offered to take us to Krivii Rih for a very reasonable price, mostly to escape work, I think.  We (Tanya, Lina, and I) left about 10:30 and were home by 5:30.  I got my McDonald's fix but we spent most of our time at our favourite store - Epicentre.  It is a combination of Home Depot, Rona and Home Outfitters.  

Tanya headed for patio furniture and I headed for tools and hardware.  I cruised the four aisles of tools and went to see how Tanya was making out. She eventually decided on what she wanted and then we went to buy my power tools. Makita 3x18 belt sander, Makita 7 1/2" circular saw, and a Bosch 1/4 cordless drill. Tanya took an hour and a half; I took 10 minutes. But she had more choice and bought more stuff.

After that we went to see what they had for lumber. Lumber, as we know it in North America, ie S4S nominal dimension, is a scarce item.  Most of the kiln dried and milled lumber is tongue and groove, or shaped specifically for certain purposes.  The closest I found to "lumber" was the equivalent of 1x4 10 ft long.  Tanya says we can buy the kind of lumber I want in Dnipro over the internet and have them deliver. For rough stuff, I can buy the green boards from the saw mill a block from here.  

The patio furniture was delivered Monday about 4:00 pm.  We were ready and organized. We had a set of two chairs and a table we bought 8 years ago to put on the balcony and when we got it upstairs we couldn't get it through the balcony door.  We left it as it filled a space in our small (emergency) spare room.  (We call it the "Blue Room" as the wallpaper is blue).  Monday, I hauled the chairs downstairs and using a ladder lifted them up the outside of the house to Tanya.  Then I tore the table apart and managed to squeeze it out the door.

Now we can drink tea on our balcony of an evening
 Tanya bought a really nice set to replace it in the blue room. Much more comfortable and not as big and clunky looking.

A place to read when it is windy or raining outside
The pièce de résistance was a five-piece set of glass-topped table, coffee table, love seat and two arm chairs.  Unassembled.  The instructions were in pictographs and easy to follow. I marveled at the engineering design.  First off, how they got it all in the box.  Second, how everything fit together like it was supposed to. There were six spots where a bolt could only be tightened 1/8 of a turn at a time and there was EXACTLY just enough room to do that.

We put one arm chair and the coffee table in the entry and the big table, love seat and armchair on the front landing. My deck just isn't big enough.

We will take the plastic off the cushions.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Battle of Jutland

May 31, 2016, marks the centenary of the Battle of Jutland, the only major naval engagement of the Great War with two hundred and fifty combat ships involved. The British, as they say, lost the battle but won the war. British losses in ships and men were double those of the Germans but the German fleet stayed in port for the remainder of the war and Germany returned to unrestrained submarine warfare which eventually brought in the Americans.

Sea power had kept Great Britain safe and powerful for centuries.  The strategy was simple: maintain a fleet stronger than the combined fleets of the next two navies. Only when Kaiser Wilhelm decided German deserved a place in the sun did Britain find herself in an arms race.  To realize her ambitions, Germany MUST have a navy that could take on the British.  The British were just as determined that this was NOT going to happen.  Robert K. Massie’s Dreadnought: Britain, Germany and the Coming of the Great War is a very readable history of the decades before the war, the rivalry between Britain and Germany as they race to build Dreadnought class battleships and the events leading directly to the declaration of war.

The following is a very rough summary of the excellent Wikipedia article, link above.  The article printed out in 38 pages including 6 pages of footnotes, bibliography, further reading suggestions and external links. The table lays out the numbers of combat ships involved in the battle, (NOTE: German torpedo-boats are the equivalent of British destroyers).

 Battleships are heavily armed and heavily armoured but slow.  Battle cruisers are faster, with smaller guns and less armour plate. British battlecruisers were faster, had bigger guns and lighter armour than did the Germans. Which was fine ONLY if they kept out of range of the German guns. They were no match for battleships; they were NOT ships of the line.

The Germans, anchored in Wilhelmshaven, knew they could not beat the British in a full-on naval battle so they devised a strategy to draw British ships, a few at a time, into a trap and whittle down the numbers.   The plan was to send Hipper with a squadron of five battlecruisers, six light cruisers, protected by 31 torpedo-boats, to the Skagerrak Neck where the Baltic joins the North Sea between Denmark and Norway to harass British shipping and any British patrols.  This would bring British ships to the area in response and Scheer, who would follow Hipper with the full might of the High Seas Fleet, would catch them and dispose of them.

Except the British had the German code book and knew something was cooking but did not know what. So Jellico sent Beatty out with a squadron of six battlecruisers plus four fast battleships, protected by destroyers, to scout the area and planned to meet up with him west of the Skagerrak Neck with the remainder of the Grand Fleet.

Everyone set out May 30 for a rendezvous with fate. Communications were primitive and trying to control and coordinate that many ships was problematic at best.  Flags were still the main method of ship to ship communication (hence flagship).  Beatty came into contact with Hipper about 1400 hours May 31st.  He should have had the advantage but the four battleships didn’t get the message in time and ended up too far away to help immediately.  As well, Beatty held fire for 10 minutes after he came within range.

Beatty attacked and everything went to hell.  The Germans found the range quickly and sank the Indefatigable with all hands.  Hipper headed south towards Sheer’s fleet, chased by Beatty in a running battle with damage on both sides but with the Germans outshooting the Brits 4 to 1 and sinking the Queen Mary. All was going according to Scheer’s plan. 

Beatty spotted Scheer’s vanguard, turned his ships around and “got out of Dodge”, with the Germans in hot pursuit. He would lead them to Jellicoe who had no idea they were there.  It seems he had asked British Intelligence for information and got the right answer but had asked the wrong question.
On the way North, the four battleships which had caught up by this time, acted as rearguard to the fleeing British battlecruisers.  Hipper rejoined Scheer and Beatty rejoined Jellicoe though not without some difficulty in maneuvering of ships and the loss of Defense. Scheer had no idea Jellicoe was at sea, never mind bearing down on him. It was a shock when the Germans ran into the entire Grand Fleet. Scheer was now outnumbered and outgunned. 

Jellicoe wanted the Germans to the west of him so they would be backlit by the setting sun and he managed to do so, though he lacked information as to their exact whereabouts. The main battle was joined at 18:30 hours.  It was Scheer’s turn to get out of Dodge. Jellicoe managed to “cross the T” with Scheer’s battle line twice in an hour while Scheer managed to escape extreme damage by two “battle about turn” in the same time frame.  (I have no idea what this means but it sounded cool).

German ships took a pounding but no battleships on either side were sunk. Wikipedia gives all the gory details as to who sunk who and when.  Cruiser and destroyers were the big losers as they swarmed around fighting each other and trying to torpedo the big ships. By 2100 hours it was dark and the Germans were able to break off and get away and by 0500 June 1, they were safely on their way home.
Both sides claimed victory. And the arguments continue to this day about Beatty’s communications and Jellicoe’s allowing the Germans to get away in the dark.

One of the reasons that the German fleet escaped so lightly was the defective nature of British armour piercing shells. The Germans were using TNT which would detonate AFTER the shell had pierced the armour while the British were still using Lyddite which would often detonate prematurely.  The problem had been pointed out to the Admiralty however nothing had been done about it, nor would the faulty shells be replaced until April 1918.  It was ever thus.