Transatlantic At Last

One thing I’ve always wanted to do is take a sea voyage across the Atlantic. This dream is set to come true this April as I’ve finally convinced Maria she can do this with me – with lots of bonamine packed in her suitcase.
We’ll be flying from Ottawa to Miami and then it’s a two week cruise with the first 7 days at sea . We’ll go to the Canary Islands, Spain, France, Great Britain and end in Amsterdam. After a few days in Holland we’ll fly back.
Actually a cruise like this is a bargain because they have to take the ship over there anyway, and not everyone chooses a transatlantic cruise as their first experience of ship travel.
The ship is Celebrity Century – large enough to be comfortable, small enough to enjoy great service.
One more lifetime ambition to check off my list.

Outliers

Thanks to Sarah (who lent me her copy) I was able to read pop sociologist Malcom Gladwell’s latest book on what it takes to be uber-successful.
Gladwell is one of the most entertaining writers of non-fiction I’ve ever read. Although I think he does better as a micro-sociologist (examining individual stories) than he does in the macro realm (trying to explain large scale happenings), his book is a thoroughly great read – in the same class as The Tipping Point and Blink.
At least I know now why I wasn’t that much of a worldly success – born in the wrong timeframe, and lacked the opportunity to grind it out for 10,000 hours in my choice of craft. However as a husband , dad, and hopefully granddad I’m doing OK.

Daylight Saving Time (from 2002)

Daylight Saving Time arrived today, and once again this year, a month too early.
I get up at 6 AM each day, and I had barely gotten used to a bright hour of rising. Today I was plunged into the gloom of February redux. Not that the extra hour of daylight did me much good. Today featured leaden skies and cool temperatures – not exactly outdoor weather.
In the halcyon days before 1986, DST came late in April, with the promise of some glorious May evenings. Now it’s still wet and cold in my part of the world, and I’d prefer a bit more daylight to start the day. Alas, nobody asked me.

Golden Age (from Early 2007)

I believe we are in a golden age of dumpster diving and recycling when it comes to personal computers.
Many laptops and desktops built from 1998-2001 have now become technically obsolete as far as Microsoft Windows is concerned. These Pentium III – and even Pentium II – machines are running Windows 98 or Windows Millennium and are no longer supported by Microsoft for security. They may be able to run XP but never Vista- never in a million years.
Most of these systems have plenty of horsepower to do basic email, Web and Office tasks, play music, catalog digital photos – if they can be given a new lease on life with a stable, secure and supported operating system.
That is where Linux comes in. There is a distribution of Linux for the lamest system around – although anything older than a Pentium II processor will be a S-L-O-W performer if you want a graphical user interface.
Here are some examples of PCs I have resurrected with Linux:
(1) Dell Dimension 4100 desktop from 2000. This machine belonged to my daughter when she was in graduate school. It was gathering dust until I upgraded its memory to 512 Mb, added a new hard drive, and installed Ubuntu 7.04 (the distribution Dell is now offering with new PCs in the USA.) It has a wireless card and runs as a second PC in my basement now.
(2) Compaq Armada 1700 laptop from 1998. This antique Pentium II 266 was running Windows 95 (badly) when I discovered it in a recycling facility near Almonte. It had a new hard drive and the leather carrying case alone was worth the $50 I paid for it. I added some more memory up to a whopping 160Mb, and got a used wireless PCMCIA card for it. Now I have a wireless laptop that works great with Vector Linux 5.8. Vector is especially good with very old hardware.
(3) Compaq Presario from 1999. My neighbor bought a new Vista PC and was going to throw this one away. I installed Ubuntu Linux, put in a wireless USB setup and her son now has a PC in her basement to check email and surf the Web.
(4) Dell Optiplex desktop from 2001. This one was too slow, and could not work on the network of a coffee company in Almonte. I put Ubuntu on it and gave it to one of the employees there.
(5) Whitebox midtower from 1999 – this one has a 1st generation Pentium III 500 and 256 Mb of RAM. It couldn’t even boot Windows 98 properly, and was about to be junked because its owners now have a new Gateway. I installed PCLinuxOS on it and gave it to a friend who didn’t have a computer. It’s doing fine in a new home, with a new lease on life.

Philip Gibbs (from April 2002)

I read some gripping prose lately, in spite of the fact that it was written 80 years ago and its author has been dead for 40. The book is called “More That Must Be Told”, by the British war correspondent Philip Gibbs (1877-1962). It is an analysis of the developed countries after World War I, and in its pages one can clearly see the seeds of the second global conflict. Gibbs soberly wrote of the great German war debt, the poverty of Austria, the vengeful mentality of France, the apathy in Britain, and the developing isolationism of America. He saw so clearly that the United States was the key to world peace, and hoped against hope for her participation in global affairs. Alas, his hope in 1921 had to wait 25 years to see fruition, until after another great war.
It is chilling to read current events 80 years later, when you already know how things turned out. I wonder what a reader in 2082 will make of our current events. It seems there is not much new under the sun.

Birdsongs (from April 2002)

A vernal highlight for me is the return of the birds to the big trees in our neighborhood. This morning as I stepped outside the front door, I heard a feathery chorus: “Cheery-Up! Cheery-Up!” from a Robin, “Cooah” from a Mourning Dove, “Dee! Dee! Dee!” from a Chickadee, the fast cheery warble of a Purple Finch, and the slow cadenced whistle of a Cardinal.
I immediately thought of our recent walk through the Royal Park in Brussels, where we saw and heard real Cuckoos, and a Blackbird that can sing rather than squawk as our North American Grackles do. Doubtless Charlotte Bronte enjoyed the same sights and sounds 160 years ago.
Of all God’s gifts to humanity, the song of one of these light-as-air creatures must rank among the best.

Cross of Sacrifice (from April 2002)

Four weeks ago today, my family and I visited the town of Ieper (Ypres) in Belgium.
We stared in admiration at the magnificently restored Cloth Hall and St. Martin’s Cathedral. These medieval masterpieces were smoking ruins after the scourge of German artillery in 1915.
Later we visited the Menin Gate. It was a deeply emotional moment as we looked at thousands of Canadian names – names of men who had no known grave, no other memorial.
We walked along the ramparts of Ieper to the Ramparts Cemetery. There my daughter (age 24) discovered that every one of the 192 Commonwealth soldiers buried there had been younger than she is when they died.
Three hundred thousand men of the British Commonwealth died at Ieper. One hundred thousand of them were never identified. So much blood spilled. So little wisdom gained. When will they ever learn, When will they ever learn?

Two Great Cats (from 2002)

I’m a cat person. It has my great fortune to be owned by two wonderful yet totally different animals.
The first was Brio (1982-1999) , a classic Sealpoint Siamese. Brio was the smartest , noisiest, most intelligent four-footed bundle of love I will ever know. To this day , as I lie on the couch watching TV, I still expect to see this great old cat climb onto the sofa, and stretch out full length on my legs to sleep. The day we had to send Brio to the Bright Cattery in the Sky was one of the saddest days of my life.
A few days later, when I returned to the Vet to pay Brio’s final bill, I spotted Sammy in a cage in the reception room. He was an energetic 6 month old stray kitten whom some kind soul had brought to the Vet. Sammy is likely a Russian Blue, with the soft gray silver tipped coat. He’s a lot quieter breed of cat, but he has a wonderful deep full-throated purr that makes his whole body shake. He’s become a regal looking adult male, but deep down he’s just a cuddly old lap cat.
Did I mention I’m a cat person?

Moved to Blogspot

Because I’ve had some issues with publishing posts on my own ISP’s hosting service, I’ve had to move this blog to Blogspot as the host.
The new web address will be http://almontage.blogspot.com

I deleted the old blog on my ISP so the former link is now dead. Sorry about that, but I think I was running out of space over there.
A few of my earliest posts have also disappeared but they remain on my Facebook notes so I may republish them when I get a chance.

Waiting Game

The crib has been assembled, the baby clothes are in the bureau, the books are in the bookshelf and the nursery room is ready.
My daughter has a couple more days of work and then she’s off on her maternity leave.
Now it’s the waiting game, and I’m sure she’s anxious to get the show on the road.
I know her mother and I were feeling that way the last few days of September in 1977. As I took Maria to the hospital on Oct 2, I remember thinking – well this is going to be a special day for all of us – and it was.
Let’s just hope Teddy doesn’t make us wait too much longer.

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