Girl for the Ages

On Thursday my older granddaughter Veronica turns (count ’em) 13 years of age.

She has always been a sweet girl, and remains so – plus I have always enjoyed being around during the teenage years. So I am happily waiting for that coming down. I wonder if her mother is as keen as I am.

Veronica is now going into the eighth grade and she remains the rock of her family – looking out for both older brother and younger sister. She is that kind of kid. She is helpful at home, with her grandparents, her neighbors, in the church and in the community. Recently she spent some time helping stencil maple leaves onto a mural being painted at the community center. Actually earned a bit of money which made her happy.

She has a phone now and can send SMS messages so she always keeps tabs on her Nonna.

Veronica is still the “Cat Whisperer.” Our ginger tabby Mr. Oates continues to adore her and she is beloved by her own gray tabby cats, Terry and Timmy.

We recently traveled to the US where she discovered Friendly’s ice cream and also got a new plastic mini baseball helmet (Syracuse Mets) to go with her other ones. Those helmets also contained ice cream at one point. See a pattern here?

Veronica is a big fan of playing cards, and recently learned how to play Euchre. She played as Grandpa’s partner and we took down her confident brother and his father. We are looking forward to future confrontations.

She’s developing into a beautiful young woman and I love her to bits. I am very proud of her and I will be happy to celebrate this upcoming birthday with her and her family. Happy birthday my dear.

Old School IT

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Do I use Facebook? Why, yes I do. Do I stream songs on Amazon Music? Guilty. Do I watch YouTube videos? Indeed.

However- I don’t want to see the world in VR – like a video game. I don’t want to walk around with Google showing up on my glasses. I have trouble enough looking at a smartphone screen. Fuggedaboudit.

BTW – here’s how my computer setup looked like when we moved to Almonte – this was the only PC I had back then.

I still have a desktop system running on this computer desk. It’s a Dell minitower – much more compact and powerful. The CRT monitor is now a 24 inch flatscreen. The speakers are different. The flatbed scanner is part of my printer now. The old slide scanner is gone – not needed. But I still have an old timey desktop system on the go. It’s still connected to my router with a cable.

Of course I am more wifi oriented now. I have a bunch of junker laptops that connect through wifi – I even have mobile Smartphones on the network.

That said, I am beginning to think of myself as an old school IT dinosaur. I still write and post stuff the way I did in 1998. I am a participant in some old style text based forums and I have this blog.

I take my digital photos with a camera – not a Smartphone. I haven’t joined Instagram or Tik Tok. I don’t think I’ll ever be interested in vlogging or making a podcast.

So I’ll admit it – I am becoming as old school and obsolete as my parents were when they got a computer to send the odd email back in the early 2000s. Not a pretty ending for someone who’s been a geek for close to 60 years. It happens to the best of us, I suppose.

A Cruise Ship Gallery

We have done a lot of cruising over the past 17 years. I thought it might be fun to post some of my favorite cruise ship photos in some interesting places. Hope you enjoy it.

Celebrity Constellation beside MV Funchal in Tallinn 2006.

Celebrity Zenith Hamilton Bermuda 2006.

Celebrity Millennium Santorini 2007.

Celebrity Constellation Forth Bridge Scotland 2008.

Celebrity Mercury Sitka Alaska 2008.

Celebrity Century Madeira 2009.

Celebrity Millennium Monterey CA 2009.

Celebrity Equinox Villefranche 2010.

Celebrity Equinox Grand Cayman 2011.

Celebrity Infinity Ponta Delgada 2013.

Celebrity Solstice Honolulu 2015.

Celebrity Silhouette Labadee 2016.

Celebrity Silhouette Toulon FR 2016.

Celebrity Eclipse Curacao 2018.

Jewel of the Seas Alicante 2019.

Adventure of the Seas Portland ME 2022.

Writing a Blog in 2023

I have had some sort of personal Web presence for at least 25 years, and around the time we visited Paris in 2001 I decided that a traditional website with my own HTML coding was NOT the way to go. A blog of some sort seemed preferable because I simply had to write it and not be all that concerned about website design.

My personal circumstances were much different back then. I was still working, still living in Georgetown, hadn’t traveled as much as we did later on. I did’t have the time in 2001 to devote to writing a blog every week or more often.

I got into it a bit more around 2008 and since 2014 I’ve been a regular poster. But I digress.

The Web was much different when I first started a blog. In those early days, blogging was strictly text – even photos had to be scanned from film or prints (no digital pics back then.) Bandwidth was punishingly low. Audio was rudimentary. Video didn’t exist yet. Mobile phones made phone calls. The Information Highway was more like an oxcart track.

Well, that was then. How about starting a blog today? Let’s unpack that a bit.

The first thing to consider in 2023 is whether you want to write a blog at all. A blog is still pretty much static – text and digital media. Maybe you’d prefer to make video logs and post on YouTube. Maybe you are into having a podcast. Or maybe even you’d like to stream your content. It’s all possible today. And we haven’t even mentioned social media capability. Every possibility is so much richer.

There’s another consideration – unless you are a celebrity, a major influencer, or a genuine expert in a hot category of interest – there’s no way to use a blog to make money. If you really get into personal blogging in a bigger way, it’ll cost you – though honestly not much more than a Netflix subscription – to put your thoughts out there.

If you are still interested in doing this – need I mention you’ll be investing a bit of time with no chance of reward – I’ll run through some of the ways you can get started.

Starting a Blog for Free

This would be my recommendation if you are just starting out. The price is right, you don’t need any particular technical expertise, and you can be on your way in a matter of minutes.

When I began I chose Blogger to be my host provider. Blogger is part of Google so it is a good way to go if you already use the Google suite of applications.

My choice today would probably be the commercial WordPress site. I use the open source WordPress software on my own site, and I find it to be excellent.

A third possibility is Wix. I haven’t used Wix but it has some interesting drag and drop features. Wix looks a bit more business oriented though.

Of course, we all know there is no free lunch – not even in blogging. If you go with the zero cost option, you won’t have your own domain name, you likely will have ads placed on your blog by your provider, and your content doesn’t belong to you any longer. Maybe those things are not important to you right now – but they might be later on.

Use the “Pay” Option on the “Free” Site Host

You could use WordPress’s and Wix’s paid option to get a few neat features like your “own” virtual domain or fancier themes but I’ve got a better idea than that if you want to move up the blogging food chain. The name of the game here I believe is Squarespace.

Squarespace – Just Do It

Squarespace seems to be the ideal way to build a blog if you don’t mind paying a monthly subscription. and you need the provider to take care of everything for you. I have to say that if I were starting out now. I’d just choose Squarespace, choose a suitable format and that would be that.

Squarespace does seem to be commercially focused but there are options to write a simple blog. You can start out slowly and change things easily enough if you need to get more sophisticated. It looks like a good way to go – if you’re sure you want to do this.

The Whole Enchilada

This is not what you want to do if you are just getting into the blog-o-sphere, but it’s where I ended up after about 5 years of serious blogging. I needed a place to write my blog AND host the supporting digital photos online. So I invested in my own domain name and web hosting service. The provider gives me support and WordPress blogging software, and I choose the theme for a custom look and feel.

There’s a simple enough sequence of tasks to host your own blog:

  • Choose a web service provider and a plan of services.
  • Get your domain name and have it registered. The provider helps with this.
  • Install WordPress, the blogging software.
  • Choose, install and activate the theme.
  • Start blogging.

Complications start after that. You have to make sure to secure your website, check that it works OK, protect your blog from spam. The provider makes changes from time to time and you have to fix things if that happens.

Fortunately I have become increasingly geeky over the years. I learned about Linux and networks so I was not flummoxed by the technical aspects of a Web server. The Web service provider does give excellent support and can fix things if you have problems.

The major advantages to hosting your own blog are:

  • You have your own domain name and Web address.
  • Nobody will be putting ads on your site without your say-so.
  • Your content and graphics remain under your control and ownership.

So there you have it. I am more or less committed to self-hosting now. Squarespace wasn’t around when I went this way, and I won’t go back to a do-it-for-you provider.

I now have close to 9 years and 600 posts on my current setup. It’s still a simple personal blog but it’s mine.

WIMP-ing Along

I suppose I have at least 8-9 computers at home – most of them junkers which I have upgraded to still be useful. I run a variety of Linux, Windows 11, and ChromeBook operating systems on this dubious collection.

You might expect that I would have a wide variety of desktop environments for all these operating systems – a different look and feel for each one. But I stick pretty much to what you see above for every one of them. I rock some sort of taskbar or panel at the bottom, a start button if I can, and not much on the desktop in terms of icons.

Like many long term PC users, I still cling to what is commonly referred to as the WIMP model of computer operation. Windows, Icons, Menus, Pointer. This approach – which features a keyboard and mouse – was developed close to 50 years ago by Xerox and first appeared in Apple products around 1985. For many people over 50 it probably is the only model you use apart from a Smartphone.

A few of my junk laptops have a touch screen but I never use it. The mouse is by far my preferred way of navigation, and a real keyboard is far better than that ridiculous tiny touchscreen and tap,tap,tap of a Smartphone. Right now I’m writing this post on a desktop computer with a 24 inch non-touchscreen, a massive wireless keyboard and a chunky Logitech Mouse. That’s the way (uh huh, uh huh) I like it.

To its credit, Apple realized early on that using a regular computer was different than operating a Smartphone. They developed two different operating systems, each one optimized to the hardware in question. Google later on followed the same path with Android and ChromeBook systems.

Microsoft did no such thing. It commited a massive error with Windows 8 where it tried to integrate the Touchscreen and Mouse-keyboard experience into one dog’s breakfast of an O/S. In the process it failed to get a toehold in the Smartphone market, turned off millions of loyal WIMP-y customers, and created arguably the worst version of Windows ever.

Microsoft has learned its lesson though. The desktop environment above is the very satisfying Windows 11 – an interface that even the oldest WIMP users would find perfectly OK.

Linux gives you the choice of many desktop environments, but its most popular ones do follow the WIMP model by and large. A distribution like Linux Mint would be very familiar to a Windows user, so Mint is a great choice to replace an obsolete Windows O/S on an old junker.

The OK Boomer generation are probably the most comfortable with being WIMPs. Gen-Xers are OK with it, but they are more into laptops and Touchscreens and Trackpads. Either way of computing will work fine to do serious work like spreadsheets, documents, databases, presentation graphics.

The Millennials seem to be fine with Smartphones, selfies and touch icons. And as far as the Gen Z and Gen Alpha kids go, they just use everything and anything. Go figure.

Time for Another New Theme

Looks as if it is time to start working with a new blog theme. After a few years my Ganesa theme is now unsupported and I don’t know how long it will be compatible with the new WordPress software versions.

I am experimenting with an even more minimalistic theme called Nord. Nord is one of those newer dark and simple blogging themes. We’ll see how that works out.

Update: I now have the theme installed and working as it should. If you want to see additional posts from the atchives, there is a small menu icon on the upper right of the page which will give you that capability.

Nord is less visually complex than my previous Ganesa theme and in fact is similar to Bayse, the original theme I used for this blog when I got started.

I Still Want One

Since I got into digital photography I have usually had two types of cameras on the go:

  • A large DSLR or bridge camera that takes great photos.
  • A smaller travel camera that is pretty good but also lightweight and hassle-free to carry.

Now I usually update my travel camera every 5-6 years. My current Panasonic Lumix ZS50 is 7 years old and normally I’d be shopping for a new one.

But here’s the thing. I really cannot do so. Why is this?

First of all, the COVID-induced parts shortage has made a drastic cut in the number of travel cameras for sale. Those that are available seem to be rather overpriced for what you are getting. My particular favorites don’t seem to be out there at all.

Second, there really have not been any new models I’d be interested in that have been introduced in the past three years. In fact every major camera company has announced that they will no longer develop and introduce new affordable compact cameras.

The reason for every camera maker exiting the point and shoot market is of course the smartphone and its camera. The best smartphone cameras now are as good as my travel machine and offer some outstanding features such as computational photography and easy Internet storage and publishing. Mind you a really good smartphone costs as much as the finest travel camera and maybe 3X what I paid for my ZS50.

The cheap point and shoot camera is now history and even the more advanced travel cameras appear to be on the way out. Sales of compact digital cameras have gone down 97% in ten years. So a lot of folks out there are using their smartphones.

I get it. It’s a lot easier to pack just one camera and if your smartphone does the job why not use it? You are taking it along anyway, and the best camera is the one you have with you.

Well, call me a dinosaur but I still want to take along a small, lightweight, “real” camera. My reasons?

  • An actual camera has a better lens than my Samsung A50 smartphone.
  • Telephoto capability is much better with a real camera.
  • I can take and store a great many more photos than I can with a smartphone.
  • It’s easy to copy the photos over to a laptop for a backup.
  • The camera has a viewfinder which makes it easier to use in bright light.
  • A camera is more stable and easier to hold still when taking a photo.
  • You may look a bit geeky but there’s no doubt you are a serious photographer – even with a lightweight long zoom like the Lumix ZS50.

In our recent trip to Syracuse I took along the ZS50 and I was able to get shots like this one with no problems at all.

Red panda at the Zoo.

At the Triple A ball game.

Both of these would have been more difficult with a smartphone.

So this dinosaur will be packing a camera for a while yet.

It’s Complicated

This is a simple non-commercial personal blog that I use to stay in touch with family and friends. I am geeky enough to host it myself and set up the WordPress software (or so I thought.)

I have had this blog since 2002 and since 2014 I have posted stuff through a Canadian web hosting service. Originally it was with WebServe and this company was taken over by another one called HostPapa (don’t ask.)

Everything was OK until I started getting emails about my website exceeding available resources. Turns out I had a very old plan with severe limitations, and HostPapa obligingly upgraded me to a newer one that gave me more speed and processing power. This is all virtual stuff – I share resources with a bunch of other websites. Cost was very reasonable, and I have a 3 year contract.

My problems were not over though. I got a bunch of additional “features” that turned out to be problematic. I now had automatic site backup but not enough space for even this simple blog (I got lots of pictures.) So my backup stalled. Then I have found it impossible to get the so-called “Protection Power” service configured, even though I followed the cryptic instructions to the letter.

I cancelled the backup service and now I have to wait for Tech Support to get back to me on what I am doing wrong with Protection Power – or tell me whether I even need it. Most of what it provides I already have through WordPress anyway.

A lot of HostPapa sites are commercial ones, with stores for online merchandise, or to advertise a small business. That’s a bit more than I need, but I do like having my own theme and no ads from WordPress cluttering up my blog. So it’s both simple and complicated for me.

Like most IT solutions I have encountered in the past, this one seems to have given me additional headaches, Oh well, at least the access to this site is still OK. If not, you won’t be reading this.

An update: one thing HostPapa does have is very responsive and knowledgeable Technical Support. One has already been working on my situation. He advised me what I had to do on my end, and he’ll do the rest to get me operational.

New Set of Wheels

I’ve always suffered from some form of hearing loss, although I went a long time before I did anything about it.

In the late 1960s when I started working at General Foods Cobourg I had a baseline hearing test. At that time it was determined that I had (likely congenital) weakness in my left ear. However I went until my late 50s before I decided I should get treated for it. That was in 2004.

My first hearing test in close to 35 years revealed that although my right ear was OK, my left now had appreciable hearing loss. A single hearing aid was indicated.

Since I was only going to have a hearing aid in one ear, I went for a small in the canal model with a custom ear mold. Digital hearing aids had been around for a while, so the aid could get some programming to adjust to my hearing loss, although the circuitry was primitive compared to what’s available today.

When I first got my hearing aid (A GN Resound model) I had some things to get used to. I was quite surprised to see how some (but not all) of my hearing came back. I could hear speech better for sure. I could hear a bird sing, AND I now knew where it was singing from spatially.

I also heard things I hadn’t really missed – refrigerator hum, hard disk whine from a PC, road noise. My brain had to get accustomed to tuning those sounds out.. Also having something stuck inside my ear took some getting used to. I also needed to remember to take a spare battery along or my hearing aid was useless. But I managed, and so it went for close to 12 years.

By 2016, my tiny hearing aid was worn out and breaking down, and I sensed that my hearing was starting to get worse. A hearing test at a local clinic confirmed that my right ear now needed help along with the left. I ended up with 2 hearing aids, wore them behind my ear, with a small wire connecting to a dome receiver in the canal. These were Starkey Audibel 3 hearing aids and I had them fitted at the clinic.

The Audibel 3 aids took much less getting used to, and improved my hearing a lot – especially after a firmware upgrade at the clinic later on. Using the receiver in the canal approach was far less occlusive and stuffy than the custom ear mold.

Three years go by, and one day one of my Audibels disappeared – never to be found again. I don’t know if I lost it while getting a haircut, or if the cat batted it away somewhere. I did manage to get a good deal on a new pair of Starkey IQ 2000 hearing aids from my provider and these kept me going for another 4 years.

Alas my hearing has deteriorated further and the old reliable Starkey IQ 2000 aids are not doing the job any more. I had another test and the hearing aid provider has prescribed these Oticon instruments. They are costly but what price do you put on hearing what’s going on around you? I am hopeful they’ll bring my hearing back to 2019 standards.

Getting old sucks – but the alternative is NOT getting old. Think about that for a second.

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