This little blogger is going on holiday

From20-July-2006 until around 08-August-2006 I will be in Peru. Consequently, I will not be updating this blog, nor checking other blogs - I shall be incommunicado.

This is my second trip to Peru. I went back in October 1996 for my honeymoon (Sofia came along with me).

We were in Lima, Arequipa, Puno and Cusco.

This time, I will be going for about 2-1/2 weeks, Sofia and the kids will be staying about 4-1/2 weeks. Our itinerary will only be Ica and Lima. Sofia's niece will be celebrating her 15th birthday - which is a big occaision, akin to Sweet 16 in North America.

Lima is a city in the heart of a mountain. Almost anywhere you go you can see the mountains which ring the city like mighty fortress walls. It is also a desert. One of the astounding things you notice as you drive out from Lima to Arequipa is how red the sand and rocks are. It is like being on Mars.

Arequpa is home of the Colca Canyon - the world's deepest canyon. We saw it around 08:00 in the morning. One thing I discovered was that at an altitude of about 5Km, I sun burn very easily. I burned my face in the 45 minutes or so we were there. The first picture is of me getting a sunburn before 09:00 with the Colca Canyon behind me.

The second photo is of some farmland in the Arequipa region. Since it is mountainous, they farm small little fields organized in steps.

Our next trip was to Puno where lake Titicaca is. The sky and water is incredibly blue. If you don't know what the colour blue is, then you need to go there and see it.

The third photo is of me in Cusco at a part of the Inca Trail. They have tours which allow you to hike the Inca trail. Some tours, like the one we were on, are just single day excursions, others are several days long and involve camping. You actually get to climb the mountains, there are paths cut into the sides. It is not for the faint of heart. The paths are only about 2 or 3 feet wide (less than a meter) and support two way traffic. There are no guide rails or other security barriers, if you fall, well, you fall at least 50 feet (20 meters) to the next level below.

The final photo is of me at Machu Picchu. The locals kept warning me about mosquitoes, which was wrong. Mosquito in Spanish simply means small fly, the flies there were not mosquitoes but rather something akin to black flies. I had very chewed up legs. Insect repellant is strongly advised.

I enjoyed Puno the best, it is very nice. Who can't fall in love with a beautiful blue sky and water? The lake is beautiful and has manmade floating islands on it. The natives pull up reeds from the lake, chop off the roots and matte them together, then the chop up the stalks and lay it on top. In the end, they produce a floating mat that is about 2 meters thick (6 feet) and floats on the water. The islands are huge, as far as the eye can see. People live on it and farm on it. They grow potatoes and corn. They raise chickens and pigs.

Cusco, the springboard to Machu Piccu, was a bit too touristy for me. Clearly people made a lot of their living off of tourism. Puno and Arequipa were much more authentic. Of course, Lima is authentic too.

See you all in August!

Spock: On my planet, to rest is to rest — to cease using energy. To me, it is quite illogical to run up and down on green grass, using energy, instead of saving it. - Star Trek, Shore Leave



Thoughts to think

Received this via e-mail from my sister, so you may have seen it before.

The best kind of friend is the kind you can sit on a porch and swing with, never say a word, and then walk away feeling like it was the best conversation you've ever had.

It's true that we don't know what we've got until we lose it, but it's also true that we don't know what we've been missing until it arrives.

Giving someone all your love is never an assurance that they'll love you back! Don't expect love in return; just wait for it to grow in their heart but if it doesn't, be content it grew in yours. It takes only a minute to get a crush on someone, an hour to like someone, and a day to love someone, but it takes a lifetime to forget someone.

Don't go for looks; they can deceive. Don't go for wealth; even that fades away. Go for someone who makes you smile because it takes only a smile to make a dark day seem bright. Find the one that makes your heart smile.

May you have enough happiness to make you sweet, enough trials to make you strong, enough sorrow to keep you human, enough hope to make you happy.

Always put yourself in others' shoes. If you feel that it hurts you, it probably hurts the other person, too

The happiest of people don't necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the most of everything that comes along their way.

Happiness lies for those who cry, those who hurt, those who have searched, and those who have tried, for only they can appreciate the importance of people who have touched their lives.

When you were born, you were crying and everyone around you was smiling. Live your life so that when you die, you're the one who is smiling and everyone around you is crying.

Please send this message to those people who mean something to you, to those who have touched your life in one way or another, to those who make you smile when you really need it, to those that make you see the brighter side of things when you are really down, to those who you want to let them know that you appreciate their friendship. And if you don't, don't worry, nothing bad will happen to you, you will just miss out on the opportunity to brighten someone's day with this message...

Not sure where the pictures are from (they came with the e-mail) so they go unattributed. For some reason Blogger is having problems displaying the small size images, so I am displaying the full sized ones instead - you can click on them, but they just go to the same picture.



Balancing Act

Jason has finally entered into the ranks of those who can ride a two wheeler.

Last year a training wheel broke on his bicycle, so I took both off and tried to teach him to ride on only two wheels. He did not yet have the balance necessary to do it. As well, he had a tendency to play up the instability by shouting, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoooooooa!” and then falling off his bike (he did the same this past winter when I tried to teach him to skate). He preferred to go for the dramatic spill to actually riding his bike (or skating) - it was more fun for him.

The previous weekend, I took him on his bike again and doing that awkward stooped run behind him as he peddled I gradually increased the amount of time I let him ride on his own. Finally at the end of the day he was able to ride the last half block to the house on his own.

During the week, Sofia took him out and helped him to practice. This past weekend, he is now able to ride on his own, the only help he needs is a little push to get him going, but once he is going, then he is fine.

It is a great accomplishment for him and he is very proud of himself - as are we.



"If you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you." – Nietzsche

Adikar strode purposefully to the edge of the pit and stared into its consuming blackness. He could sense it churning in its malevolence and feel the evil which seeped from it like a noxious vapour withering all in its path.

Shadows from the pit swarmed around him, threatening to topple him into it.

Raising his arm with a sweeping arc he illuminated the darkness dispelling the shadows. "Enough!" he commanded.

The darkness of the void gazed back at him, piercing him with its uncontainable hatred. "I have waited for you. I knew you would come. In the end, all come to me."

"I have come to end it."

"I cannot be destroyed."

"You must be stopped."

"Can you be a greater destroyer than I?"

"It will end. I shall end it."

"Then you must become Death. Where you tread the ground shall be barren and where your shadow falls life shall wither. You cannot both destroy me and contain me."

Image nabbed from here

"Whoever battles with monsters had better see that it does not turn him into a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you." – Nietzsche




Some pictures from around my home in Ottawa.

Before and after shots of my front lawn before I mowed it yesterday (as you can see there is little in the way of grasss and a lot in the way of low growing foliage. Personally, I like it - Sofia would prefer a lovely homogenous carpet of grass).

Some closeups of the flowers growing in my lawn (including clover).

A closeup of a tiger lilly and of some yellow flowers growing in the backyard.

Of course, in this case, all images are copyright to me.



"We see mankind generally either (from ignorance or avarice) toiling too hard and becoming mere machines in order to acquire wealth"

You can read more of Thoreau's thoughts here.



More bang for the backup

If you are like me, you probably backup important data files irregularly, even though you know you should do it more often.

I still use CDs for my backups. I suppose I could use a memory stick, but CDs are fine for me.

However, I use rewriteable CDs - you know CD-RW instead of CD-R - because this way I can reuse the same CD over and over again for backups. This has several advantages: (1) saves money, (2) saves the environment (not so many junked CDs going to landfills – although you could use them for homemade spectroscopes, (3) minimizes the amount of personal information you are discarding (you do destroy archival CDs don't you?).



"Shooting guns into the air is a common method for dealing with emotional situations, such as deals on shoes that are too good to be true."

I would happily tell you more, but the Associated Press would, in all likelihood, not be happy: Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

Which makes me wonder if my title infringes too much?

You will just have to read the story yourself over here.



Hey, Verne! Got a minute?

My cousin Ernest isn’t the roundest cue ball around. Like most people, he is always looking for an easy way to make money. There was the time he was helping a wealthy, yet terminal, Nigerian widow setup orphanages with (for a sizeable, no risk commission she was guaranteeing him) has died. Then there are the technical and security issues involving the millions he won in the Euro Internet lottery which have prevented him from retiring to the easy life, despite all he has spent to try and facilitate the transfer of funds.

Anyway, last night he rushed over, excited like a four year given the key to the candy store.

"Rich, I've finally found the system!"

"Uhm, what system would that be?" I replied.

"Money! Free money! Instant wealth generation. Nobody, especially me, has to ever be poor again. I just haven't worked out all the details."

"Uh-huh", was my sanguine response.

"I need your help to transfer my system from the geometric domain to the money domain. You know I'm not very good at transforming things from one domain to another."

"No, but you are good at specious reasoning, spurious correlations and just out and out wishful thinking."

"Be nice, or I’ll start spilling deep and dark secrets about you”, he challenged.

"All right, indulge me."

"I was playing around with some geometry problems, like you suggested to exercise my mind. I came up with this way to rearrange a rectangle, by cutting it up into pieces and making a new one that has the same size, but has this extra space added. Here, let me show you” and he proceeded to draw the following:

"You see," he continued, "by rearranging the pieces, I am able maintain all the original bits of the rectangle, but I also get a new, hitherto unavailable, square. I just need to figure out how to apply this to money - you know - how to shift it around and - bingo! generate instant wealth," he enthused.

"You know you are wrong," I replied and sat down to figure out where he had done wrong.

A little later, I showed him the error of his ways. Can you?

[Note: this mathematical problem is not of my own invention, only the story.]



Busy, curious, thirsty fly!

Busy, curious, thirsty fly!
Drink with me and drink as I:
Freely welcome to my cup,
Couldst thou sip and sip it up:
Make the most of life you may,
Life is short and wears away.

Both alike are mine and thine
Hastening quick to their decline:
Thine's a summer, mine's no more,
Though repeated to threescore.
Threescore summers, when they're gone,
Will appear as short as one!

William Oldys. 1687–1761

Image nabbed from here.



Save money! Never spend money on food for yourself again.

I will go even further and say that you never have to explicitly prepare or eat food again

How does this magic happen? How is it possible that I go weeks between preparing myself food and eating it? (I don't really, I do eat lunches on weekdays - but on weekends, I forgo lunch completely.)

The trick is in being a parent with young kids. You see, no matter how much or little you prepare for them, they never finish it. They nibble at it or just eat the strawberries and leave the custard filling and cake behind. Vegetables multiply on their plates.

I just cook for the kids and eat their leftovers. In fact, I often find myself filling several containers with leftovers. I attest to witnessing miracles involving multiplication of peas and carrots on a regular basis.

I don't mind eating what my kids leave behind. If you are not squeamish and childless, you might consider renting a few kids and simply eating the bounty they leave behind on their plates.

This applies equally well to restaurant food. It seems a shame to order a full course meal at some outrageous price when the kids get plenty off the kids menu for $3.99 or $4.99.

The only exception is French fries - they get eaten up. As well, you need to strictly control the ketchup – otherwise, everything will be swimming in it.



What brings people here?

This is not the existential question it sounds. I am really musing about the search terms that bring people to this blog.

One thing that surprises me is the narrow range of search terms that end up landing people on my blog.

award winning chili lands people here. I wonder if people ever try out the recipe? The only reason I wrote it out was because coworkers asked me for it, otherwise, it would have ended up like all other recipes - a hazy recollection. This is by far the most search landing people here - garnering me at least 3 or 4 hits per week. Ok, so it is not thousands, but, on the other hand, the web is a big place and my blog occupies only a small place in it (ranked higher on yahoo than google)

anthony de croud and variants land people here. It was quite popular around the time I posted it. Probably because the e-mail was making its way around the world. Then it died off. Now it has become popular again - I guess a fresh batch of naïve spammers have gotten a hold of it and are hoping for their good fortune to arrive via e-mail.

photcatalyst self cleaning windows and similar terms land people here. I am actually surprised that people search on these terms. It is fairly obscure.

I was surprised to discover yesterday that there were two different searches for swydw.exe . Apparently, I am not the only one whose computer has been infected with that particular bug. I wonder if they found enough useful information to help them disinfect? If anyone is interested (ok, anti-virus, anti-spyware companies only), I still have the files available. I also appear to be the only source for that search term.

Of course, that does not address the reason you folks come here. Reciprocity is one reason some people drop by. Curiosity, piqued by some comment I left somewhere, brings others. Random blog hopping brings still others. And … most curiously, loyalty. Not that I think loyalty is a bad thing, but I don't see anything particularly special about my posts. Sure, sometimes I pose a deep question, but most of the time I am scrambling to fill space (not for lack of ideas, but for lack of skill to express it concisely in 3 paragraphs or so).



Am I the only one who thinks these look like acid blotters?

Breath strips came into the market a few years back and the first impression that came to my mind was that it seemed so eerily similar to taking a hit of acid - just place the little blotter on your tongue and prepare to go on a trip.

The first commercials I recall seeing for it featured a woman on a subway hunting down huge germs.

Image nabbed from here.



"Do you or do you not, directly or indirectly, want to be killed or assaulted?"

"To come to terms, one must understand what fear means: what it implies and what it rejects. It implies and rejects the same fact: a world where murder is legitimate, and where human life is considered trifling. This is the great political question of our times, and before dealing with other issues, one must take a position on it. Before anything can be done, two questions must be put: 'Do you or do you not, directly or indirectly, want to be killed or assaulted? Do you or do you not, directly or indirectly, want to kill or assault?' All who say No to both these questions are automatically committed to a series of consequences which must modify their way of posing the problem." - Albert Camus, Neither Victim Nor Executioner

For something less deep, there is this cheerful thought:

Since we're all going to die, it's obvious that when and how don't matter. - Albert Camus, The Outsider.




You have just fried up some bacon and are wondering what to do with the drippings. In my household, gowing up, we saved it, decanted it into a small bowl and kept it for later use.

It makes a wonderful spread for bread (a nice heavy rye bread, not that fluffy white stuff that passes for bread in North America). It is called smaletz.

All Sofia can say, "That would kill my liver." She doesn't know what she is missing.

I also save the fat when rendering duck breasts. It is wonderful and adds a delightful dimension when added to other foods. Frying pork sausages in a bit of duck fat is a culinary treat. Adding it to some cabbage dish also enhances the flavour.

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