Sunday, 27 April 2014

Capitalism Gone Crazy


Now this is frightening . . .

Like much of the stuff you find on the web this has to be looked at with a certain degree of scepticism because I am sure it is presented with a certain amount of liberal bias. But I do like that they have listed their sources.

Privatization of the US Prison System

The US Private Prison System

Privatization of the US Prison System. An Infographic from ArrestRecords.com

So far private prisons only account for just under 8% of the total in 2011 (it was about 5% in 1999) according to these figures. 

I guess profit overrides all other considerations in the private system. As a cheap source of labour and the involvement of corporate America, it makes me think that the privatization of the US Prison System will continue to grow and that it will be sold as a good thing.

America Strong!



Monday, 16 December 2013

. . . and more Travel Angst

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This trip to Brunei certainly began on the wrong foot with my passport problems which, as I discovered today, are not over.  Even though I am in Brunei, our planned trips to Malaysia and Singapore are now in jeopardy because of my passport expiry problems.  I am now trying to see if the Canadian High Commission here in Brunei can help.

And to add injury to insult so-to-speak, last night I tripped over a metal drain cover in the utility room and suffered a very nasty gash between toes on my right foot. Had to go to a local medical centre where the doctor and the duty staff could not get it to stop bleeding (a small blood vessel had been severed).  They had to call in a surgeon who finally got the thing to stop bleeding and then stitched it all up.  So, now I am on antibiotics and hobbling around with one good foot and with a wallet lighter by some $1200 (which I trust my medical insurance will cover).

This morning I was to have a game of golf but that is now going to have to wait.

Well . . . at least it is not snowing.


Friday, 13 December 2013

Travel Angst

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Once again, Cathie and I are in route to Brunei. I can never seem to get the whole Brunei emigration control business right. The last time we visited there were a few days we could not get out of the country because of a visa violation .  This time, on route in Toronto, I was almost refused a boarding pass because of a problem with my passport.

Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with my passport.  The problem is that it expires on 9 June 2014, which is exactly 1 day less than 6 months on the day I was in Toronto standing at the Cathay Pacific check-in counter.  Something I was totally unaware of is that Brunei has a rule that a passport must have at least 6 months before expiry to be valid for entry.  I was one day short and therefore my passport was, according the Cathay Pacific employee standing in front of me, not valid.  Even though I had sent my passport to the Bruneian High Commission in Ottawa and had their visa stamp authorizing my visit, this somewhat overly scrupulous check-in clerk said she could not issue me a boarding pass.

I was crushed!

After much negotiation with a supervisor and their calls to somewhere (Hong Kong I think) they finally agreed to let me on their aircraft to Hong Kong.  But this was only after I signed a waiver saying that I would not hold Cathay Pacific responsible for flying with them while knowing that I might not be able to continue my journey to Brunei.  I was very relieved to be getting on the flight but also very worried.  What if Royal Brunei Airlines, our next carrier, picked up on the same issue.  Throughout that entire flight from Toronto to Hong Kong my head was just full of worst case scenarios.  I had visions of being stuck in Hong Kong's airport just like the Tom Hanks character played in the movie 'The Terminal'.  I had also alerted my daughter and son-in-law of the problem and they made calls to their contacts in Brunei in anticipation that I might be refused boarding.  Eventually, in Hong Kong, Cathie and I were very nervous individuals as we approached the Royal Brunei Airline check-in counter.

As it turned out, that check-in process went without a hitch and we arrived in Brunei on schedule.  Immigration in Brunei (the people who would really have had a problem with my passport if there was one) also processed us without comment.  All-in-all, that check-in person in Toronto and my imagination were the cause of all my angst.

All is well now and we are in Brunei blissfully getting to know our grandkids again.


Wednesday, 16 October 2013

A Summer of Golf

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When I retired I promised myself that I would try to get as many summers of golf as my interest and health would permit.  Well, I am still interested and I am still healthy and my 12th summer of golf is winding down.  Our spring was miserable but after mid-July the weather has been great.  I have played just over 125 games since April.  I usually have my camera with me and take lots of pictures while trekking around the course.  The day before yesterday I managed to get a picture of something we do not see often at Hartlen Point - an eagle!  I took this picture just off the 4th green while the bird was watching us make our putts.  Looks like he was not impressed with our performance.

 
No wonder I love playing at Hartlen Point!



Saturday, 9 February 2013

Cmdr Chris Hadfield

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On Twitter I have been following (soon to be) Space Station Commander Chris Hadfield (@Cmdr_Hadfield) and I am so impressed with the work that he is doing up on the International Space Station (ISS). He has been posting incredible images every day of this beautiful planet of ours.  He has also been posting videos showing us the work that is going on up there and just what it is like to live in space.  He is a truly gifted communicator.

And that is not all.  He can sing!  Just look at this video which was produced just recently while he is on the ISS.

http://music.cbc.ca/blogs/2013/2/Space-jam-watch-the-premiere-of-ISS-Is-Somebody-Singing

Is there no end to the talents of this great Canadian?

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Thursday, 15 November 2012

Wrong Side of the Fence by Rachel Shabi

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I just read an article in the online magazine "AEON" concerning what has to be the impossible position that Israel is now in with regard to immigration, the settlements, and the treatment of its Palestinian citizens.

This is a link to it:  The Wrong Side of the Fence 

It is a powerful and insightful article.  The last paragraph is a good summery:

"An entrenched self-perpetuating narrative has taken hold in Israel, whereby everyone is against Israel and, even though the country is trying its best, it is surrounded by hostility. Because it turns out — and we could have guessed — being sealed off doesn’t make Israelis feel any safer; all it does is amplify suspicion and insecurity. All it does is provide the perfect breeding ground for hatred and intolerance and racism. It stunts thought, narrows horizons, and inhibits cultural and critical development by severing a crucial, life-giving, mind-expanding exposure to difference. Separation is a daily, crippling nightmare for the outsider group. Yet it is a disaster ofa different sort for those who have chosen to close themselves off, inside a sterile zone". - Rachel Shabi
      

Friday, 9 November 2012

America Is Sane!

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For some reason I find American politics so much more interesting than the Canadian variety.  The whole tortured process and the cast of characters seem to be more the stuff of of an epic HBO series than real life.  So, for over a year now I have been following with great fascination these machinations that ended with Tuesday's presidential elections.

The Democrats already had Barak Obama as their candidate, so it was the Republican candidate selection ordeal where the initial drama was occurring.  And what a bunch of wing-nuts those candidates proved to be.  The Republican Party seemed to be devoid of moderation.  Their prevailing ideology seemed to be extreme right wing, ultra conservative, fanatically Christian, and strongly xenophobic.  It seemed their outlook was firmly entrenched in the 19th century where, if they had their way in this century, all Americans would be packing iron.  And last summer, after months of invidious campaigning by most candidates, Mitt Romney emerged as the Republican presidential hopeful.

Amazing . .  . at least from my perspective.  As an atheist, I have have a problem with any belief system based on some supernatural guy in the sky that nobody has ever seen.  That an individual who wears magic underwear and believes in a history of his country which has no bearing in fact is selected by the Republican Party to be their presidential candidate was, to me, simply bizarre.

In the months after the Democratic and Republican conventions the news coverage indicated that the race was very close.  Indeed, after the first Obama/Romney debate and a strong showing by Romney, he was considered by many to have captured the initiative and some polls indicated he had the lead.  Republicans were ecstatic and right up until the night of the election most thought a new president was about to be elected. I have to admit, that as this drama was unfolding, I was beginning to despair.

Well, my respect for the American voter increased considerably on 6 November with both an electoral college and popular vote win by Barack Obama .  While I believe there has been disappointment with the way that Obama performed in his first term, a majority of Americans have rejected what Mitt Romney was offering.   Most the world outside of the US heaved a sigh of relief that Barack Obama will continue in office (except in Pakistan apparently, where I gather people liked Romney for some unfathomable reason).  Given the mindset of the far right, I expect the conspiracy theorists will be hard at work to come up with a plot of how the Democrats stole the election.

So its back to grind then for Obama.  I am happy that he won but he still has a Republican dominated House of Representatives with which to contend and massive fiscal problems to be resolved if America is to make a sustained economic recovery.  Hopefully some kind of compromise will be attained, although, if the last four years are any measure, Republican intransigence will be Obama's biggest hurtle.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Photoshopped!

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So,in keeping with the theme of my last blog (a digitally altered world) here is another image that just is not real but kinda neat anyway.

My son, James, this summer attended a wedding in which he was standing.  All of the wedding party had to dress for the occasion and for the men it meant a hat, gloves, cane, coat with tails and a distinctive red vest to set it all off.  When I saw that picture of James this summer, it reminded me of another time when he was all dressed up and in a red vest.  That was back in 1981 when he was three years old.  And I had a picture of that.

Well I just had to put the two images together and this is the result.  Cathie calls it James and Mini-Me.  In any case it is the totally surreal picture of the 34 year old James standing with his 3 year old self.



Sunday, 23 September 2012

Mug Shot

In the sea of waste that pervades much of the internet there are a few neat applications that are little gems of cleverness and fun. This is one of them. As part of a promotion for a new TV series on BBC America call "Copper", on their web site they have included an application which allows you to upload a picture of yourself to create a "mugshot" which is digitally adjusted to make it look like it was taken in 1864.

This picture is my 1864 mugshot. I think it looks totally authentic (other than the fact that there is a full head of hair). I was trying to look as sinister as possible. Neat Stuff.



Stupid . . . yes!  But I am retired person slowly recovering from a golf injury and I am going a little shack wacky.

The web site is:

BBC Ammerica Copper

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Five Frolicking Four Footed Fauna

On a rainy day last week Cathie ran to our balcony window telling me to look.  This is what she saw . . .



Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Hartlen Point 50th Anniversary

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I had the pleasure and honour of being invited to Hartlen Point's 50th Anniversary Celebrations.  I had a great time and met some of the few remaining chartered members.  Needless to say, I brought my camera with me.

50th Anniversary Images

I also made a movie of the after dinner speeches made by Rod Lyons and Larry Ashley which I have uploaded to YouTube.  Forgive me for the quality of the sound, but there are some limitations to my camera and the cameraman. It comes in two parts.






Thursday, 16 August 2012

A New Camera

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I have recently purchased a new camera - a Samsung WB850F.  So far, I am totally impressed with all that it can do.

My old camara, a Fujifilm  FinePix E550 purchased in 2005, is still working and has been an excellent tool in those seven years capturing quality images from all of my travels.  But it is a little tired now and there is so much more available now in a point-and-shoot camera on the market today.  What I was looking for was a compact (pocketable), high resolution camera with a lens having both a wide angle and zoom capability.   I think the term that is common for such a beast is "travel zoom".  There were a number of cameras to choose from all the big digital camera manufactures and some of them got excellent reviews from the experts.  After all my research what tilted me in favour of the Samsung was the wide angle aspect of the lens (equivilant to 23mm focal lenght of a 35mm camera) and the sale price at Future Shop ($299 with a case and memory card added - that was $200 less than my old camera in 2005).

Now that I have been using it there are some other things that I am very happy with.  These include:

- 21X zoom (the old Fujifilm had a 5X zoom)
- optical image stablization
- a panorama sweep capability
- HDR image capability
- GPS tagging
- WIFI (upload to email or social network sites directly from camera)
- an excellent 3 in AMOLED display
- HD movies (up to 1920x1080 px at 30 fps)

So, here are some of the images I have captured with this baby.  The NS Senior Golf Tournament was played on our course at Hartlen Point this year so I went out to take a few pictures of the play last week.  Here are the best of them:

NSGA Seniors Tournament 2012

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Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Saturday, 28 April 2012

A Milestone

Well today I reached a significant milestone.  I'm now 65!  Significant mainly for the fact that I will now start drawing Old Age Security and with that the designation that I am officially and undeniably OLD.

Yikes!

I don't feel much different than yesterday or from 10 years ago for that matter (other than my joints just don't properly function until later in the day now).  Guess I just have to count my good fortune and go out and have another day of golf (if the weather will allow).

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

More Unusual Weather


This has been a very unusual winter as far as the weather is concerned and today must have been the most unusual day of all.  Well, I guess it might technically be the first day of spring but the day was still quite extraordinary for this time of the year - sunny, little wind and the temperature well into the mid-twenties.  A perfect day for golf !  And that is exactly what I and some friends did this day.  We trucked ourselves out to Fox Hollow Golf Course and along with many like minded golf enthusiasts (the course was very crowded today) took good advantage of the weather.  With so many people playing things were pretty slow out there.  The fairways were very wet and soft which resulted in many perfectly hit balls to be plugged (and subsequently lost).  Despite those inconveniences it was still a great day.


 

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Not a Typical Nova Scotia Winter


So far it has been a pretty good winter here in Nova Scotia as far as the weather is concerned.

How good? 

Well I  never expected to be doing this . . .

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

iPad Apps


It has been a long and boring winter so far. The weather has been good which has allowed me to get out for my walks but I still spend a lot of time at home with a surplus of idle time. To fill much of that time I have been spending some of it exploring the world of iPad Apps. With hundreds of thousands of Apps to view, there seems to be no end of things to look at. Many of them are free but are just teasers to purchase the "full" version or just port to other paid services. Additionally, many of them are poorly designed or just plain crap. However, there are also some very useful Apps that are really well designed and helpful. I was watching golf this weekend on TV and also had my iPad flashed up with a PGA App which gave me an up-to-the-minute display of the entire leaderboard highlighting the players in which I was interested. Very neat.

I also found a free App called Pho.to Lab which had a number of interesting effects that you could apply to images. A lot of the effects were pretty tacky (well maybe all of them are) but some were very clever. Here is a sample of one that I thought that looked pretty good. This was a picture of my granddaughter Isla that was taken a few weeks ago. With the Pho.to Lab iPad App, it was a very simple process to create this image which gives it the effect that the image was a painting from the Renaissance framed and on the wall of some museum (double click on the image for a better veiw). 

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Images of Alex



Made this collage from an App on my iPad then uploaded it to my PC, then using another App on my iPad, remotely created this blog entry on my PC.  Got to love the technology.

And Alex . . . to me he is about as beautiful a little boy as it is possible to be.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Floaters & Flashes


A month or so ago, I had a visit with my doctor and, amongst other things, expressed concern that my hearing was not as it once was.  She suggested that I have a hearing test and her staff proceeded to set up an appointment for me with a local Otolaryngologist (an Ear Nose and Throat guy).  A couple of weeks later I get my appointment notification in the mail.  My appointment is in TEN months time.  I was not impressed but when I thought about it . . .  so what.  It was not an emergency that I see this guy so I definitely could wait ten months but my impression of the responsiveness of the medical system was tarnished.

On Saturday I was out for a walk and I stopped in at Tim Horton's for a coffee.  While sitting talking to some friends, there was something amiss with my vision.  Little dark spots were floating by.  I did not notice them on the walk home but that evening they were very distinct. Later, as I went to bed and with all the lights out, I experienced flashes of light when my eyes moved from side to side.  Needless to say, I was very concerned.

On Sunday morning the "floaters" were still there but the flashes were not visible in the light of day.  On Monday morning, Cathie called our family doctor and asked for an appointment ASAP.  She was able to get one for 2:40 PM that afternoon.  So off I went and my doctor examined me within minutes of my arrival.  She said I need to see an Ophthalmologist, got on the phone and arranged an appointment for me at 3:45 PM that afternoon to see one.  At around 4:15 PM, eyes dilated, I was sitting in the chair of an Ophthalmologist with him staring intently into my right eye.  As it turns out I have just experienced something which is not uncommon for someone of my age and who is near-sighted.  It is called Posterior Vitreous Detachment and it happens to 75% of people over the age of 65.  It is not treatable and, other than the floaters (which should become less noticeable in a few weeks), it should not affect my vision.  It was important to see the Ophthalmologist to ensure that my retina was not disturbed or torn, which it was not.  I was much relieved, but this getting old business has its moments of despair.

All this is to say that my faith in the responsiveness and effectiveness of the medical system is restored.   And there is another thing.  Throughout this entire process I did not have to bring out my wallet for any kind of payment.  We Canadians are a very fortunate people.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Just because I Can



Today I had to attend a meeting in Halifax so I decided to bring my iPad along just to show off my new Christmas toy and to let some people see some of my pictures and videos from Brunei. Everyone was suitably impressed. On the way home I stopped at Starbucks because I believe they are one of the few places in Dartmouth that have a free wireless network that I could connect with. Sure enough they do and that is where I am now writing this - just because I can. I also took a picture outside of the new car - just because I can.

I am really enjoying playing with this new toy. It is going to fill many of these long winter days.