Thursday, July 31, 2008

Man Reading a Newspaper

In my journeys on the west side of Buffalo, a building I go by on Niagara near Ferry (or Robert Rich Way) is where they built the Thomas Flyer.

The Thomas Flyer won the round the world race in 1908. E. R. Thomas Motor Company was located in a building owned by Rich Products on Niagara St.

At the bus stop on the corner of Niagara and what is now named Robert Rich Way was a bench with a lifelike statue of a man sitting reading a copy of the old Buffalo Courier Express. This statue was a fixture for years.

The articles in the paper mainly consisted of ads for Rich products. One that I remember was an ad for dough to make bread -- 5 loaves for a dollar. I guess times have changed.

But all of a sudden the statue and bench disappeared. More progress?

The mystery was solved by the Buffalo News. The refurbished statue and bench should be back in place in September. Rich Products is having it repaired and refinished.

Really good news for everyone.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Hagar and Andy

Generally when I read, I tend to read books about history, technology, politics, or different types of mystery or adventure books. Even occasional books on religion or science fiction will take my interest. Recently I haven't been very much interested in comics or cartoons.

The News locally used to carry two comic strips that I, for no rational reason, enjoyed very much. Andy Capp and Hagar the Horrible are not carried locally as far as I am aware. The only way I can keep up with them is online. I do occasionally do this, but it is inconvenient.

It's a fun thing for me. Each character is almost totally illogical, and due to the fact that I don't have to live with them, I can laugh about their misadventures. Each seems similar to the other, given the completely different settings that they live in.

Don't you wish sometimes that you can just charge the enemy or blast your way down the field and let nothing get in the way? It's definitely not me, but I can enjoy seeing others do it.

I suppose they are not socially acceptable, and actually would offend some people. I suppose even that that might be a factor in the fact they are not currently being carried. Unfortunately, I am only a single count in the popularity polls.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Hearing Aids - They are Playing My Song

With my old hearing aid I could get about three weeks before the static got so bad I had to change the battery. I used Energizer #13 batteries I got in a drugstore for about $8.99 for a pack of eight. It seemed quite economical, and I never bothered shopping around for generics or other store brands.

My new hearing and is a digital one. When I got it I only got about a week (7 to 8 days) with a smaller #312 battery from the audiologist before I got the four beeps like a musical scale that let me know I should change the battery. It's a very distinctive musical sound you can't miss and you don't want to because the hearing aid goes dead about five to 10 minutes later.

It's great having the hearing aid though. I couldn't get along without it any more.

It has a little button on the side that you can press. Pressing the button and getting one beep means normal operation. Two beeps is a setting that filters out noisy backgrounds. Three beeps is a special setting, optimized for TV watching.

There is also a fourth setting that automatically sets a special mode that cuts in when you hold a telephone up to the hearing aid. You hear a special beeping signal that means the hearing aid is set up so it will not squeal and will amplify the phone properly.

One day, in Rite Aid, they had "long-lasting" storebrand hearing aid batteries on sale for $8.99 for three packs of eight (24 batteries) -- a deal I couldn't refuse.

I tried one and after three days I got my little 4-note song. The next battery lasted about 2 1/2 days. I guess you get what you pay for.

There really is a difference in hearing aid batteries. I have seen statements on the web, where the recommendation has been to buy hearing aid batteries by cost. It just isn't true.

Hearing aid batteries are generally a special type - zinc air - and do a lot of work for something with a very small size. Let's face it, different companies probably have slight differences in production methods.

I didn't really lose on my bargain batteries. The price was so low that the only real problem was the aggregation of frequent changes. I do know enough right now that I probably would be much better off buying premium Rayovac or Energizer batteries in the future to save on wear and tear on the hearing aid. If you are buying something re-branded it should be okay if the manufacturer is one of these.

I have come across some European batteries for lower prices that may not be re-brands of US manufacturers but I haven't had a chance to try them or to check further. Some of the prices look awfully good though.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Swimming Pool Company Fire

One of the ways I try to keep in condition is to walk around the Ferry, Niagara area in Buffalo during the day. It is a fairly interesting area with the Ferry Street Bridge across the Black Rock Canal, Rich products, and several historic buildings.

It is also fairly close to the Grant-Ferry business district.

In the beginning in June there was a rather large fire at a swimming pool distributor warehouse about a block away. The black smoke from the fire, carried out to the suburbs. For the entire day about how he could smell was the fire.

The company has since gotten its act together quite well and it looks like business is booming. The interesting part from my standpoint, is the fact they are tearing down the warehouse that burned. It was a good-sized building, but obviously not salvageable. Most of the complex seems to have avoided damage though.

This is the second major building in the area to be torn down. The first that I remember was in 2006, the old Meyer Malt. That was a really major job with concrete grain elevators and everything.

It would be kind of nice though to see them build something instead of tearing things down.

Blogs and Noise Level

Just idly going through things, I checked to see how many blogs there were in Kenmore, New York. Kenmore is just a small village located on the northern city line of Buffalo, New York. There are 56 blogs listed, according to blogger.

Even better, checking New York State I found 117,000 listed. I don't even want to think about the entire country or the world. That's a lot of people writing important stuff.

What set this off was reading some of the regional blogs I found links to page after page after page of local blogs. I can just imagine how it is in other areas, especially larger ones.

I used to work at a research facility, and when the most recent director started, he used to continually emphasize noise as a major factor. How do you sort out what has meaning from all the background clutter? We all have that as a problem.

You can make a lot of noise, focus on a small group, be witty and charming like me, or various combinations of other factors. Or you can just do it for the fun of it and who cares who reads it or anything.

I enjoy looking things up. I also know that the world doesn't end with Google or Yahoo or Altavista or whatever. The really important information doesn't necessarily show up on the first few pages of search results. You really have to know how to research and be able to interpret properly to find much of value. Much of what you get is just noise, and really has no value.

That really is what makes it interesting, sort of like working puzzles. It's a great source of entertainment and education.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Hunting in the Basement

I was helping a friend who wasn't feeling very good. I went down in the basement to help with the laundry and was overwhelmed by the presence of dozens of flies.

The basement is a clean one, so the presence of all of this wild life was really a surprise. I was just down there a few days before and there was nothing. These are not my favorite creatures.

I wasn't going to stay down there so I beat it up to the kitchen to see if there was some bug spray. Of course there was, but it was for ants not flies. What to do next? Dollar General. I did maintain the speed limit driving up to Dollar General. But then at the store I couldn't find the bug spray display. So I wandered the aisles (guys don't ask where stuff is) until there it was -- a whole shelf full. Raid was actually on sale.

I went back and sprayed half of the can in that basement. You should've seen the dead flies. I didn't feel the least bit guilty wiping out a family.

I can't imagine what happened. All I can think is there were perfect conditions in some dark damp corner, and the whole family hatched at once. I am just glad it didn't happen in my house.

For the longest time afterward all I could think of was that Vincent Price movie "The Fly". That was one I saw at a very impressionable age.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Last of the Root Canal

Just cut out the temp, glue in the new crown and Bob's your uncle!

Just a quick visit. A little talk about the nice day. No novocain. Instructions telling me to not eat anything sticky for a day or so and I was on my way. That's how I like it.

I think when I finally grow up - like reach my 90s or so - I may get over my basic fear of going to the dentist. It is a perfect example of why it is so often that I put off things. It just is not comfortable.

As for right now, I couldn't be happier with my nifty new tooth.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Steps and Spreadsheets

Starting about May 15, I put my daily step counts into a spreadsheet - mainly to get in some practice using Open Office Calc. It is sort of interesting seeing how I am doing on the objective of 10,000 steps a day.

I really have not been trying to push myself at all. Actually, without even trying, I have quite a few days in the over 7000 range which is a lower limit on useful exercise.

My first learning to use a computer experience came back in the 1980s on a two floppy disk IBM PC using a Lotus 123 spreadsheet. Lotus was a great program at the time. Actually it was considered by some people to be the software program that built the IBM PC. It gave you something very useful to use a computer for. Engineers loved it.

I tried teaching myself to use the program by using the built-in help function. It worked great except for one minor detail--I didn't know how to get out of help. The only way I could figure to get back into the program was to shut off the power switch and restart it. I still laugh about that one.

Running Windows XP or Vista with an Excel spreadsheet is a different world entirely.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Spam and Blogs and School

I don't just delete my spam, I usually try to find some time to look through it, because sometimes stuff I actually want gets dumped into spam by the program.

I came across one e-mail that did grab my attention. It told you that all you had to do is put a simple search word into a box and this program will go through either Google or Yahoo or government records or whatever and write a whole article for you. You can either cite references or not and if you needed another article for your blog or newsletter or school report, you could generate another one from the same search word with different references. You don't even have to have a clue about what you are writing about -- and that is a sales point.

Instead of spending a week trying to figure out what to write about and how to express it, you can be generating three or four unique articles a day and overwhelm your readership with your brilliance. Of course you don't have to know anything about what you are writing but that doesn't matter, does it?

Google or Yahoo can then index your valuable information, giving it added weight even though it is only a regurgitation of other entries. As a treat you can get yourself a high mark in school without knowing anything.

Discussions of plagiarism -- although this is high-tech and automated -- are not for me to get into.

When I went to high school, if a student didn't feel like reading an assigned book or thought they didn't have enough time, they could go out and purchase a comic book about the assignment and try to get by by looking at the pictures, I suppose. There were also condensed versions of books. Teachers, especially experienced ones, could pick this sort of thing up fairly easily. It's going to be interesting seeing how they deal with something like this. If there is one program like this there are probably many.

Am I really me or am I a robot just pumping out words?

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Daltonism and Daylilies

I was discussing with my daughter how nicely the roses are coming out and how thick the hedges are. It seems my work this spring is really paying off quite well. The lilacs have come and gone but with their large flower clusters and perfume really make their mark.

I did mention to her that the large clump of flowers by the garage were just about to come out. I was wondering if she remembered what they were. She asked me if they were the orange ones, and at that point, I just broke up in hysterics. She started laughing too when she thought about it -- I am not exactly the right person to ask about colors. She did mention though, that she thought they were daylilies. Actually since then, a few have come out -- they seem to be yellowish brown with white in the center. They really are nice and quite large, the flowers coming up to my shoulders. They do just last a few days though. One of the cluster opens up for a day, then closes and another one opens the next day.

Also the laughing that we had done was based upon a little condition that I have -- sometimes known as Daltonism or simply red green color blindness. It's like everything else, you can feel sorry for yourself, or you can live with it and make the best of it and even laugh about it because some of the stuff really is funny.

John Dalton is a name, well-known to any chemistry student because of his groundbreaking work in such things as the gas laws and atomic theory. Another aspect of his life was his interest in a condition that he had: colorblindness. He did some of the first work that described and documented the condition. Because of his work, his name is even used to describe the condition.

Actually, if the truth be known, I do have my moments of feeling a little bit superior because of my vision. I do have superior distance vision and an excellent capability for distinguishing details. I was always the first one to be able to read the sign on an approaching bus. In analyzing images in ink testing, people would always ask for my opinion.

Of course, I have had to learn to be careful selecting clothing in particular. Every once in a great while I do come up with something that some people might think is a little bizarre -- at least the kids think so. I have learned it's best to "keep it simple stupid" and learned quite a while ago that blue works very well in most situations.

Friday, July 4, 2008

July 4: Fireworks

Seems to fit with the holiday. We should have good weather today for all the shows tonight.