Grandma & Grandpa's Farm

Saturday, May 31, 2008

UFO Proven Real! Armed Forces Take Aim with...

UFO Proven Real! Armed Forces Take Aim With Tribe's Best Bows and Arrows!

Well, the UFO is a helicopter and the armed forces are natives of one of the very few remaining uncontacted peoples of our world, but imagine... Earth could be that remote village in a backwater part of the galaxy and the helicopter could be a UFO.

(Picture at left is from "The Independant".) When I first saw stories about the tribe the other day I was under the impression that nobody knew about these people, but reading today I realize that the Brazilian Government has known about them and agreed to release the photos of them so that the rest of the world can understand their plight. They live in dense jungles near Peru and anthropologists have known about the group for some 20 years. The "plight" has to do with fast-encroaching development in the form of deforestation. Brazil has closed down 28 illegal sawmills in the area where these tribes are located, but logging on the Peruvian side of the border has sent many Indians fleeing into Brazil where remaining isolated can get complicated - these people wishing to remain isolated and practicing their own ways.

The recently released photos have indeed raised awareness if you haven't noticed them already in the news... I have included just a few links to the recent stories so that you might catch up on your reading.

It just struck me how similar this would be to our view on UFOs. We see these strange things beyond our technology and perhaps beyond belief flying above our homes and threatening our safety and perhaps our way of life. In haste we bring out our best defenses, which also happen to be our best offenses, though probably the wisest among us know that likely they would do little good. In truth, a well aimed arrow might take down a helicopter or light plane, perhaps a well placed missile might to a UFO do the same?

Some of the articles mention just how poorly these tribes do in the wake of meeting up with "civilization". "First contact is often completely catastrophic for "uncontacted" tribes. It's not unusual for 50 percent of the tribe to die in months after first contact," said Miriam Ross, a campaigner with the Indian rights group Survival International. "They don't generally have immunity to diseases common to outside society. Colds and flu that aren't usually fatal to us can completely wipe them out." (The Associated Press - Brazil says uncontacted Amazon tribe threatened by Michael Aster)

I wonder what might be a comparison to our world of deforestation of space or encroachment of the Earth by alien interests? Are we watched by alien anthropologists? Do our airforce pilots look like black, orange, and yellow painted archers to them?

Perhaps there aren't UFO aliens out there flying back with holorecordertransmitters sending back images of us poor primatives and recording our plight so that the rest of the galaxy might take not and save the space forest - but it does make you think doesn't it?

~ Darrell


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Friday, May 30, 2008

Tower Bridge - Art or Recording

Real or Realistic?

This Photo by Giorgos is from his collection on flickr and shows some of his excellent work. The question is - can an image either created completely by an artist of a scene or an adjusted photo or video of a scene be better than the actual unaltered photo when it comes to usefulness to people trying to appreciate the scene?

For instance from a heritage point of view. Is an adjusted photo of the Tower Bridge better than a photo? This is in a sense "hyper-reality" in that it really emphasizes the features of the architecture that might not be visible or as appreciated in the sort of photo that might be now take given particulate matter and pollution.

I think there are many times that emphasized images can be of use and that most photos are tinkered with in some manner since we must chose things like depth of field and exposure as well as focus and lighting to begin with. I do think that it is important to try and keep unaltered images as well as the altered ones though. You wouldn't want to add features that were never there an in fact it probably is useful to actually keep using film cameras for the same reason they try to leave some parts of archaeological sites untouched. In future there may be better ways to glean information from the negatives than we now have.

Digital images only have what bits there are. That is their strength and weakness.

I am experimenting by posting this from flickr's "blog this image" feature so that I can include an image in the post. Otherwise it might be awkward copyright-wise. I think I am in the clear doing it this way. I might have to come back to clean things up to make the post fit a bit better into the Stump.

~ Darrell


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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Robot in the House

Whir - Can I Help You?

What sort of robot would you like to meet you at home? I am not speaking of the boring domestic idea of a robot that is the dishwasher or toaster or microwave, nor the multi disc CD or DVD changer in your entertainment unit. (Is my age showing? They still have CD players right?) I am meaning a walk around the house, pick the laundry off the floor, answer the door, walk the cat, water the dog, vacuum the dishes and wash the roses - robot!

Do you see R2D2 or C3P0? Do you see the positronic robot from "I Robot" or Honda's ASIMO? (picture on the right from a press release about ASIMO.) I have seen a bit in the past written about the psychology of android and robot design. I guess it might have come out some time before Star Wars came out - that was "Star Wars" when there was just the one film. There was an article pondering just what form robot helpers might take - perhaps it was in an Isaac Asimov nonfiction book?

I really can't remember where the article or book's musings ended and mine started - it did get me thinking on the subject though. The article was talking about how if an android looked and acted too much like a person it would cause fear in people because they could not tell it from people, yet it might be fundamentally different. The human appearing android might harbour a danger - perhaps in the form of an emotionless killer or a perfect lier without any "tell". We might fall in love with such a construct and perhaps be very hurt or perhaps betray confidences without knowing.

On the other hand an android which was too different, like one of obvious gears and cogs might evoke fear because it was too alien - too hard to relate to or feel confidence in.

Whether very human looking or not human at all, a question might be, would you trust it to look after your children? Would you trust it to drive your car? Would you trust it to buy your groceries or pick up that prescription at the pharmacy? Would you trust it with the plans to the Deathstar?

After thinking on it I considered what I saw in the world around me. People feared the robots of "West World" and others which looked identical to humans. They used mechanical looking robots as monsters all the time. "Mechagodzilla" was intended to be scarier looking than "Godzilla" was because it was obviously mechanical. Even half-way friendly robots like Roby from "Forbidden Planet" or the protective robot of the original 60's series "Lost in Space" still had a fear factor. Robots that were obviously "mechanical men" evoked fear and robots that were not really man-shaped also did even when they acted friendly.

Personally I found marionettes and ventriloquists dummies scary. that might be a hold-over from seasons of the original "Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits". Those not so "mechanical men" would not give me much confidence. I also hated getting pinched by a mechanical tin toy I had a child. But there was something from my environment that did give me an idea. While marionettes and ventriloquist dummies gave me the willies, hand puppets and stuffed animals didn't. Granted they hadn't come up with knife welding killer teddy bears yet. But they had just come up with "Muppets"!

Muppets look different enough not to be confused with real people or animals and yet they do not have the scary bits of a mechanical man. I think it is something in a way like how a skeleton is scary. Those bony mechanical bits are supposed to be kept on the inside. I think that at least from a psychological and trust perspective it might be easier to trust a muppet-like robot in the home. I think that the robots and androids that became popular had some features of them. Even C3PO who was quite obviously a mechanical man had a muppet-like quality, I think. I think the comedy relief aspects helped out with their acceptance as well as the voice and sound characterizations and kinetic acting skills of the actor inside C3PO.

In some ways I think C3P0 might be an exception that proves the rule...

Other aspects of acceptable robots are that they tend to be a bit out of scale and they tend not to have edges to bite. There was Tweeky from the Buck Rogers televisions series for instance. I know I am giving ancient 30+ year old examples, but I am giving the examples from the time when I was thinking of this stuff. You might include all the larger and smaller than normal furred characters in the acceptable sorts.

Anyway I figured that acceptable robots would be somewhat like muppets. The would be larger or smaller than us and wouldn't have sharp corners or external rods or levers - their skeletons would be covered. They would not make quick moves - at least not unnecessarily. I think that ASIMO fits into that really. ASIMO might not be covered with fur but it is very smooth looking and moving.

I guess there might be a problem with allergies for muppet nursemaids, maids, and buttlers and purple fur covered gardners would be just always needing cleaning and having burs picked out of their fur.

Still, I wonder if you can get ASIMO fitted in a nice blue hypoallergenic padded fur suit?.

~ Darrell


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Space the Travelling Frontier

Who Should Foot the Bill?

When we travel around this world, we expect to pay our way, or if we are lucky have someone else pay it for us, but it does get paid for us one way or another. What about situations when a person needs special provisions for travel? Who should pay for those special provisions? Should those special provisions be accounted for in modes of transportation and at whose cost?

Let's take a very simple example - a person in a wheelchair. Our public transit buses have provisions for wheelchairs. The newer buses have low floors and can extend a ramp to the curb with little slope at all. There are two bench seats which fold up against the interior side of the bus and the first forward facing seats fold up for the wheelchair to be strapped in and anchored facing forward. It does mean in the best case that if there is one person in a wheel chair, they take up the same seat space as 4 or 5 passengers would and these also are the courtesy seats for the elderly or disabled. They also request that if in use that the front 10 feet of the aisle not be used for standing passengers and this would be room that perhaps 5 or 6 people might stand.

Do not get me wrong. I am not an ogre who thinks this is wrong or inappropriate. I am proud that our transit system makes allowance for people who are travelling in wheelchairs and in mobility scooters or with walkers. I am proud that there are buses designed to make it easier for the disabled and elderly to get on board whether they are using mobility aids or not. It is a welcome bonus that the same features make it so that strollers and baby carriages can be taken onto the buses easily - not to mention those two wheeled grocery carts and wheeled suit cases. People who do not have cars and can't afford cabs need to carry goods as well as themselves too. The level floor must also make things easier for those with arthritis and who are visually impaired*. (We also have on nearly all our buses bike racks that can be used at least during daylight hours. They allow increased range for those who wish to cycle.)

But I have sometimes wondered, and worried, especially when I was much larger than I am today - what about when I need to take up more than one seat. Do people think I should pay for two fares? I used to be large enough that it would be uncomfortable for others to share a two person bus seat with. I always tried to travel only in off-peak hours for that reason.

That line of thought continues for me when I go to get groceries. I have this two wheeled grocery cart. It allows me to carry groceries that would be too bulky and heavy for me to carry otherwise. But I really can't take it down the aisle of the bus and would have to sit in the front seats - the very same front seats that fold up for a wheel chair. I guess I feel guilty about it. I end up taking 2-3 seats.

Anyway that is something that happens and is a need for people who rely on transit.

Getting around town is something that most people would agree is a necessity. What about getting around the country or from country to country?

Do the disabled and elderly have a right to travel? Of course in many countries nobody actually has a "right" to travel and must get the proper documents to do so, but in those forward thinking countries that allow people to travel, should the disabled and elderly have the same right and should they be held back for financial reasons?

Let's consider travelling from one part of a country or large state or province to another. It might not even be a matter of a vacation sort of trip, but perhaps something of a legal nature? Perhaps flying to the capital for some reason. I am not going to make up a reason - let's just say the person in question has to be there and it is not a matter of being invited or requested by the government or a company so it can't be argued to be on their dime. For a person who needs a cane or walker, they have transporter chairs to get you in and out of a plane with little problem. I imagine for most who even require more extensive mobility aids short of respirators it would just be the logistics of making sure their chair is shipped safely to the destination or there are aides to take care of pushing them at the destination if they can not ship their chair.

That is good for short flights at least of up to an hour or two, or even three - but there is the call of nature. Even if they have a transporter chair they can take up the aisle of the plane to the washroom, most - to my knowledge - are not disability friendly. Do they have "handicapped" toilets on planes? Would a person have to rely on adult diapers and catheter for the flight?

Now flight attendants can do a lot and I imagine they are trained to handle a lot of contingencies. I know that whole rows can be converted for people who are essentially in hospital beds. I wonder who pays the extra cost for all the seats and for the conversion if it isn't a matter of using the plane as an impromptu air ambulance?

My question is, should the disabled passenger? Should the government? Should health insurance? Should the carrier as a part of civic duty and "cost of doing business"?

I can't answer that myself really. I do know that often it is the elderly and disabled that are on the lowest incomes and that they have the higher medical bills to begin with if those bills are not being paid for by health insurance or government plans.

There are a lot of things that can get complicated if you become disabled or always have been. I just was thinking about this one.

I am proud to live somewhere where they are trying to see towards transportation needs of all of us and where there is not a huge fight when the city wants to put in curbs at corners that a wheel chair can get up or audible pedestrian signals for the visually impaired.

Just food for thought.

~ Darrell


*Apologies if I am not using the correct terminology.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Life On a Fragile Planet

Life - Elsewhere?

From time to time I hear fairly educated people talking about the importance of space travel and one part of there argument goes that right now we have all of our eggs in one basket - the Earth - and if there were to be a global catastrophe human life would disappear from the universe. They go on to say that with global warming that catastrophe may be coming and that we could be looking at "terraforming" Mars or Venus for mankind to call homes and thus avert this possible catastrophe.

Maybe I have just read too much, but I see some flaws in this. The first and biggest one is that the "terraforming" of Mars or Venus is a project many orders of magnitude greater than actually controlling any problems of global warming that we might have created unintentionally or that might be happening naturally and that with the Earth we are starting with something a lot closer to what we want to end up with than where we would be starting with Mars or Venus. That being said, it only speaks to the issue of space exploration in order to escape from the damages caused by global warming. Meaning that if we can terraform Mars or Venus - then surely we can cure the problems of global warming on the Earth.

Granted at some time in the future, we might want to spread our wings and spread humankind into space in the Earth-Moon system and beyond. Mars is a obvious candidate for we could with our current technology probably figure out ways to survive there. Venus might take a bit more for it would be like trying to set up camp in hell. I think the atmospheric pressures on Venus are like that of being deep undersea and the temperatures enough to melt lead in an atmosphere with enough of a sulphuric acid content to etch any metal you might have in your kitchen.

It would be simpler to create some sort of space colony than to live on Venus probably. Of course that is compared with converting the whole planet into another Earth. There is also a concept where you start by covering an area with a kilometre high dome and creating your biosphere under it and then gradually in a modular fashion expanding the area covered until potentially the whole planet is covered. That is called Paraterraforming or the "worldhouse" concept. Perhaps not with Venus, but perhaps Mars or even the Moon.

It does lead to questions like do we want to do something like convert Luna into another Earth? No longer would we have that creamy white or silvery white orb shining down on us, but would have a much brighter white and blue one potentially. We lose something to gain something. We do that every time a city expands.

Cities - which are most often built in a location where the farming was best - expand and most often cover up the adjacet farmland. You lose farmland when you gain residential and commercial land.

That is a lot like that expansion of mankind to a "New Earth" on the Moon. We lose the Moon and gain a New Earth.

The near future Moon missions planned by a number of countries of the world might lead to permanent colonies on the Moon which might in turn lead to thoughts on Paraterraforming the Moon. How much change to the appearance of the Moon are we going to be expected to accept? Should the general "man on the street"* have any say in it?

What of other places? How about "Earth Orbit"? The International Space Station is very visible from the surface of the Earth and in fact you can find charts and tables telling you when and where you might spot it flying overhead. I'm not sure but an observant person with a good set of eyes or binoculars might be able to even spot it during the daytime?

Will there be a time when the sky might be visually "crowded" where there will always be a number of objects flinging across the night sky - not unlike being near a major international airport at night? I rather enjoy watching planes go by, but there might be a time when there will be no place on Earth that one might escape that aspect of civilization without benefit of a cave or very steep mountain valley.

I don't know if we'll ever build cities in space - large rotating colonies where people can live in a shirt-sleeve environment essentially as if they were on the Earth. If they are in Earth-orbit they will be very visible. I wonder how safe we would ever be able to make them?

I wonder if we will have colonies on the Moon, Mars, and other Terrestrial and Ice Bodies of the Solar System? Will we have interstellar space colonies - which are travelling off to other stars where it will only be the decedents of the people who start off who reach them, and who essentially in the meantime are dwellers of the space between the stars?

I think that before we have the technology to terraform other planets, that same technology would allow us to save the Earth from any sort of runaway ecological disaster. But in the meantime I know we have to take care of our fragile planet. It is the only one we have.

~ Darrell


* Yes I mean the gender neutral "man" and in "humans" or "mankind".
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Sunday, May 25, 2008

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Snip snip there

I enjoy working with images. I haven't gotten so sophisticated as to work with 3D images or Animated images yet and so mostly work with photos and similar images. I started working on fantasy images - meaning just putting together images to suit my fancy. I would add figures and subtract figures, change costumes and that sort of thing. I have gotten moderately good at it.

I try to make things look like they fit together and look as realistic as possible at times and sometimes it works better than others. One of the big things in how real it looks depends on what sorts of images I have to work from. The more I might have to modify lighting and shadow, the greater the chance that something will look like it just isn't right. Something just will seem odd about it. So having a library of images to use is quite important.

That is an issue because while I can find huge amounts of images I might use, there are issues of copyright involved. I know it is possible to use some bits here and there, but how much is okay? In the image of the Toucan Gryphon I am using four images at least in the construction of it. I imagine the person who took the photo of the horse might recognize it, though it wasn't a black horse with white boots. The person who took the picture of the eagle might recognize the image from which they were taken, but the wings in that shot were brown and were not nearly so up swept, nor of course did they have the green highlights. The Toucan head is probably more recognizable and the background as well.

I did do the composition of the image and altering of all the pieces and made them fit. I also had the idea for putting it all together and the work in finding the bits I needed. Even the background is altered. I did try to chose a background that wasn't too readily identifiable.

I have found some sources of images that are free for use by artists though they do have limits in scope, especially if you are seeking particular types of animals or scenes. One such source I use is Image * After which has a fairly large library.

For personal projects and those for friends where the image is only for their personal use I am not quite as particular. For a friend yesterday I took an image of God or an Angel standing on a bridge through the clouds and showing a little girl where they live and altered the image to make the little girl a little boy and I also added a poem that my Friend wrote. The project is for my Friend's Grandmother for her Grandfather's funeral. The skills I have gained made it so I could do a good job and create a beautiful card for them.

I will have to learn more about copyright and usage of photographic images. I have learned some from the Creative Commons and their section on derivative works, but I need to learn more if I want to go beyond images for personal enjoyment only. Still the techniques and skills are very useful in many different sorts of projects.

~ Darrell

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Saturday, May 24, 2008


Is It Getting a Little Hot In Here?

This is for all of you who are feeling a bit wilted or toasted under under the early season heat lamps of our late Spring or perhaps feeling a bit chilled in the cooler. Actually I am not going to talk about Global Warming or inclement weather - rather I am going to talk about feeling comfortable when for some reason we might otherwise be expecting to feel uncomfortable.

Now I know that the weather might feel uncomfortable. We can feel too hot for comfort and too cold for comfort and it is our body giving us important information for our survival. But there is more involved with feeling comfortable otherwise people living in Virginia wouldn't be reaching for winter coats at temperatures that people from Chicago might be stripping off their sweaters at - and that is taking into account "humidity". I think there is a large psychological part of things which is why there is a lot of "getting used to the water" involved in activities such as swimming.

Now it is true that with swimming it does actually take a bit for our bodies to adjust and the actual blood flow changes to take into account that water will pull heat away from our body faster than air even if the water is the same temperature as the air. But consider that at the beginning of the "summer" season a temperature that feels sweltering will in the middle of the summer feel comfortable - a breath of fresh air. The same goes for winter, but as we are getting towards the end of spring I will write mostly about summer heat.

I used to be miserable in the summer heat.

Now of course this worked for me and might not for you. I discovered when I was diagnosed with diabetes that I was chronically dehydrated. Our body has some pretty marvellous systems for cooling us down if it has enough water to work with. Even when the humidity is high enough that our sweat isn't evaporating properly from us and our clothing is becoming wringing wet instead, we can drink a glass of ice water and get rid of it shortly at body temperature and that heat had to come from somewhere! Our kidneys are pretty good at retaining the salts an minerals that we need as well and so every time you tinkle you cool down somewhat, even if it is a nuisance. I guess it is easier if you work or play somewhere that you can take tinkle breaks as needed.

So I drink a litre of water, a little while later, maybe half an hour, I head to the washroom and then when I come back to where I am working I refill my bottle and drink another litre. It keeps me cool. (actual mileage may vary)

I also discovered that when I am cranky and complaining I feel worse. The more often I say "I'm too hot." the worse I feel. I also discovered that when people are around someone who is grumbling about being too hot, they tend to get cranky and the whole bunch get more uncomfortable. But if someone is there and cheerful and bright - but not too cheerful perhaps - then the mood lifts and people feel more comfortable and not so bothered by whatever the climatic situation.

So, I try to drink plenty - making sure that most of it is water - I try not to keep complaining and rather enjoy it - we can enjoy a much hotter bath, sauna, or hot tub after all - and I do make sure to be in good health as possible.

I guess that last bit fits with the first bit of drinking plenty of water. I am still prone to heat exhaustion and sunstroke. so I have to be careful and I do take some medicine that precludes me getting too much sun. Young children, the elderly, and infirm do not have the full marvellously working cooling system a healthy adult has.

We can handle the temperatures if halfway healthy over a great spread provided we can shelter from sun, wind, and water. I have worked at temperatures from freezing to summer heat in coveralls, work pants, and T-shirt and I am no great Olympian of stamina.

We actually can stand greater summer heat than a lot of animals like dogs. We just have to remember to modify our behaviour a bit. That is what animals do. "Only mad dogs and Englishman stay out in the Noon day sun." Or something like that is how the saying goes. Stay out of the heat of the day and dress according to the weather. Wear sun hats, hats that keep the sun off your head and perhaps with a brim to keep it off your face shoulders and neck. Sun hats also tend to be ventilated so as not become little pizza ovens on our scalps. There are reasons for straw hats.

But just try and say, "I'm going to enjoy the fine summer weather. I'd pay big money to get this in Hawaii. I can enjoy this nice cold water. The summer will end all too soon.

If all else fails, pretend you are on an adventure to some exotic hot place like Africa, India, Polynesia, The Amazon, The Australian Outback, or Saskatchewan.

~ Darrell

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Tears and Life

Four-Year-Old Run Down While Petting Horse.

I was in tears earlier today when I heard that a four-year-old girl was run down by an intoxicated speeding motorist on a rural road in Ladner BC on the weekend. I know it was a few days ago, but I only heard about it on the news today.

I know it would be tragic to hear of any youngster getting killed and more so hearing that it was while doing something the little girl looked forward to doing every weekend (or was it every day?). She would walk skip and jump down the wide gravel shoulder of the road holding the hand of a grown-up to feed the horses through a fence. The shoulder of the road there very wide and the road straight. It would take an out of control car to strike anyone there. I'm not mentioning the name of the girl or family here as "the family has requested privacy." (Const Sharlene Brooks - Girl, 4 killed petting horse - Cheryl Chan, The Province, Published: Wed May 21, 2008 from

The family wants the focus shifted from the magnitude of the tragedy to the celbration of their daughter's life and rather than buying flowers and other tributes to leave at the sight of the accident, instead to donate to the Vancouver Childen's Hospital Fund instead. They announced that in her death her organs were able to be donated to give 3 sick young children a chance at life.

It was this last thing that brought me to tears. It was such a beautiful act - the donation of their daughter's organs that others children might be able to live even while theirs could not.

That is what I want to focus on - in loss the parent's gave a gift of life even in their grief and that vivaciousness will live on in the lives of others and perhaps more with donations to the hospital fund.

~ Darrell


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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Looking Out From My Balcony


I was just looking out from my balcony and along with enjoying the views of forest, moutains, and ocean inlet I was people watching a few moments. I spied a young woman walking from the West Coast Express Station towards me and noted how much she reminded me of a girl I was fond of when I was in First Year Science at the University of Calgary. The girl I watched was younger than my old lab and study partner, but her long hair was the same very dark brown which tended to be lighter at the ends - not high lighted or dyed, I think, but there was just a sort of glow.

Anyway, being a self conscious sort I didn't want to stare and turned my gaze elsewhere before heading back in. I had only intended on a short breather upon opening the sliding glass doors to let in a little of the glorious late spring air.

I did get to thinking - why was I concerned about people watching? - in particular because it was a beautiful young woman? Well partly I am very sensitive to other's feelings and also to what people think of me. I don't want to be know as the strange old man who ogles women from that second floor balcony. But I realize that I was only reminiscing about an old friend and I knew her long ago so that I was remind about her by someone who was close to the age she was when I knew her. I realize that I am now over twice that age and have no untoward intent toward the young woman I saw - but I wonder if others might get a bit of a bum rap only because they are looking at memories of their past?

Don't get me wrong, I do not think it is appropriate for mature men to take advantage of young girls - or for that matter for mature women to do so. (Or young boys or whichever mixture.) But how often when someone is looking at someone half their age are they simply looking back in time at their youth?

Now I also sometimes will see someone and when I see features like someone I knew wonder if they could be the child or -ahem- grandchild of someone I once knew. There is one actress on TV who looks so much like a girl I went to school with that I am almost tempted to write her and ask if they might be related.

Of course how is one to tell who is innocently wandering memory lane and who is a pervert doing a bit of window shopping?

I guess it is important to know how to look without staring, how not to make people uncomfortable and to learn how to spot the predators out there among us. Still it can be a bit awkward for the self conscious and for the writer and artist whose vocation involves the observation of people.


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Noise - If a Helicopter Crashed in the Forest, Would You Hear It?

There was a helicopter crash in Cranbrook, BC and the passengers and one bystander were killed. As with most aircraft crashes it is considered a tragedy and they say it would have been much worse if the pilot had not been able to avoid landing on the homes on either side of the street. However the aspect I am writing about is what is being said about the young man, Dalmas Otieno, who was hit while on the ground. Many people are saying that Otieno might have avoided the crashing helicopter if he hadn't been wearing his iPod with headphones.

It seems plausible - aren't earphones like ear protection meant to block out sounds? - wouldn't the music heard through the headphones mask any sounds coming from the outside? - isn't music being played a distraction? But is it plausible? - perhaps it is, but perhaps not.

From my own experience - which is anecdotal and not a scientific study, and I do not know what Otieno's habits in using his iPod or even if he was wearing it at the time - I can make a few arguments that the iPod might not have been an issue.

I really cannot speak for others, but when I am listening to my mp3 player - albeit not an iPod, I am not that affluent - I can hear cars approaching and people speaking. I normally use earphones rather than earplugs which might make a difference. I define earplugs as ones that actually go into the ear canal while earphones are the ones that sit just inside the outer ear, like the ear bud which often are foam covered. I also only occasionally use headphones which cover part or all of the ear, but definitely on the outside of the ear canal. When I wear my headphones I also can still hear what is going on around me.

Now that does not mean that everyone can hear what is going on around them. I also notice that when I take out my earphones and hold them in my hand around a foot from my head - that would be 30 cm - I really can't hear the music, radio show, or audio book playing. I note that with other people I can hear noise overflow and even enough sound to identify songs from 2 metres - that would be around 6 feet - away. Granted with possible hearing loss from the high volume they might not hear approaching vehicles any more even without anything in their ears.

I am not sure how much more iPod earphones block outside sound than my earphones do. I am not sure how much noise cancelling ones might either. Noise cancelling earphones and headphones are specially designed to take certain sorts of external noise and and electronically dampen it by creating sound waves that are the inverse of it... if you don't understand wave cancelling don't worry, just understand that you can dampen sound electronically. From what I gather from the technology is that it works on repetitive vibrational type sounds - sounds like a jet motor or car motor makes. They wouldn't cancel the sound of most human voices or crashing machinery. Of course, they might dampen the sort of sound some alarms make?

As to the music being a distraction... that is something else. For one thing I can be distracted by anything in the environment I am in. I figure most people can if they are not concentrating on something specifically. I find that music is something that I rarely actually concentrate on. It simply provides a pleasant background to the world - not like wallpaper in a room - it is there, but it is the paintings on the wall or the person I am talking to which is being focused on. Personally I might find an audiobook, newscast, or radio talk show more distracting among things that might be played on an mp3 player or iPod. The same would go for conversations or a radio being played in a car.

For me however I noticed that when I am driving if there is anything exceptional happening on the road, like anything out of the ordinary like someone driving erratically or a broken patch of pavement or anything like that, I stop talking and stop listening to whomever is in the car and am 100% focused on the car and everything around me. I am aware of what is around my car in any case keeping a buffer zone around it - that means if at all possible in addition to proper safe following distance, I also do not drive beside another vehicle or in it's blind spot and I am aware of anyone entering my own blind spot.

Perhaps though Otieno plays his iPod loudly and has noise cancelling earphones - would that have prevented him from noticing the crashing helicopter and somehow leaping, crawling, or running to safety? This morning while standing at a bus stop with a gravel truck driving by with it's gravel truck trailer and making just a bit more noise than a slightly loud car - I started wondering - how much noise does a crashing helicopter make before it hits the ground? "BEFORE it hits the ground."

Granted I think that if you hung a gravel truck 1,000 feet above the ground - that's around 300 metres - it would make less noise than a helicopter or small plane. I am not sure how much is due to the turboprop engine and how much is due to the sound of the blades moving through the air. Even then, what would you hear? Would you hear something out of the ordinary or just a helicopter that seems to be flying extraordinarily low. I know that I normally turn to look whenever I hear a helicopter, but that is personal interest in helicopters and that sometimes they do interesting things - besides crashing. So perhaps even if he weren't wearing the iPod at all, he might hear a helicopter flying very low and getting closer and closer and then look and... How close would it be? - would there be time to jump out of the way because surely it would be travelling 160kph - that's 100mph.

I think we all would like to think that we could dodge a falling helicopter. I am not sure if we could. I am not as sure that an iPod would be much of an issue though like with Olympic competitions split seconds count.

I think that there is another reason that comes into play. I think that there are many people who are offended by people listening to iPods, mp3 players, Walkman, Diskman, cell phones, or even them new fangled transistor radios in public. I can see there is a certain rudeness involved with a lot of cell phone usage in public - especially since a lot of people are used to speaking up or projecting when using them. That means they are loud when they speak on their cell phone and so everyone is forced to become involved in their conversation. Their conversation bothers everyone around them on one level or another. It might be one thing at a bus stop with some sort of emergency, but a constant flow of loud chatter is something else. Also on a bus it seems that every mile or two there is one phone or another ringing and at least a couple conversations already in progress.

And of course there is the distracting issue of that noise spillage from headphones when people must be playing their "tunes" at rock concert levels. Consider this, I have my earphones on and am listening to my music on the bus at a comfortable level to me and the noise coming from the earphones of the person sitting in front of me is almost as loud as from my own earphones. That doesn't help the offence that folk feel.

Perhaps there should be courses on cell phone etiquette before someone decides there should be laws? Laws do come about when there start to be problems. There are murmurs and in fact more than murmurs of laws to do with cell phone usage and headphone-earphone-earplug usage in cars and even in places at controlled intersections. I am sure I heard one official speaking in relation to the Otieno incident of enacting laws governing people wearing head sets in downtown settings?

I can understand various trades and industries banning usage of headphones and earphones in the work place. I am not so sure about how truckers might feel if they weren't allowed to listen to their country crooners while driving down the highways with or without headphones. Noise cancelling headphones might even be a boon for them as it would block out the sound of the diesel engine while allowing the sound of that ambulance approaching to get through even if they were listening to Reba.

I think that the statements on the news about the iPod were just to make the news more sensational. Did anyone even look into whether the iPod could be an issue?

Should it even matter since he wasn't driving or even riding a bike. He wasn't in the downtown core of a big city or on a construction site. He was on a "...quiet residential street lined with single-family homes and apartment buildings." ( - Family of chopper crash victim calling for compensation - Stephane Massinon, Canwest News Service Published Wednesday, May 21) Some people made it seem inappropriate that he was listening to the iPod or that in some way it was his own fault that he was killed when struck by the helicopter. But even if he was struck by it on the second bounce - I heard on a broadcast that the helicopter hit the ground once on its skids and then bounced in the air and crashed - would it have made a difference and is it so wrong to walk in a residential neighbourhood listening to some music? What if he had been sitting in his living room listening to the stereo?

I am against rude use of cellphones and music players with headphones or earphones; I am for some reason irritated that people are not only disturbing others with their loud music, but causing themselves permanent hearing damage; but I don't think that an iPod or mp3 player and its user should be blamed for something that really they are probably not an issue in.

I am also somewhat irritated that some are considering legislation to limit usage of earphones for people walking around in urban settings. where can I buy a set of "bone phones"?

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Grumpy Old Man - Not Tooting a Horn

Beep Beep

When did everyone decide that it is okay to sound your horn at any time of the day or night just because it might be convenient for you?

I recall, from somewhere that it was actually illegal to sound your horn except in a matter of an emergency? Part of the justification for that was that otherwise people might be less likely to treat the horn sounding as that of sounding an emergency situation. It also disturbs people and might startle them. Would you walk up to a 90-year-old-man or woman and sound an air horn?

This might sound like an extreme comparison however for quite a while I have found more and more cars where when the alarm is turned off or on the horn sounds. This is not a gentle tap on the horn but a full blown blaring of the horn. I get most grumpy when it isn't the "beep beep" like the VW Bug of old, but when it is the nearly air horn quality horn of the large pick-up truck or large SUV. Walk down the sidewalk of a small shopping centre and well after the vehicle has parked and the driver has exited, the horn blares! The driver having walked away and even while entering the shop heading for a frozen slush or chocolate bar or that 6-pack at the liquor store pushes the little button on his key chain to engage the car alarm and "HONK!!!!"

That sound no doubt comforting to the driver in that they know their prized chariot is now electronically protected. They didn't even have to turn their head to tell that the alarm set for they heard it engage. Of course anyone walking by the car, truck, van, or SUV got an earful of horn. Of course on the way back to the car... "HONK!!!!" And they know it is safe to open their doors without embarrassing themselves by accidentally triggering the alarm system.

Bad enough during the day, but you do get a fine sampling of horns if you are near any parking lot. It is more aggravating the later in the day after the afternoon is over. It rises making my grumpier for sure as it gets later. I know I don't like jumping when a horn blasts as I walk down the sidewalk. But on a quiet evening... and it doesn't even stop at midnight...

I first started getting grumpy about it when my past roommate and I started discovering that we both were being woken up at 4am each morning for no reason that either of us could figure out. We live in a moderately quiet apartment building and though not far from a major thoroughfare are used to that and the sound of traffic is not unlike that of a river - the firetrucks or ambulances do not wake us up. But something was.

Now I admit to suffering fairly often from insomnia and I found myself up before 4 am. It approached 4 am and "HONK!!!" it echoed from the parking garage under the building. I heard my roommate in the next room stirring, then getting up and doing what slightly older people do when they are woken up in the morning... well most folk I know have to go to the washroom when they are woken up substantially enough.

Now being an insomniac I have problems falling asleep so once I do fall asleep every moment I can sleep is precious. Being woken and robbed of that sleep very much pains me. My roommate had to wake up around 6am to go teach daycare and being woken 2 hours ahead of time is not nice either. I discovered that someone in our building worked a night shift and got home from work at 4am and when they parked their car they set their alarm and "HONK!!!" they were comforted to know their car would be safe for the night. Now of course it didn't bother them... they were AWAKE at the time. I wonder how many other people on our side of the building were woken up each weekday morning? (I really didn't care to sit up vigil down in the parking lot to see which car came in at that time. Call me a wuss but I really don't like my first meeting with a neighbour to be a 4 am confrontation when who knows how sober or belligerent they might be. Probably not something the police would interfere with either.)

Luckily they moved after not long. Interestingly people who don't play well with others tend to move around alot... they seem to find that everyone around them is unpleasant.

So just what is the point? My Dad's car flashes its lights when he turns the alarm and ignition disabler on. The lights flash when he turns them off. He can test the alarm to make sure it works, but he needn't do that every time. Now he does have to face the car when he checks to see the lights flash, but how much work and inconvenience is that for one person versus the inconvenience and discomfort caused to so many around?

Oh yes, I also live near one of those small shopping centre and luckily the bulk of the building is between me and the bulk of the parking. But as I typed this I heard at least two horns... perhaps the same car. But I knew I would and that was before 8am.

Of course - then there is the other thing... people too entirely lazy to walk up to a house and ring the doorbell or knock on the door. "HONK!!!!" Everyone look to see if it someone waiting for you! I really don't want to waste a moment of my life going to your door so I want to waste everyone else's time and comfort by blasting my horn so they have to check. That is bad enough on a residential street, but in an apartment building...

I really get grumpy and wish there was some way to complain, someone to complain too... maybe I'll figure that out yet.

~ Darrell

PS guess what I just heard?


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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Legal - Copy Copy Copy Not Right

Copy Copy Copy Not Right - On Copyright!

There are very many times and places you will see images, videos, and graphics and hear sounds and music that people are posting on the Internet. There is a lot involved in whether it is infringing on someone else's rights and I think many people do not really think about it or have been led to believe false facts about it. It is one reason why you have seen little in the area of graphics or other images on The Gnomestead Stump so far. I do feel free to use my own images that I have created using portraits of myself of which many I have done some photo-manipulation and photo-editing.

The World Wide Web or Web is a very visual place and plain text really is boring, so I have tried to break the monotony up at least a little with my portraits and tried to use ones that slightly fit the theme. I was going to go with a different image, but at the moment my server - the one that is hosted on - is down. So I am using my default portrait.

I have made use of an organization called "Creative Commons" to put a license on The Gnomestead Blog". It is a way to let people what rights they might have when it comes to content here. You can look for it at the end of the blog pages. I would like people to be able to copy these articles as long as they don't alter them or use them for commercial purposes. If someone were perhaps to want to use an article for commercial purpose, I assume they would approach me for special permission.

Something that I have found is very common is that once someone has copied an image without any credit to the photographer or creator people seem to think they can copy it onto their site with impunity. One of the dangers of copying material without giving credit is that nobody can look into the creator and even try to give credit at a later date without a large amount of research - unless like the editorial cartoonist Steve Greenberg they include name and web page in their signature or elsewhere in the image. I have seen though where people have cropped images specifically to remove copyright information from an image. This is - I think - a despicable action because it implies to others that there is no copyright infringement when there is.

Of course there is copyright even when it is not explicitly written on a document. Saying so tells who wrote the document and when the document was written or at least who owns the rights. Registering has the advantage of proof if ever someone were to place a claim on a work which is disputed.

I think it is very important to acknowledge the source of any material you find and use even if you are not quoting or copying it. This is even if for your own records so that you can know just where you found the information in case you have to verify the facts. It might help you for future further research as well. You would also be able to ask for permission to make use of a drawing or photo from the person who holds the copyright.

There is also a provision for "fair use" which is the use of a quote or part of something for the purpose of review of it or for educational usage. I can not tell you all that is involved. But I know that it is okay to quote a passage or two giving full credit ot the source and it is okay to use images in "some" cases. I am not sure of the cases so I am shy about using images. I do think it is okay to use a thumbnail image of a larger one to indicate a link to the source of the image when speaking about it though. If that thumbnail is not specifically provided for such purpose - meaning using the image in it's original location - then you take the thumbnail image or create one and store it on your webspace and use that image to then link to their site.

BTW using an image by taking the address of that image and using that address in your blog or web page is something called "hot linking" which is considered to be bandwidth theft. Whenever someone looks at that image on your blog or page, the image comes directly from their server and not the one that your blog is on. Essentially you are using their resources or "bandwidth".

It might not mean much on a blog or website that gets 5 or 10 hits a day, but one that gets hundreds or thousands can make a big difference and if a person is using a service like PhotoBucket for storing their images on, you can exceed their usage levels and the person whose space it is will not be able to have people see their picture.

This can really get out of control when someone hotlinks to a hotlinked picture which has been hotlinked by a few others... etc.

It is far better to save the picture onto some server space you have, whether on PhotoBucket or some other and then link to that than to hotlink to someone's site. I would then create a link back to that site with credits where credit is due. It would be better to keep in mind "fair usage" and create a thumbnail or other representation of the image and have the viewer of your page go to the source, but at least linking back lets the owner have a chance to attract the viewer of your page as an audience with you acting as an advertisement for their site. Just remember that you are still violating their copyright if you are using their artwork without permission.

Some places do give permission to use artwork as long as you include a link back to their site and the will advise you that if you wish to do so you must save the image to your server and use their icon for the link. But it is their image and their right to ask for that. They could be forbidding it instead.

So remember that pictures do have copyright, no matter where you see them. People might have placed works in the public domain, but this will be something that will be displayed with the image and you should be including that note with the image.

I am not very well known, but I have found pieces of poetry I have written and some artwork that has been copied and distributed without my knowledge - work from over a decade ago - and worse yet someone else has put their name to it! - flattery, I guess.

~ Darrell


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Monday, May 19, 2008

Eco-Green - Eco-Blues plus

Water Bottle or Bottled Water?

I thought I might post a copy of the cartoon that inspired me to write the previous article I wrote to do with bottled water. It was pretty good, I thought and I think it is okay for me to include it as I have seen it in a few places and it credits the artist on the image. I recommend you all look up the cartoonist's site to see what else all they have to offer. I think I'll create a link to there for this entry myself.

Here is the cartoon:

I changed my mind and on second thought I actually decided just to post a thumbnail of the cartoon and link it to the actual page with the cartoon rather than the page that I found it on. I figure that this actually respects the artist's copyright rather than breaks it. Bottled water - Steve Greenberg in his Steve Greenberg environmental cartoons, part of his Editorial Cartoons. You can click on the thumbnail of the cartoon to get to his page.

It was a bit of a hunt to find the link to his page from the cartoon but I found it! Blogs: Steve Greenberg's Cartoons. I recommend you check him out.

~ Darrell


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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Crypto Zoology - If You Go Into the Woods Today

If You Go Into the Wood Today, You're in For a Big Surprise.

I like many others am very interested in the strange beasts that people talk about having seen that are near impossible for others to believe in. These creatures include the venerable Yeti and Loch Ness Monster. I am lucky to have a bit more education than most in a number of subjects that help me to interpret what I see, read, and hear about the various sightings and evidence for and against the various beasts and critters.

I've taken a few years of Zoology, and Physical Anthropology and have had a keen interest in Paleontology. That has led me to a lot of recreational reading and research.

I'm not going into a lot of my reading and research or rehash some of the sightings. I am going to pose a question. What if what is being sought is not quite what is being looked for?

A number of years ago there was a major expedition to British Columbia's Lake Okanagan and in the end they had some video taken of "something" that was thought to be Ogopogo the local lake serpent somewhat reminiscent of Nessie. What the experts pointed out was after examining the video was that it was no sea serpent but rather some sort of 12 foot long beaver or otter swimming in the leg. Thus they said it could not be Ogopogo...

Wait-a-minute!? Wouldn't some sort of 12 foot long beaver or otter be something unusual? What if sightings of Ogopogo were of some creature that was a gigantic otter or beaver, perhaps even with a long serpentine neck? I mean it wouldn't be a plesiosaur or sea serpent but wouldn't it be pretty incredible and perhaps solve the mystery? People might not accept what they don't want to see or accept. Scientists looking to disprove a sea serpent might ignore a giant beaver.

I have been looking a bit at another of these legendary creatures - also on the western side of North America. Sasquatch is something being looked for by many. There seems like there might be something, and then nothing. People are looking for a giant North American Ape which walks like a man, but is much bigger. Now there may or may not be Sasquatch and similar creatures around the whole world - but what if Sasquatch were not an Ape?

What if there was another creature which was the size the Sasquatch is supposed to be with feet and footprints something like the Sasquatch should have? What if the Sasquatch were in fact a derivation of the bear? Not a relative of the familiar Grizzly or Black Bear but rather that of a now extinct one. The North American Short Faced Bear - a now extinct bear which would actually be large and powerful enough to hunt and kill Grizzly Bears - has many features that make me think of Sasquatch. One thing noted is that rather than being "pigeon toed" like modern bears the feet of the Short Faced Bear would face straight forward and it seems to have places for muscle attachment that would allow for it to walk further and more easily upright. Bears already are likely to walk on their back legs from time to time. Perhaps those many years ago a branch of the Short Faced Bear found greater success in walking upright and increased its perfection at it? They would stand far taller than any other bear we know. They would be capable of taking on any animal in the North American Wild if not elsewhere. If a hunter came across the body of one, they likely would assume it to be a large bear. The bones too, except to an expert would just look like a bear. An expert would see the differences. But there would be many normal bear found for one of these - and how often do people come across Grizzly Bear carcasses or skeletons? Probably the skeleton would give away more secrets to a passing naturalist? - though I could not be sure.

The more I read about the Short Faced Bear the more I think, it "could" be a Sasquatch candidate. In any case they sure would be evenly matched in many ways. The Shorter muzzle on the bear might make it look more ape-like to a surprised witness. It might frequently walk on its back legs in order to carry food like the carcasses of prey it kills back to its young. I believe the proportion of its legs are a bit different too from the typical modern bear - and tha is with no differentiation.

What if Sasquatch were an unknown relative to the bear rather than an ape? Would we be too disappointed to believe it? Perhaps it might even be smarter than the average bear?

Still if it has continued in existence, it does have many characteristics of the Sasquatch it looks enough like a bear to perhaps go unnoticed and it is from an area that Sasquatch are known from.

You can read up a bit on the North American Short-Faced Bear on the net. The Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre - North Amercian Short-Faced Bear page is an interesting article to read.

Here are some more pages:


short faced bear, irkuikem, criptozoology

Short-Faced Bear vs American Lion

Of course the videos aren't made with any thought to my pet theory.

Had to add this other one too...

Bear Power

Short Faced Bear

Well that is it for now!

~ Darrell


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Saturday, May 17, 2008

More Funny Stuff

More Flies in the Ointment!

Waiter! There's a Fly in my Cream of Elephant Soup!

Continuing on with the conversation with that a friend after a long excursion with friends hiking in the hills on a glorious, perhaps too glorious hot sunny summer day - sans hat - The Gnome remembered that his friend did not like to wear hats, caps, nor bonnets. They made her look too old. He suggested maybe a scarf. He knew she made a wrinkly face at that from the way she must have typed that scarves were for old women. Gnorman - for that is the name of the Gnome - opinioned that Princess Di wore scarves and looked great. His friend retorted that Di could look great in anything.

Later on the Gnome said out of the blue:


Gnomes sometimes do that out of the blue.

Another friend, Mr Monkey said:

Could you put that in a Banner - I'm having problems reading it.

So the Gnome obliged:

a BaBloinknner

...being the Gnome is an obliging sort of fellow.

Well Mr Monkey responded:

My eyes are bouncing so I can't see things clearly.

Mrs Fairy, the sun blessed hatless one admitted:

Minee felt a bit like that yesterday evening, touch too much sun I think!!

Mr Monkey responded (we are an odd group):

Nonono! No touch the sun - HOT! Not a good thing to touch at all!

Mrs Fairy further admitted:

You are right of course, my own fault, went waking on the hills with no hat

The Gnome being ever helpful said:

I told her that we would have to start sending her scarves if she wouldn't start wearing hats on her hikes and walks in the sun. Maybe she might wear a Tilly Endurable hat?

Mr Monkey considered:

That is a good thought - but perhaps not one that has been tested like the one that was eaten by an elephant and later retreaved.

The Gnome pondered a bit - and that can be dangerous and was proven so even today...

I have found that thoughts that had been ruminated upon make for much better thoughts, and I have heard there are not much better ruminators than elepodunks.

I think that scarves are to women what ties are to men... but scarves are much more useful because there are fewer ways to wear ties and really except for tourniquets and blindfolds there aren't too many uses to ties other than fancy dress.

Of course scarves while also useful as ways of expression in manner of colour, pattern, size, shape, material, and texture, have many more ways of being worn including as an impromptu tie. Where as ties can only pretend to maybe be worn as a headband or armband or drumandbugleband and the later is not really a good pretend.

A scarve, or scarf (see you can even find two ways to spell it really even plural if you have a number of scarfs or scarves) can even save your life!

There are even two really basic sorts of scarf if you look at the sort that are more traditionally the square sort to hold in the hair and the long narrow type used to hold out the cold.

Yes scarves have IT! even if you don't look at their cousin the veil!

Need I mention this is the first warm weather of the season?

Note some of the Gnome Conversations are stolen from conversations from "The Gnome's Garden" a Forum Based BBS that he runs as BelGnorman the Gnome. Names are modified to protect the innocent.


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