Archive | April 2013

The Grand Canyon Experience Keeps On Getting Better Over The Decades. Better Now Than It Was A Decade Ago.

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by
Anura Guruge


A few of you may have noticed that I had not done any posts for nearly 5 days — finally doing one late last night. That was because we were at the Grand Canyon, this having been vacation week in northern New Hampshire. It was the first trip to Arizona for Deanna and the two younger kids. I, on the other hand, have spent a lot of time in AZ starting in 1980 — doing a ton of work for ITT Courier (in Tempe) and POS equipment manufacturer Hyperterm. I can’t remember whether this was my eighth or ninth trip to the Canyon since I used to do daytrips from Tempe to the Canyon and back. I first visited in the Summer of 1980. My last trip prior to this was in February 2001, with the two older kids, when we took a helicopter from Las Vegas to Western part of the Canyon. My last time to the South Rim village was in 2000.

The Canyon, of course, despite the inevitable but not perceptible erosion, remains unparalleled and breathtaking. That is my metric. It took my breath away the first time I saw it, though I had steeled myself to be ‘cool’, and it has taken my breath away each time I have seen it since.

But, the whole Grand Canyon tourist experience has got much better over the years and I am so delighted by what I saw and experienced this last 4 days.


South Rim, from the Village, opposite Bright Angel Lodge, with the Lookout Studio (with the white roof) to the left. All pictures (or at least 99.5% of the 1,571 that were on the 3 digital cameras) by Deanna. All the pictures will ENLARGE if you click on them.


Teischan’s first view of the Canyon. She wasn’t sure how to frame and process what she was confronted with. She seems to be pointing at it. This is smack dab in the middle of the Village. Right opposite Bright Angel Lodge.


From my perspective here are the things that have changed for the better (and all involved, in particular the Park Service and Xanterra South Rim LLC (which runs all of the hospitality services including the lodges and eateries) deserve kudos.

1. Concerted emphasis on ecology, conservation and all things ‘green-related’: A lot of what they (in particular Xanterra) is pushing and enforcing at the South Rim should be the order of the day right across the world. They no longer sell bottled water at the South Rim and proactively discourage the use of plastic straws — with the servers at some of the restaurants wearing big ‘STRAW FREE’ pins. I have never understood people’s fascination with bottled water. Now at the South Rim they were enforcing what I have always believed in and advocated. Use reusable bottles and fill them up from a tap (and here I am talking as one who nearly died, when I was about 12, from drinking contaminated water from a rainwater barrel).  I had never really thought about the straws but that makes a lot of sense too. Altogether the unremitting messaging about conservation and saving the planet was positive and was never grating. This messaging should be universal and not just limited to the Canyon. I have never been prouder of the Park Service — and I have always had a soft spot for them.

2. Total eradication of noise pollution: Wow. The thing that I most savored was the deep, profound silence of the Canyon. You could hear the silence. The total absorbance of sound was magical — and it isn’t as if I am subject to much noise on my dirt road in rural, central NH. What they have done, as they had wanted to do for decades, was to ban sightseeing helicopters and planes from the 50 mile, main section of the Canyon. What a difference. In the past you could never get away from the constant and annoying buzz and drone. Now, just white noise level ‘nothing’, occasionally punctuated by the harsh call of black crows (which they call ravens out there). We saw helicopters, but they were being used to haul heavy material to Phantom Ranch at the bottom for the start of the season. But, they flew far out and were not around for long. In marked contrast, sunset in Sedona was like being at an airport.

3. Proliferation of wildlife: The first morning as we drove up to the Village we saw a herd of Elk grazing by the railway line and the mule corrals. I first thought that we had lucked out. Not so. Elk abound. We even saw an Elk grazing away on the lawn of the famous El Tovar Grand Hotel. It has become like Yosemite or Skyline Drive. Come dusk Elk everywhere. Talking to a Ranger I discovered that the deer and the Elk have actually become a problem. Devanee heard that they are planning to plant a different type of grass in the Village to curb the migration into the very midst of the main tourist area. We also got to see a condor.



4. Reasonably priced food: The food prices, in general, were not that different to what you would pay at McDonalds! That was a pleasant surprise and respite. Makes a total mockery of the prices charged by NH ski resorts like Gunstock and Loon. The Grand Canyon really is in the middle of nowhere. Hauling stuff to it is expensive. So they could justify expensive prices. That they don’t is great. It is a pity that our ski resorts (and the NH Highland Games) just want to exploit the punters.

5. Use of natural gas powered buses and encouraging people to use them.

To be fair there was just one thing that I was not impressed about and it is one of my perennial issues with contemporary life – lack of a dress code in fancy restaurants. We made a reservation and went to dinner at the El Tovar. Now the ‘El’ is billed as one of the Grand Hotels in the U.S. and the dining room is classed as ‘Grand’. Well, the dining room and the service was immaculate, BUT having hobos coming into dine in shorts and T-shirts just detracts from the experience. Yes, I complained verbally and in writing.

The other thing that I noticed and bemused me is the mobile device addiction. You are at the Grand and people have their noses stuck on a small screen. It is a pity — though watching people take pictures using a 10″ iPad was cool, given the large viewfinder so to speak.

Overall it was a great few days. Deanna is still going: ‘Wow, Wow, Wow …’. The kids were overwhelmed.





Animated Google Doodle On April 22, 2013 To Celebrate Earth Day.

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by
Anura Guruge


Last Doodle post:
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Recent, non-U.S. Google Doodles …  — Apr. 18, 2013.

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Click to access animated Earth Day Google Doodle on April 22, 2013.

Click to access animated Earth Day Google Doodle on April 22, 2013.


Google appears to have added an explanation section in its Doodle archive for some of the more popular Doodles -- such as this one. Nice touch. Click to read full text.

Google appears to have added an explanation section in its Doodle archive for some of the more popular Doodles — such as this one. Nice touch. Click to read full text.


Sorry I couldn’t tell you about this earlier but we were out celebrating Earth Day 2013 in style. We went to the Grand Canyon. On the way, as is my wont, we stopped at Montezuma Castle National Monumentwhich is half and hour or so south of Flagstaff, straight off I-17. So we did two National ‘entities’ in the day. That both the Canyon (for the whole week) and the Castle (at least for the day) waived their entrance fees that day in honor of Earth Day was a bonus. More on the Canyon experience, which indeed was Grand, tomorrow. 



Montezuma Castle National Monument by Deanna. Click to ENLARGE.


One of Deanna’s first pictures of the Grand Canyon (from the 1,500 pictures she took). Click to ENLARGE. This is looking straight out from the heart of the Grand Canyon Village, standing opposite the historic Bright Angel Lodge/restaurant.


Google Chrome On Windows XP Does Not Properly Support GoDaddy eMail! That Is Diabolical.

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by
Anura Guruge


A Few Pertinent Posts:
  +++++ Do a SEARCH (>>>>) on ‘FireFox’ or ‘Chrome’ for others >>>>>
1. Switching from FireFox to Chrome  — Mar. 23, 2013.
2. Two things I like about Chrome … — Mar. 25, 2013.


I have now been using Chrome, exclusively, for just under a month. On the whole it has been ‘seamless’. I can’t believe that I was able to walk away from FireFox that easily, without nary a backward glance after over 12 year association. I really haven’t encountered any insurmountable problems with Chrome, on Windows 7, though I will continue to contend that I find it a tad sluggish compared to FireFox!

Last night I used Chrome on my Windows XP machine (which I still keep around because I still, alas, use FrontPage 2003). I was all excited that Chrome was going to automatically sync all my bookmarks, extensions etc. as soon as I signed in. It did all of that and I was happy.

But, I noticed that it would not render [i.e., display] my Bookmark Toolbar icons! That is a bummer because in some cases, especially with the very distinctive icons [e.g., Marketwatch, Bloomberg, Yahoo] I do not have any text next to them. Just the icon. On Windows 7 this works like a champ. On XP you get the generic ‘page’ icon for all. I thought this was a screen resolution issue so I ‘reduced’ my screen resolution to make the icons bigger. Still no joy.

Then I went to access my e-mail and I nearly fell off my kneeling stool seat. I reloaded and reloaded again. I even restarted XP!

GoDaddy e-mail, the e-mail service that I have used for eons (if not longer), just does not render in Chrome!

So I fired up FireFox. E-mail is just fine. I fired up this Windows 7 PC. Accessed e-mail. Just dandy. Went back to XP. Damn thing looks like somebody puked on the screen.

Here. This is what it looks like on Chrome on Windows XP.

Remember how GoDaddy rushed to my aid when I ran into traffic issues on my blog when the pope resigned. That is GoDaddy. Google should learn from them (though I have to say that Google was pretty awesome when we have had hardware issues with our Google Nexus 7 pads).

Click to ENLARGE.

Click to ENLARGE.

For a start, look at the parts I have underlined, twice, in red. Look at the BIG button. Notice that you can’t read the TEXT … which actually says ‘Move’ because it is displaying white text on a white background! All those little blobs you see, like bleached mouse droppings … those are supposed to be full size buttons.

This is crazy. This is stupid. This is unacceptable.

So, I Google. A known problem, going back to at least 2011. That is diabolical.

Click to ENLARGE.

Click to ENLARGE.

Notice that there is now a Chrome APP to access GoDaddy e-mail. I refuse to go that route. I have accessed GoDaddy e-mail from a browser for longer than most Google programmers have been out of diapers. I am not going to go down the slippery slope of relying on an APP to access Web-based e-mail.

That Chrome can be site-specific, depending on the version of the Operating System is beyond pathetic — and I am here talking as an ex-professional programmer for IBM, an ex-microcode programmer, a person who started programming in 1969, somebody with both a B.Sc (Hons.) & M.Sc. (Distinction) in Computer Technolgy/Science and somebody who taught computer programming at College level. This is just piss-poor programming. Simple as that.

I am not amused. Can’t believe that Google hasn’t fixed this or that GoDaddy, with their enormous clout, hasn’t leaned on Google and forced them to do the decent thing. Amazing.

Lyrid Meteor Shower Peak Over New Hampshire This Weekend

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by Anura Guruge


≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ Check CATEGORY ‘Astronomy‘ for other posts
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Click to ENLARGE.

Click to ENLARGE.


The Lyrid Meteor shower is an annual event taking place, typically, between April 16 and April 26.

It is caused by the Earth crossing through the debris field left behind by Comet C/1861 G1 (Thatcher) over centuries.

C/1861 G1 (Thatcher), with an aphelion of 110 AU, a perihelion of 0.9207 AU and an orbital period of 415 years, was discovered on April 5, 1861 by A. E. Thatcher (not sure whether he is a relative). Its last perihelion was in June 1861, when it passed by the Earth at a 31 million mile separation. So, it came closer to Earth then than will the much anticipated Comet ISON, C/2012 S1. It will next go by Earth in 2,276.

The Lyrid Meteor shower has been observed for over 2,600 years!

Meteor showers, confusingly, are named after the constellation from which they appear to originate — though the constellation has nothing to do with the shower. It just provides astronomers with a reference as to where to find the shower. The constellation is Lyria. Vega the nearest distinguishing star.

The above map shows where you can locate the shower, early in the morning, on Monday, April 22, 2013.

They are expecting 10 – 20 meteors/hour, possibly with peaks of 100 meteors/hour.

I have seen some great meteor showers in NH. Maybe this might be a good one. Enjoy.

Boston Craigslists’ “Rants & Raves” – Heads Up For Other News Junkies. It Can Be An Amazing Resource. A Few Gems Among A Lot Of Flotsam.

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by Anura Guruge


BostonCLrants


As some of you may have worked out I am an inveterate, and now incurable, news junkie. I wake in the morning to either CNN or CNBC and then spend an hour lying in bed, nursing a hot cup of coffee, switching between CNN, CNBC and MSNBC. This week, for obvious reasons, I also watched Boston Channel 7, head and shoulders better than the other two Boston stations.

When I am at my computer, which is quite a few hours a day, I always have a Google News tab open.

But, in reality, when I am working (which can be anything from 8 to 14 hours a day), I get most of my topical news from Craigslists’ Boston “Rant & Raves”! It, as I tell folks, is my barometer to what is really happening out there — beyond New Hampshire. Boston “Rants & Raves” is NOT for a squeamish. There is some pretty vile stuff on there. But, again it shows you what some people are thinking and are feeling.

This week I have been amazed by some of what I read and saw there. On Wednesday, as soon as the likes of CNN and Channel 7 started saying that ‘they’ had video footage of the two perps, somebody (and they all use provocative screen names) posted a picture saying that it was legit. It was very clear. Clearer than anything we were shown on TV the next day or even Friday. It showed the guy in the black cap standing in the crowd. When I then saw the official pictures I was amazed. I am sure it was the same guy.

Tonight, about an hour ago, there was a purported picture of the dead brother, with what I assume are two large bullet wounds pixelated out. It is pretty gruesome and shows some extensive burn marks to the neck and chest. I assume it is is legit. Most of these pictures don’t stay there for long. They get ‘flagged’ or yanked.

What I am trying to get at it is that whoever is posting this stuff has access or contacts. So my trust in CL Boston ‘R&R’ remains intact — though I do have to wade through a lot of unpleasant stuff. I don’t, of course, read all of it. I just scan the titles and only click on those that sound interesting. So this is a heads up for other news junkies. Everything said I probably don’t spend more than 20 minutes, in total, over the whole course of the day checking ‘R&R’. So ROI can be good. I have also learned a lot about what some folks on that ‘list’ think about Indians, Asians and Orientals. Don’t recall Sri Lankans ever getting mentioned, but we probably get lumped in with Indians. As is to be expected it provided many interesting insights during last year’s election season. BUT, be careful. It is not for the sensitive. So please be warned.

Alton Central School (ACS): Suddenly, Post Bond Failure, Heating Oil Delivery To School Becomes An Issue. A Coincidence?

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 ..by Anura Guruge


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It appears that the ‘State’ (whatever that implies) has mandated, in the last ‘few’ weeks, that heating oil can no longer be delivered to ACS by a large, commercial fuel truck. Why, because the big truck can’t get close enough to the filler and as such has to use two hoses. So …

The heating oil has to be delivered by smaller trucks, the type used to make residential deliveries. Moreover, a fire truck with personnel needs to be present while the oil is being delivered. [Maybe I didn’t make this clear enough. They are now delivering the heating oil via smaller trucks BUT a fire truck is required to be there. So, it is not one or the other; i.e., smaller trucks or fire truck presence. It is both.]

Seems incongruous, to say the least.  Why this new requirement now? Hasn’t the school been getting heating oil delivered, the same way, for decades? What changed? What happened?

If this is due to one of the many recent inspections, for example the one from DoL that found many violations, I am delighted – BUT, at the same time want to know why it has taken this long to spot this apparent violation.

Not really sure why using two pipes is considered a ‘no-no’. Wouldn’t it have just been simpler to say that oil can only be delivered at weekends with fire department presence. Of course any pipe can leak. If it is about fumes, fumes can escape from both ends of a single pipe. So, not sure why they are obsessing about coupling together two pipes.

Yes, I am trying to get to the bottom of it.

So, how did I find out about this? We went to the ‘art showcase’ at ACS on Wednesday — after school. We got there around 5:30 pm and there was an Alton fire truck and at least 4 ‘uniformed’ personnel. I, giving all the benefit of the doubt, assumed that this was just to add a bit more spice to the showcase, though I know that the kids get plenty of opportunity, at other times, to get to know the Alton Fire Department.

When we got home Deanna saw on the ACS Facebook page that somebody was asking why there had been a fire truck in front of ACS ‘all day’ Tuesday’ and ‘Wednesday’ — possibly wondering if there was a connection with the tragic events in Boston. [My first reaction was, why fire truck rather than police?] The response on Facebook to this inquiry further puzzled me. The person who asked the question was told to contact the SAU Office.

Well, I didn’t want to bother the SAU. Instead I called a friend who has lived in Alton for 70 years and knows everybody who is an anybody in town. He just made one phone call to a buddy and got back to me with what I am telling you above. I still had a few more questions and he is working on getting those answered for me.

This is just a heads up. No big deal. But, I like to keep these things straight.



Talking about these inspections and violations, I have yet to see any official statement by the school or the School Board.

Somebody has to be held accountable. No, they can’t sweep it under the carpet.

I have the report, which is a public domain document. I can make it available to anybody that is interested.



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