Bill's Thoughts
Random Thoughts and Ideas that come to my mind about things that interest me

June 2024
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Classes are done!
Filed under: General
Posted by: Bill @ 1:36 pm

It was really surprising to see how long it had been since I posted on this blog.  I guess the fact that for over the last 15 months I have been working on classes for my PhD was more consuming than I thought.  However, today I finished my classes.  Now all I need to do is to move on to my dissertation.

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Windows 7 upgrade
Filed under: General
Posted by: Bill @ 3:37 pm

Maybe I am a glutton for punishment, but I just upgraded my laptop OS to Windows 7.  I have a 16 inch HP laptop which ran 32 bit vista, but I decided to go ahead and take advantage of the Amazon low cost upgrade using the pre order.  The software arrived on Friday, and I installed it on Saturday.

My experience with the upgrade was pretty benign.  I ran the “upgrade advisor” and removed two programs:  an HP program that I never used, and my ITUNES.  The advisor told me that I had to remove the “keyboard filter” but when I could not find where that was located and I contacted HP tech support chat just ignored that warning.  The actual upgrade took about three and half hours, including reinstalling my ITUNES so that I could synch my iphone to my computer again.

Once the installation was complete, I have not had any problems with the upgrade. However, I really don’t see any great benefit to the upgrade either.  Besides, it is more difficult to find computer on the network now than it was under Vista.

In conclusion, I think if you have Vista and are satisfied, don’t bother with Windows 7.  It is just not that compelling.  More info to follow as I test some more.


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Lets go to a concert!
Filed under: General
Posted by: Bill @ 7:14 pm


Today we did something that we had not done in years.  We went to a concert:  the Beach Boys at Wolf Trap in Vienna, Virginia.  It was a great show!  Only two of the original Beach Boys are still there (Mike Love and Al Jardine), but it really didn’t matter.  The crowd loved them, and responded with excitement.  Beach balls were flying around the audience, and everyone from ten years old to sixty (and beyond) was having a great time.  How many groups can bridge that span of years?  John Stamos really made the show:  drums, guitar, etc…he was the source of the electricity up there, getting everyone else energized.  It was also really nice to know that I am not the only person who still loves their music.  Apparently I am not the only one who has trouble sitting still when “Good Vibrations” is in the air…..

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Filed under: General
Posted by: Bill @ 7:57 am

We just came back from our vacation.  Well, it was sort of a working vacation:  I went to a conference by day and then spent time with our daughter, son in law and our granddaughter in the evening.  Then after the conference was over we spent a few more days visiting.  As always, it was wonderful to see the kids but the time passed far too quickly.  As you can see, I had a wonderful time with Natalie:

Grandpa and Natalie 1

Of course, on Father’s Day we had an old fashioned family Bar B Que, with Dad’s (and Grandpa’s) enjoying being with as many of their children and grandchildren as were available.  Natalie also modeled her “Sailor Dress” for a while, which was near and dear to my heart:

Natalie in her Sailor Dress

While we were there we also celebrated her belated birthday and her sandbox got installed in the back yard.  It was a real family project:  Natalie’s Dad and Uncle Mark did most of the work, while I offered constructive comments and suggestions :)
Testing my new sandbox

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A new view of one of our finches
Filed under: General
Posted by: Bill @ 2:16 pm

Today I was experimenting with Paint Shop Pro, adjusting some photos and I was inspired to try something new based on an idea I read about in the Yahoogroups D80 forum:
technicolor worf
This is the first time I tried something like this.  This bird has a striking yellow color, but it was getting washed out in the background.  This adjustment really makes him stand out and makes for an unusual picture.

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More Flower Close up Photos
Filed under: General
Posted by: Bill @ 9:05 pm


I was experimenting with a new Macro zoom lens that my wife gave me for Christmas. This is one  of my first attempts to use the lens to take some flowers we happened to have in a vase. 

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Now my IPOD is happy
Filed under: General
Posted by: Bill @ 8:27 pm

Today I had to drive down to St Mary’s County for a meeting for work.  On my way back home I stopped at the Apple store in Columbia and had them check out my IPOD.  They couldn’t get it to play videos either.  So, they exchanged it for a new one.  I took it home, hooked it up to the computer, and everything worked just as it should.  Within 20 minutes I had all my files transferred to the ipod and everything was working fine.  I can only conclude that the first IPOD was faulty.  That can happen to anyone.  However, I can say that I was impressed with the Apple store’s willingness to do what was necessary to fix the problem. 

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The trouble with IPOD’s
Filed under: General
Posted by: Bill @ 6:50 pm

I just realized how long it has been since I added anything to this blog.  It is not because I have not had any random thoughts in a while:  rather it is because I have been pretty busy with work and lots of things going on with the family.  However, right now I have been fighting a problem that is getting very frustrating.

I have had a 4th generation IPOD for several years.  It was very useful and did exactly what I wanted:  it addition to keeping music available I was able to load my Audible books on it and listen to books as I commuted to work daily.  However, it started to give me problems a few weeks ago. It kept giving me an error “no data card found” and I had to reset it.  I gave it a complete reset, including completely resetting it and reloading all the songs, with no real improvement.  So, finally my good wife convinced me to upgrade to a new video IPOD.

I bought a new video IPOD from the local Apple store and brought it home.  The first thing I noticed was that no matter what I did, it would never show a full charge.  Also, the computer never recognized the IPOD.  After four hours and trying both an powered hub and a direct USB connection, I was unable to get the IPOD to show a charge or be recognized by the computer.  I finally gave up and boxed it up to take it back to Apple.  I called the store, and they said that often if you tried to charge it with a USB 1 connection it would not charge, and so it needed to be charged by an external power supply.  I tried to hook it up to a power supply from my previous IPOD, and after about 3 seconds it showed a full charge.  I could only assume that it somehow reset the ipod.  At any rate, I was able to then get the ipod to synch with my computer.  It seems to play music correctly, but it will not play any videos:  I try to play a video and it gives me a black screen, a beeping noise, and then it resets.  I called the Apple store again and they told me to bring it in. 

I will bring it in tomorrow after work and see what they say tomorrow……

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Filed under: General
Posted by: Bill @ 5:56 pm

Today I was walking along in the yard looking for things to photograph.  This is one photo I wanted to share:

Red Tulip v1

I was looking at the tulips in the front yard today and thinking about how short a period we had to enjoy them, for they only bloom for a little while.  I caught this one so that we could enjoy the rich colors all year long…..


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Trees on a Frosty Morning
Filed under: General
Posted by: Bill @ 6:19 pm

Frosty Morning Trees

This morning I went to the MVA to renew my Driver’s license.  Normally this would not be something worthy of much comment, but the morning seemed to have a special quality to it.  It was clear and cold:  the outside thermometer read 11 deg F when I left.  The air was so dry and clear that it seemed to crackle.  There was a thin layer of ice EVERYWHERE.  This is what a row of trees looked like in the parking lot of the Frederick MVA office.  They looked so pretty:  like they had been dipped in icing that dried:  you could see all the structure of the trees but it was all coated in ice. 

By about 1000 the sun had melted it, so only those who stopped to look at it this morning got to see it.  I only had my camera phone with me, but this picture will give you the general idea.

Here is a view of a single one of the trees:

 A Snowy Tree in March

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February Snow
Filed under: General
Posted by: Bill @ 9:56 pm

back porch in snow

This is what it looked like out our back window this morning.  We had several inches of snow that was overlaid by a little ice.  It was a perfect morning:  a fresh snowfall outside, breakfast and coffee in my warm home with my family around me.  I just wanted to share the morning with the family members and friends who could not be here this morning.

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The train is not dead (yet)
Filed under: General
Posted by: Bill @ 7:57 pm

Just this past week I had the occasion to travel up to New London for some meetings relating to work.  Several colleagues flew up there via the short haul cattle car:  Southwest Airlines.  Originally I was going to drive up since I would rather spend 8 hrs in a car than 2 hours on an airplane.  However, a friend told me about another option: the Acela train on AMTRAK.  Personally, I had never ridden on AMTRAK.  I was initially surprised to discover that, even with all its subsidies, the cost of the ticket was about twice the cost of flying.  However, I decided to take a change after hearing my friend give nothing but positive remarks about his experience. 

He was absolutely correct.  I was able to get the the station 20 minutes before departure time.  (Compare that with 2 hours before flight time for BWI airport.)  The cars were clean and comfortable:  there was enough room in the seats to breathe, move around and even work with my laptop!  The car also had outlets to plug in my laptop so the battery didn’t exhaust itself.  There was a salon car with a snack bar which served decent premade sandwiches along with soda, beer, wine and coffee.  When I arrived at my station (New Haven) I was in my rental car and on the road within 10 minutes of arriving. 

Even though I spent hours on the train, I suspect that my total portal to portal time was about the same.  Besides, I had four productive hours working on my laptop as we rumbled along the track.  Getting the work done more than made up for the difference in ticket prices. 

Now if AMTRAK would only put wireless internet access on the trains it would be perfect…….

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The latest visit is over
Filed under: General
Posted by: Bill @ 9:18 pm

Jenn in uniform small

A very fearsome looking warrior, isn’t she?  But put her in an operating room and she can save your life.  Here are some more photos of her with her brothers:

kids small

And finally, Jenn and her Mom:

Jenn and mom small

After she had breakfast with us Jenn had to fly back home in uniform.  When she got back she mentioned to me that she was treated so well on the plane and in the airport:  much better than if she was flying in civilian clothes.  I must admit that I was glad to hear that.  Her first experiences are certainly better than mine were:  I can still remember people throwing things and spitting on soldiers and sailors in uniform during my NROTC days, at the end of the Vietnam war. 

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The spa is finished
Filed under: General
Posted by: Bill @ 7:37 pm

Most of the work is now done.  All that remains is to powerwash the deck, stain it and put up some lattice work to keep small creatures from getting under the deck.  We also need to put in some landscaping lights, but that is really minor. 


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Twice as much love…..
Filed under: General
Posted by: Bill @ 7:28 pm

We have written here before about our thoughts on purchasing another dog.  Alex, our collie is getting on in years, and we wanted to get a puppy into the house while Alex was still active enough to help train him.  We also thought that having a younger dog around might keep Alex a little more active.  We were going to go to some of the dog shows and start looking at the dogs that the various breeders might have had available.  Of course, things have a way of working out differently than we plan.

Today we were going to the store (to buy birdseed, of all things) when we saw a little pavilion set up with a rescued pet adoption agency.  They had a somewhat skinny, underfed but bright eyed collie named Maverick up for adoption.

double trouble

Here is a picture of the two of them.  Alex is on the left, and Maverick is on the right. 

Mark, Maverick and Alex

Here is another picture.  Maverick is on the left, and Alex is on the right.

Now we have to blend our new family member into our family.  This will be interesting.  More to follow.

Another visit
Filed under: General
Posted by: Bill @ 9:52 am

We are all very excited here (even when relaxed while soaking in the hot bubbles, but that is another story).  One of our daughters is going to be in the area for a few weeks, working at one of the local hospitals.  We have not seen her for a while now, so this is something we are all anticipating.  Now, if we can just figure out a way to get our two daughters and our son in law back home at the same time:  it would be a holiday (for us, at least) regardless of the time or date.

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Farewell to an old friend
Filed under: General
Posted by: Bill @ 8:29 pm

We have some sad news to share.  Bear, our pet hamster, has left us.  He died peacefully, and as far as we can tell, without any pain.  We certainly hope he had no pain.  He had a long life:  almost twice as long as a normal hamster.  We hope that, wherever he is now, he has a big wheel in which to run and lots of cheerios and peanuts to eat.  Good bye, old friend.

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The long hot soak
Filed under: General
Posted by: Bill @ 8:17 pm

The job is done

Well, things finally came together this evening.  By late afternoon the steps were done, the border of the patio was relaid, and the water in the spa was up to temperature.  We spent some time fiddling with the water chemistry, getting the Ph correct and then getting the initial shock of chlorine in the water.  Soon everything was ready for the first soak.  Of course, we will still be fiddling around for a while, putting in some more landscaping, lighting, etc, but what remains is finishing touches.

After dusk we all sat down in the hot water, turned on the jets, and spent the next 20 minutes figuring out which control adjusted which jet.  We got them adjusted correctly and I looked at my wife and said “Why did we wait so long to do this?”
Jenn, Heather and Matt:  your spot is waiting for you!

The tub is here, but still not ready
Filed under: General
Posted by: Bill @ 8:25 pm

Almost there

Today we made some real progress.  The stairs are almost done (we widened the stairs from 3 feet to 5 and a half feet), the screening shrubs are it, and the hot tub was delivered.  The tub came on a large straight truck with a lift gate.  It took three men to move it using a dolly.  It had about half a mile of cardboard and shrink wrap around it.  According to the literature that came with the tub it weighs about a thousand lbs.  Yet in big letters on the side it screams “Portable Spa”.  I don’t know about anyone else, but I think that something that weighs half a ton (without water) and requires three men and a dolly to move is “portable” only in the broadest sense of the word. 

Now, all that is left is to finish up the connections to the spa, the stairs, and the some trim work around the patio.  With any luck it will take us only a day to heat the water and balance the chemistry.  We might be soaking in the hot tub by Friday.

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Almost There
Filed under: General
Posted by: Bill @ 9:29 pm

The patio is almost </p>

Looking out from the deck

Now we are really moving along.  The patio is almost done:  most of the center pavers are installed.  The electrical feed for the tub is installed, and we are just about ready.  Now just a few things remain to be done:  the border needs to be installed, the stairs from the deck need to be widened, and, of course, the hot tub needs to be installed.  We also need to plant the shrubs that will be screening the side of the tub from the neighbors. 

Of course things still have not gone smoothly.  Our orignal thought was to have the cover fold back to the back of the hot tub when it was in use.  But of course it didn’t work out that way: the cover fold from side to side. So we could have it fold up near the house or toward the rest of the garden. We decided to have it fold toward the house. A suggestion to anyone who is buying a tub and planning the installation: be sure to check out which way the top folds! At this point I am beginning to think that maybe we will see an end to the construction soon. With any luck we should be able to enjoy the tub within a few days now. Just waiting for a few more details, like the actual delivery of the hot tub. More to follow….

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