Friday, September 21, 2012

Western Voyage of Discovery Under Way

White Sands National Monument
The first few days' worth of pictures from the Western Voyage of Discovery have been posted. Hard to believe we've done all this in only four days: Carlsbad Cavern, White Sands, El Camino Real International Heritage Center, the Very Large Array, La Ventana, El Malpais, El Morro and the Painted Desert. But we have, Rick and I, and we expect to have much, much more in the coming days.  Anyway, to take a look at the pics so far, click here.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

I Must've Been Watching Some Other Match

United States 1:0 Jamaica

Now that the United States' Men's National Team has ... ahem ... redeemed itself for the unanimated chukkering it got over the weekend in Kingston, the soccer pundits are indulging some primitive need to make the team seem as good as people think it should be. They rave about the performances in the exciting, scintillating re-match played in Columbus, Ohio, Tuesday night.

I must have had some other soccer match on my television. What I saw was a United States team that could engage in sharp, crisp, and incisive passing as long as their opponent held back and didn't press. Jamaica held back and didn't press, so the US looked good from the start. They did manage to get behind the Jamaican defense three times, hitting the post each time. (Credit the Jamaican goalkeeper for his performance on at least one of those shots.)

But once the US scored in the 55th minute — from a fairly well-taken free kick by Herculez Gomez, which only went in because of a poor effort by that same Jamaican keeper — the Reggae Boyz started to play for a draw. (That, it would appear, had been their aim all along: the one point for a draw would have put them at the top of the group in this qualifying round.) They started pressing the US immediately, and our guys' passing immediately went to Hell. Where the game, until the US goal, was played entirely in Jamaica's half of the pitch, after we scored our guys were content to hunker down and defend, a disappointing strategy. The late stages, after the slim lead was taken, had the US team entirely on the back foot, and was played entirely in our half of the game.

Fortunately, our team's defensive capabilities have improved since Klinsmann took over as head coach, and while the back line that was available for this match were not (I pray) the strongest the team can put together, it was adequate for the task of defending against the 60th-ranked* Jamaica. 

Overall, it was a performance worthy of the national teams we could put on the field in the early '90s. The US national team of the present should be a regional powerhouse, a rival to the Mexican national team; it should not be struggling to overmaster such relative minnows as Jamaica. And the giddy sports columnists and commentators on television, in print, and on the Web, are doing the team and the sport no favours by talking about this slipshod half-assed performance as though it was all it could have been. Even with Donovan and Bradley and Holden out, and Dempsey so badly out of form, this was a poor, poor performance from the team.

* Don't take those rankings too seriously. As someone once famously said, they're more a guideline than a rule.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Progress Has a Seizure

So much for scanning in all my pre-digital pictures....

I bought an HP 3050A, a good deal, I thought, at $80. It faxes, copies, scans and prints, and can do it all wirelessly. This was a good selling point for me, because I have sufficient clutter around my computer already and was glad to be able to install this machine in the less frequented parts of the room.

Installation went with barely a hitch. The only hassle was that I had to disconnect everything from my computer and move it across the room so I could briefly connect it to the new machine, to transfer wireless information. You know, if HP would just use a regular old USB port for that connection, and told me where on my computer the needed info was, I could've just copied it onto a flash drive. But no, I had to install a battery (I normally leave it out, except when I travel), disconnect the primary printer, the speakers, the second monitor, the power cord and all the little gadgets and woo-ha things that are plugged into this computer (all the things that made me glad to be able to install the new machine across the room). Then I was able, after punching in a few bits of information, to scan photos on the new machine* and have them magically appear on this computer ... whence, the photos of Guanajuato posted the other day.

But it wasn't to last. Twenty pictures into the next set — pictures from the PCB Tour, a mid-'80s trip around Europe with some friends that we titled Deadly Poison On The Road — my old Netgear router hiccoughed. I had to re-boot the router. Not a big deal: it happens now and then, and my phone and my computer always just pick up the renewed signal and sign themselves back in.

But not this cheap-o HP machine. I eventually got it re-connected to the internet, but while my computer could find the new printer, the new printer could not locate the computer. Everything checked out fine, but it was always unable to locate the computer. I went to the HP Scan-Doctor, or whatever they call their Help system, and it was no use. I spent all of Saturday and Sunday, off and on, trying to get the new machine to work. By midnight on Sunday, I had decided I had done everything their website could suggest, and had seen then same instructions over and over and over.

Of course, some of those instructions were especially irritating: the ones that tell you to press nonexistent buttons, the ones that instruct you to selection unavailable options from the menus.... But mainly what frustrates me is the idea that these machines should all be a part of this plug-and-play world. I should be able to plug in my new wireless printer, type in a few numbers, and have it spring to life with no more fuss than I go through in trying to sync my MP-3 player.

But no, it isn't that simple; technology has had a seizure, hit a brick wall, run off the road. It is so far from being that simple that today I took the machine back, and I am once again without a scanner, so there will be no more old pics posting.

I know you're all broken up over that, but try to keep hold of yourselves.

* I wouldn't want to give the impression that it worked correctly; each time I hit "scan," the machine would whir and flash its little progress light, then announce "activation lost," and tell me to re-establish a connection. I soon learned to ignore this, and after a pause the scan would take place and the file would appear on my computer. Each one took about 75 seconds, which I thought was a long time. But what do I know?

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The March of Progress

The bell tower on the Basilica in Guanajuato
I got a scanner the other day, and set it up yesterday, so now I can scan in my old pictures. And when I'm done, and have no further use for a scanner, I'll have a back-up printer. And, I suppose, a copy machine, though the ink for that machine is really way too expensive for regular use. (It'll probably all dry up in the cartridges before I use any of it anyway.)

But I've scanned in the first batch of photos, from a 1998 trip to Guanajuato, Mexico, for the Cervantino Arts Festival.