Posted on May 14th, 2016 No comments
I almost never recommend products or brands. But I recently tested the free version of InPixio PhotoClip 7 and was so impressed that I bought the full version the same day.
PhotoClip consists of two components: Eraser and Cutter
Photo Eraser lets you remove unwanted elements from a photo. Depending on how much you want to remove, and how much time you want to spend at it, and what the background is behind the removed bit is, the software works well and often amazingly well. “The technical features of Photo Clip automatically identify the sections of an image that need to be filled in and make your new photo look natural and seamless,” says the InPixio site. What that means is that you can just click on or outline the part to be removed, then click Erase.
This works best when the background is fairly simple, such as sand or water or sky. The examples on the InPixio site are all of this type. Certainly, these are quick and easy to do.
Here are two photos, before and after, done with Erase: The background of the dancers was really busy, so this took some work. First, I cropped the photo to only the central couple. Next, I removed parts on the floor, which left “floor colored” background on the bottom. Next I removed the photos on the wall (which left a “wall colored” background. Finally I removed the man in the white shirt and jeans, then the fellow in purple shirt and black pants. I couldn’t just click the white shirt, because the software then removed the lady’s white blouse. I had to “lasso” each part I wanted removed. Took a while, but you see the result at right, the isolated dancers.
Yes, you can do this in PhotoShop or Gimp, but this is single-purpose software that works.
The second part is Photo Cutter. Inaptly named, this lets you take what’s left after you’ve finished erasing (or any other image) and superimpose it onto another image, creating a photomontage such as my dancers at left, placed over a romantic golden haze. The foreground image can be manipulated – resized, inverted, reversed, etc. -
The montage at right was created using both parts. First, I removed the doggie (a real photo bomb, that!) with Eraser, then superimposed the “bombed” original over top of the cleaned version with Cutter, so that you can compare the two. This particular image took only seconds to create. With a quick glance at the corner where the dog was– and possibly even after some careful study–you’d never know the image was reworked.
Because I so seldom review or recommend a product, I think you can safely conclude that I like this one, and have used it often in the week I’ve had it.
Posted on April 30th, 2016 No comments
Allow me to grumble for a moment. What is there about self-published authors that leaves them so vulnerable to egregious errors of spelling, punctuation, and grammar? Is the Alberta education system so deficient that English is not taught?
Here’s a sample of writing from Eric J. Brown of Magnolia, Alberta, posted as part of his biography on Author’s Den: “My name Is Eric Brown, [sic: comma error] I was born raised and still reside [sic: comma error] in teh [sic: the] Canadian province of Alberta. I began writing when I was 13 years old, and self published [sic: self-published] my first novel, Ginny, in 1998 adn [sic: and] have sicne [sic: since] published, [sic: comma error] Ingrid 2000, Anna 2002, The Promise 2004, and To the Last Tree Standing 2006″. Is the man dyslexic? Can he not see those errors?
Another reviewer of Brown’s work, Erica Maidment, wrote on Amazon of Anna–Her Odyssey to Freedom (2002) , “…My main complaint with this book is that it suffers from very poor editing. I am willing to overlook minor and occasional errors, but the errors were rampant and marred the text. I liked the content so much that I would really like to read some of the author’s other books, but I am apprehensive if it means slogging through so many missing quotation marks, incorrect words, incomplete sentences, and spelling errors.”
I’m currently reading Third Time Lucky, another self-publication (Magnolia Press, 2009). It’s a formulaic love story involving mail-order-bride Jane Brody and crusty suitor Ethan Phillips, set near the fictional town of Grimstad in rural Alberta, Canada, in 1925. City-born Jane needs to adapt to life in the backwoods; curmudgeonly Ethan needs to learn more civilized ways; both are socially backwards and unable to communicate. Will they be able to share their feelings? Will Jane succumb to the blarney of the lovable Irish moonshiner on the next homestead? Will she use her return ticket back to Ontario? Well, duh.
The writing is a bit flat, but it is readable, with interesting characters and enough plot movement and character development to keep me engaged.
Anachronisms abound, making me wonder just how much (or how little) research Brown did.
- Despite the story being set in 1925, Brown’s characters generally use a 21st century vernacular, such as having Jane refer to Indians as “bad guys”; an educated woman of the time might say “savages” or even “aborigines”.
- “Nonetheless, Jane was wary of her first contact with First Nations people” (p. 130) — the term “First Nations” was not in use until the 1980s.
- Brown has his characters talk of Prohibition as if it were current, even though Alberta repealed it in 1923.
- Jane is from Montreal, where Prohibition never really took hold; even so, she is a “temperance woman” (though she spent some time in Ontario, where it took hold deeply)
- The WCTU in Canada was closely associated with various churches, yet Jane is of no particular faith.
- Alberta women got the vote in 1916, and the hope was that with suffrage, women would stand firmer for temperance; yet by 1925, both Prohibition and the temperance movement had lost force, especially in Alberta. Had Brown been aware of these social and political overtones, he might have used them for a further layer of depth in his novel.
These are minor issues, and not unexpected from a self-published author, though IMO a good editor would catch them.
The run-on sentences, missing punctuation, poor construction, and misused homophones (“wrapping his fist on the table” instead of “rapping”, for example) detract significantly. All the flaws noted by Maidment in the earlier work are present in Third Time Lucky. Did the author learn nothing from his earlier novels? Did he not seek further help with proof-reading and editing?
Yet this book had not one but two editor/proofreaders: the author acknowledges “Lillian Ross, fellow author and proof-reader…” and “Eileen Harrigan for her work as principal editor”. If the published manuscript is “cleaned up”, the rough draft must have been ghastly! In their defense, I will mention that the spelling is generally acceptable (although I take exception to “Whiteman” for white man). At least the spell-check is turned on in whatever word-processor he is using. Perhaps using the grammar-checker as well would help.
The characters, by the way, are always grinning. They never smile, beam, smirk, simper, or give a wry twist of the lips — they just grin. This struck me about halfway through the book, and for every page after, a character that grinned made me wince.
I don’t entirely blame the author for the book’s shortcomings; I’m sure many good writers are poor spellers and grammarians. In fact, I admire Brown for producing not only one but at least eight novels. I admire him even more for producing decent, readable prose and entertaining characters. It’s just too bad that his proof-readers can’t proof, his editors don’t edit, and his word-processing software doesn’t flag homophones for review.
A Post-Script: I had the opportunity as working with another Alberta author, Dave McKenzie, on his novel Calypso. We went through several revisions and edits, and in the end Dave produced a well-written and tightly-plotted book. Still, despite the careful work of several proof-readers, I have no doubt that we missed something, somewhere. It is our hope that whatever errors we left were minor.
Posted on October 12th, 2015 No comments
We pay really low electrical rates at our little cabin in the woods – an average of about 9 cents per kilowatt hour. So we started wondering why our power bills are are so high. There were months when we never even went out to the cabin, and used absolutely no electricity at all, yet we paid almost the same as for months when we did use power. Couldn’t figure out why we were paying for not using power.
When I phoned to ask about this, our electricity provider explained that the charges are “our share of the distribution costs”. In other words, they charge us a bit each month for the use of their power poles and wires, as well for a share of salaries, maintenance, etc.
Seems fair enough in a way, and clearer than rolling it into the cost of electricity. Our bill shows that, beyond a few bucks a month for electricity, we also pay for
- Administration – for the cost of billing us, I guess
- Distribution – poles & wires, I suppose
- Transmission – a small fee for shoving electrons along the wires?
- Riders – various little charges and rebates that come and go
Now, here is our average monthly electrical consumption for each of the past four years, along with all the surcharges, and the totals:
YEAR kWh Usage Energy Surcharges TOTAL 2012 128.63 11.30 74.48 85.78 2013 74.33 6.91 74.55 81.46 2014 43.75 3.56 83.60 87.16 2015 30.83 1.43 90.23 91.66
Notice that the power usage (kWh) and energy costs have declined substantially over the past four years, while the Surcharges have gone up, especially during the past three years. We’re approaching $100 a month, just for having the power lines come to the cabin.
With power costs over $1000 a year, even when we don’t use any electricity at all, off-grid solar is starting to look more attractive. A couple of years ago, I looked into it. A simple system could pay for itself in 5 to 10 years. Will we be using the cabin for that long? Would a solar system add any resale value to the place?
The main power guzzler is the water pump; a solar system to handle that would cost a lot. I can get a small auto-start generator to run the pump (and recharge the batteries if needed) for a few hundred dollars. But the biggest issue was the size and mass of storage batteries; I would have to build an addition to the cottage, specially heated and ventilated, to hold a dozen stinky acid-filled batteries.
Now, with the release of Tesla’s PowerWall, I’m revisiting the idea. Good to -20 Celsius, the thing is only about 3′ wide, 4′ high, and 7″ deep, it has internal temperature controls, is maintenance free, and would mount inside or outside the cabin. Pricey (about 4 years worth of power bills), but dang, it looks like a sensible alternative to standard bulky batteries.
Posted on August 31st, 2015 No comments
I’ve got a smart phone, a Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini. Samsung kindly gives me one free ebook a month for six or 12 months, I forget. I dutifully download a book each month. I’ve even read a few of them. I’ve checked the price of ebooks and they’re not unreasonable. But I still prefer paper. Here’s why.
- A paper book never runs out of battery right at an interesting part
- I can trade paper books at most campgrounds for free.
- I can pick up discarded books from my local library for free.
- I can buy used paper books at garage sales and thrift shops for cheap
- If I don’t like a paper book, I can throw it against the wall in disgust.
- If I really don’t like a paper book, I can burn it in the wood stove or use it for tinder in the fire pit.
- When I’m finished a paper book, I can give it to someone else or sell it in a garage sale
- I can use a paper book to swat annoying insects. I wouldn’t want to do that with my phone!
- I can leave a paper book on the dash or back window of my car and it won’t melt
Probably someone has already published such a list, with more reasons or more humorously written, but these are mine.
On the opposite side, though, it takes a lot of room for a bunch of paper books; I have eight on my phone and it hasn’t got a millimeter larger or a milligram heavier! Also, with a paper book I am stuck with the font and size chosen by the publisher. With an ebook, I can change the type size and screen brightness. As my eyes age and teeny print become harder to see, that is increasingly important.
Posted on December 31st, 2014 No comments
My little Christmas present, a Cheerson CX-10 quadcopter, arrived today from Hong Kong. It was only about $25 CAD from www.banggood.com and included free shipping.
My first impression on opening the package was, “Man, that’s small!” At 4.4 cm square, it is tiny indeed. When it came out
(spring 2014) this tiny toy was said to be the world’s smallest full-function quadcopter, and it may still hold that distinction.
Despite its small size, it has full control over throttle (up/down), yaw (rotate), pitch (forward/backward) and roll (left/right) along with three operating modes (beginner/sport/expert).
It’s fun to fly, and seems tough enough to take the inevitable smacks into walls, ceiling, and furniture that is involved with learning to fly. By my fifth charge, I had it set for a stable hover, and was beginning training flights (forward and back, left and right, “walk the dog”, fly over and land on the sofa, etc.)
It’s a good trainer for the larger and more costly quad and tricopter I’m building.
Posted on November 12th, 2014 No comments
My son and daughter-in-law have an obese feline that they call Goose.
So a few days ago, Beck was on facebook and mused, “Christmas is coming, The Goose is getting fat.” And if we eat her for Christmas dinner, I won’t have to clean her litter every morning.
The exchange continued:
Rebecca – There are instructions about carving turkeys, but we might have to initiate one about carving cats.Rebecca – I was thinking the other night if she’d taste good with cranberry sauce and what kind of gravy her au jus would make. Also, with what does one season a cat and is there a recommended wine to go with her?
Tom – A cat, like a rabbit, is not carved, but dismembered. A cat may be seasoned in a variety of ways; follow wild game recipes, especially those for small game such as rabbit or squirrel. A simple recipe for Beer Roasted Cat, along with suggestions for skinning and butchering, may be found at http://www.ooze.com/ooze13/cats.html. Don’t go there if squeamish.
Now for wine, may I suggest Cat’s Pee on a Gooseberry Bush, by Cooper’s Creek Vineyards of New Zealand — an aromatic and flavorful sauvignon blanc. You might also like Sally Cat Pinot Noir, or Tom Cat Merlot, by the same vintner, or Fat Cat Chardonnay by Fat Cat Cellars of California. Since cat meat tends to be dark and strongly flavored, you might prefer the merlot, though an aged pinot noir, with its vegetal and barnyard aromas, might well complement a vintage, fat-marbled cat.
To be continued?
Posted on August 12th, 2014 No comments
Today I took my truck in to Leduc Chrysler, 6102-46A Street, for an oil change and their 15-point “Peace of Mind Inspection”
Invoice 158364 reads “1D Lube, oil and celebrity porn filter change, checked and topped up all fluids, checked and adjusted tire pressures [my emphasis] and performed a 15 point visual inspection.”
Noting that the tire pressure was not on the inspection form, I suggested to the service advisor on duty, Chuck, that I’d appreciate it if he would confirm the tire pressures, as one had been low. He had me drive into the service reception bay and found one tire at 45 psi and three at 60 psi. A check of the door sticker showed they should be Front 50 psi and Rear 40 psi for light loads or Front 60 and Rear 70 for heavy loads.
It was pretty obvious that the pressures had not been “checked and adjusted”. (A second issue was that the passenger side windshield wiper is torn. I had been planning to replace it, but thought I’d just leave it to see if it turned up on the inspection. It didn’t.)
Chuck did all the right things — fixed the tire pressures, admitted the error, apologized on behalf of the company, said he would raise the matter with the tech and service manager, and did the best he could to make things right by waiving the cost of the “Peace of Mind” inspection.
But there is NO peace of mind in this case. I have absolutely no confidence that anything was inspected; how do I know that the tech didn’t just blithely run down the list checking everything? For that matter, how do I know that the oil and filter were actually changed?
Obviously, this will cost Leduc Chrysler a customer. And if you’re in Leduc and reading this post, you might consider going somewhere else too.
By the way, Chuck kept the POM inspection form, and I didn’t receive a copy of it stapled to my invoice. I think that’s odd too. I wonder if it will somehow miraculously change to show the tire pressures. Peace of mind, indeed.
Posted on July 15th, 2013 2 comments
Every family probably has them. Black sheep. Disgraced cousins. Uncles that nobody talks about. Skeletons in the family closet. Here’s one of ours: Ova Surfus, the demented loiterer.
Orva J. Surfus was born about 1847, son of Calphenus Surfus (what a wonderful name!) and Catherine Eliza Gray. Catherine was eldest daughter of Thomas Gray and Sarah (Houser) Gray and grand-daughter of Gray patriarch William Penn Gray. The family farmed in Noble Country, Indiana, where according to the 1880 US Census Calphenus worked for his father-in-law as a farm laborer.
Orva, youngest son of four little Surfuses, gained brief notoriety in 1921 at about age 47. Old Ova was arrested for loitering… while carrying a package of 10 sticks of dynamite tucked casually under his arm!
As described in The Fort Wayne News and Sentinel (Friday, Feb. 25, 1921, page 23, col. 2):
MAN BELIEVED DEMENTED TOTED LOT OF DYNAMITE
Rode Around on Street Cars With Enough Explosive to Blow Them to Bits.
Judge J. Frank Mungovan, in the city court this morning, Ordered Orva Surfus. giving Columbia City as his home, held until Monday morning for investigation. The man, who is believed to be demented, was picked up Thursday by Detective Donald Wood, of the Pennsylvania [Railroad Company] special police department, who found that a package which he carried under his arms contained 10 black porn sticks of 40 percent dynamite, weighing five pounds.
Many Fort Wayne people who calmly rode city street cars yesterday would have lost considerable of their complacency had they known that a man thought to be mentally unbalanced, was riding with them armed with enough dynamite to blow the car to atoms.
The authorities learned that Surfus had ridden on many city street cars yesterday and that he had also spent considerable time hanging around the plants of the S. F. Bowser & Co., and the Western Gas Construction company, always carrying the mysterious package under his arm. Surfus, according to the police, was unable to explain where he had gotten the dynamite or what he intended to do with it.
The state law makes it unlawful to carry dynamite on any conveyance which carries passengers. The railroads even refuse to transport 60 percent dynamite, according to a member of the Pennsylvania special police department.
Poor confused Orva, wandering around town with his package while back on the farm the home folks are grubbing stumps and wondering where he’s got to with that dynamite?
Stop by the family tree to check out the Surfus family and find their relation to the Grays. Anyone with further information about this incident, and about the family, is welcome to comment on this article.
Posted on January 16th, 2012 4 comments
For years, “stupid law” sites all over the web poked fun at Canada, saying that “it is illegal for clear or non-dark sodas to contain caffeine”.
Well, it was true.
But the ban is over!
Since March 2010, you and your children have been legally able to enjoy a dose of caffeine in 7-Up or Mountain Dew as well as in Coke or Pepsi.
Yep, the caffeine commeth. “Health Canada has determined that adding the food additive caffeine to non-cola soft drinks at concentrations no higher than 150 parts per million (ppm) poses no health risk to consumers who consume caffeine in moderation…” notes a Food and Nutrition page at the Health Canada site.
“For many years, caffeine and caffeine citrate have been permitted in cola-type beverages to a maximum level of 200 ppm caffeine. In March, 2010, after an extensive review of all available science, Health Canada authorized the broader use of caffeine and caffeine citrate in all carbonated soft drinks (both cola-type and non-cola-type carbonated soft drinks). The maximum level of use in cola-type beverages remains 200 ppm and the maximum level of use in all other types of carbonated soft drinks is 150 ppm. ”
Dang. If you really want a caffeine soda kick, you’ve still got to guzzle a Jolt cola!
PS: 2014/11/12 – Alas, Jolt Cola is no longer available in Canada. However, a number of “energy” drinks are on the store shelves and I have no doubt that many of them contain high doses of caffeine along with ginseng and other stimulants.
Took a day off to drive my folks (in their 90s) to the Great Canadian Roadshow in Stony Plain. They have a bunch of old coins and silver dollars collected, and they had seen a huge full-page color ad from this show saying that they would pay up to $20,000 for certain old coins.
“My son Neil said to watch them closely, they’re real crooks,” said my step-mom as we drove up.
“So why do you want to go?”
“Well, we have all these old coins and we’d like to see what they’re worth.”
Okay, we’re selling silver coins and we know we’re dealing with “crooks” doing heavy roadshow marketing
Mom and Dad are okay financially, they don’t really need the money. These roadshow things are widely recognized as giving only a fraction of what the items are worth, but I think for the folks it was just a chance for a fun outing, something different.
At the hotel where the show was, we registered, then had a pleasant enough 90 minute wait. We chatted with the others (mostly oldsters) waiting in the hallway. I chatted with a young mom who was there for a chance to get away from the kids (hubby had ‘em). I found a couple of other RVers, snowbirds, and talked about where they’d spent winters past.
Once we got into the show, an efficient young man spread our coins out on a table and swiftly weeded out the pennies, nickles, and coins newer than 1967. He then offered $4 for each silver dollar and $1 for each quarter and dime. Mom hung on to the silver dollars, but we turned in the quarters, a stack of dimes, and an old worn gold ring for about $25.
“Just enough to buy us lunch at McDonalds,” joked Dad. So that’s where we went.