Las Palmas

Click to enlargeWe arrived at Las Palmas on Gran Canaria Island  at 8am the next morning  Las Palmas is the capital of the Canary Islands (alternating with Santa Cruz.)

We had an early breakfast as we were scheduled for a “Panoramic Tour” of the island starting at 8:30.  That tour took us on  some of the narrowest, steepest and most twisty roads I have ever seen.  Click to enlargeThe bus took us up to a point overlooking the “Crater of Bandam”, a volcanic caldera that was left from an eruption 5000 years ago.

Then we visited a town called Teror – the guide had to tell us how the people living there were known as Click to enlarge“Terorists.”   It was Sunday so they were performing mass in Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pino. Because of that we only saw it from the outside.  At the same time there was the weekly market going on in the streets around the Basilica.  We wandered around there seeing everything for sale from cotton candy and roast chestnuts  to Click to enlargeclothing and jewelry. We also sampled a local product – Honey Rum.  Quite good though  very sweet – a small amount was enough.

Next we went on to Arucas which is in an area of banana farms and famous for Click to enlargeThe Church of San Juan Bautista.  An impressive structure built from local stone with many intricate carvings.  Construction was begun in 1909 and only finished recently.  Again, mass was being conducted so we did not go inside.

Finally we returned to Las Palmas but before going to the ship we stopped by the marina to see the start of a huge yacht race.  This race starts in Las Palmas and ends up at St. Lucia in Click to enlargethe Caribbean.  We were told that there were 250 boats starting out that day (11/22) and that they would cover the 2700 nautical miles in about 3 weeks.

We returned to the ship just in time for a late lunch and spent the remainder of the day lounging by the pool and getting to know more of our fellow passengers.  We sailed for Lanzarote at 7pm and once again, because of weather conditions, they did not raise the sails. 🙁

USA to Spain

Jan and I are just back from a cruise to the Canary Islands, Morocco and Portugal.  This is the first of a number of posts about our trip.

From home (Iowa) we first flew to Chicago, pleasantly at a sane time of day.  No problems and enough layover  at O’Hare to allow us to have lunch.  Our flight to Madrid  left on time and there were no problems there either.  At Madrid, going through customs was a snap.  I wish things were that easy in the US.  The only difficulty was a long wait before our next flight to Tenerife.  Luckily we were able to spend the time in the comfortable Air Iberia VIP lounge.

The flight to Tenerife was a little late and the situation was complicated because the gate attendant only made announcements in Spanish.  Eventually we got on board and took off.  We had a nice lunch/dinner and the flight was just a couple of hours long.  While waiting for our luggage at the Tenerife airport we met some others who were going on the same cruise.

We were met by a cheerful cab driver who took us to the hotel and we settled in HotelBotanicorather quickly.  Had a great meal in the Thai restaurant right in the hotel.  We were not leaving for the ship until around noon the next day so we could sleep late and partially make up for our jet-lag.  The hotel was the Botanica, very nice with fabulous BotanicoGroundsgrounds including a small golf course, ponds with koi,  statues, fountains and beautiful flowers.

The process of boarding the ship was much improved over our previous cruises with WindStar.  Less paperwork and better organized.  It also helped that the ship was only half full Cabin(84 passengers of the maximum 148).  We settled into our cabin without a lot of trouble and went up Click for larger imagepool-side where they had buffet lunch set out for those on board while we waited to sail at 11pm.

We had dinner that evening with a couple of other passengers, two women from the UK.  They were traveling together, leaving Riggingtheir husbands behind to fend for themselves for the week.  After that we went up on deck and waited for the sailing.  When they raise the sails they always play the theme from “Chariots of Fire” by Vangelis.  At night it is particularly moving as they have the sails lighted and the ship really stands out in the dark.  Unfortunately the  weather did not cooperate and they did not raise the sails that evening.

Net Neutrality

I suppose that anyone who finds there way here has at least a basic understanding of the concept of Net Neutrality. If you don’t, the short definition is “All data on the Internet should be treated impartially, regardless of what its purpose is.”

Recently the FCC has proposed rules that would codify this principle.  This has set off a storm among the big ISP’s, telecom providers and various other organizations that want to control the internet to maximize their profits.

Senator John McCain has introduced a Senate bill, S 1836 (Cynically named The Internet Freedom Act of 2009) , which would block the FCC from implementing its proposed rules.  A similar bill, HR 3924 (Real Stimulus Act of 2009), was introduced in the House.

Both of these bills would result in large ISPs being able to block or slow down various kinds of Internet traffic for what ever reasons they choose.  If you value the Internet, you don’t want either of these bills to pass!

I urge everyone to write or call their Senators and Representative and ask them to oppose these bills.

In addition, you should request that your Representative support the House bill HR 3458 who’s purpose is: “To amend the Communications Act of 1934 to establish a national broadband policy, safeguard consumer rights, spur investment and innovation….”

The more letters, phone calls or emails they get, the more likely it will be that we can preserve a free and open Internet.  Do it today.

Ham Radio Activities

Lately I’ve been getting more involved with ham radio.  This is due to 1) getting a fancy new radio, Station and 2) Getting my major antennas working once more.Pro57
I split my ham radio time primarily between two activities; DXing, which is trying to contact stations in distant locations, and Contesting, which is, as the name implies, a competitive activity where the object is to contact as many different stations in a predefined period of time as is possible.
I’ll talk about Contesting another time but now I’d like to go into a little more detail about DXing.  The American Radio Relay League offers an award called the DXCC (DX Century Club) which is, at its lowest level, given for making radio contact with stations in 100 different “countries.”  Currently the ARRL defines 338 ‘entities’ as countries for the purpose of the award.
At the present time I have worked and confirmed (via QSL ) cards, 299 of the possible 338.  Below is my map with red map tacks marking the places I’ve worked.

Click for Larger View

There are a number of reasons why I have not contacted all the 338.  For some it is because the political situation makes ham radio there difficult or impossible.  For example North Korea and Palestine.  Others are so remote that there are no ham operators there normally and they only become active when someone mounts a DXpedition to temporarily provide the opportunity of radio contact Examples of these are Swains Is. or Tristan da Cunah.

Some places are so rare that, when one does come up on the air, thousands of radio operators around the world all try to contact them, all at once.  This can sound like bedlam with everyone competing to be heard.  But there is a magical thrill when the DX station picks your call letters out of the “pile-up” and responds to you.  It is not all luck, but a combination of operating skill, station quality and radio propagation conditions.

It’s a crazy hobby but not without its satisfactions.

Quick Travel Update

>mebeli sofianally have a chance to post a quick note about out latest travels.  After visiting Glacier National Park we entered Canada, visited Waterton National Park, and spent two days in Calgary. We are now are staying at Canmore, near Banff.

We’ll be spending another week wandering around the Canadian Rockies before heading home.

I’ll try to get some photos up soon but internet connections are a bit spotty.



We has a rather severe thunderstorm on Friday morning.  Lightning, lots of rain and high winds – and we were just on the edge of the storm.  After the storm we discovered our apple tree had been uprooted.  The combination of wind and saturated soil were responsible, plus the tree was getting quite old.  No other damage found other than small limbs from other trees being broken off.

At least apple is pretty decent for firewood…

Now distributed raman amplifierSun is getting into the game of secretly futzing around with FireFox!  A recent Java Runtime update added something called Java Quick Starter to FireFox and just like with the Microsoft one, they did it without telling you or giving you a way to say “No Thanks”.  Again, the uninstall option is not available.

I’m not sure if there is any security risk with this add-on but I’m getting a little tired of having updates to one piece of software go and screw up some other, unrelated, program.  How do we tell these pushy companies to keep their cotton picking hands off FireFox?  Maybe the folks at Mozilla need to block add-ons that aren’t explicitly requested by the user.

Anyway, if you find it in your list of add-ons, here is a link to information on what it does and how to get rid of it if you want to.  They seem to work but require a reboot.

If you are like me you use the FireFox web browser for security reasons.  If so, here is something you really should be aware of.  In a recent Windows update, Microsoft quietly slipped in an add-on for FireFox that makes that browser much less secure.

This add-on allows a web site to quietly install software on your computer without your knowledge or permission!  Avoiding things like this is one of the main reasons people switched from IE to FireFox to begin with.  Worse, this add-on has its uninstall button DISABLED so it cannot be removed once discovered.

Here is a link to another article with more of the gory details.

This situation has caused a huge brouhaha on the net – enough that MS finally put out a patch to allow people to uninstall the add-on (knowledge base article: KB963707). Go to this URL to download the appropriate file (32 or 64 bit).   You may have to use IE 🙁 to download the file.

Once you run this update, the uninstall button for the .NET add-on will be enabled and you can get rid of this  nasty little bit of Microsoft junk in the usual way of uninstalling a FireFox add-on.

What I can’t understand is why Microsoft thinks it is justified in tampering with non-MS software.  Just one more reason not to trust them.