Sharing with you things that are on my mind...Maybe yours too. Come back to Wrights Lane for a visit anytime!

30 August, 2014


I was sitting in my favourite lunch diner the other day waiting for a Reuben sandwich takeout order for Rosanne (she loves Reuben sandwiches and I try get them for her two or three times a month since she is confined to the house due to health reasons).  I could not help but notice a chap at a table across from me as he ordered a piece of banana cream pie.

"I'd like to have my pie first and I will place the rest of the order later," the elderly man quietly explained to a somewhat puzzled waitress.

Sure enough, when he had lovingly devoured the pie he ordered a hot beef sandwich.

After I had paid for my takeout order, I could not help but inquire about the man's unusual eating sequence.

"Well, it's like this," he said..."Banana cream pie is my absolute favourite but sometimes I am too full after my main course and I do not enjoy it as much as I'd like to.  So I always have my pie first and govern myself accordingly after that.  Sometimes I enjoy my pie so much that I don't have anything else."

The explanation made sense to me and I completely understood.

There is a life lesson here.

In my working days when faced with a list of things to do in a given period of time, I would tackle the difficult, less savoury chores first and leave the thing(s) that I do best until last because I knew that I could do it faster as crunch time loomed.  Sometimes it worked and sometimes it did not.  There were times when I was too rushed at deadline to finish up with my best effort, hence I was stressed and robbed myself of the satisfaction of living up to expectations.

As I grew older in retirement, I learned to be more like the man and his banana cream pie...With qualifications, I have my enjoyment up front each day,  If I do not have room for the other mundane things, I know they will be there for me another day.  At least I have enjoyed myself when I can...That particular enjoyment may never present itself again another day.

In fact there may never be another day.

28 August, 2014


Ohhhhhh!  I hate when that happens.  The nose knows.

Insult to injury...The "blistering" evidence. 
The culprit...Damn that thing gets hot!
Up to now I have been a lot of things in life, but a masochist has not been one of them...Not until the other day that is!

It's a long story, but here goes...

It was supper time and I had fired up the barbecue preparatory to cooking some hamburgers.  I generally set the BBQ for 400 degrees.  As I waited for it to preheat I proceeded to whip up a Caesar salad in the kitchen, leaving the door to the deck slightly open.  An open door is my dog Lucy's invitation to do some outside exploring, but no problem because the back yard is totally fenced in.

After about 10 minutes, the salad was finished and the hamburgers were ready for the grill.  It was also time for me to check on Lucy but there was one problem -- she was nowhere to be seen.  I called out for her, to no avail.

"Maybe she's sniffing out chipmunks at the side of the house," I thought; so craning my neck I stretched to look over the barbecue, absent mindedly leaning my right arm on the red hot lid   Reacting to instant and unbelievable searing pain, I spontaneously jerked my arm upward in a lightening fast swinging motion, planting my fist squarely on the bridge of my nose that was a mere two feet above the barbecue.

It was a blow of Mike Tyson proportions.  I was stunned for a minute and struggled to maintain consciousness. Miraculously, I did not break my glasses but the pain in my pulsating, bleeding nose was excruciating.  I literally saw stars and my eyes watered profusely.

As my head cleared, I felt something at my feet...It was Lucy.  Apparently she had been there all the time. She's a very quiet, little 15-pound sneak!

As I rushed to the bathroom for a roll of toilet paper to apply to my nose, I really could not believe what I had just done to myself.  Talk about a freak, stupid accident that could only happen to me.

It has been 48 hours since that nightmarish mishap and the swelling in my nose has subsided.  It is still sore, but luckily not broken.  The four-by-two-inch triangular burn on my arm is starting to blister and it itches like crazy. Other than that, I'm okay.

Oh yes, supper the other night was a little late.

04 August, 2014


Piping Plover: A small pale shorebird of open sandy beaches and alkali flats, the Piping Plover is found along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, as well as inland in the northern Great Plains. Because of disturbance by people, all populations are considered endangered or threatened. Piping plovers migrate north in the summer and winter to the south on the Gulf of Mexico, the southern Atlantic coast of the United States and the Caribbean.

Since early June (2014), a rare occurrence has taken place at Port Elgin beach on Lake Huron.  A pair of endangered Piping Plovers decided to make their nest and raise their young.  Four eggs were laid in the warm sand and all four hatched.  The birds are protected under the Endangered Species Act of 2007, both provincially and nationally.  

There are three locations where piping plovers nest in North America: the shorelines of the Great Lakes, the shores of rivers and lakes in the Northern Great Plains, and along the Atlantic Coast. Their nesting range has become smaller over the years, especially in the Great Lakes area.  Almost immediately after the arrival of the feathered visitors in May, the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) and the Town of Saugeen Shores took steps to ensure the safety of the nest.  A large section of the public beach was cordoned off and a cage constructed over the nest to protect it from predators.
Most recent photos taken the last week of July ....
The parents only recently left the beach, having stayed with their brood far longer than expected and their young also stayed much longer than is normal.  All four siblings also stayed together at the beach site, which again is somewhat rare according to experts.  It would appear that the family chose Port Elgin and decided to stay given the safety that was provided.

According to Stuart Nutt, who has tracked the Piping Plovers for a number of years, a Merlin Hawk was recently seen in the area and, therefore, he said he expected that it would not be long before the Plovers left to head south for the winter.  Saugeen Shores CAO, Larry Allison, confirmed on Sunday (Aug. 3/14) that the Piping Plovers had in fact left the beach area.

It was amazing how the town, the region and visitors adopted the family of Piping Plovers.  Signs were posted and tape barriers erected and everyone respected them.  Photographers came from far and wide to take photos of the family and children watched enthralled with the young feathered family.

The Town of Saugeen Shores went above and beyond to protect and foster the young endangered hatchlings who also quickly became a major attraction for visitors. According to MNR experts, it is anticipated that should the family of Plovers reach their southern winter destination and return to Canada next spring, it is most likely they will return to their original nesting site on the Port Elgin beach.

Let`s hope so...Saugeen Shores Board of Trade is banking on hosting this new tourist attraction once again next year...And so are we bird lovers.

03 August, 2014


Computer: n. an electronic machine for making calculations, storing and analysing information fed into it, or controlling machinery automatically." -- The Oxford Dictionary  
Well, what the heck is a computer, you ask?  The word "computer" is so common in our speech today, we hardly give it a thought, but where did it originate?  Where is it going?

The word has a Latin origin "computare" meaning to count, sum up or reckon.  The Brits used to say about a human calculator:  "He/She is good at their sums."  I'm not too sure how the word got so pervasive, but there was a Harvard Professor of Astronomy, Edward Charles Pickering, who needed calculations done.  He first tried men, but they appeared to not have the stomach (or something higher) for it and he fired all of them.  He then got women to do the calculations.  They became his "computers" and the name seemed to stick relative to the idea of rapid and accurate calculations.  Incidentally, some of Pickering's computers made original contributions to astronomy.

The word calculator as applied to early mechanical or electrical devices just did not have the support to become the dominant word.
(L) Hardy & Ramanujan
The famous Cambridge Don, G. H. Hardy and his protégé', the mathematical savant, Srinivasa Ramanujan needed a computer for some of their 'deep' speculations into number theory.
Percy Alexander MacMahen
They consulted, according to a recent Scientific American article, a man named Colonel Percy Alexander MacMahen. He was an expert on artillery and also a mathematician of some renown. He was known for his ability to do rapid, accurate and deep calculations.

MacMahen became Hardy and Ramanujan's human "computer", for a time working on their investigations in number theory, especially in the partition of numbers. He was an expert in this area too, but not in the class of Hardy or Ramanujan.

There is no evidence that MacMahen ever had a rap on the head turning him into a rapid calculator.  This does happen to some people.  Some become musical or mathematical after an accident. Some just get erratic with a similar blow to the head.  It must be very rare to have a blow produce a talent, but it does happen. Usually a good knock takes away rather than gives.  I have not noticed any great computational or musical talents in retired football or hockey players, but then again, they just fade away to celebrity golf tournaments where somebody else keeps score.

Coincidentally, there is another recent Scientific American article about stimulation of the brain and/or disabling part of it to produce surprising results that do not seem to be latent, but just burst out.

Disabling part of the brain is interesting.  This is an area of research that seems to make sense when one looks at  Rain Man-like savants.  Could it also be true that some great musicians, scientists, mathematicians and engineers have  portions of their brains that are inherently more powerful than the rest of us? Can they turn off circuits in their brains thereby increasing the power of parts they are using?

We see developmentally challenged people born with great gifts in certain areas.  It would be grand to be able to turn parts of the brain off and others on and concentrate on areas of special interest.  Focus is one of the key ingredients in creativity.

Most of us have our own computer and beloved programs we use all the time.  Mathematicia is a very interesting program to do extensive calculations in areas of interest.  The program allows you to concentrate on areas that normally would be beyond comprehension.  If Hardy and Ramanujan were living today, they would make extensive use of Mathematca.  This would be especially true of Ramanjuan, because he was an experimentalist.  This word almost never is attached to a mathematician, but is common in physics where people are classified as experimentalists and theoreticians. 

Hardy was a theorist, who demanded proof.  Remanjuan was able to eliminate dead ends and follow fertile paths by some strange intuition.  Hardy moved slower and his success was rooted in his deep knowledge of what had been built up over centuries.  Rananjuan leaped ahead fueled by some sort of strange imagination or possibly a mysterious ability  to focus.

The more general question remains.  What is a computer?  It was clear to Pickering the Harvard astronomer. It's been pretty clear to all of us in the time in which we live.  But looking deeper, it's not just an electronic entity.  It's a combination where the human brain is working with the untapped power of processors and programs like Mathematica.  We are already Cyborgs.  

The fusion of man and machines as a single entity moves onward.  We have magic programs and search engines.  We can concentrate them on problems and use our human side to fuel investigations.  We can enlist not just our brain but hundreds of processors to do our bidding.  We see that being done with online search engines.  The wonderful word processing advantages of the computer as a communications vehicle almost get lost in all of this as if it were an afterthought. The Mathematica search engine, and several others like it, seem to be creating a new definition of the word "computer".

The computer is truly a great, yet-to-be-fully-tapped, 21st century tool, like no other.  If only we could get rid of the scam artists and hackers that prey on social media enthusiasts and ruin a good thing for all of us.

With thanks to historian and Cyborg extraordinaire, Mike Sterling.