Monday, November 12, 2012

Jupiter and its moons

Jupiter and its moons.  Taken with the 300mm.  I actually didn't notice the satellites at first.  I thought the flecks of light were an aberration.  Then I saw that they were in every picture I took.  I was so happy I almost cried.  It's like...seeing a double rainbow, man.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Sideswiped!

My car figured in an accident today.  As with many other accidents, it ought not have happened at all -- that why we call it what we call it, after all.  But what makes this one doubly infuriating is that I wasn't driving the car.  In fact, I wasn't even around when it happened.  My car was parked in its usual spot and then, a six-wheeler container truck scraped into its rear left side while backing out.

I should be mad.  Surprisingly, I'm not.

All right, I admit: I raised my voice when I saw the damage.  Shock can do that to you.

* * *

Less than ten minutes before: I was at school when I received a phone call from our cashier Aunt Rita.  Could I please come to the store because the truck was pulling out?  Of course, of course.  I left my desk and headed down.

On the way, our next-door neighbor met me on the sidewalk.  "We've called the traffic squad already," she said.  (What?)  She pointed to the squad van, red and blue lights flashing.  (What?)

Wha-aaat?!

I saw the gash along the rear corner of my car, just above a broken tail light.


* * *

Here's what you should know if you're involved in car accident: don't move your vehicles.  Wait till the traffic squad have made their sketch and report.  You need the official report to file an insurance claim, whether it's you or the other party.

If you move your vehicles, then you have to go to the Traffic Management Group, a special police precinct, to settle matters before they can file their own report.  The traffic squad, really just deputies, aren't authorized to make one anymore.

It just so happened the truck driver experienced a flash of consideration for other motorists.  Not wanting to block oncoming traffic, he so kindly moved his truck out of the way.

Sigh. When it rains, it pours.

* * *

It's funny the words that come out in moments of desperation.  Here were some of the excuses I heard from the cargo crew:

"The guard didn't guide us properly."

"It was raining, we couldn't see very well."

"If only the car wasn't parked there."

Perhaps I should have gotten angry at that.  But you know how it is: every retort brings out another one.  You make a point, and they something else.  On and on, in circles.

I should have gotten mad, but where would that have led?

So instead, I bought them bread from the neighboring bakery.  Much better than a circuitous argument, and at least a show of goodwill.  Besides, it was late afternoon, and these guys had been unloading boxes and boxes of printers and computers since morning. 

Like me, they just wanted to go home, but couldn't.

* * *

"My boss would like to talk to you," the driver said.  He gave me his phone.  The fellow on the other line introduced himself.

"Is there some way we can settle this?"

"Sorry, we have to file a police report."

"We really need to get our truck out of there before the evening ban comes."

"Look: if we 'settle' this now, what guarantee will I have that you won't welsh on me later?  I want the police report because I want to make sure you file an insurance claim."

"Is the damage big?"  I described the gash and the broken tail light.  "Can you provide an estimate of how much it will cost to fix it."

"No, no.  I'm not the car shop.  I can't do that.  You need to come down here so we can both go to the precinct."

* * *

Despite their earlier protestations that they couldn't do anything, the traffic enforcers did produce a sketch and a preliminary report.  We all still had to go to the precinct, though.  In the meantime, the manager of the company that owned the truck arrived.  I showed him the damage, he agreed it was big.

Off to the precinct.  There was the manager, the truck driver, the traffic aides, and me.  Only one officer on duty, and mercifully, he was very efficient.

"Can you verify that the other car was not moving when you backed into it?" the officer asked the driver.

"Yes, sir."

A few more questions, and some brief explanations, thankfully none of the excuses.  The official report would be due on Monday; in the meantime, I would need to get a certificate of no-claim from my insurance company so that the truck's insurance company could start the process.  That, and an assessment of the damage from the car shop.

I hope by next week I can get the car fixed.  I hope.

* * *

No one wants an accident, but when they happen they happen.  I feel bad about my car (oh, the adventures we've shared!), but at least it can be fixed.  Most importantly, no one was hurt.

And because I didn't get mad, at least not in the way I would have in the past, I feel pretty good about myself.  Today I faced a test of sorts, and I like to think I passed.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

A charm of finches

Bird photography is the main reason I was sorely tempted to get a telephoto lens.  Thanks to my wife, I didn't have to agonize too long whether I would actually buy one.

This one is...for the birds!

(Update: I thought these were sparrows, turns out they're finches.)

Friday, November 02, 2012

Managing Blogs in Google's Discontinued Friend Connect Service

A long-standing problem I've had with Google's Blogger is Friend Connect.  Friend Connect was one of Google's attempts to build a social network.  Like many other services which failed to gain critical mass, Google discontinued the service last March 1, 2012.

All told, no great loss.  Friend Connect wasn't really all that popular and Google+ eventually superseded the service.  However, it seems that Friend Connect was the basis for the Reading List under Blogger.

Now, it used to be that I could add and remove blogs to the Reading List at will.  With Friend Connect gone, something broke, and I can't follow or unfollow any more.  So even though the dashboard continues to offer the promise of managing the blogs
 it always led to the following error message.
"We are unable to load your FriendConnect data at this time.  We apologize for the inconvenience.  Please try again shortly."

Annoying much?

Visits to the forums and other calls for help yielded nothing much.  Google hasn't responded to any of this, despite months of complaints from several users because, hey, it's a free service, right?  And we should all just be grateful.

This glitch bothered me mostly because I'm obsessive-compulsive and I like a clean dashboard.  There were some sites I didn't want to follow anymore, and yet I had no way of removing them from my list.  And worst of all, they kept cluttering my Google Reader so much so that I stopped using Google Reader altogether.

Today, after some mucking around, I finally came upon the solution to managing the reading list.  Google Friend Connect still shows up as a widget on Blogger.  That's the entry point to cleaning up the list.  Here are the steps I took to do that:

1. On the Google Friend Connect widget, select "Join this site."
 2. This will open a window prompting you to authenticate.  Log in with Google, and the window will close.
 3. Back to the Friend Connect widget, you'll now see your profile and underneath your name, Options. Click on that, and select Site Settings.
 4. This will open another window.  If all you want to do is unfollow the site, click on the "Stop following this site" link.  However, if you want to manage all the other sites you're following, the third link down on the left menu options says "Sites you've joined."  Click on the link...
5. Voila!  At this point, you can select which blogs to stop following.  It might take a while to process each one, but the process works.


Checking back on the Reading List on the Blogger dashboard showed me that I had successfully dropped the sites I didn't want to follow anymore.