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Balloons and the Internet

I’m sitting on the 7th floor of the Marriott in Visalia, CA. struggling with a slow wireless system, that originates, not here in the Marriott, but from the Comfort Suites a few yards across the way. It’s interesting to me–and I may have mentioned this before–that often while modestly priced hotels, such as Comfort Suites, offer free wireless capabilities, many high-line hotels, such as the Marriott, charge for such services.

Prominently situated on the desk here in our beautiful room is a card stating that wireless internet service is available here…for a fee. Turns out to be $10.00 a day–for each computer, so that the daily charge for Jerry and me would be $20.00 while we’re here. A little hefty, and while I was prowling around for opportunity, up popped a message from Comfort Suites that asked me to sign an agreement with them, which I did, and so was born wireless internet service for the Buxtons while we’re here a couple of days. It’s a bit slow, but quite workable.

Check this out: Space Data Corporaation uses balloons to to service areas with telecom services, and now Google has an eye on this and may become involved. Good news for those who live in rural areas that have spotty or no internet service.

Jerry Knoblach wants to bring wireless service to millions of rural Americans. His plan: Beam it down from balloons hovering at the edge of space.

This isn’t just hot air. His company, Space Data Corp., already launches 10 balloons a day across the Southern U.S., providing specialized telecom services to truckers and oil companies. His balloons soar 20 miles into the stratosphere, each carrying a shoebox-size payload of electronics that acts like a mini cellphone “tower” covering thousands of square miles below.

The rest of the fascinating Wall Street Journal article is here.

I’ve written several times, including here about the challenges of internet service while I travel, and am leaning toward thinking that one day internet service will be free just as radio and television services are now. I reported here about a young man who was fined for using the internet signal as he sat outside a cafe. Free world-wide internet? That will be a happy day for me!


My devotional blog is here.

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Severely Autistic, Carly Fleischmann Speaks Using a Computer

One of Rebecca’s friends has a daughter who is autistic, and through the years as Rebecca has often cared for the child so that the parents could have respite, I have observed the extreme challenge such a child presents. I have seen the child screaming and so out of control that Rebecca must physically restrain and hold her. She is of a higher functioning level than some and speaks in a limited way. Her parents are dedicated to her recovery and have tried special schools, home schooling, medication and unique diets. At times there has seemed to be progress–at other moments all seems futile. Having this limited experience with autism, I am especially pleased to read of the tremendous success another young lady is having as she deals with this mysterious, debilitating condition.

Carly Flieshman

Carly Fleischman has severe autism and is unable to speak a word. But thanks to years of expensive and intensive therapy, this 13-year-old has made a remarkable breakthrough. Through the means of a computer, she commicates with intellect, clarity and passion. She speaks of her fears, frustrations and other feelings. This is a tremendous stepforward that is of immediate promise to the thousands of families so affected.

From ABC News is this article and very moving video.

“It feels like my legs are on first and a million ants are crawling up my arms,” Carly said through the computer.

Carly writes about her frustrations with her siblings, how she understands their jokes and asks when can she go on a date.

“We were stunned,” Carly’s father Arthur Fleischmann said. “We realized inside was an articulate, intelligent, emotive person that we had never met. This was unbelievable because it opened up a whole new way of looking at her.” This is what Carly wants people to know about autism.

“It is hard to be autistic because no one understands me. People look at me and assume I am dumb because I can’t talk or I act differently than them. I think people get scared with things that look or seem different than them.” “Laypeople would have assumed she was mentally retarded or cognitively impaired. Even professionals labelled her as moderately to severely cognitively impaired. In the old days you would say mentally retarded, which means low IQ and low promise and low potential,” Arthur Fleischman said.

Therapists say the key lesson from Carly’s story is for families to never give up and to be ever creative in helping children with autism find their voice.

“If we had done what so many people told us to do years ago, we wouldn’t have the child we have today. We would have written her off. We would have assumed the worst. We would have never seen how she could write these things —

What a remarkable development this is, virtually releasing the soul of Carly Fleischmann, and giving us a look inside her probing mind.


My devotional blog is here.

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An Amazing PC Illusion

Along with some other PC illusions, Michael sent this to me some time yesterday, after it had been forwarded many times. I have no idea who is the originator, so I can give credit to no one.

It is astonishing.

How do this illusions work? Anyone know? I should research it, I suppose…or maybe you should. Anyway for now, follow these instructions. You will be amazed.

I hope this is visible on your screen. You may need to right click if you only see a red square in the corner.

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Amazing Memory Demonstration

The memory skills of Ben Pridmore, a 30-year-old accountant are amazing. He hails from Derby in England, and in 30 seconds can memorize the order of a pack of cards. Then someone heard of a talented 7-year-old from Japan and thought he might be a match for Ben. A contest was set up, arrangements were made, and knowledgeable judges moved into place. Sure enough, the winnner was declared to be Ayumu. Funny thing–Ayumu is a chimpanzee.

Picture and information from The Daily Mail

When scientists found out that chimps had better memories than students, there were unkind comments about the calibre of the human competition they faced.

But now an ape has gone one better, trouncing British memory champion Ben Pridmore.

Ayumu, a seven-year-old male brought up in captivity in Japan, did three times as well as Mr Pridmore at a computer game which involved remembering the position of numbers on a screen.

More information is here, along with a picture of smiling Ben Pridmore. (I had mercy on him by not pasting his picture on the same page with Ayumu, the chimp who trounced him. 🙂 )


My devotional blog is here.

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Click Here for Computer Screen Cleaning

Do you have a dirty computer screen? Over 11,000 people have clicked on this site for a personal computer screen cleaning. 🙂 You’ll love it! Money-back guarantee!

From Linein


My devotional blog is here.

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A Skinny Apple Is a Good Apple

Yesterday, Apple presented its newest product, the MacBook Air, an ultra-sleek notebook computer.

It is extremely thin – at the narrowest point it tapers to just 4mm (0.16 inches), about the width of a pencil – and when waved about its aluminium finish gives it an almost blade-like quality.

Steve Jobs shows off the MacBook Air, the slimmest laptop in the world

But then there is this:

From Timesonline comes the report that Microsoft has applied for a patent for a software product that to many–including me–seems overly intrusive into one’s personal life. While I can’t imagine life without computers, and remain in awe of their capabilities, I don’t want a machine analyzing my frustrations and trying to “fix” me, even if it is on the job. Too much, I say.

Microsoft is developing Big Brother-style software capable of remotely monitoring a worker’s productivity, physical wellbeing and competence.

The Times has seen a patent application filed by the company for a computer system that links workers to their computers via wireless sensors that measure their metabolism. The system would allow managers to monitor employees’ performance by measuring their heart rate, body temperature, movement, facial expression and blood pressure. Unions said they fear that employees could be dismissed on the basis of a computer’s assessment of their physiological state.

The system could also “automatically detect frustration or stress in the user” and “offer and provide assistance accordingly”. Physical changes to an employee would be matched to an individual psychological profile based on a worker’s weight, age and health. If the system picked up an increase in heart rate or facial expressions suggestive of stress or frustration, it would tell management that he needed help.

The Information Commissioner, civil liberties groups and privacy lawyers strongly criticised the potential of the system for “taking the idea of monitoring people at work to a new level”. Hugh Tomlinson, QC, an expert on data protection law at Matrix Chambers, told The Times: “This system involves intrusion into every single aspect of the lives of the employees. It raises very serious privacy issues.”

Think about this and let us know your reaction, please. Do you think the good outweighs the bad in this product…or is this step taking it all too far?


My devotional blog is here.

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Machines March Toward Replacing Humans

Massey University

Credit: Massey University


When I read about this development by Massey University a few days ago, I was struck again–and impressed–with the intelligence of man and the great strides we are making with computers, while at the same time feeling some reservations about the capabilities of this program. Read it all carefully and let me know what you think.

The near-human performance of a virtual teacher called Eve created by Massey researchers has drawn the attention of scientists across the computing world. Eve is what is known in the information sciences as an intelligent or affective tutoring system that can adapt its response to the emotional state of people by interaction through a computer system.

The ability of virtual Eve to alter her presentation according to the reaction of the child facing her at the keyboard has been hailed as an exciting development in the $25 billion e-learning market.

Read the entire article here.

My reservations include:

1. My discomfort at a machine being able to read and respond to my emotions.

2. The lack of human contact that is spiraling in our computerized society.

I’m interested in hearing your thoughts.


My devotional blog is here. 

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Definr Extremely Fast

If I didn’t have an Apple computer–mine is a MacBook–which had a built in dictionary on the desktop, I would definitely consider using the Definr as my dictionary, for it is extremely fast. Check it out.

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Durango Vacation Journal Part 11

Pink and Black, originally uploaded by Shirley Buxton.

We fell into bed last night, exhausted from our strenuous day at Mesa Verde, but this morning we arose rested and fully recovered. It has been a “down” day for us, though, for we had business to tend. One negative aspect of vacationing in a motor home in which you already live is that it is hard to escape mundane day-to-day routines. I know the drawer in which I keep the bills and where the checkbook is, and I knew I had better spend a little time among such stuff if happy relationships with insurance and utility companies were to continue for the Gerald Buxton family.

It interests me greatly that as I dealt with the bills, while sitting in my motor home in Durango, Colorado, there originated from a Los Angeles radio station Dennis Prager whose voice spoke from my computer. At the same time, on same lovely Apple computer, I traveled to our bank in San Bernardino, opened up electronic pages of our checking account and computed figures. Amazes me.

So, after a leisurely start this morning, and a treat of bacon and eggs for breakfast, I tackled the bills. Jerry accomplished various tasks about the place, paramount among which was walking to the next door rig, sitting in one of Berl’s chairs and holding forth on who knows what subject. Another of Jerry’s crowning accomplishments for the day was the stretching out and careful arrangement of his body on a recliner situated pleasantly under our awning. Magazines and newspapers were at hand, as were cups of coffee and assorted other drinks. Once I went out and he looked up at me, grinned and spoke: “This is quite the life, you know.”

We did make one little jaunt in the car–to the post office, where I dropped into an official US post office mail slot the checks I had written earlier in the day. We drove a bit around the downtown area, then came home, cooked and consumed tacos. As Jerry and I stood around the outdoor grill, we looked across the meadow and saw the magnificent pink cloud you see above.

This butterfly was perched on these flowers as we visited a mine site on our return trip from Ouray a couple of days ago. The butterfly appeared tame, and hardly moved at all, so I was able to get very close to the beautiful creature. He looks to be woven of the finest silk.


View Shirley Buxton’s map

Taken in (See more photos here)

This lovely sunflower lives at the small farm near the glider airstrip down the highway. His elegant head is heavy.


My devotional blog is here.

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Of Cell Phones and Gold Colored Wall Mounts

This telephone business is strange–one that I have talked of before and again here. Jerry’s cell phone has been acting crazy for a few weeks, but he’s put up with it, because our two-year agreement with Verizon was almost up, and some times you get free phones and other perks if you sign on for another term. Not to be this time, though. He went to several places here in Santa Maria where we are at the moment, but could get no satisfaction. Finally, at the Verizon shop, he asked the technician to see if he could repair Jerry’s phone.

“Sir, the phone’s are only guaranteed for a year.”

“A year? Strange isn’t it that the service agreement is for two years, but the phone you sell so that I can talk during those 24 months is guaranteed only for a year,” Jerry protested.

stammer…stammer “Well, yes, but you always can buy an extended warranty, Mister.”

The employee was kind enough to reprogram Jerry’s phone, but after trying to use it for another day, Jerry decided he would just have to buy another one. He went back to the Verizon store. Jerry really doesn’t care about having a fancy phone that costs several hundred dollars, and even the plain ones at the Santa Maria store were $200.00 and more, so Jerry asked:

“Do you have a refurbished phone I can buy?”

stammer…stammer “Well, we do, but we usually save them for a customer who will extend their service contact.”

“Well, I want to buy a refurbished phone.”

“Let me check with my boss, Sir, and see what we can do.”

The upshot was that Jerry’s persistence finally produced a refurbished phone for around $100.00 that is guaranteed to work for a year.

Check out the story below of an 85 year old gentleman, who has been leasing a phone for five decades. He’s paid thousands of dollars for that gold colored phone, not realizing he had other options. The story is illuminating. Read it here.