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Incoming BYTES
contains highly variable subject matter including commentary on the mundane, the extraordinary and even controversial issues. At Incoming BYTES
we want YOU to think...if you dare...


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Incoming: Iranian or Korean Missiles in Venezuela?

*Missile Launch   
 Is there really such a thing as a dangerous been there, done that,  a.k.a. deadly deja vu? 

Here at Incoming Bytes I like to touch on important strange subjects at times. Interesting ones, timely gamesmanship, and even dangerous ones, the unthinkable.  How about left-overs,  whispers from the past, ghosts subjected to alarm bells by  frazzled  worry-warts, the realistic and wary? 
Back in May, 2011  the Washington Times reported Iran was playing with the idea of a missile base in Venezuela. Right there in Hugo's back yard,  reportedly,  was to be built a recreational playground  missile base for  smiling Hugo himself mid-range rockets, capable of going "kaflooie!" and reaching the United States of America.  That would be with the approval of  smiling Hugo himself.

It's not news as such that N. Korea, complete with unknown, untested, --and perhaps even unstable  venerable leader has nukes.
It is a contemporary international  guessing game whether  Iran will soon have them too, but no matter.   WMD  to be or not to be, been there, done that, --but  that is not the question.

 The question must be, would the  arrogant Hugo Chavez  help the itchy  international  rogue state of Iran ---or even starving,  nuclear-equipped North Korea use the missiles to deliver nuclear warheads to the continental United States? 
Theoretically they  could use mid-range missiles  to deliver nuclear warheads and cause a real headache if one or more of the nasty gadgets actually works and the steering is aimed correctly both with malice and intent.  Neither of the players is on "our" side.   
So, is  Iran  placing short-range missiles in Venezuela with the approval of Hugo Chavez,  or is the Iranian madman's eternal flap a ruse to distract the world while  N. Korea quietly  places nukes  in Venezuela? We know they 'work' together.  Do they 'play' together too?
Is Hugo pretending nobody will notice ?
The Stonegate Institute seemed to be pretty concerned already back in 2010.
 Was this, or is this, another "Cuban missile crisis wannabe?"
Has President Obama got his eye on Hugo playing 'big boy' in Iran's Venezuelan playground?--- Or is it really a serious Korean workshop covered by Chavez's  gaming, devious subterfuge?
Shall we listen?  Is this news in the making or just another hiccup in an already contentious world ?    Just a thought -- while  North America is sound  asleep or  pretending to be.   

Is that Incoming I hear?

*photo originally from Military Strategy Page

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Internet Providers: Bad service or Fraudulent?

The internet happens to be an integral and important tool  for  communication in the life of a writer,  like it or not.
  Right now I'm not liking it much. I have bad internet service, how about you?

Access to the internet, to the outside world, data, news, websites,  research, culture,  information of all kinds --and communication with people-- is indispensable.
We live in North America, supposedly the most communications-advanced countries in the world,  so  why is internet service so bad? 
Not being located in a big city does have it's disadvantages, like having a very limited choice of Internet Service Providers. Fine.
Service providers are communication giants that buy broadband width to sell internet access to consumers in the form of 'dial-up, ( tying up your 'land line' telephone),   broadband DSL, (digital subscriber line), cable subscription, wireless cellular service via tower coverage, or directly via satellite to their customers.

After surviving with 'dial-up' speed  (26KB/second) for about $20.00 per month,  being offered  Xplornet's Kazaam  package  0.5MBps for about $60.00 a month via satellite  by Xplornet Internet Services  seemed to be modernization, logical progress,  reasonable and timely.
Subsequent testing however, showed that speeds promised were seldom achieved by the satellite system, and when the service was recently cancelled in absolute  rage frustration, average speeds of  19 to 20 KB/sec  and even outrageously pathetic  speeds as low as 670 Bytes---NOT KILOBYTES--were recorded. Their 'normal speed' was no better than land-line dial-up--in fact, often  far, FAR worse.

Xplornet  offered the excuse that they have a 'fair use' policy of throttling service when 'fair use' is exceeded by any customer.  Their version of fair use appears  to be, turn on the computer, and the 'fair use policy' kicks in.   First turned on, and instantly tested showed  speeds of 0.49Mbps,  and a half hour later, speeds were typically down to 20KBps.  Initial start-up speeds were also measured at less than 0.25KB/sec.

Their first excuse version of 'fair use' was throttling the internet speed down  to 50% of speed promised ---for 30 minutes-- after 24Mb of data is downloaded by the customer.
Let's keep in mind,  here at Incoming Bytes I  do NOT download movies from Netflix, or any huge files other than essential program updatesfor example,  downloading an update for  AVG virus software (some 80Mb)took all day
Little wonder, when the download speed was as low as 1.6KB/second,  even dropping at one point to 670 BYTES per second. 
 I am not a happy internet user.  We don't have to wonder why.
Subsequent communication with Xplornet  offered  the new magic excuse of  25% of maximum speed  (magically reduced from 50%)  now  being the  punishment  'throttled  speed'  inflicted allowed for 'fair use'.
Apparently these people are also  mathematically-challenged or incredibly arrogant. Perhaps both. 
Since when does  1.6KB transfer rate   =  25%  of the  63KB transfer rate which equals their --promised speed of 0.5Mbps internet speed?
When does service being "unavailable" for two or three hours, or two or three DAYS equal 'fair use' ?  They actually had the gall to state that the recorded speeds fell within their 'guidelines'.

By the way, XPLORNET  tested the equipment all the way to my modem --and said it was functioning 'perfectly' or 'phenomenally'.   How about that?    The recorded results reveal a test NOT throttled.
No matter.  In the simple minds of  the  ISP,  stupid  consumers could not be aware of such devious details....  

The fact IS,  there is lack of ethics involved. They have purchased a tiny bandwidth and continue to jamb ever more customers onto it over the last few years, charging everyone either  approximately $59.95  a month or $79.99 a month, depending upon the throttled plan chosen.

The satellite service became progressively worse, at times not useable --and not even available.
The SAME company is now urgently "renting" their equipment for $5.00/month to try to nab more fools customers.
Is this just bad service by one unethical company or is it a fraudulent, common practice?  
Am I, the customer, allowed to throttle the $60.00 per month payment based on the CRAPPY non-service I have received?   No. 
  I have asked for a refund for the NON-service.  Will they send me a refund willingly?  NO. Will their service improve?  NO.

Needless to say, I CANCELLED  the lousy service from  XPLORNET  and have blocked ANY further payment to this unethical,  so-called "internet service provider".  

I am now testing the  'Rocket Hub' which is a wireless system based on the cellular-phone system.   The service speed has at times shot up to 4.7MB/sec  download speed -it is supposed to go up to over 7.0Mbps --but depending on the load on the cell system,  also drops off  'at or equal to '  the  0.50MB, the  'fast' speed offered by the sick satellite system.  Imagine that.   I have 14 days to evaluate it.

Technology is wonderful until it fails to work, or is deviously 'throttled' by the company  in an unethical attempt to gouge more money from customers wanting better service.
By the way,  the last communication I received from XPLORNET suggested I buy their "KAZOOM" package, at 1.0MBps  --subject to the same throttling policy.
Get it?  Apparently, this clever company believes consumers  are IDIOTS uninformed.

The Federal CRTC  (Canadian Radio Television Communications)  has reportedly ordered Rogers to halt the practice of 'throttling'  internet speed. Rogers may even have to reimburse  consumers.
Throttling internet speed is now illegal, or soon will be.

I wonder how long it will take XPLORNET to get the message?
---OOPS....not long !  The CRTC will soon know about XPLORNET.  For the uninformed, they are the handy Federal Government  people that review ISP  licenses in Canada.  Consumer and Corporate Affairs will soon know about it too.    Isn't that nice? 
 Not being one to shirk the obligations of being a good consumer,
 I  have filed a mad consumer complaint with my Federal Member of Parliament, including recorded test data. I am such a helpful fellow. 

So, aside from "what else is new?",  the questions of the day around here must be: 
How fast is YOUR internet working?  Is it being unfairly throttled too?  
Go to: speedtest.primus.ca   or an equivalent service.  You can also instantly Google 'internet speed test" -- and test it yourself.
You'll figure it out. |It's simple. Press the button, and read the results. Compare them to what your ISP provider 'promised' you.
Are you, too, getting inexplicably bad service and not getting what you are paying for?  You may be surprised.

The fact is, I'm a consumer,  I'm a writer, and  I'm  mad as hell --and I am not taking it any more. Enough is enough.  Soon we'll be occupying something.
Meantime, we'll smile and wait for our BIG REFUND when  the  new CRTC ruling comes into effect with   "No throttling allowed".
Is that incoming I hear?

that's my story and  I'm sticking to it.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

More about Bonsai: Grow a tiny tree

*Chinese Elm (c)  2006 National Bonsai Foundation
A fine example of bonsai in North America . The Chinese Elm  (Ulmus Parvifolia )  above is on  display at the U.S National Arboretum This elegant elegant Elm  has  been in training since 1956  !

 At Incoming Bytes one of my favourite past times  is playing with indigenous species and  attempting to grow bonsai--real trees that grow for many years in pots.  As a hobbyist I work with indigenous species simply because they are already acclimatized to our severe weather conditions.

There are dignified, elegant  old bonsai specimens that are many hundreds of years old in Japan and China. 
Fabulous specimens  like the Elm above also exist in North American displays . 
Here in Northwestern Ontario, I do not pretend to be able to immediately imitate the results of many decades and centuries of labour by dedicated bonsai specialists in China or Japan.  
We can, however, produce amazing results in a few years with patience and some learned techniques.  
 As hobbyists, realistically,  we may not have 400 years to train  little trees,  but with patience we can  can grow  presentable and very beautiful  bonsai using proven techniques that can be learned. 
The following article on creating your own Bonsai was published in Helium in 2007.  Enjoy!
Grow a tiny tree-create your own bonsai !

        This simple experimental bonsai discussion may change your mind, like growing things often do.  Ideas change with the learning process, so may it be here that you discover the spirit and joys of Bonsai, an ancient eastern art form that has spread throughout the world at an amazing rate, as people everywhere have discovered the incredible beauty and allure of these tiny trees. Bonsai can and most likely will affect your life.
They grow in your mind just as they grow in your environment.......read more...

 *Here at Incoming Bytes we will be discussing some interesting ideas and methods of creating bonsai  in future posts .  
 *Is that incoming I hear?    

 That's my story and I'm sticking to it

* Photograph  courtesy of the National Bonsai Foundation Supporting the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum at the U.S. National Arboretum 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Incoming 2 : Get out the Shades

The Age of Light is upon us  (Solar flares and all)

My genius friend  Terrence Aym ( Write on! )  always seems to inform us of the  most interesting stuff.   It's always something good.  

This time he's onto something big --yet again, and in a timely manner. As our loyal readers know, at Incoming Bytes  I'm always paying attention to see what IS incoming  so I can  just stare at it,  duck into the bunker,  or take evasive action.
 Guess what, today's the day there are supposed to be wicked geomagnetic storms. 
I wonder if it will warm up our -36C  (-32.8F)  and start the flowers blooming? 
Being January 21st we won't hold our breath, but maybe we'll get out some cool antique Elvis Presley shades for the show, nice polarized ones.
Why? Because on January 19th there was a huge solar flare, ---an M3-class -kaflooie -gesundheit  by the sun herself. 
 The old girl sneezed right at us.   We may catch something.
Here comes the disaster disruption apocalypse M3 class snot sun, it's all right, it's all right...as the old song goes.

Let's not worry about it.  If you want to read more about this epic event, courtesy of Terrence --who invariably and happily scoops us on all things scientific and interesting,  just click on the link he left  us:

That was from www.space.com   which may be out in space.
If the link doesn't work, it might already be too late.  Just put on the coffee and read this article again to put in time.
  That oughta help distract us from our naturally-evolved state of fury and  worry.

Let's keep in mind this is all scientific  unbelievable hooey sun- stuff.  Do you believe in scientific  sun-stuff? 
No matter how it turns out, thanks, Terrence!

Is that Incoming I hear? 

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Friday, January 20, 2012

2012: Is that Incoming I hear?

The Age of Light is upon us...
 Incoming, --frozen solid, or moving in, one at a time?
New Year's Eve  is  a distant memory and January is more than half used up already. The unusually mild winter did a nasty to all January sun-lovers including us here at Incoming Bytes, changing  our freakish snow-laden banana-belt sauna-weather to a more realistic  and politically-correct Canadian January with dry, brutal cold.  It's almost enough to freeze your tongue to a steel pipe, don't you think so?
The garden and bonsai are stored snugly, cozy as can be under a blanket of snow. How lucky for them.   

 It is -33C  ( -27.4F)   today; --that is without any wind.    It was -25C yesterday with a vicious wind--yet in the unheated  sunny greenhouse it was an amazing 5C
+(41F)   ...that's almost banana-land warm, sans beach  and iced tequila Sunrise.....imagine that.
Out in the "outerworld,", the real world, -- you know the quaint place where the REST of the world exists?   There are many things happening.
 Earthquakes. FloodingFamine.
 Strange underground noises, um....hums, buzzes and shake-ups  too.  Let's draw the  government-supplied  Roswellian window-shades. If we don't look, The truth is not out there. um....ok,,,,um...ok...ding-dong, you're wrong, The Age of Light is upon us....
Shifting earth crustal-bustals.  Tsunami, real Japan-movers.  North poles going south.   Islands rising in the sun just for fun.
 Solar and brain flares are disrupting  electronics, harmonics  and logic. What's that, you say?  Illogical, you say?   Haarp, the Harold angels Zing us with vapour trails delight;
 Political unrest, demonstrations  and nasty riots instead of  quiets.
 International tension-mentions of  nuclear threats, to  positing aircraft carriers in a genuine fear of war games and strange, apocalyptic  joy at the prospect of inevitable and uncontrollable war games.  Fill  the Strait of Hormuz with the crooked scorched bones of lunatics,  pave the parking lots with glass, shall we insist, resist or desist? Nuclear ready or not, here we come....
Totally insane, greedy leaders of itchy,  pseudo-religious miserable self-declared self-righteous countries acting  like they've been out in the sun far too long -because they have been out in the sun for far too long.
  Invest, protest and re-test  for Collective, unsurpassed madness and profit in the radioactive Middle East Oil patch.   Hatch a new radioactive plan to do everything radioactively.  
Redefine  mutant civilization?  That’s fine. Drink Iodine.
Camp out, Occupy  this, economic recession to  big Depression,  dangerous repression of civil liberties world-wide.
Wikipedia blackouts?  Ugly SOPA-box....
Legislated PIPA, vibes of Internet Big Brother sticking his nose in the business of scribes? 
Seems like a normal day to me.
But wait....what is really Incoming? 

that's my story and I'm sticking to it

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Bonsai: Winter Care

12 year old Lilac (with pink Oxalis and mosses )  on a Natural Basalt stone 'pot'

Our loyal readers of  Incoming Bytes  know that  some  of my favourite distractions are gardening,  growing things, experimenting  with  apple trees,  and  bonsaiTrees in pots.
When winter comes along, everything slows down,  so what, the leaves fall off,  stuff  goes dormant, and that's that-- we end up doing something else for a few months.  We contemplate, plan for next year, rearrange,  diddle, design, and optimize.  Where we live, ensuring our perennials survive the very cold winter of Northern Ontario is mandatory.

Because they are just potted plants, it is easy to forget  bonsai are real trees, however diminutive. Bonsai may be tougher than other potted plants, but winter comes for them too.

Why would we bother to winterize little trees when we know most trees are incredibly tough?  Their 80-foot tall relatives  take a beating, surviving  whimsical and unpredictable conditions, don't they? Don't big trees survive howling winds, freezing rain, snow and ice, attacks by mice, rabbits and deer alike?   Why would we need to 'store' bonsai when winter comes along? 

They may equally be trees, but the significant difference is:
  • Bonsai grow in a very limited, even tiny amounts of soil, and  survive on  small amounts of nutrients.  They do not have unlimited soil under them.
  • They have smaller root systems which are stressed more easily , 
  • Swings in temperature including freeze / thaw cycles  within ceramic pots  are more rapid and extreme.  Hard freezing of moisture and expansion in potted plants can dislocate roots from the soil and break the pots too.
  • There is less moisture reserve, so  small pots can dry out quickly, particularly in desiccating fall and winter winds.  
  • Small trees, particularly apple, pear, cherry, maple and birch trees have sweet bark that may be damaged by foraging mice, rabbits or even  deer. 
  • Foliage can be destroyed and compressed, branches can be broken by excessive ice and snow load,
 Extra care should be taken to protect valuable bonsai  during the fall and winter --and there are several methods that can be used to ensure your bonsai survive the winter with minimal damage.

Options include: 
  • Move bonsai into a cool room in your home, a garage, or  green house. Hot, dry air in most homes  is undesirable. Turn down and control the heat in that area if possible.
  • Store bonsai in a  "cold house"  (unheated greenhouse). Few hobbyists  can afford to have greenhouses heated year round,  so an unheated greenhouse is fine. Keep in mind the trees must be checked and watered regularly to keep the soil from drying out in dry winter air--particularly the smallest trees.
  • Building a simple shelter roof over the bonsai display shelves.  This can be as simple as a narrow single- pitch roof over the shelf area  supported by two poles to protect trees from  heavy snow load accumulation.  Add a slatted wall on the  side the wind normally prevails from to protect your trees from brutal winter wind.  This method of storage is fine for larger trees which have larger soil volume and can withstand more severe weather. 
  • In very severe climates, consider storing bonsai directly on the ground.   In North western Ontario, this method is my favorite.  It has been quite successful, with very few trees lost over 15 years. The method attempts to mimic the conditions a small indigenous tree would experience  growing naturally in the wilds. The dry leaf cover reduces soil drying, so once bedded down, the trees can essentially remain untouched over the winter. 
Here's what part of our collection looked like going into storage.  Note the pots are being placed directly on the damp grass. Pots are put shoulder to shoulder with no spacing, placing trees of similar size and height adjacent to one another.
The old  desk in the background is  part of Mother Nature's Bonsai School.

Bonsai pots being placed directly on the grass
 It takes a huge pile of leaves to bed this collection of over 150 bonsai pots.

Bonsai Collection tucked in winter bed  with dry leaves

The dried leaves are dropped on bonsai and tucked in under tree crowns where required.  Many  of the smallest trees are covered entirely with a couple of inches  of leaves.
 *Notice the Spartan apple tree sprout still has GREEN leaves on. For November 3, 2011, that is pretty amazing.  Young fruit trees can survive winter storage using this  method.  This Spartan  has survived winter  two years already and will be planted in the spring.

Here's what the same collection looks like after it froze and collected a few inches of snow.  In winters of heavier snow collections, only the tips of the very tallest may be seen.

Winter storage of bonsai. * Note the chicken-wire enclosure.
 Note the enclosure made of ordinary chicken-wire netting and some temporary steel posts that can be quickly and easily  removed from the lawn in the spring.

The only caveats that apply to this simple storage system are:
  • If you live in an area where heavy, wet extreme snowfall is normal,  snow loads may break branches or deform crowns if they are thick and  not supported properly.   This method of storage is not recommended for extremely valuable old specimens in stages of advanced design.
  • Non-indigenous species from warmer geographical locations are subject to frost damage, so should be in a warm environment
  • If  bonsai are bedded too early they may not be dormant. *Ensure your trees are fully dormant with no leaves,  especially if they are small specimens that may be covered completely.
  • Water the trees prior to installing the leaf cover with dry leaves. Do not soak down the leaves to minimize compacting and matting over smaller trees.
  • Timing is important.  The ideal time to cover your bonsai is just before serious cold weather sets in. If it warms up and snow melts, the bonsai will be self-watering and absorb some water from the ground beneath. 
 In the spring, remove the leaves after the snow has melted. It is not necessary to remove every leaf but do expose the moss-covered  surfaces on each pot. Leaving a heavy leaf cover  too late in the spring  may encourage opportunistic molds to grow on the soil, moss surfaces, or even the trees themselves. 
Some pots  may also  be frozen to the ground and should be left undisturbed until easily loosened to avoid breakage.
Return the trees to your display area in the spring.  Wipe the pots down carefully, remove trash, sticks  and leaves,  and prune the trees  if required.  Let's not forget inspecting the trees for  compacted  root systems,  root trimming,  wiring,  topping up of soil,  design changes or other modifications.

 It's also a great time to photograph your trees while they are bare,  plan their long-term designs,  and transfer them into permanent or  larger pots  as required!

    Monday, January 16, 2012

    Life's Animations: Susquehanna Cats

    Every once in a while we have to take a break and think creatively. Our project at Incoming Bytes this day is to participate in a writing challenge about "inanimate objects".
    I thereby present  "Susquehanna Cats"  for your amusement....

    Susquehanna Cats

    When there's no cats around  she leans on me gently and walks about  in the  mud barefoot, feeling for clams in the warm  summer water with her toes.  She says the mud and pebbles and bubbles of gas that trickle up from the water-weeds  tickle her feet.   No wonder, it's slow, warm water  above the  Susquehanna  Rapids, the one with the little falls.  The little falls is 2' high.   She calls it her two-foot toe-wash.
     That's how she describes it, and she found it, so she must have understood her father's instructions just fine, and that was good enough for me.
    She moved from the city, where  she could have a garden,  hundred-year old cabin or not
     The old man's cabin, with silvered cedar shakes on the roof, is close to where  he got himself killed off by a  Greyhound .   I was in the truck . We were getting cats that day too.
     She keeps turkeys and  hounds and an old bay horse named Buckley.  He's the only horse around that  knows how to round up  turkey dogies .  The hounds are 'Here' and 'There' .  They want her to throw sticks out in the water, but watch the gobblers for her.  Old Bones,  he's  always with us too,  he got one puppy- leg chewed off  and her daddy  didn't want to call him Tripod.

     I was with her fishing on the river. The water is lazy and you can smell the swamp grass along the edges.  The big  catfish explore the warm water along muddy banks, sunning and teasing me. 
     Sitting on the river waiting for catfish to bite is always a pleasure,  even stuck in the mud, and that's what she did, came out on  the bank to sit and watch me, in the early morning, sun, rain,  fog or not, waiting for the cats.
     "Hey Bones, look who's here!" she said.  Buckly snorted.  That always makes her jump.    
      She puts me under her arm when her hands get cold. She shivers. 
    "Time to go" she said after an hour,  just to wind me up. I'd rather stay, but  I said okay.  She doesn't hear me, but I tell her anyway.
    "Okay".   The cats weren't biting, they're not hungry, just  teasing  the dogs.  Fish are more communicative than some people, says my buddy  Harvey.  He likes trout better than cats. He sits in the corner most of the time and dreams about fish.  
     "Here, Mutts!" she called, and they came running. 
      We go in for coffee, and she makes hot biscuits, the good kind with cheese in them.  I  go with her to the coop and get eggs though, she says that's mandatory.
    "That's the rules we live  by, we want'em,  we go  get'em" she says.
    "I don't go in the coop without you".  There's snakes.  I help whack them  and I get bit.    She sends the big neighbour boy in with a real  snake stick sometimes,  he gets 'em and takes them home to eat--the snakes, I mean. 
     I didn't need eggs. I don't eat eggs.  I don't eat much at all. I stand  in the corner with Harvey.   He asks me if I caught any cats. Sometimes I tell him yes, just to wind him up but he knows better. For him, that's a  real catharsis, he happily unwinds,  he likes trout better.
    "No fish, -- so shall we have biscuits, boys?" she asks.  
    "Just  biscuits will be fine, Ma'am"  we say, relaxing. 
    "That's what I thought, " she said laughing.  "would you boys like peach jam too? " 
    "That would be fine,  Ma'am"  I say. She doesn't hear me.
    "That'll be fine for me too, I'll make coffee" she says, her eyes twinkling.  

    That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

    Wednesday, January 11, 2012

    Gardening: Unexpected Treasures

    MJ's potato plant
    Do you have to go to sleep to dream?
    I think not.  
    I close my eyes and dream of gardening
    vegetables....and green stuff.....That is if I don't go to sleep first. 
    It is winter, an unusually mild one at that. The snow was melting yesterday,-- on  January 11th, almost unheard of,  --but it insists on snowing  again today to make up for it.   Go figure.             

     Up in N.W. Ontario, winter is  definitely "Welcome to  Canada".
     That's always  justification for snow,  isn't it?  A necessary and attractive diversion  when it's dull and  overcast.   Kids love it, you can shovel it, slide on it, build a snowman, go skiing, or get stuck in it. 
    At times I say, "Who needs it?

     The fact is, here in the environs of Incoming Bytes -- either you get along with snow --or you move to Arizona.   Arizona, is really a desert state, so let us dream...nice and warm,  the sun is shining --and it's the place where M.J.  Joachim might be at any time, lolling in the back yard writing--or gardening. 

     M.J. is my guest blogger today.  These are her photographs too! 
    M.J. has been our guest previously, (Gum Pets on the Hill)  --which has been one of our most popular posts, --- so I am proud to have her back  with us once again!
     Please welcome M.J. Joachim --as she  shares some  Unexpected Treasures.

                         Finding Unexpected Treasures       
                                              by  M.J. Joachim
     One of the most amazing things about a compost pile is that you never quite know what new life might sprout from it, as things decay and break down, nourishing the soon-to-be soil.
    While doing my dishes one day and looking out my kitchen window,I was intrigued to notice a very full, vibrantly green plant.  Having neglected my compost for quite some time, curiosity couldn’t be kept at bay as I turned off the water and rather hurriedly headed out into the yard . 
     Sure enough, there amidst piles of old leaves,  ancient coffee grounds and a rather large surplus of spoiled fruits and vegetables from the last time I cleaned out my fridge, --was a flourishing emerald bush, the likes of which I had never seen before.
    Needless to say, I took care to pay more attention to my compost pile from that day forth, finding all sorts of new things to add to it, hoping to provide extra nutrients for the newest addition to my landscape. 
    I also made a point to continue watering the area, once the jet stream moved farther north, leaving us with little or no rain to speak of. As you can see from the pictures, my little plant appears to be holding its own fairly well.

    Admittedly, I was wondering what type of plant was actually growing. Wanting to test my garden knowledge, I chose to wait it out for a while, hoping it's growth might give it away at some point, a light bulb would go off, and I’d say to myself, 

    “Why of course, it’s a *potato. I should have realized that so much earlier than this. 

    It was not to be, and Google became ever more intensely tempting, until finally I ran across a blog  about growing potatoes, complete with pictures of plants in various stages of development.
    Truth be told, I wasn’t looking for information on potatoes at the time at all; it was the picture that caught my eye and led me to  Google  for more pictures of potato plants.  
    I’m  now convinced the foliage is that of a potato plant, though you cannot hold me to it, --on account I won’t be certain until the full cycle of the plant has taken place. However, I do believe I’m growing potatoes in my compost pile, and am patiently waiting to harvest them when the time is right.

    Life is a lot like our compost piles, isn’t it?
    We dump all sorts of stuff in our hearts and heads, piling garbage and debris ever higher, avoiding the heap, even while it breaks down --and challenges us to recognize its changes. 
    Trash becomes necessary nutrients and even the foundation for new growth.
     How easy it is to dismiss growth by searching in other directions; hoping for something different --and trying to control the natural course of events. 
     Every once in a while, however, life catches us by surprise, and what it shows us is something so beautiful that even though it seems completely out of place, we embrace what we see,  and smile. 
     Before long, the good that has been there all along can be revealed, encouraging and allowing us to discover ourselves a little bit more --perhaps more than we thought we wanted to, offering us an opportunity to reach out to those who might benefit from our experiences and challenging us to be more effectively human toward the rest of all mankind. 

                                                                  About our Guest Author
    M.J. Joachim is a freelance writer and self-described die-hard 
    American who believes in common sense, hard work, and the
    American dream.  Freelance writing in a number of genres enables her to share knowledge and opinions on a large variety of subjects --in varying styles and venues.  M.J is a strong believer in freedom of speech and human values.

        In a dedicated effort to emphasize the often neglected value of humanity and self-worth of all human beings,  M.J. recently created  a new website   http://www.effectivelyhuman.com .

     M.J.  also recently  published several E-books including  'The Merciful Victory of the Cross' ,  'Beyond our Words Prayers and Reflections' ,  and  a FlashTyme series of stories that may be found at:    http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/mjjoachim

    We  at Incoming Bytes believe M.J.  has discovered  the fine hobby of growing potato plants.  Isn't she lucky?   Will the treasures be red or white?   
    Meantime....zzzzzz....it's still snowing here....

    * Note: potatoes are not commonly grown  in hot desert climates.

    That's my story and I'm sticking to it

    The 7 X 7 Link Award goes to .....Incoming Bytes!

    The prestigious 7x7 Link Award
    Here at Incoming Bytes  on a recent post, a curious  comment  was received  that included the question: 
    " Where is your 7x7 ? " 

    'Huh?  You mean my 4x4?  My rusty old JeepOut in the yard ' I thought to myself.  VERY rusty, too, ...but nothing a nice shiny Ford  2012 F150 4x4 couldn't fix.  Oops...a little digression there.

      "Pssst...you won the 7"x7" !

    I thought it might have been just another crank comment except for the fact that the "Pssst"  was from Red herself.   That's Ann Marie Dwyer --to those that don't already recognize her as the prolific, quintessential blogger at M3.   
    It being just after  New Years,  and all,  --which is getting awfully close  to April Fool's Day if you hang around celebrating long enough, it immediately caused seven degrees of paranoia  suspicion  and an automatically-elevated eyebrow,  I hastened to gulp some searing-hot coffee just in case.  Wake up, man!   Destiny awaits!  Was it the really the 7x7   --would that be the big lottery, finally, the Super 7? 
    Red is known to have a sense of  humor.   

    Finally seeing a picture of the  7x7  with stars  and fireworks on it. but no wheels or dollar signs,  I was  even more paranoid  suspicious, what would stars and fireworks have to do with April Fool's Day --that wasn't even here yet? 

    Alert readers, you can understand my predicament! Not being  any better informed,  we shifted  into default mode, put the pedal to the metal, palpitating and researching 7x7's,   49'ers ,  7/7's  and 1/7ths, just in case.  
    Heavy research. Big time stuff.  Internet mayhem.  Scrambling. Google and such.

    Now everyone is aware  of that  help-you-escape-from-anything mode  --4x4,--  find'em, grind'em,  pure  gas-sucking power.  It allows you to muddle, dawdle,  diddle,  and doodle, wandering aimlessly through the deepest muck and doodoo  research  with the greatest of ease.  We  didn't waste any time.  
    Be it known that we're fearless (unless the ruts are deep and full of water and alligators )so,  roaring and grinning  with much bravado, 4x4 asked Red :  
    "What's that?"   
    Whoever said men can't ask directions was right, but we ask for information shamelessly  if we have absolutely no other choice, it's dark outside, and nobody's looking.  I digress. 
    We soon found out.
    It turned out  that Ann Marie Dwyer of M3  ( that would still  be Red   of Mommas MoneyMatters, ) had generously  presented this  award to Incoming Bytes  at the end of December, a whole  week ago,--  that being  pretty close to being  back in the good old days. 
    Back in those days, it turns out, I was still in the dark ages.  The lights were out. I missed that all-important enlightening post in M3.  No matter. 
    Hopefully, I was forgiven. Maybe.
    I told you Red has a sense of humour. 

    In spite light of that revelation, inexplicable as it was, I  accepted the 7X7 Link Award complete with  all  associated honor and fame that inevitably accompanies such prestigious awards.   
    I immediately discovered that with fame,  lies certain responsibilities .  
    I found out I have to actually DO stuff,  the most important of which 
     is to always thank the presenter prodigiously.
    I  therefore wish to officially thank Ann Marie Dwyer,  a.k.a. Red,  since it is humbling --and a great honor to be presented a prestigious  award by a wonderful writer, prolific blogger,  helpful mentor, and famous person, --even if she's on a well-deserved vacation.

    Here's the whole list of other stuff  in no specific stuffing order:
    • Thank the nominator  ( I did that already, but thanks again, Red!  )
    •  Tell a Secret.  Any real secret will do. Do you stick gum on your bedpost overnight? Do you keep Twinkies in your desk drawer?  Got any sexy vices that are interesting? 
    • Post the 7x7 Link Award in a highly visible location like a Side-bar to enable bragging rights .  Put it someplace where it can be admired!
    •  Share Seven (yes, SEVEN )  of your blog posts complete with links.  *Hint: Links that actually work are helpful to your loyal readers.  
    • Nominate Seven NEW bloggers  (Yes, SEVEN)  that should receive this award. They should be bloggers that actually do good  stuff.
    • Advise all 7 new winners that they are winners and now have 49 MORE things to do.   (Get that?  7x7 =49,  I knew that research would pay big dividends...hm.....now if I can just find the  6 lucky numbers.....)
    So,  first of all,  the secret....they call them secrets because you don't really  want to tell them but  for this award,  'ya gotta.  Use small type. Maybe nobody will notice.
      I'm guessing nobody knows this secret--  I often  type   sdrow  words backwards whilst minding my own business.  I can also backspace at 120wpm, error-free. 

    Seven Blog Posts:  These are some favourites, for various undisclosed reasons....
    1. Most beautiful piece: The Age of Light
    2. Most helpful piece:  The trouble With Word Mills: Writers Beware
    3. Most comical piece:  The Ball and Chain Approach might Work for THEM too....
    4. Most popular piece: North America...Rent this Idea !
    5. Most controversial piece: EU Bans Canadian Seal Products but Condones Bullfights, Atrocities, and Hypocrisy
    6. Most Surprisingly Successful piece: Sometimes Life Becomes a Legend of Glory
    7. Most Underrated piece: Reinventing Energy:  the Rossi E-Cat
     I hope everyone likes the recommended blog posts! 

    Now, happily,  I  get to   nominate present     this award to the following Seven wonderful bloggers --who  also get the 7x7 Link Award --complete with all 49 benefits.  ..(a.k.a. '49 more things to do" and stuff.)

    The New 7x7 Link Awards go to:
    1. Mandy's Pages    Amanda Dcosta may have been away on holidays, for a month,  but her peaceful approach to life, her incredible faith and skilful blogging has  much merit.  Mandy's Pages has almost become a sanctuary to read, a place to reflect.  The brilliant Eastern star is shining in the sky over Oman once more. Mandy's pages was previously recommended ! 
    2. Just Camping Out    Jim Bessey's  blog on camping, relaxing and enjoying the great outdoors induces both peace of mind, encourages pleasant memories of past camping trips, and stimulates future summer plans.   Just Camping Out  is full of  interesting camping stuff.  Check it out, you'll see why We like camping better!  
    3. Glory's Garden     Glory Lennon keeps gardens alive year around--out in the yard in the summer,-- and helps them grow in our minds in the winter.  If Glory's  not gardening, she's spinning novels  or teaching crafts!   Entertaining and highly recommended! 
    4. Lala Musings       Rachel Howells has a unique voice in her blog that keeps you coming back. Insightful, cutting, and at times, hilarious.  A great read and  Highly recommended!
    5. A Heep of Everything    Alexandra Heep  has an interesting way of  analyzing everything, ---heaps of life.   Alexandra also writes " A Heep of NASCAR.  Both of these blogs were previously highly recommended !
    6. Freelancing and More    Doreen Martel's fab blog site on the business of writing is a 'must read' for anyone in the business.  If you're interested in learning the ropes about the intricacies  of writing successfully, Doreen's advice is  highly recommended !  By the way, while you're at it, check out Doreen's brand  new  web site  http://noscamworkathome.biz/.  You may be glad you did !
    7. Poetic Parfait    Christy Birmingham's  *new blog Poetic Parfait is looking  at poetry and music  with  refreshing, open eyes and her unique insight.    *A relatively new blog,-- with a promising new approach!   ** By the way, watch for *Silver Drops*   in the next few days!  Hm...that sounds familiar, the poetic neck is on the line, and you'll see why!                                                                                                                     Tune in and help the new 7x7 Link Award winners enjoy their recommendations too!    Thanks again, Red!

    That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

    Saturday, January 7, 2012

    Freedom of Speech: Imagined, or Real?

    In nature, few elements exist in a pure state. The rest are altered at will by other "elements" depending upon "conditions".        That got me thinking about life, language itself, and speech. 
    Freedom of Speech.

                         Freedom of speech seldom exists in a "Pure" State. 
    Pun intended.  
    Is freedom of speech imagined, or real?  Does it even exist?  Is  it secure? 

     Politically-cantankerous, unsettled Iran is testing it's own "Halal" internet system  (that's the Official Shut-off system) to prevent access to the outside world and control, limit or remove freedom of speech inside the restless country.  
    Shall we hypothesize that the "global" Internet within Iran shall be simultaneously shut down and freedom of speech shall cease to exist?
    Perhaps it is both logical  reasonable to assume Iranian bureaucrats, madmen and Mullah's alike  will attempt to do so.  They don't like riots and protest much.  Will they be successful?  Only time will tell, --but while we wait and see, let us look closer to home.

    Is the North American Internet,  --that would be the one you hook onto if you want to talk to your uncle in Great Britain, Australia, or Japan, yes that one,  the  Internet  reaching  around the globe.   Is it any more secure here than in Iran ?  
      Here at Incoming Bytes  I believe the question must be asked:
    At what point do power-hungry and devious politicians, bureaucrats and corporate North America decide "they" will determine which information, global transfer of data and  daily communications shall be available to you, the  brave reader of Incoming Bytes who dares to think, and the average citizen,  collectively known as the apathetic, reality-show T.V. loving 'masses?' 
    In return for campfire-loving demonstrators "Occupying this" and that in the last few months, (a.k.a. setting up colourful tents and stinky biffies where they're not wanted ) can there be retribution,  even punitive action? 

    Will Corporate/Political  North  America, like Iran, also  decide to limit free speech and even move to "occupy" the minds of society in it's entirety? 
    Take a deep breath. Think clearly.
    .......Let us not panic,  be naive or silly.  How else would we know  when to spend, spend, spend  at 'the big sales" down at the  Sanctuary Mall? 
    Fear not; the self-declared pure and self-righteous shall guide you in times of uncertainty.    "Big Money" will help "Big Brother" set you on the path to righteousness and purity and profit and big-screen television -in 3D.  Don't forget to put on the "special  blinders glasses"....  
    "Big Brother" knows what's best for You.... 

    After all, freedom of speech seldom exists in a "pure"  state"....

    That's my story and I'm sticking to it

    Sunday, January 1, 2012

    Let's Start 2012 Right: Read THIS...

    2012:   The Age of Light is Upon Us
    WELCOME to 2012 !!!  Happy New Year!

    At Incoming Bytes,  I must admit that I am always inspired by great writing.  Excellent writers, aware of it or not, are my mentors--and my heroes.   No matter what genre,  I enjoy good writing, and that includes intriguing, wonderfully-written professional blogs I have discovered.  

    Some are genuine diamonds  I have happily stumbled upon, but interestingly, many of the BEST  are written by good friends in my writing circles.
    There are many blogs out there --and clearly, I cannot list them all, but in this new year, we will continue to enjoy the best.
      For 2012, let's start out right with some wonderful reading recommendations.

    • Let's learn to enjoy natural life more by reading  a wonderful gardening blog  Glory's Garden  by our very  own  gardening zeitgeist Glory Lennon. 
    Whether  writing  about vegetables, flowers, discussing sugar-maple trees, or displaying exotics from Florida,   Glory's  exciting love for all things growing will keep you interested and coming back for more.    At times Glory  travels about, photographing exotic flowers and plants for us, and shares her wonderful photos of wildlife,  birds -and dragons.   Well, okay, those were alligators, but Glory is a princess too,  so what? 

    •     If you are intrigued by farm life, green acres covered with lush green grass,   bouncing lambs, big woolly sheep, majestic chickens and other aspects of farming wisdom, read Julie Helm's  Woolly Acres for a closer look at  where eggs come from,  how they turn into chicks when hatched, what very high-quality  natural wool looks like, --and even how to propagate meal-worms as a source of protein for chicken feed! 

    • Learn about all kinds of  human intricacies. follies, and  relationships, and why they fail,  by checking in with the incredible wisdom  and common sense of Ann Marie Dwyer   at 'Mommas Money Matters' -that's  M3 for short.   
    Ann Marie,  a.k.a." Red ", --a  savvy, prolific writer, --is a saucy, brilliant  blogger that asks,  analyzes, and gives you information you need;  then she asks leading and often  pointed questions of you --and tells you so much MORE about yourself.  Red wants to talk to YOU, so follow M3 carefully and participate ! 
     Red  even turns the spotlight on you whether you are an author, accomplished photographer, or budding musician. She asks the right questions, --and gets the right answers for her readers. Bottom line?
    " M3 and Red....Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated into M3 and love it! " comes to mind.
    • At Incoming Bytes  everyone knows that  "We like  Camping Better" , and there's no better place to read about camping,  camping stories,  or about exploring  the beautiful Adirondacks  --than by checking in with  Jim Bessey's Just Camping Out  while you enjoy that first cup of coffee in the early morning  on the back porch or beside a crackling campfire.  --Whether it be  winter, summer, spring or fall.  --Whether you camp in classic vintage RV --or a two-man tent under the stars, --Jim encourages  enjoyment of camping because Mother Nature offers a peaceful state of mind!        Get out into the great outdoors with Jim Bessey's JCO --and you'll soon discover why we like camping better!

    • If you love the excitement and  big roar of NASCAR instead, you'll enjoy following Alexandra Heep's 'A Heep of NASCAR'  for the real inside scuttlebutt on drivers, races, the pits, and the love of  racing itself. 
    Alexandra knows this exciting sport inside and out.  She has the post position  and a real insider's   track; she knows many drivers, offers backgrounders, keeps the pedal to the metal  and  asks the right questions --for you.  Follow Alex's  blog  "A Heep of NASCAR " ---and  start your engines !   In fact, after the races, you might want to check out Alex's "A Heep of Everything" too !

    •  In the quiet, early morning Eastern sky, watch a true star shining brilliantly  in the skies over the desert of Oman as you enjoy Amanda Dcosta's  Mandy's Pages  to find out what's hot, and what's not.   
     A wonderful writer with the love of poetry and all literature,   Amanda Dcosta's  blog takes an insightful look into literature of all kinds poetry, blog posts,  writers,  and even reviews new books --like my own recently-published   eBook, "Morgidoo's Christmas Carol", a  new Christmas classic published in Smashwords  and Kindle.

    • "The dignity of ANY human being is measured in self-esteem and  perception of self-worth. Every human being is worthy of love --and to be treated with respect and dignity."    
    Want to learn to be a more effective human being? Visit  M.J. Joachim's Effectively Human ' where faith, the love of God, human dignity and self-worth are not only treasured, but discussed and  promoted  brilliantly by M.J.  herself as well as guest authors and regular contributors.
     Truths about humanity, faith, and today's  difficult and controversial social mores  invariably come out,-- and this insightful resource  site is offered to help the reader better understand hot-button issues,  real human values, families, --and how to be a human being more effectively.

    As an avid reader interested in a wide variety of aspects of life, I enjoy excellence in blogs and articles of all kinds and treasure the incredible wealth of information often included in them.  Nuggets of wisdom free for the taking.

    • The possibility of finding gold  anywhere in  North and South America and other countries can be explored by reading John Angus Carter's very successful --and highly-informative Gold, Mining and Prospecting blog.  
    Over 90,000 readers have already explored the nuggets of information in this amazing blog, and you can too.   
    Find out where to find gold, the secrets of panning for gold, --and  you can even sign up for  the John Angus Carter School of prospecting!

    The list goes on,  if life is  really to be enjoyed ! 

    • If you are city-oriented by heart  and don't care for being out in the  wilds,  look at the life of a writer from high-rise cosmopolitan Toronto, Ontario.    See what Conny Manero has to say in her blog, Under the Toronto Sun.   You will be entertained and surprised! Conny, a published author, has an amazingly honest,  accurate and unique way of "cutting to the chase" about everyday life.
    • How is your ongoing sense of humor?  Want to be amused, informed, and also discuss issues as serious as the  'religion of misogyny " ?    Check in with Rachel Howells  Lala's Musings!     Rachel offers a beautifully-written blog with cutting insight--and hilarious sarcasm --into family life, human nature and it's folly, fun, and idiosyncrasies.  Rachel pulls no punches discussing serious issues -- and tells it like it IS. 
    • Last but certainly not LEAST,  if you are scribbler of any sort;  a dedicated writer, author, or blogger, you already know, or are quickly discovering, that writing is a serious  business.   
    Creative work or otherwise, Doreen Martel's  brilliant approach to writing as a business  on her website  "Freelancing and More" is an incredibly good website and includes much must-read  information for all writers.  
      Doreen  insists  she is not a "creative" writer--but her website and handling of the  tough subject matter  at hand is not only creative --but incredibly smart , timely, and informative.   Check out "Freelancing and More" and you'll soon see how Doreen's approach can help you. 

    At Incoming Bytes  I realize that all good blogs and web sites cannot  possibly be listed in this post;   there are  many, many more insightful and entertaining blogs  that should be included.
    --Wonderful writing by thoughtful, brilliant writers -- entertaining, informative -- a great read for 2012. 

    Add these first to your 'follow' lists, or subscribe FREE by email --you won't be sorry you did! 

    It is our fondest hope that we have brought something to the fireside that YOU will enjoy!

    This first day of 2012,  here at Incoming Bytes -- we will  continue to explore, question, offer alternative thought --even criticize where required --and encourage you, the reader, to think proactively if you dare.

    That's my story and I'm sticking to it.