Sunday, December 21, 2008

Window insulation kit works


This year I've noticed the draftiness of the windows in my home. It's so bad that my bedroom is actually 8c colder than the rest of the house. One day I will get nice new windows but it's not in our budget this year. My brother had suggested using the window film that goes over the window casing and your shrink it nice and tight with the heat of a hairdryer.

First of all I didn't think this stuff would work too well. I mean, how much could a sheet of plastic hold back the arctic air. And second, I like to open the window to get some air once and a while even if it is Winter, this stuff seals the window until it's removed.

To make a long story short, the first thing I said after walking into my bedroom was "This shit works!". If you have drafty windows, give it a try. I can live without opening the window until Spring. The only concern I have now is if my cat will tear it up bounce off it if he tries to lump onto once of the window ledges.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

My 2 cents on the economy

I'm not denying there is an unprecedented economic problem in the world. But I don't believe that a one size fits all economic stimulus package works, especially for Canada. The political opposition parties want to dole out money like the US has in the hopes of spurring some overnight economic revival. Even with the 700 billion cash infusion into the US economy the markets have tanked day after day. I know, I've been watching it hourly each day ( I guess I should be working). Unfortunately when the US coughs everyone catches cold.

Unemployment in Canada is no where close to that of the United States. Neither are the number of bankruptcies, home foreclosures, or credit card defaults. I don't believe that consumers or businesses in Canada with good credit ratings cannot get loans. In the two weeks alone I've had more than 5 financial institutions/credit card issuers try to give me > 10L of credit. That could be partly from from the modest cash injections by the Bank of Canada, but I mostly because historically Canadian banks have better liquidity compared to the US.

As long as Canadians , business and individuals, continue to act responsibly with their finances we won't fall into pay cheque to pay cheque model that Americans are brainwashed into thinking is perfectly normal.

There is no bank in Canada would have given out the NINJA mortgages (No Income No Job) that those greedy US lenders handed out. I can't wait to see how much more compliance work guys like me are gonna have dumped on after the smoke clears on this one.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Scotiabank Children's Holiday Party

 Some fun moments from the annual Scotiabank event (Santa Claus, hamming it up, surprise gift). Just like the year before, Aidan didn't like the rides at first but he opened up after we met up with cousin Charlie whose mom also works for the same company.




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video

Preparing for winter

Sure sign to me that Winter is imminent is that I took the time to change the oil in the snowblower.   Tonight's forecast is 5-8 cm of slush and snow. 

Next week we'll shop for a Christmas tree and if it's not too cold, put up the lights. Why do I always wait until it's finger numbing  cold to do this?


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Basement Reno Update

This project is taking alot longer than I expected especially because the space isn't that large and I have to shuffle things around in order to work.  I also spend a lot of time making decisions (maybe too much time), for example how far apart lights should be and what kind of lighting to use. In 2004 I built a single car garage over the summer but I guess that's what happens when priorities change. But it's all good. I have a vision of the end result so that's what I keeps me moving forward.

* Demolition is over. The new drywall is done. Electrical moved,  and new recessed lights are in.

(before)
Walls need to be painted. Flooring needs to be laid and baseboards and trim to follow. Shelves and bookcases are needed but they will be custom built and I can take my time with that.

Tonight Aidan is helping me saw a hole through the last piece of drywall. He says to me "Dad, maybe I should get my own house".  That made my evening :-)






Arggggh - IPOD is down!

My Third Gen. IPOD Nano 8Gb isn't working. 

I plugged it in to sync it to my iMac but I got an error message "You do not have enough access privileges for this operation".  Last week I updated to iTunes 8 as a recommended patch but I didn't sync it right away so I can't be sure that was it. I've had trouble in the past with iTunes upgrades though.

I also dropped it but I this is a solid state device so I don't think the impact would have caused it. It was working fine up until the sync.

Crappy thing is that I started taking the subway today and I was looking forward to drowning out the masses. Right now I'm low level erasing it, "zeroing it out" and hopefully I can reformat and restore it. Arrrgh, what a waste of time.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Car Returned

This afternoon, me and my little Mazda 3 parted ways at Gyro Mazda.  It was a good two years.  She was a very fun car that reliably  shuttled me and Aidan to back and forth from my parents house and work. I will miss the convenience of it but I won't miss the monthly lease and insurance payments. 

When I called my insurance company this afternoon to cancel the coverage, the lady on the other end said I'm gonna save $160 a month. Nice. I can live with the TTC and cold weather.

Yes, I still do have a 1996 Camaro that is quickly becoming a relic. But it still runs and it's a still fun to drive.  Maybe when GM goes bankrupt it'll be a collectors like the Bricklin. Bad example.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A few weeks ago Aidan chose two Red Platys at Pet Smart to repopulate the aquarium.  We had no idea that one of them was about to give birth. I'm sitting on the Kitchen eating dinner and I glance over to the tank and I see what I think are sea monkeys but are really babies.

From what I read, Red Platys like to breed. Maybe they should be called Red Players. Anyways, we have 4 surviving fish fry and they are doing well.

Remembrance Day 2008

Some clips of this day. Queens Park, Toronto.

video

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Easy times

I was flipping past the Deja Vue channel and watched some old episodes of Silver Spoons, Facts of Life and Family Ties. They were great shows back then but I enjoyed them even more now. I suspect that it's because it takes me back to a simpler time in life.

Back then I didn't have to worry about :

  • Work
  • Rushing home to pick up kids an make dinner
  • Rushing to get kids out and making in to work on time 
  • Realizing that your RSP's are a lot less what they used to be
  • Someone else's future
  • Keeping a clean house
  • Endless loads of laundry
  • World events
  • Getting fat
  • Unfinished renovations
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Kids getting enough sleep
  • Mortgage payments
  • Insurance
  • Wills
  • Diseases
  • Personal time...
... The list goes on.   It's a wonder why kids are in so much hurry to grow up. And it's no wonder why we age.

I guess the irony is the that I have no idea about what's on TV these days. The last time I watched a full episode of prime time TV was probably about 3 years ago.




Sunday, November 02, 2008

Windows XP update

We'll it works. Here is a shot of Windows XP Professional operating within Mac OS X as an application.  

It sees the network, USB ports and all other devices. Cool.

Next thing to do now is install anti-virus. 

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Windows XP

I bought a Mac to get away from Microsoft Windows but sometimes I have no choice but to have to run Widows applications. In particular, software like QuickTax and and Quicken don't have Mac versions (or no longer have them). Also there aren't any great alternatives out there. This I find strange considering the increasing number of iMacs purchased year over year. 

So keeping with the idea of a single home computer, I will be installing Windows XP to run along side the Mac OS. There are several options, Boot Camp, Parallels or VMWare Fusion. I opted for VMWare because I prefer not to run Windows natively to prevent catastrophic Windows viruses from wiping out my Mac. It's safer to run it from a virtual machine within the Mac OS, keeping filesystems from taking to each other. It also has a number of technical advantages over it's competitor Parallels.

So far, the install of VMWare and Windows XP Professional is running smoothly, check out the screen shot of the install running within Mac OSX. Crossing my finger that it all works.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Hey I'm an uncle again

This morning I became an uncle again, Jason Wong. Good stuff!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Childhood Nostalgia


When I was a kid my father got me a subscription to a wildlife picture card collection. Every month a packet of animal picture cards would arrive. On the front of each card would be a photo with pictographs/maps showing the specimen's habitat. On the back a detailed description of the animal. I thought they were beautiful then and still do.

The cards were stored in provided trays and indexed. As the cards came in each month I tried to keep up the sorting.

Today I found a company on the internet who is selling these original mint collections. There were other types of collections as well, e.g. cards, places and people.


I think my parents threw my collection out, I'll ask them tomorrow if they still have it but I doubt it. I was thinking this would be a nice gift for Aidan one day and me might appreciate it like I did. I'm tempted to order a set :-) Here is a link to the company just in case anyone is interested. It's amazing what can be found in the internet these days.

http://www.atlaspicturecards.com/

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

New World Fear

So I'm talking to someone in the office today and happen to mention the Taliban.  I can't even remember what the conversation was about. This person says to me, "Do you know what the Taliban really means?"

I say that my definition is the former ruling party in Afghanistan. But they say it really means "Student". I can't confirm or deny that, then I say that "Nazi" is short for National Socialism but that's not what people know it as. He then says that it's the media that has brainwashed us into using these terms. I couldn't agree more.

Then I tell him he should watch a movie off the net called "Zietgeist", which is about conspiracies (Christianity, 911, and the US Federal Reserve). But then he tells me "No way", I don't my IP address tracked.  He's serious about this.

I don't believe all the conspiracy theories but I do like them because they are in a way entertaining.  I have alot of fun talking about this stuff because people get so worked up about it. But what he said about tracking IPs etc, and all that's going on in this world today just goes to show how much our view of the world has changed since that fateful date.  As a society we are starting to believe that there is a big brother watching us. Sad.






Thursday, October 16, 2008

Market makes one do desperate things

Usually I don't pay much attention when the price of gas at the pump goes up or down .10 because i figure "I need gas" so why worry about it.  Dollar cost averaging should work in my favor to net out the highs.

However after today seeing a 35% drop in unrealized losses in my RSP account I'm in a totally different mindset.  Tonight gas dropped below $1 per litre for the first time in a while. I threw my jacket on at 1am this morning and filled up the tank. Sure I lost some sleep but saved 11 bucks on a 57 litre tank.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Lease inspection passed

It's almost time to give back the Mazda 3 to the leasing company.

The last time I leased a car (also from Mazda) I was unfairly dinged for $600 in incidentals, e.g. tire wear, door dings and bumber scuffs. I though it was pretty BS too because the dealer knew I was not going to lease another car from them.

This time I was prepared for the worst. That is because Mazda along with many other leasing companies began outsourcing inspections to an independant outfit called AutoVIN. I read alot about the terrible experiences that other customers had, $150 for every little nick and scratch regardless of what was deemed acceptable by the manufacturer.

Anyways I escaped unscathed, $0. But I did spend most of my weekend vaccuming the interior and buffing out the minor scratches around the doors. I admit the left side door had a couple of larger dents and the front grille was cracked but I guess the fact the dents did not break the paint was a positive consideration. I also found the inspector very courteous, fair, thorough and efficient. There wasn't anything I would consider unfair.

I doubt though that I will lease another car. Most likely because I don't like the scrutiny of the return inspection. Also if anyone has noticed most companies are doing away with the cheap leases. That's because at the end the period, the company's is stuck with a used car with ridiculously high residual value which in these days makes more sense for the consumer buy a brand new car for a couple thousand dollars more. For example, the buyout for my 2 year old car this car is $13,999 but you can buy a brand new one for $14,999.

The cheap leases have been replaced by ownership with 60 month payments, but who wants to commit to paying for a car for 5 years even it it only costs $300 a month?

I'm actually looking forward to the Subway.


Monday, October 06, 2008

Eco-Accidents

In a previous post I wrote about the questionable safety of a rider and passenger on an eBike.

Today I saw a cyclist rear-end an automobile while riding up a gentile hill on Yonge Street (just by the Sony Center). I don't know how that happened but she fell off her bike and landed in the gutter. It was clearly not the automobile driver's fault at all but the driver did get out to help the cyclist. I don't think the cyclist was a regular bike rider given the way she walked her bike and the way she was dressed.

Later in in the afternoon I saw another eBiker ride up on curb and almost hit a couple of pedestrians.

I guess my point is, as more and more people find more creative ways to get to and from work there are going to be alot of new emergency room visits. I can't wait for the study on this one.

In November I plan to return my auto and take the TTC, I think that's pretty safe. We'll see.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Aquarium update

Some good news! Ammonia is down to 0 ppm. Fish seem to be pretty happy and hungry so that's good. 

We lost a Red Platy though, but I can't be sure if it was the other one or the Zebra Danio that pecked it to death.  Unfortunately we only have 1 Danio left which caused the lone one to become very aggressive to the point where I had to isolate it to another tank.

I bought a bunch of Neon Tetras. They are a good passive schooling fish and look nice against the real plants. I tossed all the plastic plants  and am trying to build a lush aquascape.  We'll see what happens.

Lastly, I have two new algae eaters. They are helping keep the tank clean but they don't like the limelight so we don't see them very much.


Sunday, September 28, 2008

Stop the e-bike madness

This summer Toronto was introduced to the e-bike. These are essentially electric mopeds, no gas.  Top speed is about 25 clicks on flat pavement (up hill is about .5 or less). No license is required, and apparently neither are brains or common sense.

I generally find e-bike owners are pretty stupid people. They don't know first off that these contraptions are useless or dangerous. More importantly they also don't know the rules of the road. Chances are if they were originally cyclists (or even motorists) they would know the rules, but I doubt any cyclist would actually convert to an e-bike so I can only deduce that these riders know absolutely nothing other than

This summer I've seen a couple of pedestrians almost run over by these bikes while crossing the road. I've also seen a fair share of e-bikers almost bite the dust trying to thread the needle along the Lakeshore or overtake a dump truck during rush hour traffic.  Some even take the pedals off trying to make it look like a Scooter, only to find it transforms into a two wheel shopping cart after the batteries die.

Anyways, today I saw the mother of all e-bike morons.  One obese guy motoring down Coxwell Ave. with a similarly fat woman passenger. Suspension totally bottomed out. Handle bars are saddled with "enviro" shopping bags. Cruising down the avenue thinking they are the coolest "green" cats on the block. "Hey stupid", it's illegal to carry passengers on an e-bike. Just because two fat asses can fit on doesn't mean it's right or safe.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Check your bill

Although Roger Cable seems to be more customer focused than Bell, they certainly need some improvement with their billing system.  I checked my first months bill since signing on to Rogers High-speed Internet. I was disappointed to see that I did not get the promotional 1 year price of $39.95, nor did I get a one time $30 credit, and I was also charged $9.95 for a modem in-store pickup.

At least Rogers admitted the error and reversed all the charges, but unfortunately this was not the first time this has happened. I have a sneaking suspicion that they know of these errors and count on people not to catch it.

The moral of this story is to always check your bill.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

See Ya Bell

Today I cancelled our Sympatico High Speed service. It felt good, actually. We've subscribed to this spotty DSL service for a over 7 years and although it has served it's purpose, it was neither spectacular nor all that reliable.

Bell tried to convince me to suspend our account for 6 months,  so I could find someone to take over the service. What's in it for me? Their argument is that our service is uncapped (unlimited traffic) and that plan is no longer offered. Nice try, would have worked if I believe them or even cared.

Bell continues to piss off (or maybe 'on' ) their customers like they still have the monopoly on telecommunications. My prediction is Bell will be sold off in pieces to it's competitors until the Teachers Pension led consortium makes a profit and re-floats it onto the unsuspecting public as a new company,  same old crap but less to offer. Bell ExpressView will be sold to Rogers, and it's Bell Wireless unit sold to Telus. Back in the mid-90's Bell had a campaign called the "New Bell', they are trying it again but it's too little and too late. 

No one really likes the cable or phone company but I choose the lesser of two evils and right now that happens to be Rogers.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Shopping for a mattress

In all my life I've never purchased a mattress before. That's pretty strange if I think about it because I've purchased a home, a number of cars, sofa, appliances etc.  but never needed to buy a mattress because there's always been one around, somewhere. 

The whole mattress buying  experience is really confusing and I believe it's meant to be that way.  First there is Pocket Coil or Inner Coil or Foam? Even Air! (Sleep Number beds).  I like the feel of foam but I'm not convinced it's a great long term choice, besides how does one justify $3000 for a large piece of Sweedish foam. Next there is Tight Top, Pillow Top or Euro Top? # if coils per mattress. How about silk, wool or Elastvisco?

There are also different luxury levels within each make and the names are intentionally confusing. For example, the Vivaldi vs. the Gershwin. The Belmont vs. Conrad vs... you get the idea. What I also uncovered is that no reseller sells the same model by name, even though the mattresses are 100% identical. This is by design to prevent consumers from taking advantage of price matches since the models will never be named identically between competitors. I'm also convinced they model their marketing after the automobile industry. Did you know the high-end Sterns and Foster is really a Serta, kind of like what Lexus is to Toyota.  
 
Here is some trivia, did you know ost mattress manufacturers have been around since the US civil war? This is one industry that does not assemble in China. It's all made domestically, even in Canadian plants.

The pricing model is a bit of a joke. The Bay or Sears will list a mattress for $5800 and offer 55% discount while Sleep Country will list the mattress for $3300. When was the last time you opened a flyer and didn't see a mattress sale.

After 3 weeks of Googling, reading and shopping we ended up buying a Simmons mattress from Sleep Country but a upgraded to a King size. The mix and match sale almost saved us $1000, and no we don't care that the fabric on the boxes don't match the mattress. The salesman was extremely knowledgeable and pleasant to deal with. He even refunded us $30 for a parking ticket we incurred outside the store while shopping there. Nice.

Well now I've bought a mattress what's left?







Saturday, September 06, 2008

Internet Speed Update

So in my ongoing quest to better my highspeed internet I've bought a new wireless router, Linksys RangePlus  WRT110.  My old router I bought 3 years ago was acting really funny and was having big problems maintaining a connecting to the cable modem.

With the new WRT110 I have 100% radio reception and check out the download speed!  Only trick is that I had to change the Radio Band on the router from the default 20Mhz to 20/40Mhz.




Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Stopping on a dime and giving 9 cents change

On of my tasks during my vacation was to service the rear brakes on our Honda CR-V. The discs were rusted and there was nothing left of the pads.

I knew Honda would charge about $600+ tax on the job, and since I know how to service brakes,  I'm financially better off doing it myself. It's a messy job though.

A couple of things to note. Canadian Tire didn't stock the rear disks at any of their locations, but to order them would be about $109 each (I need 2). They also do not stock the brake pads. Firstly, $109 is outrageous of standard discs especially given they are made in China (A few years ago I bought a pair of high performance cross-drilled cadmium plated rotors for my Camaro for about $200).  Secondly, I can only assume that Crappy Tire does not service too may imports because I had the same problem getting parts for another import I had a few years back.  The CR-V is a pretty popular model. Don't even get me started on the pimply faced teenagers behind the parts counter who know dick about automotive parts. CT should continue to focus on selling Chistmas lights and Swiffer mops and leave automotive parts to those who are serious about it.

NAPA Autoparts pulled through for me, they had them for $35 each and the premium metallic pads for $53 for the set, and they were in stock. Everything fit perfectly, sometimes non OEM parts don't fit well but these were a 100% fit. NAPA is staffed by pot belly old farts but they know what they are talking about.

While inspecting the calipers I noticed one of the caliper pin boots was torn. This needed to be replaced otherwise the caliper will eventually seize up, but I had a very very hard time finding the kits at Honda. All the kit is is a bunch of rubber seals, but no one had it in stock.  Again I'm wondering how the Honda dealers can properly service brakes in a timely manner of a regular service item like seals are not readily available. They said they can order then but at a cost of $39 each (enough for 1 caliper). On the internet, US Honda dealers are selling them for $11.00. I'll be placing an order tonight (in the meantime the car should be okay with the torn boot).

I have not worked on cars for a while but this adventure jarred my memory, I used to think how much the average person gets fleeced by having the dealer service their car. My estimate puts a $600 brake job at 200% profit.

So in the end I got really dirty and accidentally bashed a finger. I saved about $400 but more importantly the car has it's full braking potential restored.

BTW I saved the labour costs because I had a little help, see photo above.




Monday, September 01, 2008

Cable Modem Update



I did a test to determine if my wireless router was causing a bottleneck on both the DSL and Cable Modem connections.  This is what I found.

When connected to via WiFi (i.e. wireless) the cable modem connection topped out at 3200 Kbps, or ~ 3 Mbps.  The DSL connection was half that.

When connected directly using an ethernet cable to the router, I was able to achieve 6856 Kbps ( ~6.6Mbps) which is dead on the advertised max by Rogers.  Sympatico, I was only able to achieve 3500 Kpbs.

So that proves that my wireless router is the bottleneck, and Sympatico DSL is still slower and not even close the to advertised rate of 7Mbps.  My wireless router is pretty old and only supports the 'b' standard so I'm sure if I upgrade to at least a 'g' spec. I will be getting max throughput.

Marissa's complaint is that if I cancel the Sympatico service she'll loose her email and address which she has been using for a long time. I'm sure we'll figure something out. I gave up on using and ISP address long time ago for that reason. 

CNE 2008

We marked the end of the summer season by visiting the 2008 Canadian National Exhibition. It's a annual tradition for us.  Some people say it's boring and not much as changed but it's still a great place to visit, and there's always something new when experienced through the eyes of children.

One thing that was genuinely unique to me was the Mardi Gras type parade. It wasn't the famous Disney parades but I liked the bead throwing. One Canadian Armed Forces reserve gave Tyler and Aidan each a football.  Aidan says "A soldier gave it to me".

The Air Show was a bit of a disappointment. Only two jets appeared, CF-18 Hornet and the F-16  Falcon (Viper). There was also one bomber and fire rescue chopper. The rest were generally  bi-planes and classic props.  I'm more of a modern jet type so I was expecting more bravado.  I remember when I used to see the Concorde, Voodoo, B1 Stealth.  An F22 Raptor would have been nice to see but I'm sure that cost is a big factor these days.

Here are some more photos:

Friday, August 29, 2008

Rogers High Speed Internet service

I picked up my cable modem installation package this afternoon. It only took about 10 minutes to install.  Most of the time was spent under a desk trying to find a free power outlet.  Anyways, it was pretty simple and my speed appears to be about 2x faster than the Sympatico DSL highspeed service. Upload speed is about the same.  It's still not 7MB/s but I'm happy for now.

Page refreshes are noticeably faster, and downloads of binaries are what I would expect for $50 per month. I updated several Mac OS patches I was holding off on due to the crappy DSL speed.

I plan to wait a week before canceling with Bell.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Poor Sympatico DSL service

I've been a long time Bell Sympatico DSL (Highspeed Internet) customer. As of late I'm pretty muchup to my wits end with this bad service.  

First of all, it always cuts out during a rain, and especially lightning storm. This summer in Toronto it's been especially bad because of the wet weather we've been having. Recently, it's been spotty even without wet weather. The Bell "helpless" desk hasn't been any help, other than trying to get to to move my modem around the house, but I wasn't going to play that game.

Secondly, it gets progressive slower. Ultimately I have to reboot the modem because it becomes totally unusable.

Lastly, I don't believe I'm getting the service I am paying my hard earned dollars with. The "Express" service I have is supposed to give me up to 7Mbs (megabits per second) download. On all DSL tests I can only get up to 2Mbs. Bell had told me before that it's because of the neighbourhood I live in but that's not my problem, is it?

Anyways, my monthly DSL service is $50.51 (includes modem rental and taxes). Rogers is offering the same 7Mbs service for $39.95 / month (for 12 months). After 12 months it's the same as Bell but at least I get a 10% discount on my entire Rogers bill. I have cell and cable TV so it's a pretty significant savings.  In addition , they are offering $30 one time online discount. Seems pretty worth it to me.

Don't get me wrong, I don't like Rogers either. Both companies are gougers but I have to choose one.

So long Bell, nice knowing you. Maybe you can pick up some new customers in Bangalore :-)

I'll let you know how the new service compares.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Aquarium Update

It's day 3 for the new fish and everything is looking good. The two Zebra Danios are hungry and swimming fast, so it looks like the water conditions are less toxic compared to last week.

We also bought a bottle of "bacteria", see photo.  It's not as gross as it sounds, but essentially its a bottle of good bacteria to jump start the biological filtration process.   The green color you see in the photo means the tank water is 2ppm of ammonia. Ideally ammonia should be zero. 

Today I did a test and its looking more yellow thank green, so that's a good sign.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Aidan's Fish Aquarium

Uncle Warner bought Aidan a 5 gallon aquarium for his 3rd birthday. He was also kind enough to include $30 as a fish fund. $30 was more than enough for the fish but didn't cover all the other things required for a nice aquarium, e.g. gravel, fake plants, heater and of course a sunken pirate ship.

So we set it up and added 7 small fish. The were doing quite well until the next day, then they all died. Having owned and tended to a much larger aquarium as a child I knew that the water needed to be conditioned before fish could live confortably. However I didn't expect all the fish to die so soon.

Warren tells me that sacrificial fish are needed to cycle the aquarium to establish the proper water conditions and "good" bacteria. I've confirmed that on many internet sites as well. The science behind it is very fascinating: ammonia, nitrites, nitrates and PH. I also bought a tester kit to test and monitor those levels. I guess we just have to be patient and make several more trips to the pet store before we have a thriving aquarium to be proud of.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Perception of American cars


While on vacation in Florida I rented a car.  I was expecting somewhat sporty Pontiac G6 but was dismayed when Budget told me  they ran out but could either give me a PT Cruiser or the Chevy HHR. What I ended up with is the HHR.

This has got to be the ugliest, most embarrassing, shitty handling car I've ever driven. It's a cross between a gangster-mobile and a hearse.

Towards the end of our vacation I got used to the embarrassment partly because I saw other people driving one (most likely renters as well). Despite it's seemingly large appearance from the exterior it barely bit our two suitcases and a stroller. The dash feels like it's made by Fisher Price and the window controls are strangely placed on the dash. Wiper controls are located on both the stock and the dash. Everything seems like and afterthought.

There's no need to wonder why Japanese cars outsell Domestics.

Grilling Season


It's time to buy a new grill for the deck. 

I believe it's time for a old fashioned charcoal grill. Based on cost, taste, fun, and portability I believe charcoal grills are superior to the made plethora of propane BBQs that have flooded the market over the past few years. I also can't stand driving to the gas station to fill up the propane tank.

Gas grills are so cheaply made (made in China) that they are probably meant to be disposable.  Despite covering the BBQ, each year either the cooking grate, vaporizer or venturi rusts out. The cost to replace is upwards of $40 each so the math is simple.  

Here's the math ... A classic 10 year warranty Weber classic charcoal kettle grill costs about $130, a propane grill of acceptable quality will cost between $300-$500.  Charcoal is cheaper per meal than propane. There are no parts to replace on a kettle grill. Easy Peasy.
The cons of charcoal, are: More fuss to start and clean up and the perception that charred food causes cancer. The fussiness can be overcome with experience and I have yet to hear of anyone e dying of BBQ cancer. 

And it comes in blue!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Ooops

I'm installing recessed (can) lighting in the basement.  I thought the hardest part was to figure out how far apart  to place them to create even light coverage. 

Using a electronic stud finder I located the floor joists so that I wouldn'tt be cutting a hole smack dab under a joist. As you can see from the photo that's exactly what happened. Apparently the stud finder is fooled when two woods of different densities are beside each other; the previous home owner doubled-up the original joists using 2x6 pine, the original joist was some other species.

I chose another location and made another hole. I guess I'll have to patch up the other one :-(

Uncanny

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

WiFi Problem Resolved

I never realized how convenient wireless was until my laptop's wireless connection broke last week.  Unfortunately my work schedule requires a lot of after hours work which I try to do in between cooking, laundry, time with my son etc. I may even need to connect on the road. Anyways , my trusty IBM Thinkpad T60 suddenly dropped it's connection in the middle of working and never returned. 

Weird thing is that it could see all the SSID's out there and establish a link but after the password, nothing worked. It just said "Not Connected", but sometimes it would flip over to "Connected" but no IP address was ever assigned so it was no use to me.

I tried the following without luck :
  1. Change BIOS setting
  2. Fn-F5 key (hot key toggle for WiFi)
  3. Flipping WiFi hardware switch (located practically under the laptop, in fact I didn't even know it existed until my buddy Sarwar told me about it)
  4. Reloading all versions of drivers from 2005-2008
  5. Uninstalled device and drivers at least 20 times
  6. Selected Network Repair option*
  7. Buying a PCMCIA WiFi card (Any one need one?)
  8. Installing third party Wireless management software (including one made by Atheros Communications. IBM does not make it's own WiFi btw)
I must have read at least 100 postings about similar issues and nothing recommended worked for me. So giving up,  I put an order in for a new T61 laptop since I can't waste any more time playing with this Windows garbage.

Tonight something worked for me though. What I noticed is that if I did 'ipconfig.exe' to display the network adapter settings , nothing appeared for the WiFi device. I knew something was wrong with Windows' ability to see the device. I removed all protocols except TCP/IP and selected Repair network. After doing that, ipconfig showed the wifi network interface and I was back in business.

Hopefully some poor soul with the same problem finds this blog helpful.

What a total waste of time. Thanks Microsoft.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Little Man makes me proud

Last weekend we visited Vaughn Mills. The highlight of the day was the Nascar Speed Park. Although Aidan is still too small to ride go-karts there were lots of games and things to do. 

I remember last Christmas he was too timid to climb on the raised playground at W
oodbine Center. This weekend he just went for it. He climbed 20ft to the top (safety nets everywhere) and ran around with 
other kids. The one thing he stayed away from was the spiral tube slide. That was my fault because when he was a about a year and a half I placed him down pretty steep spiral slide at the Bronx Zoo. I suspect he tumbled head first in the the slide and he wasn't a happy camper when he got to the bottom. Since then he's been pretty cold towards any type of slide.  I know he's not scared of too many things, in fact this weekend he diving head first in the the pool.
After about an hour and with Mommy at the top encouraging him to go (an probably seeing other kids go down as well) he did us proud and slid down. Not once, but many more times :-) Makes me really proud of my little guy.
 

Won big at Timmy's

I finally cashed in on Roll Up the Rim.  No I did win the car or the boat but I did win $50 credit on a Tim card. That's about a months worth of coffee :-)

Unfortunately to claim my prize I have to fill out and mail-in a long legal-ese form :-(

Thursday, March 06, 2008

My Wii

It's not what you think.

Ever since Christmas I've been trying to buy a Nintendo Wii. The worldwide shortage whether geniune or engineered by Nintendo has made it virtually impossible to find one. I was almost tempted to go for a Playstation 3.

Today I happened to be crusing the Costco.ca website when what do you know? A Wii bundle was offered (extra controller and games). I quickly placed and order and I should be getting it delivered ($0 shipping) by next week :)

Now I'm wondering if I should sell it on ebay for $500. Nah, I'm going to open it and set it up and blow off some steam after work. I think Marissa will like it because it comes with boxing so she can vent her frustrations on me, the virtual me.

This one good thing offset all the pounds of bad crap thrown at me at work today :-)

Monday, March 03, 2008

No time for snow


When I was a few years younger I liked to go out and shovel snow for a couple of hours. It was good exercise and an opportunity to get out of the house. Now things are different, especially this year.

I'm getting a little tired of snow now. Tomorrow and Wednesday we're expecting another 10-15 cm of the it, just after it started to melt away in today's 10c spring-like weather.

I used to feel a little shy hauling out my snow blower in front of my neighbours. Now I don't give a sh*t because I'm not spending 2 hours clearing a driveway. I believe that because our house faces north and has a long narrow driveway we accumulate more snow as the drifts can get up to 2 ft.

Marissa thinks it's my toy, but I said it's first and foremost a tool (then a toy).

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Toboganing 101

Here's a funny clip of the little guy going down a run at Edwards Gardens today.

video

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

First Mac Software Purchase - Popcorn 3

I admit that I usually don't buy software, only because most commerical software is functionally poor, full of bugs and does offer good support. The one good thing about PC's are that there are lots of varieties of Windows software that do the same thing and alot of it is freeware. Unfortunately for Mac's it's hard to find share/freeware software simply because it takes different and less prevalent technical skill to write software for a Unix operating system, especially software with a user interface.

So under the belief that what Mac compatible software lacks in variety it should make up in quality. That's one of the principle reasons of my decision to invest in our iMac. This may not be 100% true...

I needed some software to backup Adian's DVD's. DVD's are expensive and he's not exactly careful with them, discs are ruined by the littlest of scratches. I purchased a product called Popcorn 3 , cost me $49 (by Roxio, a well known name in both PC and Mac software). We'll it didn't launch when I installed it :-( !!!! After an hour of searching their support site for answers, I found a bunch of disgruntled customers with the same problem on a MacForum, fortunately they found a fix. Anyways I got it working so now I can backup DVD's and also transfer them to my Nano to view my movie rental when I'm on the road (since we never seem to have time to watch them at home).

I can say however that it's a great product. It can compress a 9Gb movie onto a 4Gb DVD disc with little noticeable loss in quality, and it's fast. It has the functionality I need and its simple to use. The only thing I didn't like was the initial problem (show stopper) and the crappy support. It's really Roxio's fault not Apple, but it just goes to show you that nothing is perfect Macs or PCs.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Solution Architect

Last week I accepted the a promotion to the position of Solution Architect.

I've been with Scotiabank for a little over 10 years now so it's been a long tenure in my current position as Advisory Analyst but it has a been a valuable learning experience leading up to this role. I have been working as an SA for a number of projects but the official position I hope will lead to broader challenges and opportunities.

'Architect'  is an overly used word in the IT field. Most of the time it's largely a technical position but I see it as a balance technology and people. Fortunately my employer sees it the same way.

See you all at the next Rational conference :-)

 

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Family Day

So what did we do for Ontario's first family day? We went to the AutoShow. As expected the show was expensive, crowded and tiring. But it's really not about the the cars but more about spending time and doing something fun together.

We all had lots of fun jumping in and out of cars, and Aidan managed to lock himself into a Mazda pickup truck, I thought they disconnected the batteries on all cars so it this couldn't happen. Luckily after about 5 minutes he managed to press the power window button so I could reach in and unlock the door. (The people on the floor were pretty useless because they didn't have the keys).

I saw my dream car but I think it will continue to be a dream for a while.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Auto Headaches

I got a flat tire while driving home in this past Tuesday's snowstorm. It was absolutely terrible outside. I heard a noise outside the car but I didn't suspect it was coming from my car until too late.  Rather than wait for a tow which could have taking 3 hours, I decided to drive on the flat. I really needed to get home.

Anyways the losers at CAA never came that night to tow my car to the dealer. I called them at 8pm and they said it would be about a 2. hour wait, no problem because I wasn't going anywhere anyways. 2am rolled around and they never called. When I called them, they said the tow truck couldn't make it down my street. BS.

The next evening, I called them again to simply come by to put on my spare. I could have easily done it myself but I figure that is what I'm paying them $60 a year for. The idiot operator did come by but he didn't even bother to tighten the lug nuts. In fact one nut was only threaded on a couple of turns. 

Needless to say I wrote a complaint letter to CAA advising them their practices and crew are unsafe as unreliable. They said they will investigate and let me know the findings.

I ended up taking the car to have the tire replaced at the Mazda dealership. It was more that I wanted to pay, but at least I got an oil change and car wash and courteous service. 


Monday, February 04, 2008

Winter Fun


Winter is at the halfway point now. We went to York University Arena for an indoor skating event. Aidan did very well on his first skate. He was a little shaky at first but I think he got the hang of walking towards the end. You'll notice he's wearing an official ITech hockey helmet. When I was a kid I remember falling face down on the ice at the Don Mills arena without a helmet and being carried off.
We also built our first Queensdale Fort. Marissa says it looks like a foxhole. I think it looks like a hilltop machine gun bunker. Adian actually added a lot of the reinforcements!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Countdown to iMac

We have our 20" iMac on order and I can't wait for it's arrival.

So long ...
- Windoze XP
- Ugly overheating loud beige computer
- USB 2.0 that never worked past USB 1.0 speeds
- Gangly wires all over my desk
- Poorly writtenand running software, esp. video and photo editing programs which never worked
- Windows Task Manager (End Task)
- Viruses and malware (which any 14 year old can write)
- Patches and Service Packs which I have never been able to install (and yes I have a legit copy of Windows)
- That bloaty feeling.

Hello to:
- The way consumer computing experience should be.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Basement Renovation Started



After 4 long months and commendable effort (and marital stress) by my better half, she has successfully cleared our all of her craft supplies and I can see the floor now; and most importantly start the renovation. Good job Mo! I can be an ass but I'm practicing for a hosting job on Clean Sweep.



It all started this afternoon with the inaugural removal of a hinge by my son Aidan, but shortly after it became a one man pry bar and drywall ripping catastrophe. There's no turning back now, I kept muttering. "What do you mean", asked Marissa. "Uh, nothing", I said.

A dividing wall and a closet will be removed to make an open space. The room layout will be very simple but the decor is still to be decided. My thoughts so far are:

- Lay down maple color wood laminate over the ceramic tile to warm up the floor. Use a large area run in the center of the room
- Put low wattage pot lights in the ceiling about 14" from the perimiter walls to make the room seem taller
- Use scones on some walls again to give the illusion of height
- Repaint the walls to a lighter color, maybe a straw brown.
- Use full height curtains to cover some doors and walls to give the feeling of windows.

I happened to find some aluminium wiring so I might get an electrician to replace. It might be a good time to upgrade he panel to 100 Amps too. It's only 60 Amps.

The remaining of the week I'll be using the Sawzall to take down the wall studs then hauling the debris out to the dumpster.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

My First IPod (Nano)




Marissa gave me a silver iPod Nano for my 38th birthday.

I've never really been overly fascinated with digital music players, maybe because being a programmer I'm just used to being around technology. Besides, I have a Sony Mp3 player that travels with me when I jog and I have no complaints with it at all. But I must admit that this little player is really COOL. Thanks Mo.

The interface and design is so clever and the new video player feature is great for watching music videos or pod casts. I also discovered the iTunes store. It's almost like rediscovering music.

The first download I purchased was a Westlife compilation (Unbreakable), it only cost be $9.99 vs $36 at HMV (Import). I think I'm really going to like having this thing around. I'm also thinking about buying a home speaker system so I can dock the iPod and allow others to enjoy. Really cool gift.