Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Books of November 2010

SPQR II The Catiline Conspiracy
John Maddox Roberts
ISBN 0-380-75995-0
216 pages

Enjoyed it less than the last one.  Interesting, but I don't think I'll seek out the rest of the series.

The Brass Verdict
Michael Connelly
ISBN 978-1-409-10203-8
601 pages

Bosch is a minor character in this.  Still enjoyable.

Steel Beach
John Varley
ISBN 0-441-78565-4
566 pages

Very much enjoyed this.  Very Heinleinesque.

Forever Odd
Dean Koontz
ISBN 0-553-80416-2
300 pages

Read the (an?) earlier novel about Odd, thought it was interesting, and made a mental note to pick up others.  Found it at the thrift store so scooped it.  Only OK.

The Descent
Jeff Long
ISBN 0-609-60293-4
450 pages

I like hollow world type stories.  Not many modern ones.  Some interesting ideas, a little far fetched, but surprisingly coherent.

The Legacy
Stephen Fry
ISBN 0-451-19015-7
373 pages

JFK Conspiracy book about the existence of a film shot across the street from Zapruder's.  Typical action thriller.

The Protector
David Morrell
ISBN 0-446-61403-3
482 pages

Recognized the author from First Blood (Rambo) and thought I'd give it a shot.  Another typical action thriller.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Hallowe'en Pumpkins '10


So carving pumpkins early enough so Leaf could take one to school resulted in a nasty mouldy inside by the time Hallowe'en rolled around.  Yuck, since I had to reach in to set up the light.  Another slow night at the door, we left a bowl of candy out, but all 5 of our visitors arrived within two minutes as we were loading the boys into the van.  Mars as the Ninja Turtle that didn't fly last year, and Odin as Spiderman.  Odin had great fun 'scaring' me with the spiderman mask on, then pulling it off to my 'relief'.  Again, and again and again.  We took them to a local community center that had a haunted house set up and car trunk trick-or-treat.  Wasn't very busy - I think it is the first year its been tried - but a good idea.  So few houses were 'lit' both on our way there and on our street.  Our street is understandable, not many kids but lots of seniors.

Funniest Mars moment: he's rushing down the gravel driveway after a score when he trips and falls hard, spilling candy everywhere. My first thought is skinned palms and he says "Don't worry guys... the candy is OK"!

Pumpkins 2012: Master Yoda Pumpkin, Cookie Monster Pumpkin
Pumpkins 2011: Batman Pumpkin, Batman Logo Pumpkin

Skin Carving a Pumpkin and Finding Free Stencil Instructions

Pumpkins 2009: Scooby Doo and Shaggy Pumpkin, Mystery Machine Pumpkin, Yoda Pumpkin, Boba Fett Pumpkin

Pumpkins 2008: Ernie and Bert Pumpkin, Soccer Ball Pumpkin
Pumpkins 2007: Calvin and Hobbes Pumpkin, Spiderman Pumpkin, Toronto FC Pumpkin
Pumpkins 2006: Darth Vader Pumpkin, Homer Simpson Pumpkin 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pumpkin Carving 201

-->Link to Finding FREE Pumpkin Stencils/Patterns

Prerequisite:  Pumpkin Carving 101 - Can you pick a pumpkin, clean a pumpkin, carve a face with either square or triangle eyes?  If you're tired of the same old, plain old jack o' lantern, 201 is for you.

Examples From Other Years:
 Pumpkins 2012: Master Yoda Pumpkin, Cookie Monster Pumpkin
Pumpkins 2011: Batman Pumpkin, Batman Logo Pumpkin
Pumpkins 2010: Tinkerbell Pumpkin, Transformers Pumpkin with Autobot and Decepticon logos
Pumpkins 2009: Scooby Doo and Shaggy Pumpkin, Mystery Machine Pumpkin, Yoda Pumpkin, Boba Fett Pumpkin
Pumpkins 2008: Ernie and Bert Pumpkin, Soccer Ball Pumpkin
Pumpkins 2007: Calvin and Hobbes Pumpkin, Spiderman Pumpkin, Toronto FC Pumpkin
Pumpkins 2006: Darth Vader Pumpkin, Homer Simpson Pumpkin

Stuff you need:

Pumpkin - bigger is better.  It is much easier to carve a bigger detailed image than a little tiny one.  Make no mistake, it is a time consuming process, but you are less likely to slip and either cut yourself or cut off part of the pumpkin skin you wanted to keep.  Ideally, you want a pumpkin big enough so that width of your small cut lines are no smaller than the width of your scraping tool.  Pumpkins often have one flatter side where they lay in the field.  This can hold a stencil very nicely.  Check for cosmetic stuff if you care about nice stems and how flat it sits.

Where to find a stencil - I get a lot of hits from people looking for stencils.  I used to spend hours of google-fu looking for "free pumpkin stencils" and largely got crappy simple designs or links to pay sites.  There are actually millions of free pumpkin stencils out there if you change your keywords!  The trick is to search for "[WhatIWantToCarve] colouring pages"  (or coloring for my American friends).  Refine by choosing black and white images and you should have ample choices.  This year, I chose Tinkerbell for one of my pumpkins.  I searched "tinkerbell colouring page" on google images and picked the third one.  Try to find a square or landscaped image. Tall narrow stencils don't fit well on pumpkins, so I went with Tinkerbell sitting down. 

Carving Tools - I have a craft kit I picked up years ago.  I think it is supposed to be for carving wood.  I use only 3 tools from it:  a scalpel-like blade, a chisel-like gouger/scraper, and a needle-like poker.  You want a gouger/scraper that has a flat blade, not the ones that are curved.  The poker is reversible - one end is pointy, the other flat - and both come in handy.  I've heard of people using dremels.  I tried it one year but found the skin would tear and make jagged lines.  The scalpel gives you a nice clean edge.

Other Stuff - Kitchen knife, scissors, a sharpie, clear packing tape, sharp spoon (an oxymoron?), newspaper, bowl for pumpkin guts.

How to do it:

1. Prep your pumpkin - not going to go into much detail since you should already know how to do that.  Lay down some newspaper to make cleanup easier.  I use a sharpie to draw a lid, cut it out with a kitchen knife.  Scoop the gunk, keep the seeds to roast up a nice snack.  This is where the sharp spoon comes it.  Scrape the inside of the pumpkin where you are going to carve the outside.  You want to get into the drier noodle-like yellow of the pumpkin (left in pic) and not just the orange slimy stuff (right in pic).  This thins the wall of the pumpkin to allow light to shine through better.  You won't have to carve as deep on the outside.

2. Prep your stencil - you've picked the stencil, use the computer to resize it to best fit your pumpkin.  I use the generic Microsoft Photo Editor's resize tool.  You can also play with size on the print preview screen of many programs.
     Be anal-retentive like me and measure the pumpkin, or just print until you get one that works.  Remember bigger is better and easier.  Print two copies - one to use on the pumpkin, one for reference after you've cut the first one into little bits.  The simplest way to carve a colouring page is to just cut thin lines along either side of all the black lines - an 'outline'.  Check out Tinkerbell's shoes and the left side of her dress in the photos further down for an example.  You can do the whole image like this.
      If you have good spatial recognition skills, you can do a nicer but more complicated (and more error prone) three colour carving.  You have orange skin, yellow carved skin, and bright yellow/white hole.  The 2nd copy stencil comes in handy here for shading in what you're going to do.  I decided to skin carve the wings and skin, and outline the dress, shoes, and hair.

3. Attach stencil to pumpkin - Cut the excess paper around your stencil.  You're putting something flat on something rounded (unless you found a pumpkin with a perfect flat side), so make the little cuts shown in the picture to help form it against the pumpkin.  Position the stencil, tape the top and bottom to the pumpkin with clear packing tape.  Smooth the rest of it flat to the pumpkin.  Tape like mad.  The whole stencil needs to be covered with bands of tape.  The paper will get wet and soggy when you start cutting, but the tape will hold it together and in place.

4. Start cutting - use your scalpel and start cutting.  I hold it like a pen.  You need to make the cuts as deep as possible, absolutely perpendicular to the pumpkin, particularly wherever there is fine detail.  Cut a single line where you will scrape off the pumpkin skin (wings, skin) and a double line to outline where you are leaving pumpkin skin (hair, dress, shoes, between two skin scraped areas).  Spatial recognition helps a lot here.  Make sure your lines join up or the skin will tear at the next step.  Cut out the parts of the stencil one by one.  If the paper comes off easily, the lines meet up.

5. Start carving - Peel off the remnants of the stencil and tape.  You will be able to see the faint lines where you made your cuts.  With the help of your 2nd copy of the stencil, start gouging the skin off.   Note that right off the bat, I messed up my plan!  I had wanted to outline the hair but got distracted and started gouging it instead.  Oops.  At least it was easily fixed by adding a double line and changing to an outline.  The shoulders are a good example of what I mean by double line.  I basically cut on either side of the colouring page line so I would leave that strip of pumpkin skin.  Same technique but in reverse for the shoes outline. 

You're using the gouge/scraper like a chisel.  Chisel/gouge (gently) towards your scalpel cuts.  A slight twist of the tool and a piece of skin will break off.  Because you cut your lines so deep, it will be a nice clean break where you want a nice clean line.  Where there isn't room to get the gouge in - like between Tinkerbell's eyebrow and hairline, use the scalpel to cut away the skin instead.  Be very careful around tiny parts like this - the eyebrow/eyes/mouth - it is very easy to slip and cut them off.  Try to leave them to last so they are less likely to break off while you're handling the pumpkin while scraping elsewhere.

6. Fudge Details

Often your stencil will have details too small to be able to carve.  Perfect example is Tinkerbell's fingers or the pom pom things on her shoes.  You can't get that level of detail, so either remove (the pom poms) or simplify (the fingers become a mitten shape)

7. Start scraping Now its time to light the pumpkin.  Candles don't do it.  I usually use a trouble light or temporarily wire up a bulb and socket.  Only use a compact fluorescent bulb.  The heat of an incandescent will dry out the pumpkin and the light won't shine through as well.  The light will show your chisel marks.  Flip the chisel tool over, hold it like a pen, and start scraping the marks away.  It is possible to vary the depth of the scraping to get some subtle colour differences.  Scrap the wings deeper to make them brighter for example.  This is also where you need the poker.  The flat end is small enough to fit nicely for scraping around outlines like the shoes.  The pointy end can get your third colour by poking all the way through the pumpkin, which is a good accent for the eyes. 

8. Finished
There are a number of little mistakes, but don't worry about it.  All the kids who come to your door (in my case 3-5) will recognize Tinkerbell and be impressed.   Photo shows the mostly finished pumpkin.  You can see where I've started accenting the hair, but I still need to scrape the wings more.   The big problem with skin carving pumpkins is that they dry out and you don't get the same cool translucent look once they do.  I'm going to leave finishing it until Sunday when I'll scrape off the dry layer.  Ideally you want to carve your pumpkin on the 31st.  Any sooner than that, try covering the carving with wet paper towel to hold moisture in.  This year I'm experimenting with putting Tinkerbell face down in a big bowl of water.  We'll see how it works out.

9. More Pumpkins
This year I'm also doing a Transformers pumpkin with the Autobots and Decepticons logos.  Much, much easier than Tinkerbell since it is mostly straight lines and not much detail.
Here are the final results for my Tinkerbell pumpkin and transformers pumpkin

10. Other examples 
Pumpkins 2011: Batman Pumpkin, Batman Logo Pumpkin

Pumpkins 2010: Tinkerbell Pumpkin, Transformers Pumpkin with Autobot and Decepticon logos
Pumpkins 2009: Scooby Doo and Shaggy Pumpkin, Mystery Machine Pumpkin, Yoda Pumpkin, Boba Fett Pumpkin
Pumpkins 2008: Ernie and Bert Pumpkin, Soccer Ball Pumpkin
Pumpkins 2007: Calvin and Hobbes Pumpkin, Spiderman Pumpkin, Toronto FC Pumpkin
Pumpkins 2006: Darth Vader Pumpkin, Homer Simpson Pumpkin 

If this has helped you carve a pumpkin, please take a photo and share a link to your pumpkin in the comments section!!


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Books of October 2010

The Hobbit
JRR Tolkien
ISBN 0 04 823126 6
253 pages
Oct 6

Been a few years since I read this.  Saw online that maybe the film production might finally be getting underway, so inspired to re-read.  Forgotten how short it actually is.  As enjoyable as ever (but I still find myself skimming the poetry/songs... not my thing).

Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
ISBN 0-446-60837-8
531 pages

Ten pages in I was thinking "what a hokey piece of crap".  I persevered nonetheless.  I can't recall what previous book I read by these two, but name recognition was what made me pick it up.  At a Bibles for Missions thrift store, which was a minor ethical dilemma for me.  Anyway, Anasazi culture has interested me since my early teens when I visited family in Colorado and went to Mesa Verde National Park.  Turned out the book was not as crappy as the first chapters led me to believe.  Not good by any means, but somewhat better than crap towards the end.

The Stars My Destination
Alfred Bester
ISBN 0-679-76780-0
258 pages

Amazing.  Number 31 on the top 100 Sci-Fi books list.  A 1956 book that isn't full of anachronisms is rare enough, but the predictions of corporate states and warfare were very interesting.

William C. Dietz
ISBN 0-441-00105-X
231 pages

Interesting but not great.  A bit of a stretch at times.

John Maddox Roberts
ISBN 0-380-75993-4
230 pages
Not a book I would typically read, and not sure why I picked this up (along with a sequel).  Historical murder mystery?  Set in Rome, confusing at times because of character names, place names, and job titles being unfamiliar.  Still, I enjoyed it enough that I've moved on to the next one.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Books of September 2010

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
C.S. Lewis
ISBN 0 14 03-0132 1
171 pages

Prince Caspian

C.S. Lewis
ISBN 0 14 03-0173 9
190 pages

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

C.S. Lewis
ISBN 0 14 03-0229 8
212 pages

The Silver Chair

C.S. Lewis
ISBN 0 14 03-0240 9
206 pages

The Horse and his Boy

C.S. Lewis
ISBN 0 14 03-0244 1
188 pages

The Magician's Nephew

C.S. Lewis
ISBN 0 14 03-0192 5
171 pages

The Last Battle
C.S. Lewis
ISBN 0 14 03-0205 0
165 pages

My first re-read of this series since childhood.  Mostly fun, but not as good as I remember.  Some pretty blunt christian symbolism.  Still, definitely a series to encourage the boys to read when they are older.

Laws of the Game 2008/2009
ISBN none
133 pages

A pre-HS boys season re-read.

The Thief
Ruth Rendell
ISBN 0-09-949788-3
86 pages

Essentially a short storey.  Picked it up because my mom is a Ruth Rendell fan.  Didn't like it at all.  No empathy for the protagonist.

Coaching and Winning
William E. Warren
ISBN 0-13-140005-3
180 pages

I'm still not coaching, but this looked interesting.  Geared more towards the paid coach of US athletics, but lots of good ideas.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I could feel her breasts

After his first swimming lesson, Leaf asked Mars what he thought of his instructors.  He said:  "I could feel her breasts".  Maybe.  He's still at that stage where he'll slur words enough that sometimes you aren't sure.  If he was 10 years older, I would definitely buy "breasts", but that isn't actually a word we tend to use. "Boobies", or in Odin's case, "Booboos", are the vernacular for mammaries in our house.  It might even be more likely he was trying to say "I could smell her breath".  Of course he wouldn't repeat or clarify his answer...

Living on the river is great, but also a constant worry with little kids.  You watch them constantly, train them to never go near without a lifejacket an a grownup, but the media has been doing a good job of fearmongering this summer.  We signed him up for swimming lessons.

My mum used to torture me.  She forcibly enrolled me in swimming lessons.  To this day, I hate swimming, I hate pools, I mostly hate water, and I hate getting wet.  I learned to swim, don't get me wrong.  In an emergency, I would have no problems.  Its just that a series of unpleasant swimming lesson related events emotionally scarred me for life.

We didn't have a huge amount of success in Mars' session of swimming lessons.  The first day he wouldn't go in past his waist.  At the end of the first week, he was proudly swimming.  If, by "swimming" you mean lying in 6 inches of water while wearing a life jacket and maintaining a death grip on a flutterboard in one hand and a pool noodle in the other, while yelling "look at me I'm swimming".

Friday, August 6, 2010

Books of August 2010

Future on Fire
Orson Scott Card, Ed.
ISBN 0-812-51183-2
376 pages
August 27th

Collection of short stories.  Some very interesting ideas on the future.

Tapestry of Spies
Stephen Hunter
ISBN 0-440-22185-4
442 pages
August 15th

Picked up because I like Stephen Hunter's Swagger books.  I was maybe 100 pages in before I was sure I had read it before.  Published in 1985, so probably read as a young teen.  Not a bad book.  Made me think of a N-F book I read once about the Cambridge Five.

The Gray Nineties
James Wesley, Rawles
247 pages
August 8th

Discovered this while looking for some more end of the world novels.  Written by a real life 'survivalist', it actually is a very interesting and for the most part believable prediction of the break down of society after an economic crisis.  Society really is a fragile thing, and when the poop hits the fan, this guy will be ready.  Of course it was supposed to happen in the 80's.  Then mid-nineties.  Then Y2K...

For me, this book was ruined by one completely stupid thing.   I believed the story of the fall.  I believed the lawlessness.  I believed the preparation necessary as the characters bunker down in the boonies with a crapload of guns while the world as we know it falls apart, ready to deal with whatever comes their way.  What evilness arrives on their doorstep?  Two homosexuals.  With guns.  Who just so happen to be card carrying communists.  And looters with a cart full of jewelry and gold.  And they eat children.  Yep, the world ends and the badguys are " murdering, cannibal, commie, fruiter looters."  At that point we moved from interesting speculative fiction to paranoid nut-job lunacy.

A Canticle for Leibowitz
Walter M. Miller, Jr.
ISBN 553-06883-125
278 pages
August 3rd

My favourite genre is end of the world, or post-apocalyptic fiction.  A re-read of this classic (#49 on the top 100 sci-fi books of all time. After reading The Man in the High Castle last month, I think I'm up to 70 from the list.)  Discovered that there is a sequel, I'll have to try and track it down.

Invisible Prey
John Sanford
ISBN 978-0-425-22115-0
441 pages
August 1st

Another crime author I've read all of.  The other being Michael Connolly.  Good, but not great.  A perfect book for a Sunday afternoon.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Books of July 2010

9 Books
3683 pages

The Golden Compass
The Subtle Knife
The Amber Spyglass
Philip Pullman
ISBN 0-345-41335-0, 351 pages, July 24
0-440-41833-X, 326 pages, July 26
0-440-41856-9, 518 pages, July 31

Picked up the first in the series a few years ago.  I had only heard about it because a school board had banned it.  As far as I'm concerned, banned books are must reads.  Its been sitting on my 'to read' shelf ever since, as I didn't want to start a series and not be able to finish.  Last week I lucked out at the local thrift store and found the second two books.
I can see why the religious twits were upset and the atheists were so happy with the series.  However, I don't need a fantasy book to tell me that organized religion is a hypocritical load of crap.  The story was mildly interesting for the first two books, by the third, I was reading to finish and not reading because I was entranced.  I did like "Every little increase in human freedom has been fought over ferociously between those who want us to know more and be wiser and stronger, and those who want us to obey and be humble and submit."

An Instance of the Fingerpost
Iain Pears
ISBN 0-965-86064-7
690 pages
July 21

A historical novel set in 1660s England.  I found it quite enjoyable.  The story is told four times, from four different viewpoints.

The Golden Trail
Pierre Berton
ISBN 0-7705-1053-1
110 pages
July 14th

The readers digest version of the Klondike gold rush apparently. 

Killing Floor
Lee Child
ISBN 0-515-12344-7
420 pages
July 13th

The first "Reacher" novel.  A quick enjoyable read.

Robert J. Sawyer
ISBN 0-441-00372-9
289 pages
July 13th

I very much liked this.  Some mind stretching ideas rather than just standard sci-fi fare.  And he's Canadian!

The Man in the High Castle
Philip K. Dick
ISBN 0-679-74067-8
259 pages
July 10th

Been on my 'to read' list for years, completely lucked out finding it the local thrift store of all places.  Another one crossed of the top 100 science fiction books of all time.  It was interesting, but I didn't think it was anything spectacular, and certainly not 29th of all time.

A Mighty Fortress (4th in the Safehold Series)
David Weber
ISBN 978-0765315052
720 pages
July 5th

I've lived in towns that had phone books with fewer characters.  I'm not kidding when I say the list at the back has over 500 characters.  I often found myself confused.  Partly because its been 3 months since I read the first three in the series, partly because every character seems to have a first name, last name, and title, and they are interchanged.  Not as exciting as the first of the series, but somewhat of a disappointment.  Some naval battles, some intrigue and politics.  Less science fiction than I would have liked.  No resolution, so obviously more books coming.  A long book for the seemingly little that happened.

24 Hours without Internet. Commence Hyperventilating...

OK, so maybe I have a slight internet addiction.  I prefer to think of it as continually accessing a needed resource.  So when the internet stopped working yesterday morning, I had issues.  I was just doing my morning check - email to see if I had responses from some kijiji inquiries, weather to see what it would be like in the city, and news/newspaper.  Nothing.  The DSL modem had died.

I tried the normal electronics voodoo.  Rebooting.  Powering off.  Unplugging.  Checking cables.  Reset button.  Combinations thereof. Unplugging cables, turning the modem counter-clockwise three times, replugging cables.  No love.  I had just a LAN light, no Power, ADSL, or Internet lights.  Crap.  Maybe it just needed rest.  We were heading to the city for the day to catch up on some shopping, so I figured I'd try again when we got back.

Its funny how much of a necessity the internet has become.  For me it is communication, news, entertainment, and information.  If the TV was out for 24 hours I wouldn't care, and if it weren't for World Cup I wouldn't notice.  No telephone for a day?  Wouldn't notice unless it also killed my DSL.  No water?  Happened before, I fixed it... with the help of the internet.  No power?  I'd probably be searching for a UPS with a big battery online as soon as power was restored.

I drove a little faster than normal on the way home.  Wanted to be back in time to put a call in to our ISP.  Managed to get thru at quarter to five - would have been quicker but I couldn't look up the number online - had to find that book thing.  The tech quickly diagnosed a faulty modem (or wanted to leave work a few minutes early?).  I was very happy to hear that I could take it somewhere local for an exchange rather than waiting 2 more days for a courier.  Turned out he was just taunting me though.  The local computer company followed typical small town procedures and had closed at 4:30.

Headed out this morning to exchange the modem.  Managed to piggyback  it with trip to the Health Unit to drop off water samples and a trip to the playground before it got too stupid hot (too late for that unfortunately), so it didn't seem too much like an internet addiction.  Ahh, the bliss of having a connection again.  Checked email, checked the news, played some chess.  Time for morning coffee.

Friday, July 2, 2010

New Hard Drive Problems

Sometimes I hate computers.  They can be so frustrating, and trying to find the solution with google is often problematic.  Its easy to find the lowest common denominator, someones uninformed opinion, the wrong answer, or a site that requires membership or money or both.  Sorting wheat from the chaff is the issue, and whoever invents a search engine that can do that will be wildly successful.  (I like the firefox add-on surfclarity which automatically removes specified domains from google searches.  Think yahoo (always wrong) answers, or those annoying sites that return your exact search phrase.)

Bought a new hard drive the other day.  Its amazing how fast the damn things fill up.  I remember my first PC had an astounding 40 MB hard drive that I never did manage to fill.    I already have three in my home built rig.  The first was a 160 GB that I bought refurbished to keep cost down building the system.  When I filled that I picked up a 250 GB - bigger and better were available, but budget was tight.  Then I discovered I could back up movies to protect against toddlerzilla and got a 500 GB - not top of the line, but affordable.  Now I am installing a 1 TB hard drive - again not even the biggest available.  Crazy, but it cost 30% less than my original 160 GB drive.  I plan on not running out of room ever again by deleting a whole bunch of the crap that accumulates.

Even though my power supply is adequate, and I'd have a free bay by taking out the never used any more 3.5" floppy drive, I figured 4 hard drives was a little excessive for my system.  Extra heat, extra dust magnet, but mostly because I forgot to order another SATA cable ($3.99 online at NCIX, but $17.99 locally - 30% of what I paid for the HD!), so not worth it.   Popping in the new 1TB was no problem (yay SATA) but needed to move data from one or more of the full drives.  I planned on being 'smart'.  Move the 500 data to the 1TB, then the 250 to the 500, then the 160 to the 250.  I'd go from 3 full drives to 3 half empty drives.

It mostly worked.  But I decided I wasn't happy with the partition of the original drive.  I had originally split it three ways - one third for the system, one third for Leaf's stuff, one third for mine.  Mine filled up pretty much instantly, the system was 95% full, but Leaf's was mostly empty (except for my junk that I kept sneaking in).  I figured the new partition would work better with 40% system, 40% me, 20% Leaf.  Commence banging of head on desk.

I tried 4 different partitioning programs.   I could make an exact clone - ending up with 3 full partitions and a bunch of unclaimed space.  I could make a proportional clone - but again the drive would be split in thirds.  Despite all four programs claiming to be able to do what I wanted, none of them actually would.  Cloning a hard drive takes hours, the OS wouldn't boot, the OS would boot but not on the new drive, the data was corrupted.... after 6 or seven attempts I gave up.  It wasn't worth the pain and suffering.  I ended up doing a proportional clone.  Leaf's drive will have a bunch of unused space, mine and the system will fill up again.  Hopefully not before 10 TB hard drives are the norm.

Monday, June 28, 2010

I'm the Third Biggest Loser

A weight loss contest at the high school.  I think it is named after a TV show?  Anyway, who can lose the most weight - as a percentage of body weight, rather than total pounds.  I figured it was good motivation to cut down, particularly since the pot was $280!  I lost a little over 10 pounds over six weeks, or five and a half percent of my weight.  Good for third place... sadly no prize for third. 

It was good to have the support of my kids.  Mars: "Daddy, I want you to lie down in my bed with me.  But first you have to move Odin so you have room because you are so fat."

Turns out Leaf was the "Biggest Loser"!  She only lost half a pound more than me, and because it was by percentage (over 8%), she placed first - even though the second place person lost more weight.  Cha-ching - $280!  Not bad for six weeks of dieting.  We went out for a very fattening fish and chips dinner.  No special plans yet on what she'll spend the money on.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


I've been in two small earthquakes before, but that isn't what my mind went to when the house started shaking.  My first thought was that the washing machine was lopsided and going on a hard core spin cycle.  My second thought was that I didn't have a load of laundry on.  I couldn't figure out what it was - got up to see if there was a big truck in the driveway, wondered if it was the fridge breaking...  it lasted at least 30 seconds.  I think because we don't live in a traditional earthquake zone I didn't twig to it until later.  No real damage, but I think it wiggled the satellite dish out of position - World Cup is not as crisp as before.  5.5 on the richter scale, epicentre at least 250km away.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mars gets high on Ketamine

"You had three eyes, Daddy".  Ah, the mysteries of higher consciousness that Mars has discovered.

A continuation of the flower-up-the-nose incident, since we didn't have any success in getting it out.  Friday's trip to the doctors, he tried reaching up but didn't have the right tool.  Tried pushing it with one of those long skinny q-tip like things, but Mars flipped out - I think a memory of when he was tested for swine flu.  We we got a bottle to shoot saline up Mars' nose to see if it would loosen over the weekend.  No luck, so another appointment Monday.  Dr. G had picked up the hook thing he wanted, shot a freezing spray in the nostrils, and tried again.  Managed one good attempt, but once Mars realized what was going on, there was some serious resistance and head flailing.  Decided Mars would have to be put out in order to remove the flower safely.

With Ketamine.  Which is a horse-tranquilizer.  Also known as "Special K", a hallucinogenic sometimes used by ravers.  More commonly used as an anesthetic for children, it impairs the senses and produces a dissociative state.  Necessitated a trip to the hospital in the afternoon just to be safe.  He drank it in some pop - it tasted nasty by the facial reaction, but pop is a rare enough treat that he drank it down with no complaints.  Lots of fun trying to make the numbers from the oximeter change by deep breaths, 'sneezes', and whatnot.  He got pretty loopy in 15 or 20 minutes.  Bug-eyed, staring, bobbing and weaving, blinky eyes.  It was kind of amusing and probably foreshadowing of a dozen years from now - he acted just like a teenager getting drunk for the first time.  He'd sit right up, say something funny, then plunk face first down on the bed.  Mum and Dad suddenly had extra eyes. Wish we had the camera.

Doctor only needed the suction hose to get it out.  I guess had decomposed/softened enough that it couldn't be grabbed, but unfortunately that also meant it required four tries to get it all out.  Mars screamed like I've never heard before.  I think more of a freakout scream than a pain scream, but I felt terrible.  The good news is that in all later discussions about his trip to the "hozzible" no mention is made about anything unpleasant.  He recounts stories mum told, musical chairs in the waiting room, "Dr. Griffen picked my nose... with a stick",  how mum and dad had three eyes.

After it was over, some recovery time cuddling with mum.  Since it was nap-time, I kept expecting him to fall asleep, but no luck.  After 30 minutes, he started to perk up & was released.  Still a little zonked, so sat him in the chair at home with some knights to play with, hoping he'd nod off.  He started to doze, so I ran outside to hang some sheets, and had a little panic when he yelled for me.  Ran in to "Dad, I need to go potty and I can't walk"!

One possible side effect of Ketamine is nightmares, so especially attentive after he fell asleep that night.  Nothing particularly out of the ordinary.  He often cries out for mummy or daddy in the middle of the night - usually because he needs a potty trip.  A little pajama-wetting accident due to an ill-fitting diaper got him upset, so after cleanup I cuddled with him until he fell back asleep.  So did I.  Didn't wake up until his nightmare, when he piercingly screamed about two inches from my left ear.  At least he had no memory of bad dreams in the morning.

I hope he has learned his lesson about putting things up his nose - sorry, having things "fall" in his nose.  He still maintains it just fell in his nose!  Three (four if you count the followup coming on Friday) trips to the doctor's office, a trip to the hospital, lots of pain and suffering.  I hope all the "you never put things up your nose - or in your ears" talks we've had recently help out.  Anticipating a future episode with Odin though.  Every time I remind Mars about things not going up his nose, Odin only seems to understand "up nose", which is where he immediately puts his finger.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

It fell in my nose, Daddy

We had the object-up-the-nose experience yesterday.  Just before nap time, Mars started complaining that his nose hurt.  A series of questions determined that it hurt inside, not outside, and that there was something green in there.  What is green and up your nose?  I obviously figured booger, but Mars said it was a piece of green flower (or "flour" - our homemade playdough?) that he had picked up off the floor.  After that point, it apparently "fell" up his nose.

Managed to get a look up his nose, with the help of a flashlight I could see there was definitely a 4-5mm green object way up there.  I plugged the other nostril with my thumb and got him to blow out - lots of snot, but no movement.  A couple of sneezes also no effect.  Plugged opposite side again and gently blew into his mouth.  Still nothing.  I wondered about tweezers, but it was pretty far up and I couldn't see him holding still even if I managed to get near it.

He was complaining of pain whenever I touched his nose, and started resisting my requests that he blow out while I blocked the other side with my thumb.  Even my suggestion that he should try and blow snot onto my hand stopped working.  Inside his nose was red and looked inflamed.  If it was a piece of flower, I wondered if a bit of stem was jamming into the side.  Whatever it was, it hadn't moved a bit after our removal efforts.

Leaf took him to the doctor.  Doctor elected to wait and see.  Getting it out would require a trip to the hospital and being strapped down.  We need to do a follow up visit to make sure all the bits come out.  During his nap, I was able to gentle press on the outside of his nose, perhaps I loosened it enough for it to come out.  When I looked today, the big object not there, but still something.   If it was a flower bud, that is gone, but maybe a piece of stem?  Either way, at least Mars is no longer complaining of pain.  Net result is that I have a cute video of him telling me what is up there and how it got there.

Followup: It did need a trip to the hospital!


Friday, June 11, 2010

World Cup 2010

Note that I number the matches in the order they are played (and I watch).  Why would you play match 4 before match 3 starts? That makes no sense.
Opening Ceremonies:
What were they thinking with the giant dung beetle pushing a soccer ball?
Match 1 RSA 1 vs MEX 1
A surprising result considering how much Mexico dominated.  One absolutely brilliant goal by South Africa the difference in this one.
Match 2 FRA 0 vs URU 0
I think France was concentrating on not losing this game.  They do tend to start slow, but I think they missed an opportunity here.  Seven yellows in the match.  Two draws in the first two games will make for an interesting Group A.
Match 3 KOR 2 vs GRE 0
Greece was very disorganized.  Their tactic was to send long/high balls down the field - unfortunately, there was very often no Greek player there to receive.  Korea was very fast on the counterattack.
Match 4 ARG 1 vs NIG 0
Again with the playing not to lose.  Messi didn't manage to capitalize on any of his numerous chances, making it a closer game than it should have been.  Argentina had much more possession, more shots, more corner kicks, but until the very end Nigeria was only a chance goal away from the tie.
Match 5 ENG 1 vs USA 1
England scored early, USA tied late in the first half with a goal you'd normally see in a recreational U12 game.  On paper, England better, but US had plenty of chances for the upset.
Match 6 SVN 1 vs ALG 0
A snooze-fest only broken up by another goalkeeping blunder.
Match 7 SRB 0 vs GHA 1
First PK of the World Cup decides this one.  Otherwise fairly dull  I suck at picking WC results.
Match 8 GER 4 vs AUS 0
I really enjoyed this game.  Germany dominated in a way no other team has managed so far.  The first goal was a perfect little teaching moment -  'Play to the whistle' instead of raising your arm in the air and stopping because you don't understand "It is not an offence to be in an offside position".  A couple of yellows for diving - glad to see, there usually aren't enough.  A yellow for dissent - also glad to see, also usually not enough.
Match 9 NED 2 vs DEN 0
The first own-goal of the tournament opened the scoring in this one.
Match 10 JPN 1 vs CMR 0
I think the biggest upset so far.
Match 11 ITA 1 vs PAR 1
Italy came back to tie.  Not a fan of Italy.
Match 12 NZL 1 vs SVK 1
Slovakia's goal was offside.  It normally bugs we when commentators constantly question (95% wrongly) offside calls.  Replay shows Slovakian forward offside, and the AR out of position.  Big and very late 93rd minute goal from New Zealand to get a point and make group F interesting with everybody tied.
Match 13 POR 0 vs CIV 0
Picked Portugal to win, cheering for Ivory Coast, so lost on both counts.  Why is it that Ivory Coast is called Côte d'Ivoire on an english broadcast?  We don't hear Germany called Deutschland or Japan called Nippon.  Ronaldo is a diving pansy.
Match 14 BRA 2 vs PRK 1
Korea looked good in the first half.  Great first goal by Brazil, Korea scores late consolation that could be a factor in tie-breaks later on.
Match 15 HON 0 vs CHI 1
This is starting out as a very low scoring World Cup.  Half a goal less per game than the lowest of all time in 1990.  While I enjoy the tactical side of play, I can see why low scoring games makes soccer relatively unpopular in North America.  I missed about 20 minutes of this match, including the goal.
Match 16 ESP 0 vs SUI 1
The shock of the tournament!  Spain one of the favourites & had never lost to Switzerland before.
Match 17  RSA 0 vs URU 3
Goodbye Bafana Bafana.  Have to say I disagree with the red for DOGSO(F).  He was already diving when he got clipped, and the ball was too far away.
Match 18 ARG 4 vs KOR 1
Now we see Argentina in form.  Could have been more goals but Korean gk made some excellent saves.  From body language and behaviour, it seems to me that Maradona is not universally well liked by his players.
Match 19 GRE 2 vs NGA 1
A stupid and selfish red card has virtually eliminated Nigera from the World Cup.  They were leading at the time, fell apart immediately after, allowing Greece to score first WC goal ever, then get first WC win ever.

Match 20 FRA 0 vs MEX 2
Glad to see France lose, since they didn't deserve to be here anyway.
Match 21 GER 0 vs SRB 1
Another shocker.  A yellow card-fest with 9, IMO some were weak, including Klose's second.  I saw up to the missed PK! then had to head to the Doctor's for Mars 'flower fell up the nose' followup.
Match 22 SVN 2 vs USA 2
US not out of it, but expected better.  Still, they achieved the comeback from 0-2 and probably should have won on that disallowed goal.  Never did see a convincing replay showing a foul.
Match 23 ENG 0 vs ALG 0
England played like crap.  The only difference between this and the game they will play if they make the knockout round is that then I will have to add "... and goes out on penalties."  No teamwork.
Match 24 NED 1 vs JAP 0
Should have stayed in bed for more comfortable snoozing.
Match 25 GHA 1 vs AUS 1
Australia not the entertaining team they were last WC.
Match 26 CMR 1 vs DEN 2
And Cameroon is the first to 'officially' go.  African nations not doing so well.
Match 27 SVK 0 vs PAR 2
Paraguay looks strong again.
Match 28 NZL 1 vs ITA 1
Bogus penalty allowed Italy to get the draw.  Bunch of divers again.  Glad they didn't get the win, but unfortunately, I think they will still advance.  They have a better chance against Slovakia than NZ do against Paraguay.
Match 29 BRA 3 vs CIV 1
Not a good match for the referee.  Missed handling twice on the second goal, suspect red for Kaka.
Match 30 POR 7 vs PRK
After such a good showing vs Brazil, Korea flubs this one big time.  It was still close after the half, then they fell giving up three goals in seven minutes early in the half, and three more in the last ten minutes.  Has ramifications for advancement goal difference could be the difference between Portugal and Ivory Coast advancing.  I'm sad, I don't like Portugal.  Missed the last 10 minutes of this one at the doctor's office.
Match 31 CHI 1 vs SWI 0
A close one, Switzerland missing a golden opportunity right at the end to tie.  Another card-fest.  
Switzerland has played surprisingly well.
Match 32 SPA 2 vs HON 0
Spain finds better form, but still closer than it should have been.
Match 33 MEX 0 vs URU 1
Uruguay wins the group, the other group A match to decide who joins them in the next round.
Match 34 FRA 1 vs RSA 2
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!  I knew they wouldn't advance, but a loss to South Africa was the icing on the FU France cake.  Nothing will make it up to Ireland, but at least this is some small solace.
Match 35 GRE 0 vs ARG 2
Greece hung on for ages, but eventually Argentina got the goals.  Some brilliant save from Greek GK.
Match 36 NGA 2 vs  KOR 2
Back and forth.  One of the worst misses I've ever seen cost Nigeria!  A dead person lying on the ground could have scored that goal! Korea advances.
Match 37 ENG 1 vs SVN
England certainly had enough chances to put this one away.  Should of could of will hurt them later on.
Match 38 USA 1 vs ALG 0
It literally took a last minute goal for the US to win this and advance.  They looked much stronger last year at Confederations Cup.
Match 39 GER 1 vs GHA 0
Too close for comfort.

Match 40 AUS  2 vs SRB 1
"They are going potty", says the announcer after Australia's second goal.  Not enough after their drubbing by Germany - they are out on goal differential.
Match 41 ITA 2 vs SVK 3
WOOHOO!  Byebye to the undeserving (except maybe World Cup of Diving) winners from 2006.  Startled the boys by jumping and cheering Slovakia's third goal.  Italy did make it a very exciting finish, twice coming back from 2 goals down, with a number of chances to tie.
Match 42 PAR vs NZL
Both teams have employed a curious strategy.  Play the most boring game possible and hope the other team falls asleep.  Only one shot on net in the first half, NZ didn't get any on net all game.  Paraguay advances.
Match 43 DEN 1 vs JAP 3
A surprise for me.
Match 44 NED 2 vs CAM 1
Haven't watched this one - yet.  My mum is visiting, so missing some games.
Match 45 POR 0 vs BRA 0
Haven't watched this one - yet.  My mum is visiting, so missing some games.
Match 46 PRK 0 vs CIV 3
Feel bad for North Korea.  Started the WC so well against Brazil, then got hosed the next two games.
Match 47 CHI 1 vs SPA 2
Spain dominated possession, but a close game nonetheless.
Match 48 SWI 0 vs HON 0
Haven't watched this one. Thinking I won't bother. 

Round of 16
Match 49 URU 2 vs KOR 1
Uruguay continues to look strong.  I think they will handle Ghana and make the semis.  A miserable rainy day.  Uruguay's second goal is the best of the tournament!

Match 50 GHA 2 vs USA 1
I expected the US to prevail in this one.  US couldn't come back - again.  Thought the GK was weak on the 2nd goal. 
Match 51 GER 4 vs ENG 1
An officiated error was the difference in this one.  Poetic justice for 1966?
Match 52 ARG 3 vs MEX 1
Another officiating error made the difference.  Unfortunate, especially since I thought the AR was in position to see it.  There will be another storm about video replay.

Match  53 NED 2 vs SVK 1
Was not as close as the score makes it seem.  Debatable penalty in the 90th for Slovakia salvaged some pride.
Match 54 BRA 3 vs CHI 0
Sad for Chile, they had done well up to this point.  Second goal a laugher as Chilean defenders stands still with his arm in the air and lets Fabiano walk in uncontested for the goal.  Play to the whistle, kiddies.
Match 55 SPA 1 vs POR 0
Spain dominated this match in every way except score.  Ronaldo flopped around like a wet dishrag to no avail.  Bye-bye baby.
Match 56 PAR Pen 0 vs JAP 0 
The first penalty shootout.  A pretty dull game I thought.  Paraguay dominated on possession, I figured they would win, but didn't expect penalties to decide it.
Match 57 NED 2 vs BRA 1
I picked this one.  Thought I was wrong when Brazil scored early, but the Dutch came back!  One unfortunate thing - they employed a 'trick corner' play.  Even money says I see the local U12 try it next week.
Match 58 URU 1 vs GHA 1
Wow.  Ghana opens with seconds left in the first half, a ridiculous low shot from 30 yards that drew the keeper a step one way, then curled in the other.  Uruguay later tied on a very nice free kick.  Seconds from the end of the game, scramble in the goal area, three shots on, the third a DOGSO(H), Ghana is going to win on the resulting penalty... except its off the crossbar!  Game goes to penalty shootout, Ghana misses two more, and Uruguay goes on.  Destiny.
Match 59 ARG 0 vs GER 4
I expected this to be an exciting match, but certainly not like this!  Other than possession favouring Argentina, this was pretty close in the first half.  I fully expected Argentina to tie and the game go to extra time and then shootout.  Then bang bang it was over except the insult to injury goal in the 89th minute.  Messi completely disappeared throughout the game.  I guess this is what happens when one team has a coach and the other has a chubby cheerleader.

Match 60 PAR 0 vs SPA 1
How to play against a much stronger team 101.  Play defensively and foul a lot.  I think it could be argued that Paraguay shuld have got the goal that was called offside - it would have completely changed the game.  So would have the penalty.  Missed.  The thing with playing defensively against a much better team is that you have to convert your rare chances.  A penalty should be a gimmie.  Going back the other way, penalty for Spain is converted but called back for encroachment - bizarre I thought, since though technically correct (by a measly half step), I've yet to see a penalty without that kind of encroachment, and it isn't called.  The retake was stopped!   Craziness.  Even still, Spain was hard pressed to win this one.  The most bizarre goal of the WC at 83 minutes - shot off the post rebounds to Villa, who puts it off both posts before it goes in.  Huge chance for Paraguay in 89th minute is driven into the keeper.  A chip or sidestep would have been a sure goal.  Spain moves on, but I don't think they will beat Germany.  I'm predicting a Netherlands-Germany final.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

I'm coming down with a month long illness... Cough. Cough.

Hockey season ended just in time.  The World Cup is here at last!  While I don't imagine I'll manage to watch as many games as in 2006, when I caught 58 of 64 matches, I still plan on getting in some serious soccer time.  It really is the beautiful game.  I have several predictions:  England will go out on penalties, Italy as a team will dive more than Ronaldo by himself (but barely), and Messi will get way more playing time than he did in 2006.  Hard to pick a winner.  Argentina?  Brazil will do well, I think England has a shot, and US might surprise.

One prediction has come true already:  I am sick of hearing "Bafana Bafana" from soccer play by play guys and commentators.  Give it a rest.  We know it is the team nickname.  Use it five or six times during a broadcast even.  But don't call the South African team Bafana Bafana every single freaking time you refer to them and then invent reasons to mention them a hundred extra times even when they aren't even playing.  No host country has failed to make the second stage, luckily South Africa will be the first.  Then we'll only have to hear Bafana Bafana twenty times a day.

I also hate the vuvuzelas already.  Atmosphere is great, but a constant irritating drone is not.  They were a constant irritant during the Confederations Cup that really detracted from enjoying the game.  At least I could turn the volume down, I can't imagine how much worse it was/will be on the field.  I wish they had been banned.

2nd Place in the 2010 Hockey Pool

I won the high school teacher pool by 30 points in 2008.  Knocked off the 4-time defending champion and was declared winner before the final round even started since nobody could catch me.  Last year I dropped to 6th after San Jose bombed out.  Didn't take anyone from those underachieving bums this year... oops.

Still, I managed second place this year, only 1 point out of first.  Very close, and very frustrating.  I got the sweep I needed in CHI vs SAN, but I didn't need Patrick Marleau to catch on fire in the series and get 6 points.  5 or less I would have won.  Grrrr...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Books of June 2010

5 Books
1075 pages

The Road to the Rim
The Hard Way Up
A. Bertram Chandler
ISBN 0-441-73100-7-175?
340 pages
June 6

I had actually spent most of the first week of June working on Dan Simmons "Olympos".  After 100 pages there were more characters than our local phone book.  My Greek mythology is strong enough to recognize many, but I just couldn't keep track.  The story didn't grab me either, so it became one of the very, very few books I gave up on after starting.  (The "Insanely ambitious..." review blurb on the front cover should have clued me in...)  Picked up some fun old-school science fiction instead for a quick refreshing read.  Why do they always smoke on spaceships in 1960's sci-fi?

The Children's Story
James Clavell
ISBN 0-440-20468-2
96 pages
June 13

Aimed more at an american audience with the pledge of allegiance, but very interesting nonetheless.  One of the things that scares me about sending kids to school is how impressionable they are.

The Book of Stratagems (Tactics for Triumph and Survival)
Harro Von Senger
ISBN 0-670-83962-0
397 pages
June 22

Been working on this for a while.  Got most of the way through, then misplaced it for a while.  A very interesting book.  Started strong, but I felt it grew weaker towards the end.  The examples of the different stratagems in particular seemed to get less and less relevant.  I am convinced that China is the country of the future because of their long-term thinking.  (And taking over the US, one "Made in China" sticker at a time.)

The Referee's Survival Guide:  Practical Suggestions For Soccer Officials
Jeffrey Caminsky
ISBN 978-0-9790106-0-6
242 pages
June 29

A good read.  I've been looking for a practical (as opposed to 'laws') refereeing book.  Some good tips to help me become a better referee.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Coffee Math

According to the directions on the coffee can,  you use 1 to 1 1/2 tbsp (15 to 25 ml) of coffee for every 3/4 cup (175 ml) of fresh, cold water.  (Who the hell drinks coffee by the 3/4 cup anyway?)  My coffee/tea mug is 500 ml, Leaf's is 15 oz.  If I want 1 mug of coffee and Leaf wants two, how much coffee is needed? 

The reservoir of our coffee machine doesn't use oz or cups or ml.  It has marks labelled 2, 4, 6, 8.  Each little mark is about 300ml.  There are also plus a little travel mug (one or two) icon.  How much water is needed?

Perhaps a more important question...  Why does it take a calculator, an online metric-imperial converter, and 20 minutes to figure out how much coffee to put in the coffee machine?  I'm not math phobic by any means, I have very good numeracy skills.  Really though, should it be this difficult?  It sounds like a trick question from a grade nine math test.  I hate that only one country in the world officially uses the imperial system, and that they are our largest trading partner.

For the record, 8-12 tbsp of coffee, water just under the "10" mark in the machine.  Leaf says I make coffee too strong.

Friday, May 28, 2010

My Heart Breaks

Walking home on the sidewalk and hit from behind by an out of control car.  Emma's four-year-old son Nayan killed, six-year-old son Jacob hospitalized. The random tragedy that is any parents worst nightmare.  My heart goes out to Emma and her family.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Up the Creek with a Paddle

This channel turned out to be a dead end
I had intended to get out much earlier this year, while the water was still high.  I like exploring the small creeks that aren't as accessible with lower water.  High water never materialized this spring though.  Three steps was the highest, and it quickly dropped to one step (8 inches or so from deck).  So I naturally I procrastinated.

A nice day for a paddle, figured to explore up Faraday Creek as far as I could, then loop up around the oxbow lake and back down the York.  Where Faraday joins the York, it is a swampy maze of tiny channels, grass, and beaver dams.  Tough navigating from a kayak since the grass obstructs your view, but a canoe would be too big.  Even the kayak is a tight squeeze at times, often need to use the paddle like a skiff pole.  Other times you just lay the paddle fore and aft and grab a double handful of grass to drag yourself forward.  There are a number of ways through the maze, the goal is to get out of the kayak as few times as possible. 
A paddle-overable beaver dam

The trick is to find the smallest possible beaver dams.  They are usually found in the smallest possible channels, and it is possible to lean way back, paddle or pull the boat onto the dam as far as possible, then lean forward an shimmy a little to get over it.  The problem is that the smallest channels are often dead ends or blocked by trees or branches, and try turning or backing a 13' kayak in a 20" channel.

Once you get through the delta maze, there is the main channel of the creek for a while.  Fairly easy paddling.  Lots of red winged blackbirds.  The regular sized beaver dams need to be portaged, there are two or three (depending on state of repair after spring flooding and route).  I managed to get about 20 metres farther up creek than last year, but stopped by an 8" diameter tree downed across a shallow part of the creek.  The mosquitos had started to drive me buggy, so I left clearing it for another day.  I figure I was about 100m from the Heritage Trail, which was/is my goal. 

Beaver dam on Faraday Creek

Came back down the creek and headed for the oxbow lake.  Much of my Faraday Creek meandering last year was searching for the south entrance to this - I knew it was there from various maps, but had a hard time finding the way in. Managed to re-find the way no problem (passing the beaver lodge, which I hadn't found before), you do have to portage over a big logjam.  Hate to imagine the flooding that caused it, but I suspect it changed the course of the river and helped form the oxbox lake.

It had been a long afternoon so quickly across the little lake.  A new beaver dam at the north end, got a closeup look at a muskrat, then back into the York and home to catch the end of both the hockey game and my hopes of winning the school playoff pool.  Damn you Patrick Marleau!

The Kayaking loop

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Toothbrushes for the Apocalypse

We have them.  Oodles of them.  Leaf buys a bunch every time they go on sale.  Based on the recommended rate you change your toothbrush (every three months), we have years and years worth.  However, based on the rate they were changed by my mother when I was a kid they would last forever and be handed down to my great grand-kids.  Once my mum read or heard that you should disinfect your toothbrushes to prevent spread of cold/flu.  My toothbrush tasted (rather nastily) of bleach for years.

Toothbrushes are starting to get stupid expensive (hence stocking up on sale).  Do I really need an "ergonomic", "triple action",  "advanced bristle design" toothbrush to "gently hug my mouth" in "four exciting colours"?  I don't really want anyone or anything hugging my mouth.  Don't even get me started on battery powered ones (which don't work any better). Sure a regular toothbrush is more convenient and less messy than my finger or a damp cloth, but not worth 5 bucks a pop.  You know they are ridiculously overpriced when you start getting counterfeit toothbrushes.

"Counterfeit" consumer products always give me the giggles.  Generally, they are the exact same, produced at the exact same factory in China, but cost only a quarter of the "name brand" version.  Ridiculous profits or ridiculous advertising costs bump up the price, take your pick.  I love the variety of tactics used to try and convince people not to buy 'counterfeits'. 

From the real and actual counterfeit toothbrush advisory issued by Health Canada - "Health Canada has received one incident report of the bristles... ...becoming dislodged and caught in the user's throat. The individual did not require medical care."  Well thank Jebus that one person managed to clear that bristle without a trip to the emergency room.  Lucky two hacks spit it up... three would have meant a national inquest.  Seriously though, what kind of person calls the federal government because a toothbrush bristle falls off the toothbrush?

Monday, May 10, 2010

New Kayak!

Picked up a new kayak today, found on kijiji.  A Clearwater Design Nunavut tandem.  Tandems are pretty hard to find, so cost a little more than we really wanted to spend, but it is in great shape & hasn't seen much use.  Its big (16' - no paddling up the creek with this beastie) and stable.  Mars is getting too big to ride in the stern compartment of my Boreal Design Ookpik single!  I figure both boys could ride along with me when they get bigger.  Going to sell Leaf's boat, a Boreal Design Kasko.  First dibs actually goes to the guy I bought the Nunavut from - they want something smaller- but if anyone is interested...  We had only managed to get out together a few times because of the two toddler logistic issues.  Keeping the Ookpik for when I go out myself, the new tandem means Leaf and I can go out in the same boat or all four of us in two kayaks.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Another Compostable Bag claim test

Leaf bought some sunchips as a treat.  A very noisy crinkly bag that says "You're holding the world's first 100% compostable chip bag of its kind." (A typical weaselly advertising claim - not actually the first compostable, not the first 100% compostable, not the first 100% compostable chip bag, but the first "of its kind"!)  It continues "It's made from more from more than 90% renewable, plant-based materials and it breaks down completely into compost in a hot, active compost pile."  After the Body Shop compostable bag fail, I figured I had to test it.  Put some compost in it, buried it in the middle of my compost pile.  Unlike the Body Shop bag, they didn't put a time frame on decomp, but I'll try and remember to check in the fall.

Books of May 2010

10 Books
3417 pages

The Pianist
Wladyslaw Szpilman
ISBN 0-312-31135-4
222 pages
May 29

Frightening how easily people turn into brutal animals.  How willing people are to collaborate with them to save themselves, yet how unwilling people can be to fight against tyranny.

Nineteen Minutes
Jodi Picoult
ISBN 0-7434-9673-6
455 pages
May 29

An interesting book about a school shooting.  I knew what the 'surprise' ending was going to be a few chapters in.  I'm surprised there aren't more school shootings.  I'm surprised how important it is to teens to be sheeple.

Tales From the Mos Eisley Cantina
Kevin J. Anderson, Editor
ISBN 0-553-56468-4
380 pages
May 24

Another that I bookmooched.  More enjoyable than the trilogy, fun backstories of Cantina characters. 

Jedi Search
Kevin J. Anderson
ISBN 0-553-29798-8
354 pages
May 18

Dark Apprentice

Kevin J. Anderson
ISBN 0-553-40809-7
354 pages
May 20
Champions of the Force
Kevin J. Anderson
ISBN 0-553-29802-X
322 pages
May 21

I understand now why I haven't read much of the Star Wars universe.  Luckily, the suckage of the latest three Star Wars films prepared me.  "The Jedi Academy Trilogy" is pretty weak.  One thing that particularly bugged me was the repetition of exposition.  All three books were published the same year, you'd think there is an expectation that they would be read soon enough after each other that you don't need to spend a big chunk of the second book rehashing the first and a big chunk of the third rehashing the first and second.  Weak and predictable characters and plot.

The Killer Angels
Michael Shaara
ISBN 0-345-34810-9
355 pages
May 16

I don't think I've read a lot of pulitzer prize-winning novels.  It was interesting.  Reminds me of my lack of historical knowledge.

All These Earths
F.M. Busby
ISBN 0-553-25413-8
215 pages
May 13

Ultimately disappointed in this one.  A very interesting premise, FTL travel causing slippage to duplicate (with minor differences) universes.  Read like a series of short stories rather than a novel.

The Hollow Man
Dan Simmons
ISBN 0-553-56350-5
341 pages
May 9

Story about a pair of mind readers.  I could believe the mind reading more than I believed the improbably adventures he gets into.  The most interesting thing in this book was the quote from Robert McNamara about there being three types of people.  People who talked mostly about things, people who talked mostly about people, and people who talked mostly about ideas.

Star Wars Allegiance
Timothy Zahn
ISBN 978-0-345-47739-2
419 pages
May 3rd

I don't think I've read any of the Star Wars universe books before.  Strange, since I'm a big Star Wars fan.  It was fun, I've sent off for some more from Bookmooch.

My (Agent) Orange Thumb

I like growing things.  Its not necessarily that I'm bad at it, though I do tend to be neglectful or forgetful.  There had been a good stretch of years with success with houseplants.  Not this winter though...  Our houseplant collection took a pretty serious beating.  The spider plant might recover... again... when we were given it a few years ago, it was set down in a snowbank while unloading kids and luggage from the minivan and forgotten outside overnight .  I'm most disappointed with the loss of the orange tree (top left).  I received three seedlings from a friend a number of years ago.  This one was a runt (its seedmates are over two feet tall now) after recovering from a few near death experiences in the past, but I'm afraid its a goner now.  I even managed to kill a jade plant.  Amazing, since they are pretty hard to kill on purpose.  A bunch of the remaining houseplants are looking a little rough, but have survived.  My beloved Mystery Citrus tree is doing well.  It is over five feet high now and didn't lose as many leaves as usual over the winter.  I think it enjoyed spending last summer outside in a plastic greenhouse.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

My Dad died

I'm with George Carlin, I've never been a big fan of death euphemisms.  As a fan of Monty Python's parrot sketch, I know just about all of them.  I would have said my dad is pining for the fjords, because it would elicit a giggle, but only from those in the know.

My dad has battled cancer for a long time.  Cancer runs in my family.  Fighting cancer off also runs in the family.  He was given a 10% chance of living two years after brain tumor round two.  Five years later, brain tumor round three, mini-strokes, heart attack, parkinsons, or a combination thereof was too much.

Long expected, but its still never truly expected.  He's been going downhill for a few years, getting to be particularly bad in the last few months.  Enough to convince my brother to fly out with his wife on easter weekend.  All three kids (and all three grandkids) were there to celebrate his 66th birthday with him and Mary.  I think its been almost 20 years since he'd been with all three kids at the same time.

Leaf and I had been together for years before she realized I had a dad. He was not a part of my life for longer than he was.  It would take pages of writing or years of therapy to even start explaining my fucked up formative years.  All the typical father-son type things I can think of from pre-teen onwards I did with someone else or were skipped altogether.  I think of him whenever I hear Harry Chapin's "Cats in the Cradle".

As much as my mother used to nag "he's still your dad", I hadn't been particularly bothered to see him much  as an older teen and adult.  Prodding from Leaf, I'm sure prodding from Mary, his illness, and letting him spend time with grandkids meant I started to see him again in the last five years.   I'm glad that he got a chance to see and enjoy his grandkids.

Odin is too young to understand, but Mars was pretty confused and upset by my being upset.  Adding to his confusion was our lack of success in using different names (Grandpa and grandma, granddad and granny Mary, and nanny and gramps) for Mars' three sets of grandparents.  They are all grandma and grandpa to him.  At one point he thought my mum's husband was dead, then tried to convince Leaf's dad that he had died.  We broke out the photos, and now he very solemnly announces "that's my grandpa who died" when he sees a photo of my dad.

He left me some personal items in his will.  His favourite photo and his favourite movie (The Quiet Man) have the most meaning for me.  Movie is on cassette, so I acquired a digital copy to watch.  Photo is hanging in the front hall.  I remember taking it, its how I want to remember my dad.  The dad from my childhood, that happy age when dads can do no wrong.

 Patrick Nolan April 7th, 1944 - April 21, 2010

Saturday, April 17, 2010

10,000 Games

If I haven't mentioned it before, I'm slightly addicted to online blitz chess.  If you're not familiar with blitz, basically it is 5 minute speed chess.  I like that I can quickly take a few minutes each day to play a few games.  Keeps my brain sharper than video games.  Since I opened my current account almost exactly four years ago (April 28, 2006), I've played 10,000 games. Won 5073, lost 4298, drew 629.

I've actually been playing online since 1999.  I wasn't very good when I started.  Back then my rating was under 1300, but I've been improving year after year.  The biggest jump was about 100 points when I stopped playing 5 5 (five minutes a game plus 5 seconds added with each move) and started playing 5 0 (five minutes a game with no time added after a move).  I'm pretty good at thinking fast and win a lot of games on the clock. 

I'm also too easily distracted - I check email or surf the web a lot during games - but I've become what is considered a decently strong blitz player.  I figure I'm currently averaging around 1650, and a little over a week ago I set a new personal best, 1718.

I play at the Free Internet Chess Server (FICS).  It is free.  Really and truly free, not one of those 'free' sites that only try to sell a membership.  http://www.freechess.org/

Monday, April 12, 2010

Don't starve Pac-Man, Don't feed Pac-Man, Don't set your child on Fire.

Stuff from China always seems to have translation problems, very often funny ones.  I can't decide if they are a result of mistranslation by an eager but inept Chinese ESL student, or a drunken Australian backpacker/consultant who tries hard to make everything as funny as possible.   I once had a knife 'made in China' with the warning "Keep Out of Children".

The solution to language barriers are symbols.  There are many fairly universal symbols - the washroom man and woman, the circle with a diagonal line meaning don't do, the blue wheelchair, the skull and crossbones for hazardous...  Leaf was at the dollar store the other day and picked up a toy fishing rod that magnetically catches little fish.  Mars and Odin both love magnetic fishing at fun fairs.  The package had some crazy safety symbols on the back.

I'm sure they made complete sense the the person who designed them...  From left to right, Do not starve Pac-Man, Do not feed Pac-Man, Do not set your child on Fire.

Or maybe it is supposed to be Do Not Eat Pac-Man on a Plate, Do Not Shoot an Arrow into your Kids Eye while Cramming a Box down their Throat because they will Cry, Do not let your kid grow up to be Don King.