25 December 2007

Merry Christmas!

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas. From our family to yours, may you have a great time with friends and family, share a lot of time full of love and joy, and create some memories that will last a lifetime!

24 September 2007

A Monument to Yesterday

So, yesterday Erik walks up to me and asks me to take his training wheels off. I think, why not? So out come the wrenches and I take them off. I tell Erik to get his helmet on, we go out to the sidewalk, I help Erik up onto the seat. He puts his feet on the pedals, I tell him to start pedalling and give him a push. I thought for a second about holding on and helping him along, but then I got this slightly sadistic desire to watch and see if he wipes out.

So, I let go.

And what does that little turkey do? He rides to the end of the block, puts on the brakes, and falls over. Gets up, and yells for help to get going again. I jog over, give him another push, and off he goes back to where he started. Just like that, my 4 year old boy decides to give up training wheels and ride like the big boys.

Ok, he still can't start on his own. And most of the rides end up with a small wipeout when he forgets to put his feet down after he brakes. But something happened at that moment.

I felt pride swell.

It's a good feeling. I stood a little taller. My voice got a little louder. The sun was brighter, the grass was greener. It was cool.

05 August 2007

About vacations

We are just on the tail end of this years vacation time. The company I'm working for is small enough, everyone takes time off together and they just shut down for two weeks. This year, we spent some time around home doing some local stuff with the kids, then we went up north to my Dad's cabin for a while, then back home to do some fix ups around the house. The time we had up north was probably one of the best 'times off' that I have ever had, if not the best. It was just a real vacation. Lazy. Slow. Enjoyable. Fun. Lazy. We ate a lot, slept some, played lots, and ate some more.

One of the things the kids really wanted to do was to go camping, but since we don't have a tent yet, we offered them the next best thing. Being basically in Muskoka, my Dad's cabin is in the thick of mosquito country as well. Fortunately, the cabin also has a large screened in deck. I took an inflatable mattress and set the kids up for the night on the deck. Alla took the following picture in the morning:

One of the other things we experienced was being pelted by pinecones. At first it was hard to understand what was going on, until one day my Dad noticed this guy on the woodshed roof. The squirrels were picking them and eating them, and dropping them as well. Pesky little buggers.
As well, we finally got around to making a little canoe trip. We've gone around the lake, in and out of bays, exploring marshy areas. But this time we packed a picnic and went lake hopping. After canoeing to the far end of the lake, we made a quick protage to a small lake just a bit to the south. From there we canoed to the far end of that lake, and made another small portage to another small lake. From there, it was across the lake, down a marsh filled river and into another lake. This is a lake that holds some history for me.

Back when I was in high school, my best friend and I wanted to go camping. So it was back then that we loaded up a canoe and followed this same route. We spent the day fishing and enjoying ourselves. At the end of the day we set up camp, had supper, and settled down for the night after sitting by the fire for a while. Around 3 am, we woke up soaking wet. It had started to rain, and unfortunately the spot we picked to put the tent ended up being, well, a bit of a bowl. As it rained, the bowl filled up, and we woke up like potatoes in a cold stew. Our sleeping bags were soaked, we were soaked and wet, and very cold. We got up, tried to start a fire, but everything was wet. We were more than miserable. We finally simply packed everything up and headed home. We paddled through the rain and got back to the cabin at around 5 am. My Dad got up and made us some pancakes to warm us up. That was the last time I was Juniper Lake until last week.
We paddled through the marsh, and half way down the lake. We found that same camp site, and decided to picnic there. It was great. Here's the view from the camp site.

We sat around, snacked, the kids played with sticks and pinecones. I had a couple of pepperoni sticks.

Then we started back home, exploring the marsh as well.

As we were exploring, we found a quite a few frogs like this one.

And then we made one of our best discoveries. As we meandered along we went closer to a clump of marshy stuff so I could take a picture of a couple of flowers. Here's the clump we found.

On closer inspection I noticed that the clump seemed to be covered with a tiny little red flowers. They were really small, but they were everywhere. I looked around and each of the clumps had the same red shade to their bases. You can see them hiding between the blades of grass.

Here's nice close up, and maybe now you can tell what kind of tiny flowers these are.

Yup, if you recognized them, it's them tiny fly eating plants. Not the clam type, but they're covered with these long hairs, and each one has a drop of dew like liquid on the end. It's stickly stuff and traps bugs when they land for a drink.

Anyhow, it was an interesting discovery, especially since the marsh was full of it. I had no idea that this particular carnivorous plant lived in Canada. But at any rate, it was stuff like this that made this holiday one of the most enjoyable I have ever had.

18 June 2007

Finally the solution to Global Warming

Ok, this information is a little old, but for some reason I was thinking about this again today. Maybe it's because I was puttering a little too much today while at work. Dunno, but here's some links on the issue for your parousal:

An essay

An article from National Geographic

An article from Science World (sort of, copied on to findarticles.com)

I never realized that my puttering was so dangerous. Well, I'm sure that my family knows, but I just wasn't listenening before now. Maybe I should start to listen?

Great Moments In Marketing

I'm not sure what they were thinking. I don't know if they have been applauded or fired. I'm not sure if this has brought the company fame or trouble. But somehow, for some reason, this bit of marketing makes me laugh. I laughed out loud when I saw it in the grocery store. It just made me laugh. I won't explain, I'll just post a pic I found to describe the situation:

02 June 2007

Stretching time


So, there was this research report released recently, which makes me feel a lot better about a bad habit I have. I have spent a lot of time camping and doing outdoorsy kinds of things. Inevitably, you end up eating outside, and inevitably you drop something. I have lived by the 5 second rule for a long time, the rule goes that if something has been on the ground for 5 seconds or less it's still ok to eat. I like that rule, mainly because I like food.

Well, some college in Conneticut had some students do some research and lo and behold, they have found that it takes a minimum of 30 seconds for food to become contaminated by bacteria when dropped. So relax, take your time, and pick up that prodigal morsel. It's ok, and after a quick blowing off of the sand/dirt/crap that it landed in, you can chew it up and swallow it down knowing that it is bacteria free. Ahhhhhhh... it's great when bad habit's arn't so bad anymore.

23 May 2007

The Wisdom Of Children

So, last Sunday we went to visit some friends of ours. While there, we had some burgers for lunch. While eating her burger, my dear daughter Laura started picking the seasame seeds off of the bun and putting them into her hand. When we asked what she was doing, she replies: "I'm taking the seeds home so I can plant them, and then I will have a hamburger plant!"

Ahhhhhhh, if only it was that simple.

13 May 2007

Another First

So, here's another first for us. We have moved, yesterday in fact, out of our apartment. We are finally out of apartment living. We are still renting, but it's a townhouse in a co-op. The main benifit is that this three bedroom townhouse is costing us $200 less a month than our two bedroom apartment. We also have a yard, which Alla is absolutly happy about. She now has her own garden which is one thing she has wanted for a long time. We have a garage, which is something I'm absolutly happy about. I now have some space for a small workshop to tinker around in. All is good, and we are happy. The kids now have their own rooms, which has brought a lot of peace and quiet to the house, except for the running around enjoying the bigger space.

In all, except for the moving process, we are very excited and happy. Now if we could just finish settling in...

01 May 2007


It has been a long time. A very long time. But it has finally happened. It took some work, some time, and well, more work. But I have finally be able to do it. After many, many years, I can finally say that I am no longer in poverty. Not that I actually said that mind you, but I have crossed a line. Up until I moved to Canada, I have never been able to earn enough money myself in order to pay taxes. You know. That magic base figure they use, that if you earn less than that, you don't even have to bother paying taxes. Above that, you have to start. Well, in 2005 when I moved to Canada, that year was my first year having to pay taxes. Now I know most of you are rolling your eyes, "How can someone be happy paying taxes?" But hey, my earning capacity reached new heights!

Anyhow, technically in Canada, there is no poverty line. That way the government has a hard time actually publishing numbers as to the level of poverty in Canada. Conveinient isn't it? But most social services departments use the base figure of $20,000/year as a deciding line as to who needs the most help. So, unofficially, in Canada a family that earns less than $20,000/year is a family in poverty. That has been the unofficial line. So hears the news: I just did my taxes last week (just in time by the way, deadline was yesterday) and my income has finally moved above that line! My earning capacity has increased! We no longer live in poverty! We have now become simply a low income family (below the national average, but now below the imaginary poverty line)! I'd love to go out and celebrate, but we can't afford that yet. We have to become average before we can do that. That is unless we use the gift card for one of our favorite restaurants that we havn't used yet, but then it wouldn't be the same as paying for the celebration ourselves.

So here's to living above the line! Wohoo! Next aspiration: to become average! It has taken me 36 years to become below average, I wonder how long it will take me to become average?

Any opinions?

18 April 2007

Some cool guitar playing, not by me of course

I came across this video today. Yes, I know it's from youtube.com™, no I do not browse that website just to pass time. I found these videos browsing another time wasting site. Anyhow, this guy is amazing. He does stuff on an acoustic guitar I've never heard before. Until now, the guitarist that had my greatest admiration was Adrian Legg for his innovation and creativity. But his guy is giving chase and starting to compete for the honors in my books. I've got to get some of his music and listen to it more carefully, but until then, follow the link and check it out for yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ddn4MGaS3N4

And to try something new, I'll try to post the above video directly into this blog:

We'll see if this works, if not you can always just follow the link, or search youtube for Andy McKee and you'll find something cool. My favorite songs so far: Drifting and Rylynn.

Anyhow, enjoy!

08 April 2007

Funny things kids do

So, we're in the living room watching TV, the kids fast asleep, when Alla goes down the hall and peeks into the kids room. She calls me over to see what Erik did. I walk over, and this is what I see:

Erik had somehow kicked off his blanket, got cold, and to keep warm he took off the pillowcase and crawled into it like a sleeping bag, and fell quickly to sleep again.

Man is he ever a funny kid.

04 April 2007

Adventures in Lutherie

It's been very long since I've posted something. Things have been busy, busy-ness has gotten in the way of life. But I am reasonably back on track. Today's topic. a little adventure I have undertaken. As some may know, I play guitar. Not like most, when I say I play, picture a 3 year old boy with a toy bulldozer in a sandbox. I play, most of the time I play well with others, but yes I play.

After playing my guitar for the past 15 years, and using medium gauge strings the whole time, my guitar finally started to show some fatigue. The bridge started to crack, one crack through the peg holes, another from the ends of the saddle. I decided to make the repair myself, not only would bringing the guitar to a repair man be very expensive (around $250), but doing it myself gives me chance to learn something new.

So after doing some research, buying a book, and doing some more research, I went out and found an appropriate piece of wood: a nice piece of black walnut at a local lumber supply. I then carefully pried the old saddle off the guitar, and used it as a template for the new one. I carved the new one, and matched the location of the peg holes and saddle from the old one. Here's a comparison:

Comparing old to new

You'll notice the cracks in the old one, and the very nicely visible grain in the new bridge. The next job is preparing to glue the new bridge down.

Setup in preparation

I prepared the clamps, some clamping cauls, and did a dry run twice to make sure I got the proceedure right.

Marking the position of the bridge

This also gave me the chance to mark our where the final position will be. I used two of the old pegs to hold it while I marked out the position with tape.

Everything all clamped up

Once everything checked out, it came time to apply the glue and clamp everything up. Moving quickly and just like I rehearsed, I got everything clamped up. I double checked the position and everything was set. I then went to bed.

The end results

And this is after I took the clamps off the next morning. Sometime after I went to bed, and before the glue had set, something slipped. You can notice a small gap between the tape and the bridge. I removed the bridge when I came home for lunch, and I get to start all over with the glue and clamp up procedure after I clean up the old glue residue. But for now, I need some sleep. As well, when you look at the pic of the bridge clamped up, you'll notice that some of the cauls are crooked. I need to shape them a bit better so that they spead the clamping pressure more evenly, negating any movement tendencies. Then the clamps will sit straight and hold fast.

The glue that I am using is a form of hide glue, which is reversable. This fact has proven useful already. Once I have properly completed the gluing and restrung the guitar, then I need to install the saddle (a new saddle to replace the old one, which wasn't that good anyway), file the notches for the strings, then set the height of the saddle which will be too high right now. Once everything is set, is should be ready to play. You maybe asking what is that light doing in the guitar? I've got a mirror inside so that I follow my progress and make sure that the clamps are in the right place.

Have I learned anything here? Sure, I may actually have the skills it would take to build a guitar from scratch someday. But for now, this will do. The adventure continues...

11 January 2007

Privacy - is it a right?

So, I'm hoping to start some discussion with this one. I'd like to hear what people have to say on this topic. Some background, recently in Toronto, the police placed some cameras along a section of Yonge St. in effort to curb a recent increase in violent crimes. Just last week, they were decommissioned citing invasion of privacy. Most people want the cameras back, considering public safety more important than public privacy (now that's an oxymoron if I've ever heard one). Other's fear the "Big Brother" and want them taken down.

Here's an obersation or two. The street already has many other cameras, all focused on the street by the stores themselves in an effort to catch theives. No one has a problem with them. No one cares that the stores can do whatever they want with these cameras. Yet when the police, a governed and controlled institution wants to do the same, people are worried about misuse. Yeah.... ok. Enough said about that.

My main question is in regards to this idea of privacy. Where did this come from? And why is it so very important? Why in the world do you need privacy in a public place? When anyone can take whatever pictures they want in public, film whatever films they want, record whatever sounds they want, all fully legal because the location is public. You can't take camcorders into a cinema because it is private property, not public. But you can take out your camcorder in the park because it is public. What are people so very afraid of in public? That someone might see them? As if they sincerely hope to walk down a street with a couple thousand other people and not be seen (the scary fact being that this is entirely possible). But the thing is that you are in public, you can be seen, and others actually have the right to see you when you are in public. Imagine the driver of a car not having the right to see a pedestrian crossing the road. Oh my, now he must violate someone elses rights in order to see them and thus not strike them while they are crossing the road. Come on, get a brain. What is public is public, for all to see, including some cops sitting in a room watching video feeds from a few hundred cameras. As if they might see something of yours that is private while you are in public. Mind you, if you are revealing something private while in public, you have other problems to discuss.

So, this leads us to the definition of privacy. It seems that the definition has changed dramatically over the years. A quick search of dictionary definitions will reveal the most common definition is: 1. the state of being private, in retirement or seclusion; 2. the state of being free from intrusion or disturbance in one's private life or affairs. Another definition which I found interesting what this one: a state of being let alone and able to keep certain esp. personal matters to oneself.

It seems to me, that privacy has become very egotistical. Let me explain. If we look plainly on privacy, it is to keep certain things from the view of others. For instance we go the to privy, so that others don't have to see us squatting and shitting in a gutter at the side of the road. We seek privacy not so much for our benifit (really, who wants to lock themselves in a glorified closet to keep all that wonderful smell to our selves, jealously guarding it as not to share with others, we will even go so far as to mask the odour before we let others into the closet so that they will not have a sample of how glorious our emitted odours can be) but for the benifit of others. We are protecting others from our ugly side. We clothe ourselves to hide the unseemly parts that may not be as nice other peoples parts. We seek seclusion for the sake of others. But somewhere along the line, we got the idea that privacy was not for the benifit of others, but for our own benifit, and thus it became egotistical. For our own benifit, we needed privacy to hide what we are ashamed of, so that the only sign of the existance of any such thing is our shame. No one will ever see or know what we are ashamed of, but unless we are especially good, they will only see that we are ashamed. We also seek our privacy to hide things we know we should not do. We don't want people to know about our sin, our fetish, our addiction. So we hide it where we wrongly think that if no one can see it, it doesn't hurt anyone. But you are hurting yourself, and by being someone who is self destructive you put others into danger as well. You learn to live with a guilty concience, and thus lose your ability to diferentiate wrong from right. Your moral capacity is compromised.

Anyhow, something happened along the way, and people have gotten ahold of the idea that privacy is a right to my own benefit, when privacy is a right to the benefit of others. When taken that way, I will gladly surrender my privacy when the benefit of others is at stake. I will surrender my privacy and allow my personal belongings to be searched when there is a fear and threat of some terrorist attack. When in public, I will conduct myself in such a way that I need not fear who sees. When in private, I will continue to conduct myself in such a way that I need not fear what others may see, should they be invading my privacy.

This idea of me having to right not to have my privacy disturbed or intruded upon seems ubsurd to me. I have privacy, my own space to relax and let loose, but so what if that is intruded upon. Oh no, someone saw me! Not my facade or my mask, me the real me. Oh heavens, what shall I do now? Get real. We have privacy, we are not like cattle that have to share the same barn, we are not fish stuck in the same aquarium. We have homes, we have our own rooms. We choose to share these or not to. There are places in the world where most people do not have even these basic forms of privacy. But please get real, privacy as a right?

In my mind, privacy is a convienence, a commodity, maybe even a luxury. But we can live without it. Some can even live quite well without it. What makes it a right? Since when do I have the right to hide my sin, my evil, my crime?

Ok, lets add the disclaimer now: all of the above could be viewed as conjecture. It could be viewed as the lunatic rantings of someone who has been off their rocker for far too long. It could be viewed as overreactionary and extreme. It could also be viewed as drivel not fit for public viewing (should have been kept private?). There's a lot to that could be done with this, so why don't you begin by adding your two cents? What do you think about privacy?