New Years

New Year's is a little extra special for me. I guess it's because it's my birthday. That's probably why I've never really bought into the hype of New Years Eve.

I'd rather focus on the fact that people all over the world celebrate my birthday (an international holiday). Ha ha.

I've also never really been into making resolutions either. Okay, I've never really kept any of my resolutions.

We call them resolutions... goals... whatever... but this year I have 2 of them:

1) Get & Stay Physical - Yeah, I know! Everyone says that. But with a new baby girl I want to healthy enough to enjoy life with her for many years to come. Plus, this year I have a motivation: Geocaching. The hard is going to be the same as it always is: finding time in the daily grind to do it.

2) Fellowship - Between visiting family at least once a month, having a new baby, & sometimes just not feeling well we've missed a lot of Sundays at church and Small Group on Tuesdays all together the past 6 months. This can't go on. We need to find a way to get connected again to our faith community.


New App!!!

So I'm trying out the new Blogger app on my iPod Touch. Typical Google product, it's fairly intuitive and actually has a similar interface to the G+ app.

So far I have 3 suggestions:

1) The switching between blogs should be the main screen not a setting under options.

2) Labels should should be a drop menu of previous labels sorted by most frequently used.

3) It took you long enough. Really? Your just launching an Apple app now?


Mucky Yucky Fun! (Geocache)

Today I decided to tackle a geocache that is within walking distance from my work.  I really need to get motivated with going out for walks/geocaches and I think this cache is going to do the trick.

From reading the logs previously I knew this cache was in rough shape.  A lot of people have mentioned that the container is cracked and that the log is soaked.  Since the Cache Owner (CO) hasn't been out to fix it in some time I had planned to throw together a replacement container at work.  But with some very pathetic options I decided it best to check the cache out first and then buy a suitable container.

So I grabbed a pencil, some sheets of lined paper, a grocery bag (didn't have any Ziplocs), my iPhone (with Geocaching.com app) and my my iPod.  Jamming out to some tunes I made my way to and down the path that led towards the cache.  But once I reached the end of the path it looked like I was going to have to cross creek 6 feet across and 2 or 3 deep.  I knew it was wet & muddy out but I wasn't prepared for THIS!

I took a minute to boot up the iPhone app and see where I was in relation to GZ and spotted thinner and more shallow end of the creek to cross.  It took some balancing on rocks and ducking under some branches but I made it across safe, sound, and DRY!

About 10-12 feet from the creek I met up with the original path and continued towards GZ.  When I got to GZ I knew I had to push past a couple trees to get to the search area.  Despite being an overcast day the view was still quite nice.  I had to wiggle around a ledge.  But once on the ledge the cache was easy to spot.

I pulled it the lock-n-lock out from the rocks it was half hidden under to find the other cachers had not been exaggerating.  It was busted up good: cracks in the lid, a hole in the bottom and (of course) a soaked log book.  I took out my paper and logged the find on them.  I was going to put the paper inside the grocery bag to keep it dry but there was a toy inside a plastic bag.  SWEEEET!

The walk back to work was much nicer because after crossing the creek I had noticed another path that seemed to lead back to the road without crossing ANY water.  Although I emerged with muddy boots and mucked up the back of my pants with mud spatter I'd have to say this has been my best caching experience yet.

Along with logging the cache I messaged the owner about helping out with container AND log maintenance.  My plan is to 'adopt' the cache.  This way I'll have a reason to get out for walks on my lunch hour more often.




Up until a few months ago I only ever used Yahoo, MapQuest, & Google for my mapping needs.  In fact, I got rid of all my old paper maps years ago.  Why bother when you can just download the map you need & print it off?  And with smart phones now you have the maps with you.  That's one of the main reasons I never bought a GPS unit for my car.  I figure why bother whn I have a map function built into my iPhone?

But ever since buying my Garmin eTrex Legend GPS for going geocaching I've realized there are many more map options out there for different purposes.  The Geocaching.com website and iPhone app have different options for different types of maps.

Street Maps
Just what you think they'd be: maps of streets.  However, different websites provide different details and different levels of accuracy.  I find Yahoo & MapQuest to be more accurate with where an address is located on a street.  But I find Google has more recently created streets.  This time the Geocaching website & app chose to use Bing, Google and OpenStreetMap.org (OSM).  OSM is an open source mapping system.

Sateliette Maps
Sateliette maps are actual images of the area taken at different levels of magnification.  Depending on the website or service you use depends on how recent the images are and their level of magnification.  The Geocaching website and app use Bing, Google, & Google Hybrid (Google Street Maps overlaying the satelitte images).   Since I don't need extreme detail or recent images I use these free versions too.

Topographic Maps
When hiking, camping, or doing anything outdoors it's always helpful to know ahead of time a lay of the land.  You need to know when there are sudden or gradual changes in elevation or the type of terrain you'll be going through.  Topographic maps use lines to show you changes in elevation.  So the closer together the lines the steeper the terrain.  This time the website and app use OpenCycleMap.org (OCM).  OCM is also an open source mapping website.  However, this one is geared (hahaha!) towards cyclists because with topographic maps they can know how many hills are on their planned route, how big they are and how steep they are.  Of course, it also comes in handy for hikers and geocachers.

So far I've been talking about free mapping solutions.  However, there are many proprietary mapping solutions too.  A perfect example of this are maps for GPS units.  Most GPS units come preloaded with a set of basic maps.  Depending on the manufacturer, model, and purpose you can upgrade your maps for free or for a fee.

Well the base map on my Garmin eTrex legend unit is basic.  I mean so basic it only shows MAJOR highways.  I looked up the cost of the highway maps for the Garmin maps North America and they are being sold for about $100.  That's more than I even paid for my GPS unit.  So I started looking up ways I could upgrade my maps for free.

In my searching I came across a page on the OSM wiki page about creating your own maps in Garmin format from OSM exports.  I was able to download the image tiles I wanted (thanks to OSM user computerteddy).  Then using the command line program CGSMapper SendMap Pro I was able to create a Garmin compatible IMG file.

But when I tried to use the SendMap tool to actually send it to my GPS unit it wouldn't work!  I think it's because the tool is looking for a USB connection instead of a Serial connection (which is what my unit uses).  So I'm going to dig out my USB-Serial converter to see if that works.  I also noticed that one of the pages mentioned that I need to change the connection mode my GPS is using.  But there is no USB or Serial mode!  Grrrr!!

Anyone know what I'm missing?  Or is this just an impossibility with my model of GPS unit?


Prospecting For Geocaches

Yesterday was Thanksgiving in Canada and since we had already done Thanksgiving dinner with the in-laws on Saturday (leftovers on Sunday) we took Monday for just family time.

The offspring slept in a little bit, so we got to sleep in a little bit for the first time in a long time.  We had the whole with nothing to do so the night before we had planned to go geocaching at a local park.  We would get as many caches as we could in the park before the little one needed to a break and then we'd stop and have a picnic.

So I loaded up a dozen or so caches in my iPod Touch and GPSr and we headed off to Prospect Park.  It's a local park with an indoor gymnasium, 2 baseball diamonds, a splashpad, tennis courts, a leash park, and the site of the Acton Fall Fair all on a peninsula that juts out into a small lake.  the terrain to & from each cache was fairly tame and mostly a gravel path.  But there was still some adventure.  All in all we wound up being 3 for 3 for the day.

Prospect Park during the Acton Fall Fair
Incredible Acton - Prospect Park (GC32VB9) was the first find of the day.  Up until now all my finds have been micro/small urban caches.  This cache actually offered little bit of a challenge terrain-wise.  While searching at ground zero I had to be careful not fall off the sloping hill into the water.  The log container was a little chincy but the cache itself was well hid.  Once I read the hint I saw it right away.

Interesting Acton 1 (GC2T8D8) was the second find of the day.  As the name suggests this cache is part of a series of places in Acton (my hometown) the cache owners find interesting.  Again it was very easy to get to.  I just had to hop back on the trail and keep walking.  As I approached GZ I was fairly certain I knew where the cache was but as I got closer I started to doubt myself.  I check the hint on my iPod and my initial instincts were right.  As I filled out the log and carefully replaced the cache in it's hiding spot my wife checked on the youngin' who was passed out in the stroller.  SWEET!  I can keep pushing on for the 3rd cache in this park before breaking for lunch.

Interesting Acton 2 (GC2TCP1) was the third and final find of the day.  The crazy thing is that despite being the lowest terrain & difficulty level of all 3 caches it proved to require the most effort to find.  It was easy enough to get to the cache but we had about half a kilometer of backtracking to get to GZ.  Then, despite being in a relatively open field with on 2 or 3 trees that stood 3 metres high my GPSr started jumping all over the place.  Ugh!  So I give it a minute and try walking in a straight line hoping it will even out to no avail.  Stumped again I resorted to reading the hint.  It still meant checking 3 spots about 20 feet from each other.  On the way back to the 3rd spot my GPSr evened out again and declared THIS spot to be the winner.  But I had already searched here.  Or so I thought.  Because I stick my hand into the hiding spot again to find my fingers to come across a well hidden micro.

We then found a nice picnic table in the shade of a tree beside the splash pad and sat down to have lunch: PB & J sandwiches, chunks of honeydew melon & pineapple, with Dr Pepper to drink.  While the wife packed up the containers I logged the finds with my iPhone thanking the owners for a day of "'prospectin' for caches".  Before leaving we got some cute pictures of us with the little one in a Bumbo Chair and a few on the ground in the leaves.

A Bumbo Chair helps a baby sit up straight without falling over
I learnt a few things on this caching trip:
1. I think I have a better idea of how people hide caches.
2. I also learnt that I need to be patient and trust my gut.  I think my first (non-urban micro) cache find without using a hint will feel good.
3. I'm also excited about finding caches in more natural settings.
4. I forgot the level of awesomeness that is a PB & J sandwich.



First off I'd like to says sorry for the barrage of posts a short while ago.  As I was writing Join The Hunt I came across a few draft posts that needed to still be published.


So I finally got my mitts on the eTrex Legend I was looking to buy.  For the first time in a long time I actually read the instruction manual for a piece of technology.  Normally I just let'er rip and figure it out as I go.  The only time I normally crack open a manual is to read up on a very specific function.  Don't get me wrong TRIED to do that.  But I'm not at all familiar with GPS technology and the interface on this basic unit isn't as intuitive I've become accustomed to with my iPod Touch and iPhone.

Aside from the interface, the fist thing I noticed was the lacking detail of the maps.  Small details like MAJOR HIGHWAYS!!!  I guess most of what you pay for when you buy a GPS unit for your car is the maps and waypoints included in it.  But before it was discontinued this unit sold for over $150.  So right now I'm trying to find a way to avoid spending $100+ on street & topographic maps from Garmin.

I've placed a link to my stats from Geocaching.com on the side of the blog so you can follow my progress.  I changed my username from Ry3guy to Tha Duh Feez since the ultimate goal of this new hobby is to be more physically active with the wife and daughter.

I've logged 3 finds so far with only my first hunt being a DNF.  The stats bar only says I've found 2 because one needs maintenance (a Ziploc bag for the log) badly!  I'll relog it when I add the Ziploc baggy.

My 1st find ever was with the family at the main intersection of Acton.  I totally cheated.  While I was waiting to get my eTrex I bought the Geocaching.com iPhone app.  It lets you lots of stuff.  Even some things only a premium membership can do on the website.  It lets you access the description of the cache, read the hint, use 3 map features (topographic, street, & satellite), log a find, view/take photos, and save it all for offline use.  Well I used the description & hint to find the exact location of the cache.

My 2nd cache I looked at the pictures.  Total spoiler!  It's my own fault though because the iPhone app warns you pictures can contain spoilers.  I still count it as a cool find though because of the type of cache container.

My 3rd cache was my first cache find using my eTrex unit.  I knew the general location of the cache because I had already looked it up on the iPhone but didn't read the hint or look at any photos.  So I turned on my eTrex and added a new waypoint and selected GoTo.  It took me a couple minutes to select the options I wanted on my screen (bearing & distance).  When I started walking around ground zero the bearing indicator started acting like a compass near a magnet.  I realized that's what it means it says 'accurate to 17ft'.  I eventually found the cache (thanks to learning from my first DNF).  My stupid pen wouldn't work so I took a pic of the log and uploaded it with my log as proof of the find.

I'm meeting up with my wife & daughter after work to go hang out with friends.  But I'm trying to think of ways I could sneak out and get in another cache!


A Bone To Pick

(Originally written right after the recent federal election)

Now that the election is settled I have a bone to pick.  Mainly with the anti-Harper camp.  But before I get into it, let me be clear that this isn't an attempt at gloating.  I simply want to vent my frustration.

Let me start with full disclosure.  I voted for the Conservatives and probably will for the rest of my life.  That being said, I'm not a huge Stephen Harper fan and Jack Layton had some really interesting things to say.

I don't like the way Stephen Harper seems to make sweeping decisions and avoids any sort of accountability for his actions.

I liked some of the ideas that Jack had for government, like abolishing the Senate.

It was Elizabeth May's desire to have a more polite and professional atmosphere in the House of Commons.  This would include the abolishment of smear campaigns.

(Here is where my vent comes in.)

As soon as an election was called there was a mad flurry of activity online.  Especially amongst social networks.  People began picking their sides and promoting their own agenda.

However, I was taken aback by the cruel and hateful stances people took against the Conservatives, specifically Stephen Harper.  There were reports of the Conservatives hiring people and/or employing bots to search out any non-conservative blog, article, tweet, or Facebook status and hijack it.  I personally saw numerous people resort to name calling: robot, dictator, evil, etc.  I was personally attacked as being one of these alleged Conservative puppets when I encouraged people (especially young people) to get out and vote (a traditionally NON-Conservative demographic).

Looking back I find it rather ironic.  Liberals often accuse Conservatives of being hateful (or at least discriminatory) of visible minorities.  But this time around it was the liberals who were prejudiced and hateful in their speech & actions.

Fire Alarms SUCK!

Okay, so maybe they don't totally suck.  Yes they are there to give us a chance to escape in case of a fire.  But you have to remember to change the batteries every 6 months.

But because my condo used to be an apartment building they need to inspect the units once a year to make sure they meet the fire code.  This basically means checking to make sure your smoke alarm works.  But it also means taking the day off work and waiting around all day for them to come to your unit.  Usually I just use it as a day to catch up on some much needed video gaming.

Last night though the building fire alarm went off.  Thankfully I hadn't quite gone to bed yet.  Because if I had I probably wouldn't have heard it.

So I go in a dash.  I wake up the wife and tell her whats happening.  We both quickly throw on some clothes to go outside in.  We grab the baby, her car seat, a diaper bag, a full bottle, and my wallet.  But when we get out in the hallways the only thing we see are other tenants.

No smoke.  No fire.  Just people.

Thankfully the alarm had been turned off by this point.  But what is going on?

When I heard the Super was in the basement looking into I went down to ask him because for some reason everyone else was just standing there wondering what to do.  So I went down to ask the Super and he said he didn't know what happened.  All he knows is that something tripped the alarm but there was no fire and none of the fire alarm switches had been pulled.

So after reaching my target heart we had fun feeding our hungry baby and then going to bed.

Join The Hunt

So, I've been looking for something physical to do because I want to be able to be fit enough to play sports with my daughter when she's old enough.  I don't want to be that father always telling his kid to slow down (well... until she starts learning to drive).

But I've been coming up dry.  I was going to start going for walks before work but I never get there in time or I'm exhausted from not sleeping with my CPAP machine.  Then I thought we could start going for walks as a family at night before my daughter goes to bed.  Again, it just never seems to work out.  Either we are out late at some one else's house or the routine of life just gets in the way.

The other day I was reading my buddies blog.  You see my buddy Dave is into geocaching.  It basically involves using GPS technology to find hidden treasures (caches).  In fact, most of his blog posts have something related to it.  He even incorporates it into business trips & vacations.  But what I finally realized this time was that he often takes his wife, son, and dog with him.

It got me thinking (yeah... that's kinda dangerous), why don't I do that with my family?  My wife loves road trips and used to like going hiking all the time.  The best part is that it's goal oriented!  I won't just be going for a walk for the sake of going for a walk.  I'll be going for a walk to put another notch in my cache belt (not to be confused with a cash/money belt).

So after searching Best Buy, FutureShop, Canadian Tire, Sport Check, & Tiger Direct I found even the cheapest Garmin eTrex for $179 (+extra for maps).  Umm, NO!  Kijiji to the rescue!  I found a step up from the basic Garmin eTrex model almost new for $60.  It's been up for a couple weeks so I sent an email offering $50. (See below)

Let's hope I get it.  Too bad buying size 15 hockey skates wasn't this easy!


Curried Honey Chicken Casserole

Okay, so a friend is laid up for a few days and I offered to bring over some food show she wouldn't have to cook.  However, she doesn't eat pork or beef and is lactose intolerant (even though she's a very tolerant person).  So I figured I'd look up a chicken / rice dish.  But they all seemed rather bland and I wanted to try something with the lean ground chicken I found at Food Basics recently ($10 for 4 lbs!!!).

So off to Google I went with my search recipe "ground chicken" rice -milk -cream.  But for some reason all the recipes were for chicken breasts.  But I found a cool recipe for a honey curry rice.  So I took that and modified it to a salsa chicken casserole I knew of.

I'll let you know how it turns out:

1 tsp curry powder
1 tbsp mustard
2-3 tbsp honey
2 tbsp of olive oil
2 tsp of salt
2 tbsp of minced garlic
1 shredded carrot
3 onions finely chopped
2 tomatoes finely chopped
1/2 cup of salsa
2 cups of rice
4 cups of water
1 lb of lean ground chicken

-Cook onion & garlic on medium heat until soft.
-Add garlic, olive oil, honey, curry powder, & shredded carrot and stir for 1-2 mins on medium heat.
-Add water & salt and boil uncovered

-Cook lean ground chicken in a pan
-Drain pan then add 2 finely chopped onions and cook until soft
-Add oregano and montreal steak spice

-Combine rice & chicken mixtures into casserole dish
-Cover with 1/2 cup of salsa, finely chopped tomatoes, and bake at 375 F for 20 mins


The Illusion of Control

Have you ever heard of the Serenity Prayer?  It's popular amongst 12 step programs.  It goes something along the lines of:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference
So often in life we find ourselves frustrated because life just isn't going the way we want it to go.  Sometimes it just seems no matter how hard we work to control things they never seem to turn out just right.  And that's the problem really.

Sure change is inevitable, but that doesn't mean we can control it.  When you break it down.  I mean REALLY break it down we can't control most things in life.  You can't control the colour of skin you were born with or the language you were taught as a child.  You couldn't control the continent or country you were born in or the type of family you were born into.

Parents raise their children, teaching them right from wrong, in hopes that they will "do what's right" (in other words: what they want).  But in the end you have to give your children up and hope you raised them right.

Although we may try to, we can control what happens tomorrow.  Meterologists try to predict the weather and investors try to predict the stock market but in the end it's really just a crap shoot.  Try as hard as we can't control our bodies aging.

We certainly can't control so-called "Acts of God" where you get struck by lightning, your car is hit by a meteor, or your house is destroyed by a tornado.

In fact, I would argue the ONLY thing we CAN control is how we react to the world around us.  We can't control how we got here.  We can't control what happens next.  All we can control are our own actions here and now.


Google Plus (& Minuses)

So I've got a friend who works for Google and was able to get a Google+ invitation early on.  It took about a week for it to actually work but once it did I was excited to get going.  I LOVED the idea of circles.  Facebook has the ability to group people acciording to how you know them.  But it's a confsuing process.

Besides, I'm somewhat of a Google evangelist.  I'm forever hearing stories about people losing all their contacts after flushing/losing their phone or losing documents or pictures due to hard drive failures.  So I tell them, get a Gmail account and sync your phone with your contacts.  That way if you lose your phone you still have all your contacts and by just changing your password can prevent whoever has your phone from accessing them.  Or use Google Docs & Picasa to store your documents & photos.  You can pick & choose who you want to share them with too!

So when I heard that G+ not only had circles but I can link it up to my other Google products it seemed like a happy marriage.  Hopefully it's just a matter of time but it's not quite a Google paradise.

Pluses - Like I said before, G+ makes managing & organizing your friends easy.  It suggests people who you already know and you just drag & drop them into the right circle.  You can new circles or rename existing ones to account for virtually any group.  Just like Facebook's "Friend Finder" you can import contacts from other email services like Yahoo or Hotmail.  If you want to make a full break from FB you can export your friends to Yahoo and then connect Yahoo to your G+ account.  It's a little convoluted.  But it works (or so I'm told).
Minuses - It seemed like a no brainer to me that G+ would automatically (or at least give me the option) import my Gmail contacts.  So now I need to find out which contacts it didn't find, export them from Gmail in a CSV, and then import them into G+.  You also have to be careful you don't double up on people you have mutiple email addresses for.  It's easy enough to correct (just open the circle, highlight the duplicates, and click delete).  It's just a hassle.

Pluses - Google makes it really easy to manage your pics and who gets to see them.  First off you can link up your Picasa account or photos from your mobile device.  The best part is that by default no one can see them.  You have to choose to share them with people.
Minuses - The mobile phone photo interface with the iPhone is sloppy.  The photos don't automatically get uploaded to G+.  Your "from your phone" album takes FOREVER to refresh.  Perhaps this is just because they were in a rush to get the iPhone app out.  It's easier to just update the app later on.

Pluses - Your feed isn't full of spam about Mafia Wars, Farmville, or other stupid social games.  I also find that sharing links, video, & photos is really smooth.
Minuses - I don't like that a new comment makes a post jump to the top of your stream.  So if you comment on a post of someone really popular (ie: Larry Page, CEO of Google) their posts will forever be at the top of your stream.

My final beef is that G+ connects with only a limited number of other Google products.  I already gave the example of Gmail contacts.  But seeing as your public profile acts as a sort of microblog it would make sense to be able to connect with Blogger.  Or at least make work-arounds better.

Here is my G+ to Blogger hack:
  1. Log into you Blogger account and set it up for 'email posting'
  2. Log into Gmail contacts, add the address (give it an actual name like Blog) to a group, then export the group as a CSV file
  3. Log into G+, click on the Circles button up top, then click Upload address book, and import the CSV file you just exported from Gmail.
  4. Search for the address by name you saved it as and then drag & drop it into a new circle by itself called Blog.
  5. When you want to post to your blog simply select that circle under posting options.  It might ask you if you are sure you want to email the post to the person.  Of course say yes.  Now when it shows up on your blog it will be formatted like a post on your Google profile.  But it works!
The major drawback to this is that when I did it on my iPhone (app & Safari) the post didn't go through to Blogger.

Read the original post at: http://thaword.blogspot.com/2011/07/google-plus-minuses.html


Incoming !!!

The other day I was watching an episode of M*A*S*H* where B.J. Hunnicutt was pulling pranks.  There was one part where got discovered but got the person to yell "AIR RAID!!!!!" and Frank Burns ran out of his tent screaming like a girl and fell into a pit filled with water.

Well being an expectant father (any day/week now) at times feels similar.  Just like people in the middle of a war I walk around all day with that anxious feeling in my stomach telling me to be ready because any second now something could happen!  Plus everyone keeps warning me.  Saying things like "Your life is going change", "You're never going to sleep again", or "Your world is going to turn upside-down".  It's akin to people running up to me yelling "AIR RAIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIID!"

Now the important way this ISN'T like a war is the fact that it's GREAT thing and I can't wait.  Now anyone who knows me knows that I am probably one of the most laid back guys you'll ever meet.  Not much really gets under my skin.  Or at least not for very long.  But hearing people say stuff like this over & over again is disconcerning.

Kind of like our wedding day.  I was a little nervous but overall I was doing good.  That is, until I got to the hall.  People kept coming up to saying "Are you doing ok?", "Are you alright?".  After at least 20 people in what felt like 5 minutes asked me if I was ok I was starting to doubt myself and wonder "Am I ok?".  So when it came to get things underway and I was standing up at the front apparently I had that "deer in headlights" look in my eyes.  It wasn't until Christine was standing right beside, took my hand and whispered "Are you ok?" that I was calm once again.

That's why I'm not nervous about the craziness of labour or worried about having my world & sleep schedule thrown into chaos.  I know that through everything we will be doing it together and we'll be ok.

But in the meantime.........



If You Build It...

...well then it's built!

So those who know me know that I'm normally a bit of a procrastinator.  But in the past few months, in getting ready for the baby I've gotten much better at tackling projects.  The crib, dresser, shelf, & night stand all got brought up from the car quickly AND put together almost right away.  PLUS, I painted the nursery without being nagged... er... gently reminded by the wife.

Now I needed to buy a new computer cart because we needed a different setup.  You see the old computer desk was in what is now the nursery.  So we had to get rid of it.  When we got a refurbished computer a while ago I set it up on the counter of the breakfast nook attached to our kitchen.  Friends of ours keep their Mac in the same spot & it works great for them.

However, computer work areas accumulate stuff.  Add a huge tower and a printer and now we really don't have a breakfast nook at all.  The problem reached it's breaking point with the baby on the way.  We don't want wires hanging down and easy to grab by little hands.

But where to put it? We don't have room for a desk in our bedroom.  And doing wireless keyboards, mice, & monitor would awkward expensive and just be one more hassle when it doesn't work right (which you KNOW is going to happen.  Then genius struck: a computer cart!  Of course I can't find any decent ones locally.

To The Cloud !!!
Away I went on the internet searching high & low for a cart that will hold everything (tower, printer, monitor, keyboard, & mouse), be portable, compact, & NOT cost a fortune.  Eventually I found the Safco MUV adjustable height computer workstation.

Well it arrived today!  I unpacked it and put it together (90%) when I got home in about 1 hour.  All that's left is to put the shelves on the support beams.  They will only be secured by double-sided sticky foam .. things (kinda cheap) so I want to make sure the shelves are EXACTLY centre.  Which strikes me as odd.  The whole thing is VERY sturdy.  Then they go and cheap out on attaching 2 of the shelves?  What would it cost to add a couple more drill holes and some bolts?

Oh well, here is the online ad & the (mostly) finished product:


Why church?

A short time ago I asked my friends on Facebook "If you go to church, WHY do you go?".  Most people got it right.  You see church isn't about getting your spiritual time card stamped.  At least it shouldn't be about that.  It's about worshipping God and fellowshipping with other believers.

I call words like 'church', 'worship' & 'fellowship' Christianese because sometimes it seems like Christians speak a different language than the rest of the world.

Worship, when you break it down, means you are recognizing God's worth.  For Christians this can be done many ways: studying the Bible, prayer, singing songs of praise, acts of love or obedience.  It should be part of our everyday lives but especially important when we gather together.

Fellowship is simply what happens when a community of Christians gather together.  It's social interaction and the building of relationships.

A Church is not a building. A Church is a group of Christians who gather together for worship & fellowship.

Recently I've been reading this book called 'Crazy Love' by Francis Chan.  It's a great book that really tears away all the other junk we try to add on top of the Bible and reminds us that it is really about this crazy kind of love.

It has really got me to thinking about Sunday mornings.  The more I think about it the less I see Sunday mornings reflecting the reasons why we are SUPPOSED to gather as a church.

Here is a break-down of how your average Sunday morning goes:
- Get your seat
- Announcements
- Prayer and singing hymns/worship songs
- Bible reading
- Sermon
- More singing of hymns/worship songs
- Some sort of coffee/tea social time

I just find way too much focus is put on the sermon.  Preaching is good and it serves a purpose.  But most Sunday mornings are structured to make it seem like the main purpose of being there.

To be truthful, preaching is a very ineffective way of teaching.  It's usually 1-way communication with the preacher talking at/to people.  What about all those people who don't learn just by listening?  Many people need to write things down or read it to REALLY grasp it.  The biggest problem is that the people in the pews/chairs all have different levels of knowledge.  I call it the shotgun method.  Because you just spray a wide shot of knowledge and hope that some of it took effect.

Besides, this isn't the example we see set by Jesus or the Apostles of the early church.

Jesus taught in parables so as to conceal the message from those who don't REALLY believe.
Today preachers make their sermons simple so that it's easy for everyone to understand.

The Apostles would share the salvation offered by Jesus in a public place.
Today we share the same message to people who come to us on Sunday morning.

The early church gathered together daily to eat and live life together.
Today we meet 1 or 2 times a week and complain that it takes up too much of our time.

The early church was known for how they showed love.
Today we are know being judgemental hypocrites.

I think it's time to change.


Found Tungsten Ring

I'm hoping Google bot crawls my blog. In a downtown Toronto Green P parking garage across the street from St Michaels Hospital I found a black tungsten ring (picture to be added to the post later). Inside it has an inscription:

120808 (heart) VY

It also has heart inside a circle with a 2 beside it.

If it's yours then please leave a comment.


How I Save $$$ on my utilities

After getting married my wife and I each had a cell phone but no home phone.  It worked for the most part.  We could always get in touch with our friends & family.  Well, except when they were long distance.  We had to do the old trick of call them, hang up, and have them call you back.

Plus, my wifes cell was with Bell Mobility and the bills were ridiculous!  She had the absolutely cheapest plan we could find, made maybe 6 or 7 calls a month and about the same amount of texts and her bill vaired from $60 to upwards of $80.  We needed to get rid of it!

Here is what we did:

We cancelled her cellphone with Bell (avg $70/mth)

We switched our Lite Plus cable internet with Cogeco (approx. $30/mth) to the basic analog cable tv package.

We then signed up for the Ultimate/Ultimate Cable plan with Distributel.  We get unlimited DSL internet at about 5Mbps & a home phone with all the regular features.  For an extra $10 we added unlimited long distance for Canada/US and $2 more to get the same plan on my cell phone.  The package comes out to $75/mth ($65/mth for the 1st year).

With my cell phone @ Telus we upgraded to the iPhone 3G 8GB for $100 & a 3 year contract.  We got the basic data plan with the My 5 Favs option ($55/mth).

The way long distance on the cell works with Distributel is they have a ton of access numbers.  Your phone number is given access to the system.  You call the access number for your area.  After a quick moment you hear the dial tone.  Then you dial the number you want you call without the 1.  You will hear an automated voice say "Distributel" and then you will get connected to the call and hear the line ringing on the other end.

You will have to let your friends & family know that when they see Distributel on the ident-i-call that it's just you and not  telemarketer.  The biggest is hassle is having to remember phone numbers and dial them in manually.

My solution was the iPhone app IsaDial.  It's meant for using calling cards because they also have access numbers.  I programmed a few different access numbers as a 'profile'.  When I want to make a call I launch IsaDial instead of Contacts.  It asks me which profile I want to use.  Then it takes me to my contacts.  I choose the person and number I want to call.  The program calls the access number, waits a few moments, and then dials the number I wanted.

So for the cost of one less cell phone we now have cable tv, high speed DSL internet, a home phone with unlimited long distance in US & Canada and a cell phone with the same plan.  Sure it costed me $100 to upgrade to an iPhone.  But my monthly plan was actully $10-15 cheaper per month on the iPhone.  So the upgrade paid for itself after 10 months.


Give May a chance

Ok, so it's been a while since my last post.  And yes, I normally don't get up on my soapbox in relation to politics.  But I think this is an issue that needs some attention.  More accurately some reason.

The issue: Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada, has not been invited to the televised leadership debates that will happen as a result of the upcoming election.

The media consortium (CBC, Radio-Canada, CTV, Global and TVA) that host the debate based this decision on the fact that the Green party doesn't hold a single seat in the House of Commons.

However, in the 2008 election the same thing was true of the Green Party then.  When the Canadian public spoke up to say the Green Party should be included, Prime Minister Stephen Harper threatened to not attend the debate.  Eventually the media consortium, and Stephen Harper, succumed to public pressure and Elizabeth May was permitted to attend.

By the end of the debate she was the obvious winner.  She gave strong solid answers to the questions posed while poking holes in the other leaders credibility and policies.

In an effort of full disclosure I would describe myself as holding conservative right-wing ideals.  That being said, I'm often embarrassed by the actions of our Conservative Prime Minister.  He wants all the power and none of the accountability.

Personally, I think Elizabeth May should be included in the national leadership debates. She has a solid platform, answers direct questions with direct answers, and keeps the other leaders on their toes.  Put all that aside though.  This is a leadership debate for national parties.  The criteria for admittance should be that you are the leader of a national party that has at least 1 seat in the House of Commons or has enough registered candidates to form a government if elected.

That's my 2 cents (approximately 3 cents US) *steps down from soapbox*


Dare To Love

The past couple years my former church, Grace Community Church, has been organizing a couples retreat in Niagara Falls, ON.  They have extended the offer to their daughter church in Milton, Village Community Church, and us to join them!

This years theme is Dare To Love.  It's modelled after the book called The Love Dare used in the movie Fireproof and challeneges wives & husbands to love each other in real ways.  The retreat starts February 4th at 6pm and finishes on Saturday February 5th at 4pm.

Each package includes access to the 2 main seminars & 2 optional breakout sessions (@ Fallsview), deluxe buffett breakfast for two, parking (@ Courtyard), and shuttle service between the two hotels, and a room at the Courtyard Marriott
  • $135 per couple - Basic Package - Room with 2 Queen sized beds
  • $155 per couple - King Package - Room with 1 King sized bed and a jacuzzi whirlpool tub
  • $175 per couple - Jr. Presidential Package - Room with 1 King sized bed, jacuzzi whirlpool tub, fireplace, and larger more luxurious room
The deadline is January 30th.  Please register ASAP so the hotel can prepare for numbers.  A $50 desposit will reserve a spot for you.  Please make cheques payable to Grace Community Church.  Babies are welcome in the sessions as long as they do not create a distraction.

Friday, February 4th
  2:00 PM - Early check-in at Courtyard for those attending 3:00 seminar (no shuttle service)
  3:00 PM - Electives at the Fallsview
  6:00 PM - Shuttle between Courtyard & Fallsview begin
  7:00 PM - First General session at Fallsview

Saturday, February 5th
  10:00 AM - Shuttles between Courtyard & Fallsview begin
  11:00 AM - Ellectives at the Fallsview
  NOON - Lunch break (many local restaurants to choose from)
  2:00 PM - Final general session at Fallsview
  3:45 pm - Shuttles between Fallsview and Courtyard begin

About Grace
Grace Community Church is an evangelical church.  It was planted in 1998 by Grace Brethren Canada, a church planting organization created by the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches.  They planted the Village Community Church in Milton in 2006, Community of Hope in Surrey, BC in 2007, and soon Grasslands Church in Medicine Hat, AB in the fall of 2011.


Words Are Cheap

So I've been toying with this idea for a piece for a while.  The idea is that we are all hypocrites.  Our word is worthless and actions speak louder than words.  You can even see it in expressions like "a picture is worth a thousand words".  Instead of celebrating the creativity of language shown by poets, authors, teachers, storytellers and comedians we treat actors, directors, and sports stars as the celebrities.  The whole thing is a mirage, all image with no substance.

So here is a couple lines I threw down when the idea first came to mind:

Words Are Cheap:

Word is bond or so we say. Until circumstances get in the way.
They say one picture is worth a thousand words. And we watch TV shows
and movies with thousands of thousands of frames in high definition
So it's no wonder that words are cheap.
Movies are staffed, under production, and being marketed without a script.
I know it's still in the early stages.  I thought maybe I would share how I go through the process of writing.