Five Successes

While I struggle to keep up with my blog (let alone with every one's elses), I have created another blog. This makes my third.

My second blog has sort of faded into dusty abandonment - mostly because I think it really needs pictures and I would prefer to use my own rather than constantly nabbing other peoples'. I think I should showcase what I have done not what someone else has done.

The new blog is called Five Successes. The idea is to post five successes, achievement, positive things that happened that day. Anyone is free to post - all you have to do is send an e-mail and blogger will post it. E-mail address is listed on the blog.

The dusty blog was called Recipe a Day.



"The slave begins by demanding justice and ends by wanting to wear a crown."

Albert Camus, 'The Rebel'




Fall summary

So far it has been a fairly mild Fall. We are pretty late into November and there have been no terribly cold days. I have managed to make do with sweaters this whole time - my coat still hangs in the closet, waiting for me to don it.

Mind you, it was a pretty wet Fall. I remember trimming the bushes in Montreal one weekend and then having hard time finding a dry weekend to collect the sticks (I use paper yard waste bags. As you might imagine, paper bags don't hold up very well in the rain).

We did have one brief moment of snow flurries a few weeks back. Recently, a few morning have been below zero - I even had to scrape frost off the car windows on two mornings.

I've enjoyed it (as much as one can, locked up at work). The only change I would make is to have had it a little less wet.



Turning debt upside down

We all know (or should know) that debt erodes our spending power. If we are carrying $100 @ 5% interest, that means that is $5 less we have for ourselves. Might as well give ourselves a 5% pay cut.

Some of us are better, we don't carry debt (well at least not the crippling credit card type). We pat ourselves on the back for not paying interest to the banks - but we don't save. Somehow every penny we have, gets spent.

Even fewer of us manage to actually save some money (the pay yourself first principle). Even if we only stick it in a bank account or a GIC, we earn a little bit of money - sort of like a reverse debt.

My best line of credit charges me 6%. My best savings account pays me 4%. They are both with President's Choice Financial.

Let's say that I decide I need a new computer and borrow $1000 to purchase it. In the end I pay an extra $60 ($1000 x 6% = $60). Money that if I hadn’t spent it could buy a nice dinner for two for Sofia and me.

Let's say that I have the cash and buy it for cash. Great! I do not give away any extra money and don't have to feel miserable for spending an extra $60 that gave neither me nor Sofia any added pleasure.

Suppose, instead, I decide not to buy the computer and put it in the bank instead. Now I earn $40 ($1000 x 4% = $40). Money I can spend to buy a still decent dinner for two for Sofia and myself.

(Yes, I know my math is a little simplified, but it is the point, not the math that is important for me.)

Next time you choose to carry some debt on your credit card think of the interest (go look at your statement and see what the interest is). Is it $50 in interest? Do you realize that is $50 you are spending but getting no enjoyment out of (unless you enjoy giving $50 to the credit company). It is always better to save for things (yep, you need to have a longer term outlook). It is even better still, to spend money that grew for you - it turns debt upside down: instead of getting no satisfaction from money you laboured for, you get satisfaction from spending money you did not have to labour for.



Song in my head

Yesterday afternoon Bif Naked's Leader was running through my head.

Ok, maybe that is a bit too much, it is more like bits of it were running through my head, because I can't remember the lyrics to a song to save my life.

You can have a listen to it from the video where it is used as the background music.

I have no idea what the video is about. It has nothing to do with the song. I find it just distracts from the song If I could, I would disable the video and only play the audio - but I can't.

I recommend you just close your eyes, turn up the volume and enjoy. If you don't want to close your eyes, you can always scroll the video off screen.

May not exactly be the sort of ambience music you want at work.



Kill, kill, kill.

Do we always have to be killing / destroying things?

Does it make our world safer?

I suspect not.

While antiseptic soap, hand cleanser, dishwashing liquid, and other things that kill germs dead (the fine print often say kills 99%) in our everyday life seem like a good idea, "Germs bad. Dead germs good." I suspect we may be doing more harm in the long run than good.

The problem is the same as with antibiotics - those that aren't killed by it are to some degree resistant to it and survive to come back again another day.

Where do we find the most resistant bacteria? Hospitals.



A Tale of Two Queues

Many of the larger grocery stores have U-Scan check out lanes. These are lanes where you scan and bag your own grocery items. I use them at Loblaws here in Ottawa and Kirkland (Montreal). There are definite experiential differences between the two stores. Maybe it is a store thing, maybe it is a cultural thing - I don't know. Ottawa is a city in the province of Ontario (a predominantly English speaking province with an English history). Kirkland is a city on the island of Montreal in the Province of Quebec (a predominantly French speaking province with a French history). Geographically Ottawa is larger than Montreal. Population wise, Montreal is larger than Ottawa. Both are very multicultural.

Both store have the same type of U-Scan setup. There are two extra wide checkout lanes, with four U-Scan terminals in each lane - two on each side of the lane.

I prefer the experience in Ottawa to Montreal principally because I find it faster and less of a hassle.

In Ottawa, most items scan in quickly. In Montreal, I often have to wave the package in front of the scanner before it reads it. I think this is because in Montreal the glass on the scanner is often dirtier. (I should point out that Kirkland, is a quite upscale. Surrounding municipalities like Pointe-Claire and D.D.O. are more middle class).

Sometimes you scan an item and place it in the bag and the terminal will tell you, "Please scan the item first before placing it in the bag" or "Please wait for cashier assistance." When this happens in Ottawa, the cashier who is monitoring all the lanes simply clears the error. In Montreal, the cashier comes over and checks your bags to identify the offending item.

The same thing happens with coupons. When you give a coupon in Ottawa, the cashier simply rings it in. When you hand in a coupon in Montreal, she comes to check your bags.

Interestingly, when you pay with debit card, you are given the option to get cash back (like at an ATM). In Ottawa you have to get your receipt initialed that you got cash back; in Montreal, they just wave you by.

The worst experience is at a store called Maxi (run by Loblaws) in Pointe-Claire, where the cashier never seems to fail to notice you have put lemons and limes in the same bag (because they are the same price) and rung them through as one item. They always come by and chastise you for not ringing them through separately (ostensibly for inventory control). However, when you need the cashier's assistance, she seems to be away from her monitor station.

Image nabbed from here.

[Note: for some reason Blogger is not uploading images at the moment.]



Yet another sign of aging

There are many signs of aging: greying hair, wrinkles, aches and pain, noticing deaths.

Over the past little while, I have noticed that listening to deaths is becoming increasingly personal When I was younger, hearing about the death of an individual was not terribly poignant. It might be tragic in the case of a young person, but in the case of an old person, it was something that happened.

Nowadays, even the death of an older person seems more personal. I pay attention and wonder how short their life seemed.

Ruth Brown (a blues singer) died on 17-November-2006 at the age of 78.

Image nabbed from here.



"Stand still, like a statue."

"Some statues fall over," replied Jason.

JJ is a very active kid, he can't sit still for a moment (much like me at that age).

Image nabbed from here.



"I suppose I should tell you the honest truth."

I overheard that a few days ago between two coworkers.




In lieu of real content

You Are The Moon

You represent the unconscious side of life, what happens in dreams.
You are capable of great genius - but also of great madness.
Emotions tend to be primal for you, both your fears and your fantasies.
Your intuition is always right, listening to it is the difficult part.

Your fortune:

You are about to embark on a very important journey - and a very difficult one.
Some of your deepest dreams will be realized, as well as some of your deepest nightmares.
Follow your creativity and visions; stay away from your weaknesses.
You are taking a voyage to the center of yourself, and you may be pleasantly surprised by what you discover.
What Tarot Card Are You?

It doesn't really matter what name you enter, it randomly assigns something to you. Some might call it chance, others fate.



What makes trees grow?

Back in the 17th century, when the modern scientific method was still being worked out, a Flemish scientist / philosopher / alchemist named Jan van Helmont set out an experiment to determine what was the principle agent in tree growth - water or soil?

Up to that point, nobody had really bothered to try and figure out what caused a tree to grow (or any plant for that matter). People might discuss it. They might have there pet ideas, but none of those ideas were put to the test - they were just common sense, or good arguer might make a compelling case, or it was clearly documented in some ancient text (people have this really annoying habit of assigning far greater authority to something that has been written down, or ascribed to some dead person than to their own thoughts and ideas).

Anyway, nobody really knew what was the principle agent in a tree growing - water or the soil.

So Jan performed an experiment. He got himself 200lbs of soil and put it in a box. He planted a 5lb tree in the soil and covered the soil so that nothing would be admitted, save for the water he watered it with.

For 5 years he watered that tree and it grew and grew and grew. At the end, he removed the tree, carefully disentangled earth and roots and weighed both the tree and the soil. The tree weighed 169lbs; the soil had lost only 2 ounces of mass.

So were did the tree gain its additional mass if not from the soil? Clearly it was the water with which Jan has watered his tree.

This was actually a very good experiment. It carefully controlled two variables: soil and water. It came to a solid and sound conclusion, but it was wrong. It was wrong, not because of any problem with the experiment, but because of a lack of wider general knowledge. It would have been incredibly insightful of Jan to go beyond his obvious conclusion, notwithstanding it was he who brought the word gas to us (by way of the Greek kaos) and he also discovered carbon dioxide. Nevertheless, he believed that everything arose from the waters mentioned in Genesis. This was what his experiment was about - proving that water that is the elemental constituent of everything.

Four hundred years later, we understand thing s a lot better and realize that photosynthesis is responsible for the growth of the tree.

While present knowledge is better and more complete than in the past, I am always skeptical whenever I hear scientists' carefully laid out experiments and obvious conclusions because I always wonder if they missed something. Maybe they asked the wrong question or got an answer that is meaningless because that answer needs to be trimmed down further. What if the obvious answer is not really so obvious - like Jan van Helmont and his water.

Image copyright of me.



"Will you buy me a present for my birthday?"

JJ (my son) asked me last night.

"I'm pretty sure I will", I replied.

"Thanks! You’re the best!" he declared.

"Are you going to buy me a present for my birthday?", I asked.

(Pause while thinking) "I am going to buy you Doctor Who number 5" he declared.

"Really?" I asked raising my eyebrows in wonder.

"Yeah, it's very cool. I watched it as a kid. I was three years old." he stated, matter-of-factly.

Jason turned 5 a little over a month ago.

Image nabbed from here. If you don't recognize it, it is Ultraman - which I used to watch as a kid.

[Updated 13-November-2006 @ 17:36 to add speaker identification and avoid any possible ambiguity.]



It's the principle of the matter!

I hate those words. Anyone who defends or argues based on principle and not on what is right or wrong demonstrates inflexibility, intransigence and narrow-mindedness.



I'd rather have a root canal than ...

I have to say that it was not unpleasant or painful. It is not something I would recommend as a recreational activity, but having a root canal was no big deal.

I was well frozen and felt nothing. After the freezing wore off, I still felt nothing. Although, when I would bang my molars together while chewing, I would feel pain in the jaw around the tooth socket. I never realized that while chewing, I occasionally knock my teeth together. Hmmm.

Tuesday, the socket was a less sensitive and today everything feels perfectly fine. No pain, no discomfort.

So for those who may be having a root canal in their future, I have to say that it is nothing to worry about.

One thing I found need (aside from looking at the X-rays of my tooth) was the spacer the stuck in my mouth. Previously, I have always had to keep my mouth open when visiting the dentist. This time (because the procedure lasted 1-1/2 hours), I was given a small plastic block, which I placed between my molars (on the side not being worked on) and bit down on. This kept my mouth open with me having to consciously remember or be reminded.



The man behind the pillar

I rather like the church I go to in Montreal. It is very culturally diverse. This is not a church that can claim to have any predominant ethnicity. There is also a wide range of parishioners from young to old - making me wonder where the young people were when I was young.

However, what clinches it for me as a very diverse congregation is a very old man who can sometimes be seen during the 9 A.M. Sunday service, unobtrusively standing behind a pillar. He is not hiding, nor is he drawing attention to himself.

What makes him special, is that he is not a Christian. He is Jewish. He wears a prayer shawl (tallit) and dons and removes phylacteries (tefillin) during the course of the service. I presume he is praying independently of us. However, when we are asked to exchange a sign of peace, he does participate.

I don't know why he is there. I presume it is because he regards the church as a holy place.

This sort of communion and peaceable tolerance always helps to strengthen my hope.



When the numbers don't make sense.

Arrived in Montreal Thursday night and noticed the hot water was … erm … not very hot.

After checking (and flipping) all the circuit breakers on the main panel, I had to go to the burner motor and trace the wires back. This led me to a completely separate circuit breaker, located on a different wall. I turned it off, then turned it back on, but nothing. So I opened it and found a blown fuse. Taking it out I noticed it was a 25 amp fuse.

At the time, I thought this was excessively large. My hot water heater is an oil fired one and the I was pretty sure the pump motor was nowhere near 25 amps. I stuck in a 20 amp fuse, powered up the circuit breaker and everything worked fine.

The next day I checked the rating on the motor, it is 2.8 amps. This definitely makes me think the fuse was (and still is) too high. As well, the circuit breaker is rated for 30 amps. As far as I am concerned, this is definite overkill for the circuit in question.

Of course, this is an older home, built back in the days when a penny was considered a good replacement for a fuse and heated garages were considered a good thing. Back in 1971, it was considered perfectly acceptable to reserve a room in the basement and call it a garage. There is no separate ventilation, so running the car in the garage, is a quick way to finish off family. Not to mention the asbestos lining around the flues.



Why you should regularly visit your dentist.

I hadn't been to my dentist since May-2004 (normally I went on weekends, but since Sofia and the kids moved to Montreal, I am not in Ottawa on the weekends).

Last night, as I was munching on some cashews, I felt a pain in one of my molars and then some grit in my mouth. I went and washed it out, assuming that maybe there had been a stone or something amount the cashews. Turns out I noticed a hole in the surface of the molar (top right, second from the back, my wisdom teeth were removed years ago). Fishing around for grit in my mouth, it looked like crumbled filling. So I assumed that my filling had cracked and crumbled and come out.

Went to the dentist this morning, he took an x-ray and came back with bad news. I have a large cavity under the filling, which gave way. The filling did not fall out, but rather impacted into the space of the cavity. He did not rework the filling, since the cavity is very near the root - cleaning it out would likely result in exposing the root. As some may have already guessed, I need a root canal. I have never had one, so it should be an interesting experience. The doctor says it will take two hours since there are 3 roots he needs to clean out.

The one thing he is surprised at is that I am not in pain (I am not, not even a little bit). The spot where the filling impacted is a little sensitive to pressure, so I don't chew on it.

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