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Archives for: 2006
Our unpacking has become unhinged by lack of shelving pins. Read Scott's Dr.Suess-like poem & story about our latest debacle ...
Not all snow is bad! Alex had fun yesterday, tobogganing down our driveway, into the front yard. [A short video of her joy, can be found in this post]
Shredding the Driveway (Sorta)
At least Alex found joy in all of the snow we were handed!
We inherited a lot of 'junk', when we bought the property: an oil drum filled with sludge, scrap lumber and wood, metal pieces, chains, etc. Most of it is scattered across the entire place and we've started cleaning it up, trying to return the forest to a more pristine state.
Not all the 'junk' we're finding is undesirable. One of the items we found was a plastic, steerable snow sled (I think they're called 'snow shuttle sleds', but I'm not sure. We also have a couple of plastic discs and a thin, plastic toboggan.
I bundled Alex up and let her try bombing down the slight incline into our front 'yard'. The thin plastic toboggan didn't go fast enough for the Oop, so I dusted off the snow shuttle and let her have a go at it. (I was afraid that she wouldn't understand the concept of 'steering' and end up in a pile somewhere).
I shouldn't be such an overprotective Dad, I guess, because not only did she get the whole steering concept, but she had a hoot bombing down the driveway. Her only complaint (besides stopping) was that she wanted to go 'faster'!
I took a short video of one of her first runs. Have a look at "Oop - Our Daredevil"!
Are We Still in Alberta?
To add yet another layer of complexity in our adjustments to a rural lifestyle, Mother Nature decided that a dump of snow would round out an active month of weather. Geez ... we've seen it all this month. Twenty five millimeters of rain on the 5th, followed by record high temperatures on the 6th and 7th (16°C or 61°F). Mid-month, a rain/wind storm came ripping through that downed trees, closed highways and created flooding in some areas. Recently, we've had several days of snow and cold, reminding everyone who rules the show.
We're told that this weather is unusual and hoping that folks are right. From our perspective, we've had more snow here in "the-most-moderate-climate-in-all-of-Canada", than we did in Edmonton, Alberta last year (we had a brown Christmas). Apparently, the normal flow of warmer coastal air has been replaced by a blast of cold air from the Yukon (which has been experiencing some of the coldest temperatures on the planet, the past couple of weeks).
All we know is that we're now under a pile of snow, which makes it hard to replace the wood we're using and makes it difficult to do all those outdoor projects we have on the agenda. Topping things off, the pump from the house has failed twice (fortunately, both times it was easily fixed) and we've experienced three LONG power outages (> 2 hours) and a bunch of OFF/ON power hiccups. Life in the country, eh? What a change!!
We're told that this kind of weather is more generally reserved for December and January. Our response: "You mean there's MORE coming?"
"We moved from Alberta to get AWAY from the snow!"
Friends and relatives living in the United States and around the World aren't too sympathetic. The general response, "You DO live in Canada. What do you expect?"
Well, we didn't expect polar bears for (U.S.) Thanksgiving!
As proof that this type of snow is unusual, the nearby town of Ladysmith has (for the first time that the 20-year event has been run) canceled the "Light Up" event, associated with the town's renown "Festival of Lights".
Scott's folks, living in California, will be visiting for Christmas. They're worried about all the snow. Our advice, "Bring warm clothes!" (and maybe some extra wood)!
Photo-caption Zoom v3 can fail in the latest Opera version (v9.02). It appears to be a problem with the Opera upgrade process. Learn mody ...
A Flip'n, Zooming Upgrade Problem
In fact, I wanted to test if further, by using it on our own website.
I uploaded the CSS and began modifying some XHTML, when I thought, "I'd better check, before I convert too much, that it works in all the browsers."
Low and behold, it didn't "Zoom" properly in Opera v9.02.
"That's odd," I thought, "I'm sure I tested it in Opera when I made the modifications."
Turns out, I did.
If you're experiencing problems with Photo-Caption Zoom v3 in Opera v9.02, read on ...
We've been in our new home, on a 5-acre wooded lot, in Yellow Point, on Vancouver Island, for nearly a month. Join us for a virtual, web-tour of the property.
Oot 'n Aboot the Hutton House
For the first time since we've been married, just over 5 years (where has the time gone?), we're home OWNERS, instead of renters. It's also the first time we've lived on acreage and we're excited about that too. We've been here less than a month, but we thought we'd post a brief online tour of the property, for our far-away friends and family.
If real estate is about location, location, location, then we've got a great spot. Yellow Point is an absolutely fantastic, picturesque, pastoral setting. Parks, farms, an English Pub, Lodges, Bed and Breakfasts [1 2 3] ... it's all a short walk or drive.
The 5-acre property is pretty nifty. There's a beaver pond, a seasonal creek, a clearing, woodshed, pump house, chicken coop and play house. There are many tall cedar and Douglas fir trees and oodles of places for Alex to explore.
Check out our new home in the woods!
We're officially moved into our new Vancouver Island home. Rats, deer, dial-up, boxes, wood stoves ... we've been here one week and there's still lots to do ...
Knee-Deep in Boxes, But Functional
It's been nearly a month since we vacated our Edmonton abode. Rachel has been working and living in Nanaimo, renting a room from Liz, who lives close to the hospital. Scott and the Oop have been to California and back, visiting grandparents (who all think that the Oop is 90% cute and only 10% "pain in the ass").
We took possession of our Yellow Point home on October 17th, as planned. It was nice that Cathy (the previous owner) allowed us to put our stuff in the garage, because it meant (in essence) we were ALREADY moved! Of course, the big task was still to haul it all INSIDE and UP the stairs.
We've been here a week. Read on about our current state of chaos ...
120 days ago, Alex planted her tiny sunflower seed at day-care. On Sept.30th, the day we packed up the U-Haul truck to move to Vancouver Island, it bloomed!
September 30th: "At the Bloomin' 11th Hour!"
Alex's sunflower has bloomed in the nick of time!
Exactly 120 days ago, Alex's tiny fingers poked a single sunflower seed into a soil-filled Styrofoam cup, marking the beginning of "The Oop Sunflower Project". The plant has been through a lot, since then. It germinated in the Styrofoam cup, at day-care and since been transported, planted, transplanted, trampled by a cat, pummeled with rain and hail, suffered through hot sun and cold winds, been tied to a stake (twice) and after all that ... it managed to bloom - the day we moved from Edmonton!
The "Oop Sunflower Project" is a success!
Read on for the rest of this final update. For the full project story, which contains all of the updates in one article - head here.
At 3 years-old, Alex cannot quite grasp the full meaning of our 1200-km U-Haul move. It's created some funny, touching and endearing moments. Read about them .................
The Oop: On Packing, Boxes & Upcoming U-Haul Move
Two years ago, when we moved to Edmonton, the Oop was not yet a year old. She wasn't walking. In fact, she was just learning to crawl. Moving was easy ... we just put her in a box! Now, Alex is nearly three years old and there isn't a box big enough to hold her.
Packing the house with a toddler has been quite the experience. On the plus side, she wants to help. On the minus side, she want to help.
There have been moments of levity and precious memories, as she grapples with the whole concept of moving, trying to help and with some of the things she says. I try really hard to remember that she'll only be this young, innocent and cute for a short while and that I really should cherish these moments. I don't often succeed, when I'm covered with sweat, two-years worth of dust, tired from hauling too many boxes filled with our endless supply of material possessions (how did we end up with all this CRAP?) and -mostly- just wanting it all to be DONE!!
To learn more about our toddler's perspective on packing and moving, read on ...
Alex's sunflower was planted 114 days ago. Recent storms and winds blew the poor plant over. (Dad to the rescue!!) Read about the latest tragedy ...
September 24th: "Blow Me Down!"
Alex's "sunflower" has taken a dive!
It's been 114 days since Alex planted her sunflower seed at day-care. It suffered a bit of a set-back, after Edmonton got its first taste of winter this past week.
Where are those glorious "Indian Summer" days that Alberta is famous for?
Read on for the rest of this update. For the complete story (all updates in one article) look here.
Alex's sunflower was planted 101 days ago. It's taller than she is! See the changes and read about the project in this September 11th update.
Here's the latest scoop on Alex's "sunflower project". For a historical perspective, the original story (plus all the updates), can be found here.
September 11th: "Heading On Up"
It's been 101 days since Alex planted her sunflower seed at day-care. The plant is nearly twice as tall as Alex and the flower head has fully formed. We're hoping to see some bright yellow petals, before we leave for Vancouver Island, which will be a fitting end to Alex's botanical experiment.
The daylight hours are waning, temperatures dropping and the sunflower really needs to step it up a notch, if it wants to bloom before the snow flies. Sadly, the sun has moved much lower on the horizon and there's an apple tree, garage, pine tree and our own house, all shading the plant, which limits the amount of direct light it's now receiving.
To learn about the state of the sunflower and Oop ... read on.
The move has begun. (Moving sucks)!
Moving Sucks -or- Living in Chaos
On Friday night, before the long Labor Day weekend, Rachel was in the dusty loft, above the garage, handing down folded boxes to Scott, below.
"Thank God we're pack rats," Scott said, "otherwise we wouldn't have kept all these boxes."
When we moved to Edmonton, two years ago, we knew we'd be moving after Rachel finished her UofA nursing degree. So we kept most of our moving boxes, storing them in the dusty attic.
Rachel starts her new job on September 18th and will be leaving, ahead of Scott, in less than 10 days.
Ideally, any move shouldn't disrupt things for more than two weeks, but because of the unusual situation we've stuck ourselves into, ours will last three times longer. Over a month and a half of disruption. Yuck!
Your new property is nice, it'll be like you're camping every day!
We're starting to pack early, so that it's not all left to Scott, at the last minute. Of course, this means that Scott and Alex will be living among boxes for all of September. Again - Yuck!
We must be out of our Edmonton home at the end of the month, which is why Rachel is flying back on September 30th, after a full day of work. She'll help Scott load up the largest truck that U-Haul rents and then we'll make the 2-day drive to Vancouver Island.
It doesn't end there.
We don't take possession of our new home till October 17th, so we've had to find a place to unload and store all our stuff, till then.
Where? In the garage of the new home.
So, we'll be homeless for half of October. Scott will head down with Alex to California, to visit his folks and Rachel will continue working at her new job at the Nanaimo Hospital.
"Where's Rachel going to stay?" you ask.
"She doesn't know," is the short answer. She's following up on several leads, but not found the "best fit", yet. She'll probably take the ferry back to the mainland on her day's off, staying with her folks in Vancouver, but it's where she'll stay on the Island that's still undecided.
And (as if there's not enough else going on), she writes the CNRE exam on October 11th. (It's the big, National exam that she has to pass in order to actually work and BE a Registered Nurse).
No pressure, eh?
At least you now know what we'll be doing for the next six or seven weeks.
Let's face it - MOVING SUCKS!!
Mind you, this should be our last move for a good long while. AND ... we're moving to an awesome spot! (If you like camping, then you'll appreciate the quote from Alex's grandpa, regarding the treed 5 acres ... "Your new property is nice, it'll be like you're camping every day!")
How do your printed pages look? When we saw that ours were horrid, Scott whipped the print.css file into shape. Read about the pros and cons of using CSS to make pretty print pages.
Using CSS to Format the Printed Page
Back in my office-working days, I knew a guy named Clint, who didn't like reading his email on the computer screen. He'd print each email, every morning, read through the print-outs, file the important messages and deep-six the others. I wonder if he still does that?
Who really reads online stuff, offline? Not me!
But who am I to criticize and judge others in their efforts at deforestation, eh? Isn't the Internet is supposed to be accessible to all - even folks who prefer reading online content, offline?
For accessibility reasons, innate curiosity and the shocking discovery that our printed pages looked horrible, I decided to spend some time and pretty them up. If you think visitors might want to print your blog articles (for reference or offline reading), then think about using Cascading Style Sheets to format the page.
Read on to see what a difference it made to our pages...
Alex's sunflower was planted 65 days ago. It's nearly as tall as she is! See the changes and read about the project in this August 5th update.
Here's the latest on the sunflower project. All of the updates are posted in this article.
August 5th: "Standing Tall"
It's been 65 days since Alex planted her sunflower seed at day-care and now the darned thing is nearly as tall as she is. That's some fast growing! Of course, having 17 hours of daylight around summer solstice didn't hurt. Daylight is waning fast now, as we notice the dwindling light in the evening. Here comes the Fall.
It looks like it's going to be a race between the Sunflower and the changing seasons, to see which blossoms first. Let's just hope we don't get a freak September snowfall, like we did the first year we lived in Edmonton. It would be nice for Alex to see a bright, sunny, yellow flower head on her plant project.
In a way, it's good news that our move back to British Columbia, has been delayed by our home purchase. (We won't be taking possession until mid-October). We'll get to see what happens to the Sunflower! Although, on the flip side, Rachel is currently scheduled to start work on September 18th, which means she'll be moving out ahead of Alex, Scott and Tuxedo.
When it comes to moving, Alex and the Tuxedo are on the same wavelength - neither of them worry about it too much. In fact, I don't think they're even AWARE it's even going to happen. Alex enjoys her days at "play-care", going to the park, swinging in the swings, running through the toddler wading pool, playing in the backyard, and exploring her world. Meanwhile, Tuxedo explores the living room sofa with his eyes closed, although sometimes he becomes adventurous, migrates outside and sleeps in the warm sun, under the shadow of the sunflower, nestled in tall plants.
We think that both the cat and the kid will enjoy their new "Five Acre Woods", in Yellow Point. There won't be any dogs or cats to bother Tuxedo and Alex will have access more rocks and sticks than she can possibly organize. There's even an old "play house" there. It needs a tad of TLC, but she'll enjoy it!
We may be moving to a forested, 5-acre hideaway on Vancouver Island. The bidding war has begun for a 2400-sq.ft. home in Yellow Point. Find out more!
From the Packs on our Back, to a Big House, 5 Acres, Landlords, a Kid & (Deeply in Debt) in Less than 4 Years!
In 2002, all our "stuff" was in storage and we spent six months trekking from Mexico to Canada, along the Pacific Crest Trail. Everything we needed we carried on our backs.
Fast forward to 2006. After a house-hunting trip to Vancouver Island, in early August, we fell in love with a 2400 square-foot home in Yellow Point, a rural area just south of Nanaimo. The house is on a 5 acre parcel that includes part of a beaver pond, clearings and many tall, second-growth Douglas fir trees. There's also a mobile home that's currently being rented, which has it's own address, driveway and cannot be seen from the main house. The property is than a quarter of a mile from the ocean and there's a 14 hectare Provincial Park a stone's throw away. There are a number of resort lodges along the main road, "Yellow Point Road". The property is private (cannot be seen from the road), on a dead-end spur which receives little traffic.
We've put in an offer and are in the midst of the offer-counter offer bidding process. Wow, we may be living in our own little slice of heaven!
To find out more, read on ...
What do sunken ships have to do with Photo-Caption Zoom (PZ3) enhanced imagemaps? Find out, as history and technology collide on the Internet, in a demonstration that creatively extends PZ3 functionality and capability
PZ3: Putting the "Hot" in Hotspots!
Besides the problems associated with posting image maps in XHTML v1.1, there is very little information contained in such a construct, other than whatever the author might add to the "title" attribute. Along comes PZ3 to the rescue! It can add information images and text to a hovered hot-spot. In addition, it can "animate" the spot, so a visitor knows when it's been activated.
For a demonstration of this new technique, which extends the capability and versatility of the Photo-caption Zoom method, read on ....
Best North American Island
Per voting in the Condé Nast Traveler Reader's Poll - 2005
If Horace Greeley's advice was "Go West, young man," then there isn't much further west one can go in Canada than Vancouver Island. This will be our new home, as we've decided to accept Rachel's nursing offer at the Nanaimo Regional Hospital. She'll be working as a surgical recovery nurse and come the end of August, we'll be packing up our home of 2 years and 2 months, making the drive back over the Canadian Rockies, loading onto a ferry and heading over to Vancouver Island.
When we moved to Edmonton, we gathered information and made informative posts on both the Province and the city. We thought we'd do the same for this move, since both the island and the city are (relatively) new to us.
For some fast facts on Vancouver Island, photos and a detailed map, read on ...
Summer Season in Full Swing the Hammer
As a "jack of all trades" and retired geophysicist, Scott often takes on handyman projects, both to earn side money and to get the satisfaction of building something with his hands. (Of course, there's now the hopeful outcome that he'll lose some of those winter pounds he's put on too!) ;) This project, for our friends Dan and Jen, is a new fence across the back of their lot and a fence replacement down the side, shared with their neighbor. They have a large lot and it's something like 200 feet of fence, all told.
Dan has asked to work with Scott, both to learn about fence-building and to help defray some labor costs. This is not a problem and Scott likes working with home owners. It's more fun to work with someone else. Dan only has Monday afternoons and Friday's free, so it'll be a multi-week project.
To learn how to make a better wood fence and follow this project, read on
Alex gave me a sunflower seedling for Father's Day. She 'made' a card too, with a cut-out of a neck tie, sprinkled with glitter. I don't think I've worn a tie since Rachel and I got married, nearly 5 years ago. (Gosh, has it really been five years already? Wow!)
Her caregiver at day-care, Bea, was very insistent that we plant it and take Alex's picture beside it, after it has fully grown. We're not sure if it's because Bea is sweet on Alex, or if it's because most of the other seedlings didn't fare as well as this one. (We noticed that many other seedlings were bruised, bent, broken or were showing signs of "toddler abuse". Toddlers can be a tad rough on things!)
Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow.
It's what sunflowers do.
- Helen Keller
We brought the spindly, sunlight-deprived seedling home and set it in the flower garden, to be transplanted later. Well, wouldn't you know, it rained cats and dogs that evening and pelted the poor thing, which was tied to a Popsicle stick with some string. We let it "recover" for a day, before transplanting it.
A sunflower is an appropriate metaphor for how rapidly Alex is changing, right under our very noses. Each day, her vocabulary expands, her capabilities are greater and unless we pay very close attention, we never really notice the changes, until - BAM - how our little girl has grown.
We thought we'd honor Bea's request and file progress reports on Alex's little sunflower, during the course of the summer months. Follow along with Alex's "Sunflower Project" ...
Your b2evolution blog is a target for SPAM. What SPAM-fighting tools are out there? What works? Here's an up-to-date list of the SPAM-fighting techniques for your blog, with links to instructions and a synopsis of their effectiveness.
SPAM is a Four Letter Word
If you have a blog, it doesn't matter what software or service you use, once you begin blogging, you'll discover two things:
• Thing 1: You are now a webmaster.
• Thing 2: Your blog is a target for SPAM.
If life were like that, you wouldn't need articles like this one. The fact is, if you want to keep SPAM off your blog website, you'll need to play an active roll in defending it, or hire someone to do it for you.
Like those who dump garbage in the forest, SPAMmers are scum. Like the garbage dumpers, a SPAMmer has no regard for others. Their only thought is that SPAM allows them to send their bogus offers and get rich schemes to suckers at a very low cost.
SPAM works like this: Blog developers build tools into their (often free) applications to keep SPAM away, then SPAM developers (the enemy) find a way to defeat it, selling their software to people who use it to leave SPAM on your blog. The SPAM helps these people sell something (typically medications or website memberships, but it could be anything). By leaving a link with keywords, they get "inbound links", better page rankings, and possible click-through customers, which, in turn, means that anyone looking to buy their product, finds their site, on page one, of a web search.
Fighting SPAM is like a game of leap frog. A new version of blog software comes out with anti-spam methods that work. Everyone is happy ... until the methods are defeated. Bloggers are left to fend for themselves, until the next major release of blog software comes out, which starts the cycle over again.
This is where we are with b2evolution. The new version (Phoenix) will have some nifty tools to aid in the battle against spammers, but it's not quite ready for prime time. So what's a b2evolution blogger to do?
What are the SPAM defense options? What works? What doesn't?
This article presents a list of known SPAM defenses, with links to information about each, a description of the pros and cons associated with the technique and a brief synopsis of their effectiveness. I first posted the list on the b2evolution forums, but because posts get buried so quickly there, decided to keep an up-to-date list, with more detail, here.
Why me? I'm no SPAM guru. What I've learned, I've learned from necessity. I don't like spammers, I do like to "noodle around" and learn and I like helping others. So, there you are. If you find a mistake or know of a technique I don't mention, please leave a comment or contact me.
Our not-so-trusty electric lawn mower died a few weeks ago and we've been having to beg and borrow from neighbors, so that our back yard doesn't turn into a jungle. The nice thing is that Scott's been having the luxury of using gas-powered mowers. After always having to "plan" a route to mow, to avoid cutting the electric umbilical cord, he's enjoyed the freedom of mowing in any pattern he wants.
There are pluses and minuses with renting. On the plus side, when the lawn mower died, we didn't have to worry about purchasing a replacement. On the minus side, we have no influence over the type of mower we receive as a replacement. The choices were between a push-mower (which would be a bear with such a large back yard) or an electric. We should be happy that we received a new, in-the-box, electric mower. Hopefully, it'll have enough power to do the job and Scott won't add to the number of splices he's already had to make in the extension cord he uses with the thing.
Of course, the Oop is excited about anything that comes in a box, so she was all over the new mower and insisted the box be opened immediately upon receipt. As much as Scott didn't want to put the thing together after dinnertime, a day after he had already mowed, it was either that or deal with Alex's endless questions, enthusiasm, and pestering.
"Is that a present?" she asks, "for me?"
So, Scott (and Alex) put the lawn mower together. She even took it out for a test spin, while her Dad was putting tools away and fetching the mangled extension cord, to give it a "real" test. Let's just say that Alex's enthusiasm for the lawn mower immediately ceased after it was powered on. It's a cute little video that shows how much Alex wants to "help", how she's growing up and her fear of things that make loud, whirring noises.
Nanaimo, British Columbia
After two years of hard work and good grades, we're starting to see the fruits of Rachel's scholastic labor, as Rachel has (just today) received her first job offer. Mind you, it's not in writing, but it IS from the place we are looking at as our 'number one choice' - Vancouver Island. Specifically, Nanaimo, on the eastern coast, north of Victoria.
The Official UofA BScN Group Photo
This is sooo like, Rachel.
"Honey, can you do me a favor?" (It's an hour after Edmonton gave up Game 1 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals in a pitiful game that saw them squander a three to nothing lead and, potentially, lose their goalie to an injury. It's 15 minutes before she bolts off to her part-time job at the Norwood, a graveyard shift.) In other words, it's late and I'm not exactly feeling in a "giving" mood.
"I need to find a way to get the group photos that we took with your camera, to everyone in the after-degree program and some are on dial-up."
"Okay," I think to myself, wondering where my white steed might be corralled at this time of night, "I know the right answer to this question." We've been married for, what, is it five years already? I want to keep it that way. I mean, my plan is finally coming to fruition. Rachel has her degree in nursing (just about) and can take care of me, when I'm old.
"I could make a web page and let everyone download the photos, at a variety of resolutions," I offer.
"Oh, that would be great!" she says, practically dashing out the door. "And, could you do it sooner, rather than later? The photos were taken last Thursday."
(Photos expire after 4 days? I didnt' know that.)
Read on to see how the knight turns out ... or does Rachel file for divorce? ... (Oh yeah, continue on if you want to see/get the group photo, too!)
The Seedy Side of the Park
It's the start of summer, with plenty of sunshine and intermittent rains, vegetation is flourishing. In order to keep up with the growth, I'm having to mow our lawn (at least once a week), tug on weeds and dig out dandelions. On the plus side, we're enjoying the weather and being outside. We're taking bicycle rides, pulling Alex in her buggy and pedaling along the River Valley. I normally don't pay much attention to the upkeep of our local parks, but today, I have.
Edmonton is a city of parks, boasting over 460 and the 48-kilometer River Valley Parkway, is the largest expanse of urban parkland in North America. But my focus today, is on our small, neighborhood park, Montrose.
We walk Alex through this park, every morning, taking her to day-care and again, every afternoon on our way home. We often stop and play, as Alex loves to ride in the swing and slide down the large, spiral slide. It's always been a nice place to hang out, but it's changed this year and I put my finger on why, this morning: Maintenance has lapsed. There's more trash in the park this year, than last. It's only been mowed twice this season and there is an unsightly profusion of dandelions. Crews have not trimmed - AT ALL - and the grass is three-feet tall in places.
I'm bullish on Edmonton and now, I wish I really was a bull! There's so much delicious grass to eat!
To learn more about the city's promotion of grass-cycling, weed control standards, litter and public stewardship ... read on ...
AstonishMe! brings you "Google Spell-Check Plugin", adding spell-checking capabilities to your b2evolution (v1.0+) posts and comment forms. It uses Google's API and has many similar features to the Gmail spell-checker. It supports 8 different languages. Learn more.
An AstonishMe! Public Release
If you want to get a really nifty spell checker for your b2evolution blog, then look no further than AstonishMe!
Now publicly available, our "Google Spell-Check Plug-in" is a back-office and comment form spell-checker, which uses the Google Spell-Check API. If you use Gmail, then you're already familiar with the interface, as ours has the same look-and-feel and uses the same dictionary. It's a piece of cake to install, easy as pie to use and makes for a delicious add-on to your b2evolution blog.
To learn more about "Google Spell-Check" and obtain your copy, continue on ...
"Edmonton Oiler Fans Drain Local Supplies" (Story)
Up three games in the best-of-seven NHL Western Conference finals, the Edmonton Oilers weren't able to shut-out the Anaheim Mighty Ducks during game four, played on Thursday, here in Edmonton. Game five is tonight, in Anaheim, and the Oilers have another shot at de-feathering those pesky Ducks. The finals games have been exciting and Oiler-mania has hit Edmonton - BIG TIME! A win tonight means the Edmonton Oilers will be playing in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 16 years.Wahoo! The Oilers WIN game 5 and the series. They're headed east for the Stanley Cup Final!!
An Annoying New Engineering Trend
Our household has suffered some kind of technical flu, recently. Appliances have been "sick" and a couple haven't pulled through. Our 12-year-old microwave succumbed a few weeks ago, refusing to heat anything. Our 2-year-old, pre-pubescent DVD player, put its foot down and refused to register half of the discs we shoved into its face. Spanking the surly preteen only made it more stubborn, refusing to register any discs we fed it. Frustrated, we put it up for adoption (in the back alley) and bought a new one.
Besides the annoyance, aggravation and expense of having to purchase replacements, I've made a very unhappy observation about the new generation of appliances: design engineers have made them annoying and demanding! (This is in addition to the fact that they're cheaply constructed, which is something that everyone knows. Our Magnavox DVD replacement has a plastic shell, for Pete's sake.) I want appliances to efficiently and quietly perform their function, not demand my attention in an annoying fashion. I get enough of that from my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter.
Pretty soon, I will exist only to serve the needs of my appliances.
After buying a new Casio EX-Z850 digital camera, I was disappointed to find that the video quality wasn't as good as its predecessor. See for yourself.
Comparing video with the EX-Z750
When it was time to buy a new digital camera, I zoomed in on the Casio EX-Z750. After reading Ken Rockwell's review, it seemed that this camera had everything I wanted. Then I found out that the EX-Z850 was new to the market and I hunted down a good deal. I figured the EX-Z850 would be an improvement on the EX-Z750. Not in everything, apparently.
Shortly after ordering it, I read that the EX-Z850's video wasn't up to par, compared with the EX-Z750. These observations came from Casio Talk and Mike Davidson. The delivery truck was on its way from the United States to Canada, so I could only wait.
After receiving the camera, I tried it out. I liked the large, bright LCD screen, anti-shake function, superb ergonometrics, quick response, long battery life and past movie mode. But I had nothing to compare the video against. So, I went out locally and purchased a EX-Z750GY (a grey body and one of the few remaining EX-Z750's in town, as it is no longer being manufactured). If fact, Casio recently announced a newer 10 Mega-Pixel model.
Read on for the video comparison...
How about this: Software that targets b2evolution blogs and ONLY b2evolution blogs! We're talking comment SPAM here, folks. Ever wonder why you spend so much time deleting comments from your blog? Find out more ...
b2evolution Comment Spam Software
Did you know that you can buy software specifically for spamming b2evolution blogs? How about that "howdy-do" with your morning coffee? Just think of all those SPAM messages you spend time deleting from your blog. Perhaps many are coming from this software?
It's enough to make steam come out of your ears.
Of course, if the programming is crafted as well as the banner ad (notice the spelling error?), then b2evolution owners don't have too much to worry about.
A couple of months ago, we reported that six months worth of our adventure journals, covering our 2,650-mile wilderness journey along the Pacific Crest Trail, were lost. A few days ago, we received an email from an reader who says he might have them ALL. We are thrilled. Find out more ...
Journals Coming Home to Roost?
We don't often check our "Tuxnus" family email account, as Rachel normally uses her UofA email account and I use my business account at gMail. I got quite a shock to discover a 3-day old email entitled "Your PCT Journal". It read:
I just saw your website and the terrible events of your hard drive crash.
I think I have almost all of your journal downloaded as Word documents. I am a section hiker that has been working on the PCT for 7 years and found your journal in 2003 to be the most complete description of the trail, as well as very entertaining. I kept a complete copy as a reference document for my future hiking.
I'd be happy to send you any or all of what I have.
WOW ... There is HOPE!
If you didn't hear us moan about it, we lost the journals for our 6-month, 2,650-mile wilderness hike from 2002, in which we followed the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail from Mexico to Canada. The adventure took us 6 months to complete and Rachel journaled (in the-color-of-our-socks detail) the entire journey. We lost it all in a HDD crash at our host diary-x.com. We had put out a plea to readers, tried to recover what we could from search engine cache pages and had all but given up hope that ANY would return, let alone the WHOLE LOT!!
We're hoping that Tom comes through with the Word documents and we'll be very joyful indeed!
We've sent him a reply email, only moments ago, and are sitting on pins and needles, waiting for his reply and maybe the return of our (very precious to us) journals.
We might have a new hero, named "Tom".
Update: Journals SAFE at Home!!
Tom, a reader who lives in Orinda, California, came through and emailed Word documents that contained our southern California journals. After verifying that we could open them, he sent the remaining on-trail journals! Wahoo!! The power of the Internet and a testimony to the completeness and descriptive writing that Rachel did, while we were on our adventure.
We're still missing a few of the pre-trip entries and quite a number of our cycle tour trip, back down the coast. We'll keep hoping that these turn up and hunting under every rock. For now though, we are ecstatic that our Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike journal entries HAVE BEEN SAVED!!
Thank you Tom!
(On a side note: proving once again that the world is a small place, both Tom and Scott received undergraduate degrees at the University of California at Davis. )
SiteGround Suspends Randsco.com
We had been experiencing FTP problems at our hosting service, SiteGround, for several days. I opened a support ticket and was working at solving the problem (automatic disconnection after less than a minute of inactivity) when, all of a sudden, our site went down.
This has happened before and service is usually restored in a ... matter of minutes. As usual, I spot checked site access at Alertra (checking availability from a half-a-dozen world-wide locations). Nothing but errors. It was not our ISP. Randsco was definitely down.
I submitted a trouble ticket and received the usual prompt reply from SiteGround, only a few minutes later. The contents were unexpected:
Your account [is] currently limited. I will now forward your ticket to our abuse department.
LOL ... my name isn't "Alertra"! What does "limited" mean? The Abuse department?
Our site remained down, as I patiently waited for word from SiteGround. A half-hour later, I received the following email/ticket entitled "Abuse".
During the last 24 hours your website ... overloaded the server several times ... dangerous for the other users ... transferring your website to a special server ... will take up to 24 hours ... website will remain accessible ... but will [have] some limitations ... may result in occasional server error messages. ... will NOT experience any downtime ... Once the transfer is completed you will be notified ...
And just like that, Randsco was off the 'net.
If you have a shared hosting account, or have shared hosting and your site has overloaded a server, you will be interested to read about our experience and "post mortem" of the event ...
Wow, it's been three months since we last reported on the Oop, our daughter. She's grown a lot since then and we thought that we'd bring you up-to-date. She recently celebrated her two-and-a-half birthday and in true Oop style, she devoured the half-cake and ice cream ....
Living Through the Terrible Twos
It's been too long since we've written about Alex. The last Oop-post was about her first ice skating experience, in January, nearly three months ago. Let's bring everyone up to date.
The Oop recently celebrated her half-birthday, on April third. She's now in the middle of her "terrible twos" and let me tell you, there's a REASON they call them that. Oh my God! The tears and the fits!
The last one was just moments ago. Rachel is out (at an orientation meeting for her new, part-time job) and I'm trying to write this post. Alex is eating breakfast, at the kitchen table (Rice Krispies cereal with bits of fresh banana and a glass of milk).
"All done Daddy," she says.
I look over and see that most of the cereal has indeed, made it into her gob, but half of the glass of milk remains.
"You're not going to drink your milk?" I ask.
"No Daddy," she says, "Finished."
"So I'm going to have to throw it away?" (We don't like doing this, but it doesn't bother the Oop.)
"Yes," she says, "All done."
Because the milk was in an open glass (and no doubt her hands went into it) I decide it's best just to toss it. But then, I spy Tuxedo, lounging in his cat bed and decide to give him a rare treat. (Shh, don't tell Rachel.)
"You won't mind if I give it to Tuxedo?", I ask.
I don't wait for a reply and this is the pivotal moment, which I fail to recognize. After all, she says she's done, doesn't want it, doesn't mind it going down the drain, so (of course) she won't mind if I give it to the cat. It's only logical. (What two and a half year-old is logical?)
I pour the milk into a bowl and whistle for the cat, who is quick to capitalize on an infrequent indulgence, moving faster than I thought him capable. Quickly, he's hunched over the bowl, lapping the milk.
I look at Alex and what I see is not a happy face.
"My milk," she says, with a pouty frown.
"Uh oh," I think.
Tears well up and I realize that we're heading into a storm. Sure enough, she becomes red-faced and tears begin to flow. She wails as if the milk were the most important thing on Earth and through the sobbing, wailing and mixture of tears and green snot (she's getting over a cold), she cries, "No ... no ... no ... no, I waaant my milk. Daaaddy."
I try to mollify her by patting her on the back and cleaning her face with a tissue. "Look how happy you've made the kitty cat. He likes milk. Don't you want the kitty cat to be happy?"
She's beyond reasoning and her entire world is focused on the fact that the cat is now drinking HER milk. It doesn't matter that, only moments before, she was happy to watch me pour it down the drain. She is completely distraught, because she doesn't want the kitty cat to be happy and it's her milk and NOW she wants it back.
I calmly ask her if she'd like to have a little more milk. She does and the sobbing subsides. I pour her another small glassful and she drinks it. The end-of-the-world, kitty-cat-has-my-milk incident rapidly fades from her mind (though not entirely from mine).
"All done Daddy. Look!" she says, "I go play now."
There will probably be three of four more similar crying fits today. Some might be predictable (not wanting to go down for an afternoon nap, being told 'no' when she wants something), but others (like this one) will just pop up, out of the blue. It's a part of life, with Alex, now that she's two.
It's not all bad though, because (most of the time), she's happy and content, a wonderful, beautiful, cute, engaging and outgoing daughter. If you ask her how she feels, she'll generally say, "Happy". We must be doing something right.
To learn more about our life with Alex at two and a half, read on, as I try to put into words, some of her antics, discoveries and joys.
Introducing Photo-caption Zoom (version 3)! If you liked earlier versions, you'll love PZ3. The IE z-index bug is squashed, no more image resizing, choose thumb sizes 'on-the-fly' & do it with 70% less code. The easiest PZ ever. This version does more, with much less.
EZ PZ3 - Better, easier, lighter.
Images in this article utilize the newest, third version of a pure-CSS image zooming technique I've named "Photo-caption Zoom" ( or PZ3 ). When you move your mouse over an image, it will 'zoom' to reveal a larger image with a caption. There are a variety of pure-CSS image zooming methods, but this was the first to combine an image with a caption. It saves page real estate, it looks nice and this third version is more robust and easier to use than ever.
Although the end results of PZ3 appear identical to the last version (PZ2), the underlying CSS methodology is completely different! PZ3 offers significant improvements over PZ2 and does it with nearly 70% less code. It does more, with a lot less!
PZ3 satisfies most everything on my original wish list for a photo-caption solution. This version is the culmination of over a year's-worth of trial & error, of CSS/XHTML learning & experimentation and of countless hours searching the Internet for existing solutions. The results of PZ3 speak for themselves.
- PZ HZtory -
Photo-caption Zoom is a pure-CSS, xhtml-valid technique that I developed over a year ago. It zooms a thumbnail image on mouseover, showing a larger picture with a caption. It uses a single, simple image for both the thumbnail and zoom. It's designed to be easily deployed.
- PZ1 - Jan 31, 2005: The original. It rearranges page flow, making room for the zoomed image and its caption. (i.e., one can still read the document when the image is zoomed).
- PZ2 - Jun 15, 2005: Version 2. The zoomed image overlays the document, which means that page elements no longer shift or migrate. (A IE z-index bug is documented and a work-a-round is achieved, which limits usage).
- PZ3 - Apr 11, 2006: This third version supercedes its predecessor - PZ2. The IE z-index bug that limits PZ2 has been fixed, it's 70% lighter (less code), and pixel-perfect thumb/zoom sizes are defined in the HTML. Basically, it rocks! It's so easy, I'm calling it EZ-PZ.
- PZ3 - 30-Jun-2008: Version numbers added (dated version numbers, starting with "v080630", have been added to the CSS file, so users can tell at a glance if they have the latest CSS/XHTML code)
CSS corrected to allow correct toggling of the caption (Cap|noCap option)
If you're new to the Photo-caption Zoom technique, I recommend you begin here, which has links to all the Photo-caption Zoom pages on this website and covers 9 different methods, in detail. (Even those that I investigated early on). Each has cut'n-paste CSS/XHTML code you can use on your own pages.
Collaborating to develop PZ3 proves that two heads are better than one. This code resulted from batting it back and forth, across the Atlantic Ocean, to my U.K. business partner and mate, ¥åßßå. I owe him a deep debt of gratitude for his efforts and the time he spent helping me. Thanks ¥åßßå!
(Items in RED are enhancements over PZ2)
• Valid XHTML code
• Cross-browser/Cross-platform compliant
• Single image for both thumb/zoom
• Nice-looking (customizable) caption
• Overlays document (no layout shifting)
• IE z-index bug: SQUASHED!
• No image resizing necessary!
• Thumb sizes defined on the fly!
• Toggle borders on|off
• Toggle link cursor on|off
• Toggle caption on|off
• Code reduced by nearly 70%
• Quirks-mode support
• 30-Jun-2008 - Version numbers added
• Easiest PZ ever - EZ-PZ!
The code is cross-browser/platform compatible: PC Browsers tested - MSIE (IE6, IE7 & IE8), Firefox (v1.5, v2.0 & v3.x), Netscape (v8 & v9), & Opera (v8.x, v9.02§, v9.x); winSafari; Google Chrome (v1 & v2); Flock (v1 & v2); Mac Browsers tested - Firefox, Opera and Safari (v2.x & v3.x).
To date, there have been no reported browser problems. Please comment on viewbility if you're using a different [O/S|browser] combination.
To get the code and learn more about PZ3, please continue ...
Consumer Thoughts After Buying a Casio EX-Z850 Digital Camera
The population of the United States is roughly ten times that of Canada. It's no surprise then, that the U.S. has a much more efficient consumer marketplace than Canada. I recently discovered just how much more efficient, after purchasing a Casio EX-Z850 digital camera.
Firstly, I should state that I have no great patriotic allegiance when it comes to making consumer purchases. "Made in the U.S.A.", Canada, China, Taiwan or Mexico, I don't really care. All things being equal, I will buy local, to support the local economy, but in truth, I'm after the best quality/price ratio I can find, with a leaning toward one end of the spectrum or the other, depending on the product. I mean no disrespect to either the U.S. or Canada, as I think both are great. Rather, my experience reflects a growing dissatisfaction over the disparity in pricing, availability, shipping costs, regulations and red tape associated with purchasing products to obtain the best deal.
The EX-Z850 is very new to the marketplace. It was debuted at the PMA Annual Convention & Trade Show in Orlando, Florida, on February 26th (press release). I was happy to get my hands on one at a price well below the MSRP of $399.99(USD), but the convolutions I had to go through, in order to accomplish this, underscores the marketplace differences between Canada and the U.S. This is something that NAFTA is supposed to help fix, but it doesn't really seem to be working too well.
Read on to learn about my purchase choices in Canada, versus the United States and the creative methods employed to obtain the better deal.
"Latest News" - Site Feature Added
Blogging isn't as easy as one might imagine. (Of course, nothing is easy when you're a perfectionist) - cough, cough - but even still, it does take TIME to cobble blog entries together. You need to find a topic worthy of an entry, then get images organized, edited, optimized and transferred. Correct spelling and XHTML coding count ... which takes additional time. Links need to be added and checked. The blog entry length must be "just so" (not too long to bore anyone, but long enough to wrap around how ever many photos there are). Having a 'liquid layout' also means making sure the entry doesn't 'break' in super wide screens (high resolution) and still works for 800x600 resolution. XHTML validation, special CSS coding ... all these things must be taken care of. Plus, I like to add special formatting that (I think) helps make each entry unique and (hopefully) visually appealing and interesting.
Whew! It's a lot of work!
So, I've created a "Randsco News" icon in the Site Tools section, in the sidebar. (It's the newspaper - 3rd row down in the Site Tools section, first icon on the left).
It links to a special blog entry, called "news", which contains the absolute LATEST news. Stuff that happened today and yesterday - though you can also paw backward in time too. Each entry is brief and presently, none contain photos (though I'm thinking of adding some, but just not sure if I want to). The goal is to keep is short and simple, but UP-TO-DATE. Rather than having to spend an hour or more typing up a complete blog entry, I can just add a paragraph to the existing "news" one and then blammo ... it's been added.
If you want the lasted scoop ... then this is the place to go. Not everything posted in "news" will make it into a blog entry, so it will also contain information above and beyond what's posted on the front page.
I've also coded it so that it's easy to see if we have any 'breaking news'. If, within the past 24-hours, anything has been added to the news page, the newspaper icon will be animated. If there hasn't been any news with the past 24 hours, the newspaper icon will be static. Here's an example:
We hope you find it useful.
Putting the "Good" into Good Boating
If there has been a lack of journaling on our randsco site, it's because I've been working with my UK mate on a number of projects, through our joint website AstonishMe!. You can read more about the various projects we've completed, on our portfolio page.
While we've been waiting for the beta version of b2evolution to be released (since November), we've been active on a number of fronts. We're investigating blogging SPAM (comment and trackback SPAM, primarily), are collecting data and making some serious inroads into methods to not only thwart it, but flip the tables, taking an offensive position, rather than a defensive one. (Of course, this is all super-secret work and I can't reveal anything, otherwise I'd have to shoot you and that's too offensive, even for us. )
Lately, our focus has been on helping Hilltop Marine and Walker Marine, come up with a completely new and highly integrated website. The concept is to blend two commercial boating businesses (one in Cincinatti, on the Ohio River and the other, in Kentucky, on Lake Cumberland), integrating several informational (magazine-style) blogs, into a single web presence. The "portal site", called 'Good Boating', will also include a free blogg sign-up (boaters can create and write their own boating stories), a forum, picture gallery and more. By fostering an active, online community of avid boaters, we hope to develop strong customer ties to the commercial operations and a 'must-see' regional boating reference site.
As you might imagine, the project is involved and multi-faceted. It involves much custom programming, web-design and creativity ... just the kind of task that AstonishMe! wants. The project is moving along and we recently completed a mock up of our vision for the "Good Boating" portal site. The client was thrilled with our work and we'll be stepping forward with the 2nd of five phases.
As you can see, entries may not be coming at a rapid clip here at randsco, but it's not because we've been sitting on our duff, watching icicles grow.
A month ago, we were extolling the fact that it seemed winter had passed us by in Edmonton, this year. No longer. Yesterday, we received 22 cm. of snow. Read about how it affected our family (especially our cat)....
22 Centimeters of Snow
On March 5th, we reported a recent snowstorm, how winter seemed delayed this year and how spring was forecasted to be running a tad late. Two weeks later, we're hip-deep in snow and regretting any claims we made about winter passing us by this year. We received 22 centimeters of snow on Saturday. When we awoke, it was snowing. All morning, it snowed. It snowed through lunch and all afternoon. It snowed past dinner and into the evening.
At mid morning, Scott went out and shoveled the front walk, the drive and the front stoop. He assisted our neighbor, getting her car unstuck from the middle of a nearby residential street. We helped the guy across the way, get his car back on the road, after parking too close to the sidewalk. By the time evening rolled around, it didn't look like Scott had shoveled at all. So he went out and shoveled some more!
We haven't lived in Edmonton long, but in our brief two-year tenure, THIS is the most snow we've ever seen. It's unreal. As Scott jokingly told a neighbor, "Maybe I'll just make a tunnel to the front door, it might take less effort!"
Fortunately, the snow abated Saturday night. We awoke on Sunday, to cloudy skies and shortly after lunch, Scott was out shoveling again. This time, it was the back stoop, walkway, alleyway and garage parking area. He filled trashcan after trashcan with the white stuff and hauled it to various places around the yard. He began to run out of places to dump it!
We've been debating where we're going to move to, after Rachel finishes her Nursing degree in August. We'd been considering a move to Canmore, near Banff National Park, just west of Calgary. We'd even considered the notion of staying in the Edmonton area, as the cost of living is reasonable and the summers are glorious. This recent storm might have nixed both of those thoughts, as we're likely to stick to our original plan of moving to Vancouver Island. Moderated by the waters of the Pacific Ocean, Vancouver Island rarely sees much snow. Just the ticket, according to our California-boy, Scott.
We Know Snow
Alex didn't seem to mind the fluffy stuff and was eager to go outside and "help" Scott shovel the walk, the driveway and other wide expanses that needed to be cleared of over a foot of snow. She enjoyed sitting in it, rolling in it, throwing it, eating it and (occasionally) tossing a scoop or two of it into a bucket ... then promptly dumping it where it had already been cleared. Though the Oop loved the snow, she has no idea of where it is supposed to go.
The snow seemed to affect most everyone's schedule in the household. Scott spent several hours shoveling it, while Alex spent nearly an equal amount of time playing in it. Only Rachel seemed unaffected, as she's busy on a term paper, which is due Monday. She sequestered herself in her basement office and has been relatively immune to the the snow outside. It was, perhaps, the smallest member of our household that felt the effects of the snow more than anyone else. Tuxedo, our lethargic cat, ventured outside once, to do his "business" and it was a very pitiful feline that returned.
Poor Tuxedo is getting on in years, nearly 13 all told. His idea of a good time is a long, quiet nap on a heater vent, followed by a hefty dish of wet cat food. Going outside is only desireable if the sun is shining. Tuxedo isn't fond of the winter cold. So far this year, he hasn't had to deal with much snow. So he was surprised, when we opened the front door, to be faced with several inches of snow. With a gentle boot at his bottom, he soon found himself up to his belly in snow. He shook a couple of paws, hoping to rid himself of the disdainful snow, but each step caused more to stick to his warm fur.
We watched, curious to see his reaction and at first, we wondered if he would move at all. He looked this way and that, realizing that only the cement walkway was clear enough for him to tread. So down the front steps he went. He stopped at the lawn, with snow higher than his head, putting a paw forward. "No good," he thought, as his paw was swallowed up in white. He shook it vigorously and treaded down the path, to the driveway. He longingly looked at the shallow depression under the pine tree, where bits of grass were poking through. "How can I get over THERE?" he seemed to wonder. He tested this way and the next, but each was blocked by too-high snow. Finally, in desperation, he went out into the front sidewalk. He dug a tiny hole and there, in the middle of what would normally be a wide, cement path, our cat did his business (quite hurriedly, I might add).
True to form, he even tried to "bury it", which was amusing because the paws that hate snow, were busy shoveling it. I guess the hereditary need to "bury one's business" outweighed the hereditary "distain for all things water". Anyway ... once finished, he raced back to the front stoop and meowed pitifully, eager to get back to his warm bed and out of the hellish white.
From relatives in Phoenix, Arizona to friends in England, we can only say ... "See, here's REAL snow!"
We'll never purchase a Chrysler automobile again and we're recommending you don't either. Read about our experience with a poorly engineered mini-van transmission and ridiculous experience with the Chrysler Customer Service. The transmission failed three hours from home, cost us $2,500 US to repair and customer service has been absolutely NO help whatsoever...
We'll never buy another Chrysler automobile and I'm recommending that you don't either. The transmission problems we had on our mini-van were astonishing and costly. (Their customer service and loyalty is also a match to their poorly engineered cars).
~ Troublesome Transmission ~
We bought a used 1993 Plymouth Grand Voyager LE. It was 10 years old and had 118,000 kilometers (approximately 73,000 miles) on the odometer. It was in superb condition, both physically and mechanically. It was the largest version of the model year, had AWD, a large 3.3 liter engine, a towing package, electric controls & leather seats. We paid $4,500 CAD for it and thought it was a good value, considering its features and condition.
We drove it locally, for a month, then took it on a 1,200-mile family vacation, to see Scott's folks, in California. The transmission acted funny on the way down, refusing to go into gear immediately at a stop sign and shifting jerkily on a couple of occasions. In California, we drained the transmission fluid, replaced the transmission filter and refilled it with the recommended "Mopar 7176" fluid.
On the return trip, we stopped to visit with friends in Seattle, spending the night. Upon our departure, the transmission refused to deliver power, leaving us stranded in Seattle. We opted for a genuine Mopar replacement transmission, which came with a 3-year/36,000-mile warranty. The bill totaled $3,503.89, plus incidental expenses, including a bus ride, back to Vancouver. It was an frustrating experience and and expensive repair.
That a transmission would fail at 73,000 miles is unbelievable. The mechanic who replaced the tranny said, "These transmissions are known to be troublesome and only last for about that [70,000 miles]. My advice? Drive the vehicle for another 70,000 miles and then sell it, before it needs another transmission."
Some stuff on a car needs to be replaced, including oil, tires, brake pads, a water pump (perhaps) and the odd fan belt. But not transmissions! Certainly not at $2,700.00 USD a pop and certainly not three or four times, over the life of a vehicle. Shame on Chrysler for such shoddy engineering.
But, that's not the end of the story and it's their customer service that really made me part ways with Daimler-Chrysler. To learn about the customer service fiasco, read on ...
Calling All Journal Readers
After a day of soul-searching, frantic emails, file searches and Internet searches, we now have an assessement of our journal devastation. Most entries are GONE. Our only (thin) hope rests with our readers.
IF you have a copy of any of the missing entries below, PLEASE contact us. Thanks!
- CANADA! (Mile 2,658)
- Stehekin (Mile 2569)
- Skykomish (Mile 2472)
- Snoqualmie Pass (Mile 2396)
- White Pass (Mile 2298)
- Cascade Locks (Mile 2150)
- Olallie Lake (Mile 2047)
- Cascade Summit (Mile 1907)
- Crater Lake (Mile 1829)
- Ashland (Mile 1721)
- Seiad Valley (Mile 1656)
- "Stumbling Toward Canada"
- Castella (Mile 1500)
- Chester (Mile 1329)
- "Trail Questions Answered"
- Soda Springs (Mile 1153)
- Sonora Pass (Mile 1013)
- Tuolumne Meadows (Mile 936)
- Red's Meadow (Mile 900)
- Cedar Grove (Mile 784)
- Kennedy Meadows (Mile 697)
- Tehachapi (Mile 555)
- Agua Dulce (Mile 455)
- "The Routine"
- Wrightwood (Mile 366)
- Big Bear City (Mile 267)
- Idyllwild (Mile 180)
- Warner Springs (Mile 110)
- Mt. Laguna (Mile 42)
- Pre-hike Jitters
- Rooster Sends Get-Well Card
- Broken Bones & Killer Roosters
- Trail Mail
- One Month to Go!
- Hiking Boots and the NFL Draft
Pacific Coast Cycle Tour
- Blowin in the Wind
- A Really Gross Farm
- Big Grey Little Moo-Moo
- Tom and Sheila
- Pesky Pete
- Prince of Manchester Beach
- Thirty-six Damme Eggs
- Two the One
- Ice Cream Marathon
- LOST: A Small Cyclocomputer
- On Safari
- Into the Golden State
- Hamburger Wasteland
- Numb Toes & Other Body Parts
- Mud Slide!
- An Octopus Named Red
- Sunbathing Saturday
- Visitors from Portland
- Internet Woes
- Wow. Oregon Already!
- A Dear Among Deer
- Getting Frisky
- 1st Anniversary
- Hood Canal
- Down to the Wire
- Flat Rain
- Tossin' Goobers
- Casa de Pasa
- Meet Scott and Rachel
Note: Hover over an entry for date of that particular entry.
Journal entries with a line through them are ones we have resurrected, from readers or other means. We'll keep this list up-to-date. Thanks in advance for your help!
Words cannot convey the depth of the devastation this has had on our psyche.
* - Thanks to Tom & Sheila!
* - The ONLY backups found locally.
* - Thanks to Yahoo! cached pages
* - Thanks to Tom Kerns!! (a reader from Orinda CA, who had downloaded our complete on-trail journal as a reference)
Continue reading about resurrection efforts...
Adventure Journals Lost ... "POOF" into the Ether
I don't often cry, but I did this morning. In a very twisted turn of events, I've managed to lose the journals for two of our biggest adventures: The Pacific Crest Trail and West Coast Cycle Tour (from Vancouver to San Francisco).
We emailed our journal updates to a service called "Diary-X", where they've been sitting ever since. After losing our guestbook entries in a similar "here-today, gone-tomorrow" kind of fashion, I made it a point to make a text backup of our entries ... or at least, I thought I had.
We received an email from Tom & Sheila, PCT friends. They had followed us on our journey, reading our Diary-X entries. Then they hiked the trail in 2004, using the same Diary-X journaling solution. They reported to us that the site had gone belly up and that all of the journal entries were magically, iretrieveably gone.
“ Diary-X has suffered from an unrecoverable drive failure. Due to a combination of issues, the last backup (from December 2004) contained only configuration files and other non-essential files. We do not have any other backups for the site. All journals, user information, forum posts, templates, images, and everything else are all irrecoverably lost.”
I first took the news casually, patting myself on the back for having made backups some time ago. When I searched my computer for the backups, I broke into a cold sweat when I couldn't FIND THEM. Now, instead of patting myself on the back, I'm kicking myself around the room, as it appears I had only thought about making them, which only proves that if you think about something enough, it's not actually the same as the DOING OF IT.
Fortunately, for Tom and Sheila, their journals ARE backed up and they have a hard copy that their Dad made, while they were on the hike. We have a hard-copy too. One that Rachel's father meticulously kept for us, while we were hiking the 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada, over that 6-month period. Where is it? Well, we mailed it to Scott's grandmother to read, when she showed an interest in our journals (and wasn't savvy enough to read them online).
It was never mailed back.
We even mailed our old ISP, thinking they might have backups off the mail server, which could resurrect our "sent mail" folder from April 2002 to October 2002. No such luck.
So, the journals that Rachel wrote, each night in the tent, after hiking 12 or more hours during the day ... appear LOST. POOF ... into the Ether ... gone. The links to our PCT Journal and West Coast Cycle Tour now point to the Phoenix version of Diary-X, with a link that explains what happened.
Our weird, mild winter weather came to an end last week, when a storm system blew through, dumping a record-setting pile of white stuff onto Alberta and our yard. In Edmonton, we received 13 centimeters of snow, which blanketed our brown lawn (Rachel heard on the radio, that it was the most amount of snow Edmonton has ever received in one dump, beating the previous record of 12.8cm by a smidge). It was followed a day or so later with the addition of a few more centimeters.
We finally were able to get out the tobaggan, which we used to haul Alex to day-care with, until everyone managed to shovel out from under the load of snow. Temperatures are holding at sub-freezing and just when we thought we might escape a winter in Edmonton, blammo ... we're knee deep in it.
Winter of Our Heart's Content
Up until last week, we've been having a very unusual winter. After our September snow, last year, we were preparing ourselves for an anticipated onslaught of cold and snow. It never materialized. Instead, we had a brown Christmas and indeed, all of Canada was basking in warmer-than-normal weather, throughout December and January. This change was felt greatest on the prairies and "Winterpeg, Manisnowba" (a normally very cold capital city) was registering temperatures 14°C higher than normal.
Is this a sign of global warming? (If so, at this rate, we'll be planting citrus next year and soon be living in a desert).
In reality, it's "a total absence of cold air" that is explaining the phenomenon, according to Environment Canada. Maybe they should pay these guys more money - they're sharp as tacks? Actually, the answer is more complex, involving a swirling polar vortex which, during most winters, sits over Hudson Bay. This year, it lingered over northern Europe, warming Canadian toes, while frosting the Russians, instead.
It appears that the vortex has finally come home to roost. The result is pulling cold air down, across the prairies and into Ontario. Unfortunately, it will probably mean a delayed spring for us (just as winter was "delayed").
Too bad! We had nearly forgotten what it was like to shovel snow and put the car on the block heater a half hour before starting the car. Perhaps we should cancel our order for citrus seedlings?
While we enjoyed mild temperatures in December and January, it is interesting to note that Vancouver, from where we moved, set a record this year - "most days of rain in January since record-keeping began, in 1937". They had 29 days of rain, in the 31-day month. Yuck.
In fact, they nearly broke a couple of other records.
- total January rainfall (1992 281.8mm)
- consecutive-day rain record (1953 28 days) (fell one day short)
In short ... it was depressing, as reported by Rachel's folks. Evacuation alerts on the North Shore, because of mud slide fears. Flooded basements kept restoration workers busy. Day, after day of rain (as we can attest) just dampens the spirits.
Who would have ever thought that our Edmontonian winter would be better than Vancouver's?
I went to find an enjoyable TV ad from the year 2000, but had a difficult time finding it on the web. The collective attention span for humans is short and most of the movie links were broken. So, in an effort to preserve a tiny piece of humorous history, I've posted it here, along with a rare "alternative ending". Enjoy.
"Oh Look, an Eagle!"
It was some time ago that I first saw this ad, via some email link a friend sent. I'm not sure what made me think about it the other day, but I went on a hunt for it. It's still out there, but many of the links have dried up and now there are sites that want you to pay money to see the thing. (Sorry, there isn't much added value to see something that used to be aired for free )
I'm not much of a museum curator and maybe it was more the challenge, than the preservation, but regardless ... I went on a hunt to find the original video, convert it to Flash and preserve it for your viewing pleasure (and the inadvertent, sustained promotion of John West Salmon). While hunting down the videos, I learned a lot! The spot won several awards, there was an alternate ending (shown in the full article) and to whom credit goes to for this humorous advertisement.
To learn more about the John West Bear Fight ad, read on ...
DFW: First Major U.S. BPL RolloutFebruary 19th, 2006 · stk
In the United States anyway, it's happening sooner, rather than later. Two million customers in the Dallas - Fort Worth Metroplex will soon have access to "Broadband over Power Line". This technology will provide speeds up to 3 megabits per second through a home's existing electrical sockets, at prices that are anticipated to be less than that of cable or ADSL (Asynchronous Digital Subscriber Lines). This will make every electrical socket both a source of power and a high-speed internet connection.
As a follow-up to an October story, it is interesting to note that the first major U.S. rollout of BPL will be in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, starting later in 2006.
The $10 million dollar project was jointly announced by TXU and Current Communications Group in December. More information can be found in the original article.
Alberta, Canada soil holds the largest oil deposit in the world. As high oil prices dominate World markets, activity in the northern part of Alberta has reached a frenzied state. So great are the profits, that Alberta has given each resident a cheque for $400 - a one time rebate.
Prosperous Alberta: A Fist-full of Petro Dollars
There's been long lines at local banks, as many Albertans wait to deposit their one-time, $400 resource rebate (AKA prosperity check). Our family's portion totaled $1200. Even pint-sized Alex was counted as a whole Albertan and rebated accordingly. We may be paying more at the pump for gasoline, but these checks more than makes up the difference. It's a great time to be Albertan.
The checks are part of this year's Provincial surplus, which is mainly due to high prices for oil and gas, upon which Alberta collects royalties. The surplus was anticipated in September and firmed up in November. Consummated just two weeks ago, our checks arrived just in time for tax season, it seems. Local businesses have been vying for a slice of the windfall, running television ads and many are offering twice face value, if you use your rebate check at their store.
Water cooler talk is centered on what everyone will do with their windfall and most, it seems, plan on spending it. We've squirreled ours away, for the ironic purpose of a move out of the Province and back to British Columbia.
For an informative video on the Alberta oil sands, Alberta's rise in power, the impact this will have for Canada (and the World) ... read on ...
A Great Time to be in AlbertaFebruary 4th, 2006 · stk
Sunny Days: Winter has been nearly non-existent this year. Notice the relative lack of snow on the ground? It was windy and chilly today, despite the sunshine. The Oop is bundled up snugly, though her nose is red.
Little did we know that when we moved from British Columbia to Alberta, half-way through 2004, we were timing our arrival perfectly. At the time, we were just happy that Rachel had been accepted into the after-degree nursing programs at both UofC and UofA. We chose Edmonton and have been happy with the decision (though we sometimes wonder if living in Calagary - which is four times closer to the Canadian Rockies than Edmonton - would have been a better choice for us).
Regardless, we can't complain.
Housing prices are reasonable here, as measured by Vancouver standards. We're renting an entire 3-bedroom house, complete with a finished basement, detached garage and a large, fenced yard (with a swing-set for Alex), at a price only a little more that what we paid for a cold, dark, 1-bedroom, basement suite in the Vancouver suburb of New Westminster.
Sure, the first winter was a shock for a California transplanted boy and Vancouver-raised girl (and to think that the neighbors remarked, "Oh no, it was mild winter." Are they crazy?) The difficulty of our first winter was undoubtedly exacerbated by having a 1-year-old Alex at home, all day. Because she wasn't yet walking well, going out-of-doors in minus degree weather wasn't a real possibility, so we experienced a tad bit of 'cabin-fever', as the winter bore on.
Of course, summers are absolutely glorious here and while we were gone for all of July last year, we'll be staying here, this summer. Rachel will be doing a 'practicum' at a local hospital, her last requirement before graduation. We're both looking forward to the summer ... great weather ... no more classes, term papers or final exams ... yay!
Our good fortune in Alberta continued, as we realized that we qualified for a Provencial child-care subsidy. As a full-time student, Rachel is a pauper. As a brand new transplant from the United States, trying to get a home business going, Scott's income doesn't put us in a high tax bracket. We took advantage of the program and we're glad we did. Alex LOVES the social interaction she gets at "school" and Scott has shifted focus from being "Mr. Mom" to Mr. Handy-man and a fledgeling web-developer.
Our good timing was also evident, as we were here to for Alberta's Centennial celebrations, not that we really partook. On centennial day, we rode our bikes to Fort Edmonton Park, because they were having an 'open house'. We celebrated by reflecting on Edmonton's roots, dating back to the 1800's, when it was a fur trapping, trading post, run by the Hudson's Bay Company. We had a fun time (till the end) and even wrote a journal entry about it.
And our good timing became very evident last week. It marked the end of January. Winter has been non-existent this year and spring is right around the corner. Yahoo! Then, buried in our normal bills and advertisement junk mail, were checks from the Alberta Provincial governemnt for $1200.00. Wow!
Want to sell your blog? The first step is to determine its value. This is where Dane Carlson can help. We present his applet, which helps determine price based on the AOL-Weblogs Oct-2005 sale. You might be surprised. (Of course, finding a buyer is another matter)...
Our Blog Selling Price: Ten Thousand Dollars
Last October, AOL announced they were buying Weblogs Inc. The deal was estimated to be valued at approximately $25 million dollars. (Launched in 2004, Weblogs operates 85 different blogging sites, covering a wide range of topics.)
As one of the first blog acquisitions, the AOL-Weblogs deal can be used to put a price tag on your own blog. In an analysis by Tristan Louis, he used Technorati site numbers for each blog at Weblogs, and computed a link-weighted value on each. Taking it one step further, he came up with a rough estimate for what AOL paid for each Weblog external link ($564.65).
Then, Dane Carlson came up with a blog-valuation calculator, based on Tristans' work.
According to the calculator, our own blog is worth $10,161.72!
Two Quick Thoughts:
- See Dad? Our blog is an INVESTMENT.
- Perhaps we should SELL?
LOL ... Finding a buyer might prove tough.
03-Feb-2007 - New Version!
Search term highlighting has been absent from this blog for several months (ever since upgrading from v1.6 "alpha" to v1.8.2 "Summer Beta" in July). The good news is that search term highlighting has RETURNED for v1.9.2 "Kyoto". It skipped the v1.8 series (might be gotten to work with it, however ... anyone want to try?).
It's different from the original a tad.
- One-click install - (no skin hacking)!
- Doesn't necessarily improve search results.**
**(It's 'brand new' and we're still testing it).
If you want to give it a try ... head here.
Finally, a Search That Works
I'm happy to announce that Astonish Me has come up with a plug-in that actually improves search results, in addition to highlighting multiple search terms.
First, this is "bleeding edge" stuff. It is really targeted for b2evolution versions 1.7 CVS and higher. It's loaded here, in a v1.6 "Alpha" release, but because v1.6 lacks certain SESSIONS PHP functions, it doesn't work perfectly. (Still, it's superior to what's available 'out of the box', and because of that, I'm using it and it's available for you to preview).
Check it out. Type a search term like "Alex" into the search box on the sidebar and hit "Go". See how the term is highlighted? Sweet.
Try more than one term ... such as "alex rachel" ... see how each term is colored differently?
If you're interested in finding out why it beats the standard search and to find out more about how you can get your hands on the plugin for your blog ... read on ...
A Political Science Lesson Using 2 Cows
This crossed my desk today and I couldn't resist posting it. It made me chuckle. (That's worth something in my book). If you've seen it before, then please add me to your e-mail joke list, because I just don't get many good ones anymore. If you haven't seen it, then I hope you enjoy it. (I ... ).
You don't have any cows.
Your neighbor has two cows.
The government takes one fron the neighbor and gives it to you.
After which, Barbara Streisand comes and sings for you.
You have two cows.
Your neighbor has none.
You have two cows.
The government takes one and gives it to your neighbor.
You form a cooperative to tell him how to manage his cow.
You have two cows.
The government seizes both and provides you with milk.
You wait in line for hours to get it.
It is expensive and sour.
CAPITALISM, AMERICAN STYLE
You have two cows.
You sell one, buy a bull, and build a herd of cows.
BUREAUCRACY, AMERICAN STYLE
You have two cows.
Under the new farm program the government pays you to shoot one, milk the other, and then pour the milk down the drain.
What is there to do on a cold winter's day in Edmonton? We thought a trip to the neighborhood ice skating rink would be fun for our 2+ year old daughter. Guess what? We were right! See video and read about Alex's first time ice-skating ...
Alex (& Dad) Try Ice Skating at the Neighborhood Rink
Ever since Rachel bought a pair of used ice skates at a garage sale for a dollar, she's been anticipating the opening of the Montrose community center ice skating rink, which is just a block away. The warm winter thwarted her plans, until recently. During the past couple of weeks, while on Christmas break from the University of Alberta, she has been ducking out at night for free skating. (Since we can't leave the Oop at home, by herself, Scott ... (aka "California boy") has had a convenient excuse to avoid the slippery sport).
All that changed this past weekend, when Rachel finally found Alex a pair of "Bob skates" (inexpensive, double-bladed, strap-on skates for toddlers). She somehow managed to get Scott to come along and "take pictures", which was fine, as we knew the community league didn't rent skates and Scott didn't own any ... so he thought he was "safe". (Turns out that they have a bunch of free loaners and Scott, who knows tons more about oranges than he does about ice skating, amused the locals by donning a pair and tearing around the rink). If he had only known ... he would have made up some excuse and stayed home ... and you might not be watching this video of Alex's first encounter with ice skating. As it turned out, the skating encounter was very positive, for both Alex AND Scott.
In Scott's eyes, Rachel is an accomplished ice skater (she can turn, skates backwards, appears quite comfortable on ice and doesn't cling to the boards for dear life). We weren't sure how Alex would take to the ice, considering that she still has difficulty maintaining a vertical profile - either walking, running or negotiating around just about anything.
We were quite impressed by her "skill" and enthusiasm for the hard slab of frozen water. She had a great time and wanted "more" and has even talked about skating again (a sure sign she truly enjoyed it). She laughed as we dragged her about, legs splayed and skates at odd angles ... whizzing about the rink in Mom's steady grip. She also enjoyed being carried, twirled and speeding along with the wind in her face. (Her least favorite part, however, was with her on the ice, actually trying to propel herself forward ... though as the video shows, she gamely gave it a try.)
Poor California boy. Sore ankles, banged knees and (compared to Alex) at a severe height disadvantage for falling. Fortunately, he only plummeted to the ice once and actually (in his defense) did a pretty fair job of skating. We think the locals were disappointed though. Knowing that he was from California and not used to the frozen stuff, a couple ventured out to watch his attempt at skating. When they saw he wasn't all akimbo and the comic scene they had imagined a Californian might present, they headed back into the warmth of the neighborhood hall.
Mom & Alex now have skates. There's a free, outdoor community rink a block away. For sure there's several more months of frozen arctic weather ahead. Gee, there's even free skates for Scott. To Rachel's delight, it looks like we'll be skating more.
"Oh boy," says Scott, "I can hardly wait."
The Penn State Nittany Lions football team finished #3 in the Nation during regular season play. They also won the Jan 3, 2006 BCS FedEx Orange Bowl against FSU (26-23)! It took a record-long, triple-overtime to win. See video highlights of the game ...
Penn State Nittany Lions win FedEx Orange Bowl
Takes Record-long, Triple-Overtime to Top FSU 26-23
I know a thing or two about oranges, growing up in soCal with citrus trees growing in our yard. The intoxicating, fragrant smell of orange blossoms in the spring. The tree-ripened sweetness of oranges, tangerines and grapefruit.
The downside, is knowing what good citrus tastes like. It's rare that oranges purchased from an Edmonton grocery store live up to that standard. They're usually pithy and dry (frost-bitten), bruised, green or over-ripe. Even when they're juicy, they lack that tree-ripened sweetness.
So ... knowing oranges ... a blessing or a curse?
A Penn State football fan, I knew about the January 3rd Orange Bowl meeting between the #3-ranked Nittany Lions and #22 Florida State University Seminoles. The problem? Living in Edmonton, Canada. Here, New Years Day isn't synonymous with College Football Bowl games. I didn't check (because I was busy remodeling a certain bathroom), but I don't think ANY bowl games made into local programming on New Year's Day.
So, without on-air reminders, the evening of January 3rd appeared like any other New Year night.
Fortunately, while I was checking my email, I noticed someone reading the Geographically Challenged article on our web-site. "OMG," I realized, "I'm missing the GAME!!"
By the time I tuned into a radio broadcast, it was near the end of a (scoreless) 3rd quarter and Penn State was holding a narrow 14-13 lead. Depressed about missing the majority of the game I listened to a 4th quarter that looked like it would end with a Penn State win in the waning seconds ... as it turned out ... there was still LOTS more football than that!