January was pretty quiet
other than me having to go into Toronto to have my hand seen to which is
mostly mended now although got a kink in my little finger which I guess
I'll just have to live with.
February we were warned
of a huge storm which could bring tons of snow but that ended up being a
bit of a damp squib. However on February 5th we had a pretty big
fall of snow with no warning being received about this at all.
I didn't actually notice
it as I was working away but then I heard a funny burring noise outside
my window so went to see what it was. It was then I noticed the
heavy snow fall and the burring noise was my next door neighbour
wielding a wee snow blower and to my great pleasure noticed she was
clearing my driveway for which I gave many thanks.
Here are a few pictures I
took of the snow and as I write this it's still snowing so who knows how
much more will come.
And this last is showing my neighbour
working away at clearing the snow
On 16th Feb I got the
flight from Toronto to Vancouver. It's a five hour flight but
managed to wear the storm of not being able to smoke. However I
did expect to get a smoking room at the Delta Hotel only to find it's a
non smoking hotel.... grrrrr. Not much of a view from the window
either. I also got caught out in the elevator as I didn't expect
to have to have my room card scanned in so here was me trying to get to
floor eight only to find I went right past it to floor 12 and the door
didn't open either. I was about to use the phone when it started
back down to the 7th floor where a chap got in. I mentioned about
trying to get to the 8th floor and he kindly showed me the slot where I
was supposed to put my card in. Oh well. Yet another new thing
I have done a report on
My trip to Vancouver
where you can see lots of
pictures I took.
The beginning of March saw me spending
some of my retirement lump sum and just for a change I indulged myself.
I am usually quite frugal but have to confess I enjoyed my wee bit
This is an electric fire place I purchased
with the new TV above.
I might add that the
fireplace is some 220lbs in weight. It was delivered by UPS Freight and
all they guarantee is to drop it at the pavement. I have to thank the
delivery driver for his help to get it into the house as I could never
have managed it on my own for sure! While it is electric it actually
looks more like a gas fire as the flames can be varied in height and
flicker, there are three settings for the embers and there is also a
downlight which mimics the effect of the flames illuminating the brick
surround. It really looks like it came with the house and am very
pleased with it.
I had a bit of a hard
time getting the TV in that I ordered a Toshiba from TigerDirect.ca and
when it arrived I found most of the features plus the installation were
not available in Canada. I thus returned it for a refund and ended
up at Future Shop where I purchased a Sony 40" TV and had that installed
over the fireplace as you can see in the above picture. It comes with a
separate box that allows connection to the Internet called a
Boxee box. Future Shop sent out an
installation chap that configures the Boxee and ensures all is working.
With that I get full Internet access as well as lots of widgets for
movies, news, weather and lots of other material. This is hard
wired into my router and while Wi-Fi access is available it's much
better to have it plugged in direct and much faster. I also got a
universal remote so only need the one remote now for the TV, Cable Box
and DVD. The Boxee uses its own remote as it is two sided with the
second side having a mouse like feature to allow you to browse the Web
and a full qwerty keyboard.
I might add that the
Boxee box gives access to lots of extra features from the Internet.
There are at least 1500 movies you can view along with widgets for
weather, news, sports, etc. It also comes with a widget for Netflix
which streams movies, documentaries and TV shows. It also lets you share
your computer, either the whole computer or just a single directory.
The way I have it configured is to have a boxee directory on my computer
which the Boxee box knows about. This means if I wanted to display
pictures on the TV I simply copy them into that folder. I can also
make sub folders in there so can have collections of files I want to
display. I could of course just configured it to my existing
mypictures, myvideos, etc folders but decided that I'd prefer to just
have a selection of stuff specifically for showing on the TV.
The start of March also
meant it was time to get my company accounts done and they arrived back
very quickly and so it was now down to doing my Canadian Tax Return.
I took the opportunity to check with Canadian Revenue that my tax free
lump sum from the UK was also tax free in Canada. I am very pleased that
they agreed it was. Seems taking the tax free lump sum just means
you are bringing in capital which is not taxable. The annual
annuity however is taxable but I believe this sum will come in from the
UK tax free so won't be faced with double tax but still to verify that.
I also learned from my
Doctor that I am still a type 2 diabetic. I had thought with going onto
insulin that meant I was Type 1 but that was not the case. My
blood work readings also put me into the "good" category for control of
my diabetes which was excellent news.
Then toward the end of March I did a re-organisation
of my Kitchen to give me more space...
Taken from the Hall looking into the Kitchen. The Door on the left is to
the wee toilet and you'll note the door to the right is now blocked
although it would be easy enough to slide the fridge out to access it.
This was me standing in the door of the wee toilet to take this picture
showing the new wee semi-circular table I've had fitted.
This is what the Kitchen looked like before the re-organisation
I took these pictures as I am doing a wee bit of
decorating to brighten it up and getting better shelving into my
cabinets along with better lighting. I'll do another couple of pictures
once that is completed next month. You might note I've also installed a
wee semi circular table. The brick work is being painted and I'm
fitting in new shelving units into the cupboards. This will allow me
better access to the shelves and I'll be able to vary the height.
Right now on the two cupboards on the window side I can only really
reach the first two shelves so have to get out the steps to reach the
other ones. With this alteration I'll be able to access three
shelves without needing the steps. I'm also fitting two new lights, one
in the centre of the ceiling which should give me better illumination.
The second is over the window which will give better illumination on the
work surfaces. Also getting new handles and brackets fitted to the
cupboards and doors.
I'm also doing a wee makeover to the wee toilet
getting new toilet bowl with twin settings for the flush. This is one of
these new toilets in that it has a slightly elongated bowl and is all
one solid unit with an automatic seat and lid lowering mechanism. I am
also repairing a cracked window and repairing a bit of wall paper that
has come loose. Also getting a new cupboard installed which was found in
the basement. It's a wood cabinet and I'm sure it must have been made
for the toilet as it's the same wood.
You'll note from the above picture that the fridge
now blocks the rear door but I rarely used that. I also plan to
have a new outside door put into the garage and that will be the one I
will mostly use in future. I am hoping to have the door done during
I also got myself an Android smart phone, the HTC
Desire HD. It comes with a larger screen so I can just about use it
without my reading glasses. I did consider the iPhone but the screen is
just too small so I'd need to use my reading glasses to use it.
Towards the end of March I got an email in from
Microsoft telling me IE9 could now be downloaded. So I figured I'd
download their new Internet browser and see how it performed.
Problem was soon after it was installed I started to get weird things
happening to my computer. I then found I had viruses, trojans and
malware on my computer. It took an entire day to clean everything
up. In the end what really sorted it was the product, Hitman Pro,
and after running that I started to make real progress.
There seems to be a vulnerability with Microsoft as
the only other time I download a program from them was when I upgraded
my computer from Vista to Windows 7 professional. Having completed
the upgrade I again found tons of viruses, trojans and malware on my
Anyway... having got rid of all the bad stuff I then
took a system image backup which went through fine but I was sure
exhausted by the end of the day which was just after midnight.
This month I resigned my board position with the
Scottish Studies Foundation. It's not really practical with me
living in Chatham, some three hours away from where they hold their
meetings. I'm also not convinced that they have a real vision for
the Foundation. While they did an excellent job of raising $1 million to
secure a permanent chair of Scottish Studies at the University of Guelph
I have personally not been convinced that is doing much to educate the
people of Canada in their Scottish heritage. Universities tend to be a
bit of a closed shop and really don't like sharing information outside
the University structure.
In fact I am a bit arrogant about this I admit as I
think I am doing a far better job in educating people in Canada and
around the world on the Scottish contribution to Canada and the world. I
am still fully in favour of supporting the McLaughlin Library at the
University of Guelph as they have an amazing collection of Scottish
history material and I do think there needs to be such a collection of
stored knowledge for researchers. Having said that in many ways
the Web has taken the place of libraries as so many books are now
available on the Web so you don't actually need to visit them to read
many books. And of course with rare books in libraries you have to
physically go there and read them in situ as they won't lend these out.
Also I find that the projects supported by the
Foundation are only reaching a few hundred people. The Sail Past
is an excellent event and if you haven't been I'd encourage you to try
it. However there are only two sailings so that limits the
numbers. Many others only attract around a hundred or at best 300
people. Even the big Tartan Day event with the Scot of the Year
award gets at best around 500 people attending and there seems to be
little publicity surrounding it to the wider population.
That's also why I favour supporting the Scottish
Studies Dept. at Simon Fraser University to ensure there is a good
collection of Scottish material on the West coast of Canada. Canada is
such a huge country that it makes it very difficult to travel from the
West of Canada to Guelph.
Most of the Foundation board members are retired and
thus don't have that much influence to the wider Canadian population. As
one put it to me... when you run a company you have loads of influential
contacts but when you retire you lose most of them.
I also found that using email to communicate with the
board members was a waste of time. You rarely got a reply and so I found
I could contribute little and thus my resignation.
The end of March also got me a visit from a
contractor representing my insurance company. If you have been reading
this journal you'll know a car ran into the porch and thus destroyed the
main pillar supporting my porch. Well since that was fixed the
porch has settled is thus some of the wooden joints are coming apart.
I think the main problem was down to the contractor that re-built the
supporting pillar. Anyway this contactor is coming to fix the support
issue in April at no charge to myself.
On a business basis we have been talking to new
Telco's about our bandwidth. It seems that we should be able to double
our bandwidth and at the same time half the price. This will allow us
the do streaming video which will be a definite plus for the business.
This will reflect a saving of some $500 a month so certainly a
Our Electric Scotland Community saw some good new
members joining and how every day you can be assured of some interesting
new messages going onto the community. We have worked to ensure
that it is more solid from an operational point of view. We
installed a new arcade system which now seems to work as it should in
that it is saving the high scores. The other system would often fail to
do this and often reported that you didn't have permission to save your
high score and so that is now fixed. We also removed the "Front Page" as
this was a CMS (Content Management System) which we were not using. And
we removed the Links system as that also wasn't working as it should.
We have identified a new links system which we'll be trying out next
We now only have one problem to fix and that is to
our Postcard program. It works fine if you are sending out a
postcard right away but for some reason if you schedule the card to be
sent at a later date this is not working. So... we're trying to
fix that and when fixed the system will be spot on. It will then be down
to us adding in some new functionality.
So that about sums up this first quarter of 2011. The
highlight was obviously my trip to Vancouver and also doing the upgrades
to the house.