Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Elora Gorge

I posted about our visit to Elora/Guelph/St. Jacobs, but I never put up the pictures, since I was in the middle of figuring out what to do with my photos account. Now that it’s figured out, here are some pictures of Elora Gorge. (I never took any pictures for the rest of the trip.)

Pictures that have a different border have “notes” associated with them, on Flickr.
















Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Quite a while ago—back in September of 2006—Andrea and I visited Uncle Tom’s Cabin, in Dresden. I never got around to putting up the pictures, but since I’ve been playing around with Flickr, I guess now’s as good a time as any.

Pictures that have a different border have extra “notes” associated with them, on Flickr.





























For future trips, I don’t know if I’ll bother putting all of the pictures up on the blog, or if I’ll just link to the photos in Flickr. (e.g. I could have linked to the Uncle Tom’s Cabin set on Flickr.) Right now I’m just so enamoured with the ability that I’m putting them all up.

Nothing. And pictures. Nothing and pictures.

I was on a conference call as I typed this—actually, it was a series of conference calls—so I had to type quietly. (That doesn’t impact your ability to read this post; I just wanted to share.)

I’ve decided to take some vacation in August. This last week a colleague and I have been covering for my Project Manager, while he’s on vacation, and I’ve decided that I need to take my own vacation, as soon as he gets back. (I’ll stay here for at least a day, when he gets back, to transition, but then I’m heading off.) I’m getting sort of burnt-out, and run-down.

Speaking of which, I’m fairly sure that I’ll be getting sick, this week. I can already feel my body starting to complain, and I have a deployment this weekend, which means I’ll be losing a bunch of sleep. So it’s almost guaranteed that I’ll be sick by Monday.

On an unrelated note, since I’ve got Flickr up and running, here is a picture, from my Flickr account:

That picture is currently my desktop picture, on my work computer. I took it from my balcony, when we were in Barbados—one of those pictures that you really couldn’t plan, it just naturally happened, and came out nice. If you click it, you’ll be taken to Flickr, and you can do things like download it, comment on it, etc. Not really such a big deal—and yet I couldn’t do that, when my photos were on Yahoo! Photos, and it sucked.

Not so impressed? Well, try clicking on this one:
PEC Room_0082.jpg
In this case, when Flickr comes up, if you hover your mouse over certain parts of the picture, I’ve included notes about it. I’m not assuming that I’ll use this feature all that often, but when I do, I’m toying with the idea of changing the picture’s border colour, as I’ve done above, as a visual cue for when it would be [more] worth your while to go to the photo’s Flickr page.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Photos—the last post?

I got my photos moved over to my new Flickr account. I haven’t yet taken advantage of any of the cool new features, though, except to put a little Flash thing in the sidebar. My first step will be to update any posts that are pointing to my old Yahoo! Photos site, and point them to Flickr instead. The good news is that I can now point a link directly to a Flickr “set” instead of just creating a link to my main site, and having to say “click this, then click that, then click the other, to see the photos”.

When I do update the site, and re-point any posts to my Flickr account, I don’t think I’ll bother to re-post, to say that I’m done. I think I’ve put up quite enough posts about photos, by this point, and even I’m getting tired of talking about it.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Photos Redux

I don’t know why I’m so fond of the word “redux” in my blog post titles. Well, true, I’ve only used it twice; but I never used it at all before I started blogging. I’m only about 80% sure that I’m using it properly.

Anyway, I have good news on my Yahoo! Photos situation. I had been holding off on moving my photos to Flickr, because I was hoping that I would get an official email from Rogers, first, explaining the whole situation clearly. I got that email this morning, and the news is just what I’d been hoping for: Rogers Yahoo! customers will get Flickr Pro accounts, as part of their Rogers service. Just like Rogers worked out a deal so that their customers would get unlimited photos on Yahoo! Photos, they’ve worked out a similar deal that their customers would get Flickr Pro accounts.

I don’t actually know what the impact would have been, if I’d only gotten a “normal” Flickr account; what would I have lost? Would I be able to create links to old “albums” or “keywords” or whatever Flickr calls them, or would people only be able to see my newest photos? I was going to get around to looking up the difference between the two types of accounts, but never did. And now I don’t have to.

I don’t know when I’ll get around to moving the photos from the old service into the new service; probably some time when I have a bunch of spare time on my hands, so that I can navigate around Flickr, and get used to it. I already know, or at least am led to believe, that Flickr uses photo “sets” and “collections” instead of albums, like Yahoo! Photos used, so I’ll have to get used to that. I’m really hoping that I don’t have to go in and add each individual photo to a particular “set” or “collection”—I have almost 900 pictures uploaded, and it would take a long time to go back and tag/label them all. Even with tools that let you do bunches of pictures at once, it will take me a long time.

But I’ll get a lot in return, when I do move to Flickr:

  • I’ll be able to put my Flickr photos here on my blog—something I couldn’t do with Yahoo! Photos, and it always really annoyed me
  • I’ll be able to include “notes” on my pictures; I can put a message about a particular part of the picture, and if you hover your mouse over that section, you’ll see the message. (This is more cool than useful, I fully realize.)
  • I’ll be able to indicate where a picture was taken, geographically, so that people can find pictures on Flickr’s map service.
So I’m very excited about the move, overall. I just need to find time to do it…

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

My Book

I was randomly surfing the web yesterday, and I came across Google’s Book Search site. So, being narcissistic, I immediately looked up Beginning XML, to see what I could find. They have it listed at this page.

It’s pretty cool; they have links to places you can buy it, reviews, places on the web that reference the book, and the part that I found the coolest, they have references to my book in other books. If there’s some other book that has Beginning XML in the bibliography, you can click the link, and see the appropriate page from that book, with the reference to Beginning XML highlighted.

Of course, while I was there, I couldn’t stop myself from clicking on the reviews, and reading them. They’re all very positive, except for the first one, which is very critical. (Mostly of the fact that so many of the authors, including myself, thank God in the “About the Authors” section, but there are other critiques in the review as well.) Luckily, it’s a review that I’ve seen before—in fact, I think one of the other “God-thanking” authors forwarded it to me, a long time ago—so I wasn’t shocked by it, but it still hurts, a bit, to read it again.

Actually, for this reason, I tend to avoid reading reviews altogether, if I can. Most of the reviews I’ve read—from both critics and readers—have been positive, but I always hate reading the negative ones. Especially the ones with valid criticisms, those hurt the worst, but even the ones that are negative for the sake of being negative still hurt, on some level. (Even if I don’t always feel that it’s rational to be hurt.) I’m led to believe that a lot of authors tend to avoid reading their own reviews; if I ever take the plunge into writing fiction, I’m sure I’ll avoid reviews all the more.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

More Videos! More Links!

Why, you might be asking, is serna doing nothing today but surfing YouTube? And if you were to ask that, serna might answer that he’s

  1. very sleepy, because he was up most of the night last night
  2. doing a lot of waiting around, for people to get back to him on issues that he thought were important, but apparently they’re not, because nobody feels an urgency about responding
So, with that in mind, I present to you:You’d think with all this time on my hands I’d be creating an entry for the serna Bible Blog, but apparently you’d be wrong…

Super Mega Transform!!!

There are those who say that YouTube is a waste of time. To those people, I say this:

Facebook Links

I had previously mentioned the myriad friends I have who keep inviting me to join Facebook. (I hadn’t yet made up my mind, when I wrote that post, but I since have: I’m not joining Facebook. Find something better to do than asking me to.)

But, since I keep coming across Facebook everywhere I turn, I thought I’d do a search for “facebook” on Google, and post some of the more interesting links I found.

First off, if you don’t know anything about Facebook, you might be interested in a biographical page about the site. Then, if you’re still in a reading mood, there was an article in the Toronto Star, which says that there are more members of Facebook from Toronto than from any other city in the world. (The byline claims that it’s “not just because we’re geeks”, but that still remains to be seen.)

And if you’re still in a reading mood, I found a good article by someone named danah boyd, on privacy, and the fact that privacy is not Boolean, on or off; there are degrees of privacy.

Hey, while we’re on the subject of privacy, you might want to check this out—in fact, I’d suggest that you do! It’s a video—be warned that it starts playing immediately, when it loads; there’s no “play” button or anything—and it talks about who Facebook gets their funding from. I haven’t done any double-checking on their facts; if you’re interested, and/or worried, it shouldn’t be too hard to verify it.

Finally, if you’re feeling silly, there are a bajillion videos on YouTube having to do with Facebook, but I just picked three. To start with, an infomercial parody, which I liked. Then I found two songs—both of which are what I think of, when I picture a Facebook user. Heh. There is the aptly named Facebook Song, and the equally aptly named Facebook.com Song.

Monday, July 23, 2007


If you go to this blog post, by Christine Estima, you’ll see a great “Toronto story”. Maybe not the best Toronto story—who am I to judge?—but I enjoyed reading it.

(Actually, there is more than one story in that post, along with some fond remembrances Christine has of some of her friends back home in T.O. I feel guilty linking to a post that’s somewhat personal, but I feel that it’s worth it, to share the first story with you, my gentle reader. Maybe, to be polite, you should just read the first story, and then stop reading?)

I love living in Toronto, and therefore I love reading stories like this.

Friday, July 20, 2007

No posts this week. And maybe the next.

I know, I know, I haven’t written anything this week. But I put up two posts on Monday; surely that counts for something, right? (I think the serna Bible Blog makes me lazy, when it comes to this blog; because I’m pretty much posting there consistently, every day, on some level it makes me feel that “hey, I’ve already posted today, there’s no need to post again.”)

After we got back from Elora/Guelph/St. Jacobs, Andrea and I were talking, and we both feel that there are a lot of places in Ontario worth visiting. I semi-seriously suggested that we should visit every place in Ontario; not necessarily every single town/village, but… I don’t know. Section it off into pieces, 10km2 or something, and visit each one of those regions.

I don’t think it’s something we’ll end up doing, but if we do, I’m sure I’ll start a “serna Travel Blog” to document it all. And it might even give me a chance to play with the Google Maps API; wouldn’t it be cool if I created a map of Ontario, and marked out all of our travels on it? No? It would just be geeky, and not really helpful? Oh. Never mind then. I’ll just have to find some other excuse^H^H^H^Hreason to play with the Google Maps API…

Anyway, if you think I didn’t write much this week, I’m sure I won’t write anything next week. I don’t have any plans this weekend, so hopefully there won’t be anything to write about on Monday, and I’m pretty sure that I’ll be very busy next week, so I won’t have time to document the mundane details of my life.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Elora/Guelph/St. Jacobs

For no real reason, Andrea and I decided to go away for the weekend. Well, not for the whole weekend; we left Saturday (after getting my car back), and came back Sunday. We didn’t really have any particular reason for going, and nor did we have any particular destination in mind; we just looked for someplace within easy driving distance. A couple of people had suggested Elora Gorge, so that’s where we decided to go.

Unfortunately, when we looked for a place to stay, we could only find bed & breakfast places; no hotels, or inns, or motels, or anything. So we decided to stay in Guelph, instead, at a hotel. It’s within easy driving distance of Elora, so it was fairly win-win. Also, if we wanted to do anything Saturday night, there would be a better chance of someplace in Guelph being open than someplace in Elora.

We drove down on Saturday, and, unfortunately, it was raining. We decided to drop by the gorge anyway, just to orient ourselves and figure out where it was, and then we dropped into the main town of Elora. It’s a very touristy place, with old fashioned-style shops. Although it was still raining, we decided to walk around for a bit, and look in the shops. It was mostly touristy stuff, that I would never bother with, although we did find some really nice leather chairs in one particular store; it was a store with stuff from artisans, and the chairs were made of some nice soft, comfortable, seemingly well-worn leather. (For anyone reading this who’s seen my leather jacket, you will probably understand why I would like chairs made out of seemingly well-worn leather.) From what I know of leather furniture—which is very little—they seemed like the same price as any other leather chairs, but I liked them a lot more. I would have been tempted to buy them, except that:

  • I have no need for them, nor a place to put them
  • With the type of leather that was used, I would have no idea how to care for a chair like that.
Anyway, we eventually headed back to Guelph, to check into our hotel. Luckily, they provide free wifi internet, so we got on the web, and started looking for a place we could have supper.

And, before I continue, let me just praise the people who built the guelph.ca website, for their very cool usage of Google Maps! They have a section on where you can go in Guelph for eating and drinking, and they have a link to an online map; if you click it, it brings up Guelph in Google Maps, and they’ve highlighted all of the restaurants they’re listing!

They also used Google for their bus routes; for any of the bus routes listed on their maps page, they have a PDF version of the map, but they also have a link to Google Maps, where they’ve mapped out all of the bus stops, and show the bus route along those stops. (They used a technology called GPS Visualizer for this.)

Anyway, back to the story. We found a place called the Babel Fish Bistro, which was ironic, because Andrea had just seen that restaurant on Restaurant Makeover! So we went there, and had a very nice dinner. I think Andrea found it kind of neat to actually be in one of the restaurants she’d seen on the show. (I didn’t see the episode, so it had no effect on me…)

The next day was sunny, so we went back to Elora Gorge. (I have pictures, but I haven’t uploaded them yet. I’m putting it off, a bit, because of Yahoo! Photos closing down; I’ll have to do a bunch of moving around, at some point.) We then decided to stop by St. Jacobs Farmer’s Market, since it wasn’t too far away. They actually have two farmer’s markets: one that’s open on Thursdays and Saturdays, and one that’s open on Saturdays and Sundays. So of course we had to go to the only one open on Sundays, even though the other one is, I think, better. (That is, it has more shops to choose from.)

We didn’t buy much—some fresh blueberries and some cheap John le Carré novels for me—but it was fun. And then on into St. Jacobs itself, which, like Elora, is very touristy. If I remember correctly, Andrea bought some books there, too, but other than that, I don’t think we bought anything.

Overall, it was a fun trip, but, in retrospect, it probably would have been better if we’d gone to St. Jacobs Market on Saturday, and left Elora for Sunday. Since the “better” farmer’s market is open Saturday, we could have gone there when it was raining, and then gone to Elora’s shops and the gorge when it was sunny.

My Car

Warning: This post will be long, and there is a good chance that it will turn into a rant. But I’ll try to make it as matter-of-fact as I can.

I had really been hoping to avoid this, but alas, it was not meant to be. I’ve been having car troubles again. I’d wanted to be able to get my new car, before having to dump more money into the old one, but that’s not going to happen soon enough. Here’s what happened:

My car had been having some trouble starting, lately. I would turn the key and nothing would happen except for a loud click, and then all of the dashboard lights (and the A/C) would come on, but the engine wouldn’t start. But then I’d turn the key again, and it would turn over, and everyone would be happy. I would foolishly forget about it, until the next time it happened.

Well, last Saturday, we were supposed to go home and visit with my family. We drove to the gas station—with no trouble starting—got gas, and then were going to head on our way, when… you guessed it. The car wouldn’t start. But this time, no matter how many times I turned the key, nothing happened. We finally managed to get it into neutral, and push it out of the way so that other cars could get gas, and I had to call for a tow.

The tow truck came, and brought me and my dead car to the dealer’s. Luckily, we were close to home, so Andrea just walked home, rather than crowding into the tow truck with myself and the other two guys.

I was lucky that the shop at my dealer’s was open. They weren’t able to fix the car right away, but at least I could talk to the guy and explain the problem. I’m embarrassed to say that I also, while I was there, had the summer tires put back on the car. Yes, you read that right, people: It was July, and I still had my winter tires on the car. But this time, I told them that I didn’t want them to store the winter tires; I was planning to sell the car, so no sense leaving the tires at the dealer anymore.

Ironically enough, while I was there, there was another guy getting an oil change on his car, and they had a conversation similar to this:

  • The Conversation
  • The Guy
  • (joking)
  • You know, if I keep getting lousy service here, I’m gonna get rid of this car and just get myself a Honda.
  • The Dealer
  • (also joking)
  • Hey, go ahead, and good riddance! I mean, if you want to pay that much more money for repairs and maintenance.
  • The Guy
  • (turning serious)
  • But you know, my brother has a Honda—his whole family has Hondas, actually—and, get this, they actually claim that they pay less for repairs than people with American cars do!
I don’t remember what the dealer said in response to that, but it was something along the lines that the guy’s brother didn’t know what he was talking about. I had to exert a lot of self-control to keep myself from laughing. Were they serious? Did they really believe that it costs more to maintain a Honda than a GM? Seriously? Anyone I’ve known who’s had a Honda would tell you the opposite. I know, from my own experience, that my Cavalier has spent a lot of time up on the hook, because of various problems. The conversation was especially funny since I’m currently in the process of getting a Honda myself. Well… in the process of getting into the process.

Fast-forward to Monday. The dealer called me, and told me that the problem was the battery. I didn’t believe him; how could it be the battery? When I turned the key, the battery was the only thing that was working! All of the lights on the dash came on, even the A/C came on—how could it be the battery? Unfortunately, I don’t know from cars; he just said hey, they have this test, and they ran it on the battery, and he had the results in front of him, and the results said that the battery needed to be replaced. So I said okay; replace the battery. But when you’ve replaced it, check the starter, too. He said that of course he would.

I picked the car up on Monday afternoon, and it seemed to be working.

Fast-forward to Friday. I was leaving work, a bit early, and had a coworker with me. I’d promised to give her a ride home, because she takes the TTC; she could get home in 30 minutes, instead of an hour or two, like usual. I don’t get to drive her home very often, because it’s out of my way, but since I wasn’t picking up Andrea after work, I had a chance to help her out. But when we got into the car, and I turned the key to hear the familiar click, my heart sank. (Incidentally, I realize that most of this paragraph, so far, has been irrelevant. I only mention it because it was embarrassing to have someone else in the car with me, when the car died.) We sat in the car, for a few minutes, and I kept trying every once in a while, before we gave up, and she took the bus home.

I went back up to my desk, to call the dealer, and see what they were going to do about it. As it turns out, nothing.
  • The Conversation with the Dealer
  • serna
  • Hi. I had my car in on Saturday, because it wouldn’t start.
  • Dealer
  • Yes, I remember you.
  • serna
  • It’s happening again. The car won’t start, with the same symptoms as it had last time, and I’m wondering what you’re going to do about it.
  • Dealer
  • I’m not sure what you mean by “what I’m going to do about it.” My tests showed that the battery needed to be replaced, so I replaced it. I have the test results right here.
  • serna
  • And once you replaced the battery, you tested the starter again?
  • Dealer
  • Yes. Look, why don’t you have the car towed back again, and we’ll take another look at it—
  • serna
  • I’m across the city.
  • Dealer
  • Oh. I guess that’s too far, for the tow truck. Maybe you can bring it to another dealer, and if it turns out that we put in a defective battery, then it’ll be covered by the warranty, and they’ll replace it.
That’s all paraphrased, of course. So, in other words, he feels he did what he was supposed to, by replacing the battery, so if there’s something else wrong with the car, well then, that’s not his fault.

At this point, I was feeling pretty impotent. I told him that I didn’t think it was the battery; I told him that I thought it was the starter. But what do I know about cars, right? He seemed to have all of the cards.

So I want back down to the parking lot, and, after trying to start it again (and again, and again), I finally gave in, and called a tow truck. When the tow truck got there, he had me try it again, in case it just needed a jump start or something, but when I turned the key, he only had to hear it once: “Yep, that’s the starter alright.” This time, I had it brought to a Canadian Tire, instead of the dealer. They told me they couldn’t look at it right away—by this time, it was about 5:30—but that they’d have it fixed first thing Saturday. I got a call a couple of hours later, confirming that yes, it was the starter. They’d have it replaced first thing in the morning, and it would probably be ready about 8:30 or 9:00.

Which is what happened. They replaced the starter, which cost less than the dealer had charged for replacing the battery. First thing Saturday morning, I had my car back.

So we’ve made a decision: We’re going to stop by the Honda dealership, and begin work on getting our hands on a new car. In fact, we’re going to go today, after work. We just don’t want the hassle of dealing with my old car anymore—who knows when it will break down next? We’d been waiting for the chance to test drive a hybrid, before taking the plunge, but I don’t know how much longer that’s going to take. And it’s not like we have any other options, right now; if we want to get a hybrid, our only realistic choice is the Civic.

Get ready to read a post, probably about six months from now, when I lament my stupidity, for buying a car without test driving it…

Friday, July 13, 2007


I’ve just found out that Yahoo! is going to discontinue their Yahoo! Photos service. Anyone who has photos on Yahoo! Photos will have to move their photos to another service—which is bad news for me, because Rogers has a deal with Yahoo!, and I’d been getting unlimited photo storage through Yahoo! for my pictures. (I’ve linked to my photos site a few times, on this blog.)

Now, this isn’t all bad news. I’d been frustrated with the Yahoo! Photos site for a while, because I can’t upload a picture there and then put it on my blog—the best I can do is give someone a link to my main Photos page, and then say “now go to this particular folder, and the pictures are all in there.” (For example, when I went to Venezuela, and then wanted to put up the pictures, I had to do this.) One of my options will be to migrate my photos to a site like Flickr, which has more functionality than what Yahoo! Photos has, and will make it easier to share my pictures.

However, based on the very limited research I’ve done into it, I don’t think I’ll be getting unlimited photo storage on Flickr for free, just because I’m a Rogers customer, like I did with Yahoo! Photos. (There is a rumour that I might get a 3 month trial subscription to their “Pro” account, but I haven’t verified, yet.) This may be okay; the free Flickr account might suit my needs, especially since I don’t upload photos very often. But I’ll need to research, and see what the limitations are of a free Flickr account.

In any event, I’m going to have to go back through my previous posts, and look for links to my Yahoo! Photos page, which will be frustrating, boring, and annoying, all at once.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Stains Revisited

First off, for anyone who read my last post, about my stained pants, you’ll be happy to know that I was able to slip into the men’s room and clean them off. (I had to prepare two paper towels—one wet and one dry—go into one of the stalls, and then wipe as much of the stain off as I could.) The results weren’t perfect, but the stain was removed much better than I would have assumed. If someone were to look very closely, they probably still would have seen the stain, but, frankly, there’s not a person in the world who wants to look that closely at my posterior.

Those of you who read my blog religiously, day after day, will remember that this isn’t the first time I’ve spilled something on myself. (I wrote about it in a previous post, which was also titled “Coffee”. I should really put more thought into my titles.)

But here’s the weird part: Although I keep spilling things on myself, for some reason, I keep managing to clean the stains off, with nothing but water and paper towels. I guess all of my clothes are made out of some kind of space-age material, that repels stains.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Andrea made muffins again on the weekend. They’re good—she’s getting very good at making muffins.

That might seem like an isolated fact, but bear with me, I’m going somewhere with this.

After my experiment on Friday, trying to drink more water, I wasn’t sure if I would carry the experiment on today, or if I would give it up. To do it properly, of course, I’d probably have to give up coffee, too, because I believe coffee dehydrates you. But I wasn’t sure if I could do it.

Don’t yet see the connection? Read on…

On my way in to the office, this morning, I was eating one of Andrea’s muffins, and a piece fell off, and landed between my legs. I didn’t think much of it, but when I got to the office, I looked down, and saw that there was a big brown mark on the seat below me. Apparently it was a fairly big piece of muffin. And then I looked closer at the location of the stain, did some mental calculations, and started to worry. It was in a bad place.

So when I got upstairs, I stopped by the men’s room, which, luckily, has a big full-length mirror, and confirmed my worst fears: There is a stain on my pants, in a bad place.

So this is where the coffee comes in: There’s no way I’m going downstairs to Tim Horton’s today, looking like I’ve soiled myself.

Monday, July 09, 2007


I’m not normally one to post cleaning tips to my blog, but what the heck, it’s something to write about.

I’ve been worried about the amount of chemicals Andrea and I dump down the drain, whenever we clean, especially when I clean the bathrooms. (Not to mention, of course, the number of chemicals that we, as a nation, dump down the drain. Or the number of chemicals dumped in North America.) So, when I cleaned the bathrooms yesterday, I decided to use vinegar, instead of cleansers, just to see how well it would work. If you haven’t heard of this, vinegar can be used in place of cleansers in many instances; washing floors, cleaning sinks, etc. (Ask your grandparents; they probably used vinegar all the time, before the chemicals became so popular.)

Normally, I mostly use Murphy’s Oil Soap for cleaning—which I hope isn’t too harsh—but for some jobs, including the tub, I use CLR Kitchen & Bathroom. (Or just plain CLR, for some of the really nasty stuff, but this is rare.) This time, instead, I decided to use a mixture of 50% water and 50% vinegar for most of the work, and full-strength vinegar to do the tub. (For the floors, the mixture was probably a bit more weak than 50/50.)

What I was expecting was that the vinegar would work fairly well, but that I’d have to do a bit more scrubbing than I had with the chemicals; which I’m fine with, really. I’d rather use elbow grease and be more friendly to the environment, than save myself five minutes by using chemicals. And that was true, sort of; it was a bit more work to scrub the tub with vinegar, even using it full-strength, than it had been with CLR Kitchen & Bathroom. But for most of the work, including the sinks, toilets, floors, and shower tiles, using vinegar was exactly the same as using the cleansers I’d used before. It was no harder to clean those surfaces with vinegar than it had been with Murphy’s. (In fact, the vinegar might have worked better on the tile grout than Murphy’s had.)

In a nutshell, I’m sold. I’ll be using vinegar to clean my bathrooms, from now on, instead of cleansers. We also put some in a spray bottle, again using a mixture of 50% vinegar to 50% water, and Andrea used that for cleaning the kitchen. Not only will we be pouring less chemicals down the drain, but we’ll also

  • Save money; vinegar is cheaper than cleansers. (You can get big 4L jugs of the stuff; and you can get away with using the no-name brands, too. It's not like you need name-brand vinegar to clean your toilets…)
  • Feel safe to eat off of our counters; it’s to the point that I won’t eat any food that falls on the counter, anymore, because I’m afraid of eating any CLR Kitchen & Bathroom residue that might be there. If we use vinegar, instead, I won’t have that worry.
  • Not feel so gross, after cleaning the bathrooms. Normally, when I finish cleaning, I feel like I’m covered in chemicals, but I didn’t feel that way yesterday.
  • No longer have the smell of chemicals in our bathrooms, after cleaning. Actually, for that matter, there’s not even really a strong vinegar smell; only after cleaning the tub, using the vinegar full-strength, was there a vinegar smell, and that went away completely when the vinegar dried. Whereas, when I cleaned with chemicals, I had to turn on the bathroom fans, and leave them on for hours, for the smell to go away.
Incidentally, I read an article yesterday, talking about using vinegar for cleaning. It mentioned that a lot of people had given up on using vinegar, because they’d cleaned their windows with it, and it had left streaks. If you’ve had this problem, the problem is not with the vinegar, it’s with the Windex that you’ve probably been using on your windows up until now; Windex leaves a film of wax on the windows, and this is what’s streaking. If you’d like to switch to vinegar, use a mixture of vinegar and water, but then add in some dishwashing soap, to the mixture, which will help to remove the wax. After one or two washings (I’m guessing), when the wax is gone, you can go to just vinegar and water, for cleaning the windows, and you won’t get the streaks.

Okay, I admit, it. This wasn’t a post about cleaning. It was a subversive attempt to get people to use vinegar instead of cleansers, to try and help the environment. But it’s not like there’s a downside to it… If you can save money, have no more work to do than you did before—except for your tub, if it’s like mine—and help the environment, it’s win-win-win, right?

Movie Review: SiCKO

What’s this? A movie review for a movie that’s still in the theatres? I know, kids, I’m scared too.

We went and saw SiCKO, by Michael Moore, on Saturday. I liked it, but don’t have much to say. This time around, Moore is taking a more anecdotal approach; instead of giving us a lot of facts and figures about the health care industry in America, he gives us just a few facts and figures, and then spends a lot of time showing the effects on normal Americans. Much of the movie seems to be spent trying to convince Americans that the word “socialism” isn’t necessarily a bad thing; they have socialized police, and fire departments, and schools, so why not socialized health care?

My one concern about the movie, is purely the concern of a Canadian: Moore spends a bit of time comparing the American health care system to the British system, and a lot of time comparing it to the Canadian and French systems. I worry that this emphasis on the Canadian system, and how much better it is than the American system, is going to make us complacent. I mean, let’s face it, we already have a superiority complex, when comparing our health care to theirs, but we don’t seem to pay attention to the fact that our system is being eroded in the same way that the American system was. (We just started later than they did.) Privatization has already begun here in Canada. If Moore’s movie helps Canadians to stand up, and say “let’s not let our system become like theirs”, then I’m happy. But if Moore’s movie makes Canadians think “Phew! I don’t have to worry about health care, because Michael Moore says our health care system is great!” then we have a problem.

Friday, July 06, 2007


I’ve decided that I—like most people—don’t drink enough water. So I’m going to try and drink more. Unfortunately, I’m probably not going to; I’ll forget all about it by Monday.

But I’ve at least made a start, today: I put reminders in my calendar, every hour on the hour for the entire working day, to go and get myself a drink of water.

Isn’t that just the most pathetic thing you’ve read today? It’ll get even more pathetic if I have to do the same thing on Monday, and then Tuesday, and then…

Thursday, July 05, 2007


I have a very minor bone to pick with the way spell check works in Microsoft Outlook. It’s with the word “versus” which is normally abbreviated to “vs.” (that is, v-s-period). My problem is illustrated in the following screenshot:

As you can see, the text of my email is “This vs. that.” But when Outlook spell checks the text, it only looks at the “vs” and doesn’t look at the period; so it thinks that there is a typo, and suggests that you replace the word with “vs.” However, if you were to do so, you would end up with “This vs.. that.”

As I said, this is a very minor inconvenience. But it’s one that’s existed since Outlook 97 or so, and they’ve never solved it.

Random Thoughts

  • This is the 8th post I’ve written that was either titled “Random Thoughts”, or otherwise included the phrase “random thoughts” in the title.
  • There are many stupid people in the world. I know some of them.
  • I did a quick search to see how many times I’ve blogged about the fact that I was bored, and it was too many to count.
  • As a blogger, I tend to blog about blogging, and other bloggers. (I very much enjoyed typing that sentence.) Actually, I don’t blog about other bloggers that often, but it can happen. In the past, I’ve mentioned various blogs that I started reading, and I’ve realized that I don’t actively read any of them anymore. (There are others I’m currently actively reading, but none of the ones I’ve mentioned on my blog are in my Live Bookmarks anymore.)
  • Did I mention boredom? Oh, yes I did. Good.
  • I should stop now, and post this, otherwise it will get too long, and nobody will want to take the time to read it.
  • Well, technically, if I’m so concerned about my blog readers, I shouldn’t post this at all, so as not to waste anybody’s time. So if you’re reading this, and you’re not me, then I’m obviously more concerned with relieving my boredom than I am with saving you from boredom.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Prince Edward County

Edited post

We went away for the weekend, to Prince Edward County (which I’m abbreviating to PEC in this post). (Be warned, if you’re tempted to click that link, that it will start playing music.) Andrea was originally planning to go to the Montreal Jazz Festival on the weekend, but everyone who was supposed to go with her backed out, so she had the weekend free, and we decided to take advantage of it and go away somewhere. The question was: where? So we just hunted around for places we could go in Ontario, and came across PEC.

Our first step was to book a hotel, or a bed & breakfast, or an inn, or a motel, or something. Unfortunately, it was the long weekend, and we didn’t start looking for places to stay until Thursday evening, so we were afraid that there wouldn’t be anything free. But Andrea managed to get us a room at a winery. They actually had a very nice deal, which included dinners, but they were booked up, and we couldn’t get it; the only room they had free was their super-mega-wonderful-holycowwhataroom room. It was pretty expensive, but we decided to go ahead and treat ourselves.

And I must say, the room was breath-taking. It was huge, with two bathrooms, two fireplaces, three TVs, etc. etc. The inn itself was pretty disappointing—that is, the way it was run. (That’s why I’m not posting a link to their web site.) But the room… wow.

As for the rest of the trip, there isn’t much to say. I have a few pictures, up on my pictures site, although not too many. (There are two albums, one called PEC, and one called PEC Room, which is devoted to pictures of our room. Yes, I was that impressed with it.) It really was enjoyable, and the scenery was great. (We drove about 260–270km during the three days and two nights we were there. I wished, numerous times, that we’d had our hybrid car, for the trip.)

I’m trying to think of highlights, but there aren’t really that many.

Our trip up, on Saturday afternoon, was pretty horrendous. I’d been hoping that traffic wouldn’t be so bad, on Saturday, that everyone who was leaving the city for the long weekend would have left Friday night, but apparently they didn’t. Traffic was jammed from Toronto all the way to Belleville.

We had dinner at a couple of places that I really liked:
  • The Acoustic Bar & Grill, in Picton, was a nice place. They have live entertainment, which consists of somebody with a guitar, playing blues, jazz, or folk music. We went in expecting the music to be mediocre, but we were both impressed with the guy who was playing when we went there.
  • The Devonshire was a really nice restaurant. Since we’d been staying at a winery, and had taken a wine tour, and had bought a bottle of wine, and just generally had wine on the brain, we decided that we should go to a nice restaurant, that would serve wine, and match it up with some good food. Unfortunately, I don’t know from wine, so I was leaning on my waiter to recommend something to go with my steak, and he didn’t feel overly qualified to do so. Luckily, the steak they made was amazing, so any wine would have tasted good with it. (The waiter chose a wine that was “light, with a peppery after taste”, which seemed to work well.)
We also had lunch at a place which disappointed me, called Buddha Dog. They serve home-made hot dogs, where all of the ingredients—the meats, the bread for the buns, etc.—are grown locally in PEC. And I was pleasantly surprised, when we went in, when I saw the price was only $1.50. But then we found out why: The things were tiny.

One of the sights I was really looking forward to seeing was the Lake on the Mountain. Any sites about PEC tend to feature pictures of Lake on the Mountain all over the place, and it looked pretty beautiful, so I was looking forward to seeing it. As it turns out, it wasn’t quite as amazing up close—it’s just a lake. To get the full effect, I guess you’d have to hire some kind of aircraft, and see it from above. (I tried to take a series of pictures, that I could join together as a single “panorama” picture, but it didn’t work. I was hoping the tool I was using—IrfanView—would somehow intelligently see the overlap between each picture, and seamlessly join them together, but it didn’t. I guess I could try again, with Photoshop, since Andrea has that installed on the computer at home.)

And then the drive back to Toronto on Monday, which I was expecting to be even worse than Saturday’s drive, turned out not to be that bad. I mean, we didn’t fly; there was quite a bit of traffic. But neither were we driving too slow; we averaged around 100km/hour.

I wish I could remember more, to post about. I’m fairly sure that after I click Submit, and post this blog entry, I’ll remember something else I wanted to write about.

Blame Canada