Thursday, July 02, 2015

Finally Finished The First Draft!

It's been a long time coming, but tonight I completed the initial draft of my fifth novel.  It's still fairly unpolished, and has sections that I need to discuss with my brother Richard yet, but the entire story is now down 'on paper' and complete.  I know everything that happens, all of the characters' fates, and what it all means.  Always a really good feeling!

Details, such as the title and back cover blurb, will be forthcoming over the summer.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Brain Teasers Are Fun

Whenever I'm stupid enough to think that I'm smart, a brain teaser like this usually comes along and brings me back down to Earth:

There are 3 light switches on a wall in the basement.  One of them turns on a lamp that's up in the attic.  You can manipulate the 3 switches as much as you want, but you're only allowed one trip up to the attic to see if the lamp's on.  How do you figure out which of the 3 switches works turns on the lamp?

I thought about this for several minutes but couldn't solve it.  However, like all the best puzzles, once I saw the solution I realized it was perfect and that I could've (theoretically) come up with it, since there were no absurd assumptions or tricks involved.

Can you solve it?  Leave a comment with your solution if you have one.  I'll post the 'real' solution in a comment sometime later (though other solutions are certainly possible).

[This came courtesy of BoingBoing and The Guardian website.]

Monday, June 22, 2015

Calling Out America's Anti-Intellectualism And Its Cost

Here's a really great Psychology Today article detailing many of the ways in which the U.S. is embracing ignorance and paying a high price for doing so.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Edward Snowden: 21st Century Hero?

In the two years since Snowden first gained notoriety by releasing huge volumes of information about the National Security Agency's data-gathering techniques, I've had this creeping feeling that he may just become one of this century's most important heroic figures.  I've seen a couple of interviews with him, read a few articles about him, and now there's the New York Times op-ed that he penned last week... and everything I 've learned about Snowden makes me believe that he did was he did for the noblest of reasons.  It's hard to imagine any way in which he's benefitted by his actions, although I suppose for some, gaining celebrity would be justification enough.  I don't get that vibe off him, though.  As he says in the NYT article, he put his privileged lifestyle at risk and wasn't even confident that anything worthwhile would come of the risk he took.  I think it's possible that 20 years from now we'll look back at the revelations he provided into what the US government (and others) have been doing in the 21st century and realize just how critical it was that all of that spying came to light when it did.

I guess only time will tell how history will remember the man, but my money's on 'hero,' rather than 'villain.'

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Joining The Costco Movement

Two recent discoveries have led us to finally get a Costco membership after years of resisting the urge.

The first was that I've been hearing Costco held up as an example of a big chain store that actually treats its employees half-decently, unlike Walmart (which I've always refused to shop at).  I'd always assumed it was just as lousy an employer as Walmart but apparently it manages to offer discounted prices while still allowing its workers to earn a living wage.  Yay for Costco!

Also, our local 'Great Canadian Superstore' has gone downhill considerably over the past year or two, especially in terms of keeping their shelves well-stocked with the items I'm most likely to buy (bread, wraps, bagels, various brands of frozen foods, etc.).  The joke in our household has become that we'd better not like anything we buy there too much or else they'll soon stop carrying it.  It's gotten to the point where about half the time I go there to get a fresh loaf of bread I come home empty-handed, either because there wasn't any to be found at all or because whatever was there had a Best Before Date that was only a day or two out from the present.  I eat a fair bit of bread but even so, I need it to last for at least a week!

All of which primed me for saying to Vicki this week, "If you're at all interested in getting a Costco membership, it's fine by me..."  Needless to say, it wasn't long at all before she came home with one!  One of her first purchases was a big roll of plastic wrap (like our sister-in-law Meena has!) that will hopefully put an end to me cursing the crappy Glad Wrap that tangles up in my hands and never clings to anything I put it on.  She also bought a whole lot of pork (tenderloin and roasts) that we'll be enjoying all through the summer, based on the size of it.

Next week, I'm going to see if I can find bread at Costco, though Vicki's already warned me that I'll probably have to buy two loaves at a time.  Even so, that'd still be better than not being able to buy any at the so-called Superstore.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Taking A Twitter Break

It might seem I've been taking a blogging break, given the dearth of posts here lately... but really I just haven't had much to say.  Life has been good of late, as it often is, and that makes for boring updates I think.

But the one little kernel of news I thought I should record for posterity is that I closed my Twitter tab in the browser several days ago and haven't yet felt inclined to re-open it.  I'm not a Twitter-hater in general, but it does certainly seem to skew quite heavily to the noise side of the signal-to-noise scale sometimes, and so I'm taking a break from it.  How long it will last, I can't say.  But so far I've been enjoying not knowing what everyone else is talking about, not reading the same tired, old attempts to be topical and cool, and not wasting even a single moment of my day skimming through the cruft, looking for something to reward my attention.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Pool Season 2015 Now Officially Open

With the sudden arrival of summer today (seems like just last week it was winter!), we bit the bullet this morning and began the chore of opening the pool.  As of right now, the winter cover is off, cleaned and ready to be packed away for 4 or 5 months; a lot (but certainly not all) of the algae and worms have been vacuumed off the bottom of the pool; the water that was oily black 8 hours ago is now light blue in the shallow end and nearly-light green in the deep end, thanks to 2 kg of chlorine having been added; and the water temp is up from 55 F to 60 F, courtesy of our 4-year-old heater that started up perfectly on the first try.  Tomorrow we'll do one more vacuum of the deep end and then unleash the robot on it to do numerous passes without any human guidance (we just have to clean out its filter on a regular basis as it gets clogged quickly this time of year).

Optimistically, if all goes well, I could see taking a dip by the weekend.  Of course, where pools are concerned, things rarely go all well.  But a guy can always dream, can't he?

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Poopy Bird Deterrents In Place

After last year's successful foray against the annual poopy bird crapfest, we believe we've found a winning strategy and so of course we're deploying it again this year.  The strings are up, zigzagging across the (still-closed) pool, and hopefully they'll be enough to keep the migrating grackles from dropping the feces of their young onto our deck.  We'll know within the next few weeks, anyway.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Potentially Huge Breakthrough For Alzheimer's Discovered

This news out of Australia seems extremely promising: a team there has discovered a way to use ultrasound waves to break up the material that blocks the neurons in Alzheimer's patients and causes their memory issues.  Tests with lab rats saw improved memory functions in 75% of the treated animals, which is an amazingly good result.  Considering how devastating this disease is to so many elderly men and women and their loved ones, this could prove to be a game-changer, for sure.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Yet Another Study Finds No Link Between Vaccination Rates And Autism

Almost 100,000 children aged 2 thru 5 were included in the latest study, which once again found no link between vaccination rates for MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) and the occurrence of autism.  In other words, unvaccinated children are as likely to be diagnosed with autism as vaccinated ones are.  This is the same result that every study on the topic has found, with the exception of the one, discredited bit of 'research' that kicked off this whole anti-vaccination nonsense.  The great thing about science is that it's repeatable, and therefore by definition anything that isn't repeatable ain't science.  It's just too bad there's so many gullible parents out there who apparently didn't learn the first thing about how science works during high school, as they're now endangering everyone else around them with their stupidity. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

My Long Wait Is Almost Over

On this, the first day of Daredevil being available on Netflix, I  just ordered 2 tickets for Avengers: Age of Ultron for the night of its premiere, Friday, May 1st.  We're going to see it at the VIP theatre, reserved seats, and hopefully avoid having any of its surprises spoiled beforehand.  I'm ridiculously excited about this movie, just as I was for the first Avengers flick, and it didn't disappoint... at all!

Just 21 days to go now...

Monday, March 23, 2015

Still Biking At 52

I got my first bike ride of the year in today, pedaling my 2-year-old Rideau downtown to drop off my income tax return while it was -4 C (-8 C with the wind chill).  I had worried that too much of the way there would still be under ice or snow, but really the only portion like that was the final little park before the King Street bridge (right downtown).  I took a side street off Wharncliffe to bypass that section and made it to the bridge just fine.

I expect that every subsequent ride I'll make over the next 7 or 8 months will be warmer than today's, but it's still good to get that first one out of the way.  Or, as I always think to myself, "Not bad for an old guy." 

Friday, March 13, 2015

My All-Canadian Wife

A little less than 2 years ago, Vicki received her Canadian citizenship after living here for nearly 40 years.  Then, last June, her mother Elinor passed away after a year-long battle with failing health.  Not long after that, Vicki made the decision to renounce her U.S. citizenship, in part because Elly had been her strongest tie to the country of her birth, and in part because the time required to file U.S. income tax returns and other U.S. documentation each year was onerous.

It was a bizarre, convoluted process, including a trip to the U.S. consulate in Toronto last August that ended up being entirely wasted, but today we received the documentation in the mail making it official: Vicki is now 100% Canadian, having successfully relinquished her U.S citizenship.  She says she's a little sad about the loss but mostly feels good to be out from under the unique bureaucratic workload that America imposes upon its citizens living abroad. 

I told her that, after test-driving Canada for the past four decades, she shouldn't have anything to worry about.  After all: Canada's awesome, eh?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The New 52

Well, I've made it to another milestone, turning 52 today.  I had a wonderful day, starting with Vicki joining me for my Tuesday yoga class, and ending with the two of us watching one of the last House M.D. episodes together on Netflix (just 3 to go, now).  In between those two thrills, I also got homemade brownies, a new hoodie and T-shirt, take-out fish & chips for dinner, another awesome viewing of The Avengers on Blu-Ray and even a Rangers win over the hated Islanders (which I could've watched on TV but opted for the movie instead).  I don't think the day could've been any better, really, thanks to my lovely wife.