Monday, September 29, 2008

Added some RAM

My PC has been running a bit sluggish lately. I added some new software to my PC and I think that has taxed it.

I bought my home PC used from Facebook marketplace. It was from a nice Cape Breton grandmother. It's a nice PC, but around 3-4 years old now I'd estimate. It had 750 Mb of RAM, which is a tick light. So I decided to by some RAM. I went to Robotnik in Bayers Lake. That was a very enjoyable place to go. The staff there were enthusiastic and really very knowledgeable.

They also recommended that I check for viruses and such. That was honest of them. I'm sure sometimes people come into their store looking for RAM or whatever when their real problem is their PC is slowed down by viruses, spyware, adware, crapware, zombies.

I think the trick to buying RAM [besides going to Robotnik], is when you go to the store is to just pop out one of the RAM cards from your PC and take that up. I did that and the guy at Robotnik looked at it and instantly recognized it and knew what would fit in my slots. My PC is OK, it does have 3 RAM slots which is pretty good.

I ended up buying a 1 Gb RAM card for $50. Not a bad price. It's kind of funny because on the RAM card I popped out of my PC it was a 512 Mb card which still had its original sticker price on which was $100. So RAM today is 4 times as affordable now as when this PC was built.

So now I'm up to a healthier 1.5 Gb of RAM. Although I have 3 RAM slots on my PC, I took out a 250 Mb RAM card and replaced it with the 1 Gb RAM I bought. I ended up putting the 250 Mb RAM into a different underpowered computer my kids use which I think would benefit more from the extra 250 Mb than my computer would.

And I'm glad my PC is indeed running somewhat faster. However the software I installed is still taxing my system. I can get by with it the way it is, but I'm now leaning toward upgrading the entire system to a dual core processor which is what the software recommends. It seems I'm becoming something of an accidental power user/gamer.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

New shoes

I picked up some new shoes recently. I had already tossed out my old casual shoes so it was time for a change.

I ended up getting Clarks XTR lite. They are pretty light and comfortable. I saved some time by just going straight to the Shoe Company. As usual there was a good selection and the staff was helpful and knowledgable but stayed out of the way when I just wanted to look. It's a consistent quality shopping experience there.

The sizing seems a bit strange on the Clarks. I ended up getting a 9.5 after trying on 10.5 and 10. The last time I wore size 9 was around grade 9 so maybe their sizing is a bit different.

They are brown. They don't look too bad. I should get some black casual shoes too but I'll put that off for a while. I hope these last. The previous shoes I had for several years, but they were beat up and I should have tossed them quite a while ago. So see what happens with these. At $89 they are a bit more expensive. I don't wear them as much or as hard as sneakers so they may last.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Voting for Stéphane Dion

There's a federal election coming up in Canada in a few weeks. I think I've decided who to vote for. I'm planning to vote Liberal for Stéphane Dion.

There's a couple of reasons to vote liberal this election. I think Dion has the best scheme for the people of Canada. His plan is to rebalance the tax system by increasing consumption taxes, increasing taxes on activities which harm the environment, and lowering income taxes. That's just what Canada needs at this time, to shift from personal consumption [and personal debt] to the creation of true prosperity through high paying middle class jobs. The total tax each person pays per year will not increase under this scheme.

Lowering income taxes is good at this time. Individual Canadians are way too much in debt. The personal debt to income ratios are far higher than even just 10 years ago. Lower income taxes will put more take home pay in our pockets and make it easier to service our existing debts and reduce our debt loads.

The Conservative scheme to hold the line on income tax and lower consumption taxes [like GST] means people can only see tax relief by spending their money [and of course borrowing to overspend]. This is bad for Canadians.

Dion's scheme puts more emphasis on the environment which has the potential to create a lot of high paying jobs in Canada. Plus improving our environment benefits everyone.

The other reason to vote liberal is the conservative advertising. It is horrible. The attack ads on Dion are amateur and distort his message. What a turn off. If the best you can offer the people of Canada is to attack your principled, honourable opponent with bogus bs attack ads then that's not good enough. We saw right through it when the liberals tried it when they were desperately clinging to power [they barely got away with it in one election; and lost when they tried it in again the next election]. I hope the people of Canada are smart enough to not fall for crude, simplistic, false, American style attack advertising and are able to understand the real issues.

It's good to be a moderate. Historically I've been more of a right winger. After the deficit was eliminated [by the liberals Paul Martin and John Savage it should be noted] that key battle was won and I became more of an independant. Then I had a personal falling out with the social conservative faction a while back so I've been a free agent voter for while.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Mooseheads home opener

I caught the Halifax Mooseheads home opener on Friday. It was an entertaining game, a 6-3 win over Val d'Or.

The Moose are rebuilding this year and Val d'Or isn't very strong as usual. There were a few players I recognized from the past but a number of prominent players from last year are in the NHL now or otherwise moved on.

I ended up getting my ticket from the friend of a season ticket holder. The season ticket holder couldn't make the game and he gave the ticket to another season ticket holder who thought of me as a "will attend" type and indeed I could make it. Thanks, I appreciate it.

In the past I got to see a few games from the luxury skyboxes. That was really nice. My former next door neighbour was in sales and his employer had a box which they would entertain important clients in. When he had an extra seat open my neighbour would sometimes invite me to the games. It was a real treat.

So I had a good seat in the top row of the lower bowl. Which is nice because you can get up just by climbing over the back of your seat and not have to cut in front of anyone to get to the aisle. I like sitting among the regulars, the season ticket holders. They tend to be knowledgeable fans and also know each other.

They had a big ceremony at the start to mark the Moose 15th anniversary. I remember the original home opener in 1994. I was at that game and had a good seat. Hmmm, 15 years. I'd estimate I've seen around 50 Moose home games over that time. It tends to vary. Some years 0-1 games. Other years maybe up to 10. I enjoy the games. I should go to more of them.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

taxes are done

My income tax for this year is finally done. What a relief. It was severely delayed in getting processed this year for a few reasons. Fortunately it is now done.

I came out of it a little bit ahead. A small refund, I'll see less than $1000 out of it. I'm happy with that. I was concerned I'd have to pay in a lot. So I'll call it good.

No big plans for my small windfall. I want to get some RAM for my PC and I should get some casual shoes. That's about it. The rest I'll plan to apply to the debt. And wouldn't the taste just be so sweet to be debt free and able to do whatever I want with the money. I hope to get there someday.

I don't plan to have something like this hanging over me next summer or any summer going forward. I expect and intend the taxes will be much more orderly and well organized in the future. I'm actually somewhat looking forward to next year's. Where I stand today I'm projecting a healthy refund.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Signed up for epost

I recently signed up for epost from Canada Post. My employer uses Ceridian for payroll. They often mention paperless paystubs are available. So I decided to try it out instead of the traditional paper paystubs.

It was fairly easy to get signed up. So I'll see how it goes with the first couple of paycheques. Some of my coworkers use it and they said it was pretty good. It's good to go paperless and help the environment.

A few other bills I get are available on epost too so if it goes well with the paystubs I'll go with epost paperless billing for them as well.

Canada Post did a pretty good job with epost. It does have a slightly clunky feel, not quite as "smooth" as say the President's Choice web banking site or etrade. Still not too bad so far. Althought it's available I don't plan to use it for bill payment, just presentation. I like to use President's Choice banking for my bill payments.

There is one surprising glitch on their site, an example of the clunkiness I guess. On the front page it lets you sign in. However the page is not an HTTPS page; no padlock. I was shocked when I first saw it since it appears your login creds are sent in the clear without encryption.

I did a view source on the epost main HTTP page and I saw that the login form does indeed post to a secure HTTPS site. Still if a site has sensitive personal information on it [like epost], or is backed by real money [like President's Choice banking, etrade, or epost again] then I expect to see https and the padlock on the login page.

What percentage of epost users are capable of doing a view source on the landing page and checking if the login form is posting to a secure HTTPS site? Probably less than 5%. The other 95% should be wondering where the padlock is on login. epost has been around several years and I'm surprised they've missed this all this time.

There is a workaround to it. From the main page just click sign-in, leaving the username and password empty. The result page is HTTPS and has the padlock so that gives the user a much more secure feeling.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Bin Laden wins again

So Fannie and Freddie have been nationalized. Disgraceful. Well what does that, Lehman, Bear Stearns, Countrywide, Indymac, etc., etc. have to do with Osama Bin Laden.

Well quite a bit. And today on the anniversary of 9/11 is a good time to talk about it. After 9/11 the US lead by President Bush panicked. The response to 9/11 was undisciplined. Interest rates were dropped unnecessarily low and kept low for far too long. This was a major cause of the bubble in housing prices which has been unwinding for the last year+ with no end in sight.

The catastrophe in the world financial system today far greater than the actual damage caused on 9/11. Because in truth not that much happened on 9/11. Four planes were lost, 3 buildings in New York destroyed [despite only 2 planes hitting NYC???], the Pentagon in Washington was damaged. Around 3,000 dead. Looking at it objectively and compared to the global size of the population and US economy, the immediate damage from 9/11 was not that great. Obviously there were problems in flight security to fix [locking the cockpit door during flight would be a start]; and they weren't very good at keeping undesirables out of the country, and following the clues they did have in advance of the attack.

It could have been shrugged off and the world went on with its business. There was no need to panic and obsess about it and have a housing bubble since that might make some people feel better if their house increased in value and they could take a HELOC and go on a spending spree. That was wrong. That was the failure in leadership from Bush and Greenspan. Could you imagine Stalin in 1941 acting like that? Or Churchill?

I remember schoolhouse rock growing up in the 70s. One that I liked was about 1776, "The shot heard 'round the world. The start of the revolution." On 9/11/2001, 225 years later, there was another shot heard round the world.

Was it the start of the Islamic revolution. Their declaration of war? Militant Islam has done pretty well the last generation or so.
  • they won in Iran
  • they won in Afghanistan
  • they won in Sudan
  • they may be winning in Iraq
  • they arguably won in Lebanon
  • they arguably won in Gaza
  • they arguably won in the Balkans
  • they seem to have had the best of it in India if you use body bags to keep score
The 20th century was America's century. Is the 21st Islam's? Could sharia really become the law of the land in USA, Canada, France? A lot can happen in a century.

Back to housing for a moment. I've been remiss in my previous housing posts not posting my favorite housing video. Thanks so much Keith for your great HousingPanic site which I'll miss greatly after you shut it down later this year.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

New watch, like the old watch

I finally went ahead and bought a new watch. My trusty old Timex ironman watch was just getting too beat up.

I didn't look too hard for a new watch. I knew I wanted another ironman. I ended up getting a Timex Expedition which is about the same thing. I got it at wal-mart. I was surprised that it was only $42. I thought they cost more than that. So that was good.

This watch has a velcro wrap around strap which I actually like. With the older buttonhole straps they were always too loose or too tight. Now I can get it just right. I hope the strap lasts.

One thing I like about the watch is that the function screens and the 4 buttons which control them are exactly the way they were on my old Timex I had all those years. That shows how well the original user interface was designed that years later it is still the same. I appreciate it.

I hope this Timex Expedition can serve me as well as my last Timex did. That was a great watch. It's off to a good start so far. I'm glad I bought it.

Speaking of watches, that makes me think I should finally do something about my old Guess watch.

It was a good watch. I got it a few years ago as a gift. I still have the original box. It was nice as a fancier watch for the occasional time to wear. Unfortunately the watch has some problems today. The battery died a long time ago. The strap is worn out. And the glass face cracked and broke off and needs to be replaced [I'm pretty sure it was the watch guy at the Bay who cracked it originally]. It hasn't been usable in several years.

None of these repairs are cheap with Guess watches so I'm not really inclined to spend the money to rehabilitate it. There's lots of stuff I want to do and get, but a fancier watch is not even on the list. I'm leaning more toward putting it on Kijiji as is and seeing if I can get a small amount of money for it.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Scott Turow - Limitations

I had some down time last Friday. I went to the local library to look for some stuff to read. It's a pretty good library. I took some nonfiction about the old Soviet Union and about contemporary militant Islam. Those books were kind of dull and I didn't get far with either.

The other book I got was Limitations by Scott Turow. I read some Turow books in the past and I enjoyed them. This book was set in the familiar fictional Kindle County; a place I find I enjoy returning to. Turow weaves in some characters from his other Kindle books which is nice, hearing from them again. It was an enjoyable read and from a Friday afternoon start I finished it Sunday morning.

Whenever I read a Turow book it makes me feel like it would be interesting to be a lawyer. Not the shmoozing Friday afternoon free drinks starting at 4 PM lawyer. I have no aptitude or interest in that. I mean the more technical back office lawyer. Analyzing the statutes, decisions and contracts. The reasoning and logic.

There's some more Turow Kindle County books I haven't read yet. I'll try to get through them in the coming months. I took a bit of a reading break recently to try to finish a very tough sudoku book I got last Christmas so I'll try to get through that first. I've read about all the Stephen King I want to but there's some Michael Crichton I should catch up on too. It's good for the mind to also balance in some nonfiction. There's other stuff to I'd like to read too.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Cooked mackerel

I did something this weekend I don't think I'd done before. I cooked some fish. I had some frozen smoked mackerel fillets that were given to me. The fish was originally from Willie Krauch’s smokehouse.

I wasn't sure how to cook them. I ended up using an Ikea grill pan I'd been given before and hadn't yet used. I liked that approach because checking on the web it didn't seem to have to do any extra prep work to actually cook the fish.

I chucked in some frozen peas and carrots into some boiling water and that was pretty easy for the side.

I just put the stove on medium and put the fish on. I left them for a bit, turned them a couple of times and then they seemed to be done. The site I checked said they are done when they flake easily with a fork. It seemed to be doing that.

I was surprised that they actually turned out pretty well. They tasted OK and went well with the vegetables. So a success. I should try to cook fish some more. Fillets on a grill pan wasn't too hard for me. Plus the price on the fish is not bad I noticed. It's good to be able to cook more stuff so I can have more variety for a good price.

Lots of unusual stuff going on this weekend. Vacation day Friday. Went to a wedding Saturday which was very nice. Hung those pictures today. I ended up getting a stud finder at wal-mart for around $18. Some other stuff. Turning the page in some ways.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Went out golfing

I did something unusual yesterday. Something I hadn't done in a long time. I went out golfing.

It was a good time. My dad took me and my uncle to his club, Brightwood. Although it was labour day, it was nearly deserted there due to fears about bad weather. It did rain on us the first 3 holes, but then it was nice the rest of the way. So that was good fortune.

I hadn't been golfing in a while. I didn't play at all last year. And just once in 2006, at a bachelor party I was invited to. So only once in the three years between fall 2005 and now.

It was a bit strange since I had a dream last week about golf. I remembered the dream and I think I realized I wanted to play again. I'd been to the driving range once earlier this summer but I didn't hit the ball well at all. Then last week I went again and was hitting it much better.

The results yesterday were actually pretty encouraging. I had a couple of pars, some bogeys and double bogeys. There were some bad writeoff holes, especially on the front nine. There's definitely a lot of areas that need real improvement. However I'm sure I did the back nine in under 50 [we weren't keeping score] and if I can continue to play like that I can reach my long time goal of breaking 100. That would sure be nice.

Now I feel like playing again with what's left of this season. I need some stuff for next year too. Some new tees. My golf shoes are 11 years old, uncomfortable and no longer waterproof. I was using a Callaway ball on the back nine and that was nice. I'd like to get some more Callaway balls to play for next year. If I'm going to play golf I should find some people to play with. Need to work on that one.