Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Taxes: Here We Go Again

It seems like every year starts out well, and then the tax forms start arriving. While it's hard to believe, I've already received my T4 slip from the previous company I worked for.

Unfortunately, one of my biggest pet peeves is filling out forms, making filing taxes a most dreaded task. On the other hand, I'll just pick up a copy of Quick Tax and have it all done quickly and efficiently. Not to mention the feeling of satisfaction at performing my duty as a Canadian citizen.

The biggest consolation is that I expect to get a nice chunk of cash back because of the massive taxes paid on lump sum payments I received when I left my previous job. That being the case, I will be doing my taxes as early as possible as the money will do more in my pocket than with the government.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Carcassonne

Last week I posted a list of all my games, and made mention of our latest purchase, Carcassonne. Since it's not a common game, I thought I would take some pictures and share them, and hopefully build some interest.

Carcassonne is a tile game, where you build on the existing tile map, and place your pieces (known as followers, or meeples) to take ownership of cities, roads, cloisters, and farms. When one object is complete, you score points based on the size, and take back your meeple for future use.

It's a simple game, but can be played very strategically. The basic game can be played with two to five players, and expansions will allow a sixth player.


Building the River

One small expansion actually comes with the basic game: The River! It allows you to place a river first before constructing the surrounding cities. This changes the overall layout of tile map and creates something of a divider between areas.


Tile map at the end of the game

This was taken from another game where we had four players. You can see that followers have been placed on cities, roads, etc, and some have been laid on their sides, indicating that they are farmers (this is done simply for better visibility).

Near the top-right of the photo, you'll see quite a large city, and this was a key factor in my Dad winning his first ever game. The game is exciting because there are a number of strategies you can use to win, and sometimes right up until the end, it's not fully decided who will win. But good play is essential, and you really need to watch what you're doing so you don't get trapped in a bad position.


Another finished tile map

Here is another completed tile map, the end result of the first picture of the river.

We've really taken a liking to this game, and are considering buying a couple of the expansion packs as well, which add more tiles and additional game play. So far we've played mostly just the two of us, but we played with my parents and they enjoyed it. Looking forward to introducing it to some of our other friends and family.

Next time you're going to see us, mention the game and we'll be sure to bring it out!

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Canadian Health System

I wanted to post a short piece on the Canadian Health System, how it works, and how it differs from the US system. If find that many people don't fully understand it, even Canadians.

It is generally accepted that health care in Canada is free. However, it's more accurate to say that it is unlimited. You see, nothing is actually free, and for services that provide health care for an entire country, there is a huge cost involved.

The actual fact is that Canada does not provide free health care, but rather that everyone is required to have the same level of insurance. In some provinces, the government covers the monthly cost of this insurance. In other provinces, such as BC, there is something called Medical Services Plan, to which everyone pays monthly. People under a certain age, or under a certain income are exempt. The rest of us are stuck with paying the cost.

So, what if I don't want insurance? Too bad. This is where the Canadian system differs from the US system. In the United States, you can opt not to have insurance, or choose to have it and pay the big bucks. In Canada, you're getting insurance whether you like it or not.

What if I don't pay? That won't work either. They send you a bill in the mail and no doubt would follow up with you just like any other debt if you refuse to pay.

I was curious about this when I left my last job. At that job, the company paid half of the MSP fee, and the employees paid the other half. At my new job, the company doesn't pay any of it. So I left it for a while, just wondering what would happen... and sure enough, it was all taken care of for me. They sent me a bill in the mail with the charges for the past months that hadn't been paid, and a schedule for payments for three month periods.

The bottom line: If you're a Canadian, you're paying for your health care whether you pay it out of your own pocket, or you pay it in your taxes. One way or another, it's not free. But be thankful... it's cheaper than the States because every person in the country has it, and that brings down the cost.

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Games Galore!

I'm a big fan of board games, and love nothing more than sitting down with someone or a group of people and playing a friendly game. Natasha isn't quite as into it as I am, but she likes a few of our games and we try to play every once in a while.

For years I've been collecting interesting games which you don't find on the shelves at Toys R Us. Most of them are good games, although because they are a little more obscure, it's more difficult to find people to play them.

We did a reorganizing project today and cleaned up the closet where we keep the games, to store a few more things and generally tidy it up. When I got all the games down, I was surprised at how many we had, and decided to take a picture of them.


All of our games

Here are a list of the games, and some details. Now that you know what our game collection is like, perhaps you'd like to play one next time we see you!

Game NamePlayersDetails
Abalone2-32-3 player strategy. Board uses large marbles as pieces. Haven't played this game for years.
Axis & Allies2-5All serious gamers have this one, but I wonder how many actually play it. This game is like Risk but more complicated (and more interesting).
Backgammon2We play this often as it's fun, fast paced, but requires some thought. Bought it at a garage sale years ago for $3. Great investment.
Battle of the Sexes4+We haven't played this game since we got married, but Natasha played it prior to that. Need a group!
Carcassonne2-5Our latest purchase. Tile game for up to 5 players where you get points for building cities, roads, and farms.
Chess2I play Chess often, online and with others. Can be played by all skill levels and is a lot of fun.
Chinese Checkers2-6Very common game, and great with up to 6 players. We're missing one of the black pieces.
Composite Index2-6Like Stock Ticker only more in depth. Bought it right from the maker who I got in contact with during my last job.
Cranium4+Really fun trivia game. Acting, drawing, spelling, this game has it all.
Dominos2-6Not a bad game, but better with a few more people. Overly heavy.
Farming Game, The2-6This one is a fun one that we played years ago. Try to grow your farm and make the most money. Might bring it out again when we have kids.
Jenga2+Played it once in the last 10 years. The falling tower is less appealing once you get older.
King's Cribbage2-4This game is like Scrabble, but with cribbage hands. We bought this at a garage sale for $1, never played it.
Kuuduk2-6Starbucks sold this card game for a while. Not bad, but not well known.
Monopoly2-8A classic game of real estate trading. Can't play it much because it's a long one.
Oodles of Doodles4+Similar to Pictionary, but you draw multiple related objects in one session.
Pente2A cousin of the game Go. Place stones on a grid and try to connect five.
Pictionary4+Got this for $1 at a garage sale. This game is pulled out anytime we get ten or more people together. Gets everyone involved and makes for a loud evening.
Quarto2Line up four pieces with a common trait to win. Fast paced two player strategy.
Risk2-6This world conquest game is a long one, and hard to get people together to play.
Rook4Really great card game for four players. Need more people who play this. We'll teach you!
Rummikub2-4Number tile shifting game. Used to play it a lot, not much these days.
Rush Hour1This is a puzzle game. Try to get your car out of the gridlock!
Scrabble2-4Everyone knows this one. We pull it out now and then. Spell BRAVERY on triple word score for big points!
Stock Ticker2+Stock trading game. Good with a small group.
Stratego2Fun strategy game for two players. Seek out the flag to win!
Terrace2,4This is a chess-like game but with all similar pieces. The nice thing about this game is that it's good for two or four people.
Uno2-6Popular card game that tons of people play.
What were you thinking?4+Bought this one at a garage sale for $1. Looks good. Has to do with guessing common answers. Waiting for a group to play it.


Phew! And there are a few more I'm sort of interested in too! Hope to meet you all over the board sometime!

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Friday, January 19, 2007

I Was Here!

In a lot of places, particularly well traveled areas, you see a lot of people have carved into trees, benches, or in some other way written a little message to the rest of the world telling them that they were there.

Andrew was here.
Natasha was here.

You get the idea. This is your chance to "carve" your name into Trooper's Weblog for all time. Press the "Comments" link below, and post a comment like the ones above telling everyone you were here!

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Sick And Tired

It's been a bit of a rough week, and I haven't had much to write about. Natasha's been sick. I'm tired. Put us together: Sick and Tired!

But it's Friday, and we'll have the weekend to rest up.

The snow is pretty well gone, with the warmer temperatures and rain. Hopefully this is the last of our winter weather. My tires can't handle it that well, and I had a dangerous "toboggan" ride down a hill in my car last week. I need new ones soon, but hope to wait for a couple of months as they are just fine in normal conditions.

Natasha's Mom is going to be coming to see us in a week, and staying with us for a few weeks. It'll be nice to have her around, and hopefully we will be able to get together with other people who are also interested in seeing her. No doubt this will spur on some photo and blog worthy situations and you might hear more from me then.

One more day of work!

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Monday, January 15, 2007

The New Blogger

Blogger has moved out of the Beta stage, and is now transferring over all accounts to the new system. You shouldn't notice any major differences as far as appearances go, but you will find there are some great new features!

The best one from a readers perspective is the addition of labels to a post. What this means is that at the bottom of each post, you may find a list of one or more labels relating to the topic at hand. By clicking on a label, you can bring up other posts which are also tagged with that label and likely have similar content.

For instance, just below you should see a label called 'the blog'. If you click it, you will see this and at least one more post that have to do with the blog and technical type issues.

Since this is a new feature, all of my posts for the last two years are not tagged. However, I will go through them slowly to get them done which will make searching a lot easier.

Keep this in mind over the next while, and I hope it will come in handy for some of you! Enjoy!

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Mid-January Updates

The weekend is over quickly and it's back to another week at work. Natasha and I spent the weekend at home, as Natasha was feeling really sick from Thursday on, and I'd had a sore throat for about two weeks. We actually both stayed home on Friday and went to the clinic.

The weather is still cold, and snow and ice still covers most things, including the alley next to our house. We had some good entertainment watching people trying to get up the hill. We even tried to help, but to no avail. If you don't know how to drive in winter conditions, you just don't know how.

It's been a little slow lately so there hasn't been much to write about, but I have a few things coming up, so keep checking back!

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Scooper Trooper

I was browsing around the web a while back, and came across the reverse of me: The Scooper Trooper!

Scooper Trooper: Alaska's #1 Pet Waste Removal Service

They clean up after your pet, I deliver you exciting news about my personal life. Hmm... I bet they make money though! =o) Me, I've made $11 so far.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

More Snow Too...

Oh wow, woke up this morning, peeked out the window and was welcomed to about 10 to 15cm of fluffy snow. I got dressed and went right out to the car to try to get it out. With some help from our downstairs neighbours, we managed to pull the car out onto the road (the alley is steep which is the problem).

The drive to work was decent though, probably a lot of people staying home, or going into work late. Slippery conditions for sure, but relatively not a bad drive.

Still, looking like winter once again. I'm pretty sure this is the most snow I've seen in the seven years here in BC. And more cold temperatures to come. Even the next few days could be trouble.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

More Wind Storms

We had another wind storm today. Many people lost power, including my parents. Our area had a few outages, and one intersection was out of power causing massive backups on my way home from work.

In fact, we lost power for about an hour at work today. Being so attached to the computers and internet, no work can be done without them, and we just chatted and looked around for a while until it came back online.

As for the wind, it's tearing the area apart. Stanley Park was closed again today due to fallen trees over the road running through it and over the Lions Gate Bridge.


View of Stanley Park from downtown Vancouver

They say that in some areas of Stanley Park, up to 80% of the trees are knocked over. One spot in particular, Prospect Point, is said to be nearly leveled, and it was a huge tourist attraction, one we visited just this last summer and got some photos.

When the park re-opens, I'd like to go out to the park and take a few comparison shots to see how things have changed.

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Friday, January 05, 2007

My First Nephew!

We've just received news that my sister, Susanna, has had her first baby right around 2am EST January 6, 2007. They've named him Silas, and he was a little over 8 pounds.

Her husband, Brian, was quick to post it on their blog and I happened to check it late tonight and was the first one to find out. Sounds like he brought his laptop along and has a wireless connection.

Anyway, we're excited for them and can't wait to see them and the baby, hopefully later this year. Guess what though... this means I'm the only one from my family who doesn't have kids yet! Now the pressure is really on! =o)

Congratulations, Brian and Susanna!

Click here to see their blog and leave them a message: Two Kids and a Baby

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Sudoku

Sudoku is a puzzle game which has gained surprising popularity over the last few years. You may have seen it in newspapers near the crossword, and now you can find it in just about every format. It's been turned into a board game, as well as all kinds of mini-games, a TV game show, many electronic hand held machines, and more.

When I first saw these puzzles, I gave it a quick try but it didn't get my attention. After all, what fun is it to do a logic puzzle with just numbers over and over?

I recently gave it another try, and just yesterday completed my first Sudoku puzzle. Okay I admit, it was classified as "Easy", but whatever. So I've discovered it's actually sort of fun, but I don't think I could get into it much more than doing one here and there. The crossword is far more entertaining, and I enjoy pulling out some bit of trivia to find a word a lot more than discovering that a certain square should have a 9 in it.

Have you played Sudoku? I'd like to know how many readers have tried it and what your thoughts are.

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Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year, 2007!

Wow, 2007 has arrived. Seems like just a short while ago I was counting down the days to the year 2000, and now we're already seven years further.

We wish you all the best this year, and hope to spend quality time with as many of you as we can.

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