Thursday, June 28, 2007

June 2007 Updates

It's been a busy month, and it looks like July will be just as busy or worse. As I haven't posted much this month, this is a general update to cover all of the stuff I missed.

Early in June, my two sisters were here to visit, along with their kids, Esther, Heidi, and Silas, and we got to spend a couple of days with them. We had them over for a tasty BBQ, Natasha spent a day with the family around town, and we made a trip to Castle Fun Park for some games.

A couple of weeks ago, after discovering a bulge in my very bald car tires, I had them replaced with shiny new ones. They seem to run really nicely and with some care should last for quite a while.

We also went to our church graduation party, went out for lunch with my parents on Father's day, and got invited over to some friend's place for a Saturday night dinner and games.

This last weekend, we drove up to Kamloops to visit with some of Natasha's family. One of her uncles has cancer and has perhaps only a few weeks or months at most to live. Natasha's Mom was there as well, and it's always nice to see her as she lives all the way across the country. We're hoping she will be able to come down to visit us sometime during her time in BC. The area around Kamloops is really nice... a desert-like valley, a small-town feel, and way better weather than what we've been having in the lower mainland. As soon as we crossed over the mountains on our way back, it went from sunny and clear to clouds and rain.

But that's a whole issue in itself. You should see our tomatos and lettuce... they are sorely lacking in growth because of the lack of sun. What we need is two weeks of 25+ degree celcius weather to really get things going.

This week had been filled with singing practices for Natasha, as she's singing at least three times during the upcoming church convention next week. Next week will be filled with meetings, time with family, and thankfully, a holiday on Monday, July 2nd... for Canada Day on the 1st.

Hope you all had a good June. Here's to a great July!

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Friday, June 22, 2007

International Space Station

The latest Space Shuttle mission brought some new parts to the ever growing International Space Station (ISS). CBC has an interesting interactive page showing the various parts of the ISS and information on each:

CBC Interactive ISS Map

"During the crew's 14-day mission to the international space station, the astronauts installed a new truss segment, unfurled a new pair of power-generating solar arrays and activated a rotating joint that allows the new solar arrays to track the sun."

Now and then I entertain the idea that technology might allow some sort of space travel for me before I'm too old. On the other hand, considering how many years it has been since people have been going into space, the number of people who have been there is relatively small, although the technology has increased greatly.


International Space Station - June 19, 2007

The current space shuttle is still in orbit after some landing delays due to weather.

"Originally scheduled for 11 days, the mission was extended by two days to give astronauts time to repair a thermal blanket that had peeled away during the June 8 launch. Astronaut Danny Olivas stapled it back into place during a spacewalk. Another extra day in orbit was added after the weather in Florida prevented a landing Thursday."

Reference

CBC Interactive ISS
CNN: NASA passes on first chance for Friday shuttle landing

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Summer Solstice 2007

Welcome to Summer, everyone! Today is the longest day of the year in terms of sunlight hours. Isn't it interesting that just as summer "begins", the days start to become shorter.

In any case, the sun finally broke through, as it should be this time of year. We've had a lot of clouds and rain, and most people are anxious for a heat wave! We hope to get a little more outdoor activity than last year. And along with our BBQ's, I'd like our tomato plants to grow a little quicker so we can have freshly picked tomatos for salads!

What are your plans for the summer? Your plans, suggestions, comments, or invites to your BBQ party welcome!

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New Ideas In Chess

About a month ago, I picked this book up from a guy selling used Chess books at the local club meeting. It came with good recommendations, including one of the top rated players in BC (who is part of the local club as well).


New Ideas In Chess

For $10 (Thanks to Natasha for having the cash on hand!), this was an amazing investment. This book covers a range of topics including Pawn Structure, Time, Force, and Space, and how they relate to each other during the course of a game. It's divided into single or two-page examples which show a tournament game position and discusses what is going on in terms of the current topic.

Overall, it's really changed the way I look at a Chess position now. A lot of books cover opening theory, but this one isn't limited in scope... it covers the entire game with some basic principles.

Now we just need to see how much of an effect it will have over the next few months of play!

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Father's Day

Yesterday was a busy day and I was gone for most of it and didn't get to do much online. However, I have a bit of time today:

Happy Father's Day to my Dad and all the other father's I know. It's a day to show our Dad's how much we appreciate them and all they do for us (okay, we should do this all the time, but this commercialized holiday gives everyone the chance to do it if they've fallen behind a bit). It's also a day to think about our Dad's who are no longer with us, as is the case with Natasha's Dad... our first Father's Day without him.

And it's also a time to celebrate new Fathers! I'm not there yet, but my brother-in-law Brian is, and my sister, Susanna, made him another one of her amazing drawings:


Brian, Silas, Susanna (link to website)

Hope you all had an enjoyable day, and for those of you who have some sadness, that there was also some good thoughts and memories as well.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Got Meeples?

Oh wow, look at us! Natasha surprised me and ordered matching Meeple hoodies online. They arrived last week and we have been wearing them often as the weather has been cooler the last few days.


Us in our new Meeple sweaters

Meeple's are the small playing pieces used in one of our favorite games, Carcassonne.

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Fun With The Family

Over the last few weeks, my two sisters and their children were up to visit us. They spent some time in Edmonton, and while they were in the area, we tried to get together with them as much as we could. If you want more details on their trip, you can check Susanna's blog, or her photo album.

For my part, here are a few pictures of us and them while they were here in Canada.


Stephanie, Susanna, Mom, and the kids
on their trip in the mountains


Our visit to Red Robin, and a group photo.
Esther, Natasha, Silas, Andrew, Heidi

Silas is at that stage where everything goes into his mouth. Hair is not exempt, and he bit into Natasha's hair as soon as he got put there. How is Silas there behind us? It's a mystery!


Me holding Silas. I look great with kids, don't you think?


The chef BBQ's up some tasty steak and veggie kabobs
marinated in greek dressing and feta cheese!


Not to brag or anything, but these kabobs were fantastic =o)

I should mention... Natasha came up with the brilliant menu with recipes she found. I was only responsible for the BBQ. The tasty food you see above was put together by her, and I cooked them up!

So, we all had a great time, had great food, played some games, and had a lot of fun with all the kids. Looking forward to Christmas when the whole gang will be back in town!

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Friday, June 08, 2007

STS-117: Atlantis Shuttle Launch

Shuttle mission 117 to the International Space Station is set to be launched today at 7:38 p.m. EDT.


STS-117: Atlantis
Mission to the International Space Station

I always find the launches interesting, and someday when I have the chance, I would really like to watch one (and I dare say, photograph it!).

Space Tourism

These days, traveling to space for a vacation is only for the super-rich. A number of billionaires have paid millions of dollars to spend a few weeks in space.

As further progress is being made, and more resources available, there may come a point where taking a holiday to the space station (or maybe the moon) is a possibility.

Would you be interested in a trip to space if it ever became affordable by the general public? I would, for sure. Somehow there's something more exciting about inter-planetery travel. On the other hand, there's a ton of places I haven't been right here on Earth. A person could spend their life exploring the world, let alone going into space!

Further reading

NASA Shuttle Mission Page
NASA: Countdown 101
CNN: NASA ready to launch shuttle Atlantis

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Fraser River Rising

The Fraser River continues to rise, with expectations that it will reach the peak on Sunday or Monday. Initial estimates have been downgraded, but there is still danger to non-protected areas, and even for areas which are protected by dikes where water can seep through the ground and get into basements.


The Fraser River

My Dad took this photo out in the Chillwack area. You can't see the actual bank of the river, but it's risen since then, and in some of his other shots, there is a road closure because the water is getting so high.

The warnings are still in effect, but at this point, nothing major is expected. Further north in BC, some cities have been more affected with various amounts of flooding in some of the cities and towns.

For continuing coverage, see the CBC site.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Six Day War

Today is the 40th anniversary of the start of the Six Day War. In the months previous to June 1967, Arab forces had been building up its military power near Israel's border. In response, on June 5, 1967, Israel launched a pre-emptive attack, on Egyptian, Jordanian, Syrian, and Iraqi airfields. This gave Israel the advantage and they swept to victory over the next 5 days.

In the Time Magazine on Friday, June 16, 1967, they wrote:

"So expert were the Israeli pilots that they seldom seemed to waste a bomb, a rocket or a bullet. Their reconnaissance photos showed plane after plane smashed and burning—with hardly a crater in the runways or the level sands surrounding the targets"

Considering the Arab nations had a combined population of 110,000,000 people compared to a mere 2,700,000 in Israel, this accomplishment was huge.

Conversely, the defeat was so great that some in the Arab world still blame it for most of their problems.

Egyptian columnist Wael Abdel Fattah wrote in the independent weekly Al-Fagr newspaper that Arabs blame the defeat for "everything" — from "price hikes, dictatorship, religious extremism, sectarian strife, even sexual impotence."

Wow. I know scapegoats are common these days, but that's taking it a little too far!

It's a pretty interesting topic, one I would like to read more about if I had the time, and there seems to be quite a bit of material out there. I have a few links and will post them below for anyone who is interested.

References

Time Magazine article - Friday, June 16, 1967
Wikipedia: Six Day War
Yahoo News: Arabs blame problems on 1967 war defeat

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Monday, June 04, 2007

The Missing Coaster

About a year ago, my sister's family was visiting, and during the course of the evening, one of our wooden coasters went missing. We searched high and low, and eventually figured that my youngest niece, Heidi, had put it in the garbage and it was gone.

Both of my sisters and their kids are back in Canada visiting, and we had them
over last night. Well, the day before that, we were doing some rearranging, and when we removed the books from our bookshelf in order to move it, there it was, hidden behind a row of books!


Behold, the missing coaster!

I guess it's just a place we never thought to look. Perhaps if we'd gotten down to her level and looked around, it might have seemed more obvious.

Wonder if we'll find anything missing today...

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