Friday, February 29, 2008

Leap Year: An Extra Day

Today is a special day on the calendar, one that only shows up every four years. Unfortunately, the number of times the earth rotates is not a nice round number for every revolution of the earth around the sun. In fact, one trip around the sun is 365.25 days, giving us one full extra day every four years. And even that is not completely exact, as the leap year is skipped on certain lengthy intervals, and I think there is even a leap second or minute but it's really too small of an amount to be concerned with. Leave that up to the people who manage such things.

Anyway, all this comes about because of the human need to track time, and have as much consistency as possible. Before the leap year system was created, the calendar slowly went out of sync until it was a few months off. According to what I've read, when they corrected the system, they actually jumped about three months ahead, overnight! Imagine, having your birthday totally skipped one year!

Now we have a near perfect system, but still people are unhappy. A group of postal workers is protesting that because they are on salary, they are essentially working for free today. That is completely ridiculous and displays a total lack of understanding of what is really going on. They're not working for free, they're making up the 0.25 days they skipped work on for the last four years!

Take advantage of the extra day to improve your situation, advance your career, or just relax and have fun. I plan to do all of those today.

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Lunar Eclipse

A full lunar eclipse was visible across most of Canada on Wednesday evening. I used my camera and tripod to take some longer exposures, the result being this photo.

Lunar Eclipse, Feb 20, 2008

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Carbon Schmarbon

There seems to be a big push, especially in the last few years, in the direction of "going green" or "saving the environment". It reminds me of when I was in elementary school, being taught about the "gluts" who take a bath instead of a shower, or used the washing machine for less than a full load.

We were enthused! One day, my sisters and I went out into the park to collect up the garbage laying around. Did it help? Not really, but we didn't know it at the time. The real problem wasn't the garbage, but the people tossing it, and a few days later, there was probably as much or more than when we cleaned it up.

Now it's going to the next level. Carbon! Carbon taxes, carbon footprint, carbon emissions, carbon credits!

What does all this mean, and how does it affect you and me? Let me start by staying that I try to limit my effect on the environment when possible. I don't litter, try to recycle when I can, and don't pour paint down the sewer. The "worst" thing I do is drive my car, and considering today's society, I hardly think that can be considered bad.

Somehow, today's attitude is that the responsibility for the earth's problem is the common day to day people and their activities. I drive my car to work, therefore I am ruining the environment. Give me a break.

So, the BC government recently imposed a carbon tax of 2.4 cents per liter of gasoline. This is supposed to make me want to take transit instead of driving my car. Which would I rather do: Pay 50 cents more every time I fill up, or ride inconvenient and indirect buses packed with people? You guess.

I'm not upset over the 2.4 cents a liter. They're already taking a good chunk of money out of my pocket every way I turn, what's a few cents more? What I am unhappy about is that this is an attempt to "save the environment" when all it will really be is a big money collection and no change. I don't see money as a solution to the problem. It's a way of life, and a society built around what is currently going on.

It gets better. They're going to give every person in BC a "Climate Action Dividend" of $100 this summer. We're supposed to use it in some way for to add environmentally friendly options to our lives. I could use some CF bulbs for sure, but I can buy these anytime. What's really going to happen to the money? Most people will fill up their tank and buy some groceries.

What's the real fix? Give people good options that make sense and are easy to implement. People want to do good things, but if they are difficult or expensive, they won't. Why buy a hybrid car when it's more expensive? Why take the bus when it's less convenient? Why buy a local product that has been produced with less energy when a similar product is available at the big box store for cheap? Our lives are built around cars, convenience, and general wastefulness. We need to find a way to make our day to day lives work in such a way that they are less damaging, but still cost effective, reasonable, and comfortable.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

U1600 Chess Tournament

This past Saturday, I played in a chess tournament in Port Moody. It was for adult players with ratings under 1600 and geared towards making connections with other chess players in the area.

My last tournament experience, in September, wasn't too successful, but I've learned a lot since then and am a lot more comfortable in the tournament environment. I played well, and won 3 out of 4 games. Having recorded them, I went back to find out that I could have also won my fourth game with better play, but that's how it goes.

U1600 Chess Tournament

The tournament consisted of 12 players, and I was able to take a few photos while games were going on. In the photo above, I was playing black against Ralph, the tournament organizer.

Dan Scoones vs Andrew -- Simultaneous match

After the four rounds of the tournament, Dan Scoones, rated around 2260, played a simultaneous match against all twelve tournament players at the same time. This is an interesting format, putting a master level player against a number of vastly lower rated players. I don't know what the end result was, but I made a blunder partway in and things went downhill from there.

Anyway, I am happy with my 75% win ratio and with what I learned from my loss. There are some tournaments coming up later this year which I may attend, and I would really like to go back to the Langley Open in September to see if I've improved any over the year.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Bad News For Blog

In a strange coincidence, on the day of the blog's 3rd anniversary, I set up my computer for the first time after my move, and after about 30 minutes of use, the hard drive crashed. It's making a really loud clunking sound, and the BIOS cannot detect the primary master drive. In common terms, good bye hard drive.

Along with the hard drive goes our recent photos (not too recent though, as we've put some on the laptop), lots of other files we've collected, as well as all of my server configuration, scripts, and blog photos. I will be able to recover some of them of course, from backups, but it will be like starting from scratch in many ways.

Just one more thing that needs to be done, and I'm afraid that it will be a while before I get to it now.

Life goes on. I have learned my lesson, even though it could be worse. Be sure to make back-ups of all your files on a regular basis, at least once a month!

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Happy 3rd Anniversary, Blog!

Today is three years since my first post to this blog back in 2005! I've been pleased with how it has evolved, and how it has slowly grown its readership. Looking back at the over 500 posts, it is interesting to see how one post here and there can really add up over a space of time.

I hope all you readers have enjoyed the blog as much as I have. There's a lot of potential and much to write about, so watch for some interesting stuff over the next year!

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Babymoon

Ahh, the babymoon! All the rage these days it seems! Similar to a honeymoon, only while the honeymoon happens after the wedding, the babymoon happens before the baby arrives. Really a novel idea, and a great reason just to get away. But truly, it's been a nice vacation so far, with one day to go. Things have been busy at work and with moving into our new place, and a break has been really great.

What have we been up to? Plenty of sleep, and couch potato-ing! We've been trying out the local cuisine, and going through all sorts of second hand ("antique") stores looking for deals. There are none to be found, let me tell you. Apparently, when something is called antique, it suddenly triples in value.

On Saturday, the weather wasn't very nice. It was cold and windy, and we only spent a small amount of time outside. Today, we woke up to a partly sunny sky, and it only improved during the day. We hit the road to Sechelt and visited the beach to enjoy the great spring weather.

Here we are, on the beach!

Here's a starfish we came across.

A sea snail of some type.

Snails are great little animals. I used to keep a few when I had my aquariums set up. Might do it again sometime soon. We picked up about eight empty ones to decorate with later.

On our way back home, we came across an open area with a view of the sunset and pulled over for a look and a few photos.

Sunset, Sechelt, February 10, 2008

Natasha at 26 weeks

And of course, the baby update. Natasha's doing great, growing a little bigger each day and along with it, bigger kicks. The big day approaches, and I find myself thinking more about how it will all happen. Since there are many others there to help, I'll be there for the support, to cut the cord, and then practice my proud father look!

That's our update for now. We head home tomorrow, back to the usual routine on Tuesday. Back to no internet at home! But I've found a temporary solution for my blog images, using photo bucket! Enjoy!

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Saturday, February 09, 2008

February Updates

Happy February! The last few weeks have been full of crazy weather here on the west coast. Lots of snow, slippery roads, and gridlocked traffic. I guess it's winter after all, it just seems unusual.

We've also been getting settled into our new place. After some initial frustrations, we have been able to get some attention towards our concerns, and at least a few of them have been dealt with. Also, we purchased some new IKEA furniture, and it's really starting to look great. Overall, I think we have it pretty good, as I've heard others who have had many more things wrong with their new places.

Dad's birthday was yesterday. Happy Birthday! We took my parents out to Me & Ed's Pizza on Thursday. Great pizza, although a little on the pricey side. Then again, you will never find such variety of pizza at any regular pizza place.

We are currently on a short vacation on the Sunshine Coast, staying in a cottage overlooking the ocean. Just a little time away to relax after our move, and before the arrival of our baby.

Lots of stuff happening in the next few months! We'll be posting as often as we can with the updates!

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Year Of The Ratatouille

Today is the Chinese New Year, and it is the year of the rat. Even though the rat is usually an undesirable animal, I'm sure it was selected for its positive traits. Intelligent, resourceful, and a team player! According to the Chinese calendar, I was born in the year of the sheep, and Natasha was born in the year of the rooster. What does it all mean? I have no idea. It just gives me something to look at on the calendar at Chinese restaurants.

Ratatouille! This isn't Chinese of course, but French. I'd never heard of this word until the movie came out. It's a pretty good one, and now I wonder just how tasty the dish is! I looked up the recipe and it's pretty basic, just a stir-fry of commons vegetables (tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant) and lots of onions and garlic. I think we should try it sometime... could become a favorite quick meal, especially in the summer when veggies are fresh and readily available.

Do you know what year in the Chinese calendar you were born in?

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Monday, February 04, 2008

New Townhouse After One Week

We've been in our new place for over a week now. We both really like the place, and even more now that it is starting to come together. During the week, we started organizing, cleaning things up, and arranging furniture, and over the weekend I started building some of our new IKEA furniture.

After complaining, asking nicely, and finally demanding, we had a cleaning crew visit us to deal with as many of the things they could. Most important to us where the high windows and light fixtures, banisters, bathroom fixtures, etc, as many of them were unreachable and others we just wanted done because they should be. In the end it wasn't perfect, but a lot better than before, and we will just take care of anything else on our own.

We still have no internet or phone as the cable lines have not been connected to the complex. I have yet to figure out whether the builder is just delaying, or whether there are actually technical / environmental hold-ups. If you call us and we don't pick up, please leave a message. We are still able to get our messages and will phone you back.

Overall, however, we really like the new place and look forward to finishing all of the work and settling in for some comfortable and peaceful living. I have photos of the furniture we're building, and will post a few when we can. We have internet access if we drive down to a local coffee shop with our laptop, so we can still get our email and play a few Scrabulous moves...

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