Monday, September 29, 2008

A Faltering Economy

What has years of banks lending money to people who can't afford it, and people buying houses way out of their leagues brought us to? A faltering economy. I knew something was wrong when housing prices started to rise uncontrollably beyond what most people can afford, and still see people buying them up. Surely this isn't the only factor in what's going on, but it's a big part.

Now the US government is trying to prop up the economy by simply taking on the bad debt so many financial companies have accrued, and somehow failing to persuade lawmakers that the option is one worth voting for. The $700 Billion dollar plan was rejected today, at great expense to the stock markets, which plunged on the news.

I noted two things on my drive home today. First was how casually the 800+ point drop on the TSX was reported in the financial numbers. Actually made me laugh. Second was that the newspaper tomorrow morning will actually have something worthwhile on the front cover as compared to today's filler story. I look forward to seeing how much black ink is wasted with extremely dark newspaper covers and big bold headlines of dispair.

Are things going where you expected them to? How much will this affect you? Leave a comment and tell us what you think of the current financial crisis.

Check out these links for more information:

CNN Money: Bailout plan rejected
Fox News: House Defeats Wall Street Bailout Bill
CBC: TSX falls by 870 points; oil drops to $95 US

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Four Family Trip To Seattle

Last weekend, we went on a trip to Seattle with three other couples to do some shopping at the outlets, stay at a nice hotel, spend time together, etc. Before Charlotte was born, I made a statement that we were going to do our best to continue doing the things we enjoy even after having children, and we made good on that promise during this trip.

Our trip started at Martin and Dianna's house where we'd stayed overnight. Eugene and Gina, and David and Natalie met us there, and we started out on the two hour drive south.


Andrew and Natasha, ready to drive


David and Natalie


Gina and Eugene


Dianna with Phillip and Arianna.

Our first stop was the outlets... a large complex of all types of stores full of great deals. There's something there for everyone, but in the end, more was bought for the kids than anyone else.


The girls, ready to shop


The guys, also ready for shopping!

We stayed at a nearby hotel which was basically brand new, and really nice. We got really great rates, and an amazing deal overall. King size beds, really nice rooms outfitted with a fridge, small stove, dishwasher, and more. Also included was a big breakfast buffet with custom made omelets.


Great buffet breakfast at the hotel (omelet not shown)

After breakfast, we drove a little ways to see a large waterfall in the area. We bring you special video footage:



Andrew with a very happy Charlotte


A big waterfall we stopped to see

Then we were off to Seattle for the last part of our trip. We had lunch at the Old Spaghetti Factory down by the ocean, near to where the football and baseball stadiums are. The last stop was the Pike Place Market, full of all kinds of goods from arts and crafts, to food, collector magazines, specialty products, and fresh fish of all kinds. It is also home to the first ever Starbucks coffee shop.

Here's a great shot we took while wandering in the area. We particularly enjoy the fact that Bush is peeking in from the background behind the two men who are trying to take over the job in a few months.


The presidential crowd

We had a really great trip, and hope to do more of the same over the next few years.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

September 2008 Photos

As September comes to a close, we have posted our latest photo album slideshow, which you can see here: September 2008 Adventures

Included in this album is our summer trip to Vancouver for Falafel King, many photos of Charlotte, and our four-family trip to Seattle. Enjoy!

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Charlotte At Four Months


Charlotte is four months old!

The last month has been busy with traveling, participating in events, shopping, visiting with friends, a picnic, and more. It's flown by and Charlotte has now reached the age of four months. She's getting to be a big girl (too big for the baby bath) and is doing a lot of giggling these days.

There should be lots of fun fall days ahead, and a lot of cute photos as well.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Autumn 2008

Welcome to Autumn, everyone! Today is the official start of the fall season. The weather is following suit with cool breezes, cloudy periods, and rain. In early September we had some nice warm weather, but it doesn't seem to be lasting late into the year as many people were probably hoping.

Hope you all had a great summer, and enjoy the last quarter of the year going into the holiday season.

Here's your turn to participate. Do you have an interesting story from this summer? Do anything fun or different? Post a comment and share it!

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Why Vote Conservative? Reason 3

They have the right approach to dealing with crime

No, it's not gun control. It's dealing with the criminal. Tougher sentences, taking steps towards getting our border guards armed, and more. These are the kinds of things the Conservative government has been working towards.

They've done an excellent job of taking things in the right direction, despite being a minority government. If Canadians are pleased with this progress, they should set them up with a majority government to complete the work they've started and get Canada back on track when it comes to justice.

Already halfway to election day! Mark it on your calendars: Tuesday, Oct 14

Articles:
     Conservatives vow to toughen youth justice act

     Harper vows to push ahead with tough-on-crime agenda

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Langley Chess Open 2008 Results

Over the Labour Day long weekend, I played in the Langley Chess Club Open, the second time I've entered the tournament. In the year between, I'd been playing a lot and really improving my game. My overall results weren't much improved, but my games were well played, and in at least two games I simply missed a key move that would have given me a win or a draw, including a 4-hour 45-minute marathon game in which I blundered in the final minutes under time pressure.

The good new is I got my first tournament win. The game score is proudly published below if you care to play it through.

1.e4 Nf6 2.Nc3 e5 3.f4 exf4 My King actually smiled after this opening combination, sort of a back door entry to the King's Gambit. 4.Nf3 d6 5.d4 Be7 6.Bd3 Bg4 7.0-0 Nc6 8.Be2 0-0 9.Bxf4 Nd7 10.Nd5 Bf6 11.c3 Re8 12.Qc2 Bh5 13.Bd3 Bg6 14.Rae1 Ne7 This move blocks black's pieces in too much. I felt I had a real advantage after this. 15.Nxf6 Nxf6 16.Nh4 d5 17.Nxg6 Nxg6 18.Bg5 dxe4 19.Bxe4 Re6? This allows white to simplify the game and win the material exchange. 20.Bxg6 Rxe1 21.Bxh7+ Nxh7 22.Bxd8 Rxf1+ 23.Kxf1 Rxd8 24.Qe4 Rd6 With the centralized queen and a material advantage, I was confident of a win. 25.Qxb7 Rb6 26.Qc8+ Nf8 27.b3 Rf6+ 28.Kg1 Re6 29.h3 Re2 30.a4 g6 31.Qxc7 Ne6 32.Qg3 Rb2 33.d5 Nc5 34.Qb8+ Kg7 35.Qb4 Rb1+ 36.Kh2 Nxb3 37.c4 a5 Moving the black King was probably better, although white is far ahead anyway. 38.Qc3+ Kg8 39.Qc2 1-0

My rating improved by about 170 points after this tournament (see the tournament crosstable here) which puts me a little closer to where I think I should be. All I need to do now is work on winning when I have an advantage (one of the challenges in chess)!

Overall, I had a great time and look forward to next year!

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Charlotte's August Album

We have a new photo album posted for August, and there are some really cute ones. See the Photo Albums section, or click here. When the album page opens, you can click the "Slideshow" link at the top right to see all the photos in a slideshow format.

Enjoy!

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Why Vote Conservative? Reason 2

Harper is the best party leader for Prime Minister

Based on the current options, this should come as no surprise to anyone, and recent polls show that many Canadians are leaning in that direction. From the news I've heard on the radio, Stephen Harper has the lead, and Jack Layton, leader of the NDP is now more highly favored as a leader than the leader of the Liberal Party, Stéphane Dion.

Four weeks until election day!

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11, 2008


It's been seven years since "9/11", and its effects are still being felt. Take a minute and look through this slideshow of really great photos of the attacks and aftermath.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Trooper Plus Two

We are proud to announce the new title to our blog, Trooper Plus Two! After some discussion, and a bit of thinking, we came up with this new name and tagline, reflecting the direction the blog has taken over the last few years. Of course, there is much of the same, but a whole lot more as well. More about us, and more about Charlotte. Okay, most of the new stuff is about Charlotte.

Anyway, we look forward to many more years of blogging together, and hope you will remain frequent visitors to read about the ongoing adventures of three best friends!

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Why Vote Conservative? Reason 1

We don't need a Carbon Tax

Or another one, as would be the case for those of us in BC. We're already stuck with a tax on every liter of fuel we buy.

We already pay enough taxes in Canada... just say "No" to carbon taxes.

We don't need another Carbon Tax or any new tax at all. Keep the money in your own pocket where you can do with it what you choose. There are better and more direct ways to improve our environmental impact.

A Conservative vote is a vote against the Carbon Tax.

Read more:
     Environment

Articles:
     Tories will cut excise tax on diesel fuel in half: Harper

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Sunday, September 07, 2008

Canada Goes To The Polls!

Wow, election fever across North America! Within a two month period, Canada and the United States will make key decisions as to who their leaders will be.

While in the USA, elections are on fixed dates (leading to lengthy campaigns), Canadian elections can be called nearly anytime, and are decided inside of two months. Read more about the Canadian federal election announcement here.

Canadians will head to the polls in a general election on Oct. 14, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Sunday in Ottawa after meeting with the Governor General.

Harper made the announcement outside Rideau Hall after his conversation with Michaëlle Jean.

"Her Excellency, the Governor General, has seen fit to dissolve Parliament," he said.

The vote will take place one day after the Thanksgiving holiday.

"Between now and Oct. 14, Canadians will choose a government to look out for their interests at a time of global economic trouble," Harper said.

While this election is not mandatory, my guess is that the government wants to reaffirm the countries confidence in them, and perhaps move them closer to a majority. I plan on giving the current government my full support, including getting my very own lawn sign for the first time. I will also be posting my top six reasons why Canadians should vote for the Conservative Party of Canada, once per week until election day.

Your task for the next six weeks: Get informed, and vote for whoever you think is the best candidate for you!

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Saturday, September 06, 2008

Big Stretches!


After a long ride in the car...

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Vacation: King's Landing

This is the final post about our vacation to New Brunswick! We've been pretty busy since we got back, so I just now got around to getting these photos in order.

King's Landing is a historical settlement that features a number of houses and other buildings from the 1800's. They have people there who act and work as if they lived in that time, doing the jobs, making food, taking care of the houses, and so on.


Welcome to King's Landing

Ever since we've been married, Natasha has been talking about taking me there, one of her favorite tourist attractions in New Brunswick. We spent the day walking around, seeing the sights, and taking some photos.


The settlement has some really nice scenery


Many old artifacts are displayed in the houses


The Sawmill

Having an interest in woodworking, I spent a bit of time inside the sawmill, learning about how the power of the water wheel is converted into vertical motion for the saw. It's really quite brilliant, and an amazing accomplishment considering the technology of the time.


Some cute piggies we saw in one of the barns


Another view looking out towards the river


And of course, Charlotte was there too, in her cute hat!

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Shuttle Atlantis On Hubble Rescue Mission


Shuttle Atlantis

The Space Shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to launch next month (October 8th), carrying new instruments, batteries and gyroscopes to the Hubble Space Telescope. This will be the final servicing mission to Hubble, the 30th flight of the 23-year old Atlantis, and one of the final 10 flights of the Space Shuttle program, which will be retired in 2010.

I really enjoy this Space Shuttle stuff. I would have liked to see a launch sometime, but with only 10 more to go, I won't have a chance. I assume something bigger and better will be coming out to replace them, and maybe I'll catch one of those instead.

Check out the really great photos of the preparations for this launch.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

BC 3rd Lowest For Minimum Wage

Take a look at the chart below, listing the minimum wage in each province and territory in Canada.

Minimum wages across Canada
Newfoundland and Labrador$8.00
P.E.I.$7.75
Nova Scotia$8.10
New Brunswick$7.75
Quebec$8.50
Ontario$8.75
Manitoba$8.50
Saskatchewan$8.60
Alberta$8.40
British Columbia$8.00
Northwest Territories$8.25
Yukon$8.58
Nunavut$10.00

This came as a bit of a surprise to me! The last time I got minimum wage was back in Alberta when I was in school working at the library, and it was $5.75 an hour if I remember correctly. I just assumed things would have increased more over time, and especially with today's cost of living. Apparently not, as BC is tied for 3rd lowest minimum wage in Canada, where we have some of the highest prices around.

Reference: Nunavut gets top minimum wage in Canada

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