Friday, June 12, 2009

We (YOU!) did it!

the logo of the CCSImage via Wikipedia

With $930 in online donations and $70 cash, I have now officially reached my $1000 fund raising target for the Canadian Cancer Society's Relay for Life.

THANK YOU ALL for your generosity and sick minds wanting to see my shave my head. :)

As stated on the event page, the shaving date is June 21st (Father's Day), which also happens to be the day after the Relay ends. I'm hoping it'll be a nice day so I can sit outside, have a beer or two and let it happen. If you live in the area, you're more than welcome to drop by for the hour or so and share a beer and a few laughs. I'll post the address closer to the big day. There will be photo taking and video, which I will post on the event page a day or two later so be sure to drop by.

Thanks again and thank you for your patience enduring my fund raising spam! And please remember, just because I reached my target, the fund raising efforts are not over -- I just won't be spamming you anymore. :) If you wish to donate to a good cause, you can do so here

And, if by some miracle I hit $2000 before the big day, I will still also shave my face. :)

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Chrome Dome!

the logo of the CCSImage via Wikipedia

On June 19th, I am participating in the Canadian Cancer Society's Relay for Life. I did it last year and had a great time raising money for an awesome cause.

Although I set my personal goal at $600, I want more.

So, here's the deal. If I can raise $1,000 or more, I'll shave my head bald. Ok, I generally keep my hair pretty short to begin with, but I have never been bald.

And I'll take it one step further.

If my personal total meets or exceeds $2,000, I will also shave off my goatee and my moustache. My kids have never seen me without facial hair. At the very least, they have always seen me with a moustache.

I am pretty attached to my moustache (no pun intended), which is why I set the goal pretty high for it. But, I promise that if my personal total matches or exceeds $2,000, my head will be as nekkid as nekkid can be.

There will be photos and maybe even video proof, when and if it happens.

I challenge you all to make it happen. You can donate here

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Sunday, April 5, 2009

Do-It-Yourself Litter Box

Our cat, Sam, is about 15 years old. While she's still in good health, and fairly active, she does have one flaw; bad aim when it comes to using her litter box.

It doesn't happen every time, but it happens enough that her corner in the basement requires a garbage bag on the floor, with newspaper spread on top of it, and the litter box centered in the middle. And even then, sometimes she goes enough that it has time to flow off the newspaper and onto the floor.

One time while I was in the basement, I was fortunate enough to see exactly why it happens. She stepped into her litter box and began her business. Everything was fine, until she was about half-way done. Her behind started to rise and the stream of urine started shooting over the side of the litter box, onto the newspaper.

She used to have a covered litter box at one time, but it was rather small and difficult to maintain on regular basis. About a year ago, we switched to a standard size litter box. That's pretty much when she started overshooting.

I searched the web for alternative litter boxes. I found that there's even a top-entrance litter box. I can't see my cat going for that.

In my search, I discovered that my cat is not unique with her habit of raising her behind while urinating. It actually seems fairly common, mostly in older cats. As they age, their joints ache and they can't squat in the same position for any length of time, therefore, they straighten their legs as they urinate.

With that, came the obvious suggestion of using a litter box with high sides. My thoughts turned to the covered box, again. But the article also suggested using a large Rubbermaid tote, and cutting an entrance in the side. It has higher sides than most high-sided litter boxes, and doesn't cost any more than a litter box. I did a search just not to try and find the article, and there are many others just like it, all showing how to create your own high-side litter box. :)

My wife picked up a large Rubbermaid tote today. I made some markings on the side where I planned to cut the entrance, and then finished the job with a hacksaw and an exacto knife. After a little sanding of the rough edges, it was done. I almost made the entrance on the short end, but thought that it might not be a good idea since it would be easy to pee out of. This article reaffirms my decision.

I put it in the same location in the basement, but I did add some newspaper underneath it to help me catch any mishaps. There's no way she'll pee over the side, but there is a chance she might accidentally aim out the entrance.

I really hope this solves the problem. After finding all of the other articles from people who did the same, I'm pretty confident that it will.
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(Update 03-15-2010: FYI… this did solve the problem. Zero accidents since.)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Addiction, fear, & brainwashing

Unlit filtered cigarettesImage via Wikipedia

About a month ago I did something that I've done many times over the years. It was something I should never have had to do in the first place, and after failing once, I should have only had to do it once. But I failed many times. This time, I am certain it will be the last time I ever do it.

I quit smoking.

The first time I actually inhaled from a cigarette was when I was 17 or 18 years old. I really don't know why I started. Nobody pushed it onto me. It gave me quite a head buzz. So much so that I had a couple more soon after. That evening, I remember being white as a ghost and sick to the stomach. I should have stopped right there. But I didn't.

It wasn't until after basic training in the military in the mid-80s that I started smoking regularly. In the years that followed, sometimes more than a pack per day.

I tried to quit countless times -- once for a couple of years -- but the lure of the "lung darts" always got the best of me.

About 6 or 7 years ago, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure and high cholesterol, both of which I now take a pill for every day.

Last year during my annual physical examination, my doctor gave me "the lecture", as he put it. Lose weight, eat better, and quit smoking.

I lost a few pounds, I ate a little better (but not as good as I should), and I didn't quit smoking.

Last month, I had my annual physical examination again. It ended with my doctor asking me if he had given me the lecture the year before. I chuckled and said "Probably, but it wouldn't hurt to give me a reminder." He smiled. He then gave me the lecture but to put things in perspective, he added that he had recently attended or assisted with two open heart surgeries for men 43 and 44 years old.

I left with my blood work requisition and renewed prescription in hand, and something to think about.

I'm 43 years old.

Despite feeling pretty good, health-wise, I can't help but wonder if those two men were at one time in the same position as I am today. It's probably a safe assumption that they were, or were at least aware of their health situation at some point.

On January 24th, I took the first step in making a change and quit smoking. Only a few days later, I could feel the difference. I even saw the difference in my blood pressure, since I have my own blood pressure cuff at home.

I decided to get a little help , and went on the 21mg nicotine patch. It helped. It helped quite a bit. I used it for 3 weeks, one week short of the recommended time, and then switched to the 14mg patch.

In that time, I learned about a book: Allen Carr's Easy Way to Stop Smoking. $20 later, I had it ordered from

I'm 50% finished reading it and it's quite an eye opener. The thing is, he doesn't really tell you much that you probably haven't heard before, but somehow manages to get you to see it in a different way to reverse all the brainwashing and beat the fear.

I stopped using the nicotine patch altogether after the third 14mg patch.

The way I feel now is nothing like the other attempts I made at quitting. That's why I firmly believe I beat the nicotine addiction. In the past, if thought about how it felt to have a smoke, I would end up craving it. This time, when I try the same thing, I have absolutely no desire to have a cigarette.

If you've ever tried and failed at quitting smoking, give this book a try. It's cheaper than any of the other methods and has a higher success rate. You've got nothing to lose and your health and freedom to gain.

P.S. Here's a free download of another Allen Carr book: Scandal. ‘SCANDAL’ is the book that the pharmaceuticals, the Department of Health, the NHS, ASH and QUIT will not want you to read!
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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

More Ford Escape Fun -- a GOOD experience this time

Not all bad this time, but since I've whined complained in the past, it's only fair to mention when the experience is a good one.

A little history....

Monday morning:
  • Our 2008 Ford Escape started and ran rough. It felt like the transmission was slipping when pulling out of our parking spot. It had been very cold overnight, so I just assumed that might be why. Once it was warmed up, it seemed OK.
Tuesday morning:
  • Another rough start. More of that "slipping" feeling. Again, warmed up, it seemed fine, although sometimes when accelerating from a stop or a slow roll, something didn't feel quite right.
Tuesday afternoon:
  • After sitting for 9hrs in the underground parking at work -- where it's above freezing -- the truck started fine. While driving through the underground parking, I accelerated lightly and felt slippage, followed by a sudden grip of the transmission. This is probably what it would feel like if you were in neutral, revved the engine slightly and put it into drive. It made the tires chirp on the concrete. Not good.
  • While driving up the ramp to exit the underground parking, the transmission slipped again. I almost didn't make it all the way up. Not good at all.
  • It drove fine to my wife's work. I told her what happened. She called the dealership and was told the transmission guy went home already, but would be in at 7:30am Wednesday morning. She asked if he could take a look at it right away in the morning and they said he could.
Wednesday morning:
  • After leaving the block heater plugged in all night, the truck started fine. I felt a little slippage when we went to Timmy's for coffee.
  • We drove all the way to Orleans and arrived at the dealership at 7:30am and pulled into the service bay.
  • Jim, the "Senior Service Advisor", helped us. We explained the problem. He checked with the transmission guy and was told that he had 3 or 4 cars to do today. It probably wouldn't get looked at today.
  • We had a choice: if it was deemed not serious, he could schedule us in for tomorrow morning and we could take our truck home and back tomorrow. If it was a serious problem, they'd need to keep it.
  • The good: Because we have an ESP (Extended Service Plan), they'd cover a loaner/rental!
  • The bad: they had no loaner cars available, and the liklihood of getting us a rental was slim to none because of the never-ending OC Transpo strike in Ottawa. On top of that, Ford would only approve of FORD rentals -- they won't supply non-Ford rental cars to their customers. That would make it more difficult for Jim to find us a rental. WTF, Ford?
  • Jim told us about some nasty stories he had heard from the other dealerships in the area -- customers irate that they couldn't get loaners or rentals while their vehicles were being serviced. Apparently the cops had to be called to get one customer leave.
  • My wife said that she was told they could take a quick look and maybe take it for a spin if we brought it in first thing this morning. Jim seemed a little surprised, but went to talk with the transmission guy. He agreed to take a quick look.
  • The first thing the mechanic asked was to start the engine and pop the hood. He checked the transmission fluid. It was dry. O_o He put his hand under the bumper and something dripped on his hand. We had a coolant leak. He asked me if I had noticed any puddles under the truck when parked. I said I hadn't. Had it been summer, I surely would have noticed, but with all the snow lately, I hadn't seen anything.
  • The good: a coolant leak is a quicker repair, if the parts are available. The mechanic left and came back to tell us that they had the parts, and a guy who can do the repair immediately.
  • More good: the entire repair would be covered by the ESP.
  • Jim told us it would be a 2-3hr job, if the parts they had matched the truck. We could wait, or they could give us a shuttle ride to work or home. We decided to wait until they could do a more thorough check with the truck on the hoist.
  • A ½ hour or so later, Jim came to the waiting area to give us an update. Parts are confirmed in stock, they match, and the problem was as suspected.
  • An hour passed and Jim again gave us an update: repairs almost done. The mechanic would then take it for a spin to make sure the problem was fixed.
  • Another ½ later Jim came to tell us our truck was ready. The paper work would take another 20 minutes, but we could leave and they would mail them to us.
2 hours after arriving at Jim Keay, we were on our way to work with a working truck.

Needless to say, we were very pleased with the service we received this morning. Granted a little luck was involved that the repair wasn't as serious, but we left feeling that Jim -- the Service Advisor -- and the first mechanic put in additional effort to get us on our way quickly. I don't know what we would have done otherwise. Hopefully that's how they treat all of their customers.

Thanks, and kudos to the guys at Jim Keay Ford Lincoln!

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Monday, January 26, 2009

My Bucket List

Yellow BucketI stole got this idea from someone's blog, who got the idea from another blog. It sounded like a fun idea, so, here's the start of my list:
  1. Weigh 200lbs or less (target = summer)
  2. Quit smoking (already in progress -- if I can go 2 months, I'll consider it done)
  3. Visit the UK (where I was born, and where my cousins, aunts, and uncles live)
  4. Visit my Dad's grave site in Louisiana.
  5. Own a Ford Mustang. :D
  6. Visit every province in Canada (6 to go... not including the territories)
  7. Cycle 1000kms in one year (this may not seem like much to some people, but considering I tend to cycle once per weekend, in spring & summer only, that's about 80kms per weekend -- double what I usually ride...)
Yeh, some sound more like goals, but achieving them will make me happy. :) I'll add as I come up with more stuff.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Ear Force X3 Headset -- my review (or 2 cents)

I love gaming. I love gaming late at night. Unfortunately, this means that I can't play certain games and fully enjoy the experience without disturbing my family as they sleep.

I discovered that Turtle Beach makes wireless headsets to solve this problem. They allow you to listen to the audio of the game AND chat with friends at the same time. Up to now, my options were:
  1. use the original Xbox headset and keep the game sound low
  2. plug my stereo headphones into the stereo to listen to the game audio and not bother with voice chat
  3. use both my stereo headphones and the Xbox headset at the same time (ever tried wearing two headsets at the same time?) :)
I picked up the Ear Force X3 after a few friend recommendations and reading glowing reviews on the web. I had high hopes for these, but I have to say that I am disappointed.

The sound is good and they're comfortable, but there is one thing about them that is making me seriously consider returning them: they are not compatible with the Rock Band guitars or the Xbox chatpad. You can't even use the adapter wire that came with Rock Band.

I thought that surely I must be doing something wrong. I visited the Turtle Beach web site and found this:
The wireless X3 and X4 model headsets use special connectors that draw power from the Xbox handheld controller's "puck" connection. This connection is used to power the X3/X4 chat level boost, which boosts the chat when game soundtracks get so loud that they might obscure the chat channel.

Because the Chatpad, Rock Band and Racing Wheel controllers do not provide these extra power connections, the X3 and X4 headsets are *not* compatible with these aftermarket controllers. There are no adapters available that will make them compatible.

The Guitar Hero controller has been reported to work with the X-series headsets.
So, not only can I not use it with the chatpad or the RB2 guitar, but I can't use it with the racing wheel either.

I may be able to live with not using it with the chatpad, or the racing wheel, but when I play Rock Band or Guitar Hero, I use the RB2 guitar. My main purpose for getting these was so I could talk and play RB2 or GHWT later at night. Without being able to talk, I may as well wear my old stereo headphones and put up with the inconvenience of the headphone wire extension. (and wear two headsets at the same time) :)

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