Good Weekend

There was one point this weekend, as I woke up from a nap in the “bunky” with trees all around me, and a lake in front of me, the sun making the water sparkle as the wake from a motorboat in the distance, pulling teenagers on inner tubes, who’s delighted screams and hollers echoed around the little island, lapped gently on the shore, and considered a future that only looks bright and exciting from here, where I broke out laughing — completely spontaneously, and out of sheer joy…
On very few occasions have I ever been so happy and content.

Eye of the Tiger

So the next 7-10 days promise to be grueling, interesting, fun and challenging. I guess I’ll blog about them when they’re all done, cause they stacked up on us really fast and we’ve barely had time to think.
The kids off are off to Nic’s parent’s and I’m packing us up for a weekend of camping. We’re leaving bright and early tomorrow, with barely time to breathe in between activities! At least we’re ending the summer with a bang!
While we’re gone, here’s a cute song parody that those of us of a more geeky persuasion might enjoy. Some choice lyrics (to the tune of Eye of the Tiger)…

Motherboard mounts in the case
I put in two brand new hard drives
Don’t have to wait, ’cause they’re both solid state
Add two more, now that’s four, in RAID 5

But I still need the drivers or those hard disks won’t write
Without them, this whole project’s looking dire
I’ve installed several RAM sticks and the optical drive
But they won’t do me much good without
Vista drivers

8 Years and Counting

8 years ago, today, Nicole and I were wed at a cute little church in her home town, in a fairly traditional ceremony, surrounded by friends and family. We were barely 21: young, full of crazy dreams and relatively free, with the whole wide world in front of us.
Now we aren’t quite as young, not quite as free, and maybe our dreams have been tempered a bit by reality. But the whole wide world is still ours to go after…
Happy Anniversary, Nicole. I love you!

Dissolve the CRTC

The CRTC is Canada’s governing agency for Radio, Television and Communications. It was created in 1976, and frankly hasn’t evolved since then. The organization is in the pocket of Canada’s sole owner of 90% of our copper phone cable infrastructure, Bell Canada, and has repeatedly acted to limit innovation potentially problematic for, or competitive to, that company.
In theory, the CRTC should act to protect consumers, improve competition, and ensure that our country remains technologically progressive. In practice, its done the exact opposite for the past 10 years. The CRTC has crushed Bell’s DSL competition, stifled innovation, and enforced a status quo that is beginning to make Canada positively backwards compared to the rest of the world.
Wonder why the iTunes store or XBox Live Marketplace suck in Canada? Why we have no NetFlix? Why in an age where even my parents are interested in digital content, there’s almost none to be obtained legally in this country? The CRTC is the reason why.
The agency needs to be dissolved before things get even worse. Already we get half the service of our neighbours to the south, for twice the money. Don’t even think about comparing our country’s infrastructure to Japan’s — we might as well be using smoke signals!
If you’re Canadian, and you don’t realise how bad you have it, try making a phone call to Bell or Roger’s customer service departments — their duopoly in Ontario basically ensures that you won’t ever win.
If you’re Canadian, and you’re starting to get some inkling that maybe you’re getting screwed by your TelCo/Cable Provider, trust me: you are.
Sign the petition to dissolve the CRTC before things get even worse.

Good Citizens

After 16 months of waiting, a trip to our MP’s office, and 18 days in which our kids had no health care at all, Benjamin and Abigail are finally official Canadian citizens.
Apparently, we were supposed to have filed their paperwork with the Canadian embassy in the States — even though we did file it with them and they mailed it back to us saying we had to file in Canada. This mix-up (can you really call staggering incompetence a “mix-up”?) was what caused the delay. A harsh phone call and a fax from our Member of Parliament seemed to resolve it fairly quickly. If only we’d tried that earlier…
Both our kids also retain their U.S. citizenship. While the U.S. requires dual-citizens to renounce their alternate citizenship (even though that renouncing is rarely officially recognized by the other country and dual-citizenship can be retained anyway), Canada does not. Our kids will be able to have both U.S. and Canadian passports (the combination allowing them to travel virtually anywhere in the world), go to school, and get a job anywhere in Canada or the U.S without hassle. It was a lot of work for their parents (mostly Nicole, who navigated the bureaucracies of both governments to get this done) but it will give them a level of freedom with their future that few people enjoy. We will raise our children with pride for both their nationalities, but with a broader world view than each would dictate individually.
In other news, our oldest dual-citizen pooped on the potty yesterday. He announced that he needed to pee (“Ben pee potty!”) so Nic helped him into the bathroom, then left while he did his business. After a few minutes she opened the door to check on him and he says “Leave Ben ‘lone!” A few more minutes later he steps out the door and announces: “I POOP!”
It was a very proud day for us as parents.

Home again, Off again

Well we’re home safe and sound from vacation. In short, this one was much better than the last.
The beach was beautiful, and we averaged 2-3 visits per day. Our kids oscillated between loving it and hating it.
The cottage was, as I mentioned earlier, nothing special, but once we got a look around at the types and prices of other accommodations, we decided we weren’t that bad off after all. Apparently beach-side property is expensive!
Our babysitters didn’t quite make it the whole week, and went home Thursday night. We briefly considered going home Friday, me not being sure how our kids would behave, but decided we wanted our moneys worth, so we stayed the last day. We drove up to Tobermory — where my family used to cottage when I was a child — and enjoyed a leisurely walk, and outdoor lunch, around a cute little town surrounded by water.
My back, surprisingly, made it the whole week without any significant pain until today. On a possibly related note, I had to trim my fingernails this afternoon. I’ve been a chronic nail-biter my whole life. I don’t believe I’ve ever trimmed my nails the proper way. I’m wondering, now, if my back problems and nail-biting are both related to working, and if maybe I can arrange to retire at 30 :-p
We’ve been home briefly — time enough to unpack, get the kids down for a nap, get the Toyota looked into (see addendum to previous post below), and I’m BBQing some supper, then we’re off to the airport to meet the Jamaica team. Two of our good friends were leading, and we can’t wait to hear about how God changed lives on this trip!
Pictures to follow when I get more than 10 minutes online…

Stupid, Stupid Invention

Lock nuts. Ever heard of them? They might just be the stupidest invention ever.
Our Toyota Matrix got a hole in the tire. I walked out of the cottage yesterday morning, and noticed that one side of the car was lower than the other. I have no idea how long it had been like that. We have the other car with us, so it wasn’t a big deal, I figured I’d just put the spare on some time and get it patched when we got home.
This afternoon, I set about to do same, and was confused when one of the 5 nuts was rounded, and had a funny pattern on it. Attempting to loosen the nut with the provided wrench did nothing. I searched the car for some kind of tool to turn this odd nut, and came up dry. Apparently whoever we took the lease over from forget to include this essential piece. Giving up, we called CAA and figured they could handle it. But when the arrived, and tried every tool they had in their arsenal, they had no luck either. The driver filled the tire back up with air and sent me downtown to a local mechanic.
On the way I called Toyota — the nearest dealership being an hour and 20 minutes away. They informed me that there was not likely to be any aftermarket tools for this nut, that there was no way to find the tool using the VIN of the car, and that the only solution was to have the vehicle towed the 80km to them to have it removed. I tried really hard not to swear as I hung up the phone.
Fortunately, the guy in town was able to patch the hole in place, because if he couldn’t, in his words I would be “F@#$.”
Imagine, then that this had happened at 11:00 at night, in a snow storm, to Nicole while she was driving the kids somewhere. She would have been stuck there, totally and completely stuck.
Now I gather that such an invention is not unique to Toyota products. But Toyota passed the vehicle’s inspection upon our lease assumption without providing us with the tool — despite taking nearly a week to do so. Just like Toyota built a vehicle with an engine torqued so far beyond its capabilities that the piece of crap spins out at the first sign of snow in the first 3 gears. And Toyota sells a “racing” edition car in Canada with tires that are near-lethal to drive in the winter.
I hate, hate, hate our Toyota Matrix, and as much as I’d one day like to own a Prius, I don’t think I will ever buy a Toyota again.
Addendum: Consider me mollified. The car still sucks, the leasing process still sucks, and I’ll never buy a Matrix again, but… the service guy at our local dealership was stellar. He apologized for the problem, and rectified it for us in less than half an hour — for free. 4 new, non-lock-nuts on the car, and the key for the original nuts is on-order if we ever want to pick it up and use them again. The Prius remains in the running for our next car…

Vacation

Everyone’s at the beach, so I have a few stolen moments of silence here. I figured I’d blog so there’d be some context to the pictures we’ll be uploading later.
So far our vacation has gone much better than last — Nicole has managed to avoid being 7 months pregnant, and I’ve managed to avoid crippling myself with back injuries, so that always helps.
Each of us (over 10) get to plan one day of the week, with Friday being a free-for-all. Yesterday was gray and gloomy, so we checked out some falls, and did a few quick boat rides. By the evening it had cleared up, so we had a fire and played some games. Today is Nicole’s day to plan, and she wants to sit on the beach. No one argued.
I’m not quite sure what the younger two have planned for their days, although there was some talk of make-up and a dance party. Oh, to be young and full of energy. Fortunately, the weather report promises clear skies and lots of sun for the rest of the week.
Our cabin is… less-than-stellar, but its functional, so I guess I can’t really complain — although for the money we paid, maybe I’ve earned the right to complain a little bit. Maybe next time we’ll book a littler further than 2 months in advance, and find something a little cozier. Still, its a vacation. I haven’t had to change a diaper yet this week, with all the extra help around, and although my primary function in our temporarily collected family seems to be running errands, I’ve had lots of time to read and relax, and almost none to sit in front of a computer. No wonder my back feels so great.
Anyway, I’m off to bike down to the beach and join the rest of the crew. Pictures later.

Off to Cottage Country

As of today, we are on vacation. This is only the second attempt we’ve ever made at taking a vacation — since our honeymoon, that is. The first was not a success. We’re hoping this one goes a lot better.
Nicole claimed to have been packed 3 days ago, but a surprising amount of “last minute” packing occured yesterday, and is on the list yet for today. Half of it, I’m sure we won’t need, and you should see how full our SUV is. Still, I suppose its better to be over-prepared than under. And she does have to pack for the two kids. I have a pair of jeans, and a sweater for evenings around the fire, and a bathing suit — and three books. I might have packed a few extra things in my tiny bag, but I doubt I’ll use them.
We anticipate having tethered Internet while away, but we don’t anticipate using it much. We’ll post lots of pictures when we get back, though!
PS: Happy Birthday to my brother Dave, while we’re away! Maybe this is the year you’ll meet a nice girl and change your mind about the benefits of settling down 😉

I've been having really weird dreams lately

There’s too much going on not too blog, but too much of it is unbloggable. Here’s some little crumbs, just for the sake of having something recorded…
– I re-found a half dozen or more people from the high school I went to in Germany on Facebook. This has led to a few good conversations, some joy and not a small amount of consternation.
– This weekend we’re heading up to cottage country. We’re bringing the kids, and we’re bringing the kids’ babysitter and her sister. This is because we want a vacation ourselves. Our two guests are part of a wonderful family who have become very dear friends.
– We got to Skype with Elisabeth in Jamaica, and briefly see the team in the background. Technology has changed a lot since the last Jamaica team we sent out!
– Windows 7 is really, really good… I wonder what the weather is like in Washington.