Aversion to UHC

I don’t usually voice my opinion on political issues in my blog but this one really has me confused. Why would any sane individual would not want worry free health care (other than the rich who have no issues with paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for health care)

Personally I really do not understand the Americans aversion to health care. I suspect the brainwashing techniques used by the very institutions that make such a profit in the current system may have something to to do with it.

This video kind of explains what health care really is

August 27, 2009 at 9:08 pm 2 comments

Trend Setter or Steps to Buy a New Bike

Alex and I had to laugh. She seems to be the trend setter in this family. I remember when I swore by PC’s and had a huge Dell desktop. That was before we moved to Barcelona. Alex had a Dell laptop but she wasn’t completely happy with it. If you know Alex, you’d know she does her homework. She researched all kinds of laptops and decided on an Apple 12 in PowerBook. We were moving soon and I really needed a laptop to use in Spain. Guess what ? I ended up buying an Apple 15 in PowerBook. I’ll never go back. Matter of fact, when we moved back to Toronto, we bought a 24 in Imac.

Jump ahead to 2009. We decide it was time to upgrade our bikes. Off we go to Bikes on Wheels, our favourite bike shop in Kensington Market. Alex bought me a Fuji Absolute 3.0.

It’s a performance Hybrid. More or less a regular bike with some race features.  I joined TBN (Toronto Bike Network) which is a cycle club here in Toronto. I started riding with them and found I was really getting into it. My knee was feeling stronger and I was getting stronger on the bike. I went out and bought some accesories to help improve my riding. The first thing I bought was a Garmin Edge 705, a gps enabled bike computer.

Now I could record all my rides with all the important parameters and monitor my progress. I could track new routes when riding with TBN and return to them whenever I wanted. The next step was a big one for me. I’d never before had clipless pedals and so many riders had told me that it was the one thing they bought that made a huge difference in their riding. Especially hill climbing, which I absolutely hated. I got a great deal on the pedals at Bikes on Wheels and bought an inexpensive shoe at MEC. Off I went on my Fuji. It was a strange feeling at first. I was now attached to my bike. If I fell, I would not be able to jump off, the bike would come with me. I rode a few weeks on my own and gradually got used to them. On the last ride with TBN I had to stop fast and did manage to get out of the pedals before I totally hit the ground. Anyhow, I love riding with them now.

At the beginning of the summer, Alex began looking for a bike that would fit her academic lifestyle and found a bike she fell in love with. They gave her a great deal on it (of course at Bikes on Wheels, and no, I do NOT work for them). She bought an unknown brand (at least to us) made in Montreal and designed by a Quebec artist. The brand is Opus and Alex loves her Classico. She wrote about it in her blog and the artist sent her an email thanking her for the compliments and for buying the bike. Now THAT is class.

Alex's Classico

Meanwhile I kept riding my Fuji

At this point, I decided I wanted to do some distance riding and I started researching road bikes. To be honest, I didn’t have a clue as to where to start. Some of my new friends in TBN offered advice and I finally had a start point. I looked at mid range bikes in the $2 K range. I was told fit and components are the most important but how I felt on the bike was THE deciding factor. I first thought I would get a tri bike since I used to do triathlons and read some specs about them being designed for speed and comfort. I wrote an email to Cervello and asked them what the difference was between the Cervallo S1 (road) and the Cervallo P1 (tri) since I was considering those two models at this point of my search.

Cervello P1

Cervello P1

They were amazing and responded within 2 days. They suggested a road bike (S1) since I would be riding with groups (tri bikes are NOT good in groups as drafting is not permitted in tris) and it would fit my style of riding as I described to them. My first swtich over, I decided that the way to go was road bike. Now, I began looking at road bikes on Internet. Obviously, I looked at Fuji, then Cervello, Norco, Trek, Aquila, Guru, Devinci, Blue and a few others. We frequently drop in to the bike shop when we’re down in Kensington just to say hi and I mentioned to Sean that I was looking for a road bike now. I mentioned Cervello and a few brands he didn’t carry but I wanted to research brands he carried so I asked what they were. Obviously, Opus came up but I paid no attention. I really wanted to give him my business so I researched Opus. It was at this point that I figured that there was no magic in the frame (at least for my skill level) and concentrated on what components the bikes had. I really liked the look of the Opus Andante and that became a potential.

Opus Andante

Opus Andante

I kept looking at cyclocross bikes and discovered that they were just road bikes with some mods to go off road. They were actually high performance machines and I thought to myself that for city riding I could use the cyclocross wheels and if I was going into rural areas, I could switch to wheels that had a performance tire on them. I decided the Opus Stelle was the one I wanted.

Opus Stelle

Opus Stelle

I saw the Opus Spark at the bike store and fell in love with its looks but it didn’t have the components I was looking for. We had to go to Kensington to get some stuff and have a coffee and of course I stopped in to try the Spark. It felt great, really comfortable and when he told me the price, I was sold. I bought it.

My new OPUS Spark

My new OPUS Spark

It was a hard decision but the ones that clinched it were price, the fact I could give Sean my business, the components are not lesser quality, just heavier and also the company is Canadian and like a cherry on a Sundae, it’s a Quebec company.

Now I have the Opus Spark which once again follows in Alex’s footsteps. I do the same in beer, whatever she orders, I have the same. She makes great food choices too.

By the way, Alex now rides with TBN and she now has my Fuji Absolute to use as her performance bike

August 13, 2009 at 1:09 am 3 comments

Latest Interest

Well, I waited a bit to see if it would last and so far so good. I’m getting back into cycling and having a blast. I’m only doing around 120 k a week but I hope to build up to more. This is the first blog about my rediscovered interest so we’ll see where it leads to.

One thing, I bought a Garmin Edge 705 bike computer just to keep tabs on how I’m doing. It’s an absolutely amazing bit of technology (not that I’m into technology) but after only 1 week of using it I had to send it back. I couldn’t upload or download files on my Mac. I tried three different machines and it was the same for all of them. I called Garmin support and we went through some steps (soft reset, Hard reset, delete all and tru a hard reset) all to no avail. I had to mail it back and it’s been almost 2 weeks now. I WANT IT BACK, lol

Anyhow, I’ll organize myself and keep you posted on what’s going on

August 7, 2009 at 5:05 pm Leave a comment

First Session Complete

I have been procrastinating about taking a ceramics course since we returned from Barcelona. Francesca introduced me to the craft (she’s really good) and I finally got around to enrolling in a class at the Gardiner Museum. I am sorry I didn’t enroll sooner because I absolutely love it. It seems to cover almost everything that keeps my attention. Things like research, problem solving, analysis, planning and above all a constant learning process. I read somewhere that to be interested in ceramics is to become a beginner forever. I like that.

Anyhow, the 10 week course is over and here are the results. I might add here that the course I am taking is hand building with Ian Symons as the instructor. The techniques used to create forms by constructing with your hands, no potters wheel. I didn’t even know they had two different methods so ……

I had no idea what to expect when I went to the first class. I didn’t even know what was expected. I did know that I eventually wanted to make masks but had no clue as to where to begin. Ian, the instructor, showed us a technique called pinching and showed us how to build many shapes using this technique. I had no idea what I was going to make as I built the basic form with this technique. Slowly, the shape began to lead me and I ended up with Mr Potato Head (as Alex named him). I wanted to toss it as it’s part of the road to discovery but Alex insisted I keep him.

I introduce you to Mr Potato Head ………..

I was a little more prepared for the second class and I knew I wanted to try and build my mask. I spoke to Ian about it on the first class and he gave me some ideas on where to get some info and how to approach the project. I managed to get a burlap bag from a friend who has a coffee shop in Kensington Market and spent the entire weekend unravelling the fibres. I had decided to use that burlap for the hair.

This was the result ……….

On the third and fourth classes I was experimenting with block prining on soft clay. I had carved out some Haida designs on linoleum and intended to press the carved images into the clay. It didn’t work so I created the slabs of clay and let them dry to what’s called “leather hardness”. The reason for this was the soft clay was too difficult to carve properly and Ian suggested letting it dry a bit before doing the carving. I experimented a bit with the glaze on these two pieces but I really didn’t learn much about glazing.

Here are the two slabs, the whale was the first one and the bear benefitted from the mistakes I made with the whale………..

The Whale ……….

and the Bear ……

For the next few classes I had decided to try and build a park bench with a figure sitting on them. That was the original idea. I did research on the benches, to photos of them and took them apart on the computer. I discovered two different models of bench and laid out the plans for both. In one the planks lay on top of the end pices and in the other, they go thought the end pieces. I had trouble with the second one but managed to save it. In class, I made the end pieces and the planks needed for the bench. I discovered that I couldn’t build them. The planks were way too soft and would sag as I tried to lay them across the end pieces. Once again, Ian told me to let them dry a bit so they would be able to stay straight. I had all the pieces cut out and started on the man but I couldn’t get the scale right as the benches were not built. I decided to make the man sit on a log and quickly built him up. I did this roughly as all this is still new and I figured these pieces are just part of the learning curve so I wouldn’t be keeping anything. I had looked for pices of wood that had a pronounced grain that I could use to stamp on the park benches and I found just the pieces when Alex and I went for out Sunday tour. I really wanted the benches to look used and beaten.

Here are the three pieces……

First the Log Man ………(his hat shrunk and didn’t fit his head properly)

Next Park Bench 1 ……

and Park Bench 2 …..

The final piece was one Alex asked for. She wanted me to make her a container to hold all her pens and stuff. I wanted to experiment with inlays so I tried to inlay a bit of white clay into the red clay and it came out pretty good. Played with the glaze a bit but it didn’t do what I expected or wanted.

Here is Alex’s container ………

Classes at the Gardiner are done but I’m taking other classes at a place called Clay Design. That will take me into May and then I’ll take the summer off. I intend on going back to the Gardiner with Ian in September. I plan to build a replica viking longboat entirely out of clay. It may be overly ambitious but Ian thinks we can do it. I’ll spend the summer outside and when it’s raining, I’ll research building techniques and draw up plans and templates on the computer.

I love ceramics ……………………………………

March 31, 2009 at 7:54 pm 2 comments

Chuckles

A friend of mine posted a Utube video on Facebook and I just had to post it here.

It is just too funny…..but I let you decide.

December 11, 2008 at 6:15 pm Leave a comment

Economies and Environment

Alex and I had been chatting about the environment and not being able to understand how politicians could continue coming up with lame excuses and ignoring serious environmental issues. We happened to catch a talk given by David Suzuki and part of the discussion centered around economics. His words triggered a memory about a story I had read long ago about an economist and a fisherman. I found a version of the story and a lot more.

“The Subsistence Perspective” is a theory of development that advocates that we abandon our Western definition of affluence as consuming as much as possible and replacing it with the traditional definition of being self sufficient.  The story kind of puts things in perspective. I know it’s idealistic and simplistic, but the idea is intriguing.

The economist sees a fisherman fishing for a few hours and then going back to shore. He asks the fisherman why he didn’t stay out and fish longer. The fisherman replies that he has enough to feed his family and pay his bills so he is going home to spend time with his family.

The economist explains that if he had stayed out longer, he could have caught more fish. The fisherman looks at him and asks “Then what ? “You would be have been able to sell the fish for extra money to invest in bigger nets and caught even more fish” replies the economist.  The fisherman asks again, “Then what ?”.

“Then you could have invested that money into a bigger boat with which to catch even more fish to make even more money” said the economist, and so on and so forth until he had as much money as he ever wanted and could buy whatever he desired. The fisherman asks him, “Then what?” and the economist replies, “You can retire and spend more time with your family.”

We’re constantly striving for the next best thing,  to buy a new toy, new house, new car, then bigger toy, bigger house, bigger car.  I think we forget about the true cost of that lifestyle. It seems we’re never content, I wonder if we spent less on  things that we imagine we need, what would happen?  Would we be more free, less stressed because of it or would our lives be lacking? Would the environment be impacted ?

I also wonder about the wealthy. What if they started living on only what they actually NEED. Buy one house instead of ten,  be content with smaller wardrobes or travel on commercial transport.? Stop trying to impress with all their wealth. We all end up in the same place at the end of our days and in a decade or so who really will remember or even care who you were. Yes, I know there are some who are VERY socially conscious but there is room for improvement. If they did all that, I wonder what would happen to society and our environment. Would we be less or would we be more equal, more content?

One thing for sure, there would be less suffering if we started to care about others and I don’t mean just our neighbours.

December 11, 2008 at 2:52 pm Leave a comment

Skeleton Lake

The first week of August was reserved for a getaway to our friend’s cottage north of Toronto. Skeleton Lake (see more about the lake here) is home to Pearl and Al’s amazing hideaway. We spent seven days exploring the lake and making new friends.

We were woken on the fist morning by a bright light. I got up and walked out to the deck and was greeted by this view…..

On that first day, Alex went down to the dock to face the sun and do her yoga. It just seemed to me that the way she faced the morning sun was how yoga should be done.

After doing her thing we had breakfast and went for a swim in the clear water. Visibility was spectacular and on a clear day we could see down at least 10 meters. It was about this time we discovered we were supposed to bring our own towels and we needed them. We hopped in the boat and motored back to the docks. There is an inn there and we thought we might be able to rent some towels. Don and Jenn were sitting outside and we asked if it was possible to rent some towels. Jenn looked at me for a moment trying to register what I was saying so I explained our situation. They laughed at the request and lent us a full set of towels. We sat with them for a while and got to know them a little better.

One morning we heard a motor boat and looked out to see this………………….

The rest of the week was spent exploring, relaxing, enjoying the solitude and the views. We would paddle around in the canoe, under cliffs and around huge boulders

Some boat houses were more luxurious than a lot of the cottages

At one point we paddled over to a spot where we could hike up to High Lake which was another lake in the area. It was well worth the trip and we were rewarded by the view.

We could have sat here for hours just soaking up the sun and atmosphere.

The lake itself must be about 50 meters higher then Skeleton Lake and is held back by a huge rock wall. A stream runs down from High Lake to Skeleton Lake. The view back to High Lake from the stream bed in the forest.

The changes in the weather was spectacular and we would sit on the deck and watch natures shows. We could see rain as it traveled across the lake.

It really stormed on Friday so we just sat inside and watched the opening of the Olympics, read and I practiced guitar. In other words we relaxed and enjoyed it. I must admit I was a bit concerned about the next day. One thing I should have mentioned is that we were on an island, about a 10 minute boat ride from the docks. I worried that the rain would not stop and we’d have to motor back with our luggage soaking wet plus I had my guitar and Alex had her lap top. Waking up Saturday morning we were treated to this……..

It was breathtaking and it also poured so much that the boat was filled with rain water. At 12:15 it stopped and let us go. It always amazes me how fate takes care of us all the time.

Many many many thanks to Pearl and Al for giving us this week.

Next year for sure………..

August 10, 2008 at 7:10 pm 5 comments

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