December 02, 2009

Fisher seen in Carleton Golf & Yacht Club (09Nov)

Last Sunday, Nov. 29, 2009, neighbours saw a fisher running through our yards on Marina Drive. The previous week, we had seen a muskrat running from house to house and along a nearby street headed towards the river and wondered the obvious. Then someone sent me a copy of the photo taken by Marv Sywyk (click for larger photo). I had no idea fishers grew this large! I'm tempted to measure the tree to see if I can estimate it's size. Big enough to kill a small pet for sure. If you want to compare, here's a drawing of a muskrat:

October 30, 2009

Returning North to Autumn

Returning from South Carolina was a shock. Our yard was covered with leaves - maple and elm. The linden hasn`t dropped yet. Cold and rainy, 10C. Brrr! Our visit to Myrtle Beach started out cold (it`s all relative I know) and we had some great golf weather. Then it warmed more and we walked the beach and touched up our tans. Water 74F but I never got up the nerve to swim in it. MB has wonderful long, fine sandy beaches you can walk for hours. Sadly Ocean Annies closed the moment we arrived one evening - apparently the cost of a live band and licence was too high for the small numbers of tourists. (At Easter it`s a happening place on the beach, which beach condo owners have mixed feelings about.) Then it started to drizzle so we gave up and went back to the condo.

It`s odd not to have the sailboat to work on in the fall. We used to spend weeks taking our sailboat apart for winter, removing sails, canvas, rigging, lifelines, etc. then rigging the mast cradles fore and aft to hold the mast. We unloaded the boat and winterized the engine, cockpit drains, holding tank and water system. Then after Thanksgiving we took the mast down. We rigged frames for the tarp, then wrapped the boat like a sausage with lines holding the tarp to the steel boat cradle. This year we went golfing and walking the beach instead and wondered how the new owner was making out. (We got an email from him in SC asking a few questions, but you can`t put 24 years of experience in an email)

September 12, 2009

HST Increases Costs on most Services by 8%

Increased prices on all services and commodities that were previously exempt from PST (gasoline) will reduce demand (it always does), so the economy could stall or even reverse back into recession. "On a $500,000 home in Toronto, the HST will mean $6,000 in new taxes. (first $400,000 of any new home is now exempt). (financialpost.com) Fight back! We're crazy to accept this.

Here is my personal list of services that will increase by 8% next July:
  • new house purchase (over $400,000)
  • lawyers fees & legal services
  • hydro charges
  • municipal water charges
  • home heating fuels (oil, gas, electric)
  • furnace installation & service
  • Home services: plumber, electrician, other trades
  • Professional services: lawyers, accountants
  • postage stamps
  • magazines, newspapers
  • cell phone & internet services
  • car/boat fuel (gas, diesel, oil)
  • car repairs
  • boat dockage & mooring
  • boat winter storage
  • boat repair & other services
  • boat mast stepping
  • boat haulout & launching
  • boat holding tank pump out
  • marine surveyor services
  • brokerage sales fees
  • safety equipment

July 17, 2009

Different services

(Published in the The Ottawa Citizen Letters, July 15, 2009)
Re: Cable Internet giants oppose new rules, July 14.

So why can't Rogers Communications and Bell Canada figure out how to offer their customers a different service level that allows the Internet service providers (ISPs) to throttle when needed? Customers would know what to expect, and service to other levels for other uses would not be harmed. VPNs (virtual private networks) would work and file transfers could be done.

The companies could learn a lesson from our provincial hydro agency. When it wanted to solve power overloads caused by too many air conditioners on summer hot days, it came up with a carrot: a free programmable thermostat in return for occasional throttling your air conditioner for two hours.

Transparency is not just something people want from their governments. They want it from the businesses they deal with too. It would really make me angry to pay for service and not get it. Unless there is proper regulation, I might never know.

Pat Drummond, Manotick

April 12, 2009

Modern communication isn't working

Why won't people phone when the situation requires it. It's always easier to email if you have a question or if your message is sent at an inappropriate time (between 9pm and 9am). But if someone wants to arrange a meeting that suits both people, email is painfully slow! A short phone call would replace a lot of typing. So why don't people just pick up the phone?

I lost out on visiting a friend because she chose to email her invitation. Since she had forgotten to tell me her new email address, my "spam" filters didn't deliver it. I had been expecting this invitation, and wondered why it never came. With no reply, she probably thought I wasn't interested. By the time I found out what happened the opportunity was over.

Recently, I had another experience where a call would have solved a problem. I phoned and left voice mail to "phone" so I could ask about what was involved in a volunteer job he was leaving. He emailed instead. When he finallly called days later at 9 pm, I was slightly cranky.

Email, Facebook, Twitter, IM, text messages, etc. have effectively replaced people actually talking to each other. Although I have a Skype account, people prefer the occasional personal Facebook message or email. Ditto with Twitter, although even e-friends don't use it yet. (e-friend - someone you know more online than offline.)

There is only one living person who wrote letters to me. Then emails. Then she got Skype installed and called me. And now she updates her 'status line' on Facebook. Sign of the times.

February 17, 2009

Why don't websites work in Firefox?

I'll tell you why so many websites don't work with Firefox, Opera et all (more than a fifth of the people using my Canadian websites are using these). Because the webdesigners are too darn lazy to code for and test in any browser except Internet Explorer - you know the one that people use if you ask them WHAT they use and they haven't a clue. They don't even know there is a choice. For the rest of the world who have discovered better software, you're nearly out of luck unless you do a lot of legwork. Firefox at least offers an adddon "ietab" that allows you to mimic Internet Explorer. The bad news is that is exposes you to all the same security issues you were trying to get away from by NOT using Internet Explorer.

Here is a short list of sites I have embedded into "ietab". Some are surprising!

Web Services:
http://secunia.com/*
http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com/*
http://*.spaces.live.com

Financial, Utilities:
http://*.tdcanadatrust.com/*
http://www.ecare.bell.ca/*
https://secureq.bell.ca

Municipal:
http://webcam.city.ottawa.on.ca/*
Business:
http://marinasontario.com

February 06, 2009

Copyright, privacy, net neutrality & U.S. security

Warning: This is my collection of rants and pet peeves so read with an open mind!

Government Copyright

President Barack Obama brought a complete overhaul of the White House website. The public now has the right to use any information on Whitehouse.gov as they see fit. In Canada, you must obtain written permission to use anything on gc.ca. Why on earth is government information (paid for by our tax dollars) not available for our use?

President Obama is also linking trade policy and intellectual property protection with other countries. He shouldn't have any problem with Canada, since Prime Minister Harper supports legislation that would make it a crime for me to record my favorite TV shows (time-shifting) and listening to my music player as a copyright infringement. How on earth I can be infringing copyright for creative output I have already paid for is beyond me, but they may not stop there. I always thought Canada was way ahead in technology and innovation, but we are falling right off a cliff. I support small 'C' conservative principals, but can't see how this kind of reactionary policy would help anyone. Talk about 'throwing the baby out with the bath-water'...

Online Privacy

Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA), which manages the dot-ca domain revised their WHOIS framework with some restrictions on the public accessibility of domain name registrant information - such as my home address. Unlike the Pleasure craft registration registry at Transport Canada that lists registered pleasure craft, complete with the owner's name and address for anyone to see -- and thieves to use. My husband enquired by phone and was told they have to publish the "vessel registry" by law. It used to be published in paper form only, but now everything is online. Listing a company address is a huge difference to someone's home address in a searchable web directory. I sent a complaint to the Privacy Commissioner but never received a reply, so apparently the government doesn't care about online privacy.

Email Spam

What ever happened to a new policy to stop spam? We had the studies, the public consultations, the reports (which were very good), and then nothing. Canada's new government should get off their tory bottoms and pass some legislation with teeth (unlike the worthless do-not-call list). I can't tell you how much time I've wasted dealing with spam before ISP's started developing mail filters. The costs to ISP's and users must be in the billions. The time LOST to dealing with spam, throughout the Internet, ISP's, traffic volumes, computer time, human time, is also huge. The only winners are spammers and antivirus software sellers.

Net Neutrality

There was a fight over Net Neutrality at the CRTC between independent ISP's (providers) and Bell was followed by a noticeable improvement in my Skype connections using Rogers Internet - coincidence? I bought a 'Skype-out' credit that allows me to use Skype software on my computer to call regular phones. I would often get annoying 'drop-outs' that only I could hear. Recently I've had only one problem - a disconnection (first time). Hmmm...

Canada-U.S. Border Paranoia

The new The new United States Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is being pressured by a few members of Congress and Homeland Security for a review of the U.S.-Canada border situation. Canucks are so very dangerous, eh? For all the changes requiring passports (to enter their country), it's interesting to note that Canada has never changed it's regulations for entering Canada. I was hoping the American paranoia would subside a little, but U.S. drones will soon be flying along the 49th parallel. The War on Terror is right here, kids!