Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Songbook With Guitar Chords

There are tons of tabs and chords and songbooks out there. Of course none of them are exactly what I want in a songbook so I've created my own. Here is a doc that is formatted in a nice clear font (verdana) and reasonably sized (12 point). I will keep adding to this (probably once a year for obvious reasons) and I'll update the list of songs included when I do.

The current songs included are:
  • The first Noel
  • Frosty the snowman
  • God rest ye merry gentlemen
  • Holly Jolly Christmas
  • Grandma got run over by a reindeer
  • War is over
  • What child is this
  • Jingle bell rock
  • Rockin' around the christmas tree
  • Rudolph the red nosed reindeer
  • Silent night
  • Oh come all ye faithful
  • Jingle Bells

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Recipe: Sweet and sour veggie meatballs

Here is my take on a veggie meatball recipe. It uses pretty standard ingredients and it's easy to make.

1 can (400ml) pineapple chunks or fruit cocktail
2/3 cup vinegar
1 cup vegetarian (chicken flavored) broth
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp. soy sauce

1 tbsp oil
1 small onion
1 pkg Presidents Choice "World's best meatless meatballs"

Mix all of the sauce ingredients together and heat over medium until bubbling.

Meanwhile, fry the veggie meatballs and onion in the oil until browned and hot.

Combine and serve or refrigerate until needed.

Monday, November 16, 2009

BellAliant store branding is misleading

Several months ago I purchased a holster for my Blackberry at a BellAliant store in Halifax. Even though I am from Fredericton I figured, a BellAliant store is a BellAliant store. Right?

That brings us to today. My holster is broken. It is also under warranty. One would assume that even though I'm not in Halifax these days that I should still be able to walk into a BellAliant store and get myself a replacement. Right? Nope.

It seems that the BellAliant branded store in the Halifax Maritime Center is actually a "Downeast communications" store in cheap clothing. As well, the BellAliant branded store in Fredericton Mall is actually a Cox Electronics in drag.
So, guess what? Even though both of these stores are branded with all of the glory of BellAliant, and you would have a hard time finding logos of either Cox or Downeast in these stores, you can't return a product from one to the other.

These stores are identical in design and it is easy to be mislead into thinking that they are actually BellAliant corporate stores. Nope.

This strikes me as very misleading to customers.
BellAliant, please stop your ridiculous branding strategy and let you customers deal with you. least let us know who we are dealing with.

Am I the only one that has had a crappy experience with these outlets? Comment below.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Review: Corel Video Studio

I bought a copy of Corel VideoStudio for a video that I was doing as followup to a company marketing event that we had done.

I was looking for a quick and easy editing suite that would give me the flexibility for some creativity but that wouldn't bog me down in the details.

I shopped around a bit and read some reviews and decided on the Corel VideoStudio product.

Overall I have been happy with the product. I've found it quiet intuitive and pretty easy to find my way around.

Here are the things I really like about the product:
  • Price - At $70 you can't complain.
  • Audio level editing - very intuitive and flexible
  • Exporting - It has a ton of export functions
There were some things that I really don't like about the product:
  • The library doesn't let you add descriptions for the video clips. This would have been very helpful given the hundreds of clips that I had for this project.
  • The story board doesn't let you leave blank spaces in the main video line. This was a serious problem for me in the project since I needed to customize 50 different copies of the same video. 
  • The transition effects are cheesy.
  • The "Painting Creator" is pretty well useless.
Overall I am happy with the product and I would recommend it for small projects.

------- Update -----
Here's a sample of a vid I did with it:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tears for Fears - Shout

I couldn't find a good version of this tune with the chords and lyrics's what I came up with.


Chorus X2

Shout, shout, let it all out,
these are the things I can do without
C#(IX)            G# (IV)
Come on, I'm talking to you, come on

B(VII)                  C#(IX)
In violent times, you shouldn't have to sell your soul
B(VII)                  C#(IX)
In black and white, they really really ought to know
B(VII)                    C#(IX)
Those one track minds that took you for a working boy
B(VII)                     C#(IX)
Kiss them goodbye, you shouldn't have to jump for joy
You shouldn't have to shout for joy


They gave you life, and in return you gave them hell
As cold as ice, I hope we live to tell the tale
I hope we live to tell the tale

Chorus x2

And when you've taken down your guard
If I could change your mind, I'd really love to break your heart
I'd really love to break your heart

Chorus x2

Guitar solo

Chorus jam out

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Vegetarian Sheppards Pie Recipe

Here's a good recipe that I came up with for Sheppard's Pie. I hope you enjoy!

1 package Yves Meatless Ground Round Original
6 medium potatoes
2 cups corn and peas
2 tbsp oil
2 tbsp butter or margarine
1/4 cup milk 
3 cloves garlic
1 medium onion
2 cups grated cheddar cheese

Cook the peas and corn and set aside.

Boil and mash the potatoes with butter and milk.

Fry the onions and garlic for a couple of minutes and then add the veggie ground beef and veggies. Continue to fry for a couple of minutes until onions are cooked.

Poor the mixture into the bottom of a casserole dish and spread the potatoes on top. Sprinkle with the cheese.

Bake at 350F until the cheese is melted and it starts to get brown.Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

ROAR2 - Mods

I'm in the midst of doing some modifications to my ROAR2. I had some repair word to do so I thought that I would add a few new touches at the same time.

As shown to the left, I'm adding a permanent seat at the rowing station as well as a "glass bottom".

Until now I've used a little wooden stool as a rowing seat. This worked OK but it wasn't very comfortable. By adding the permanent seat I'll get rid of some hassle and gain comfort (and storage!)

I saw a kayak recently with a glass bottom and I was inspired to add that at the same time. I have grand visions for how cool this is going to be. Hopefully it doesn't just turn into a leaky spot in my boat...

My seat is almost done and I will add pictures some time soon. It is a basic stitch and glue construction.

I just bought my lexan for the glass bottom today. Hopefully tonight I will get some time to start cutting out the spot for it. My plan is to do a simple frame for the glass to fit into and to fit a hinged cover over it to prevent scratching when not in use. We'll see how that plan actually materializes.

Stay tuned...

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Driftwood bench project

My wife found some driftwood at the beach and thought it would make for a nice bench.

This is what I came up with.

This is a very simple bench but very functional and heavy duty.

The driftwood included a large 8' 4" plank (2" thick and 15 1/2" wide), a couple of 6" logs and an old beat up 1x6 plank.

I simply cut the logs to 15 3/4" length and tied them together with the 1x6. These were fastened to the plank with 4" spikes.

The Thing weighs a ton but makes for a great rustic looking campfire bench.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Book Review: Lipsmackin' Vegetarian Backpackin'

Lipsmackin' Vegetarian Backpackin'I bought my copy of Lipsmackin' Vegetarian Backpackin' a couple of months ago in the Fundy National Park bookstore. I'm REALLY liking it! Great recipes and the format of the book is perfect. If you are a backpacker, whether of not vegetarian, you need this book.

All of the recipes are broken into the steps that are required beforehand and then the steps that are required on the trail.

Many of the recipes use dehydrated ingredients or your own dehydrator.

So far I've tried:
Spaghetti sauce - Loved it
Brunswick Stew - Loved it
Coleslaw - I'm not sure if something went wrong but it tasted terrible
Tofu jerky - Loved it
Chili - Made it with the scouts and they loved it

Friday, July 24, 2009

Tofu Jerky

So, I tried dehydrating tofu to make tofu jerky. I used this recipe, which is supposed to be THE original tofu jerky recipe.

Making the jerky was pretty straight forward. Just throw all of the ingredients together and marinade for a few hours and then stick it into the dehydrator. It took approximately 8 hours to complete. In the end the stuff was more the consistency of fruit leather than jerky.

I sampled a little bit before running out the door for my sailing adventure. It tasted pretty good! It's been around 18 years since I last ate meat jerky so I'm not sure if it tastes the same or not. I think so...

As I mentioned in my trip blog post, I had a bit of a stomach issue on board that prevented me from trying more of the jerky (or even thinking too much about it!) but I finally dug it out again today and tried it while on solid ground. I really like it. It's very salty and strong tasting but I guess that's part of the appeal of jerky.

I'll definitely do it again. There are a few other jerky recipes in Lipsmackin' Vegetarian Backpackin' that I'm going to try for comparison. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sailing from Halifax to Cape Breton

Sailing in fogThis weekend I had my first experience with (relatively) long distance ocean sailing. There is a race coming up this weekend in Cape Breton and the boat needed to be delivered. I volunteered because this was my first opportunity to affirm whether I actually enjoy ocean sailing. I've been an armchair sailor for years and I've sailed rivers, lakes and bays a lot but nothing like this.

So what was the prognosis? Well, if you asked me at 1pm on the first day I would have said something like "This is [expletive] miserable!" We had heavy fog and relatively rough seas for most of the first day. Not a good combination on a virgin stomach! I will give myself some credit in that I was the last of the crew to take a trip to the side of the boat.

Eventually, around late afternoon, the fog lifted and life returned to normal. We still had some good wave action happening but being able to see past the side of the boat made life good again. By evening we had a great wind, great weather and things were sailing smoothly.A beautiful sunset sail

This was also my first time sailing through the night. That was definitely the highlight of the trip. We took 4 hour turns on the helm and mine was from 1am - 5am. Steering under the stars using only the plotter for reference is pretty neat. The best time for me was just before sunrise when I could just see the profile of the rigging against a backdrop of the rough sea and the moon. A great moment. I would have tried to take a picture but it was pretty rough at that point and I had to keep both hands on the wheel to keep us on track.

The second day was great weather and a beautiful sail. We arrived in St. Peter's safe and sound around 29 hours after we left. The entrance to the Bras d'Or Lake was beautiful and I hope to sail around that lake some day. It is supposed to be exceptional.

We did have some technical issues throughout the sail. We had engine problems that were related to some water that got in the diesel. This meant regular cleaning of the fuel pump. This caused issues because we needed to be able to keep the batteries charged for the navigation equipment. We also had some times with light wind that warranted motoring.

The other issue was a general power failure that happened in the middle of the night. This cause all lights and navigational equipment to be out for about an hour. Apparently this was a dramatic event but I slept through it! (I was off watch in the bunk)

All in all this was a perfect trip for testing and affirming my commitment to sailing. I have dreams of sailing long distances some day. This trip gave me a taste of the good, the bad and the ugly that comes with sailing in the ocean. Breakdowns and sea sickness are inevitable parts of the experience and I needed to understand that. It's not all just pretty sunrises.

I came away with a few specific lessons:sailing into st. peters locks
  • Brush up on manual paper chart navigation
  • Know how to tear apart and troubleshoot every system on your boat
  • Don't eat curry noodles on your first day sailing in the fog!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Food Dehydrator

Home dehydrator
After buying a copy of Lipsmackin' Vegetarian Backpackin' on my last hiking trip to Fundy, I have been inspired to buy a dehydrator. I finally found one the other day on Kijiji ($25) and picked it up.

As the book says, they are big, they are ugly and yes they do take up a lot of counter space...but I'm pretty excited to try it out.

Tonight we try Tofu Jerky, Brunswick Stew and South Sister Stroganoff. Our pending trip to PEI will serve as a test bed for these meals in the rough.

Stay tuned for pictures and reviews!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Book Review: Edible Wild Plants

Book coverI got a copy of Peterson Field Guides Edible Wild Plants 3 years ago for Christmas. This was my wife's response to my request for an edible wild mushrooms book. Apparently eating wild plants is much less scary than mushrooms.

I must say that this is my all time favorite pastime while camping or hiking these days. I take it on most hikes and trips. There is nothing more satisfying than going for a hike and bringing back a bag full with your next meal. Grant it, sometimes these plants really don't taste very good. Other times, however, they are great. In response to this we have come up with our own "ass-factor" scale that describes the plants flavor in relation to ass. I've started rating each plant as I try it.

The book makes identifying plants fairly easy. Although in most cases you need to have a flower available for easy identification. Winter identification is much more challenging.

I recommend this book whole heartily to anyone who is a little adventurous in what they eat.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

All dressed up but no wind to go!

HobieCat 16 on the St. John River I got out for an hour before the wind died. Dead calm. I never get days like this when I want to go water skiing!
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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A great canoe trip

Here's an account of my canoe trip with the scouts this weekend:

It was a great trip.

Crazy vid of sailboat punching through a surf

I saw this video over on Sailing Anarchy. These guys are crazy. (Note:turn down the sound if you're in a place where swearing isn't appropriate)

Thursday, June 11, 2009 reviews

Rather than writing reviews for businesses here you can find them on my profile page. I just checked and I guess I have 47 so far. I didn't realize I had written that many!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Vagabond 23

I have the plans for building a Vagabond 23 but I'm having some difficulty getting myself going. In the mean time I follow this guy:

He's doing a great job on the build judging by the picks.

It's inspiring to see someone following through with the build. Now if only I could act on my inspiration. Some day...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Light air sailing

I recently started sailing with some folks in a Wednesday night racing league at the Armdale Yacht Club. This is a great time and it's my first experience racing. Up until this point all of my sailing has been very casual. The boat is a 31' Beneteau named Osprey and it sails great.

Last week was the first week. There was plenty of wind and it was a great race, although we didn't place particularly well.

This week, however, there was almost zero wind. There was debate around whether we should just pull out of the race and head into open water in search of wind.

We decided to stick it out and finish the race. Previously I would never have gone out in wind like that. It was glass calm and much better conditions for water skiing. Why would anyone want to sail in this?? I'm glad that we did. It turns out to be a much more precise race when there isn't much wind. This was a revelation for me.

It wasn't exactly exhilarating racing but it was interesting none the less.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Fiskars Power-Lever Grass/Hedge Shears

In response to a comment on my post about my reel mower I mentioned the shears that I use to trim in places where my mower can't reach. I figured that I may as well write a quick review of these as well...

I'm no aficionado of gardening shears. This is the first set that I've used since using my parents 15 years ago. I must say however that the Fiskars Power-Lever Grass/Hedge Shears are a pretty nice set.

I had originally thought that I might get a gas powered weed-eater type of setup. However, while browsing the isle at Canadian Tire I came across these beauties. I decided to do the eco-choice and give them a try.

They are pretty pricey for a manual tool(I think I paid $45) but they are cheaper than a weed-eater.

I have been absolutely impressed with them. They have telescoping handles and adjustments that make it very comfortable to use. I thought that it would take me longer than using a weed-eater but I have been impressed at how efficiently I can get the job done.

The best part...I can trim the grass in shorts and sandals. Try that with a weed-eater! I am quickly becoming a fan of Fiskars.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Reel mower - The good the bad and the ugly

I bought a reel mower last year as an alternative to my gas munching power mower. I really hate using a gas mower. They are loud, smell terrible, are wicked on the environment and completely NOT relaxing.

I did a fair amount of research but in the end I went for a cheap model, against most review recommendations. My thought was that I would use it as a proof of concept before spending more money on a deluxe model. The one I ended up choosing was the Yardworks Reel Mower 18" from Canadian Tire.

Overall I have been fairly happy with it. I have a fairly large lawn but this mower does a good job keeping it neat. There are some tricks though:
  • Mow often. The more the merrier. If you wait until your grass is too long it will not cut it properly.
  • Allow yourself a half width overlap. That will give you a more consistent cut.
  • Keep the blades adjusted properly. This is easy to do and saves a lot of annoyance in the long run.
  • Get rid of your dandelions. Try the Fiskar tool! Those little yellow buggers will drive you nuts if you don't get rid of them. This mower will not trim them.
I find that I enjoy cutting the grass now. It is quiet enough that I can use it first thing in the morning without worrying about bothering the neighbors.

I do still use my power mower for the first cut of the year when things are straggly and also when I get negligent and let my grass get too long.

I still haven't tried one of the deluxe models but I assume they work better. If they do, spend the extra cash.

My new favorite tool: Fiskars Weed Remover

I really don't mind weeds ...generally. I have lived peacefully with dandelions for years with no problems. I would not normally have been a person to go out and spend $35 on a week puller.

That being said, last year I bought a Yardworks 18-in Reel Mower as an environmentally friendly alternative to my smoke spewing gas mower. I've been mostly pleased with it and it does a good job on most grassy plants. It does not, however, handle dandelions well at all. Usually they simply slip underneath and survive unscathed, only to rear their heads tall and proud once I've passed. This does annoy me!

So, I bought the Fiskar Weed Remover tool as a last resort (before resorting to my gas eating power mower). I have been VERY happy with the tool. This thing actually makes pulling dandelions fun. Really! You can actually pull and launch the weeds several feet in one smooth motion. It has a similar action, and pleasing feeling, to loading a shotgun.

My only comment, they call this thing a "weed remover" but it isn't really that great at any weeds other than dandelions. That's ok for me though. They should just rename it "Dandelion Destructor" or "Dandelion Tormentor".

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Cool scout project

This weekend our scout troup did a "little" project. Ok, it actually took around 6 hours to build. This platform is over 20' high! It is a copy of one that was built by the same troup over 30 years ago.

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All loft bed posts

I've completed the bed finally and my daughter couldn't be happier with it. I uploaded some pictures of some of the details in case that helps someone fill in the gaps of my plans.
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Friday, May 8, 2009

New domain!

To make this place easier to find (and point people to) I have set up a new domain

Loft bed plans

All Loft Bed posts

Here is the loft bed plan that I've come up with. Please feel free to use this as you like. If you re-publish these plans please reference my blog URL. I hope someone finds these helpful. Email me or post a comment if there is something that is unclear. I'll posts some pictures of the different parts of the bed too. Hopefully that will clarify.

Materials & Cut list
5 Rungs - 19" (1x5 pine)
5 posts - 80 1/4" (4x4 spruce)
8 end boards - 48 3/4 (1x5 pine)
4 side boards - 75"
2 side boards - 55"
2 side mattress supports - 75" (1x2 pine)
2 side mattress supports - 40" (1x2 pine)
1 bottom plywood for mattress support 40x75 (3/4" plywood)
4 bottom supports - 40" (1x3 pine)
12 screws - 1 1/4"
20 screws - 2"
60 stove bolts - 4"
60 screw cover knobs - 3/4" (or whatever size holes you have)

  • Counter sink stove bolts and cover holes with knobs so that bolts aren't sticking out. I used a 3/4" bit to countersink.
  • Glue and screw the support rails on to give added strength
  • The bottom supports can be out of any size wood and the plywood could be skipped if you add more bottom support rungs.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Loft bed saga

All loft bed posts

We decided that our daughter needed a loft bed. She has a relatively small bedroom and a loft bed would give her an area under her bed for playing and storing things.

I looked at a lot of loft beds that are on the market and really didn't see anything I liked. They were either overpriced (for the value) or they were flimsy. For example, Ikea has a couple that I looked at (see left) but I just didn't like the construction or quality.

I decided that I would build one instead. I figured that I could build on that was cheaper and that would last. I think I was successful on both accounts.

There are some plans online for purchase but I decided to design my own. In retrospect I probably should have just bought a set because it was a bit of a pain getting some of the details worked out but I'm happy with the end result. The bed looks great and could hold a herd of elephants.

The basic design uses 4x4 spruce posts and 1x4 pine board for most of the horizontals. Over the next few posts I will detail the design and construction.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Scouts: Winter fire challenge activity

This is a description of an activity that we did with our scouts this winter during a winter camp. It takes at least a couple of hours but can easily take half a day. It encourages team work, fire lighting skills, lashing skills and basic problem solving.

Winter Camp Activity (3 hours)

1. Divide the group into 3 or 4 patrols. (mixing both Troops)

2. Each group with a leader(s) will head off to a predetermined location.

3. Each group will need the following supplies:
  • Rope
  • Matches
  • Enough poles to build an A-frame (any device to boil water) and a stretcher
  • A can to melt snow
  • Snow shoes
  • Buck saw
  • Hatchet

4. Each group must complete the following tasks prior to leaving site:
  • Build and A-frame with supporting posts
  • Build stretcher for carrying water can
  • Build two fires (Fire A for boiling water, Fire B maintain to stay in game)
  • Snow must be all melted in can prior to leaving

5. Once all tasks at site the group is required to do the following
  • Using the stretcher to carry the water the group must attempt to put out the fire of the other group
  • Maintain Fire B, making it more difficult to be put out
  • Refill bucket as many time as possible to put out as many fires as they can
  • Groups can break up how they see fit to both put out other fires, as well as maintain their own
  • Leaders at each site will keep track of how many successful fires were extinguished

Things to suggest or encourage:
  1. Work together as a team
  2. Come up with a plan first
  3. Decide on rolls for each person
  4. Make sure to have lots of wood

Monday, April 20, 2009

Why scooters are better than motorcycles

Last year, around this time, I decided to "upgrade" to a motorcycle. For the previous 4 years I had been happily driving a Honda Ruckus scooter.

I really did love my Ruckus and it worked without a single hiccup. The thing took only $5 in gas, it started first try on even the coldest mornings and didn't require long to warm up. The only issue with it was the occasional time when I wanted to go on a little bit of a longer trip. It topped out at 55 km/hr. So, I decided to upgrade to a slightly larger motorcycle.

I bought a 2001 Honda Rebel 250 last year. It is a great little bike. It looks like the one in this picture but with a cooler (customized by the last owner) paint job. I really do like my Rebel but I must say that there are a few things that I don't particularly like.

First of all, the thing starts like crap. It takes around 10 minutes for it to fully warm up. I need to use the choke on any day that is less than 30 degrees Celsius.

There are also some functional problems with the bike format. (or at least this one specifically). It is not practical to drive it in the rain at all. The shape of the front fender funnels rain onto your legs and into your boots. On the Ruckus I could wear dress shoes and pants in heavy rain and not get wet!

Although I do have saddle bags, they aren't nearly as practical as the under seat storage of the Ruckus. On the ruckus I could carry a 12 can case of beer. On the bike I am relegated to hard liquor because of storage. ;)

So, in summary:
Am I happy with my Rebel bike? Yes.
Would I recommend a Ruckus scooter? Yes!

I'll stick with my bike because it gets me places faster but I do miss the scooter sometimes.

By the way, if you are looking for scooter inspiration you need to check out battlescooter.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Book review: Around the world in 18 years

I was at the Moncton Boat Show yesterday and happened upon Hubert Marcoux's booth. He's written a great book about his adventures sailing around the world. It is a really nice, easy read. It kept me up late last night.

A great book for those of us who aspire to do a similar trip.

He also had some great advice when I asked him "How do you get started on a trip like that?",because I am having inertia problems. His response was, "Just start. Don't worry about getting the little details worked out before you start."

He did a speech as part of the boat show as well. A good summary of what he's been doing to get his boat fixed up following a nasty encounter with Hurricane Yuan.

I would normally have a hard time bringing myself to spend $30 on a book (yes, I'm cheap) but I don't hesitate to lay out some money to support someone doing what I'd like to be doing. You should too.

Update: Hubert Marcoux was lost at sea in November of 2009. I haven't been able to find a story about the final result of the search though. Hubert's story was one that appeals to arm chair sailors like myself and I felt sadness when I heard that he was lost.  He seemed like a true adventurer when I met him. Not for the glory but for the adventure, for the lifestyle.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Immaculate Machine in Fredericton 2008

I just found this clip of Immaculate Machine at their 2008 show in Fredericton. Another great show.

NB Liquor's new "Selection Lager"

Selection LagerWho would have thought that the making and selling of a new beer brand would be so controversial?

On March 12, 2009 NB Liquor released their new "Selection" brand of Lagers and light beers. ( The controversy around this is surprising. Almost 5000 hits on a Google search shows that people are certainly interested in this story.

The premise behind the brand is to provide a low cost alternative to the traditional brands and increase the market for domestics.

I must admit that a lager is not my preference for beer. For a good quality and tasting beer I usually go for a Picaroons and if I'm looking for, ermmm... larger consumption, I have been drinking Rickards Honey Brown lately. I'm certainly willing to give a new brand a try though so laid out the $18.67 for a pack of 12 tonight.

So, how is it? Well, I would describe it as similar to Molson Canadian. It does have its own distinct flavour though. It is very sweet and fruity flavored and I taste a strawberry after taste. Very little hop flavor. Very light colour. Fairly refreshing.

If that strikes your pallet then you will probably enjoy it. I can see this as a good hot weather beer. Sitting on a beach, baking in the sun and ice cold. It doesn't do well warm.

It only appears to be available in cans. That's disappointing because if I don't have a glass I definitely prefer a bottle. It's probably less environmentally friendly for that reason too.

So what do I think? I think that everyone in the province should feel it to be their civic duty to buy at least one box, drink it and decide for themselves. After all, who am I to say what you'll like...


Monday, February 23, 2009

Blackberry Geocaching

I recently got an 8830 Blackberry from work. I was quite excited by the GPS feature that it comes with. It also comes with some mapping software and will even do turn-by-turn spoken directions (for a fee).

Since I occasionally enjoy geocaching and since I don't own my own GPS, I thought it would be neat to do it with the phone since I always have it on me. I downloaded Google Maps mobile expecting that it would give me all I need for GeoCaching since it is great for road navigation. Unfortunately it has some quirks that make it almost useless for GeoCaching. Namely the fact that you can't easily (it is possible) get the coordinates from your current location.

I did some searching and came up with a nice little utility that is promising. It is still a work in progress, I think, but it is certainly usable the way it is. It's called GeoBerry. It does have a couple of quirks. It seems to have issues when my BB wakes up from hibernation (or whatever they call it on BBs). Anyways, I give many thanks to the author for giving his time on this app. It is a free app but I plan on giving a donation to help support it.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Olympus Stylus 1030SW Digital camera

The Olympus Stylus 1030SW is a great camera! I first saw the sister product, the 790, that a friend at work had bought. It was very similar to the 1030 and I had intended to buy it but when I looked at the spec of the 1030 I couldn't pass it up, even though it was around $50 extra. I'm not going to talk a lot about the spec here because you can read that on the Olympus site.

Now, this isn't a studio quality camera. In fact, even though it is 10.1 Megapixel, it doesn't even take a stunning quality picture. However, if you are looking for a camera that takes great snapshots in just about any condition, this is the one. The quality of the pics is as good as most point and shoot models... but how many of those can you take down a water slide?? This one you can.

The under water rating for this camera is 33 feet. That is plenty for your average pool, water slide or other standard water sport. We've gotten some great shots of the family at the beach and in the pool.

I took the camera scuba diving and got some great shots but 33 feet is a little tight for that setting. I took the camera to 30 feet and I don't really think there is a lot of safety margin after the rated depth. At 30 feet the camera's LCD started to push in and it took some time for it to come back out. I think I would want to get the optional underwater enclosure if I was going to take it diving again.

I must say that one of the coolest things about this camera is that it provides underwater audio as well as video. Not really practical but really fun to play with. I also really like the macro + LED feature.

It is also really nice to clean your camera by dunking it in clean water. Do that with your SLR!

The Good
  • Very tough
  • Good quality pictures
  • Reasonable quality video
  • Quick power on/off
  • Quick focus
  • Good macro settings (especially LED option)
The Bad
  • Short battery life when depth gauge is turned on
  • Not a great zoom
  • Auto scene settings are kind of useless.
  • It's not easy to use the manual settings (although...this is a point and shoot camera so what do you expect?)
This camera is exceptional at what it is, a fun camera that will go anywhere with no fuss. I would absolutely recommend it.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Craftsman 1350 B&S 27" Snowblower

Last January (2008) I decided to take the plunge and pick up a snowblower. We had a crazy year for snow in this part of the world and it was getting to the point that I couldn't get the snow out of my driveway because of the size of the snowbanks. 

My selection was limited at the time because everyone else in the world also decided at the same time to do the same. After much searching I found a Craftsman model (Craftsman 1350 B&S 27") that was only backordered 3 weeks. (that was good at the time!) Anyway, I jumped at it. 

It has been almost a year now that I've had it so I thought I would write a review. 

Things didn't start off well with this machine. The 3rd time I used it I had a major failure. A pully that drives the augar snapped in two. Of course, since this was a very common problem in that model (according to the repair guy) I had to wait two weeks (and two major storms) for a replacement.  

Since then it has worked relatively well. 

The good
  • Throws snow like a demon. Easily throws snow 30'. (be careful of cars and windows!)
  • Starts effortlessly with the electric start
  • Doesn't mind the odd stone (I have a crushed rock driveway and thus blew as much stone as snow until it froze)
The bad
  • The controls freeze quite easily and require manual intervention to free
  • Eats gas (I'm not sure if this is common in snow blowers)
  • The drift cutters won't stay adjusted and keep falling
  • The reverse gear is almost useless
I don't have a lot of exposure to these as this is my first one snow thrower. I'm guessing that there are better models out there than this one and I would try a different one next time. That being said, it has saved me a LOT of shoveling again this year and I'm happy every time that can leave the shovel in the garage. 

Friday, January 16, 2009


I thought that I should put a mention in here about a previous article that I wrote for Duckworks Magazine. The article documents my build of my ROAR2 rowboat, designed by  Jim Michalak 

I got a lot of positive feedback from the article. I'm currently doing some maintenance to the ROAR2 because of an ice incident last winter. I'll post on that once I take some pics but I'm basically rebuilding the gunnels, fixing some rot areas and installing permanent seats/storage areas.

New Immaculate Machine albumn coming!

I just noticed that one of my favorite bands, Immaculate Machine, is releasing a new albumn this spring.

If you haven't checked these folks out you really need to. I've seen them 3 times in concert (Victoria, Saint John and Fredericton) and they put on a great show. Definitely one of Canada's music gems that haven't gotten the attention they deserve. All three of them are fantastic musicians.

You can check out some of their tunes on CBC Radio 3 but you should really buy one of their albumns!

Crayon Physics

I've been watching the development of this game for quite a while (through slashdot articles). The final version of the game has been release and I jumped on the download. I was not disappointed. This is a really cool game.

It is in the spirit of one of my all time favorite games "The Incredible Machine" but it is infinitely more nifty. I can't wait for my kids to wake up to show them this! In the mean time I'll familiarize myself with it know... so I can help them out.

RCA HPNC200 Noise Canceling Headphones

An I mentioned in my last post, I received a pair of RCA HPNC200 Noise Canceling Headphones for Christmas this year. My experience with these was much more positive than the wireless headphones.

The good
  1. These headphones are nice and light and comfortable. While the earpieces could be a little bigger for comfort, they are nice.
  2. The noise canceling works as advertised. They claim a 15db reduction in noise. It's not going to get rid of all of the background noise but it certainly cuts down on a lot of it.
  3. They also fold and come with a nice little carrying case for traveling. They certainly aren't as portable as ear buds but they fold up pretty well.
  4. They come with an airline adapter. This is really nice!
The bad
  1. The battery compartment and the on/off switch (for the active noise canceling) are pretty cheap and I can see one of them breaking one of these days. We'll see and I'll post if they do.
  2. They're kind of ugly.
I would recommend these. They sound pretty good and the noise canceling works pretty well too. I think they cost around 40 bucks.

RCA WHP151 Wireless Headphones

So, as part of my Christmas list this year I asked for a good set of headphones. My suggestions for these headphones were:
  • Good quality
  • Full ear
  • Wireless would be nice
  • Noise canceling would be nice
When Christmas morning came I was excited to see that I had received a pair of RCA WHP151 Wireless Headphones from my inlaws. Interestingly I also received a pair of RCA HPNC200 headphones from my parents. (see next post for this review)

The bad
  1. My first grievance with these headphones is that I had to charge them for 24 hours before using them. On Christmas morning I wanted to play with my new toy just like my kids but I had to strike one.
  2. There is a significant hiss from the wireless on these. If you are using them for anything low volume this will irritate you. One of my intentions for these was to use them while practicing guitar. This was not feasible when no accompaniment was playing. I read several posts on this problem so I think it is common. Adjusting input levels to max will help this problem immensely but unfortunately I haven't been able to get rid of it entirely.
  3. The wireless is fairly susceptible to interference. The annoying hiss seems to increase if I am near certain other devices (or if I turn my head certain directions while I type this...)
  4. They aren't the prettiest headphones I've seen by a long shot. Very retro hi-fi looking. I think RCA used the same mold that they used for my parents headphones in the 80's.
The Good
  1. These are pretty darn comfortable
  2. Sound quality (other than this hiss) is quite good. If you keep the volume turned up you'll be happy with the sound quality...if not the hearing loss!
Would I buy They list for around $60-80. That seems way to high considering the hiss problem. I do like using them for practicing drums because of the wireless capability though.