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My Canadian Experience
January, February, March 2011

January was pretty quiet other than me having to go into Toronto to have my hand seen to which is mostly mended now although got a kink in my little finger which I guess I'll just have to live with.

February we were warned of a huge storm which could bring tons of snow but that ended up being a bit of a damp squib.  However on February 5th we had a pretty big fall of snow with no warning being received about this at all.

I didn't actually notice it as I was working away but then I heard a funny burring noise outside my window so went to see what it was.  It was then I noticed the heavy snow fall and the burring noise was my next door neighbour wielding a wee snow blower and to my great pleasure noticed she was clearing my driveway for which I gave many thanks.

Here are a few pictures I took of the snow and as I write this it's still snowing so who knows how much more will come.

And this last is showing my neighbour working away at clearing the snow

On 16th Feb I got the flight from Toronto to Vancouver.  It's a five hour flight but managed to wear the storm of not being able to smoke.  However I did expect to get a smoking room at the Delta Hotel only to find it's a non smoking hotel.... grrrrr.  Not much of a view from the window either.  I also got caught out in the elevator as I didn't expect to have to have my room card scanned in so here was me trying to get to floor eight only to find I went right past it to floor 12 and the door didn't open either.  I was about to use the phone when it started back down to the 7th floor where a chap got in.  I mentioned about trying to get to the 8th floor and he kindly showed me the slot where I was supposed to put my card in. Oh well.  Yet another new thing I've learnt.

I have done a report on My trip to Vancouver where you can see lots of pictures I took.

The beginning of March saw me spending some of my retirement lump sum and just for a change I indulged myself.  I am usually quite frugal but have to confess I enjoyed my wee bit splurge.

This is an electric fire place I purchased with the new TV above.

I might add that the fireplace is some 220lbs in weight. It was delivered by UPS Freight and all they guarantee is to drop it at the pavement. I have to thank the delivery driver for his help to get it into the house as I could never have managed it on my own for sure! While it is electric it actually looks more like a gas fire as the flames can be varied in height and flicker, there are three settings for the embers and there is also a downlight which mimics the effect of the flames illuminating the brick surround.  It really looks like it came with the house and am very pleased with it.

I had a bit of a hard time getting the TV in that I ordered a Toshiba from and when it arrived I found most of the features plus the installation were not available in Canada.  I thus returned it for a refund and ended up at Future Shop where I purchased a Sony 40" TV and had that installed over the fireplace as you can see in the above picture. It comes with a separate box that allows connection to the Internet called a Boxee box. Future Shop sent out an installation chap that configures the Boxee and ensures all is working.  With that I get full Internet access as well as lots of widgets for movies, news, weather and lots of other material.  This is hard wired into my router and while Wi-Fi access is available it's much better to have it plugged in direct and much faster. I also got a universal remote so only need the one remote now for the TV, Cable Box and DVD.  The Boxee uses its own remote as it is two sided with the second side having a mouse like feature to allow you to browse the Web and a full qwerty keyboard.

I might add that the Boxee box gives access to lots of extra features from the Internet. There are at least 1500 movies you can view along with widgets for weather, news, sports, etc. It also comes with a widget for Netflix which streams movies, documentaries and TV shows. It also lets you share your computer, either the whole computer or just a single directory.  The way I have it configured is to have a boxee directory on my computer which the Boxee box knows about.  This means if I wanted to display pictures on the TV I simply copy them into that folder.  I can also make sub folders in there so can have collections of files I want to display.  I could of course just configured it to my existing mypictures, myvideos, etc folders but decided that I'd prefer to just have a selection of stuff specifically for showing on the TV.

The start of March also meant it was time to get my company accounts done and they arrived back very quickly and so it was now down to doing my Canadian Tax Return.  I took the opportunity to check with Canadian Revenue that my tax free lump sum from the UK was also tax free in Canada. I am very pleased that they agreed it was.  Seems taking the tax free lump sum just means you are bringing in capital which is not taxable.  The annual annuity however is taxable but I believe this sum will come in from the UK tax free so won't be faced with double tax but still to verify that.

I also learned from my Doctor that I am still a type 2 diabetic. I had thought with going onto insulin that meant I was Type 1 but that was not the case.  My blood work readings also put me into the "good" category for control of my diabetes which was excellent news.

Then toward the end of March I did a re-organisation of my Kitchen to give me more space...

Taken from the Hall looking into the Kitchen. The Door on the left is to the wee toilet and you'll note the door to the right is now blocked although it would be easy enough to slide the fridge out to access it.

This was me standing in the door of the wee toilet to take this picture showing the new wee semi-circular table I've had fitted.

This is what the Kitchen looked like before the re-organisation

I took these pictures as I am doing a wee bit of decorating to brighten it up and getting better shelving into my cabinets along with better lighting. I'll do another couple of pictures once that is completed next month. You might note I've also installed a wee semi circular table.  The brick work is being painted and I'm fitting in new shelving units into the cupboards. This will allow me better access to the shelves and I'll be able to vary the height.  Right now on the two cupboards on the window side I can only really reach the first two shelves so have to get out the steps to reach the other ones.  With this alteration I'll be able to access three shelves without needing the steps. I'm also fitting two new lights, one in the centre of the ceiling which should give me better illumination. The second is over the window which will give better illumination on the work surfaces. Also getting new handles and brackets fitted to the cupboards and doors.

I'm also doing a wee makeover to the wee toilet getting new toilet bowl with twin settings for the flush. This is one of these new toilets in that it has a slightly elongated bowl and is all one solid unit with an automatic seat and lid lowering mechanism. I am also repairing a cracked window and repairing a bit of wall paper that has come loose. Also getting a new cupboard installed which was found in the basement. It's a wood cabinet and I'm sure it must have been made for the toilet as it's the same wood.

You'll note from the above picture that the fridge now blocks the rear door but I rarely used that.  I also plan to have a new outside door put into the garage and that will be the one I will mostly use in future. I am hoping to have the door done during April.

I also got myself an Android smart phone, the HTC Desire HD. It comes with a larger screen so I can just about use it without my reading glasses. I did consider the iPhone but the screen is just too small so I'd need to use my reading glasses to use it.

Towards the end of March I got an email in from Microsoft telling me IE9 could now be downloaded.  So I figured I'd download their new Internet browser and see how it performed.  Problem was soon after it was installed I started to get weird things happening to my computer.  I then found I had viruses, trojans and malware on my computer.  It took an entire day to clean everything up.  In the end what really sorted it was the product, Hitman Pro, and after running that I started to make real progress. 

There seems to be a vulnerability with Microsoft as the only other time I download a program from them was when I upgraded my computer from Vista to Windows 7 professional.  Having completed the upgrade I again found tons of viruses, trojans and malware on my computer. 

Anyway... having got rid of all the bad stuff I then took a system image backup which went through fine but I was sure exhausted by the end of the day which was just after midnight. 

This month I resigned my board position with the Scottish Studies Foundation.  It's not really practical with me living in Chatham, some three hours away from where they hold their meetings.  I'm also not convinced that they have a real vision for the Foundation. While they did an excellent job of raising $1 million to secure a permanent chair of Scottish Studies at the University of Guelph I have personally not been convinced that is doing much to educate the people of Canada in their Scottish heritage. Universities tend to be a bit of a closed shop and really don't like sharing information outside the University structure.

In fact I am a bit arrogant about this I admit as I think I am doing a far better job in educating people in Canada and around the world on the Scottish contribution to Canada and the world. I am still fully in favour of supporting the McLaughlin Library at the University of Guelph as they have an amazing collection of Scottish history material and I do think there needs to be such a collection of stored knowledge for researchers.  Having said that in many ways the Web has taken the place of libraries as so many books are now available on the Web so you don't actually need to visit them to read many books. And of course with rare books in libraries you have to physically go there and read them in situ as they won't lend these out.

Also I find that the projects supported by the Foundation are only reaching a few hundred people.  The Sail Past is an excellent event and if you haven't been I'd encourage you to try it.  However there are only two sailings so that limits the numbers.  Many others only attract around a hundred or at best 300 people.  Even the big Tartan Day event with the Scot of the Year award gets at best around 500 people attending and there seems to be little publicity surrounding it to the wider population.

That's also why I favour supporting the Scottish Studies Dept. at Simon Fraser University to ensure there is a good collection of Scottish material on the West coast of Canada. Canada is such a huge country that it makes it very difficult to travel from the West of Canada to Guelph.

Most of the Foundation board members are retired and thus don't have that much influence to the wider Canadian population. As one put it to me... when you run a company you have loads of influential contacts but when you retire you lose most of them.

I also found that using email to communicate with the board members was a waste of time. You rarely got a reply and so I found I could contribute little and thus my resignation.

The end of March also got me a visit from a contractor representing my insurance company. If you have been reading this journal you'll know a car ran into the porch and thus destroyed the main pillar supporting my porch.  Well since that was fixed the porch has settled is thus some of the wooden joints are coming apart.  I think the main problem was down to the contractor that re-built the supporting pillar. Anyway this contactor is coming to fix the support issue in April at no charge to myself.

On a business basis we have been talking to new Telco's about our bandwidth. It seems that we should be able to double our bandwidth and at the same time half the price. This will allow us the do streaming video which will be a definite plus for the business. This will reflect a saving of some $500 a month so certainly a significant saving.

Our Electric Scotland Community saw some good new members joining and how every day you can be assured of some interesting new messages going onto the community.  We have worked to ensure that it is more solid from an operational point of view.  We installed a new arcade system which now seems to work as it should in that it is saving the high scores. The other system would often fail to do this and often reported that you didn't have permission to save your high score and so that is now fixed. We also removed the "Front Page" as this was a CMS (Content Management System) which we were not using. And we removed the Links system as that also wasn't working as it should.  We have identified a new links system which we'll be trying out next month. 

We now only have one problem to fix and that is to our Postcard program.  It works fine if you are sending out a postcard right away but for some reason if you schedule the card to be sent at a later date this is not working.  So... we're trying to fix that and when fixed the system will be spot on. It will then be down to us adding in some new functionality.

So that about sums up this first quarter of 2011. The highlight was obviously my trip to Vancouver and also doing the upgrades to the house.

Return to my Canadian Experience Index Page

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