Ties Cause Blindness!

Take that, you dress code fanatics!

bq. Wearing your tie too tight could put you at increased risk of blindness, say doctors.

bq. The small study in New York measured the pressure of the fluid in the eyeball in a small group of men before and after they attached their tie.

bq. They found a significant rise – and warn that long-term pressure rises have been linked to the condition glaucoma.

(My new employer in fact has a very liberal dress code; not quite as liberal as our old complete non-policy, but close enough for comfort :-)

posted at 10:52 am on Tuesday, July 29, 2003 in Science and Technology | Comments Off on Ties Cause Blindness!

DEET and sunscreen together?

From a story in the Vancouver Sun:

bq. Dr. Xiaochen Gu, a scientist at the University of Manitoba, has found that using DEET and sunscreen at the same time can exacerbate the side effects of the bug repellent ingredient, ranging from rashes on the skin to dizziness and disorientation to changes in blood pressure and even seizures.

bq. “If people do use them together, try to avoid the use of them at the same time. If you are going to apply both, apply one, then wait half an hour, then apply the other,” he said.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose…

posted at 7:17 pm on Thursday, July 24, 2003 in Health | Comments Off on DEET and sunscreen together?

This Shouldn’t Be News…

Yahoo! News – Ice Cream ‘Isn’t Health Food’-Study

bq. the staggering calorie and saturated fat content of most of the treats served up at chains like Baskin-Robbins, Ben and Jerry’s, Cold Stone Creamery, Friendly’s, Haagen-Dazs and TCBY is bound to surprise most consumers.”

It shouldn’t be a surprise, especially with all of the health news floating around these days.

bq. The CSPI said an empty Ben & Jerry’s chocolate-dipped waffle cone, designed to hold at least two scoops of ice cream, itself packs 320 calories and 10 grams or half a day’s worth of saturated fat.

Well, _duh_! The thing is _larger_ than a 300 calorie chocolate bar, and has most of the same ingredients…

I suppose it’s good that someone is smacking consumers over the head with this information, but it’s a sad sign of the times that it’s necessary.

(I have an ice cream cone or sundae about once a _month_, and yes, I “count”:http://www.weightwatchers.ca it…

posted at 1:29 pm on Thursday, July 24, 2003 in Rants | Comments Off on This Shouldn’t Be News…

Quotes from the Trip

Some notable quotes from the children.

In Pisa:

bq. M: “It’s forty cents for the bathroom.”
H: “That’s cheap!”
G: “Well of _course_ that’s cheap, it’s not like the bathroom is very exciting…”

In the park in S.Margherita:

bq. C: “You know, mummy: hot countries and hot days are _not_ for scraped knees; they are for ice cream!”

posted at 1:13 pm on Thursday, July 24, 2003 in Personal | Comments Off on Quotes from the Trip


So we’re in London, on the south side of Tower Bridge, looking at garbage art, when on the sidewalk next to us appears Charlotte’s phys-ed teacher. It was our first full day in London and her last one.

It’s a small world…

posted at 1:42 pm on Wednesday, July 23, 2003 in Personal | Comments Off on Coincidence?

Sweeping The Alley

delimiter.org: Sweeping The Alley:

bq. As I get older (and hopefully, wiser) I’m discovering the value of keeping one’s mouth shut.

Followed by an interesting little parable on life; check it out.

posted at 3:57 pm on Tuesday, July 22, 2003 in Miscellaneous | Comments Off on Sweeping The Alley

Firenze Pictures Uploaded

I have updated “My Firenze Entry”:http://blog.cfrq.net/chk/archives/000313.html with some “uploaded photos”:http://www.cfrq.net/gallery/italy .

posted at 11:08 pm on Monday, July 21, 2003 in Personal | Comments Off on Firenze Pictures Uploaded

Vacation without the bulge

My first post-vacation weigh-in was today. As you can see, I managed to not gain weight while on vacation in England and Italy.

I ate like I was on vacation, which is to say a lot, when I felt like it. On the other hand, we walked _everywhere_, including up and down the hill from the convent to the seaside a couple of times per day. All that exercise burned off the extra calories, apparently :-)

posted at 1:38 pm on Monday, July 21, 2003 in Personal | Comments Off on Vacation without the bulge

The Car Died

I went to the movies with Sib yesterday afternoon. On the way home, I was trying to pass someone when the engine suddenly lost power; just for a second, but enough to make me nervous.

Less than a minute later (at the top of the big hill at Finch & Don Mills, fortunately :-) the engine stalled. I tried to start it; no crank, just a feeble click. Sib and I pushed the car off the road, and waited for Michaéla and “CAA”:http://www.central.on.caa.ca/ to come rescue us. I was hoping that I had just thrown a fan belt; this was when we discovered that the hood release is broken (the latch mechanism had rusted, and so the cable popped out under the extra strain :-). So Sib and Michaéla crawled around under the car trying to release the hood, while I made sure that they didn’t get run over by passing cars :-)

They finally got the hood open just as the CAA tow truck arrived. The fan belts were in place, unfortunately. Some quick testing with the tow truck’s battery proved that the alternator had died. This is probably because the leaky power steering pump right above it has filled the alternator with power steering fluid…

We had been planning to replace this car, but not for another year. It’s a 1990 Eagle Vista, but with only 150,000km, and it runs just fine. However, there is a crack in the exhaust manifold, and the body is starting to rust through in places; those are both going to be expensive repairs, so there isn’t too much life left in the car.

So now we need to decide: invest money in the repairs (alternator, power steering pump, hood release) and keep the car on the road for another year, or write it off and get the new car a year early. The complete repair list just came in:

| alternator | $360 |
| power steering | $448 |
| cooling sytem | $225 |
| rear brakes | $41 |
| rear suspension | $174 |
| front struts | $495 |
| alignment | $59 |
| drive clean | $35 |

We don’t need to do the front struts right away, but the rest is stuff that has to be done within the next year; we’re looking at $1000 to $1300 to keep the car on the road.

“autotrader.ca”:http://www.autotrader.ca/ has quite a few medium age, medium mileage hatchbacks listed in our price range, so I’m not worried about being able to replace the car without breaking the bank. Since I’m about to be “driving to work”:http://blog.cfrq.net/chk/archives/000315.html, we need a more reliable car at this point anyway. On the other hand, the HP deal isn’t final yet, and Michaéla is still on probation in her new job, so we’re not exactly financially stable right now.

So, off to car shopping we go…

posted at 9:23 am on Monday, July 21, 2003 in Personal | Comments (1)
  1. Allison says:

    If you enjoy AutoTrader, you would certainly like the information and features at Automotive.com Car Guide

If You Go Out To The Woods Today…

“Teal Sunglasses”:http://www.plaidworks.com/chuqui/blog/000549.html → “Steve Jackson Games”:http://www.warehouse23.com/item.cgi?SJG9401A :

The Teddy Bears Summon Cthulhu!

“If you go out to the woods today
You won’t like what you will find
If you go out to the woods today
You’re certain to lose your mind
For every bear that ever there was
Will gather there for certain because
Today’s the day the teddy bears summon Cthulhu!

Ritual time for teddy bears!
The little teddy bears are waking the Elder Gods today!
Smell the incense in the air!
And see them dancing their eldritch ballet!
See the waving tentacles
While in their pentacles
They summon your worst nightmares!
And soon their Lord, Great Old One Cthulhu
Will rise up from the sea
Because they’re faithful little teddy bears

You could go out to the woods today
With the bears and their evil tome
It’s lovely out in the woods today
But safer to stay at home
Beneath the trees where nobody sees
They’ll chant and pray as long as they please
Today’s the day the teddy bears summon Cthulhu!”

–lyrics by Mia Sherman

posted at 10:08 am on Friday, July 18, 2003 in Humour | Comments Off on If You Go Out To The Woods Today…

Speculating on the new commute

Our new office location is going to be 901 King Street West, at Strachan Avenue (just north of the Exhibition grounds). I’ve been spoiled by working within the downtown core for the last 8 years, so this is coming as a bit of a shock for me :-)

I live at Leslie and Sheppard. My current commute is about an hour, whether I take the GO train, the subway, or drive in with my wife. The GO train is the most pleasant; it is quieter, and doesn’t stop/start constantly like the subway does.

My new commute, on the other hand, is ugly. Add an extra 30 minutes each way for the TTC solution, because I have to take a streetcar across. The GO solution is no longer practical. There’s a train that leaves Union for Exhibition in the morning, but the Richmond Hill train is _always_ late, so I’d probably never catch it. That leaves the train to Union, then a streetcar, which is expensive, and doesn’t save any time.

Currently, I can leave home a bit early, leave a car at the GO station, leave work early, and go pick up the kids from school before 6PM; that plan (and variations on it) goes out the window with my new office location.

So that leaves driving. It’s apparently about $5/day to park, and the drive takes less than an hour (even at rush hour). I dislike driving to work; it’s completely wasted time for me. At least on the subway I can read, and on the trains I can read or work on my laptop. About the only thing I can accomplish in the car is Books On Tape :-)

Still, an extra _hour_ commuting each day doesn’t work for me; I simply don’t have an extra hour in my day right now. So I guess I get to start driving. That probably means getting a replacement for my 12-year-old beater…

Still, it could always be worse :-)

posted at 9:52 am on Friday, July 18, 2003 in Personal | Comments (2)
  1. aiabx says:

    You might be communting by TTC and Markham transit from Bathurst and Bloor to Hwy 7 and Warden. *That’s* worse. I do get a lot of reading done, though.

  2. ReidNews says:

    Time spent driving is wasted time
    Driving a car sucks.


We spent a week in Italy, staying in Santa Margherita, a small town south of Genoa (next to Portofino, if you know where that is).

This put us within striking distance of Firenze, only a 3-4 hour train ride away. We have a fridge magnet of David with various items of clothing, so we wanted to show the kids the real thing. Even better, the trip requires changing trains in Pisa; why not stop there on the way? I’ll admit that I was a little skeptical; dragging the kids on an eight hour train ride could have been a nightmare!

We left in the morning, after a quick breakfast. The kids _loved_ the train ride, especially all of the tunnels through the cliffs along “Cinque Terre”:http://www.cinqueterreonline.com/. By the time we arrived in Pisa it was already hot (go figure; it’s July in Italy). Unfortunately, the wait to climb up the tower was over four hours, so we couldn’t do that, but we did eat lunch in its shadow before heading back to the train station.

We had planned to spend the hottest part of the day on the train, and it seemed to work; we arrived in Firenze around 4PM, and it was already starting to cool down. We made sure we had tickets and times for the return journey, and then headed off to the Piazza della Signoria, where David originally stood (there’s a copy there now, but the original is in a stuffy museum, so seeing the copy out in the square is better :-). We arrived to discover that the Palazzo Vecchio was being renovated, and David was surrounded by scaffolding!

The kids were a little disturbed by the “statue of Perseus”:http://www.vacationidea.com/florence/gallery/piazza_della_signoria_Gallery8.html in the Loggia dei Lanzi, but were soon distracted by a small group of art students sketching David. Charlotte wanted to ask what they were doing, but the question she eventually asked was “Can I help you colour?”. One _very_ nice young lady gave the kids a sheet of paper, and let them use her pastels; we now have two beautiful sketches of David (complete with scaffolding and the construction elevator :-) as souvenirs of the trip. This little exchange made the entire 8 hour journey worthwhile!

After a quick dinner we walked back to the train station, with Michaéla taking pictures of doors and windows along the way. Unfortunately, in order to get 20 extra minutes in Firenze, we ended up going home the long (slow) way, and arrived in S.Margherita just after midnight. The kids were completely spun (bouncing off the walls :) until about 20 minutes before the train stopped, when they both crashed. We ended up carrying them asleep up the (steep!) path to our rooms.

Three hours is definitely not enough time to see Firenze; we could have spent all day in the one Piazza :). Still, despite my misgivings, we had a very good time; Firenze is one place in Italy I will return to!


posted at 11:01 am on Thursday, July 17, 2003 in Personal | Comments Off on Firenze

The Voyage Home

An update on the long day I hinted at yesterday…

So, we get up at 0630 to dress, wake the kids, and catch the 0730 train to Gatwick. We could have slept in 30 minutes longer, but the very nice ticket agent suggested that we take the earlier train, since it started empty at our station.

We change trains at Clapham junction (with four adults, three children, and lots of baggage this is harder than it sounds :-), and arrive in Gatwick airport at 0845 to check-in for our 1155 flight home; air transat wants you to checkin three hours early for international flights. We clear security, deal with some VAT refund issues, and have breakfast in the departure lounge; all normal so far.

At 1055, we discover that our flight is delayed to (at least) 1615. Turns out the airplane was still on the ground in Manchester with mechanical problems. transat gave us all free meal tickets, and we hurriedly shopped for some books etc. to keep the children entertained. We played, shopped, had a long lunch, and eventually our gate was called and we were off again! Fortunately we were stuck in a real airport; I can’t imagine a 7 hour wait in an airport like Pearson, which has _no_ facilities of any sort inside the security barrier.

Anyway, air transat had diverted the flight from Portugal through Gatwick to pick us up, so we all had to get new seat assignments, an entirely manual process (sigh). We finally left London at about 1715, after spending eight hours in the airport…

We then spent 6 hours in the air, with the cabin crew being extremely nice to us (and showering us with free alcohol :-), only to enter a holding pattern between Ottawa and Toronto thanks to storm activity! We finally land, and taxi to the terminal to find that our assigned gate is still occupied… 15 minutes later we _finally_ get off the plane, at around midnight London time.

Every _other_ flight that was waiting out the storm had offloaded before us, so there were long lines at customs, and to pick up baggage. Finally some luck; we had no wait for a taxi home.

So, 20 hours later, we arrive home. The kids were _really_ good; they only really lost the ability to cope with the long day after we had landed at Pearson.

posted at 4:58 pm on Wednesday, July 16, 2003 in Personal | Comments Off on The Voyage Home


This is a stellar practical joke

posted at 4:36 pm on Wednesday, July 16, 2003 in Odd | Comments Off on Hair

The more things change…

My co-worker described the activity around the announcement as “pre traumatic stress disorder”…

posted at 4:35 pm on Wednesday, July 16, 2003 in Humour | Comments Off on The more things change…

What a long day.

I’m back from my vacation. I’ve been going for 20 hours now, thanks to various flight delays, so I’m going to bed now. More later…

posted at 9:55 pm on Tuesday, July 15, 2003 in Personal | Comments Off on What a long day.

WISH 54: Background Hooks

Perverse Access Memory: WISH 54: Background Hooks

bq. Do you like to have bits and pieces from your characters’ backgrounds appear in the game? Do you write hooks into your character background for the GM to use in the campaign for your character? Do you like it when the GM gives you a background hook into an adventure or scenario with a previously unknown hook, such as creating an old friend of your character’s who is somehow involved? What are some examples of cases where hooks have worked or not worked for you?

I _love_ background hooks; they make a campaign more interesting, more integrated. We’re not just a random bunch of adventurers going dungeon crawling; we’re part of, and integrated with, the whole campaign setting. I’ve played straight hack’n’slash campaigns, and integrated campaigns, and I _much_ prefer the latter.

My friend Gerry is particularly good at this. In our ongoing 2300AD campaign, every PC had interesting, complicated hooks into the world at large, usually more than one. For the first year or so, I had a secret so good _I_ didn’t know what it was (brainwashing for fun and profit). We had a spy from a competing corporation; an alien; a british secret agent; a brain transplant victim (she used to be my grandfather, IIRC); and others that I never learned. These backgrounds may sound strange, but they worked in our universe, and we managed to work quite well together as a team (except, of course, for those times when it was more _fun_ to do otherwise :-).

Our current GM likes background hooks too. All of us have some sort of connection with an umbrella organisation. For many, it is the church (the campaign is set in a religious world; see “Adanflaen Nights”:http://www.cfrq.net/~rolemaster/ for details). I’m employed by a powerful guild. We’re also a family, which gives us all spaces for “how we met” stories in the future.

I’m certainly open to having background stories added whenever necessary; long lost friends or relatives, for example, make a game more interesting (Oh no! Do I take the treasure, or rescue my mother’s cousin?).

I’ve seen this go to far, though. In our previous campaign, our characters were thrown together by outside forces, and our backgrounds were diverse enough that we were never a cohesive team. Character motives were being decided by background and temperament, not by the adventure or any group goals. Eventually, we gave up and rolled up our current characters (in the same world; in fact I think one of us is related to one of our old characters).

posted at 11:59 am on Thursday, July 03, 2003 in WISH | Comments (1)
  1. WISH 54: Background Hooks
    On character background and plot hocks.

More Manned Spaceflight

Another article on manned space flight, which suggests that we should leave human exploration of space to the millionaires (e.g. Steve Fosset, the round-the-world balloon guy).

Interesting, but I’m afraid that one possible result would be Space Feudalism…

posted at 11:00 am on Wednesday, July 02, 2003 in Rants | Comments (1)
  1. Tom says:

    I’d love to see this, but I don’t see it happening as long as the government keeps showing a willingness to foot the bill.

    Of course, if the government foots the bill then America gets to control the early colonies. If private industry foots the bill,then we have a reinactment of what happened to the Chinese and Irish when they hired on to build railroads.

    I think a private / government partnership would work best and has a better chance of happening.

Quick Links

Stuff I want pointers to, but don’t really feel like commenting on right now (which is different from my sideblog how? I don’t know :-)

* “The Magical Number Seven”:http://www.well.com/user/smalin/miller.html – It plagues us, it does!
* “ongoing: Big, Small, and More”:http://www.tbray.org/ongoing/When/200x/2003/06/29/BigSmall – an interesting variation on big picture vs. details.
* “ongoing:Web Architecture, 2003/06/27”:http://www.tbray.org/ongoing/When/200x/2003/06/30/WebArch20030627 – I need to read this at some point soon.
* “Marketing and Human Connection”:http://www.plaidworks.com/chuqui/blog/000522.html – I have to agree with Chuqui; too many companies treat me as a wallet (or a pair of eyes), not a person.
* “How Long Are You A Customer?”:http://www.plaidworks.com/chuqui/blog/000523.html – If you haven’t spent money with a company for a period of time, are you still a customer of theirs?

posted at 9:20 am on Tuesday, July 01, 2003 in Links | Comments Off on Quick Links

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday, Canada! 136 and still going strong…

posted at 9:03 am on Tuesday, July 01, 2003 in Miscellaneous | Comments Off on Happy Birthday!
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