Pat's Log
Fri, 30 Dec 2011

It Was Worth It
20111230 The renovations to the living-dining rooms were completed just in time for Christmas. At an average of between three and four hours per day, maybe even more, over the span of two and a half months, it was nothing short of a giant commitment. But, it was definitely worth it.

In the end, it was the little details that make for a nice reno: the paint, trim, crown moulding, flush-mount vents, corner blocks, clean new electrical fixtures, and so on. The hardwood looks great and is surprisingly warm to walk on. The new window does a decent job keeping the heat in. Getting new furniture and moving back some of the pieces previously removed was exciting.

This much-needed renovation makes the house feel like home.

[] | posted @ 17:39 | link
Sun, 30 Oct 2011

Bye-bye GNOME 2
Over the past couple of weeks, GNOME 2 has essentially been taken away from me.

After almost ten years of this excellent environment, it will very much be missed. In my Debian systems, GNOME 3 finally made it into sid/unstable, and Ubuntu forced me over to Unity.

Feels like the end of an era.

[] | posted @ 15:50 | link
Thu, 13 Oct 2011

House Renovations
20111012 Now that we are all settled into the new house, it's time for renovations! The chosen area to start is the living room-dining room half of the house. Since the rest of the ground floor already has nice tile, this half really needed attention, with its original 1983 carpeting.

The plan was simple; buy some relatively nice hardwood and apply. Of course, along the way, things got more complicated. Choosing the right flooring took forever, and the right look comes with a price. To make it nice and level, the OSB subfloor will be removed and replaced with plywood. This will require some floor joist work. The drywall is also being tackled at this time. There was a small leak from the washroom above at some point, so some ceiling is getting removed to address the issue. This will need to be refinished in several places in the house. While we're at it, why not replace the window in the dining room with something more modern?

The list seems to go on and on. In the end, it will be worth it.

[] | posted @ 03:45 | link
Mon, 22 Aug 2011

The Big Week
This is it; the big week. In a couple of short days I will have the keys to my first ever house. It always feels strange to sort out old clutter and pack up. For the most part, my apartment is exactly as it has always been. All of the interesting packing will be last-minute. Fun times...

Since the last post I've been at a friend's cottage twice. Both weekends have been packed with water skiing. It was nice to know the skills don't go away. Surprisingly, I even managed to pick up skiing on one ski... who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks? Today, the muscles are sore.

Looks like the next entry will be from my new place. I'm going to miss the view!

[] | posted @ 23:02 | link
Fri, 22 Jul 2011

20110722 This week in Ottawa we are experiencing a heat wave. It's not at all unusual around this time of year, but the numbers are quite high. Apparently, we haven't had this kind of heat since the fifties. It is strange to have higher-than-body-temperature weather here.

It occurs to me just how much of a temperature swing there is around here. We've had as low as -45°C, and this +40°C seems to be a high. That's a whole 85°C!

The new house has air conditioning, but by then, the heat wave will be long gone. Good thing it has heating, too.

[] | posted @ 12:47 | link
Mon, 11 Jul 2011

New House and Scuba Diving
20110710 While I didn't post it here, since it has until quite recently felt unreal, I took the leap and purchased my first house late last month. Now that all of the paperwork is pretty much complete, it really feels much more like I own it than before.

My new house is a decent single unit, built in 1983, in the Tanglewood part of Ottawa. It needs some work to get it up to snuff, but nothing too drastic. I look forward to the various tasks that are on the to-do list. At the moment it still feels a little overwhelming, but I'm sure that as I start buying the tools I need, things will click into place.

It should also be fun to live with my closest friend in the whole world.

Aside from that bit of news, summer is finally feeling like summer. This weekend was the perfect weekend, and it proved to be the perfect weekend for scuba diving as well. I've never actually dived in Canada yet, so the experience with a 7mm wetsuit in fresh water was both new and enlightening. We drove down as a group to the Prescott area, and dove four times in the St. Lawrence Seaway. It was neat using the old canals and locks. The highlight was the shipwreck of the Conestoga, a 250-foot-plus iron-clad freighter. Also, drift-diving was a new experience, at times quite thrilling in the treacherous current.

[] | posted @ 03:47 | link
Thu, 30 Jun 2011

Another Resin Part
20110629 After creating the resin replacement parts for the 1:1000 scale movie Enterprise, I set my sights on the newly re-released Enterprise-D, Picard's ship.

This new re-release is done in clear plastic, making it ideal for lighting. It is overall a great kit, but everytime I see it, the details of the dorsal surface of the neck connecting the two hulls stand out as being inaccurate.

The goal was to correct this issue in a way that others could benefit from. Obviously, the idea was to make a replacement part in clear resin. There are many details that needed correcting, and it is a large part. It took much longer than expected; initially, the part was to be completed by the start of the year. Nonetheless, I'm finally pulling decent castings from the (rather large) mold.

Just a few details left to tie up in terms of decals, instruction sheets, and the web site. But it sure feels good to get a project done.

[] | posted @ 03:55 | link
Wed, 01 Jun 2011

20110531 It would appear that May has come and gone. Amidst the lousy weather, it went by quickly. I managed to spend the first week of the month vacationing in Vancouver. There was also a long weekend trip to Toronto.

The big achievement for the month was finally finishing the model boat that's been on the bench for a year-and-a-half. The kit started out as a poorly-built and abused Billing Boats "Thor" model. The kit currently lists for a rather high price and this model was just begging to be redone nicely.

Getting this model up to spec was challenging. Removing the old paint and gobs of glue and uncured polyester resin was messy work. Many replacement pieces had to be scratchbuilt. Sections of the hull needed replacing. Likewise, many of the detail pieces needed to replaced. A rebuild of the jet propulsion system was required. Lastly, the model has full internal lighting and is built with more detail than the plans indicate. All in all, a solid chunk of work.

Rather than use the somewhat dull suggested paint scheme, I have renamed this ship Velox and given it Canadian Coast Guard colours. The red paint is actually paint from a CCG shipyard, heavily thinned and airbrushed. I think it works very well, and the service would be proud to have a vessel like this.

The last few days of May finally brought decent weather and the boat was in the water for the first time. It performed beyond expectations. Now, on to June!

[] | posted @ 02:58 | link
Sun, 24 Apr 2011

Boondock Saints Location
20110423 Yesterday, I partook in a quick trip to Toronto. I finally got to try out the Porter service from Ottawa to the Toronto City Airport, on the island right in downtown. It was a "fly-in in the morning, fly-out in the evening" affair, and Porter worked great for that.

On the way back to the airport, I decided to take a quick detour to see if I could find the alleyway used in the movie Boondock Saints. While the movie was supposed to be based in Boston, the big Henry's sign in the background of the alley scene indicated that it was in Canada. A little bit of Google Streetview confirmed that it was in Toronto.

Finding the alley was no problem. The white brick building was recently stuccoed, and the pavement was just being redone. The building closest to the road is actually a Scotiabank.

I was disappointed that the off-shoot alley between the stuccoed building and the bank had a steel door. The door looked like as though it had been there from before the movie was filmed. I was perplexed. Closer examination of the film shows some evidence that the steel door was simply removed for the movie.

I was unable to determine which of the three churches in the area was used for some of the other scenes. It could also have been anywhere else in town.

I enjoy my strange hobby of finding Canadian filming locations.

[] | posted @ 03:54 | link
Mon, 11 Apr 2011

Solder Reflow
Oops, missed March. Nothing much happened: birthday, ridiculously busy lifestyle, etc. Anyhow...

Lead-free solder sucks. I've been complaining about it for years. On the balance of things, considering how disposable electronics are these days, it is probably a good thing. But its characteristics are terrible when you have to re-work a part. It's also brittle and fragile, which is obviously not a great thing with all of the mobile devices we have today.

In fairness, I never thought that its brittle attributes would actually prevent a piece of solid-state technology from working during its lifespan. However, I now know better.

My iPhone is anything but new, but it is still on its first battery and does everything I need it to do. At some point in the last few weeks, the wireless started getting unreliable. Disassembling, cleaning, and reassembling to ensure good contacts did not help. Searching the net for something as broad reaching as non-working Wi-Fi on an iPhone brought dozens of workarounds, many of which probably only worked by chance.

I was quite surprised when I came upon a site that encourages people to reflow their solder in a household oven. The goal is to melt the solder joint at each component and having it re-solidify, thereby making any fractures and imperfections go away.

So, here I was this morning taking the PCB back out of the phone, preheating the oven to 385°F, building up little aluminum foil stands to go on a cooking sheet. In went the boards for seven minutes. I left it in for eight just for good measure. Long story short, it worked.

[] | posted @ 03:02 | link
Thu, 10 Feb 2011

Replacement Iron Ring
20110210 Having lost my iron ring in Cuba last week, I went into uOttawa this morning to pick up a new one. The replacement is very pretty: all shiny and sharply faceted. It will be some time, manual labour, several solvents, and many car panel scratches before it gets properly worn in.

It was interesting that the sign on the counter of the Dean's office managed to add significant insult to the injury. There, right on the sign, was a photo from March 2005 of my original ring. Lifted straight from this blog. I pointed at it and said "I want one of those. Actually, that one is mine." Oy.

For future reference, my pinky is a size six.

[] | posted @ 17:36 | link
Mon, 07 Feb 2011

20110206 What a wonderful week in Cuba. I'm not much for laying around a beach, but when there is a beach as perfect as at Cayo Santa Maria, soaking in sun sounds like a great idea. It was certainly very hot and very sunny.

It takes a little to get over the cultural differences, the constant tipping, and the fact that the people who work at the resort are very well off as a result. I got asked on several occasions if I wouldn't mind selling my Oakleys. It is interesting that they have the means, but not the way.

The week went well, overall. I got a little sick a few times from the food or the heat or a combination of the two. Also, my Iron Ring is now at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean; I spent hours looking for it, but unfortunately it's gone. Thankfully, it is not difficult to replace.

Besides the wedding, highlights of the week included a catamaran tour (though I was sick), scuba diving (with a camera), and zipping around in rented scooters (wee!). The Mojitos were great, the Marguaritas flew freely, and the Piña Coladas were to die for. My tan shows I had good time.

Now, back to the cold reality of February in Canada.

[] | posted @ 02:56 | link
Fri, 28 Jan 2011

Sixty-Six Bottles of Beer on the Wall...
20110127 I could have sworn that there was an 2011 entry before this one. But, maybe not. Happy new year!

Next week I'm off to a wonderful vacation in sunny Cuba. It is yet another wedding vacation at a sunny location. Nothing wrong with that! I have never been on two such vacations in such a short time span. But before then, there was a chore that needed to be done...

Earlier this month I started a fresh batch of beer. The plan was to make something a little stronger than what was previously tried. To that end, I went with an Old Ale (also known as an English Strong Ale) recipe. It should have 6-9% alcohol by volume, but I only got an estimated 5.3% out of it. That is still stronger than my previous beers, and I have to admit that even uncarbonated it tastes great.

The other thing I wanted more of is bubbles. My beer seems just a tad undercarbonated, so I upped the priming dextrose. For experimentation, there are three types of bottles: twist-tops, regular pry-tops, and stubbies. With the higher priming, hopefully none of the sixty-six bottles explodes while I'm away...

[] | posted @ 04:10 | link

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