Monday, January 7, 2008


Well, back to work it was today. Took the first week of the year off and it was quite relaxing actually. The real frustration was trying to get the ole desktop PC fixed, but that's another story. The spouse went to work for half the week, so it was just me and the boys hanging out and playing games, reading magazines - whatever. Very pleasant and relaxing, as I mentioned already.

I really do want to make a habit of posting more regularly, but that hasn't been terribly easy recently. In the last few months the various time-suck devices that popped up have stood in my way. That should be a reason though, so here I am wondering about what to write about. I still lack focus in that area - topic. I always enjoyed writing stories when I was in school, but I was always at a loss for ideas. Once I had the kernel of an idea, I could twist that into something enjoyable, but alas I don't get paid to do that now. What I should be doing is coming up with ideas and writing them here.

Something I did listen to on the way home from work was part of a continuing series on the World At Six (CBC radio 1) about modern spirituality. Today they talked about a couple of people who moved and tried different things until they arrived at meditation-based practices. One was a form of Japanese Buddhism and the other was a rabbi who also uses transcendental meditation as part of what he does. The appeal of Buddhist meditation was that it is in stark contrast to typical "daily life" - quiet, still, peaceful. However the article brought in another view which suggested that the greatest spiritual benefits, changes, advancements - seemed to happen people practice in groups.

I always find it odd that the views are always laid out as distinct and (possibly) opposing. I'm sure that aspects of individual and group practices would be combined to achieve the greatest whatever. Balance doesn't arrive through concentration on one thing. The appeal of meditation and stillness is obvious. People feel encroached upon and need to create that mental space around them. They need to realize that mindset is what the meditation is helping to bring. If you believe you can create an oasis of calm (not clam) then you can. Meditation provides a framework to feedback that sense to you, so you can believe. Being alone is something I have always enjoyed. I think that I've been lucky that there have been times in my life when I can wander away and be alone - that I live where there are calm, peaceful spaces all around.

I have two distinct memories of calm that help me. I felt like the places were occupying me - I was the observed. The first at the lake near my parents cottage. This is no puddle - it was Lake Huron. It was heading towards sunset and I came out at a beach with large rocks right at the waters edge. I sat down on a large rock and stared into the lake. I don't even remember how long I was there; eternity perhaps. It didn't matter. The sun, the wispy clouds, gently lapping water. Everything just was. I realize this is a poor description, but description doesn't work well. It seems like it may sully the experience-that-was, for it was physical, immersive, singular.

The next time was at my parents house during a perfect winter's night. The moon was full and the house was dark. Looking into the front ward, the blue-black of the trees and their shadows criss-crossed the perfect white stillness. I had to go out there and just stand. The moon was so bright and that blue-white hue of the trees and the snow was compelling. The air was still and cold - each breath weighty with the chill - denser than normal. Have to be quiet - movement would shatter the moment. Just be. Cast a blue and purple shadow and exist. It was hard to go back inside, but it was perfect. I can't say what made it different than other times - I'd gazed upon the same scene for so many years - but this time it was quiet and I was alone with it.

That is what I wish I could give to someone who feels overwhelmed. Replace it with those feelings. I guess it's the opposite of agoraphobia.

Thursday, January 3, 2008


New year, new blog entry, new... something. Re-new-all? Something like that. I haven't really been effective at using this space much in the past few months. There are a couple of reasons really - mainly I haven't really been enthusiastic about trying to use my computer. That and other toys have shown up at home (a DS Lite, the Wii from Santa) and the computer has been getting short shrift.

Soon should change. The biggest issue with my computer has been an electrical instability problem that really came to the fore after my original video card gave up on me. That card, a BFG6800GT-OC was an excellent card when I bought it. Plus it came with a lifetime warranty. So mid-2007, it's RAM died and it was replaced. The replacement wouldn't boot into WinXP properly, so I got a 7600GS to replace it. It worked well but the computer would suddenly shutdown in the middle of games. That is the electrical problem - when the CPU/GPU/Fans/HD draw a certain level of power, the motherboard can't take it and dies. I suspect that this was a manufacturing defect, given the quality of the parts and power supplies I used. I had problems from the first day setting up the machine, but the problems are really noticeable now. So I've ordered a new replacement AMD Socket 939 motherboard. Turns out there are very few choices of new 939 motherboards, with an AGP slot, left. This is an MSI with a VIA chipset. I'm hoping that the performance is similar but more stable.

The other thing I did to improve computer usage was to buy a nice LCD monitor during the "boxing week" period. Got a nice (21") but not cutting Samsung SyncMaster216BW. Spent less than half of the old 17" CRT it replaces, but certainly looks better. This thing looks much better than what I had. Gaming - I didn't notice the difference. Except it is brighter and sometimes the colours don't appear to converge properly in CS:S, but that's okay.

So hopefully the posts will be more frequent. It is a good thing to write a little every day. It would be good if that writing had a specific purpose or some other redeeming (monetary) quality to it, but one can't have everything.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Raised Patio: The Result

Well, it's done. Really it was done October 6, 2007 but it's still finished now, so no big deal. The first picture is of the whole deck. Gives you a nice overview of what it looks like all together. I had one neighbour comment that it reminds him of a castle wall - fortress-like. I prefer to think of it as "solid", but I understand what he meant. If it had been deeper or much wider, it would have cut a very imposing chunk out of the backyard. It would have started to dwarf the house. Not that it would have been bigger, but the look of the finished product.

Next there is a closeup of the stairs. The stairs are narrow enough that, by code, we only need one hand railing. What you see in profile is actually a solid wall, which forms a little nook on the ground. That's the last picture - the items on the ground are extra precast deck pieces. That's where the BBQ is now, in front of the access area. There's no door because it isn't someplace I want to go in and out of often. Or at all. So it's easier to remove the idea that there is anything under there by not putting a door.

Anyway these extra slabs are used as a landing for the stairs and to cover that area between the railing and the deck. That area is nice and sheltered - keeps the BBQ out of the wind. A few shrubbery and we're done (surplus that my parents were getting rid of).

So ends the saga of the raised patio and my big construction project. Next summer will be when the fun begins - the enjoyment of the deck. But there is also the obtaining furniture for the deck and so on. Currently, it is what it is and that is quite good. We have a few patio chairs, but really we need a table and maybe a lounge, but that'll arrive when it arrives. For now, the important part is done.