Evangelism at The Swamp

Over the years, I have been accused of militancy in many areas of my life. It started when my friend Joe told me I was a musical imperialist. This came about on a trip driving from Calgary to Vancouver. We did not have the same taste in music.[1] We decided that we would alternate playing a tape.[2] A problem arose when he would start a tape and asked me if I liked it and I would say no. He would try another one and I would still hate it. Then he gave up. I told him to just play his music and it would be fine but he said he couldn’t enjoy it if I hated it. Clearly this all worked out in my favour![3]

I can be a bit like a dog with a bone when I find something I really love. Of course I think this is a good thing. I like to spread the word so to speak. So here are 5 things I am a bit evangelical about:

  • Raw Feeding– it took me a long time to come around to the idea of feeding our dogs raw meat on bones. I finally agreed to it when one of our Shih Tzus had to have a bladder stone removed at age 5. When I saw the stone it looked exactly like a piece of Iams kibble that she had been eating her entire life. I did a lot of research about what causes these stones to form and I learned that her system needed to be more acidic if we did not any more stones to form. Kibble fed dogs have a higher pH because of the carbs in their food. The only way to get a more acidic environment was to feed raw. Se we jumped in and we have never looked back. Our dogs are happier and healthier and our vet bills are much lower. I have written several posts about raw feeding if anyone is interested: herehere, here, and here.
  • Nasal Rinsing – another friend of mine had been trying to convince me to use a neti pot for years to deal with my allergies. I was really suffering once we moved to Maple Ridge because of all the hay. My doctor referred me to an allergist who did some skin scrapings. Unfortunately, due to my ulcerative colitis I am on immune suppressant drugs and he couldn’t get a reaction. So he told me to rinse my nasal passages daily with a Neil Med bottle. I have not looked back. I do this faithfully every day. I also spread the word whenever someone is having allergy problems.
  • Hopcott’s Meat – we have the best meat store relatively close to us. It is all hormone and antibiotic free and it tastes really good.
  • Crocheting – I have become reacquainted with crocheting. I used to do a lot in my 20s and 30s but had stopped for some reason.[4] I find it much more relaxing than watching TV and being on the computer. I can almost get into a Zen-like phase as I create something. Here are some pictures of projects I have completed recently:

Dragon in filet. Pattern circa 1900

Baby blanket

Realta Afghan

  • Apple – my first computer was a Mac Plus. It had no hard drive and 2mb of RAM. Around 1995, I decided to get a PC as I was discovering I had a knack for computers. I even had my own mobile computer repair business for a little while.[5] I stuck with PCs until about 2009. I had noticed over the years that every PC I had became really slow no matter how much RAM or how fast the CPU was. It was infuriating. I did some research and apparently as Windows degrades the machine slows down.[6] The only answer was to format and re-install windows every year. I was not into doing that. The other answer was to get a Mac. I already had an iPod, iPhone and an iPad so I knew the quality of Apple’s products. So I made the leap back to Apple and I couldn’t be happier. Apple gets a lot of flack for its proprietary ways but really there stuff just works. I live happily in an Apple world.

So, for my 12 readers, what things are you evangelical about?


[1] He likes syrupy female singers and I think I was going through my male rocker/folk phase.

[2] Yes, that would be a cassette tape! I am that old.

[3] We had a passenger with us who threatened to get out and hitchhike if we didn’t stop arguing. My dog Tippy was with us too and she liked to dance on people’s legs in the car!

[4] I suspect the reason was dogs…

[5] I discovered that I really did not like going to people’s houses to fix their computers.

[6] Unfortunately, I cannot find the original article I was referred to.

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Review: BulletTrain Express Keyboard Platform

What is it?

The BulletTrain Express Keyboard Platform holds an Apple Wireless keyboard and Apple Magic Trackpad. Essentially, it gives you the same set up as you find on Macbook Pros and Airs.

How does it work?

Basically you snap in your Magic Trackpad and Wireless keyboard.[1] The two devices then sit in the platform. It allows the user to access the trackpad beneath the keyboard just like a Macbook.

BulletTrain Express with Apple Wireless Keyboard and Apple Magic Trackpad

Why should I care?

It all depends on your approach to computing and your style. Personally, I love how the MBPs are set up. I find I am way more productive with the trackpad beneath the keyboard. I tried using a trackpad in place of a mouse but I found it cumbersome and really not all that effective. I particularly found the trackpad problematic if I was working in a spreadsheet application; I would up reverting to a mouse.

The BulletTrain Express feels very solid. It does not move when you are typing and holds both the keyboard and trackpad level. It also provides some much needed wrist support. After 2 days of using it I have to say I am thrilled.

You could also effectively use the BulletTrain Express as an input device for a computer in the living room or media centre. It is totally lap friendly!

The only thing I don’t like is that the BulletTrain Express does not house a full-size keyboard. I do a lot of work with numbers and I need a keypad. I have purchased an SMK-Link Bluetooth keyboard/calculator.

That’s all great but how much does it cost?

The BulletTrain Express costs $79. However, you also have to purchase an Apple Wireless keyboard and a Magic Trackpad. The total setup cost: $223 and with the Bluetooth keypad is about $300. Not inexpensive. But if you already have the trackpad and keyboard and can live without the number pad then you are just looking at the $79.

So how do I get it?

You can order it here.

Conclusion

I love this product! Quite often I am disappointed in tech products as they are not often as they are described. This product is different. I noticed this right from the beginning. The product was on back order and when I emailed to find out when I would get mine, the product creator called me. We discussed the Express and he was confident that I was going to love. He was right. So, if you have used a MacBook Pro and loved it you will love this set up for your desktop.


[1] These items are not provided.

Review MacBook Air

What is it?

The MacBook Air is Apple’s answer to the netbook. However, where most netbooks failed, the MacBook Air soars. The Air is an ultrathin laptop that is built for portability and function. It sports a full-size MacBook keyboard, including the backlighting as the MacBook Pro. I bought the 13-inch with 256 GB of flash memory.

How does it work?

The MacBook Air works just like other laptops with one major difference. To create a laptop that gives the user a great experience while focusing on portability something had to be sacrificed. In this case, Apple chose to nix the hard drive. Instead, the Air relies on flash memory. At 256 GBs, the Air’s storage is quite small.[1] However, it is not meant for hoarding loads of data. If you need to access or keep lots of data then you can connect a portable hard drive to the thunderbolt port.

Apple has steadily improved the MacBook Air since its inception in 2008. With this new line they appear to have hit upon a winning formula. The Air is light and streamlined and its zippy performance rivals the competition.

Why should I care?

If you attend meetings, make presentations, or need to work in different places you will love the MacBook Air. I was at a meeting last night and 3 of us had new MacBook Airs. We had one projector and sharing it was so easy with the MacBook Airs.

If you hate having your arm pulled down by a heavy laptop or dragging a wheeled bag around. If you ever hesitated to take your laptop because it is too clunky then the Air is the answer for you.

That’s all great but how much does it cost?

The Air is more expensive than other netbooks. However it is comparable to other full-sized laptops. The entry level is $1199 in Canada. It comes with all of the typical Mac software like iPhoto, Garage Band and iMovie. Plus, of course, you get the superior performance of a Mac.

So how do I get it?

You can order it from the online Apple store or go to your closest Apple reseller!


[1] The low end of the line sports 64 GB of flash memory.

Published in: on January 24, 2012 at 9:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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iTunes Match

What is it?

iTunes Match is a new service from Apple. iTunes Match makes your digital library of music available in the Cloud. It facilitates easy sharing between all of your computers and devices.

How does it work?

Once you turn it on, iTunes will scan your library. If your music is available on iTunes then it will immediately be available to you. If some of your music is not on iTunes, iTunes Match will upload it to the Cloud.

Why should I care?

You should care for several reasons. iTunes Match is the first, easy to use, backup plan for iTunes. Many of us have several hundred gigabytes of music with no back ups. If you have ever lost your music library and had to re-rip all of your CDs or had to re-purchase your music you will be all over this!

Another great feature is iTunes will match your music with higher bit rate, DRM-free[1] versions. If your library consists of illegally downloaded copies you can replace them with clean copies. It is a little bit of work but who cares.[2] It is so worth it if you have crackly versions of songs that don’t sound great.

That’s all great but how much does it cost?

Of course, Apple is not giving this away. In Canada it costs $27.99 per year to have iTunes Match active. I think it is a great value for the money even as a backup tool. Plus it is a completely passive system, in that it requires nothing from you except the initial act of turning it on and then paying your money. If your computer crashes you can then download everything you own again.

So how do I get it?

It is so easy to turn it on. Open iTunes and go to the iTunes store and go to the ‘store’ menu. Then select turn on iTunes Match. It is that easy!

If you have questions put them in the comments and I will do my best to answer them!

 


[1] DRM=Digital Rights Management – this is the system that limits what you can do with your music like only burning it 5 times etc.

[2] Essentially you have to ferret out those songs, delete them, and then re-download them.

Published in: on December 28, 2011 at 2:37 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘cancer sucks’ edition

  • Cancer has been very busy the last couple of months taking some really good and relatively young people. It really bites. Steve Jobs died far too soon. It is a tragedy.
  • The dogs are all doing very well. We have a really good crew who all get along really well. Sawyer is really bonded to everyone but Molly. His relationship with Molly consists of him staring at her while she eats. She then growls and snarls at him for the duration. It is very loud and nasty sounding. At least no one is harmed in the process. Raising dogs in a pack makes for some great entertainment. Watching their interactions and relationships is very rewarding.
  • The swamp is pretty swampy right now. The pond never dried up over the summer. The septic is stinky already, which is disturbing. We will get it pumped soon so that it doesn’t back up. I really wish we could figure out why it is so smelly.
  • We have other plumbing issues. We have to get the water hammer fixed. The plumber can’t find where the water comes into the house. Plus, to make matters worse, there is still some water in the crawl space, which makes it very muddy for him. He tried pumping it out but as it was only 2 inches it didn’t do much. Deb said it looked like he was wearing a HAZMAT suit. Hopefully he is going to be able to finish the job tomorrow. WE are hoping to have much improved water volume once this job is done. You end up learning so much about very strange things when you own a house.
  • I have been working hard on my wasp phobia. We have been getting wasps in our bedroom every morning this week. They were getting in through the gaps in the window caused by the air conditioner. I have killed 3 more this week but I am really not thrilled about it. They really bother me. I am hoping a hard frost comes soon so that they will all die!
Published in: on October 6, 2011 at 7:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘I can’t believe the change’ edition

  • I just got off the phone with my mother and I am astounded at her capacity to change. My sister had a temper tantrum the other day and she told my mother to fuck off.[1] There had been an incident on Saturday where my sister was supposed to pick my mother up to go to a party. Kathy decided she had too much to do and if she picked up mom then she would be driving for 2 hours. So she phoned my mother and told her she wasn’t going to pick her up. Now, Kathy had already made this commitment. She had also been asked to pick up someone else who lived 10 minutes away from the venue and she needed to pick up a veggie try. Instead of trying to solve the problem she just dumped mom and told her to take a taxi[2] or to drive herself.[3] My mother then opted not to go, knowing that Kathy would be in a foul mood if she pushed it. Later that evening they had a conversation on the phone, which is when my sister told her off. My mother has also decided that Kathy should not come when we come to visit later in the fall. She actually seems to be able to understand Kathy a whole lot better now. In the past, she would have been trying to please Kathy and calm the situation down. Then she would have been on my case to get along better with Kathy. None of this happened. In fact, she has not said a hurtful thing to me since the cruise.
  • Piper has to go in to the vet and be put under so they can get a good look at her throat and see the extent of the problem. This will likely be done this week or early next week. I cannot wait to get this problem fixed for her. Piper has always been a very active dog and she does not like being left at home when everyone else goes to the park.
  • I have been having an issue with my computer. It is having problems backing up to time machine. I have been working with a couple of Apple guys and I have to say they are remarkable for their communication skills, patience and knowledge. My problem has been elevated to the engineers so I am still waiting for a resolution. The troubleshooting has been fun with them!
  • Oh, and in unrelated news, Jonathan Bacon has been shot. I am happy to report that the Bacon sisters (Piper and Zoe) are all fine. Although they are wondering where the bacon went…

[1] Who uses that kind of language with their 75-year old mother?

[2] Which would have cost over $100.

[3] My mother has only really driven in the Southwest of Calgary. She rarely ever went to the north end.

Published in: on August 15, 2011 at 6:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘Goodbye Clio’ edition

  • Today we said goodbye Clio. I still remember the day she came to us. She was blind, confused, starved and semi-feral. She had been thrown from a car in a bag and a Good Samaritan pick her up and dropped her at the Vancouver Animal Shelter. She came home with Deb as a foster. Being a historian and all, I decided to name her after the Greek muse of history. Deb hated that name, but it suited her. As fosters go, everyone knows how often we fail. After 2 years, Clio was completely bonded to me and was just beginning to explore relationships with other humans. I could not let her go and make her do that all over again. So she stayed with us. Nothing was ever easy for Clio – her legs were malformed[1], as were her teeth. She loved to eat though. She was always persistent in getting what she wanted. I used to call her my little ‘pez dispenser dog’ because she would pop up, I would put food in her mouth and she would go down. Clio was often a target for other dogs because she didn’t move right. We were always making sure that the ‘abusive dogs to her dogs’[2] were separated so that she did not get hurt. Clio did everything on her terms. We have all pretty much been bitten for trying to clean her up – which she hated. This was a dog who despised being groomed. She was difficult to cuddle with because she had a hard time relaxing. Once she did relax, she was the best cuddler ever. Rest easy baby girl. You were loved.
  • So I have had a little more time with Lion and I found some other things I really love! In Lion, you can shut down your Mac with apps and windows open and when it restarts everything is as it was. I have to say one of the things I hated most about my Mac was closing down apps. I often have many open and it would take forever! This feature is great especially when you have to do a software update – you can just let it go and it will be as you had it when it is done updating. This is a sweet, sweet feature. With mission control and an app launcher like Launchbar, I could see at time when the dock could become redundant. It is much quicker to open apps with Launchbar and easier to switch with mission control. Oh and I did have to revert back to the normal scrolling way. While the change makes sense, I have been on computers far too long to make that kind of change.
  • One more thing! Rob Anders[3]! Talk about a loose cannon! Yesterday he gave a speech announcing a new housing project. He went on to say that as he gave the speech he was going to interject his own phrase whenever the bureaucrats wrote something he was not comfortable saying. What he did was give his support to Alberta PC Leadership candidate Ted Morton. It was completely inappropriate for Anders to use his position as MP, while on government business to endorse someone in another race. Having been in parliament as pretty much his only career you would think he would know this bit of information!

 


[1] We fixed one leg but it was extremely painful for her. The other leg was not great but no vet ever recommended fixing it – even when we asked. She was able to weight bare so it was ok.

[2] Mackenzie and then Zoe.

[3] He voted against giving Nelson Mandela honourary Canadian citizenship. Seriously, who does that?

My first thoughts about Lion

Lion

  • The first thing I noticed about Lion is that they have reversed the way trackpads scroll. Now, you scroll the way you want the content to move – if you want it to move up, you scroll up etc. It is reversed side-to-side as well. I could not cope with this last night and turned it off on my laptop. Today I have coped with it better. It really is a much more intuitive way to scroll so I think I will get used to it.
  • I love mission control! It shows you every program you have open and the windows associated with it. It will quickly become the way I navigate through windows. You can access it very quickly by swiping up on the magic trackpad with 3 fingers. There was expose in Snow Leopard (SL) but I never found it particularly useful. I also found it would load at the most in opportune moments. Mission control will be much better and infinitely more usable.
  • Apple Mail – again the upgrades here for Lion are stellar. I love the new conversation view and it seems much less clunky. I tried mail out in SL but I did not really like the interface. It is much nicer now.
  • There have also been changes to the Finder. I find it much more responsive and easier to use. You can resize columns from anywhere i.e. you don’t have to go to the top or the bottom in order to do it anymore.
  • Airdrop is going to be fabulous once everyone here is upgraded to Lion. Basically it allows you to just drop a file on someone’s icon and it will transfer. I have not tried this out yet.
  • I don’t particularly like the Launchpad feature. If you are familiar with an iPhone or iPad it is the same interface you use to launch programs. I tend to launch most things from the dock or with Launchbar. Your mileage may vary.

I am sure I am only scratching the surface. There were over 250 changes so I am sure I will find more changes as I use Lion over the next couple of weeks.

Published in: on July 21, 2011 at 7:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Lion Day!!!!

I am too busy waiting for Lion to download to blog. Catch you all tomorrow!

Published in: on July 20, 2011 at 6:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘I think there may be a revolution’ edition

  • As my regular 17 readers would know, I am not a fan of summer. I hate the heat; it makes me sicker than I already am. I get heat stroke in like 5 minutes. Just going to the car and doing errands makes me want to lose my cookies. I am also not a big fan of the rain. It seems like it started to rain last November and has not stopped yet for any length of time. We had a long, wet winter. A cold, wet spring. Now, it seems like autumn has arrived without a spring or a summer. This weather is similar to late September early October. Even though I hate the heat and the sun I am starting to feel bad for my friends who adore the heat. I hope you at least get the month of August!
  • I am really getting impatient for Lion to drop. It is supposed to come in July and there are only 13 days left of July. I get it free for my Mac Pro, which means I should get it for my other computers. I love how Lion is going to bring more of the iOS system to the Mac. I suspect Mac purists may not like this evolution but it is the direction computer operation systems are heading. One of the things I like best about Mac OS X is that it is intuitive and easy to use. iOS is even easier to use so any integration will only make Macs easier to use.

Clio a week ago

  • Clio is starting to fade. She has been on Lasix and cardiac meds for almost a year now. She is at the highest dose of both. She is not coughing so that part is good. Lasix is hard on a dog’s kidneys but it is a necessary drug to keep the water moving out of her lungs so she can breathe. She is still eating although not as much which is causing her to lose weight. She is not in any pain, nor is she vomiting or having diarrhea. Vomiting and diarrhea are signs of kidney failure. The other thing that the vet told me could happen is that her heart would basically explode which would be a catastrophic death. So, as long as she is not any crisis we don’t need to make a decision. If/when she starts to cough we will immediately let her go.

Clio

  • We have decided that Deb’s birthday present is going to be a trip away for both of us. I score too!! We are trying to find a place that will take dogs, has luxury, maybe a dog sitting service etc. I think we are willing to go to Vancouver Island but not the Gulf Islands. Anyone have any ideas?
Published in: on July 18, 2011 at 8:13 pm  Comments (3)  
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