Thursday, September 28, 2006

Well, Joan and I got up to something quite exciting last night. Can you guess what? Now get your mind out of the gutter, and click here for a hint. New technology is great!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I celebrated a couple “firsts” in my life this past weekend. I am more proud of one than the other. Let me know by way of comments if you figure out which one.

Saturday dawned warm and sunny here in Vancouver. A great day to get outside, and indeed we did. At least for the minute it took to walk from the building to the car. Joan and I were gearing up for a small gathering on Sunday night, and set out Saturday to obtain supplies and provisions. We had illegally borrowed a Costco membership card, and I could barely contain my excitement as we made our way out to Richmond (the City of Vancouver is too high-brow for Costco) for my first ever Costco experience. Well, technically it was my second ever, but the first time I tried to go in Ottawa I didn’t get more than three feet inside the front door before being asked to leave for lack of a membership card. This denial would not be repeated as we sailed in easily with our red-hot membership card. Finding a cart was a different story, so we sailed back out and walked about three miles around the parking lot before I finally secured a jumbo sized cart. We were now ready to begin the experience.

The first thing you notice is that everything is huge. The first bargain I found was on a 12-pack of Dove for sensitive skin. At one dollar per bar, it was too good of deal to pass up. I now have enough Dove to see me through to 2008. Life is good. I also happened across a bag of chips that was large enough that I could give it a hug. And I did. It was about that time that Joan started suggesting we should think about leaving.

We took our giant-sized cart full of giant-sized party food and made our way to the front. We were discouraged to discover giant-sized lines, but got into one and waited our turn to check out. A few giant-sized minutes later we successfully completed our Costco membership fraud and made our way to the car.

The party was a success, and needless to say there was plenty left over.

On Sunday, earlier in the day, long before the party, Joan and I took part in my other “first”. In order to wash the foul taste of excessive consumerism from our mouths we decided to do some volunteer work together. Joan had found an opportunity to help Variety, a local children’s charity, sell 50/50 tickets at the race track on BC Derby Day. Sunday was another beautiful sunny day, and the track is mostly an outdoor venue, so we did get to enjoy the nice weather more than we did on Saturday.

Selling 50/50 tickets at the race track is like fishing with dynamite. I had been practicing my hawker calling for days, and got to apply it with reasonable success. We stayed for two hours and sold hundreds of tickets, wishing everyone luck along the way. More importantly though, every ticket we sold was benefiting a needy child somewhere in BC, and that is something everyone can be happy about.

So this weekend was a tale of two “firsts”, one helping myself the other helping others, one stuck indoors the other enjoying the outdoors, both with the most pleasant company imaginable. So which am I more proud of? Which do you think?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

So yesterday I was Googling and Yahooing and, well, you get the picture. I was trying to see how my sites were doing since I haven't done a Google Update here in a while. Anyway, I came across a little bit of personal history while doing so. When I searched for "Andrew Baxter" on Altavista, it returned a page I had created way back in 1997 for the Acadia School of Business! I worked that summer for the Acadia Institute of Teaching and Technology helping the School of Business gear up for the newly-created Acadia Advantage program. It took me forever to make that chopping Axeman. It's hard to believe that this very early work of mine is still floating around the internet. I guess Acadia has yet to pull the plug on this old server. I certainly hope the page is no longer in use!

Anyway, by way of a Google update, my blog is still on page 1! My personal website now shows up on page 2 when searching at, but quite far down when searching at (odd). I'm up there on Yahoo again (at least on this computer), and on Altavista Canada and Alltheweb (a new one I found). I managed to get my blog listed on the Open Directory Project, which seems to have been a real help to its Google ranking.

My current project is to get my new company website moving on up the rankings. I hope I have as much success with it as I did with my personal page!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

There is an old saying that goes, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” I am sad to report that this week I have had a shame on me experience.

As I have been settling into Vancouver, two major problems have arisen. First, where do I put my clothes, and second, where do I put my computer? If you answered Rubbermaid bins and the floor, you would have been correct for these past few weeks.

Now for the shame on me part. The whole laying on the floor to use my computer thing and rummaging through bins to get dressed was getting a little tired. Joan and I happened upon an Ikea store while out last weekend, and despite all past experience went in and purchased a computer desk ($29) and a dresser ($129) for me.

I don’t know how they do it at Ikea, but in the store everything seems solid as an oak tree. I figure they have access to extra fasteners or more heavy duty bolts or something, or maybe they just use Krazy Glue. I will have to find someone on the inside who will tell me their secret. They must also put something in the air to give you temporary amnesia, since you never seem to be able to remember previous Ikea nightmares when you are picking out your new stuff.

Anyway, as luck would have it, both of these pieces were small enough to fit in the trunk of Joan’s car. One thing I give Ikea credit for is fitting enormous furniture into tiny boxes. It sure does make it easier for the Cabrio drivers of the world. I am just waiting now for the Ikea house - a 1000 square foot bungalow that comes in a box that will fit in the back of a minivan.

Now, as everyone who has brought something home from Ikea knows, step 1 in the process often takes the longest. Step 1 is bringing the box from your car into the house, since the box conveniently fits in the trunk of the car (out of sight out of mind), this step can take days. I am sure some people forget they bought Ikea until they go to throw their bags in the trunk when heading off on vacation. Imagine their surprise when they discover that china hutch they bought 3 months ago! For me step 1 took just over 24 hours.

I started by assembling the computer desk on Tuesday (my priorities will never change). One thing I have learned in my Ikea building years is that the instructions are not optional. If Ikea gives you a 20 step process for putting a picture in a frame, you’d better follow each step exactly or you know something will be screwed up. I meticulously laid out the pieces and found all the odd shaped screws and got to it. A few hours later, my desk that consists of 5 pieces of MDF board was standing proudly in the corner. I went to set up the computer on it and discovered that it was sadly not as solid as the in-store model. In fact, I am glad that I got myself an LCD panel recently, because I am pretty sure if I put a CRT monitor on this unit I would end up with a pile of MDF sawdust. If this blog entry seems to end suddenly, you will know there has been a disaster.

After my reasonable success (hey, I didn’t accidentally build it backwards or anything) with the computer desk, I decided to take a crack at the dresser on Wednesday. The dresser, as you can imagine, was a little more complicated. When I saw the step-by-step guide was as thick as the New York City Yellow Pages, I knew I had my work cut out for me. Again I laid everything out and got to work. The thing I love about Ikea is when the pieces they say are supposed to fit together do not. In this case, once I reached the assembly of the drawers stage, the groove that the drawer bottoms was supposed to slide into did not extend all the way to the corner of the drawer. I learned long ago that from time to time undocumented Ikea modifications are required to finish an Ikea assembly project. So I proceeded to ding the corners of the masonite to make everything fit just so. I learned that trick from Bob Vila… honest. Somewhere around 10 PM the project was complete, and I now have a nice looking dresser – “looking” being the keyword.

At the end of the day, despite the below-par quality, and the hassle of RTA furniture, Ikea has solved a problem for me in an affordable manner. I now have a place to put my computer and a place to put my clothes. It may not be the swankiest solution, but it is a solution. Still, I can’t shake the feeling that somewhere in Sweden there is a man who is laughing at me.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Well we are back from Mexico, and what an experience it was! It was like nothing I had ever done before, likely because it was something I had never done before. I have compiled a list of interesting observations from my trip.

1. Mexican people have got to be among the friendliest people in the world (right up there with Nova Scotians).

2. If you need to pass someone in Mexico, just pull out and pass them. Oncoming cars will actually veer onto the shoulder to give you room. This was a little unnerving the first time it happened on the bus to the hotel, but soon I learned it was the norm.

3. It seems only men are worthy of being offered tequila after dinner.

4. Do not get between an American and an all-you-can-eat buffet.

5. All Mexicans pronounce buffet "boofet" instead of "buffay".

6. Everything you look at in the market has a "good price".

7. In Mexico, you can get a sunburn in the shade.

8. No hangovers in Mexico

9. Most of the Mayan Riveria lies underground and is accessible via cenotes, basically big holes in the rock that expose the underground water. They are great for swimming in.

10. Lizards that may wander into your room are harder to catch than mice. It's best just to learn to co-exist peacefully.

11. An alarming number of people, when given the choice between laying beside a pool or laying on a beautiful sandy beach not 10 feet away, will choose the former.

12. Topless beaches are not nearly as exciting as they sound.

13. When it rains, it pours.

14. Iguanas are our friends, iguanas are our enemies.

15. It is easier to get into Mexico as a tourist than it is to get into many bars in Canada.

16. You can always get a better price.

17. Playa del Carmen sadly has a Wal*Mart.

18. The Mayan people had everything figured out hundreds of years before the Europeans arrived.

19. Everyone loves Superman.

20. If you go to Mexico with someone you love, you just might have the time of your life.