Looking back

Posted by bernicky - December 31st, 2008

All things considered it was a very good year. It started off with Lynn’s stereotactic radiosurgery and slowly improved month over month. On the health front I can’t think of anything better than having another year just like the past one. It has been a year of activity as well with Lynn doing dragon boating and show jumping, my son playing AAA football and our daughter doing swim team and synchro. The family certainly has stepped things up in the past year in terms of getting more physical. We plan to keep it going this year as we are getting a family membership at the YMCA. My son has been going to the Pointe-Claire Y regularly and it is a great facility.

Last years resolutions have long hit the dustbin this years are a little different from those in the past except for the weight loss resolution that is:

1 – Lose 30 lbs – 52 weeks it should be doable
2 – Run easy on days designated as easy runs
3 – Work towards a sub 40 10K
4 – Be a better father
5 – Be a better husband
6 – Remember that everyone makes mistakes and that forgiveness is more important than punishment

5 Best Products I Ever Bought

Posted by bernicky - December 25th, 2008

1 – Canon PowerShot digital camera: I have found the PowerShot cameras to be sturdy, reliable and easy to use. Over the last few years I have taken them everywhere and photographed every major event of our lives with them and had no problems at all. Great investment.

2 – Garmin Forerunner 205: If you are a runner then you know that a Forerunner will show you everything you need to know about your run, lap time, total time, distance, calories burned. In addition it comes in very handy for Geocaching.

3 – RCA 32″ CRT Colour Television: We’ve had this television for 18 years now and it is still going strong. We thought briefly about getting one of those new LCD screens but couldn’t justify the expense when ours still works fine.

4 – Cadillac RLE 1.8: A great road bike for very little money (relatively speaking). These bikes never got any respect from roadies basically because the snob appeal wasn’t there but the components and engineering are there and I certainly didn’t need any more than that.

5 – Nintendo DS: Hours of fun and a great chess partner. The battery life is good the charge time is short and the games are inexpensive. It really doesn’t get much better than that as far as gaming goes.

5 Worst Products I Ever Bought

Posted by bernicky - December 25th, 2008

1 – Rock Band by Harmonix: Simply put the hardware that accompanied the game was garbage and broke in short order and there is no way to buy replacement product without repurchasing the whole kit all over again. Probably the worst support of any gaming company in the history of the genre which is saying a lot.

2 – Dell Laptop: Not really sure what I was thinking at the time but it seemed like a good idea. Here again customer support is the failing point. When there was a problem with the laptop two years after purchase and I needed a new part i was told that Dell no longer supported the model and that replacement parts were not available.

3 – X-Box 360: After two years of ownership the unit has been sent back to Microsoft twice and the third time is in the offing with a bizarre hardware failure that requires the hard drive to be unplugged the unit turned off then the hard drive plugged back in again before it will start. Apparently that doesn’t quite qualify as a hardware failure just yet so we will wait until the actual event before saying that it has been returned three times.

4 -  Wireless home phones (V-Tech and GE) : I know people who use these wireless phones but I have never been able to get one to work properly. The batteries run out in the middle of conversations, they take forever to charge and the signals are unreliable. I’ve tried many brands and have resigned myself to being wired.

5 – Tacx Cycle Track: This indoor roller for getting ready for the summer cycling season is an ok product except that it shreds tires like you were riding over sharp stones all day. By the time you’ve put five or six hundred kilometers on the bike your tires are down to their threads. Goes to show that maybe I should have gone for a spin bike instead.

Rock Band and Rock Band 2 – substandard product – substandard service

Posted by bernicky - December 25th, 2008

Today I am reminded that Harmonix is the most recent gaming company to foist off bad product on an unsuspecting public. Their much ballyhooed game Rock Band and Rock Band 2 is built around a drum pedal that snaps in a heartbeat and it is not possible to purchase a replacement pedal from the company you can only buy a new complete kit from the company.

To those who would say – it is covered by warranty I say try to register for the warranty. If you are from Canada and step through the process you will come to a point where your mailing addressed is asked for. At that point you will fill out the same information as you filled out to begin with but the form will tell you that your original country choice and your mailing address choice do not match up. Of course there is no way to go back and correct the “error” so you will try it again being more careful the second time not to make the mistake that Harmonix is telling you that you are making and you will get the same message with the same result.

In short if you bought Rock Band or Rock Band 2 you can expect zero support if anything goes wrong – unless of course you happen to work in the software industry or write for a computer magazine in which case your support will be second to none. I was just on the site and tried clicking on the FAQ’s and links to support pages and none of them were working. Rock Band is a piece of brilliant marketing and will no doubt make a lot of money but it is easy to make money if you don’t have to support the product.

Gift of the…

Posted by bernicky - December 19th, 2008

Today has been a good day, or rather it has been the continuation of good days. On Wednesday my wife met with her oncologists and was told that for the moment the anomalies that showed up in her liver from the CT scan did not show up in the ultrasound. This is a good thing. At the moment she is cancer free.

There was a discovery to be made at this moment in time: My wife has become a fatalist. Her reaction was simply a shrug as she is well aware, as am I, that the cancer will come back. We were told that by the surgeon at the Montreal General and the Jewish General as well as her oncologists. Yet her reaction was simply a “well there we are” for now reaction. For my own part the relief was immense. It would be an understatement to say that we expected a different result. My wife has lost a lot of weight in the past few months and says that she has not been trying to lose weight which usually does not bode well. Still the experts are in agreement that she is cancer free for now.

From work I have been on the receiving end of a surprising number of gifts this Xmas. Cookies, chocolates, marmalade, t-shirts etcetera from students and staff. It is surprisingly nice to receive such unsolicited and completely unexpected gifts. A tin of cookies from a student was particularly nice containing some home made gingerbread, shortbread and fudge. Gifts this year also included a Terry Fox t-shirt from the student council, a card and chocolate from the student leadership group an Xmas candle from a secretary and some home canned marmalade from another secretary and some truffles from the school principal. Nice way to enter the holiday season.

Getting ready

Posted by bernicky - December 8th, 2008

Wednesday is kind of the D day or C day depending on how you look at it in our house. My wife will meet with her oncologist and discover what the results of all the tests in November are. It is either a sign of rapidly advancing senility or the resilience of the human spirit that we have carried on and will likely continue to carry on as if the results are inconsequential. What would be really nice would be if the results really are inconsequential: That would be a good Xmas present.

Geocaching on a winter’s day

Posted by bernicky - December 3rd, 2008

geocaching

In our daughter’s hand is my Garmin 205 preprogrammed with the coordinates for 2 caches in Terra Cotta park about 2.5 kilometers from our house. Geocaching is a pass time which involves going to www.geocaching.com and finding the coordinates of caches all over the world. What is fun about this pass time is that it gets us outdoors and enjoying the day and frequently takes us to parts of the city we have never been to before. In this case we had been to Terra Cotta countless times but this time we went to parts of the park that we had never been to before because we don’t follow the dog trails in the park only the pedestrian trails. We found both caches, left our mark in the log books, left behind small tokens in each and took a prize from one of them. The whole walk took about an hour on a nice warm winter’s day. As a special bonus for me I managed to snap some pictures of some fungi (inexplicably one of my most favourite things in the world to photograph) as well as some good shots of our daughter – see the gallery for more 2008-11-30-Geocaching.

fungi