Monday 27 August 2007

Facebook and Flickr

There sure are a lot of choices for creating an online presence nowadays. I often try new places when I hear of them; I've tried Second Life, MySpace and MSN Live Spaces but dumped them.

This blog still my remains my main online website. However, you can also find me on Facebook and Flickr.

I've found Facebook quite a fun place to hang out. It hits a sweet spot between blogging, email, chat and photo sharing by providing a context for interacting with friends online. Clever. And it provides an open platform for simple applications that encourage interactions. Very clever. And it's a great place for creating casual groups. There's even a group for graduates of my old elementary school! Amazing how well Facebook is taking off.

I'll be using Facebook for posting pictures of family and friends.

I also have a pro account on Flickr I'm using to share photo's. I'll be using Flickr to post our travel photo's and other photo's of us. That's where the photo stream on my blog comes from. You can easily watch for new photo's without me having to make a blog post.

You can also sometimes catch me on Windows Live Messenger but I don't use it much.

Notting Hill Carnival 2007

Notting Hill Carnival 2007Notting Hill Carnival 2007

Took the kids down to the Notting Hill Carnival yesterday. It was children's day not the full-on carnival day. Unfortunately, I got us there too early. We arrived at 10:30 (the website said it started at 10!) and the first float didn't get to us until 12:45. There were also some long gaps between floats so the kids got bored. They didn't like the whole vibe and soon wanted to go home. It's a case of you win some; you lose some. If you ever go, you should aim to get down there around 1pm. Next time, I'm leaving the kids at home. They'll like it more when they're teenagers.

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Summer in BC

As you can tell from the previous posts, we have just got back from three weeks in British Columbia. We were there to celebrate my parent's 50th wedding anniversary which went very well. We tried to get around to seeing as many friends as possible but unfortunately, we never can fit everyone in. We also tried to get out and do some summer activities with the kids as we usually visit in the winter in order to get some skiing in. Luckily we had some great weather. We rambled around Lynn Valley and some beaches, rode bikes around Stanley park and went sea kayaking a couple of times. Wish we had had more time to take the kids to all the the places we wanted to show them.

For a lark, we took the kids to Dairy Queen which was the first time they had ever been. Thought they should try a banana split. Disgusting! The memory is better than the reality. We never got around to trying a drive through takeaway; it's something else the kids have never tried either - so deprived.

The weird thing about going back is that I often felt like a foreigner even though that's where I grew up! Cars, houses, roads and almost everything else seems way oversized. Even all those Canadianisms seemed, like, strange, eh? Guess it shows how long I've been away.

Tuesday 21 August 2007

PADI Dry Suit Course

Ian in Dry SuitWhile we were staying in Sidney (British Columbia), Jenny and I did a PADI dry suit course.  I've often seen British Columbia listed as one of the best places to dive in the world. Given that I enjoy diving and frequently visit the region, I figured I had to give it at least once chance. Of course the water is a tad cold so there was no way I wanted to do it in a wet suit hence the dry suit course.

We did the course with Sidney Surf n Dive and while they're nice folks, I can't say I was overly impressed with their ability to run a course. We got there on Friday morning at 10 but it took 2 hours to collect all the gear we needed together. I then found out I needed my own transport and had to fetch my Dad's car. We got to the pool to find out someone had goofed and didn't book it in the first place! That killed the day and the instructor left to go back to his real job. Lots of apologies but we were pretty disappointed.

We were called back later that afternoon and the owner promised to look after us personally and take us out on his boat on Monday and we could do the pool session that evening. And he would throw in a discount. We gave him a second chance and proceeded with the pool session at another instructors own home pool and it went well enough (picture above). It's an easy session just to get familiar with the dry suit and learn what to do if you get upside down.

Come Monday, I was looking forward to a boat dive at a well known local wreck called the G.B. Church. However, we had bad news when we arrived at the shop. The owner had broken his finger the previous week and couldn't take us out. Jenny was taking all this bad news as an omen and seriously wanted to quit the whole thing. We settled on going with another instructor (our 3rd) for a couple of easy and shallow shore dives.

We did the dives. Both Jenny and I were underweighted which meant we couldn't put enough air in the dry suits. This resulted in minor leaks and runaway ascents. I should have just put rocks in my BCD but didn't think about it at the time. Jenny was maxed for the lift capacity of her BCD. The maxium depth was only 13m so bouyancy control was never going to be easy.

The water wasn't cold at 19 celsius but I did have two full layers of warm clothes. One layer was regular ski thermals. Then I had sweat pants and a fleece jacket on top of that. It's certainly more awkward than a wet suit.

The visibilty was poor and there wasn't a whole lot to see where we went. Some small fish, crabs, starfish, a nudibranch and one small curious shark. It was ok.

So my conclusion is that cold water diving is bearable in a dry suit although very cumbersome. Dry suits are not really dry but more like what one instructor said, "variable damp suits". You need a lot of extra weight; 33 lbs was not enough for me. All three instructors had different opinions on how you manage both the BCD and dry suit which is still a bit confusing.

Nevertheless, we're now both supposedly "qualified" to dive in a dry suit. The reality is that it would take several more dives in a dry suit to feel qualified. I would still like to dive a nice site in BC but I'd go with a different dive shop.

Sunday 19 August 2007

Sea Kayaking

Sea Kayaking Deep Cove, VancouverWe managed to do some sea kayaking while back in British Columbia. First we made a trip to Pender Island and did a three hour guided tour with Kayak Pender Island. It's a nice little outfit and easy to get to; there's a direct ferry from Swartz Bay. On the other side, you can just walk there from the ferry terminal. The highlight of the paddle was going past a small rocky outcrop that was home to several harbour seals and their pups.

About a week later, we went kayaking with a friend in Deep Cove, Vancouver (thanks Willy!). That's where we are in the picture. It's amazing that this beautiful peaceful area is only minutes from the city. I'm not sure the kids enjoyed the paddling that much but I did. K* was happy for me to do all the paddling. R* finally got her own kayak on the second trip but then found it was a lot of work.

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