Keeping Kids Busy

iain's first soccer game june 2008My three year old son started playing soccer last week. My daughter’s in gymnastics and piano lessons. My wife goes to the YMCA for exercise regularly, and I play World Of Warcraft.

I watch less than a couple of hours of television a week, but the kids watch it a lot; it’s their baby-sitter. We want to reduce our dependency on it, keeping them busy with creative and engaging activities instead.

I know a couple people who are tv-less, which I respect a lot. I’m doing some googling about breaking the tv-habit, but I could use any advice and ideas:

How do you keep a 7 year old and 3 year old busy
without a television and without destroying the house?

Bees On The Loose

bee manEscaped bees abuzz in N.B.

Approximately 12 million honeybees have escaped from a truck that overturned on the Trans-Canada Highway in New Brunswick.
Rain in the area is currently keeping the bees under control, said RCMP Sgt. Derek Strong.

They’re being imported because pesticides have been killing the natural population of bees.

Update: From another CBC article, they were being exported after fulfilling a pollination gig.

Moving Day

3:51pm. I’m moving today. I’ve got myself a Uhaul cargo van out front. I just began filling it up with the large items, mostly bookcases. There’s still a lot of junk left.

Jenny and I made the final inspection of the new house this morning and now we’re waiting for our lawyer to call and tell us the sellers have our cheque. Then we move in. Until then, we’re not allowed on the property. So I’m here filling up the cargo van. I may drop in throughout the day to update this post. Or maybe not.

First question: Do all Uhaul vans originate from Arizona? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Uhaul van that didn’t have an Arozona licence plate.

4:40pm. The van is full, but we still can’t go to the house. We called our lawyer and she said everything looks good. Now she’s waiting for some other document, whatever it is. And once that document arrives, we can start moving into the house.

I’m going to write a post in a week or two about how insane it is trying to buy a house in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Anyone living off a moderate income — you know, average folk like me — have almost no chance of finding a house in this market. Finding this house was like winning the lotto. If an expert told me we got the best possible deal anyone could hope for under the current market conditions, I wouldn’t doubt them. Just before we came across this house, we’d resigned ourselves to living in a tiny condo or a real run down place — the “handy man’s special.” Thank jebus we managed to dodge that bullet. For the longest time, it felt like it was coming right for us.

Lots of dust behind our bookshelves.

5:15pm. We’re still waiting for our lawyer to call us and say we can take possession of the house.

First she gave us the impression that the sellers simply had to accept our cheque and we could go in. She said, “That’ll be in about 30 minutes.” That was 4 hours ago.

We’ve called her since and she tells us documents have arrived, but now more are on the way. So we still have to wait. We just called her again and now all we’re getting is her voice mail.

We’ve been looking for a house for the past 6 months. The longest 6 months of my life.

7:00pm. We’re moving. Gotta go.

9:02pm. Done for the day. Our lawyer not calling us was a misunderstanding. She called our real estate agent who assumed she was going to call us next. She should have called us anyway, but whatever. Who cares. Time to order a pizza and collapse.

Looking forward to seeing how crazy the cats go when we bring them up, which will be in about 5 minutes. Over and out.

Volumouse Application

This is the most useful — definitely the most used — teenie-weenie application on my PC: Volumouse.

I use it to change the volume on my PC without having to click anything. I use it to change the Master Volume and the Wave volume, but it can be easily configured to change the volume of anything that has a volume control on your PC. And if you really want to get fancy, you can use it to adjust all kinds of other things — which I won’t get into, because I’ve never done it. But it’s a useful, unobtrusive little application.

It’s free and it doesn’t prompt you for updates or ask you to register for anything. It takes 5 seconds to install it and about 30 seconds to configure it do whatever you want it to do. I adjust the Master Volume by using the mouse wheel and holding down the ALT key. A vertical track bar shows up during the adjustment and then disappears when I let go of the ALT key. I adjust the Wave volume by using the mouse wheel while holding down the SHIFT key. To distinguish it from the Master Volume, I have it configured to display a horizontal track bar.

I originally had it set up to adjust the Master Volume when the mouse cursor was hovering over my system tray, and the Wave Volume when it was over the desktop while holding down the ALT key. There are numerous way to configure it — and it’s easy.

An excellent little program for adjusting various volumes on-the-fly. I use it every day.

Download link for the Volumouse setup file.

Firefox Add-on: NoSquint

NoSquint is one of my favourite Firefox add-ons because it makes at least half the sites I visit on a regular basis easier to read by making everything on the site bigger — the text and the images, and it does so without messing up the design of the site because proportions are maintained. Here’s an example:

Roger Ebert‘s site usually looks like this (click to view full-sized image):

When I crank NoSquint up to 150%, it looks like this, filing my screen and making it much easier to read (click to view full-sized image):

There you go. A nice little add-on for anyone with poor vision or anyone like me who can’t stand reading micro fonts.

UPDATE #1: Shows you how much I know. Just ignore me, folks. From the first comment:

In Firefox 3, it’s built in. Just use Ctrl+Mousewheel to change the size of the text and images. It even works with videos.

That’s how NoSquint works. I thought it was the add-on doing that. Time to uninstall NoSquint.

UPDATE #2: Cancel update #1. The Control-mouse wheel operation does nothing in my Firefox 3. When it does work, I wonder if the built-in Firefox function remembers the magnification for each site like NoSquint does, or do you have to increase the magnification every time you visit a site? And I’m running Firefox 3 on Windows XP. Maybe some things don’t work the way they should on other operating systems such as Vista. At any rate, time to reinstall NoSquint.