Monday, May 31, 2010

My New Ride

I know it was only a few short months ago that I was spewing the virtues of my 2000 VW Golf. Click here to see what I had to say. Isn't it funny how quickly things can change.
Last week we traded in "Shorty" and bought two used cars for the price of one brand new one. You have already seen my wife's car, now it's my turn to show you my car.
I still have to pinch myself every time I get in.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Beach Cruiser

Some shots of my wife's BMW 323 CI convertible. This was my first opportunity to drive it since we got it, so I had to take advantage of it.
Here it is with it's top on.
And here it is with out it. I have to say, it's very nice....

Thursday, May 27, 2010

You've Changed...

Its official.
We have become "those people" today. Some might say it was only a matter of time, but I can honestly say I didn't see it coming.
Let me explain. Today I said good-bye to my faithful VW Golf, Shorty as we called it,10 years old, and 172,000 kms on the odometer, all ours.At one point Shorty was our main go-to car and he took us everywhere we needed to go without fail. Sure we had our problems, but what relationships doesn't? I guarantee the next person who gets Shorty will be very happy.
But it was time for a change. And after some thought we decided instead of buying a brand new car to replace Shorty, we would live a little and buy two used cars for the price of a brand new one. A BMW convertible for the wife,and a Audi for me.
And that's how we became those people.
What the hell, you only live once, might as well enjoy it. Call it our mid-life crisis, my early 40th birthday gift and a 10th wedding anniversary gift for the wife all wrapped in one...or rather two.
Shorty will be missed, but not for long....

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

More Wildlife

I saw this coyote yesterday morning while walking the mutts in the Quarry. He didn't back down at all when we walked by, just stood there watching. Everywhere you turn there is wildlife staring you in the face.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Humans 0 Bull 1

That's gotta hurt.
See the full story here.


Nike's new World Cup ad, called "Write The Future". Check it out--it's really good.

Almost good enough to make me watch a little "footie". I said almost...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Neighbourhood Wildlife

I snapped these 3 quick shots of a fox on the prowl in my neighbourhood while on my bike ride the other day. The fact that I was right beside him on my bike or that Kingston road with morning rush hour whizzing by just feet away didn't seem to faze this guy, all he seemed to care about was what was for breakfast.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Parking Ticket Scam!

What a scam!
I got my renewal for licence stickers in the mail the other day, and to my shock I also had $523 of parking tickets attached to the car my wife drives. Was I upset? You bet I was, but not at who you think.
I was upset that these parking fines were from 2008. Which means that when I went to renew my licence plate sticker last year, it should of been on the system and I should of paid them then. I was upset then, and made sure that any ticket I got from that point on would be paid off in a timely fashion. Which is what I have been doing ever since.
So to say I was a bit surprised is an understatement, more like pissed off. I called the city and was told that there were 8 tickets at about $30 a pop that I hadn't paid in a timely fashion and had ballooned to $66 each for a grand total of $523. They couldn't tell me why it wasn't in the system last year when I renewed my sticker, some bullshit about the city and the province using different computer systems and them not speaking to each other.
Like that's my fault?!
They suggested I come into the parking office, located at the traffic court in Scarborough, and fill out some forms to get these tickets reopened, which would allow a Justice of the Peace to look at them to determine if they could knock off some cash.
And let me just say that I'm not disputing the fact that I got parking tickets, I'm disputing the fact that I wasn't aware of these parking tickets until now, which because I wasn't aware had ballooned to $523 instead of the $240 face value.
So the wife and I go in to dispute these tickets. We go to the parking enforcement office and for an $8 fee they print up the 8 tickets I am disputing. Then we are sent to the MTO office where all parking and driving offences are dealt with. It is what you imagine a government office to be, the room is packed with people from all walks of life, and everyone is pissed off at the long wait.
You line up and wait to see a guy behind a window, who gives you forms to fill out and a number for the next line.
And then you wait, and you wait and you wait for your number to be called.
Approx. wait time to this point, 2.5 hours.
When we finally make it up to the window, our forms are processed and we are sent up to the second floor, "In-take Area". It is a court area, so you have to go through a metal detector, and be searched by a court guard before you can even get to the "In-take Area".
And then you sit and wait some more.
Eventually I was called into a room to speak with the Justice of the Peace, who in this case turned out to be a complete pompous ass. He decides he is not going to open the case because my tickets are from too far back, but he does allow for an extension to pay. He didn't want to hear any explanations, nor did he explain that by getting an extension it would reduce each ticket by $20, for a total of $160. It is only when I get annoyed and explain I'm not contesting the tickets, rather the fact that I was never made aware of them until now, does he tell me to apply for the extension and I will get a discount.
And then the pompous ass has the gall to lecture me about the fact that an extension is not a given. He takes my tickets to examine them and sends me outside to wait some more.
More forms are filled out followed by more waiting.
I'm eventually called back in to speak to the JP and am told I have been given the extension.
Total time wasted -- 4 hours.
Lesson to be learned from the entire experience?
You can't win with the government. You can't fight something if no one wants to listen.
Pay your parking tickets when you get them, because it certainly isn't worth the hassle trying to fight it.
Price to drive in Toronto
$429 in parking tickets
$50 Drive Clean emissions test
$75 x 2 Licence sticker
$60 x 2 city of Toronto Tax
= $749
The price to drive two cars in Toronto without insurance or gas.
And the Toronto Star just ran a story today saying there is one billion in unpaid parking fines in Toronto, mmm I wonder why?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Return To Respectability

Today, after 6 long months, I can finally drive my other car again. As you may recall, I was dropped by my insurance company and had to go to the high risk auto insurance brokers for coverage. For 6 months I paid $2300, the equivalent of a years worth of insurance for two cars, and I wasn't allowed to drive my other car, you can read all about it here.
Well after 6 months of stopping at every stop sign, driving the speed limit and obeying all the rules of the road, I have managed to make it back to the land of regular everyday auto insurance and I couldn't be happier.
I'm not sure if it was because I worked out a deal with my insurance company when they dropped me that I'm back with them at the same rate that I was before they dropped me, but when I called around to get other quotes it was like I was still a high risk driver. No one wanted to deal with me and I would of had to stay with the high risk broker for another $2300.
Make no mistake about it, dealing with insurance companies suck. But it appears there are some that are better then others, and mine appears to be one of them. I was put back on my original policy without any penalty.
And what did I learn from this experience?
When you drive the speed limit and obey all the laws, it really opens your eyes to the fact that everyone out there drives like a maniac. When you come to a complete stop at a stop sign or slow down when the light turns yellow instead of speeding up, you realize obeying the laws are mere suggestions for most Toronto drivers.
That being said, police really don't seem to care. Instead of going after the real offenders, they prefer to set up speed traps and wait for you. If you know where they sit, and everyone does, you can avoid the ticket. All my tickets came in places that were known spots for getting tickets. If I had being paying better attention, or knew about these locations before hand I could have avoided each ticket. Yes I broke the law, but the cops didn't come after me, I went to them, by driving into their traps.
Which all means that if you aren't careful you can find yourself where I was in the blink of an eye, on the outside looking in. They say that driving is a privilege, not a right and that may be true, but in Toronto it is also a cash grab that can end up costing you huge.
Believe me on that.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Uh OH!

...somebody is in trouble!
This is what happens when you leave a puppy alone with a bag of blue laundry detergent.
At least when you wash him you wont need soap!

Isn't Hindsight funny?

I was a bit bummed that I wasn't able to go swimming in the ocean at the beach at our hotel in Costa Rica. They had some cool toys that I wanted to try out, like boogie boarding and the sea kayaks, but unfortunately the beach was closed to swimming all week.
While I was looking at my pictures of the trip, it got me thinking and I realized that maybe it wasn't such a bad thing after all that I didn't swim in the ocean.
And here's why...
For one of these crocodiles that we spotted here at crocodile bridge, to get to here,the place where we boarded the catamaran for our white sandy beach tour,the salt water croc would of had to swim past the beach at our hotel.
Not so bummed anymore....

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Biking Update

Stats for April
220 kms road bike
78 kms mountain bike
298kms Total
average speed 23-24kms
average time for 20 km loop - 54 minutes

Thursday, May 6, 2010

No Place Like Home

It's always nice to go away on vacation...... ... but when you catch sight of that Canadian flag on the plane that's about to take you home, you realize ...... there really is no place like home!

Google Saves The Day

I took two camera's with me when we went to Costa Rica, my 35mm Canon Rebel D/SLR and my trusty little Canon Elph digital point and shoot. I'm glad I did, because as soon as I got to the hotel, I tried to download the shots I took of our plane ride from my point and shoot and it promptly stopped working.
I had removed the memory card and when I put it back in, it kept giving me an error message that said the card was locked. I checked the tab on the side of the SD card, it wasn't loked. I tried my other SD card which had worked fine before. This too was locked. I tried to fix this in the set up menu, repeatedly, but I couldn't. This meant I could not take any pictures at all with my point and shoot. This was day one. I WAS PISSED.
This meant that all I had left was my Canon Rebel D/SLR. I wasn't going to bring it at first, but I'm glad I did and for the next two days, I used, but I didn't like it.
I tend to only use my big camera for sporting events or special projects. It's great for the Indy, but a pain in the ass for snaps on the go while on vacation. It's big and cumbersome, and you are always worried about it getting damaged. With my little point and shoot, it's use it and then throw it in your pocket and forget about it.
And this was bugging me because I knew our next few tours were going to be the kind that were just not suitable for big cameras. And that meant that I would not be able to take any pictures at all!
And then it hit me.
I should Google this!
I threw caution to the wind and went and bought myself a 24 hour wifi pass from the front desk and came back to the room to Google my problem. And in less time then it took me to type this story, Google had found the answer to all my camera problems!
How to fix a broken digital point and shoot camera with nothing more then a nail file purchased in the gift store and the wind from my lungs.
Without a word of a lie, this is the God awful truth.
Google showed me how to fix my camera, and make it work like new again.
And the best part? All in time for me to take some amazing shots of our canopy tour with my point and shoot, which I also used for the rest of our vacation.
Once my trusty point and shoot was up and running, I retired my Rebel to the camera bag for the rest of our stay and every shot I took from Wednesday on, was with my little camera.
All thanks to the power of Google and the Internet.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Costa Rica Day 2: Volcano Tour

Sorry for the lack of posts lately, but the wife and I are on vacation in Costa Rica and the hotel we are staying in does not provide free Internet access. But as you can see, I am resourceful and found a way to get on line.
We are staying at the Double Tree Hilton resort in Puntarenas. It is not the type of place to go to if you want to swim in the ocean, or lay on the beach but there are plenty of pools, and tons of things to do and adventures to go on, which is why we choose this destination in the first place. Here are some shots of the view from our hotel. The locals surf every morning just off the pier by our hotel.Not too shabby if I say so myself.
We arrived late in the afternoon and didn't do too much the first day, but the next day we took an all day tour to see an active volcano, walk through the rain forest and swim in a natural hot spring which is heated by the volcano. The Arenal volcano has been active since the late 60's and is located about four hours drive from our hotel. At night you can sometimes see lava creeping down the side of the volcano, unfortunately we didn't see any while we were there, but we still got some pretty good shots. Simply put, it was amazing experience.