Happy New Year!

Although January first is officially the start of a new year it is September when I feel like a new year is starting. Almost everyone I talk to agrees. It must have to do with our school system. Classes start in September in most of North America. I wonder what it is that makes one feel like a new year has started in other parts of the world.

So, I start to think about education and what the 2011-2012 season will bring. I received notification that the catalogue [PDF] for the Continuing Education Department of St. Michael’s College is available and has been mailed out. I’m looking forward to seeing if there are enough courses this year to justify getting a Blue Card Membership which would allow me to take all the courses I want for one payment of $550. Quite a deal considering that single courses are $70 for a one day course or $150 for a 5 week course.

I am also going to look again at the Academy For Lifelong Learning at Knox College. Many of their workshops are already full but I think I can find a couple that will capture my interest.

The Later Life Learning lecture series at Innes College doesn’t offer anything that I want this time around. I’ll check them out again in the winter semester.

New for me this year is the Centre For Dynamic Learning. I’m going to check out their Ethics workshop.

The Toronto District School Board catalogue arrived in the mail a couple of weeks ago. Again, there is nothing for me this time around but it is worth looking into.

That’s all I have for now. If you have seen any continuing education offerings that you found interesting please share them in the comments below.

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More notes on my computer problem

I was in the Staples store at Eglinton and Brentcliffe and noticed they now have a computer repair department. I explained the problem I had – nothing happens when I try to turn the machine on and that I suspected the switch or the power supply –  and asked what they would do. I was impressed with their response.

For $49.95 they run some diagnostics and then contact you so you can decide how to proceed.  Even better the man I talked to said that if I wanted they would bypass the diagnostics and just install a new power supply. The parts and labour cost for that would be approximately $100.00. So, even if I had them run the diagnostics I still would have only spent $150.00 to solve my problem.

This is a much better option than I was offered by the “experts” with the cute company name.

Disclaimer. I have no connection or arrangement with Staples.

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I’m back.

In this earlier post I bemoaned the fact that my main computer just stopped working all of a sudden. It would no longer come to life when I caressed it’s on switch. I’m not afraid of computers but I am leery about messing around inside them too much but with limited knowledge I guessed that either the power supply had died or the switch was broken.

I called the store where I bought this particular machine to see if they had spare parts. Turns out they don’t, were implicitly snickering that I hadn’t bought their extended warranty and turned me over to their in-house specialist group. I’m not going to name the store or the cutely named ‘specialists’. The ‘expert’ said that if I brought the machine in they would take care of it. A little prompting told me that they would just return it to the manufacturer to fix it and that it would cost me about $300. I said that it probably only needed a power supply or switch. I got the feeling that the ‘expert’ didn’t know what those were.

Fast forward – a friend offered to look at my problem and since he has spent more time with his hands inside computers than I have I was happy to take him up on the offer. I dropped the machine at his place and picked it up today. It’s working like a champ.

  • Problem? Dead power supply.
  • Cost of new supply? $35
  • Cost of labour? Beer.

That’s the way the world should work.

Lesson learned? Stay away from pretend ‘experts’ with cute company names.

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Computer woes.

My main computer won’t power up. It happened two days ago. I opened the case, blew out the dust even though there wasn’t too much then looked around inside like I knew what I was doing. Of course that didn’t help so I went about my business for a few hours and then as I was passing I pushed the on button and heard the familiar sound of the machine booting up.

At the end of the day I turned it off. Those of you who are thinking “What kind of idiot is this guy?” can pat yourselves on the back. It wouldn’t start again yesterday and is still sitting quietly.

An online search confirmed my thought that it is likely the switch or the power supply and said that the way to determine that was to use a piece of wire and perform a ‘soft power-on’. If the power suppy comes on it’s the switch. If not it’s the power supply. I cut wire for the job, gritted my teeth and grounded the green wire as directed. There was a whirring sound but the computer doesn’t boot up. I think that sound was the hard drive. It stops when I remove the jumper.

So, power supply or switch? I’m guessing since the computer did not start that it’s the power supply. Can any of you confirm that? I’m slightly confused because of the whirring sound. I somehow think a power supply will be easier to find than the particular switch.

Do you have suggestions on a good place to get a power supply? Do you know of someone who knows how to fix these things at a reasonable price? I called a widely advertized service who, over the phone, told me they would charge me $300 – $400 and all they were going to do was ship it to the manufacturer. I’d much rather deal with the person who will actually do the work. In any case, if I was going to spend hundreds of dollars I’d be smarter to replace the computer with a newer model.

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What do we know about large numbers?

I recently watched this video that attempted to show what the $100,000,000 cut that US President Obama talked about in his State of the Union speech would look like compared to the entire US budget. Great visual.

It got me thinking again about more local budgets and so I looked up the operating budget for Toronto. In 2010 it was 9.2 billion dollars. I know there are different ways to define billion depending on where you are. I used the smaller one which is one thousand million (9 zeros) and put the Toronto budget (9.2 billion) against the Obama cut (100 million) and got this pie chart.

Yikes! $100,000,000 is hardly noticeable in the Toronto budget let alone the US budget.

I’m not sure what to take away from this other than if Politician A is screaming about Politician B spending $1,000 on something trivial maybe Politician A is trying to distract us.

While I would be ecstatic to receive even 0ne percent of one hundred million dollars it looks like I should not be impressed with the whole amount being cut from the Toronto budget. Good start but there better be a few cuts of the same magnitude.

Is there something wrong with my chart? If so please let me know in the comments.

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Makes me smile

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. WordPress has initiated a program to encourage those of us with writers block. They are encouraging us to post once a day or once a week and WordPress makes daily suggestions of topics. I’ll tackle the weekly challenge and maybe that will clear the cobwebs and get things rolling again.

The suggestion today was to share something that makes you smile. I ran across this poem a couple of days ago and it made me smile. I hope it does the same for you.

A RAVEN sat upon a tree,
And not a word he spoke, for
His beak contained a piece of Brie,
Or, maybe, it was Roquefort:
We ’ll make it any kind you please—
At all events, it was a cheese.

Beneath the tree’s umbrageous limb
A hungry fox sat smiling;
He saw the raven watching him,
And spoke in words beguiling:
“J’ admire,” said he, “ton beau plumage,”
(The which was simply persiflage).

Two things there are, no doubt you know,
To which a fox is used,—
A rooster that is bound to crow,
A crow that ’s bound to roost,
And whichsoever he espies
He tells the most unblushing lies.

“Sweet fowl,” he said, “I understand
You ’re more than merely natty:
I hear you sing to beat the band
And Adelina Patti.
Pray render with your liquid tongue
A bit from ‘Götterdämmerung.’”

This subtle speech was aimed to please
The crow, and it succeeded:
He thought no bird in all the trees
Could sing as well as he did.
In flattery completely doused,
He gave the “Jewel Song” from “Faust.”

But gravitation’s law, of course,
As Isaac Newton showed it,
Exerted on the cheese its force,
And elsewhere soon bestowed it.
In fact, there is no need to tell
What happened when to earth it fell.

I blush to add that when the bird
Took in the situation
He said one brief, emphatic word,
Unfit for publication.
The fox was greatly startled, but
He only sighed and answered “Tut!”

THE MORAL is: A fox is bound
To be a shameless sinner.
And also: When the cheese comes round
You know it ’s after dinner.
But (what is only known to few)
The fox is after dinner, too.

Guy Wetmore Carryl.

For more information on Guy Wetmore Carryl see this Wikipedia entry. I’m going to look for his writing at the public library.

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Out of the city. Fall 2009.

Cottage country isn’t all peace and quiet and that’s fine. The morning stillness is punctuated with the buzz of a chainsaw in the distance.

Mirror flat water reflects the far shore and sky. A car rumbles along the gravel road that skirts the western shore. Cars and chainsaws, the sounds of man. Sharp contrast to the chirping of small birds.

A woodpecker beats a tattoo in a tree and is joined by another who is searching for breakfast in a harder wood. The two resonances joining as nature’s drum kit.

Rat-a-tat and again at a lower frequency rat-a-tat-a-tat. Chirp, whistle and squawk building a musical platform to support the call of the loon. Ribbit! A frog can’t resist the urge to participate. Clunk! Clunk! Clunk! Chainsaw put aside an axe joins in to add to the chorus as some other members take a rest. Then all rest briefly.

Now woodpecker resumes and establishes a groove. It’s punctuated by wings beating against air. Squawk! Chirp! Gurgle – small waves find small spaces between rocks and sing. Every moment a new symphony. No. Every moment a new movement in an ongoing symphony. The opening bars played many millennia ago. The finale not yet composed.

In the distance a cloud sleeps upon the tops of trees. A peaceful optical illusion.

Where all was green a short time ago there are traces of red, orange and yellow. Trees preparing for the change in season start to cast off that which they will not be able to support through the cold months ahead.

A light breeze ripples the water and the scene changes as the reflections turn to abstracts. Mirror accuracy gone. Nudged out of existence by a puff of air. Diamonds now dance where reflection once lived.

Rat-a-tat-tat. The woodpecker has found a treasure trove. All else is quiet. Only for a moment of course. The song never ends. Chipmunks. Crows. was that a single goose honk in the distance?

The mirror returns. Residual ripples abstract the reflection but now the shapes are more easily recognized. Diamonds gone for the moment. Quack, quack, chirp, rat-a-tat-a-tat.

No more chopping. That chore completed. Rumble of car on gravel road and then quiet. Not truly quiet. It never is where nature abounds. A different flavour of peace.

One hundred and eighty degree wind shift creates a new abstract and brings a slight chill. A refreshing chill. The decoy turns to face into the wind and bobs merrily on ripples becoming waves.

Wavelets against aluminum  hull add a new percussion to the mix joined by hammer and the ever present woodpecker.

The single cloud on the tree tops has been joined by others. A crowd of clouds looking down on this scene.

A pair of dogs bark and make themselves known.


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Education, the 2010-2011 season approaches.

I just received a tweet saying that descriptions of the courses offered by the Continuing Education department at the University of St Michael’s College for the 2010-2011 season are available. See them here. If you find any of these interesting you should look at their blue card program that allows you to take as many of these as you like for a single payment of $500.

With regard to other education options some preliminary research suggests that seniors may get tuition waivers at some universities. When I have more information I will post it here.

Are you aware of education opportunities for seniors with reduced or waived fees? Please tell us about them in the comments or, if you prefer, email me at retiredintoronto [at] gmail [dot] com.

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“… isolation, willingly embraced, becomes the gift of solitude …” – Linden MacIntyre, The Bishop’s Man.

I was fortunate to grow up with a wood lot as my friend. Between the ages of 5 and 10 I was allowed to roam freely in the large wood lot within a hundred meters or so of the house where we lived. The quote above implies making the best of a forced situation. That was not my situation but in a way it sums up my feelings about solitude. I love being alone. Not all the time but often. The quote also reminds me of the role attitude plays in life. The difference between being alone and being lonely.

A while ago I wrote the following while remembering those years spent living by the wood lot.

By the time he was eight years old he lived in two worlds. One included other people, his parents, sister, friends and extended family. The other did not. Although this other world could be summoned at any time its true nature was most evident in the 10 acre wood lot where it was born. He was not master of his domain nor king of all he surveyed, he was part of the whole. Equal and kin to the trees, plants, animals, insects. Here he experienced joy, peace, wonder, warmth, comfort and sometimes sadness or melancholy at the loss of another living thing.

In spring tiny streams would appear. Their waters trickled and burbled through the undergrowth. The water was so clear that he was aware of its presence only because of the magnification it provided to what lay beneath or the occasional ripple as the droplets journeyed home together.

And the taste! Cold! Smooth! Thrilling! A hint of metal and earth. Sip from your hand then lie back in the undergrowth and savour.

He was eight and the world was perfect.

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An unplanned break.

Photo by retiredintoronto

It wouldn’t surprise me to find some people thought I’d left blogging behind and moved on. That’s not the case at all. Sometimes life draws your attention down a different path for a while. That’s the situation I find myself in but I hope to be back blogging in the near future.

In the meantime – What interesting, affordable things do you have planned or would suggest people take part in in and around Toronto this summer?

I’m looking forward to Afrofest and the Muhtadi International Drum Festival, all things being back in order.

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