Sep 19, 2012

Things I'm Watching

Nope, no new pictures this week just me yacking and yacking some more.  :-)    I did try  putting the gopro on the birdfeeder but didn't really get anything exciting but got some ideas for the next attempt.   I had put the gopro up, set it to one shot every 5 seconds and then proceeded to forget about it.   Several hours later when I remembered I found I had over 1300 pictures and 12gb of data on the SD card - doh!   Took some time to go through it all.

One of the key ways of watching what I'm interested in is to watch my Blog links on the sidebar of this page.   Blogs will come and go.   Right now you'll see a few things on Ecuador and the Franklin search - hint - that might be what I'm interested in these days.

First is the Franklin search.   For those who don't know the history or don't watch the news, start here -    This story has fascinated me for many years and I've read numerous books on the subject.  Franklin was pretty much an idiot when it came to exploration and he was only doing it for promotion and to keep full pay in the British navy.  But for me was the mystery of the missing ships.   The history of HMS Terror and HMS Erebus itself is a very interesting side story.   Both ships had also been to the Antarctic under the command of James Ross and Francis Crozier.   Both names very well known in Antarctic exploration and the two mountains/volcanoes located close to where Shackleton and Scott made their pushes to the south pole are named after the ships.   To have made such discoveries in Antarctic waters and then again in the Arctic make them very interesting.   The Inuit stories surrounding the ships after the crews abandoned them were discounted for many years and are just now being used in the search.   Much is known about how the crew perished and many artifacts have been found over the past 150 years but those 2 ships are still missing and all attempts to find them have failed.

This past summer, the Canadian government announced a new 6 week search to find the ships.   In my opinion it was a good start but it was doubtful that they would find much in 6 weeks and with the few million that the government put into the search.   The area is just to vast and the weather to unpredictable.   In fact the search is ending today, almost 2 weeks early because of weather systems moving in.   Initial results are that they didn't find the ships, although they have tons of data to go through.    Unfortunately it is my opinion that the search was primarily the governments way of staking a flag in the ground strictly for sovereignty reasons.   Harper doesn't give 2 shits if those ships are found, he just wants to make sure the world knows the arctic is ours and no one elses.  If they happened to find the ships - bonus!   But I think the key here was that the government wanted sovereignty, accurate maps of the floor bottom and to get some good media and press out of us doing stuff in the arctic.   He accomplished everything except find the ships.   I'm sure next year he'll do the same, wait till near the end of the summer and then give them a few million to search again, this time mapping yet another area.   In the end I hope it will help find the ships and I do hope it strengthens our sovereign claim to the area.   Anyhow, there are a few links on the side of the page that might be of interest.  One is a blog of a gentlemen who has been searching on his own for many years (he has some really cool pictures) and the other is from on-board one of the search ships.   Now that the search is completed that blog will probably go static.

The other thing I'm following these days is Ecuador.   Huh?  How the heck do we get from the arctic to the Ecuador?  ;-)   Well, I'm starting to think about my retirement.   Hang on, I'm not 55 yet!   Actually I have 9 more years to go but I've started to realize that 9 years is not all that long.   If I look back at the past 9 years it seems like yesterday.   If I'm going to change my life when I retire I do need to start thinking about it sooner rather than later.

Everyone looks at me and says "you'll never retire, you like your work to much".  Well, yes and no.   I do love my job but the reality is that I have other things that I would like to be doing.  I have things to retire too!   Which is the key.   I have watched to many people retire and then either die or come back to work.  Strictly because they had nothing to do, it wasn't what they thought it would be or they couldn't afford to retire.

Naturally in a perfect world we all know where I want to retire too - BERMUDA.   Bermuda is my 2nd home and I would love to call myself a Bermudian, but reality is that it would never happen.   The costs are just way to high for even my good pension and immigration is an even bigger problem.  It's a small island and naturally they need to keep their numbers down, completely understandable.   So a few years back I started looking for something similar.  British, English speaking, inexpensive and I came across Belize.   I spend numerous hours researching and reading and it became a possible retirement location.  They do have lots of gated communities and communities of expats - exactly what I DON'T WANT! ;-)   One of the reasons I feel so in love with Bermuda is that I integrated into the society.  I embraced their customs and traditions, as a result they embraced me back.  Wherever I go I want to experience and live their culture.

As I continued to read I kept coming across little references to Ecuador.  I just ignored them.   What the heck is an Ecuador and they don't speak English so not for me.   But as time went on I started hearing people at work talking about relatives retiring there or people who have taken vacations there.  My curiosity peaked so I started looking into Ecuador to see what it was all about.  The more I read the more intrigued I've become. 

Yes it's Spanish speaking and I would obviously need/want to learn the language but for the most part it's a safe, interesting and inexpensive place to live.   Why would I care given my pension?   Well a couple of reasons.    The costs to live in Ecuador are actually extremely low.   People talk of living on $800 per month, but I would say $1200 is a bit more on the realistic side.   This would really free up my cash flow.   I am going to have a bit of a reduced pension and cash flow, due to my ex-wife and depending on how much of my pension I can pay back.   One of the two things I would like to do when I retire is to concentrate more on my travel photography.  I seem to take much better pictures when I travel for some strange reason.   By being based in an inexpensive country it frees up the cashflow to do more traveling.    The 2nd thing I would like to do is to continue to feed my amateur radio hobby.   I've been involved with radio since 1987 and have always enjoyed the hobby.   The city that I am looking at, Cuenca, is located 2500m above sea level in the Andes.  Although not an extremely hard country to find on the amateur radio bands, that height would be of interest to people who experiment in contests, moon bounce, VHF work and several other aspects of the hobby.   They call these DXpeditions.  Hams will pay good money to travel to foreign countries to play radio for a week, particularly if things are setup for them.   They fly in, play radio, brag about the wonderful place they are staying and go home.   Next thing you know your location is published in the radio magazines and business starts.  All I would need is to rent a place on the outside, but close to, the city that has guest quarters.   Looking at the real estate sites for Cuenca, there are several places that fit the bill and are extremely cheap compared to what I pay today.

So why would I want to leave Canada?   This has been the primary question, do I want to?   Yes and no.   I love Canada, it's my home and there are numerous places in the country where I could retire and be very happy.   I would love to try moving to the north, I would go back to Newfoundland, the east coast or the west coast.   But 3 of the most interesting years of my life was when I lived outside Canada.   I really enjoyed learning a new culture and making new friends..  Those people have remained my closest friends for the past 20 years.   I would like the cash flow to be able to travel and not just be a home body who putters around the house.  And I also want to get away from the insane weather in Ottawa.   Ottawa is terrible, +40c in the summer and -40c in the winter (ya ya, worst case) but I can't deal with the fluctuations.   It's to much.  It's to hot in the summer and too cold in the winter.   I could go elsewhere in Canada and have a less drastic change but I like the idea of consistent weather.   Cuenca is 23C during the day and 15C at night.   + or - a few degrees depending on the season.    Perfect temps!   Nice for working in during the day and fantastic for sleeping in at night.   I do worry a bit about dampness levels but I would need to experience it to know for sure.

Other things to consider; will Jen go with me?   She has a daughter here in Canada, would she even want to go far away?   How close am I with my kids at the time of retirement, how does that effect my planning?  Anything else keeping me here?  Health issues?  etc etc.    So the decision process is far from over.   A lot more reading but more important, I need to start taking trips to Ecuador to make sure first hand.   This will cut into my Bermuda visits :-/    Not an idea that I like.......sigh......   But time will tell.  For now I read blogs from a few expats living in Ecuador (again, on the side bar) and read what their lives are like.  But for the most part they have retired and don't seem to do all that much day to day, I would (I hope) have a more active and involved lifestyle.   

So that's what I'm watching these days ;-)   Sorry if you thought what am I watching on TV hahaha, that will be a post for another day.

Hope everyone is having a great week.

Sep 8, 2012

Random Stuff

Good day everyone.   Crappy weekend on this end, thunder, lightening, rain, wind etc ... so no paddling and nothing exciting happening.  But decided to have a bit of fun with the gopro ;-)

We've had a little chipmunk hanging around ever since we moved in.   The wind knocked over the bird feeder and the feed had gotten wet so we just dumped it on the deck to see if the chipmunk would come and get it.  I put the gopro out, set it to take a 1 picture every 5 secs until the battery was dead.   Sure enough he showed up.   Here's a few of the better shots ;-)

Am I going to be famous?  Let me see how much feed I can get in my mouth!

While off dumping feed into his hiding place, look who shows up.

Fortunately this didn't get confrontational ;-)
Maybe tomorrow I'll attach the gopro to the bird feeder?????

For those who follow my ham radio hobby, here's a shot of my newest shack.   Finally got the 6 meter Cubex Queen Bee quad up at 27 feet and it seems to be working well.  The old Butternut vertical doing the HF duty.   Radials and feedlines are all buried.

VA3XA or VP9MM/VE3 hahaha

Sep 5, 2012

From the Top of the World: CFS Alert

Over the years I have spend almost 2 years of my life up here.  Enjoy the show ;-)

Aug 30, 2012

Ottawa to Kingston Loop

Over the past 25 years I have definitely spent some time in Kingston ;-)    It's a pretty town to visit and live in but the roads to and from Kingston also have many gems.   Yesterday we decided to take a day trip down to Kingston as Jen hadn't seen much of it over the years and I love the drive.  We definitely bit off more then we could really do properly in a day but it was a nice 11 hour run down hwy 2, into Kingston then hwy 15 back to Ottawa.

Click the image for a bigger view.

Right near Prescott is this lovely gem.   It's called the "Battle of the Windmill" where in 1838 a bloody battle was fought between the British, Canadian separatists and Americans.   Really neat spot to visit. More info over here -
Couldn't resist playing around a bit ;-)
The view of Kingston from the hillside at Fort Henry.,_Ontario
Have always enjoyed the view of this channel on the backside of the fort.  You can see all the wind mills out on Wolf island.
Downtown Kingston

Marine Museum of the Great Lakes -

Kingston Mills lock, such a shame this location has been scared by such senseless violence - The Shafia family murders -
One of the prettiest locks on the Rideau - Jones Falls -   Lovely to paddle but I found out a few years ago it's one serious bitch to portage hahaha.

Lots of elevation change at the lock

Looking across from Jones Falls.
Lovely brunch on the road and a wonderful supper at the Baldachin Inn and Restaurant in Merrickville.   We were hoping to get paddling today or tomorrow but the winds are still to high right now so maybe this coming weekend.  Fingers crossed.

As well the winds have been killing my plans to get the 6 meter quad in the air but everything is ready to go once I get a break.

Aug 27, 2012

Poking around Parliament

A busy and hot weekend on this end!   Saturday we were over to Gatineau for the day and spent it with friends around a pool (well in the pool), beer, wine, steaks and great company.   Sunday Keaton came up for a short visit to exchange birthday gifts and to see him before he heads back to college later this week.   No way he was going to sit around all day and rape my internet on such a beautiful day, so we headed downtown.

Many of these are very common Ottawa images so I tried to shoot from different angles and perspectives.   The one thing I did discover with all the blue skies is how much dust I have on my sensor....argh.  Thank god for photoshop's spot healer.

Click image for big versions.

National War Memorial


Library of Parliament

Queen Elizabeth II

Col John By, the man responsible of my beloved Rideau Canal
Outside the National Gallery of Canada

My favourite shot of the day, the peacekeepers memorial.

Have the rest of this week off and then back to work after labour day :-(     but the weather is looking great so more travels to come, I hope ;-)   Now to go clean dust out of my camera!

Aug 25, 2012

Canadian War Museum and the Jock River

Good morning all.

Probably should have broken this up into two posts but just to damn lazy hahaha.   Gotta love it when your doing so much stuff that your behind on blogging, particularly after being bad about not posting or taking pictures for the past few months.  Now that the move is complete and I'm actually taking a bit of vacation time, Jen and I are trying to catch up on summer with the canoe and getting out and about.  So here we go.

Believe it or not, I had not been to the "new" Canadian War Museum after all the years I've lived here in Ottawa and we finally got moving and went for a visit.   We knew it would be awesome and it didn't disappoint.   After so many years of having many of their artifacts stored away, the new building is pretty cool and it looks like they could use a bigger building yet.   Bit of a tough place for photography with the windows located where they are but to be honest I kinda forgot about the camera while poking through the many exhibits.

Boar War Soldier

A Nieuport 17 (the type of plane flown by Billy Bishop during WWI)

One of Hitlers Mercedes complete with bullet holes.

The pictures above and below was one of the things I really wanted to see.   This was a WWII remoted German weather station codenamed "Kurt" that was covertly installed in Labrador to send weather reports to U-Boats.   It was found after a researcher found documents in Germany and a search team went to the spot in the early 1980's and found the equipment.   40 years and would never have been found. This has gotten some interest lately due to the possible locating of a German U-Boat in the Churchill River in Labrador.   Just shows how things can be placed in the Arctic and never found.

For more info -
and about the U-Boat -  (this is going to be an interesting story to follow)

For those who spent time in Alert during or before my era,  you should recognize the the machines above and below :-)  To bad they aren't bright yellow.

When I was a young lad I joined the Air Cadets just as the Voodoo was being phased out, but I did get to see some of these flying up at CFB Chatham, New Brunswick.  Might even have some old photos somewhere, should find them and scan them in.

That killed a day, if my feet weren't so sore I could have gone through the exhibits one more time but given that I'm ex-military I can get in for free (just bring proof of service and you can bring 2 guests as well) so I can come and go as I please and just pay parking.   I can see going back for a few more visits.

Yesterday was beautiful weather again so we packed up the canoe to see how the water levels were on the Jock River.   We were told that during the drought it was pretty low and given how busy we were with the move we just avoided the area.   But the water levels were back up so a great spot for paddling again.

The sun was very harsh and almost none of my photos of the outbound trip turned out as the sun was pretty much in our faces with no cloud.  This is always a tough spot for me as it has lots of wild life so I want to take a lens that can "reach out and touch someone".   I have a really good 80-200mm Nikon ED but it's big and I find it cumbersome in the boat, but I also have a 70-300mm Sigma.  Pretty cheap but it can give some pretty cheap results if not handled properly.   In the end I took the Sigma, still not sure if that was the right decision given how many pictures are crap but I did manage a few really nice ones on the way back with the sun behind us.

Click the image for a way bigger version!

There is an Osprey nest in this area and we had 4 birds following us throughout the trip.

Lots of turtles around, Jen got more photos of them then I as I was steering the canoe to "sneak up" on them.

There are lots of Heron's on this section of the river, but I have never seen them so "cagey", never got close enough for a decent photo.  Even more surprising is that at one point there was 3 of them all flying together.  I have never seen Heron's travel in groups before.

These last few shots were by far the best, sun was behind us, we got fairly close and he/she cooperated.  The Osprey's and the Heron's kept playing with us for the entire time, letting us get into photo range and then taking off.   Also not fun shooting from a canoe, it can try your patience.

There you go, caught up on the vacation thus far.   Still puttering around with the radio antennas.  I got the 20ft tower up for the 6m quad but still need to install the rotator and mount the antenna on top but should be up and running on 6m's in the next few days.   But for now just enjoying the summer.