Wednesday, May 03, 2023

I have a valuable vintage Boggle game

I discovered recently that I have a rare collectible in my game collection. It's a Boggle game from the early '80s.

Boggle has 16 six-sided dice with letters on the side that you mix up in a square grid and then try to identify as many words as you can from adjoining dice in the three minutes it takes for sand to run through a little hour glass.

It turns out that in 1987, after I bought my game, they reissued the game with the letters rearranged differently. And while there doesn't seem to have been any official announcement about why, people have noticed that the F and the K are now on the same cube. 

This means that when you play the "new" Boggle, you'll never find words that contain both F and K. Like "funky" or "firetruck".

But if you play Boggle at my house, those words could appear.


Wednesday, April 19, 2023

My sixth shot

I'm just back from getting my 6th shot - the latest Moderna bivalent. 

I'm eligible because I'm immuno-compromised not because I'm an old guy. 

But the nurse might have thought that I am an old guy because when we discovered the sleeves were too tight to pull up for the shot. I said "You know what? I'm sick of this shirt. Have you got a pair of scissors?" 

She made me do the initial cut, but helped me tear the shirt enough to do the injection. 

It was all over less than a minute later and I barely felt it go in.

Friday, April 14, 2023

Fellow residents of Ottawa: You are welcome

Do you remember March 3, 2023? We got 15 cm of snow. It was the fourth big dump of snow this calendar year. After tuckering myself out shovelling, I decided to shell out the bucks and order an electric snow shovel.

It arrived on March 10.

Since then we've had a few flurries that melted before I could even get outside with the new shovel. 

Was my purchase of an expensive electric shovel the reason we received no more significant snow falls? I see no other explanation.

I regret that my purchase did not prevent the ice storm with its resulting tree destruction and power failures, I think the fault for that probably lies with someone who was thinking of buying a generator but didn't.

Yesterday, it went up to 30°C. Right now, it's 21°C. I imagine someone
is thinking I should move the electric shovel to the basement and the boots next to it to the closet.

But rest assured my fellow winter sufferers, I will keep these things by the door a while yet.

And I will also hold off on putting the summer tires on the car.

Monday, April 10, 2023

Terrible news: Huy Fong's Sambal Oelek

On Saturday morning, I made the trek up to Somerset Street to shop at the Lim Bangkok. I wanted some of their excellent bok choy and gai lan, but I needed a bottle of hoisin sauce and I thought it would be a good idea to get a new 3.5 litre jug of sambal oelek because I am getting low - only  a couple of weeks left.

And I need my sambal oelek. It is a straight-forward and simple blend of ground cayenne peppers, salt and vinegar. I eat it with every meal. Particularly breakfast. 

At the Lim Bangkok, I started in the sauce and oil aisle. Found a bottle of hoisin sauce no problem. But where were the jugs of sambal oelek? Not in the regular place. No 3.5 litre jugs, with or without garlic and not even the little 8 or 18 ounce jars. I feverishly checked the other aisles in case the jugs were moved. But I was not hopeful. The Superstore moves things on a regular basis. I assume to make us walk back and forth in the store more and interact with the staff, but I haven't seen products shift spots at the Lim Bangkok in ten years.

So, I picked out healthy bags of bok choy and gai lan and a bundle of green onions and went to the cash. The cashier whom I suspect is the owner is always friendly, so I asked about the sambal oelek.

"The factory is closed," he told me.

"Forever?" I asked.

"Don't know if they will come back."

After a sad trudge home, I did some internet sleuthing. News reports indicated that Huy Fong Foods who makes sambal oelek (and the very popular Sriracha sauce) had suspended operations in 2022 because of the world wide cayenne pepper shortage, but there was no news about a current suspension.

The Huy Fong Foods website actually has an easy-to-find email address for their customer service office! So I sent an email:

Subject: Is your factory closed? 

I am in Ottawa, Canada and I went to the nearby market called Lim Bangkok to buy a new jug of Sambal Oelek. I was surprised to find none at all. Not even in small jars.

The store owner told me that your factory is closed and he didn't know what would happen.

I read that you had to suspend production last year. Has the same thing happened again?

Will I one day be able to obtain your sauce that adds such pleasure to my life?

I understand that this is harder for you and all the people at Huy Fong. I wish you all the best.

Thank you,

This morning I received this reply:


Unfortunately, we are still experiencing a shortage of raw material. Although some production did resume this past Fall season, we continue to have a limited supply that continues to affect our production. At this time, we have no estimations of when supply will increase.

Because we do not sell directly to retail/market levels, we cannot determine when product will hit shelves again and/or who currently has product in stock. We are grateful for your continued patience and understanding during this unprecedented inventory shortage.  We are currently working on trying to avoid future shortages.

Thank you,
Customer Service

There you have it. In a very short time, it seems that I will have no sambal oelek. It's going to be harder to motivate myself to get out of bed in the morning.

Thursday, April 06, 2023

If a tree falls in the city...

In our loft last night, we were startled by some loud rumblings. "Nothing to worry about, it's just ice sliding off the roof."

But this morning, I looked out the window to see that a substantial limb had fallen off our big elm.

So I went out this morning with an electric saw to trim the fallen pieces and bundle them. I had just finished a bundle of smaller branches and determined the bundle was too big and would have to be split when the recycling truck arrived.

The really good-natured worker told me he'd take care of it. He picked up the bundle that was too heavy for me to lift (and I'm sure weighed more than the 15 kg the City allows), threw it in the truck, then took the big limb, and all the other branches. 

All we have left are some twigs we'll sweep up when things dry out.


Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Photo Album on the TV screen

This week, I surprised two women in my life by putting family photos on their TV screens. This is something you can do if you have an Android phone, a Google Account and Chromecast.

If you use something other than Chromecast to put shows on your TV, I bet there is another method that you can put your own photos on your TV. It might be as simple as putting photos on a USB stick and plugging the stick into a USB port on your TV.

And there's probably a way you iPhone people can do this too.

Make a Google photo album

  1. Optional step that can make things easier for you: On your computer or on a thumb drive, make a folder that is full of photos that you would enjoy having appear on your TV screen. 
  2. Sign in to your Google account. (Odds are you have one already. You definitely have one if you have a Gmail address. Otherwise, you can create one with your non-Gmail email address.)
  3. Go to Google Photos - Albums and create an album with a name that won't embarrass you when it is on your TV screen. (I went with "Display". I'm kicking myself now for not coming up with something more clever.)
  4. Open that album and click the "add photos" icon near the top right of the screen.
  5. Add photos to the album:
    1. Option A: If you've already got photos in your Google photos, you'll see the option to choose them for your TV album. There are little circles in the top left of each photo that you can click to select them.   
    2. Option B: Click "Select from computer" near the top right of the screen to select the photos you want added from whatever folder or folders you have with photos you want on your TV. This is where doing the optional step 1 comes in handy because you can navigate to that folder and select all of the files in it and upload them all at once. Otherwise, you'll be selecting them in dribs and drabs.
  6. If you are willing to allow someone else to add and remove photos, you can "share" the album with them by clicking the little 3-dots share icon and inviting them to the album. 

Set up Chromecast

Chromecast is not perfect, but it works pretty well for me even though it sometimes needs to be unplugged and restarted.

If you're already streaming with Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV or something else, maybe those services give you a way to show your own photos. If so, perhaps there's someone out there who has made a guide to tell you how to do this.

These days, a basic Chromecast unit costs around $40 (CDN). 

I recommend getting one even if you don't plan on paying for Netflix, HBO or any of the other big streamers because there are terrific free streamers out there like CBC Gem and Hoopla.

  1. On an Android device, install the Google Home app if it is not already on your phone.
  2. Follow the Chromecast instructions to physically connect it to an HDMI port on your TV and to the electric supply.
  3. Open the Home app and follow the instructions to connect the Chromecast to your wifi. There's a great set of instructions on how to do this at WikiHow.
  4. Pro Tip: During the setup, it will ask you to choose a name for the Chromecast. It offers a bunch of default names like "Bedroom" and "Living Room". It is okay to choose one of these names if you are the only person who uses your wifi. But, if you might ever be in a facility where lots of people share wifi, create a name that only you would use. Otherwise, you may find yourself trying to cast to your TV and having to choose from six choices all labelled "Living Room".  This will make it a pain for you to cast to your TV, and while you're trying to do it, you'll interrupt your neighbour's viewing.
  5. In Google Home on your Android device, with your TV on and the Chromecast HDMI port selected as the source, select your Chromecast device. (Mine is called "First Floor".)
  6. You'll see the default image that is showing on your TV. At the bottom of the screen, tap "Personalize Ambient"
  7. Before choosing the album, you might want to scroll the page and fill out the "More Settings", I like to show the Celsius temperature, the time, the device information, the personal photo data, and allow for pairs of portrait orientation photos. I also like a 10-second speed, but some people don't have the patience to wait that long for a new photo and ask for 5 seconds.
  8. Under "Personal photo curation", be sure to choose "Live albums only". For completely obscure reasons, Google will only show a limited selection of your photos if you leave it at the default "All albums".
  9. Then choose "Google Photos" - This will bring you to all of your Google Photo albums. Select the one you created for the TV ("Display" in my case). You can also choose other albums. (Let me know if you want access to my Hydrants with sunglasses album.)
  10. This should do it. I encourage you to use this power for good and not for evil.

Thursday, January 05, 2023

French TV recommendation - Sans rendez-vous

If Sans rendez-vous was in English, it would be the most talked about show on the air.*

In this half-hour comedy, nurse Sarah Lenoir (Magalie Lépine Blondeau) and her coworkers counsel people about sexual health at la Clinique de santé sexuelle Lafontaine and deal with their own life complications. 

The show is full of humour, love and acceptance.

Season 2 starts on Wednesday, January 11 at  9pm, broadcast free on Radio-Canada (Channel 5 in Ottawa on Rogers Cable) and on ICI TOU.TV.

Season 1 can be streamed on ICI TOU.TV, but you have to pay for "Extra" to see it (or do the one-month free trial).

You can also stream all of the Season 2 episodes right now by getting "Extra". 

If you're cheap like me, wait for each episode to air on broadcast TV. It will then be free for streaming on ICI TOU and will remain free until some time after the season has all aired.


Useful links