It’s been bothering me for a while. I knew I’d seen Mike Duffy’s kind before. And finally I’ve got it!
Mike Duffy is Sontaran!!
*check out Dr Who to see what I mean*
It’s been bothering me for a while. I knew I’d seen Mike Duffy’s kind before. And finally I’ve got it!
Mike Duffy is Sontaran!!
*check out Dr Who to see what I mean*
Recently, as I’ve been getting more into preparing food over going out, I’ve been paying more attention to cookware.
I’m not a gourmet cook. I do stove top frying and sauteeing. I do a lot of fish, pasta and mixed vegetables. And what I’ve found works best (at least for me) is cast iron skillets. Why cast iron? It holds heat evenly and consistently, without hot spots (if it’s quality cast) and it is better non stick than coated pans.
Cast iron is not all the same, however. Modern cast iron (post mid 1940s) is not as good as the more vintage skillets for a couple of reasons. The iron ore used after about1940 is said to be of a lower grade than previous ore. As a result of impurities, there can be hot spots and uneven heating. In order to maintain strength, the newer cast pans are thicker and heavier to compensate. The lack of the skilled tradespeople required to sculpt these pans is also a factor in the newer and heavier pans.
Not only does the extra weight make them harder to physically handle but also less responsive to heat manipulation from the burner.
Cast iron takes longer to heat than stainless or aluminum but it maintains its heat for much longer. When cooking with cast one turns down the heat after the initial heat-up and lets the pan do more of the work. A thinner pan will be more responsive to heat input.
Older, thinner and purer cast iron are therefore better cookers and easier to handle.
As well, older cast iron skillets were hand ground after removal from the mold. The cooking surfaces, after conditioning, were like glass. Newer cast is pebbled because the cost of hand grinding led to its discontinuation as a cost cutting measure.
The end result is that modern cast iron is less non stick as well as less effective.
I’m afraid I don’t know much about Canadian cast iron as most quality products seem to be American.
There are several quality manufacturers of cast that date from about the 1880s. Griswold is the most desirable manufacturer (for collectors) followed by Wagner. Other well known brands are Vollrath, Wapak (known for thinness and lightness) and Favorite Piqua. The latter two happen to be what I own and enjoy.
If you are interested in cast iron there is a wealth of information available. One site I particularly like is The Cast Iron Collector (www.castironcollector.com).
The most important part of owning cast iron is learning to clean it properly. Water and soap are enemies of cast as it causes rust. A well seasoned iron pan (seasoning essentially involves heating the pan in the oven or stove top with cooking oil) is easily cleaned with a simple damp cloth while still hot and then allowed to dry and cool gradually. It is then lightly coated with oil and is ready for the next use.
The antique pans can be quite expensive to buy on eBay. A #9 or #10, the most versatile sizes, can run $50 and up (plus delivery) for the best sought after brands. They can often be found, however, at garage sales and the like for $5 or $10 and, unless they are badly damaged or warped, can be re-conditioned to perfection with a bit of effort.
A modern Lodge cast iron skillet can be had for $30. Personally, I would say if you can afford it, try a vintage skillet and you will never look back.
I must say that I don’t think I have used anything but cast iron on my stove top in the past year.
Rogers wireless service people are terrible to deal with! I know this isn’t news to anyone who has the misfortune to be a customer of theirs but wow, what service.
I don’t have time to write more at this time because:
1. I’ve already spent two hours in the past 12 hours trying to sort out their mess
2. I’m too pissed to write sensibly.
The problem is that they see service as a game. If you’re willing to play, you can sometimes swing a good deal. But you have to watch your account like a hawk for unauthorized billings for services you thought were free. And when you speak to sales or service people and they say ‘don’t worry, I’ve made an entry of our conversation on your account’ don’t believe them. I had a long conversation with service last night. Then I phone this morning and their records show a conversation and ‘resolution’ of a problem that has little resemblance to the conversation I had with them. In fact, it is largely a fabrication.
So when I naively say to the service rep this morning ‘check your notes and you will see what I am complaining about’ the response is that the notes don’t substantiate anything I am saying to them! And there is no recourse.
Bell, of course, may be even worse. Is there no cell company with any integrity or sense of customer service?
Yep, your heard me. They are all involved.
Rob Ford has been found guilty on conflict of interest charges. The prescribed penalty is banishment from office. You may think the penalty a bit harsh but that’s what it is. So now many members of the body politic are up in arms. They say it’s undemocratic that a judge over ride the democratic choice of an electorate to remove Ford from office. I’m not going into this in a substantial way because in the past few days many others, more articulate than me, have done so. I just want to say that if you think an elected official found guilty of conflict of interest should not be punished then you have no clue as to what democracy is all about.
Why do we have laws to keep politicians in check if we aren’t going to use them? I find it disingenuous that the Right screams that it’s a left wing conspiracy that one of their own is found with their hand in the cookie jar and then claim it unjust when he is punished. And to make matters even more absurd, the proponents of mandatory sentencing rail at the harshness of the punishment meted out. They claim it is out of proportion to the circumstances that this should be taken into account.
Well, I say, welcome to the world of your own creation. How do you like it so far?
Nope, we’ve made a huge mistake in our school system. By putting so much emphasis on testing and acheivement we’ve forgotten about civic knowledge. It’s not that we need more ‘cooperative play’ in the schools. we have a lot of that and it doesn’t seem to have done much for us. What we need is a deeper pedagogy of teaching the roots and practice of democracy and our political system. Young adults have to graduate with critical faculties and the skill to understand and work with subtle nuances. Our educational system has proven itself not up to the task of teaching civics and critical thought.
If I were a teacher, I’d be ashamed of myself and my workplace right about now.
Otherwise, look what happens.
Because, as last night proved, the Conservatives can hang on to power for as long as the left in Canada says they can.
In Calgary Centre the Conservative candidate won with 37% of the vote to the Liberals 32%. The Greens did well with 25% and I don’t blame them for hanging in there. However, if I were the NDP candidate I would have made a speech on election eve saying something like ‘I would like to thank all my supporters for the work they’ve done so far but it is apparent that I cannot win this riding. I think it is important to send the Conservatives a message and to signal to all Canadians that we have an alternative to allowing Stephen Harper t0 bully all of us. In a spirit of cooperation I urge my supporters to vote Liberal in order to defeat this particularly obnoxious Conservative candidate’.
Until such a speech can be made I don’t want to hear any more complaining about Harper.
So Ford may be finished as Mayor.
There is a quote on the front page of today’s Globe and Mail: “The ship is sinking and the rats are jumping.”
During the first year of Mayor Ford’s reign, Councillor Josh Matlow voted frequently with the Mayor to support the right wing at Council. In the second year, as Ford began to lose support, Matlow, with his moistened finger firmly in the air, began to vote more often with the progressive faction at Council.
Who do you think the above quote is from? Yes, from the Councillor looking in his rear view mirror to see who has now jumped into the water with him.
Hello Josh Matlow!
Well it looks like the left is about to do it again. I’m talking about handing the trophy to the Right without a fight.
The biggest disservice to Canada by a political party in recent memory has to have been the NDP handing the reigns of government to Stephen Harper in the first place. Until then he was a scary figure to most Canadians. He was unlikely to have won an election for Prime Minister outright.
By defeating the Liberals and handing power to the Conservatives, Jack Layton broke the cardinal rule. He handed power to the enemy thereby giving them the tools of government and all the perks one has to influence the outcome of future elections. What the NDP did was allow Stephen Harper to look Prime Ministerial and not so scary. They allowed him to position himself for the subsequent drive for a majority.
Of course, the NDP has always considered the Liberals the enemy and not the Conservatives in their naive drive to move Canada toward a two party system where they feel they would have a better opportunity to achieve power (a la Britain). In doing so they handed the reigns of power over to a brilliant tactician.
Tomorrow is a bi-election in Calgary Centre. The Conservative candidate is polling at 37% with the liberals in second place at 32%. The Greens are at 17% and the NDP at 12%. The riding has been Conservative since it’s inception in 2004 and prior to that the same area has been Conservative since dinosaurs roamed Alberta (which, in fact, they still do).
In the last election the Conservatives got 56% of the vote with the NDP in second spot at 16%. So the bi-election polls are showing a major realignment of voters’ sympathies. And as we know from Stephen Harper’s election, it’s easier to fight from an incumbent’s position than a challenger. What a sea change this would be for the political landscape.
The polls show that no one but the Liberals have a chance to knock off the Conservatives. Everyone else is way back. Nathan Cullen, when he ran for the NDP leadership spoke of cooperation among the progressive parties to unseat the Conservative. Elizabeth May expressed similar thoughts.
Why then has it come to this? There is a chance to take a seat in the centre of the Conservative holy land. There is a chance her for a model of cooperation to unseat Stephen Harper in the next federal election. No one is asking the opposition parties to stand aside and not contest every close riding. But there are ridings where only one opposition party is close enough to unseat a Conservative and where the difference in polling suggests it would be an easy take. Calgary Centre is one such riding at a crucial time.
To think that the parties of progress might not be able to do the right thing is unbelievable. What we are witnessing is the handing of political power to Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada for the next federal election. If this is the future of politics in Canada then it will result in a real and significant cultural change as the Conservatives continue to stamp their misdirected interpretation of our history on this county.
I just thought I would add this observation as we enter the frenetic shopping time of the year. For several years now I’ve noticed that stores that price match are over priced.
For example, I went to Best Buy last week to buy a smart cover for my iPad Mini. I went to Best Buy because it was more convenient than going to Apple. Anyway, the cover is $45 at the Apple Store and they were charging $49.95 at Best Buy. Best Buy has a price guarantee so I was able to get them to confirm the price difference and sell the cover to me for $45.
However, the point is that they were over charging by 11% on the item.
I find this a typical scenario at such stores. They bring in customers with a promise to beat any other retailer, thus setting up an expectation that they are cheaper than other retailers. I presume they figure that most customers won’t price check and will just pay the higher prices. But it’s interesting that I have noticed that stores that offer price matching are usually more expensive.
A word of warning: if you’re shopping at these stores, do you homework first.
Ok, so call me superficial. I decided to buy a new car two years ago. At this point in my life I decided to finally get that ‘fun’ car that I always wanted: the quintessential ‘hot hatch’. I bought a 2011 VW GTI.
Since it’s a hatch that comfortably seats 5 and had folding rear seats and handles very well in the winter, it is also a practical car. It even gets good gas mileage for the performance it puts out. I’ve gotten two foldable kayaks and all relevant gear in it and can easily get three good sized hockey bags in the back.
So that was my starting point.
For some reason (mid life crisis or simply leaving children and therefore I can indulge myself) I got into this car and its possible modifications in a way I have never done with a car before.
And, being progressive, it is of course politically incorrect to be into cars. That might have been one of its appeals.
First mod? A tune. A chip. A reflash. These are all the terms used for after market reprogramming of the ECU (electronic control module–the brains of the car) for more power. Most cars, and VWs are known for this, are over engineered. That is to say, they can safely (up to a point) deliver more power without negatively impacting durability of components than the factory tunes them for. That means if you take care of your car then you can safely squeeze out more performance.
There are several companies that do this for VWs and the VW turbo engine (2.0l TSI) is particularly adaptable. I decided to go with the most popular North American tuner, APR, based in Alabama U.S.A. There is a Canadian company, Unitronic, a European, Revo and GIAC (? country of origin). They all deliver similar results but APR seems to have a very good reputation for customer service as well as a good dealer here in Toronto. So I went with them.
By the way, tuning the car actually increases efficiency and so increases km/l a bit.
Because VW doesn’t approve of this, the tuner must bypass the ECU encryption by removing the ECU and bench flashing it. There is a slight risk involved in doing this and so you must choose your tuner carefully and make sure they re-seal the ECU when it is replaced under the hood. Failure to do so has resulted in destroyed ECUs at a cost of just under $2000.
I chipped mine 18 months ago and am quite happy so far.
Chipping it increases horsepower by about 10 to 15% but increases torque by about 20%. It is noticeable when you step on the gas. It’s all very controllable, though. You just have to know how to drive.
So now I have a more performance oriented engine which will do 0-100 in about 6 seconds. As important, however, is that the stock suspension on these cars is great and cornering and on-ramps are a hoot.
A word of warning: if something goes wrong with the engine and VW determines it was the fault of a chipped ECU, they can deny repairs under warranty.
Applying power is nothing without control. I know I should have dedicated summer and winter tires but I decided to change over the stock (and pretty crappy) tires to Continental Extreme DWS (size: 225/45/17). These tires have a bit of a soft sidewall so aggressive cornering can feel a bit squishy. Personally I find them just fine but others have complained.
What is amazing about these tires is their grip on dry put particularly in the wet and slush. These tires are truly great in the rain and I feel a real added safety factor in wet weather. They have also been very good in the past two winters. I know last winter had very little snow but I was pretty impressed by their performance.
The DWS stands for Dry, Wet, Snow. As the tires wear and lose tread depth the S, then the W on the tires are worn down and disappear. That’s how you know what to expect from them. Two years into them I think I still have about another year on the S. In other words I should be good through this winter.
Next year we will see but I would buy these tires again.
I should note that I kept the 17″ wheels (most GTIs I see have upgraded 18″ wheels). The 17 s have better road feel (more comfortable as compared to lower profile tires), are cheaper to replace the rubber on and, since they are lighter in weight by at least 5 pounds (less inertial mass) they perform better in the corners. They also have better winter traction. I don’t know why people insist on getting the 18″ wheels. Looks, I guess.
So now I have the power and the contact with the road. Next I got a short shifter. The Audi TT has a short throw shifter that is an OEM direct replacement for the one that comes stock on the GTI. It is under $100 to purchase and instal. The difference isn’t huge but it makes the manual transmission just that bit nicer.
By the way, the DSG automatic transmission on the GTI is very nice. I’m just a ‘row the boat’ kind of guy.
These three mods are my main performance changes. I’ve done a couple of cute cosmetic things. I bought some decals to go over the dummy buttons that all cars have. The eject button on my console is my favourite.
I changed all the light bulbs in the interior of the car to LEDs. They are much brighter and much whiter. For $25 I really like the ambience that much better. I went with SuperbrightLEDs superwhite 5000.
To enhance level cornering and stiffen the body a bit I installed a Unibrace UB body brace underneath the car. As well, to prevent wheel hop and tighten up shifting through the gears I installed a modified polyurethane lower engine mount (cost all of $10 and makes quite a difference). Shifting gears is now a tighter more precise experience.
I’ve done a couple of minor cosmetic stuff I won’t bother mentioning for now.
Last week I disconnected the Soundaktor–a device under the hood that responds to the ECU to essentially pipe noise into the passenger cabin. They have so well insulated the passenger cabin that people can’t hear the growl of the engine, thereby detracting from the performance experience of driving the car. A number of high end cars do this.
I decided to see what the car sounds like with it disconnected. It’s not hard to do. You have to remove a rubber gasket under the hood, lift up the rain tray and reach under the windshield and disconnect. I am pondering this one.
The car is definitely quieter. On the highway it’s very nice. Around the city I kind of miss the growl that makes me feel I’m sitting on a more powerful power plan than I actually am. I may reconnect it in the future but for now it will stay disconnected.
About 3 years ago I began playing squash. A little late in life but better late than never. It’s a sport that I’ve really come to enjoy. And the Athletic Centre at the University of Toronto has almost a dozen courts in pretty good shape… not to mention that the AC is a great facility that is very handy.
So, anyway, after several years I’m wondering about a new racquet and some stringing options to enhance my otherwise lame game. Me being me, I’ve researched the topic and thought others might benefit from some of the stuff I’ve learned.
There are two basic shapes. Almost everyone these days is using the teardrop shape with the open neck. Because the strings in these racquets are longer they give more bounce to the ball after being struck. They, therefore, result in more power. However there is always a trade off of power for control. A teardrop shaped racquet will impart less control.
Most teardrop racquets have a lower string density (usually 12 x 17 or so–that’s 12 vertical by 17 cross strings). That means each string is less tethered down and moves more with each ball strike, again decreasing accuracy of the shot.
The other basic shape is oval or quadra shaped. These racquets have closed throats. The string pattern is about 16/17, ie: a denser pattern for more control. But, there is less power imparted by an impact of the same speed and strength.
Contrary to what many people think, a tighter strung racquet is a less powerful one. The deformation of the strings and the resultant trampoline effect is what imparts speed to the ball. Tighter strings don’t move and therefore don’t trampoline as much.
That’s why teardrop racquets with longer string length and lower string density are used for power while the reverse is true for control.
Depending on your game, you should use a racquet that either enhances your strength or smooths out your weaknesses. I’m still working on what is best for me. My current racquet is more of a control oriented one (Dunlop Liquidmetal). More on my next choice later. Of course most racquets promise to to enhance both, but there is always a trade off.
Aside from string tension (as above) there are other attributes to string technology. First is gauge. The higher the gauge the finer the string. The finer the string the more power (they usually stretch more) as well as the better the control (based on finer ball indentations). But the world is unfair and finer strings will break more easily. That’s $40 for a re-stringing. Gauges are 17, 18 and even 19. I think you’ll likely find it hard to get anything other than 17 or 18. By the way, 16 gauge is pretty thick for squash and not recommended. I have heard of shops that don’t do much squash stringing who have used 16 gauge because they have it is stock for tennis racquets.
String can be nylon monofilament or braided and natural gut (from cows). I have yet to try gut but if you’re a serious squash player it sounds like gut is one of those ‘you gotta’ try it once’ kind of things. Gut is about $40 more expensive, raising the cost of a re-string to about $80. But gut holds it’s tension longer so you get better playing for longer. As well, it is more forgiving in that it imparts less tension through the racquet to your hand/arm and is therefore recommended for players who are struggling with tennis elbow. I haven’t personally tested this yet so I’m just going on written advice. Gut is very sensitive to moisture and can rot and sag with high humidity. You can’t leave it in the hot trunk of a car or a wet and smelly locker (oops, that leaves me out).
Ashaway makes most of the string sold in North America and the U.K. I am currently using a textured Ashaway string, the Supernick XL. It is a 17 g with a textured surface for better ball control. Next time, though, I think I’m going to try the 18 gauge Ultranick or Powernick. The Powernick comes in a 19 gauge but I haven’t heard a lot of good things about it. It confers power but with a real lack of feel I understand.
Re-stringing costs anywhere from $15 (at Sportcheck) to $20 (Sporting Life) for labour. String is $15 to $30 (more for gut). Usually you will walk out with a bill for $30 to $40. Rule of thumb is to re-string your racquet as often per year as you play per week. So if you play twice as week, as I do, you should string your racquet twice a year (which I haven’t adhered to).
By the way, the strings that new racquets come with are usually pretty bad. Depending how anal you want to be and how much you want to spend, you can play out the factory strings or pay to re-string your new racquet at the time of purchase. If you are new to squash just play with the new racquet as is until you decide what you want to go for in several months. Get to know your racquet and your game style.
So where am I at regarding my purchase? Well, my current racquet definitely needs to be re-strung. So I thought this might be a good time to put that money toward the purchase of a new one. For some reason, I’m stuck on buying a Head racquet. For me the price/performance ratios seems to be right and they have several models that might work for me.
Luckily all the models I’m thinking of are sold at the UofT Athletic Centre and all three models are available for trial before purchase. So I’m going to try:
Head Youtek Cyano 2: this is a 115 gm racquet. It’s very light, and as typical of such a light racquet, it is head heavy. That means the balance point is past the half way point of the racquet toward the head. Otherwise the racquet would feel too light. New players like lighter racquets because they feel they can swing faster. But a lighter racquet can impart less power and can be harder to control, even though you can get your swing off later than might be wise. Pros can use the lighter weight to greater advantage than can a beginner.
At 115 gm it may be too light for me.
It is a teadrop racquet that, in spite of being so light, is built for power.
Head Youtek Anion2: this is the same racquet as the Cyano but is heavier at 135gm. As well, it is head light. Where the balance point of the Cyano is 365mm, the Anion is 335. because the balance point is closer to the handle, the Anion feels very similar in weight to the Cyano.
Head Neon2: this is a 130gm racquet with a 370 balance point. It is quadra shaped and built more for control than power.
I am just going to have to try each of these for a game and then see what feels better. They can each be tweaked by a re-stringing as well.
They range in price from about $130 to $160 (even though ‘MSRP’ pegs them at about $200).
By the way: Dunlop double dot balls. Period. When the balls become shiny (and therefore less grippy), wash them under water and give them a rub (to roughen them) on a carpet.
Opinions vary on when to replace balls. Some say when they break, others when they get shiny and feel dead.
I signed up for squash lessons at the Athletic Centre to help improve my game. Who knows, with a better racquet and lessons I might be able to return the odd serve yet!
UPDATE(Sept 30): So I played squash yesterday and talked the Pro Shop at the AC into letting me serially go through the three racquets I’m interested in.
First I went with the Cyano2. I must say I liked it quite a bit. Although it is quite light the head heavy balance seems to work well to give it the feel of a bit of heft. I wasn’t blown away by the power but it did hit a bit harder than my current racquet. I didn’t feel any real loss of control. I appreciated the lightness.
The Anion2 just felt heavier and not as quick as the Cyano.
The Neon2 had quite a different feel. I think I could sense the lack of power in return for more control. My partner/opponent thought I was making more accurate shots. Hard to know.
In the end, I found a great deal on the Cyano at Sporting Life and decided to buy it. I may or may not keep it.
I’m thinking if I string it with 18 gauge Supernick XL string I may have the perfect balance.
I should also add that I developed some bad habits over the last several years of playing and since starting lessons my game has definitely fallen off as I concentrate on technique. In other words I’m playing at the bottom of my correct style rather than at the top of my bad habits. So far I’m down on my game. But, hopefully, it will all pay off in the end.
UPDATE (Oct 2): So this afternoon my new squash racquet arrived by UPS. Tonight I broke my old squash racquet! Karma.