Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Where I went in China

With the devastating earthquake in China so soon after my return, I have had about a dozen people e-mailing to ask if I was close to the affected area in Siuchan or Chengdu. While I wasn't in Siuchan province, I spent two weeks in the neighbouring provinces of Yunnan and Hunan.

View Larger Interactive Map

The maps of China on Google and Yahoo are very limited, so the map in my travel journal couldn't find the places that I visited. So, I made this map using the satellite versions to help find the "smaller" cities that were not marked on the maps. The red cross on the map is Chengdu, about 60km south of the epicentre of the earthquake. Places visited during my most recent trip are marked in red, my 2004 trip is marked in blue, and my visit to China during my 1992 trip to Asia is marked in green. You can click on the coloured markers and an info bubble opens up with some details. If you view the larger map, there is a table of contents on the left, listing all the places I visited, which is also clickable.

Photos from my travels are on Flickr which also has a map showing the geographical location where the photos were taken. It is a great feature, but it won't let me add other markers to the map, so I couldn't add a marker for Chengdu.

The Google / Yahoo war rages on. I live in two worlds that just can't get along. I like Picasa (Google) for offline photo organization, but I use Flickr (Yahoo) for online photo storage. They don't work together. This blog is in Google, but my travel journal was on Yahoo, for easier integration with my photo site. The map couldn't locate many of the places I visited (despite populations of a million or more), so I had to create a Google map too. I guess that I just have to face that I'm a blogging geek and should just enjoy the fact that I have choices. It is like my friend's recent dilemma: she regularly went to two different gyms - one for squash and one for fitness classes. She couldn't pick just one gym to join, so she continues to go to both. I have learned from her that accepting this is half the battle. But will Google win the war?

Friday, May 2, 2008

The carport of my dreams

After a winter with near record snowfall, it is natural for one to dream of a carport. Watching Dan shovel all that snow out of our uncovered parking spot really exhausted me. If I build him a carport, we won't have to worry about snow for the next four years. We will be guaranteed to have record low snowfall if I invest in such a structure.

Spring was in the air last week, and I felt that it was time to get moving on some quotes. I canvassed friends for landscaping recommendations and came back with only two names. One is coming tomorrow to do a quote, and the other one is considering if he has time to do the job at all. I then joined the Home Service Club, who guarantees the work of their recommended contractors or you don't pay. They promised me calls from three contractors within 48 hours to arrange quotes. We are getting close to 46 hours and still no calls. The jury is still out on this club.

As I wait to hear back from contractors, I started researching, and found this great carport plan online. It looks simple enough. Isn't it something that Dan and I could do on our own? It is kinda like building a fence, with a roof -- do I really need a building permit for this?

I called the City of Toronto, just to be certain, and discovered that their bureaucracy really is as bad as people say. I looked on the website and found a definition of a carport but could not find out if a permit was required to build one. So, I called their info line. After listening to several menus and making several choices, I was routed to a voice mail for the help person, who is away this week. The message said that somebody else would return my call, but then the mailbox was full, so I couldn't leave a message. I called back a few more times, trying to get a live person, but with no luck. My suspicion is that you do need a permit, so I have registered myself for an info session on May 13. At this rate, I may have a carport before the first winter snowfall. That is, if I can even afford it!!!