Rest in Peace Jack

Hold Your Family and Friends Tight

Rest in Peace Jack

The news of Jack Layton's passing has hit me hard today.

In the past few months, my family and I have watched the news and marvelled at Jack's strength and felt incredibly solemn as we watched him battle cancer. We often remarked that even Jack's appearance was so uncannily similar to that of my father-in-law, another hero with a kick ass moustache who fought like hell, but succumbed to cancer 5 years ago.

Jack changed who I am. He taught me that there is a place for ‘heart’ in politics; he taught me that there is more than just left or right, and above all that a smile can calm a room and provide a sense of comfort. He raised a generation of caring Canadian youth that will become our future leaders. He left a mark on our country that I never expected.

My father-in-law changed who I am. He taught me how to enjoy a glass of wine; he taught me patience and social responsibility. He taught me how to level a sidewalk, how to call CAA, and above all how everyone deserves your love and a second chance.  He raised three of the most down to earth boys you’ll ever meet, teaching them respect, kindness and love. He left a mark on my heart that I never expected and to this day I tear up at the thought of him.

Today on the day of Jacks passing, I mourn not only his loss but also the loss of my father in law, as thousands of Canadians are also reminded of their loved ones and mourn for those taken so unfairly by cancer.

In Jacks last letter to Canadians he said : “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”  They are words that I hope everyone battling something – be it poverty, racism, bullying, personal demons, or cancer - can cling to. They are words that I hope resonate with every Canadian. And while I fight the urge to get angry that yet another father, uncle, partner, leader, human is taken from us too early, I will remember what Jack said and turn that anger into love and optimism.

Hold your family and friends tight. Cherish the moments you have with them, and look into the eyes of your children and know that they will be the generation that slays the cancer beast.   I can only imagine that is what Jack, and my father in law, would want.

Rest in peace Jack, and give Dad a hug for me.

To donate to the Canadian Cancer Society click here.


Big Screen Home Theatre Bliss

Tips and Tricks So You Can Easily Do it Too

Big Screen Home Theatre Bliss

About 6 months ago, the Geekdad came home with a sheepish grin on his face and said: “If we move the couch I can get 100 inches! That’s the perfect size for a TV.” 

Truth be told, I dropped my wooden spoon onto the kitchen floor, wondering if he had suffered a mild concussion on the way home from work.

“100 inches?” I asked “Have you lost your mind?” I was hoping that would be the end of the conversation, but I could tell by the look on his face that the wheels were still turning. (I know my husband well enough to know that when he gets that look on his face, it’s best to let him go.) As much as I hated to admit it, we were soon going to be moving the couch.

The next few weeks consisted of Geekdad scouring through ads and websites looking for a sale, but given the prices and web pages I was seeing, I wasn’t sure there was any way our budget was going to allow this to happen.

That was until – he found a projector on sale. Gulp. And then he found a projector screen with remote that was just the right size for our basement.  Double Gulp. This was it, the time had come, TV supremacy would be his.

He ordered the projector and screen online, and as soon as they arrived he began the installation. The measuring tape was going full tilt, angles from this spot, distance between speakers, if it was in our basement it was measured. Couches were moved, cables were run, speakers were installed, and box valences were built.  The excitement level was building, and Ok, I was starting to warm up to the idea as well.

When it came time to flip the switch on the projector the look on his face was priceless.  The Ottawa Senators were on in HD that night so we sat down on the couch, and started to watch.  He called it “amazing” and was thrilled, I called it “ridiculous” and was motion sick.  The Geekling called it ‘awesome’ and changed the channel and promptly started having a light saber fight against Darth Vader.

The Geekling tests out his light saber skills

I’ll admit now that after the shock of the size wore off, I really like having the projector in the house. We spent less than $1500 on the projector, screen, wood for the valences, and cabling which is far less than the numbers that popped into my head when we first started the discussions.  It’s given us great movie nights, and even better evenings with friends watching sports (which has saved us money on tickets this year for sure).

The moral to this story, don’t discount seemingly crazy home theatre ideas. If you do your research you can do it affordably.

A few tips:

Measure your space - Before you even get started planning your home theatre, you need to make sure you have the space to do it.

Talk to people - I'm sure someone in your life has done it (hint - twitter: @ksswansong) and can give some advice.

Read product reviews before you decide what you want -  The time being spent on research should be considered part of your home theatre investment, use the internet to search for what real people think of any TV, or projector or screen equipment before you commit to your project.
Price check online - As you can imagine, the big box stores here in Canada can be pretty expensive. Most online retailers have really good sales, and a lot of Canadian and American sites offer free shipping.
Don’t assume you need the ‘best’ of everything - Cables are a great example of this – Monster cables can be a monster rip off for most people. Save money by buying lower ‘name’ cabling.

And the final moral to the story: If you want a life sized Ellen Pompeo in your basement, it takes 100 inches.

The full projector screen (with laundry basket for scale).


Guardly Personal Safety App

Connect to Those You Love in Case of Emergency

Guardly Personal Safety App

Imagine yourself in one of these situations: you’re running alone in the wee hours of the morning, and you fall and break your ankle. Or, you’re walking alone through campus and you can’t help but feel the person behind you has been following you a bit too long. Or, maybe your teenager has a severe peanut allergy and you need to know where they are in case of an emergency.

I’m a runner, and a working Mom with severe allergies, and I was also a college student. When I was in college, the frosh week kit included rape whistles for all of the new girls on campus. The whistle went right onto my keychain, but it wasn’t ‘cool’ so I hardly carried it with me, and I always wondered how my friends and family would know where I was if an emergency happened anyway. Now that I’m a mother I worry about where I am and where my family is even more.

Canadian company Guardly has created an app that is “a mobile personal safety system designed to help you connect to your trusted safety network during an emergency.” It’s an app that I’ve had running for a while on my iPhone and BlackBerry (currently in beta) that has given me a sense of security unlike anything I’ve had in an app before.

How it works

When you install Guardly on your smartphone, the first thing you do is enter in your personal profile. Think of this profile like those cards that come with new wallets. You can include your height, weight, blood type, hair colour as well as contact information for yourself and medical professionals that you deal with. My advice is to be as detailed as possible here, you'll soon see why.

After your profile is set up you add contacts (either from your existing device address book, or you can setup new contacts), and add those contacts to groups like Family, Friends, Campus Friends etc. Finally, you add locations that you frequent (Home, work, school etc.)

Once configured, in the case of an emergency, you simply have to tap the Guardly icon on your phone and your groups are notified by telephone, email & text message that you have an emergency situation. (Don’t worry, the phone vibrates like crazy and gives you time to cancel the request if you’ve hit it accidentally).

Your emergency contacts can join a conference call or connect to an emergency response website that shows your current location as well as your profile information. Within this website, they can see photos that you are taking, and track your location if you’re moving. This means, your emergency contacts know where you are, what you see, and can keep in touch.

And remember that whistle they gave me at Frosh? At any time during an emergency alert, you can use Guardly to play a loud repeating whistle sound to deter would-be attackers or signal for help. Much cooler than carrying my fluorescent green Fox 40.

The free version of Guardly includes the location pin pointing feature and is available for iPhone, and coming soon for Android, Windows Phone 7 and BlackBerry devices. The premium edition is $9.99/ month, or $99 / year and provides the conference call, website, real time tracking, and other features.

I won’t be uninstalling this one, and I think I'll be buying a year subscription for a certain relative heading to university this year.

Guardly is giving away 5 lifetime subscriptions to Guardly's Premium personal safety service. Each winner can then pick 5 other friends or family members who will also receive a lifetime subscription. You can access the contest page here.