Thursday, October 22, 2015

Cat Toys on Amazon.ca

By C. Moffat

Today I browsed Amazon.ca for cat toys to see what things are available. And oddly enough discovered I could just make these toys myself.

First up is "Da Bird Go Cat Rod". It is quite literally a rod with string and some feathers attached to it. Not complicated at all. Indeed our cat Victoria has already been playing with something similar - except we used yarn instead of feathers. I did put a feather on the yarn at one point, but she ripped it off of there eventually. Since then I have replaced that with a heavier item because I felt the yarn was too light weight. You can see video of Victoria playing with the yawn version.

So my review for "Da Bird Go Cat Rod" is GO MAKE YOUR OWN! Don't waste $14.99 on some feathers on a string.

Note - If you stick the rod above a fan, the fan blows the yawn / feathers around like crazy and the cat goes nuts for it. It is basically an automated way of giving the cat some exercise. She runs back and forth doing "drive by clawing" at it.


Next up is cat springs, or as the official name on Amazon.ca goes "Ethical Pet Wide Durable Heavy Gauge Plastic Colorful Springs Cat Toy, 10-Pack"... Not sure how much she would play with that, but for only $4.90 it doesn't seem like a horrible price at least for a cat toy. I have some steel springs that just won't do the job. Curious to see what a cat would do with a brightly coloured plastic springs.

I have determined our cat is picky about what she chooses to play with. Yawn and feathers are awesome. Bits of crumpled plastic also good. Plastic springs? No idea.


Very similar to the plastic springs are "Mylar Balls", which is to say balls of scrunched up plastic. Again, this is something you can make yourself. You don't need to spend $5.99 on a pack of 4 mylar balls for the cat to have some fun. Leftover packaging will accomplish the same job.

I am not even going to bother showing a photo of the mylar balls. Complete waste of money.

Continuing down the list there is also various kinds of bouncy balls, bouncy mice on a dangling flexible rod (our cat would knock that over in the first 30 seconds), so-called "cat tunnels" for the cat to play in - as opposed to "a cardboard box" which apparently most cats love playing in,

And then we come to "OurPets 100-Percent North American Catnip Filled Banana Cat Toy A Peeling"... which is basically just plastic with catnip inside. I am pretty sure I could arrange that. When we got the cat one of the things we got came with a bonus bag of catnip. So we have the catnip, it is just a matter of how to use it.

When we got Victoria from the pet store they gave us a plush mouse chew toy which had apparently been in her cage with her. She has since lost all interest in that. Hasn't touched in more than twice since we first got her home. I am tempted to cut the mouse open, stuff it with catnip and resew it back up. She would probably go nuts for it then.

One thing I have that by accident she loves is plastic rats. I picked them up for Halloween a few years ago, and the cat loves those things. She bats them around, chews on them, etc. So if I wanted her to play with them even more I could just stick a hole in it, add catnip, seal the hole in a manner where can still smell it.

If you have suggestions for cat toys we should consider buying, or cat toys we can make ourselves please post your suggestions in the comment section below.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Xmas Shopping List for Men 2015

Not sure what to buy the men in your life for xmas? Here are some tips.

By C. Moffat.

Yesterday I sent my xmas list of suggestions to family members so they have some ideas of what to get me this year. I do this every year, usually sometime in September or October, because my family is super into xmas shopping and getting it done early.

Amongst the things I asked for this year were several things you could basically get for almost any man. Let me explain...

#1. Leather belts

Unless the man in question is a vegan who hates anything made of leather, chances are he probably needs more leather belts. Dress belts. Casual belts. Somewhat amusing belts. It doesn't matter. Belts are a good thing that every man wants and needs.

For the vegans out there, get a faux-leather belt that possibly looks and feels like the real thing. Or if you think they would be offended by something that looks like leather, see #2 below.

#2. Suspenders

Honestly, like belts, suspenders are one of those things men find very useful. Now not all men wear suspenders, but when they do they look awesome.

Lots of different styles of suspenders to choose from too. Myself I actually asked for two different kinds:

Black Suspenders. Because everything goes with black suspenders.

Moffat Family Tartan Suspenders - because certainly somebody out there has that, or something similar to that.

#3. T-Shirts

Regardless of what is on the t-shirt, men do like to wear t-shirts regularly as part of their casual wear. I wear them to work regularly too, so for me having lots of t-shirts is kind of a necessity.

I asked for two different kinds of t-shirts: thermal t-shirts that keep the body nice and warm; Avro Arrow t-shirts - which is pretty specific, but there are a lot of companies online which sell them.


#4. Tools and Toolboxes

Buying men tools for xmas is pretty much a tradition in my family. In my case this year I asked for specific tools: An old fashioned hand auger for drilling holes by hand; a small flat toolbox for storing chisels in. What can I say, I prefer hand tools over power tools these days.


#5. Magazine Subscriptions

Chances are likely the men in your life like reading about something - whether it is sports, fishing, hunting, motorcycles, cars, knitting... Thus getting him a subscription to a magazine he would enjoy is a pretty easy way to get them a gift - a gift that lasts 12 months of the year!

For me that topic in question is archery, and the magazine subscription I recommended is: "TradArchers' World", a magazine that caters specifically to traditional archery enthusiasts and bowyers.


#6. Sporting / Gaming Equipment

Many men are into sports. Not all but quite a few. Those who are not into sports are probably into gaming - video games like Call of Duty, Metal Gear Solid, Assassin's Creed, etc. So figure out whether the man in question is Sports or Games oriented and then figure out what they want with respect to that.

For me, I asked for fishing lures - because in addition to archery I also enjoy fishing.

One Last Tip... Pet Supplies

Many people, not just men, also have pets. Dogs, cats, fish, jackalopes... It doesn't matter. So getting them something for their cat, dog, fish or jackalope means that they will definitely use it. Find out what they have, if anything, and then consider pet supplies as an option.

For those people I know who have pets I make a special effort to get some kind of kitty treats or a dog chew toy for that person, as a small bonus on top of the gift. A magazine subscription and a bag of dog treats for Bowser shows that you actually put thought and effort into the gift giving.

A note about Gift Cards and Yankee Swap...

Do not get people gift cards unless it is for an office xmas party or something like that where you don't really know the person.

Also "Yankee Swap" is a horrible way of giving gifts amongst co-workers, so please don't do it for family members either. Horrible. What were you thinking?!

Canada's Four National Political Parties Reviewed as if they were Products

Hello Canada!

Today we are going to do something fun. We are going to review 4 of Canada's national political parties as if they were a product review. We are not going to talk about the leader's of those parties, because frankly those leaders are really just spokespeople for their party's political views. So let's get started in alphabetical order.

The Conservative Party

Canadians have been trying the Conservative Party on for size during the last 10 years and they don't quite fit. They come with a lot of baggage including 6 deficits, a $140 billion increase to the Canadian national debt, an unemployment rate that has left 236,200 more Canadians unemployed during the last 10 years, and as of Summer 2015 Canada is now in a recession. They also have a dismal environmental record, and apparently really don't like murdered/missing indigenous women, women having the right to choose, women's shelters, or Muslim women having the right to wear whatever clothing they want to wear. They also don't like Canadians having the right to privacy and apparently all in favour of spying on Canadians - with no oversight as to what they do with that information. On the plus side, if you are a rich Canadian you are probably even richer now because the Conservative Party spent 10 years lowering taxes on the rich.

The Conservative Party was created in 2003 when the Reform/Canadian Alliance Party and the Progressive Conservative Party merged to become a right-wing party with very little progressive values.

We give the Conservative Party 1 star out of 5. Clearly, they just don't fit Canada.

The Green Party

The Green Party of Canada was founded in 1983 and is Canada's smallest national party. They have a sum total of 1 member of parliament, and at their max they have only ever gained 2 seats. The Green Party is essentially the same as the Conservative Party, but with Greener (more environmentally friendly) values. Thus you would think that anyone who normally votes Conservative but also likes the environment would vote for the Green Party, right? Wrong. The party is so universally ignored - despite their resemblance to the old "Progressive Conservative Party" - that they are often left out of debates, completely sidelined / left in the penalty box, tossed aside like a moldy Tim Horton's donut, traded like an old hockey player that nobody wants, whatever Canadian metaphor you want to use. Basically, the Green Party is there to remind Canadians that we should do something about cleaning up the environment, and then we don't actually do it. Some people point to the fact that the party really only has 1 elected member, and that the one member lacks qualities that make for good leadership, but really it isn't about leadership. It is about the fact that most Canadians only pay lip service to the environment and simply don't care. Maybe 20 years from now when climate change has wrecked destruction across Canada, then Canadians will care and vote for the Green Party - but by then maybe the other parties will have changed their attitudes towards climate change and make it a bigger part of their focus.

No review for this particular party because they've never been given a chance to govern.

The Liberal Party

From 1993 to 2006 Canadians tried on the Liberal Party to see how we liked them. We kept them around for almost 14 years so that is a long time. During that 14 years Canada went through an economic boom, entered the war in Afghanistan but decided to stay out of the war in Iraq. In retrospect both of those decisions seemed to solid and wise decisions. 1993 to 2006 was a good time for Canada's middle class as their taxes were lower, the economy was solid, social programs were robust and helped people and the economy, and many more people had jobs back then. In 1995 things were so good that 49% of the people in Quebec tried to leave Canada and 51% said no, we don't want to leave. At that same time the Liberals spent millions of dollars of government money on advertising in an effort to keep Quebec as part of government. That advertising money later became a spot of confusion about what the money was used for exactly, and some people accused the Liberal Party of using some of the money for their own re-election efforts in Quebec. Whether you believe that the Liberal Party used the money correctly, or whether it was part of the so-called "Sponsorship Scandal", nobody really knows because too many unanswered questions were involved. What we do know is that Quebec is still part of Canada and that the Liberals were tossed out in 2006.

We give the Liberal Party 3 stars out of 5 because they did pretty well last time around, but they also did very little to address safe drinking water / murder rates in Native communities, and they need to be more clear about what they are spending things on. Clearly, they need to work harder.

The New Democratic Party

The NDP has never formed a government in Canada. They have only recently (2011 to 2015) been the official opposition. They have no experience running a government, but hey, neither did the Conservatives. The party was founded in 1961 and during the last 55 years have supported various minority governments for better healthcare, more social programs to help reduce poverty in Canada, and environmental protectionism. But we've never tried the NDP as a government, because we really don't know much about them. We do know they are in favour of raising taxes on the rich, more social spending to help the poor, and more laws to protect the environment.

These all sound great on paper (unless you are rich), but it is a bit like trying a strange food that you've never had before. You don't know what it is going to taste like so you are not sure what is going to happen when you finally try it. It might be very good, it might be very bad, or it might have both pros and cons. Clearly it would be good for anyone who is struggling in the economy, but anybody who makes lots of money would probably be very upset that they suddenly have to pay more taxes to help "welfare cases".

However as the NDP are quick to point out, welfare in Canada isn't all that great anyway. It is basically just there to prevent people (often single mothers) from becoming homeless and their kids being taken by the state - which would cost the Canadian government more money in the long run to take care of problem kids, not to mention legal costs, a high suicide rate of crown wards, etc. Ultimately it is cheaper to support welfare than to fill up the crown ward system.

So at this time we are going to withhold judgment on the NDP because they still haven't been given a chance. Maybe someday, but for now we clearly don't know enough to give a proper review.




NOTE

We have deliberately left the Bloc Québécois out of this review because they are not actually a Canadian political party in any real sense. As a Quebec separatist party their sole purpose is regional, and usually with an effort towards gaining Quebec extra favours - usually in the form of handouts from Ottawa. This makes the rest of the country upset, as Quebec's economy is actually quite strong and they should actually be giving extra money to poorer regions of the country instead of getting handouts. It would be like rich people standing on street corners asking for charity. They don't need it and they should be ashamed to ask for it.

If it was up to us, we would only give money to Quebec (and other provinces) with conditions attached. eg. Start by getting clean drinking water in Native communities. If you don't do that first, why should we give you extra money? It is like dealing with a spoiled teenager who doesn't want to clean their room. Cut off their allowance until they clean up their act.

"Oh you want more money from Ottawa? See those communities who don't even have clean drinking water. Fix those first and then you can have your allowance."

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Wit and Wisdom of Downton Abbey - A Book Review

By C. Moffat.

Yesterday I checked the mail and my copy of "The Wit and Wisdom of Downton Abbey" arrived. The book is a collection of quotes compiled by Jessica Fellowes from the TV show Downton Abbey.

My girlfriend introduced me to Downtown Abbey two years ago and I have been a fan ever since. Since then I believe I have probably seen every episode at least 3 times. Because they are worth re-watching.

When you consider that I normally favour more action-based TV shows like Arrow, Flash, Top Gear, CSI (Vegas), Daredevil, Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Archer, Hell on Wheels, etc then it comes as a bit of a surprise that I also like Downton Abbey.

I should also note that I also like Coronation Street, and am a fan of British television in general, so maybe it shouldn't be that unusual.

Anyway, the book is basically a quote book of lines from the TV show divided up into subjects like love, death, hope, family, parenting, and also more specific topics like:

"On the Upper Classes"

"Fight for your Rights"

"Lessons in Flirting"

"How to manage the Servants..."

"Huntin', Shootin', Fishin'"

The last one I wish there was something about archery, but hey I am obsessed. I would love it if there was a character on the show who practiced archery.

The book is an enjoyable read - especially any by Violet.

A lot of similar quotes that are found in the book can also be found online in memes, but they won't be so stylishly bound together in red hardcover and Times font. And such memes would be hopelessly lost in a horde of other memes and comments from people who have never heard of Downton Abbey saying things like "What is Downtown Abbey?"

The book retails in Canada for $18.50 CDN. Which to Downton Abbey fans is a price well worth paying. I predict people will enjoy reading this book in bed, on the subway, on the toilet - it doesn't matter. What is important is that book actually manages to dispense both sound advice to the reader, and a dose of good humour.

On a scale of 1 to Amazing, I give this book a score of "Waaaaaay better than reading the Bible". Take that!




Kitty Treats for Cats / Training Your Cat

In an effort to train our cat Victoria we have tried rewarding her with Whiskas Temptations (seafood flavour).

What we have determined is that the cat exhibits positive behavioural characteristics when kitty treats are involved. Even the rattle of the treats inside the bag is enough to change the cat's mood and suddenly she is very friendly, less aggressive, and easier to deal with.

In contrast when she is misbehaving she gets the water gun. We tried using a spray nozzle, but determined it doesn't quite work all the time and doesn't spray very effectively. Instead we adopted a Walter PPK plastic water gun as our method of negative reinforcement of behaviours.

At present, just the sight of the water gun or the spray nozzle causes the cat to scurry away - and her negative behavoural traits (aggressive biting) have been reduced significantly compared to when we first got her.

As a rescue cat from the Toronto Humane Society they warned us that she does like to bite - mostly as a way as expressing her dominance, but also as a way of expressing displeasure - and sometimes she just bites because she is feeling playful.

When we got her we were tempted to name her Luisa Suarez, after the soccer player Luis Suarez who is known for biting people.

However we felt that naming her after a vampire who plays soccer was a little too much, so instead we opted for a more regal sounding name - thus we chose Victoria, after Queen Victoria.

Although sometimes I think it should be Queen Bitoria.

Anyway, back to the Whiskas Temptations (seafood medley) - Victoria goes nuts for this stuff. Her behaviour completely changes and using it as a treat for behaviour modification (rewarding her for good behaviour) appears to be working. Thus we are giving it a thumbs up.

We may try other brands / flavours in the future, but for now seafood seems to be working just fine.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Why is the Pickle Barrel's burgers so small?

Went to the Pickle Barrel today. I have been there previously and they used to have large burgers.

Today however... Tiny burger. Tiny. As in McDonalds burgers are bigger. Years ago the burgers at Pickle Barrel used to be quite large, large bun, 1 large thick patty. Now they use a small bun and stick two small patties on there, making it smaller than a Big Mac from McDonalds. (And the Big Mac isn't that "big".)

Tasted like a McDonalds burger too. Very strange.

So it was basically an overpriced McDonalds burger served with a salad. The salad was good, the burger was not.

The burger was also delivered surprisingly fast - like McDonalds fast. And it was undercooked. Medium rare. Not impressed by that either.

Service was par. Nothing impressive there either.

Overall I give The Pickle Barrel 1 star out of 5. It was edible and the service was par. They should be embarrassed.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Cat Product Reviews

Product Reviews Canada now has a cat - Victoria, after Queen Victoria. In the future we will be adding cat oriented product reviews for cat food, scratching posts, kitty litter, cat brushes (Victoria is a longhair mixed), cleaning supplies, odour removal, cat carriers, cat toys, cat treats and more.

Companies with such products who are looking for product reviews are advised to contact us.

We got Victoria from "Pet Smart" with a donation to the Toronto Humane Society. Victoria is a rescue cat as her previous owner abandoned her and she was picked up and cared for by the Toronto Humane Society. The donation was approx. $99.

Victoria is grey, has long hair with bits of orange in it and despite being only 2 the grey hair makes her look quite old. She has a habit of biting people if she gets annoyed which means she is not good with children. I will say you start to develop faster reflexes with your hands for her moods can switch rapidly.

Note to self - buy chew toys.





Update October 19th

The Toronto Humane Society has literally thousands of cats that need homes. If you have a home, and you like cats, why not get a cat that needs some love? We did. And we really like her. Victoria is now part of our family - and we are currently building her YouTube Channel at:

Victoria Has Claws

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Ivory Vikings, a Book Review

By C. Moffat.

As someone who has been into woodcarving since the age of 8, and even recently got into carving antler, I found this book to be fascinating. I also am into archaeology, Viking history, and Scottish history. So this book was good on all these topics.

I also as a kid played chess competitively, and can, in my opinion, hold my own. When I resumed playing chess in university I discovered I had only gotten better with age.

The book we are discussing here, "Ivory Vikings" by Nancy Marie Brown, is about a selection of Viking-era Chess pieces found on a beach in north-west Scotland. The majority of the pieces are carved from walrus ivory, and are believed to have been carved in Iceland roughly 600 - 700 years ago.

This is not a storybook. Rather I would classify it as a complete investigation into the mystery surrounding these marvelously carved chess pieces. The total number of chess pieces suggest they were once in a sack containing a total of 4 - 5 complete sets, but sadly many of the pieces are missing and if you mixed and matched the sets you would only get two complete sets.

Reading the book you will however learn lots about the carver(s) of the chess pieces. It is my personal suspicion that like all great artists, the artist who created the chess pieces had apprentices who would do the work on the lesser pieces. Reading the book you may come to a similar conclusion to mine. The author has her own theories so I won't spoil it and let the reader make up their own mind when they read the various theories on the topic.

Now you might be wondering - Wait, why is it a whole book about some mysterious ivory chess pieces? Well these particular chess pieces are the most famous and valuable pieces in the world, they are considered to be invaluable. The value of a single face piece is in the millions. The pawns less so.

While reading the book I even daydreamed of writing a movie script about stealing the chess pieces and a Sherlock Holmes-esque caper to get the pieces back. Perhaps the chess pieces could even be reunited with the full set in the film... With some villainous character having found the missing pieces and deciding they wanted the full set.

Anyway, I think I made my point. Ivory Vikings is an inspiring book to read. It tantalizes the imagination.

Replicas of the Ivory Vikings were used in one of the Harry Potter films.

Also while I am at it the TV series "Vikings" (an action drama produced by the History Channel) is fantastic. I definitely recommend watching it. Below is the trailer for Season One. Season Four will likely begin airing in February 2016.


How to Judge Restaurants based on their Restroom

This post came about by accident.

My girlfriend and I went out to eat at the Indian restaurant "Amaya" on Bayview Avenue in Leaside - and upscale area of Toronto. Which you would think would mean the food is good and the restrooms are clean.

Before ordering I went to use the restroom and discovered a little surprise. A cockroach, live, swimming in the toilet. The rest of the restroom was equally disgusting. As was the basement where the restroom was located. The stairs to the basement were also a tripping hazard, I tripped once on the way down and once on the way up. Wow.

Needless to say we left almost immediately.

We went down the street to "Kama Sutra" instead, another Indian restaurant in the same neighbourhood. The restroom was so nice it had music, smelled of air freshener, and was super clean.
What this tells you is that you get what you pay for. At Amaya the food might be cheaper, but it might also contain cockroaches or their droppings. At Kama Sutra it is pricier, but the food is excellent and cockroach free.

Also I should note the service at Kama Sutra was excellent, the butter chicken was awesome, there is a large selection of beverages to choose from - and they have live music on Thursday nights.

We shall have to go back again sometime.

Behold, the live cockroach in the toilet at Amaya, 1574 Bayview Ave.
Behold, the sparkling clean (and amazingly fresh smelling) toilet at "Kama Sutra", 1522 Bayview Ave.

Aerodynamic components and Industrial Inventory

Looking Online for Industrial Inventory

When you are in charge of keeping your company's industrial inventory replenished, you want to know what options are available that will let you satisfy your duties to your employer, but also give the workers in the factory the best materials with which to work. Rather than restrict your choices to local suppliers, you may enjoy a better selection when you shop online. By shopping on the Internet, you can find materials like aerospace metals and alloys that your employer can use to create its line of products. You also can determine in what format you would like to have this inventory shipped to your factory.

If your employer specializes in making aerodynamic components like wings or fronts of airplanes, you need a material that is lightweight and capable of surviving high altitudes. You could learn more about aluminum and why this material still remains one of the most popular to use in this industry. When you shop online for aluminum, you can learn about its weight and dimensions. If it meets your employer's needs, you can then order the appropriate amount.

Other metals available for you to consider include copper and stainless steel. Both of these metals are heavier than aluminum. Nonetheless, they have their place in the industrial arena. If your factory produces accessories or equipment used in the aeronautic field, these materials may provide the durability that your clients expect when ordering such items from you. You can read up on these materials and learn more about their weights, dimensions, and other specifications online as well.

If you are new to ordering or working with any of these materials, you may be well served by reading the blog found on the supplier's website. The blog can fill you in on key information such as why these materials are popular, how they are produced, and for what purpose they can be used. You can also learn in what format they are available for shipping. For example, if your factory has a narrow, but tall door, you may prefer that your metals be shipped in roll form instead of sheet form. The rolls can fit through the doorways better. Likewise, if your factory has a wide, expansive dock area you can ask that the metals be shipped in sheet form. Sheets of metal are unblemished and ready to cut right away to make products.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

iHome Wireless Go+ Splashproof Portable Speaker

A portable bluetooth water-resistant speaker - handy, reliable, difficult to break.

By C. Moffat.

I have been meaning to write this review for several months now. About time I finally got it done.

I purchased the iHome Wireless Go+ Splashproof Portable Speaker at a Best Buy months ago and very quickly discovered it is an awesome little speaker with great sound quality and LOUD for such a small speaker.

Its small size belies its incredible power, it is rechargeable using a standard cellphone USB, can communicate with any BlueTooth device - I use it mostly with my cellphone, but I have also used it with my tablet and laptop for added volume.

The device is also very durable. Its rubber / steel outer layers means this speaker simply bounces off of any surface it falls onto. You would basically have to deliberately attempt to break the speaker in order to prove it can be broken. I have dropped it countless times, not so much as a scratch.

Oddly enough Best Buy no longer seems to sell this particular product, however iHome makes a variety of other BlueTooth speakers in a range of sizes and shapes which are also available at Best Buy.

Other websites have given the iHome Wireless Go+ Splashproof Portable Speaker four stars out of five, but I give it five stars out of five because it does exactly what it is supposed to do, is incredibly good quality, and was a pretty fair price.

I have seen it advertised at other stores for $39.99. According to my receipt from June 20th I paid $54.99 + HST, so the price has also come down a bit since June.

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