One of the things I hate about the internet and Google is that every time I come up with a fantastic new idea, I find out someone has already thought of it. A while back I thought of using the coloured thermometer strips they have for fish tanks and building them into coffee cups so that you know when your drink is the exact right temperature. As soon as I mentioned it to my helpful child, a few clicks on a smart phone brought up a site where you can already buy them.

I still think I should get credit for these inventions if I didn’t know someone else had already thought of them. I feel just like Homer Simpson competing with Thomas Edison.

What the internet needs is an idea clearing house where people like me, with ideas but no way of developing them, can post their ideas and someone else can turn them into reality. (Of course if I look for it, I’ll probably find one. If anyone knows of one, let me know.)
My best recent idea is to replace loyalty cards with one card that can have any loyalty program loaded on to it. Whenever a helpful store employee offers to enroll me in the stores loyalty program I decline, even if it is free or will save me money because I am sick of all the cards that I already have. If I could just register some multi-purpose card, or register my Visa card without needing another piece of plastic I would probably say yes.

A similar site could be for posting ideas for movies or books. I’m always coming up with genius ideas for books and movies, but unfortunately I can’t write. I’d happily donate them to some talented author or movie producer who can’t come up with an idea.

And if anyone is trying to find a birthday present for me this year, a temperature indicator coffee cup would be nice.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Cross country bike ride

Today’s entry marks Helix day ( which is, coincidentally, today. The Helix is a development of the area where the Forth and Clyde Canal meets the River Carron. The Forth and Clyde Canal was constructed in the late 1700s to connect the Firth of Forth with the Firth of Clyde across the narrowest part of the Scottish lowlands, a distance of about 35 miles. The canal fell into disuse in the 1960s but has been spruced up for recreational use. A towpath was built alongside the canal for the use of horses towing canal boats. The eastern end of the canal near Grangemouth has been built over and the canal now connects to the Forth via a short segment of the River Carron. It is this area that is being developed as the Helix. One of the most impressive parts of the Helix is the Kelpies, 2 giant sculptures of horses’ heads, representing kelpies, supernatural water horses from Scottish mythology. They are 30 metres tall and weigh over 300 tonnes. I traveled past them a few days ago and they are very striking.

The reason I am talking about the Helix and the Canal is that Kathy and I just returned from a holiday in Scotland. While we were there we cycled the Forth and Clyde towpath, in effect cycling from one side of Scotland to the other. I have to confess two things however. Because it is the narrowest part of the country and because the builders used the Firths, it is a relatively short distance for a ‘coast to coast’ journey. (Much shorter than the 3,000+ miles across Canada) Also, we cheated a bit. We did not go as far as the Kelpies. Taking some advice from friends along the route we went as far as the Falkirk Wheel then changed course to follow the Union canal to Falkirk High rail station. The distance is a bit less, but it avoided a few miles of doubling back on the return as well as a segment which is apparently less navigable and less interesting. Our journey from Bowling Basin where the canal enters the Firth of Clyde to Falkirk High station ran for 56.7 km (35.2 mi).

To start our journey we rented bicycles and helmets from Cycle Scotland on Blackfriars Street in Edinburgh ( . The next morning, bright and early we headed for Waverley Train Station and had our first adventure: taking the bikes on a train. Luckily we had no trouble. We got on the train to Glasgow and found a car with a bike rack. One thing I love about Europe is the train service and it is so great that it is convenient to combine bicycle and rail travel. Unfortunately from Glasgow to Bowling we didn’t have a bike rack and had to manoeuvre our bikes to keep out of the way of our fellow travellers, but this wasn’t too bad and soon we were at the western end of the canal and ready to go.


Swans in the Forth and Clyde Canal

Because the path runs along a canal, it is very level with only mild hills at the canal locks. The path is well maintained with a smooth surface and in most places is wide enough to ride side by side. The countryside was lovely with trees, fields and only the occasional built up area in sight. There were thistles and other wildflowers along the canal and swans and ducks in the water, as well as a few canal boats.


Canal Boats

We passed by several small towns and there were a number of pubs and restaurants on or near the path. Our first stop was at the Clydebank shopping centre which is right on the canal. We had a snack at McDonalds (local restaurant, not the golden arches. Another thing I love about Scotland) Then it was off again on our bikes.


Along the Canal

We carried on as far as Kirkintilloch where we had arranged to meet Findlay Brown who lives right beside the canal. Findlay is the secretary of the Kilsyth Curling Club which is the world’s oldest curling club, founded in 1716. In just 3 years they will be 300 years old! I found Findlay while looking for information about the club, as I have been a curler in the past and also some of my ancestors came from Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch.

Findlay and his wife Kathryn were very friendly and after a visit at their home and a drink we exchanged curling pins. Later, even though they were busy preparing for their daughter’s wedding, they showed us around the area, including the world’s oldest curling pond on the Colzium Estate and then they took us out for supper. Despite any stereotypes, my experience with the Scots is that they tend to be very generous people.


Findlay Brown, Kathy and I at Colzium Curling Pond

Because the path of the canal is the narrowest route across the country it is also the path chosen by the Romans to build the Antonine Wall ( , the lesser known second wall, north of the more famous Hadrian’s Wall. The wall and its forts were built in the AD 140s. We visited the site of one of the forts along the Antonine Wall, Bar Hill Fort where we saw the remains of the headquarters, barracks and bath house.

Bar Hill

Bar Hill Fort

Due to a mix up at our B and B we ended staying at Dyke Farm with Kathryn’s sister and brother-in-law, Sheila and Jimmy MacGregor. Jimmy is the president of the Kilsyth curling club and breeds champion black-faced sheep.


Jimmy MacGregor’s Blackface Sheep

The next day we completed our journey. We stopped at Bonnybridge for a pub lunch at the Bridge Inn


The Bridge Inn, Bonnybridge

and then visited the Falkirk Wheel ( which is an engineering marvel.

falkirk wheel

The Falkirk Wheel

After a visit at the wheel and a stop at the gift shop, we headed off along the union canal. If we were more ambitious we could have continued all the way to Lochrin Basin, 2 miles from our flat in Edinburgh, but we were looking forward too much to sitting on something more comfortable than a bicycle seat and elected to catch the train at Falkirk High back to Waverley.


On the Train Home

Once again we were lucky enough to get a car with a bike rack and we soon had the bikes back at Cycle Scotland.



Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Small things.

I’m just getting used to my new website and learning the basics, so I thought that I would just add a short post today.  If I wait until I have time to post something of epic size and great importance I will probably never write anything. On a similar note, I have always dreamed of doing great things, but life always seems to get in the way. In the mean time, however I can try to do little things that make the world better and hopefully my net contribution to society will be a positive one. One of the little things that I have discovered is Kiva, In their own words, Kiva is “a non-profit organization with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. Leveraging the internet and a worldwide network of microfinance institutions, Kiva lets individuals lend as little as $25 to help create opportunity around the world.” Through Kiva I (and you) can lend small amounts of money to individuals throughout the world who would likely not be eligible for regular bank financing. They use this money to start and run small businesses, plant crops, send their children to school and many other things that most of us take for granted. As they repay their loans the money can be loaned again and again. So, if you are looking for a small way to make a positive difference, consider going to and make your first loan.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Why in the world would I want to create a blog?

Why in the world would I want to create a blog? I have been asking myself that question a lot ever since my good friend Neil started putting together this web site for me. Maybe I should step back a bit.

A few years ago it became possible to register .ca domain names and it seemed like a good idea to register Initially the plan was to use it as the basis for a permanent email address as I had changed addresses a few times as ISPs came and went. When I sent my new email address to Neil he had a look at and found nothing there and asked me when I was going to put together a personal web site. After a few attempts to get something together I finally asked Neil to build me something and he suggested this format, based around a blog. At first I wasn’t convinced. I had tried to keep diaries and journals a few times over the years. Apart from a short stretch in the late 70s when I kept a fairly regular diary which, sadly, has become lost I have never stuck with it. However, the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea.

I am not a fan of the overuse of social media for documenting the minutiae of daily life including what people had for breakfast or who is angry with whom. In our brave new world of tweets, facebook posts, archived emails and, yes, blogs, there is a constant stream of personal communication being recorded for posterity. The misunderstandings that come with electronic communication are amplified. Useful information is lost in a sea of chatter. Spelling and grammar errors stare out from the computer screen. Poorly thought-out ideas are shared with the world and cannot be easily retracted, if at all.

On the other hand a judicious use of the same media can provide a record of our lives that was not possible for the general public in years past. I have a strong interest in genealogy but unfortunately all that I have of many of my ancestors is the bare bones of their existence: birthdates, death dates, maybe an occupation and where they lived and were buried. I would dearly love to have access to a diary to see what they were like as individuals, what there dreams and passions were and what issues concerned them while they were alive.

It is important to consider the target audience when writing. In this case my target audience is first and foremost the general public and more specifically family and friends. I expect that I will come back to this myself in future and I hope I will not be embarrassed by it. Finally I hope that this will be available for posterity in some huge searchable archive in the cloud after I am gone.

I have no illusions that everything that I write will be profound or important. Much of it will be mundane and trivial. I will try to select topics that I feel are worth sharing or that I would like to have documented and preserved. I will not share highly personal information. There are other venues for that when appropriate. I have no idea how frequently I will add to this but I hope it will be fairly regular.

Please feel free to comment if you have anything you want to say, but be kind.



Posted in thoughts | Leave a comment