Kananaskis – God’s Country

Here I am just a week after getting back from my 3 week cruise, heading off to Kananaskis Country in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.  I was in Calgary for my friend Gail’s son’s wedding.  It was a wonderful day – the sun was shining, the bride was radiant and the groom was handsome as always. 

Gail created an amazing weekend itinerary for her friends and relatives that was delivered to my hotel room.  It was actually printed on hand-made paper like an invitation.  She had our whole weekend planned out from morning ‘til night. 

Saturday, of course, was filled with wedding events, but Sunday was just as great.  We had brunch at the hotel and then packed ourselves into as few vehicles as we could to head out to Kananaskis Country.  Kananaskis Country was pretty much unknown to most people until the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.  In preparation for those Olympics, Mount Allen was developed to become Nakiska, the Alpine Ski venue.  Another friend and I managed to hitch a ride up the quad-chair with none other than Prince Albert of Monaco who was also there to watch the Giant Slalom.  He was much younger and still had hair.  acheter rifaximin

Also for the Olympics the Kananaskis Village was born.  The village is comprised of several low-rise hotels with shopping, hot tubs, pubs and other amenities available to guests and casual visitors alike.  There are hiking paths, picnic areas, fish ponds, you name it.  The village is designed to fit into the surrounding panoramic landscape and it is this landscape that is the big draw. 

This IS one of the most beautiful places on earth.  The majestic mountains, the green valleys, the bears, the wolves, the mountain sheep and goats, the deer……you get my drift.  There were some wildlife conservation officers on hand with demonstrations and information on the different wildlife in the area.  They try really hard to educate people while they are in the park in order to avoid any confrontations.  The land does belong to the wildlife – not us – and they need to be left to live their lives as nature intended.  Very little upsets me more than hearing that a bear or other wildlife had to be destroyed because of some human’s stupidity.  They may be cute but they are still wild. 

Anyway, I have a couple of videos and photos of our day at the park that I hope you will enjoy. 

Walking_Trail tandem_bike

Panama Canal Cruise – Day One – Hurray!!!

We are finally at Day One of our cruise.  We got everyone assembled in the lobby of the hotel and checked that everyone’s luggage was properly tagged and on the luggage trolleys.  After collecting some that were still in their rooms, we managed to get it all together.

The hotel had all the luggage put on the shuttle bus which could only hold 14 people.  That meant there were 4 that had to go in another vehicle.  The vehicle they sent for our seniors was a Suburban.  I could barely get in it, let alone some of our passengers.

After getting everyone on the ship, through the security and check in, Rick and I delivered gifts to our passengers cabins to welcome them aboard.  This was a little easier than I thought as the staterooms were still being cleaned so they were a surprise when our passengers finally got to their rooms.

Everyone was on their own after that.  Whew!!!  Of course our work is never done, so we were off to see the maitre d’ to make sure our group was sitting close together at dinner.

One of the nice things about cruising is that you can unpack, put things away, and not have to pack up again until the very end.  We are on the ms Westerdam from Holland America and found the staterooms to be slightly different from other ships we’ve been on.  A big one is that there is a minibar now which has taken the place of DRAWERS!!!  What’s with that???  Anyway, we managed to find homes for everything and then we were off to dinner.

We are on the early sitting in the dining room which is a little too early for us, but it does give you lots of time to take in the other evening activities.  We went to a “Game Show”, the Showtime extravaganza featuring the singers and dancers of the Westerdam, Charles & The HAL Cats in the Queen’s Lounge and of course, the “Disco” in the Northern Lights.  Can’t miss that.

It was a busy day and I think it will be a very busy cruise for us.  Time for a “Drink of the Day”…..

You can follow us some more on CAA Niagara Travel

Miami to Fort Lauderdale – Day One -1

Today was a fun lesson in getting from one place to another.  I had to get to Fort Lauderdale airport by 10:00 am and wasn’t sure how far it was or how to get there.  I asked at the front desk of my hotel, but got more information through the Internet.

If you ever need to get from Miami airport to Fort Lauderdale airport or vice versa, there is the SuperShuttle that will get you there for around $30.  You pick up the shuttle by the bag claim area of the airport.  Unfortunately, you may have a few stops to make before getting to the airport as it will take each passenger where ever they need to go along the route.  So even though it’s only about 40 minutes door-to-door, it may end up taking you longer.  So give yourself lots of time.

Along the way I got to see what a typical seniors condo complex looks like.  I hope they were nicer on the inside than on the outside.  I guess you live there for the weather.  I think I’ll stay in Vancouver for a while yet.

Anyway, after picking up our passengers at the airport, Rick Mauro from CAA Niagara and I, waited with them to get rooms.  The timing was not great as the plane got in at 10:00 am and most hotels will not let you check in until at least noon as they need to get the rooms ready.  This is another thing to consider when travelling and having to make connections.

Despite everything, our passengers seems to enjoy themselves though they were very tired from having to take such an early flight – many had not bothered to go to bed.

After checking everyone in and making sure all the luggage was in their rooms,etc, Rick and I went to Fort Lauderdale Beach, walked the beach and had lunch at Bubba Gump’s.  The bucket of shrimp is still to die for and tastes great with a cold beer.  I highly recommend it.

So, three things I learnt today is that you need to investigate travel arrangements yourself when in a strange land and, if possible, don’t book air travel to land hours before check in time of your hotel.  And thirdly, always make sure your guests are well looked after.  It’s only Day Zero of our cruise……

Vancouver to Miami – Day One -2

Day One started with a very early morning at YVR with nothing open at the gates – not even coffee.  The 767 was full so even though I sat in economy, my carry on flew in style in First Class where the Pods are.  Those are pretty cool.

I made a major mistake on the first lag to Toronto and that was in my choice for movies. The first one was fine – Madagascar II, funny and cute.  The SECOND was the killer – Marley & Me.  I read the book so I should have known better than to watch this while “trapped” in a packed airplane.  I almost turned it off many times but I just had to keep going.

I have had two Marleys in my life – we didn’t learn the first time!!  Marley #1 was a pitbull/lab cross named Skye who could destroy a couch in under 15 minutes.  We went to the corner store one day and came back to find the stuffing all over the family room.  The amazing part was that she was able to unzip and remove the cushion covers before demolishing the insides.  This was just one of several disasters we had with Skye.  Despite the destruction, she was very endearing and loveable.  I also had two Siamese cats when Skye lived with us.  They also became part of her pack requiring her to defend and protect them.  Whenever one of the cats was barfing up a hairball, she would get very upset, run around the house to find me and then do a real-life Lassie impression.  She’d run to me with this really worried look on her face and whine that something was wrong.  Then she’d run back to where the cat was.  If I didn’t follow right away, she would go through it again…and again…until I went to the cat. Then I would pick up the cat and take her to Skye who would inspect her to see if she was okay. Unfortunately, we only got to have Skye around for 10 years before she got cancer.

Because Skye had turned into a somewhat manageable dog with a big, big heart, we had to get another dog to replace her as soon as possible.  Marley #2 named Junior, a lab/shepherd cross.  was and still is both an absolute gem and a nightmare.  As a puppy she destroyed anything she could get her paws and teeth on – especially liking soccer cleats and shoes – but not exclusively.   At about a year old she discovered she had this amazingly loud and scary bark and she uses it on all the neighbors, people walking by the house and certain people during our walks.  I haven’t figured out what the common feature is that she doesn’t like, but if she doesn’t like you, you better make sure I have a good hold on her leash.  Watching the couple walking Marley in the movie was just like walking Junior.  And, like Marley, she flunked obedience training.

So by the time the movie was over I was a mess with one little scrunched up tissue.  So it was off the lavatory to splash cold water on the face to try to look presentable.  All my makeup was gone but everything was up in First Class having a good time and there was no time between planes to get fixed up again.  So no makeup all the way to Miami.  Oh, well.  I didn’t meet anyone I know, so I guess it’s okay.

So, remember when you fly, not to watch sad movies if you want to look good at the end of your journey.

Testing Microsoft’s LiveWriter

Thanks to Bonnie Sainsbury at Connect the Dots for recommending this package. She always has great ideas of time savers that I need.  I was looking for a way to write my blog offline and then upload and publish it when I get to port.  I’m heading off on a cruise for 3 weeks and I don’t need a thousand dollar Internet bill at the end.

So, I’m testing my old HP Photosmart R817 camera with a 2 GB SD card for videos and Microsoft’s LiveWriter Software.

Animal Testing????

I think the camera could be upgraded.  I just saw a couple of 10 mp cameras at The Source.  That’s twice what this one is, as well as I may want a stabilizer.  I’m hoping to get some fun videos on the ship and maybe a few interesting ones on the beaches….

I found loading the video to YouTube was VERY SLOW so unless I can find a free Internet cafe, that may not happen.

Setting up LiveWriter to work with my Blog was very simple – much simpler than the instructions WordPress has for setting up emailing to your blog.  AND Microsoft Installer even told me where I had to go in WordPress to change an administrator setting to get it to work.

So, I’m down to the last part – which is uploading this to my blog.  I’m going to try it now and will let you know how it went.

Ciao for now.

PS

Well, that was REALLY SIMPLE.  I pressed the Publish button and Tah Dah, there it was on my blog.  That was pretty quick.  It may make up for the YouTube speed.  I would highly recommend this package to bloggers everywhere…..

Gmail Offline Application

How many times have you wanted to look up an email someone sent you to, let’s say, find the address that you are trying to get to because you forgot to print the email out or write it down, or are working on a project but need some info that you can’t get to because you don’t have Internet access?

I do this all the time and even though I have an Internet stick to get wireless just about anywhere, I really don’t want to waste my valuable data time looking something up.

WELL, now you can now look up anything that’s happened in your gmail for the past 3 years without connecting to the Internet!!

The Google Applications is Gears.  Gears is open source that allows you access to Web-based applications even when you are not connected.  This can be particularly handy if you are using HotSpot wireless or the Internet Stick to access as you can view past emails and compose emails without it costing you money.  Any messages you compose while offline will be sent automatically once you are connected again.  In the meantime they are stored in your Outbox.  Just think of the amount of airtime you can save by preparing the emails ahead of time and then connecting to send.  It gives you more time to surf while you are connected.

Installing Google Gears

Go to http:\\gears.google.com and click on Install.

Run the installer and restart your browser when requested.

Log into your Gmail and click on the green Labs beaker.  If you don’t have a green labs beaker, refer back to blog post: http://www.barbarawestly.com/2008/12/enabling-google-labs-on-my-gmail/

Once you are in Google Labs, Find the application called “Offline.”  Click “enable” and “save changes.”  Once you have saved, there will be a new tab called “Offline” right next to your green labs beaker. Click on the “Offline” tab to get the following message:

Click on next.

Click on “I trust this site” and “Allow”.

Decide what shortcuts you would like on your desktop and then click “OK”.  Offline will then start downloaded all of your emails, attachments, etc to your computer for the last 3 years.  Unfortunately, there is no option to tell Offline that you want a shorter period.  There is a little trick though.  The copy starts at the newest and works its way backwards.  If you disconnect your computer from the Internet at the point you don’t want any more data, it will stop downloading.

Once you have enabled “Offline” it will copy everything you send and receive to your computer as you work. Also, now that you have it installed, whenever you happen to browse an application on the Internet that has links to Gears, it will come up with the Gears Security Warning to set it up for that application.  There are not a lot of applications at this point, but like all Google Apps, there are developers out there looking at how they can integrate this feature into their web applications.  If you don’t want to add it, just click on “Deny”.

This is another great Add-on to Google and I think it will fast become one of my favourites.


Hours of Operation

When you are self-employed, especially if you work from home, Hours of Operation can be a very difficult thing to get a handle on.  Do you follow the hours of your clients or are you working randomly at any time of the day or night?

Quite often this will depend on the nature of your business and who your clients are.  My hours have changed several times over the years to match the companies I was doing work for.  At one point I was working a lot with a company in Florida – 3 hours ahead of my west coast time.  That meant an 8:00 am conference call was actually 5:00 am for me.  Not fun getting up at 4-4:30 am to be “wide awake” for a call. In this case, my day was broken up between “before breakfast” and “after breakfast”.

Having Hours of Operation does not necessarily mean that you need to sit at your desk for 8 hours a day as my great uncle did in my “Dress for Success” post.  For some businesses this works great.  If I’ve got a large program to map out and code, the 8 hour day works great.  I can sit down at the computer and work away for the whole day.  Sometimes I need to remember to stop to eat and stretch.  I find I get a lot done of those day where I can dedicate myself to a project.

The important thing about setting Hours of Operations is to set limits.  These limits are not just for you so you don’t work 24 hours a day but also to set limits for others in both your business and personal life.  If you don’t set limits, since you don’t have a “job”, you can become everyone’s gopher – from your significant other to your kids, parents, friends, neighbors, and so on.  “Since your not doing anything today can you…”  There is a common misconception of traditionally employed people that working at home means you’re not really working – one that you need to debunk as soon as possible.

That is why you need to post your Hours of Operations as soon as you start your new business.  MY BUSINESS HOURS ARE BETWEEN….

Of course, there are always exceptions and you have the freedom to make that exception especially if there is an emergency, but you need to set out what an emergency is.  Picking up dry cleaning or preparing a last minute meal for 8 is not an emergency.  Picking up your kid from school because he just threw up all over the home room teacher is.

If you have a certain amount of hours set aside each day to work, you can plan ahead and set your goals for the day, the week, the month, the year.  You can set your milestones – specific events you want to have happen, and you can meet deadlines.

Without your Hours of Operation how will you be able finish any project and how will you plan to finish your projects?  As with a manufacturing operation, you need Capacity Planning.  What are my resources (me) and what time frame do I have to with.  When you work alone, it is harder to keep to this discipline, but if you do, you will reap the rewards.


Make Your Bed

You may think I’m talking about the old adage: “You made your bed now sleep in it”.  I guess you could use that adage in regard to self-employment.  It works.  But I’m actually going to talk about, wait for it….Making Your Bed.

Why would such a mundane thing as making my bed make a difference in my home business, you ask?  Well, it would depend on you and your personality.  If you are an extremely disciplined, anal, Type A, obsessive compulsive personality, you probably don’t need to read this post.  You could probably bounce a quarter off your bed and it’s probably done before I even manage my first cup of coffee.

On the other hand, if you are of a similar personality to myself – lazy, procrastinating, easily side-tracked, then you may need to read further.

If you are working at home, one of the biggest problems is keeping on track and keeping motivated.  One of the biggest detractors of work is the nice, warm, comfy bed.  It’s so inviting and speaks to you as a lover, always wanting you to rejoin it at any time of the day browse around these guys. Don’t be fooled by its wily ways.  You CANNOT program or write from the comfort of your bed.  Believe me I’ve tried and, boy, did I get a crick in the neck!

Now here is a trick that you can try.  Buy lots of those horrid, little designer pillows to put on your bed.  Make your bed as usual and then NEATLY arrange all those pillows on the bed.  This creates a totally uninviting atmosphere for the possibility of sneaking a nap during the day.  For most men it’s a total turnoff anyway, but for women, once those pillows are in place, you really don’t want to mess them up – they’re so pretty.

Boring but Made

Once I got into the habit of making my bed, I found some other benefits as well.  1) If people pop in, your bed is made and you don’t look like a slob, 2) when it is time for bed, it feels like you’re living in a hotel with the bed nicely made (now if you could just train your significant other or your dog to turn down the bed and put a chocolate on your pillow you could feel like your living in a 5-star hotel), and 3) it’s easier to get to sleep as you don’t have to fight with the blankets and sheets to get comfortable.  It just makes life so much better.

Now if I could only do something about my EVIL lounge chair……

Once your in it won't let you out!!

Dressing for Work

As an entrepreneur, there are some things that employed people take for granted such as getting dressed in the morning that you may not feel are important to you.  If you are working from home you may feel that one of the perks of being self-employed is the ability to wear whatever you want to work.

Some of us have had incidents where we get on a Skype call and the video portion turns on.  There you are with your jammies or less.  You look like you’ve just rolled out of bed.  I heard of one woman who was on a call with a support person to suddenly find herself looking at a guy dressed only in his gaunch!!  And apparently, it was not a pretty site.

Even if you don’t do video calls, dressing is one of the most important preparations you can do every day.  It gets you in the mood to complete your tasks.  My recommendation is to dress based on the work you do.  If you are a programming guru you would probably get to wear jeans and a “software logo” T-shirt to work so it would not be presumptuous to wear that at home.  On the other hand, if you are a management consultant working with middle and upper management you may want to dress accordingly.  You probably don’t need to wear a full suit, but dressing professionally will make you feel professional.    Also, if you get called out to a client you won’t have to change your outfit.

When I was just starting out as an entrepreneur 25 years ago, I learned a lesson that has stayed with me for all of these years.  My great uncle, Ken Reitan, was a manufacturers’ rep for most of his working life.  He travelled a lot restocking stores and showing new products, but it was when he was at home that I got my lesson.  Uncle Ken had a little office in the basement of his house with a phone, a fax, his catalogues and whatever else he needed at the time.  I had a client in his city and I stayed with my aunt and uncle for a week or so while I was working there.  Here is what I saw.  My uncle would get up in the morning, eat breakfast, dress in a suit and head downstairs.  There was nary a peep from him until lunch at which time he would come up the stairs, take off his suit jacket and sit down and have a nice lunch with his lovely wife.  Once his lunch hour was finished, he would put on his jacket and head back down the stairs.  Again, there he stayed until “quitting time” when he would come back upstairs, change and relax.

You’re probably thinking what I thought at the time.  This is some disciplined guy.  How can you possibly work that way.  I can’t be that rigid.  Yes, you may be right.  I don’t know if he did that every day that he happened to be home rather than on the road.  What I have found is that on days that I do set out my “working” hours and follow his example, these are the days I get a ton of work done.  They are the days I feel like I have really accomplished something.   They are also the days that if I talk to clients or prospective clients on the phone, I feel and sound more professional.  I am a business person!

So the Tips for the Week is to dress for work.  Treat your home office as a “real” office and dress accordingly.  You will feel more like working and will act and talk like a professional.

Have a Happy and Prosperous New Year!!

Enabling Google Labs on my Gmail

In the last couple of days, I’ve been reading a few twitters about people adding To Do Lists and such on their Gmail.  Sounded interesting, so I decided to have a look.  A couple of bloggers had some instructions on how to get the To Do List, but I couldn’t seem to follow them.  One said to look at the right hand side of your Gmail and click on a “Beaker”.  WELL, there was no beaker by my Settings at all.  So after Googling Google I finally found out how to get these things on my Gmail. Here’s how I did it.

1.  Click on Settings

2.  Click on Labs

3.  Enable any of the Gmail Labs you think you may want.

Once you enable any of the Labs, THEN you will have a “Beaker” beside your Settings. Easy, isn’t it?  Anyway, I did enable the Tasks (aka To Do List), Signature Tweaks which puts my signature before the quoted text in a reply email, and Forgotten Attachment Detector. How many times have you sent an email only to discover just as you click Send that you forgot the attachment.  It will be interesting to see how this one works.

It was mentioned in another blog that the Google Gmail Labs will eventually replace iGoogle.  I can see how that will happen.  You can have a lot of your Google Apps appear right on your Gmail page – Reader, Documents, Tasks, Calendar, etc.  Why go anywhere else?

For someone who uses Gmail constantly, I was really surprised to find this little gem called Google Labs.  Thank you to all the bloggers who shared this in your blogs and your tweets.