Category Archives: latest

Books Done, Still Loads of Paper

books-done_2876I tried very hard this year to push as much of my company records to digital files and NOT paper, but it seems to be almost impossible.  About half my business receipts are digital only this year, which is better than in past years.

I do the majority of my purchases for the business online, but the irony is that if I’m ordering physical goods (as opposed to software) these online order always arrive with a lot of paper, particularly if they come in from outside Canada.

So while my order receipt is saved as a PDF, the gear shows up with a paper receipt, packing list, and some kind of brokerage/customs form – all hard copy.  Even when the courier shows up at the door with his/her fancy wireless tracking device, they still end up giving me multiple paper copies.

I guess that’s why doing the year-end books is called “paper work”.

Finding Denatured Alcohol in Canada

UPDATE:  Captain Phab Marine Alcohol is no longer available.  In an email from the company in Aug 2021:  “

“Unfortunately we do not produce marine alcohol anymore, it was discontinued due to a Health Canada recall in Oct 2019. This recall was all stove alcohol across the country, not just Captain Phab.

We do however have a Lloyds Ethanol, which is essentially the same. Burns clean, and is used in boat stoves.

This comes in a 1L and we have stock.”

Original article below – and there’s a lot of great info in the comments.


Who knew that finding alcohol could be this hard !

My little sailboat Madsu has a non-pressurized alcohol stove made by Origo.

I love the stove – it’s super hot, needs zero maintenance, and compared to pressurized gas, is super safe.

The stove is responsible for making coffee, hot water for shaving, and all my cooking that isn’t BBQ;  in short, one of the most important items on the boat !

Up until this year, I’ve been able to buy denatured alcohol for the stove at one of my local hardware stores – Rona used to stock it with solvents and turpentine – and it was relatively cheap.  It was simply called Denatured Alcohol – a no brainer.

This year, I haven’t been able to find it anywhere.

So, I did a quick crash course on alcohol for stoves.

A search on the web shows that other people in Canada have trouble finding denatured alcohol.  Other than for use in stove, apparently bike folks use it to clean gears etc.

Denatured alcohol is Ethanol – grain alcohol that’s been treated to make it undrinkable.  It burns super hot and while not great for the environment, burning it is slightly LESS bad that burning other types of fuel.   Most places I went to looking for this fuel, including my local marine store (Martin Marine in North Vancouver) sell Methyl Hydrate, which will also work in the stove.   Methyl Hydrate is wood alcohol – if you’re old enough you probably remember using it in Bunson Burners in high school chemistry.

In any event, I was bent on finding denatured alcohol rather that burn methyl hydrate.

I thought I had found what I was looking for over at West Marine. They sell something called blue flame stove fuel, and though there was very little information on the bottle, I assume this is some type of ethanol mix.  I almost had heart failure when I picked up the small bottle (less than a litre) and saw the price tag:  $30.00. Burning EverClear would be cheaper.   Meanwhile, in the US, West Marine sells a gallon of  “soot-free alcohol” for 29.00 !

I’d almost given up, when I stopped by Steveston Marine just off Granville Island. They now stock something called Captain PHAB Marine Alcohol, from a Peterborough Ontario company, Captain PHAB.

It sells for $19.99 for a 4 litre bottle (that’s 1.14 gallons) and it’s a 90-10 mix (Ethanol and whatever they use to make it undrinkable).  The staffer told me that one of the reasons denatured alcohol has been hard to find is that one of the main suppliers either went out of business or stopped carrying it.

So, for all you sailers, campers and bikers – try Steveston Marine in the lower mainland, or check your local marine store and if they don’t have it, get them to order it for you from Captain PHAB.

As for me, I’m heading down to the boat right now to fill up my stove and perk up a pot of coffee.

I’m so damned pleased with myself, I might even shave.

Madsu’s New Navigation Lights

Catalina 22’s of Madsu’s vintage had very awkwardly sighted navigation lights.

The bow light is actually behind the forestay and stem head fitting – not the best for visiblity.  And if I happen to have dropped the foresail on the deck, the light would usually get covered up. (See if you can even find the bow light in this picture of Madsu at the dock)

The stern light was a bit better, though mounted on the deck port-side, and not always visible.  While legal, these old lights have always made me nervous, particularly because I love night sailing.

So, before putting Madsu in the water this year I wanted to install new fore and aft nav lights, up on the pulpit/pushpit where they’d be seen.

Finding lights at Steveston Marine was easy – I got some nice Perko lights on sale – but mounting them on Madsu’s 1 inch pulpit and pushpit rails would be the challenge.

Catalina Direct sells a pulpit mount for over 30.00 dollars, and given the shipping and brokerage, it seemed like a crazy amount of money to spend.  So I decided to make my own (and spend a crazy amount of time to save a few bucks).

A few years ago I had purchased some stainless rail mount brackets (for a the traveler setup), and still had a few extra.

What I needed was some sort of plate to mount the lights on.  So, out came the jig saw and a piece of aluminum plate I had bought when I made the backing plates for the new winches.

I cut the plates, thinking I’d use 2 rail mounts on the bow light – but later opted to simplify with one (a good choice).  A little work with a grinder, then a file, then my Dremel tool, and the plates came out looking pretty great.

Next, I tapped holes for mounting the lights, and for securing the plate to the rail mounts.  I (and others) like to sit on the pulpit on a nice summer day, and with the mounting screws tapped, there’ll be no bolts protruding.

I wasn’t really up for drilling holes in the rail tubing and trying to chase the wiring through – I ran the wiring externally and secured it with self-amalgamating (rigging) tape.  If it turns out to be a nuisance, I’ll chase the wires inside the tubing next year.

Now I’ve got an additional level of comfort sailing at night, knowing that Madsu’s bow and stern light are visible.

Pacific Yachting Photo

Pacific Yachting magazine emailed me a few weeks ago to see if they could use one of my photos.

They found the picture on Flickr, and contacted me to ask if I’d be willing to let them use it.

I was more than happy to say yes – I figure it’s always nice when someone even notices 😉

The photo was from a September trip to Plumper Cove on Keats Island, and PY used it with of an article by Heather Lochner on nearby cruising destinations.

That weekend, Plumper Cove was particularly spectacular – and we spent a good part of the weekend swimming off the boat and the small beach near the dock. It was one of those magic late summer weekends.  We also ran into old friends Ron and Merideth, who’s boat features prominently centre frame of the shot.

Many thanks to PY designer Arran Yates for selecting the pic.

Multimedia Gallery with kk+

There’s a fun multimedia gallery that’s part of the BC Pavilion on the 4th floor of the Vancouver Art Gallery.

I’m working with DigiBC during the games, and many of their members provided the content and technology for the gallery.  And friend  Sara Bailey, is the curator.   Sara worked on some of the earliest CBC Radio 3 designs back in 1999 (prototypes actually) and she and I worked together as consultants for a number of years.

On Wednesday, she offered photographer Kris Krug and I a preview of the gallery (it opened on Friday).

I shot a full ‘tour’ with Sara guiding us through – that will be online in a few days.  But I also put together this little piece for Kris.

He and I first met ten years ago when he was publisher of one of Vancouver’s first online magazines and we were just starting to put some definition on what CBC Radio would be.

Get the Flash Player to see this content.

There’s a higher quality version online here , on YouTube here, on Vimeo here

You can also see a longer, full video tour of the gallery with Sara Bailey here.

Yacht Spotting

My little sailboat Madsu remains tucked away under a tarp next to my house for the winter.

I still can’t resist cruising the docks, looking at boats – a prairie boy who’s turned sea crazed.

This 198 foot beauty is called Méduse, and she was (and may still be) owned by Paul Allen, one of the founders of Microsoft and a fairly regular visitor to these parts.  She was hanging out at Lonsdale Quay when I was there on Monday (Feb 1).

I wonder if she’s here is here for the Olympics ?

That’s a lot of hull to keep sparkly clean.

UPDATE: A friend on Twitter tells me she’s now owned by the Washington family – they’re the people who own Cates tugs of North Vancouver – and the owners of these docks…so that makes some sense.

Centre of Your Universe

As if there aren’t enough ways to waste hours on the internet, I stumbled on yet another.

Entity Cube.

(Microsoft owns it,  and you need Silverlight for it to work)

Pop in a name in the search bar, and you get a lovely graphical representation of that person’s web connections.

Here’s what they SAY it is:

EntityCube is a research prototype for exploring object-level search technologies, which automatically summarizes the Web for entities (such as people, locations and organizations) with a modest web presence.

As you might expect from THAT description,  the results are pretty blah – lots of text.


In the left hand sidebar, you’ll see a lovely little graphic and link to a Guanxi graphic.

What IT does though, is place you visually at the centre of your own little universe with your connections circling around.

How utterly wonderful.

Once you start playing with it, its just like a bag of Old Dutch chips – you can’t put it down.

Here’s mine.

There’s also a Six Degrees feature – put in two names and it’ll show how how they are (theoretically) connected.

Olympic Fever

Olympic spirit is most definitely showing itself all over the city of Vancouver.

Even here in sleepy North Vancouver.

It’s true, we’re essentially just a pass-through community as people head either to Whistler or Cypress Mountain or Vancouver or Richmond for events, but still, we’re  jazzed.

I first noticed it on my first stop of the day for coffee.

And right up there on display with the commuter mugs, those red Olympic mittens – perfect for handling those hot beverages.

In my local ‘hood –  Edgemont Village –  all the merchants are sporting these  Go Canada Go posters.

And really, there’s no better way to welcome the torch than with a quick haircut…

Or even better, a bottle of wine…

Lots of people are making a fuss about the crass commercialization of the games.

But darn it, why didn’t I think of this.

Chocolate covered sea foam Inuksuit (that’s plural for Inuksuk by the way).

Truth be told, I prefer my Inukshuk with dark chocolate, but that’s just me…

Here’s a basket full of mascots.  And I mean full of mascots. There are 4 official mascots, not just one.

This one’s  Quatchi.

The other three are Sumi, Migi and Muk Muk.

Given the lack of snow at Cypress Mountain and the financial mess the ski resort at Whistler is in, they really get a fifth mascot.

One who can jury rig a fix up just in time for the games – might I suggest  MacGyver

By far the sleeper of all this Olympic merch (and there is plenty of it).

‘Cause nothing is more indicative of  winter sports in the lower mainland.

The Official Umbrella of the 2010 Games.

Finally, my favourite.

While organizers have been focusing on getting volunteers and community support for the games, they missed the obvious.

These guys at Contact Printing nailed it.

And just to bring the point home.

Let’s pull back a bit  so we can see those fantastic snow covered North Shore mountains.

Vancouver Company Provides Free SMS to Haiti

I’m working with DigiBC on a new project called VXperience, and one of the things we’re doing is spreading the word about British Columbia’s incredible pool of innovators working in a variety of digital sectors.

We’re just starting to gather up some of their stories,  but I wanted to get this information out as quickly as possible.

Branko Zurkovic from Upside Wireless emailed to say that is offering free text messaging to Haiti.

He says the company wanted to do what it could to help out, so their offering their service free – making it possible for friends and relatives to text to either of the networks in Haiti for free.

I’ll let Branko explain more in this clip:


To get set up:

  • go to
  • create an account (it’s free)
  • after you’ve created your account, click on ‘contact us’ and let them know you want to be able to send messages to Haiti
  • your account will be configured to let you send message for free

And you can help out by sending this information to anyone you think might be able to use it.

December is for Shoveling

20091220_yard_8640Most of last weekend was spent shoveling.


Saturday was one of those magic “December on the Coast” kind of days.

It was sunny with the temperature around 12 degrees C.

Perfect for shoveling a big pile of manure, and converting some lawn into edible garden.

Details on my garden’s website –


If you’re wondering why my garden has its own website…it was jealous of the sailboat’s website, so now it has its own.

Podcast – John Ralson Saul

“We start to accept that ridiculous language in which citizens are referred to by politicians and administrators as clients.

We’re not clients of government.

We own the government, it’s our government.

There isn’t a single thing of government which we don’t own, how could we be clients ?

And we aren’t buying shoes, we’re talking about the rights of citizens within their own society.

We’re not stakeholders, we’re citizens.”

– John Ralston Saul, speaking at the PLAN 20th Anniversary evening at Christ’s Church Cathedral in Vancouver, November 20, 2009.


John Ralston Saul is an award winning novelist and essayist, and one of Canada’s most outspoken champions of freedom of expression.

His most recent book is called The Collapse of Globalism and the Reinvention of the World. It’s just the latest in a series of best selling works that have been translated into 22 languages and sold in over 30 countries. Earlier this year he become the first Canadian to elected president of International PEN, the association of writers devoted to defending freedom of expression.

John is also the patron of PLAN (Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network), and he was the featured guest speaker at PLAN’s recent 20th Anniversary celebration in Vancouver.

I was asked to record the evening, and you now can hear the John’s keynote on the website, or listen to it here.


A Simple Little Photo Gallery

For ages now I’ve been meaning to set up a simple web site to display photographs.

Last year I used a WordPress template to create this mostly photo site for my sailboat Madsu.

This time, I wanted something super simple.

I’ve been using Slide Show Pro for a while now. It’s real strength comes when you combine it with Slide Show Pro Director, which is a content management system. I use it on the main page of this blog, but also for client sites where I need a rotating banner that’s going to get changed often.  Adding new images to the slide show is simply a matter of uploading them to the CMS, and nothing needs to be changed on the website itself.

For this little gallery called I Love North Shore, I’m also using the Thumbgrid for navigation.


Twitter Phishing Site

The newest phishing scam showed up today – maybe it’s been around a while?

First you get the Direct Message – this one forwarded to my email:


The link in the DM/email takes you to a  site that is a perfect replica of the (old) Twitter logon screen.

But wait.

ALWAYS check the URL before you type in your username/password.


They even bothered to include the Twitter favicon, but the url is…


And here’s who owns THAT URL, via a public Whois search…

Registrant Contact:
   jiang wen bin
   jiang wen bin jiang wen bin
   +86.0517757813719 fax: +86.0517757813719
   jin hua chang jiang lu 125 hao5zhuang 603
   jin hua ZJ 345634

Administrative Contact:
   jiang jiang
   +86.02163883527 fax: +86.02163883527
   jinghua Changjiang east street 1255603
   jing hua SH 345634

Technical Contact:
   jiang wen bin jiang wen bin
   +86.0517757813719 fax: +86.0517757813719
   jin hua chang jiang lu 125 hao5zhuang 603
   jin hua ZJ 345634

Billing Contact:
   jiang wen bin jiang wen bin
   +86.0517757813719 fax: +86.0517757813719
   jin hua chang jiang lu 125 hao5zhuang 603
   jin hua ZJ 345634


Q Revelation

Listening to that Q show this morning on the kitchen radio, it finally dawned on me.

It’s The Radio Show with Jack Farr, revisited for 2009.

Guests being hyped this week in include Howie Mandel and Anne Murray, peppered with indie Canadian bands and pop culture ‘stars’ from the US.

It sounds like every story meeting at Jack Farr’s The Radio Show in 1982, right down to David Suzuki (who was Jack’s bemused guest more than a few times).

This might not be that surprising, considering that the Q guy was a guest on the The Radio Show back then, when he, that Q guy, was touring with Moxy Fruvous (insert your own umlauts at will).

I think I know what happened. While he was busy photocopying band bios on the CBC’s Xerox, he must have stolen all our secrets.


The only difference is that in those days, Executive Producer Jim Millican insisted all items be short – like 3-and-a-half to 5 minutes maximum.

Which is about as long as that Q guy’s guest intros.




There were a lot of things wrong with the mid 1980’s.

Almost all of them are encapsulated in this photo.

Yours truly, CBC Winnipeg Open House – circa 1984


Trucks, Dogs and Hair

A friend asked if I could help out by scanning in some of her family’s old slides – the output will be a DVD slide show for her siblings.

Since I’ve got the slide scanner out, I figured I’d do a few of my old negs, and I’m having way too much fun.

70’s Hair.

It’s the real thing – 1979, San Francisco


On that same trip, I spent tons of time hanging around the working docks at Fisherman’s Wharf.

It was a precursor (I guess) to what I’d end up doing when I finally moved to Vancouver. In any event, loved this boat.

As if the dogs aren’t enough to bring joy to your heart, check out that funky clock on the bulkhead.

All Dogs on Deck


One page later in the negatives binder, and we’re back in Manitoba. Home of the mighty…

Fargo Anywhere Truck


My late-ex-father-in-law Neil (that’s my ex-wife’s late dad if you’re trying to figure it out) gave me this old Fargo truck.

He worked for Trans-Canada Pipelines, and this truck worked the line for years before he bought it, drove it into the ground, then gave it to me. When I drove it the 90 miles from his house to mine, it went through 2 quarts of oil.  I know his neighbours were happy to see it go.

My dad rebuilt the motor and did his best to weld the body back into shape. I drove this thing everywhere and anywhere in Manitoba in the early 80’s, including to my job as the morning show host on CKWG-FM in Winnipeg – “Ouimet in the Morning”.

This is near Falcon Lake, Manitoba.

Podcast with Peter Block and John McKnight


I recently had the opportunity to interview John McKnight and Peter Block – the first time these two men have been interviewed together.

The interview was done for and PLAN Institute for Caring Citizenship, and was released this week as part of the newly revamped Tyze website, which also features video content I created for

These two men are known around the world for their work in community development and citizenship empowerment. Having the opportunity to meet with them was extra exciting for me. When I was first started out as a consultant, Peter Block’s book Flawless Consulting was in invaluable resource – and I return to it when I’m finding challenges in my work.

Here’s the podcast created for Tyze.

John McKnight’s landmark books on community development include Building Communities from the Inside Out: A Path Toward Finding and Mobilizing a Community’s Assets, and his series of articles collected in The Careless Society. He’s a professor of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University in Chicago, and co-chair of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute at Northwestern.

Peter Block is best known for his book Flawless Consulting: A Guide to Getting Your Expertise Used, and is the author of number of other best selling books including Stewardship: Choosing Service Over Self-Interest and The Empowered Manager: Positive Political Skills at Work.

Peter’s most recent book Belonging: The Structure of Community, has been called “the most important intergenerational book of our time”.


Runs 19:05

For more on John McKnight’s work, visit the Asset-Based Community Development Institute website. You can also read more about his work on the Northwestern University website.

You can find out more about Peter Block’s work on his website.

New Podcast Series – BrainPicker

BrianPicker is a new podcast series I’ve started.

The idea is simple:  interviews with people who’s brains are worth picking, sparked by something they’ve Tweeted or posted on Facebook or other social networking site.   It isn’t brain surgery, just a quick chat with someone who’s fun and interesting.

Hear episode #1 now – featuring Vancouver actor and director Jay Brazeau.


Perfect Gift for Your Scuba Diving Friend(s)

Here’s the deal:

I’ve been doing some work with Sea Dragon Charters over the last few months, and I’ve got a limited number of gift certificates available for scuba dive trips in Howe Sound.

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If there’s someone in your circle of family or friends who dives, this is a perfect gift.

Each gift certificate is for 1 person/2 dives aboard Sea Dragon, and includes filling their tank after the 1st dive so they don’t need to bring (or rent) 2 tanks.
Each dive trip is customized to the experience of the divers, and the location(s) in Howe Sound are determined on the dive day.

Each gift certificate is $ 99.00 Canadian.  You save on all taxes.

Buy in packets of 2 and save an additional 25%
That’s a 2 pack for $148.50

You don’t have to commit to a date, the recipient can book their dive at a date that’s convenient for them, based on availability on that date.  Gift certificates must be used before August 31, 2010.  Divers need to bring (or rent) their own equipment as the dive charter does not include scuba dive gear.

You’ll get a personalized gift certificate, custom printed with the name of the recipient(s).


email me if you’re interested

And you can read more about The Sea Dragon on their website.

-Robert Ouimet