New Computer: Freyr

When Annie came to me and said that she will need a desktop computer this fall for school, since it is being delivered remotely, I jumped at the opportunity to build a new machine for myself and pass on my current machine to Annie.

Don’t get me wrong, the current computer, Athena, has nothing wrong with it. It has continued to serve my needs well and I have no complaints. I’ve been wanting to upgrade the processor for a while now, but beyond that I was incredibly happy with my machine… But new and shiny!

The Fractal Design Meshify C is boring according to my wife, but I appreciated it’s style and that it came with two case fans and was easy to build in.

I picked out the following components for the new build:

  • AMD Ryzen 3600 Processor
  • ASUS TUF GAMING X570-PLUS Motherboard
  • Kingston HyperX Fury 32GB DDR4 3000MHz CL15 RAM
  • GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 1660 SUPER Video Card
  • Crucial P1 1TB NVMe Boot Drive
  • Crucial MX500 1TB SSD Storage Drive
  • Corsair RM650x 80 Plus Gold Power Supply
  • Fractal Design Meshify C TG Case
  • LG 27GL650F-B 27″ 144Hz Primary Monitor

The motherboard supports the latest connection standard for M.2 drives, meaning that the Crucial P1 that I purchased has a maximum sequential read speed of almost 2 GB per second and a write speed of almost 1.5 GB per second, or around four times that of my SSD and close to ten times that of most standard spinning rust hard drives.

My current secondary monitor, an ASUS in portrait mode, will be moving over to my new computer, as will all my peripherals. It should be a great work computer for years to come, though I’ll definitely need more hard drive storage at some point. Maybe once multi-terabyte SSD drives get cheaper.

I hope that Annie will be happy with Athena for school this fall and that it serves her well and I hope that Freyr will be the workhorse that I need it to be.

Gun Control in Canada- What’s the Solution?

We aren’t like the United States with its Second Amendment, nor do we have the level of gun violence per capita that they experience, but with a recent mass shooting in Canada, our government is making moves to try to show that they are doing more than paying lip service to the issue, but their choices are being heavily criticized. The problem is, I don’t see better solutions being put forward.

Note: I want to preface this by saying that I am not an expert in law, gun law, guns, or anything else pertaining to this subject. I am a concerned citizen hoping that cooler heads can prevail, that logic and data can win out, and that partisan politics can be put on the back burner as we deal with weapons affecting our society.

My Quick History with Guns

I grew up going hunting with my dad. I have enjoyed hunted venison meat my whole life. I was in Cadets and was able to shoot guns during my time there. I have some experience with guns, but all of it happening before adulthood. I still have an interest in shooting, especially on a range, but haven’t pursued it.

Complaining

Everything I’ve seen online seems to be complaints. They don’t like what the Liberal government is doing and blame Trudeau directly. They talk about starting a civil war, dividing the country, fighting back with armed protests. The whole thing is ridiculous to me and the radicalization talk will do nothing but convince the media to create stories to prove that even more restrictions are needed. It also makes me feel a little sick to my stomach to see so many people willing to throw away their connection to Canada over gun control.

One of the biggest issues I see is the conflating of different issues. Bringing alcohol, vehicles, tobacco, cancer and other random things into the issue doesn’t do anything to move things forward. It confuses the issue and gives power to those that are more focused. Gun issues should be addressed through gun related data. It isn’t a competition where society/government can only deal with a single issue that tops the list of most deaths.

Also, giving up on anything changing for the better, no matter which side of the issue you are on, is also not beneficial. Our society leans towards being democratic and so through proper use of your voice, your efforts, you can help bring people towards a better understanding that may help swing things in one direction or another. We all also have to understand that as a democratic leaning country, we need to accept that we won’t always get the things we want as the majority rules.

Complaints about the direction our country takes are fine, but once you are done complaining, how about trying to learn more about what the other side is thinking, dissect it and then visualize a different path, and promote that? There are so many options going forward and it doesn’t have to be partisan, and it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

Banning Scary Weapons

Trudeau and his team are making a political move to ban certain guns. I understand the reasoning behind this action. Movies, television, and more have shown these guns to be more dangerous than other weaponry, and they can’t be seen as doing nothing when one of the mandates they campaigned and were elected on was more strict gun control.

Some people I know have called it “banning scary weapons” and that’s exactly what it is. It isn’t a solution as much as something to calm the fears of a certain group of people, and maybe that’s one part of this story that isn’t getting enough attention. Why are we scared of guns?

Maybe one issue that needs more support is reducing that fear through marketing, educating, and training? If our only source of gun information wasn’t in violent video games, action movies, and horror stories in the news, maybe there would be less fear and that would allow for more rational dialog on this topic?

My nephew-in-law was very proactive in this sense. He often invited people to the range to build up their confidence and understanding regarding guns. He even, using a toy, helped my wife learn a bit more about how guns work, safety procedures required, and more. He created a positive interaction in order to reduce fear.

Spending money towards these kinds of opportunities and making an understanding of guns similar in terms of numbers as understanding how to drive a car, could be beneficial if done right.

Central Gun Storage

One of the ideas proposed has been central gun storage. I thought this was a great idea. We could spend resources as a country protecting guns at ranges and at facilities across the country so that no guns need be stored at a private residence and anyone walking around carrying a gun that isn’t wearing a badge can easily be stopped and questioned because they are likely doing it illegally.

It could be treated like a safety deposit box, or a self-serve system, with your government ID being used to access the weapon that either has to remain on site using some geo-fencing tags, and/or allow for short period check-outs for specific purposes. We could record the person that checked out the weapon and have more insight into what’s happening with handguns and other weapons.

Then I read some criticisms of central gun storage and started to understand why that wouldn’t help the issues we are experiencing and only create a huge tax burden on the federal government while inconveniencing legal gun owners.

But maybe the idea isn’t all bad. Is there some version of this that could work and be beneficial? What is the goal of this kind of change? These are the kinds of discussions we should be having.

Increase CBSA Resources

The more research that I do regarding gun violence, the more I see that most of this is happening from guns illegally brought to Canada from the USA and elsewhere. Sure, there are some legal or registered guns being used but that is in a very small minority.

So if the data says that most gun violence is due to guns coming from other countries, then how can we address that specific issue? We might not be able to ever completely stop smuggling, but how can we make it more rare, more difficult, and more costly to those that are caught?

We have a federal department that deals with border transit called the Canadian Border Services Agency. With increased funding and a stronger mandate to reduce gun smuggling, maybe we could see a reduction in gun violence in Canada?

Limiting the supply of non-registered weapons in Canada might have directly affected the recent violence in Nova Scotia.

Conclusion

As a country, we should go where the data leads us. We need to be fair, even, and wise when enacting new restrictions. There will always be people on both sides of an issue that are unhappy with any change or any lack of change, but the constant is that the world changes and so the rules have to change with it. If cities are seeing increasing gun violence, we need to track down the sources of those guns, we need to track down the reasons for that violence, and we need to take measured approaches that solve the core of the issue. If poverty is creating an increase in gun violence, maybe we need more social supports. If passion/relationships are causing gun violence, then maybe we need better mental health supports.

I will also say that, as a citizen of Canada, I would like to see a further reduction in the number of guns owned by private citizens as, at least for me, it creates an increase in a feeling of safety and that feeling of safety improves my mental health and outlook. But I think education and data supported changes should be the goal over blanket laws that have already been shown to not fix the issues we, as a society, want to see dealt with.

Walking – April Health Challenge

In April, Annie and I decided to move a bit more. I probably do around one to two thousand steps per day, but could I ramp that up to two-hundred thousand in a month?

As I do with most challenges, the first part was the easiest. I was doing nearly ten thousand steps per day for a week, while Annie, who was still working on school work, was doing around seven thousand per day. We aren’t really competitive with each other, but we hoped that comparing and contrasting would keep us engaged in the challenge.

By the end of April 15th, I was at 105,665 steps, a little past the half-way point in both steps at the half-way point in days. I felt fairly confident that not only was I going to be able to complete the challenge, but I was going to go well over. Annie, now finishing up school, started to increase her pace. She was the only one of us to get days over 10,000 steps and she ended the month with three such days.

I know these numbers are small compared to what others are able to do. You know who you are!

Anyways, by the end of the month, we both only had a few steps left to go, and we both completed the challenge. Annie finished a day early with over ten thousand steps on April 29th to cross the finish line, and I finished on the last day of the month.

May Challenge – Journaling and Gratefulness Log

In May, Annie and I are going to journal each day at least one hundred words, and include at least one thing we are grateful for. The goal is to try to keep our spirits up during the pandemic that never feels like it is going to end, as well as trying to remember how lucky we are.

Self-reflection, taking time to audit how your day went and how you want it to go tomorrow, can be a very positive mental exercise, and not one I’ve been taking time to do lately.

I love writing, but with how busy I’ve been lately, this might actually be a difficult challenge for me. I’m hopeful that at the end of the month, I have at least thirty short write-ups of how my month went.

Tracking Mood – March Health Challenge

In March, Annie and I decided to track our mood several times a day on a scale of 0 to 10 to see how we were feeling. Little did we know the world was about the change. I had long wanted to do mood tracking and when I mentioned it to Annie, her eyes lit up as it fits with her schooling in Psychology.

It took a bit to find an application that worked easily and allowed for a larger scale than just a one through five that most applications seemed to have. In the end we settled on Mood Log created by AR Productions.

Starting March 1st at eight in the morning, we started tracking when we woke up, at eleven in the morning, two-thirty in the afternoon, six-thirty in the evening and then before bed, typically around eleven at night. I felt like that five data points per day should give enough insight into how we were feeling, but the application only allowed for three reminders per day maximum and those reminders were silent, with just an icon showing up on our phone’s status bar, so we had to set-up alarms.

By the end of the month, I was very happy to turn off those alarms.

Over the month of March, I collected 154 data points. My average mood ended up being a 5.6 out of 10, which is higher than I had expected. I have struggled with depression and anxiety for over twenty years now and so I assumed that at best I would get an average of around 5, so to get through the month self-assessing at an average of 5.6 seems great to me.

As you can see from the above image, I did have some down points as well as some high points. I never reached a zero, as in my mind that was “I give up, I’m going to completely shut down” and a ten was a level of elation that I’d save for something super special, but nothing ever happened that pushed me to either extreme. I do know that one of my tracking points that shows a nine out of ten was due to finding out our offer on a house got accepted, but I’ll talk more about that soon.

You can, however, see a noticeable dip around March 21st, where I found it difficult to stay positive. Previous to this challenge, I had been ranking myself on a positive five to negative five scale which fits on this scale very nicely with five being a middle of the road, not positive, not negative moment. So to see so many data points below that mark was a little rough, but I was honestly feeling really rough around that point. I don’t think it was specifically related to what’s happening in the world, but I know that it didn’t make it any easier to deal with my “Darker mind”.

Annie averaged a much higher 6.5 over the course of the month, but felt that was lower than she was expecting. It is interesting to me the perspectives we have on the data we collect. Another interesting thing to me is that her tracking never fell below four, so while she did have some data points that were her not feeling great, she didn’t have the emotional range that I seem to go through. She couldn’t say for certain why that was other than to point out that most of her tracking first thing in the morning, where she’s unhappy to get up and get out of bed, might have skewed her results lower than she anticipated. She also went through a down slide near the end of the month as we geared up for quarantine. As someone that’s an extrovert, this whole change has been very hard on her.

In the end, I feel like we learned some interesting things and we will have to spend more time pouring over the data we collected.

April Challenge – 200,000 Steps

In April, we are doing a step challenge, which wasn’t my first choice for this month, but the state of the world means that I don’t have access to the apartment gym.

Our goal is 200,000 steps over the course of April. This shouldn’t be too hard, except that we can’t go mall walking, we don’t have anywhere to go when walking, so all of our walking is pretty much just taking Luna out around the back streets late in the evening.

This whole pandemic thing can stop any time now…

Avoiding Added Sugars Retrospective – February Health Challenge

In February, we tried to avoid added sugars. This meant that we could have things like 100% orange juice, but not many other things. You’d be amazed at how many things have sugar, but also how poorly you can still eat without added or processed sugars.

My wife continued to join me in this challenge and struggled near the end of the month. We both had a few days where we failed for the day, but overall, I feel we did quite well.

Over the twenty-nine days of February, I had two days where I failed to avoid added sugar. One was my sister-in-law’s birthday cake and the other was that some of my Big John’s Beef Jerky had some added sugar that I didn’t realize until Annie told me. Sure the sugar in the jerky was really low, but I still counted it as a fail day.

One of the interesting things from this month was getting used to reading labels. We should all be doing that anyways to get a better understanding of what we are putting into our body.

This month wasn’t crazy great for weight loss, but I did seem to lose some over the course of the month. I started the month at around 277 pounds and ended it with a weigh in this morning at 271 pounds, so around a six pound loss. Based on the trend-line of the month though, I think I’m probably closer to around 273, which would still be around four pounds down, or about a pound a week, and that’s sustainable.

I didn’t have too many points where I felt ravenous about sugar. I had lots of fruit, veggies, no-sugar added juice, and the odd little bit of honey. I gave in on honey for a number of reasons, and I think it made it possible to succeed over the course of the month.

I made oatmeal, banana, strawberry muffins a few times. I got the recipe from Bebe and Bear. It is a modification of a recipe found on greenlitebites that swaps out chocolate chips for strawberries. I made a few changes though, so here’s my recipe.

Malcolm’s Honey Sweetened Strawberry Banana Oatmeal Muffins

Yield: ~12 muffins

Ingredients

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup of 2% milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1-2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1/4 cup chopped frozen strawberries

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Mash the bananas with the rolled oats. Course mash is okay, but you want the oats to look wet.
  3. Mix in the other ingredients, leaving the strawberries for last and mix well.
  4. Fill up your muffin tray and bake for around 25 minutes.

Notes

We used quick cooking rolled oats, and that seemed to work fine. We also liked how having the higher fat in the milk made the muffins taste, but the original recipe calls for unsweetened vanilla almond milk instead. And of course, the more ripe the bananas are, the more of a sugar kick you get from them, and the lower the amount of honey you’ll need to make it have flavour.

The first time I made these, I did it with a teaspoon of honey, the bananas were not very ripe and I didn’t put in enough vanilla. It ended up tasting like a block of dry oatmeal without other flavours. I was pretty bummed but felt that I should eat them because they were healthy and filling. My other batches turned out better, so you’ll have to play with the recipe based on your preference.

March Challenge – Mood Tracking

In March, Annie and I are going to track our mood. We are going to grab five data points per day and then we can plot out our mood over the course of a month. For me, this is a check in to take a moment to reflect on how I’m feeling more often and to have data showing that my meds are not only working but that I am having more good days than bad. This is a mental health month.

This doesn’t mean that we won’t be looking for opportunities to eat better, and I know Annie has other elements she is considering for her health in March, but the process of a year of health continues.

Conclusion

I highly recommend everyone try at least a week without added sugars and see how that makes them feel. I think today, Annie and I might go a little overboard compensating for our month without, but I hope once we get that out of our system, we can continue to eat more fruit and veggies, and avoid added sugar here.

Retirement Savings and Depression

I never expected to live this long and now as I near forty, I am freaking out a bit over the idea of living into retirement.

When I was in my twenties, I got married, we bought a house, I even took a government job far from that home to try to set us up for a good life. I tried to be fairly frugal but still racked up some debt. I constantly was in my own head, fighting with myself over every little mistake or setback. When that relationship fell apart, I put myself in more debt to move and start over.

I lived in a tiny furnished room in someone else’s house. It was cheap and worked well for the nothing that I owned. I had a decent job and made okay money, but I hated myself and my life and went back and forth between self-sabotage through poor money management and trying to buy my way into happiness. I continued to be in debt and not save anything.

Years flew by and life continued to ebb and flow, then I married Annie and we started our life together. I still struggled with depression and still spent like a fool. No investing, no saving, just spending.

Now, here I am at thirty-seven. I thought I wouldn’t make it into my twenties. I was once confident that I wouldn’t survive past twenty-five. I thought for sure I wouldn’t make thirty. I am quickly realizing that I have to contend with the likelihood of being around for a good long time.

You know what’s frustrating about that though? Realizing what retirement might look like. I play around with different retirement calculators and they all basically say the same thing. If I want to save for a decent retirement for Annie and I, I’ll likely need to invest around one third of my income until I retire, and since I’m at the upper end of what someone with my skills can likely earn, that’s a bit difficult given the cost of living we currently have.

Don’t get me wrong. Annie and I have a fairly comfortable and happy life. I am not complaining at all. We don’t want for much, but that’s potentially part of the problem sometimes, isn’t it? We don’t want to live in a crummy apartment with roaches or bed bugs. We don’t want to drive a decade old vehicle that isn’t reliable. I don’t want to try to do my job on an Internet connection that would only be considered fast in a third world country.

In some ways, through surviving what I have dealt with, I feel a little like I deserve some comfort. I’m sometimes afraid that creating too much discomfort and sacrifice might make my depression worse.

My hope is that when Annie is done school and begins working that we will be able to save more aggressively to make up for the lost time we’ve had, otherwise retirement won’t ever be an option. The power of compounding interest is being ever reduced by our life delays… I have read a bunch of articles though that makes it sound a little like this is the plight of my generation.

Wallace – My Artillery (Evnovo) Sidewinder X1

So today, I received the main part of my new 3D printer set-up, the Sidewinder X1.

This isn’t the 3D printer I thought I was going to get, but I’ll get to that story soon. I’ve been wanting a 3D printer for several years now and watching the features increase and the price decrease until last year when I decided to do my 1 Million Calories Challenge, I included a small thing where I decided my reward for hitting my goal was going to be a 3D printer.

Intermittent Fasting Retrospective – January Health Challenge

In January, I decided to try intermittent fasting to see if it would help me lose weight and feel better. I decided to do something difficult and stick to a 18/6 schedule where I don’t eat for eighteen hours per day, and only eat for six.

My wife joined me in this challenge, while working on her own additional health challenges. With her school schedule, there were difficult days where she had to break fast early or eat a bit later than expected.

The goal was to only eat between noon and six in the evening. Most guides on intermittent fasting say that you should start with something easier, with the goal to have at least twelve hours of non-eating time so your body can work to clear out all the sugars and carbohydrates you ate.

The biggest thing that I learned in doing this health challenge was that I’ll have to revisit intermittent fasting when I have a better control over my eating.

Basically, for the first week, it was great. We were cooking our meals, focusing on healthy food, lots of vegetables, and then it took a slide into crappy eating. It likely doesn’t really matter much how short of a window you give yourself to eat if all you do is stuff yourself with high calorie, high sugar, high processed carbohydrate foods, and that’s basically what ended up happening.

I’d get to noon and feel ravenous. My willpower would be next to zero and I’d eat junk to satiate myself. I’d eat until I was nearly exploding and then do it once more around four in the afternoon to try to get in as much food as I could to make it until noon the next day.

I am pretty certain you can see why this is dumb.

It wasn’t just a willpower issue as that would be overly simplistic. It was also a time and energy issue. I work from home, but I’ve been very busy lately trying to juggle many different projects. Annie is back in school and focusing on that. Between the two of us, we just don’t have the interest in managing the process require to purchase, prep, cook, and clean for meals each day, especially since we weren’t thinking and planning ahead.

If we were smarter, we would have had a meal plan, we would have prepped ahead of time so that at noon, we would have had healthy options at the ready. Instead, it was like runners at a gate, waiting for the gun to go off to signal them that they can sprint away, except instead of a track field, it was chips, pop, donuts, candy, juice, bread, noodles, and cold cuts and instead of running, it was like competitive eating.

So, was it a failure?

Well, I was able to stick to the schedule, every day except three. On the ninth of January, I broke thirty minutes early to eat some fresh from the oven cookies that I had made. On the twenty-fifth, I finished Annie’s Coke at my aunt and uncle’s place after the normal cut off time. And on January 31st, I broke an hour early to have fresh from the oven cinnamon buns that I made before Annie had to head off to class.

As for my weight, I didn’t gain, but I also didn’t really lose any. I went from 278.8 pounds at the start of January to 277.9 pounds at the end of January. A loss of less than a pound and thus, a statistical nothing.

The hardest part of this whole thing was not snacking in the evening. After a long day of work, wanting to unwind with eating something or watching a late night television show or even YouTube video, and I wanted to munch on something, anything…

I don’t remember ever feeling like I was going to bed hungry, but I do remember waking up feeling hungry on more than one occasion.

Would I do this again?

Yes. I’d like to maybe try again later in the year using what I’ve learned and hopefully, finding a month where Annie is not in school, my schedule is a bit more reasonable, and planning meals and healthy options ahead of time. I think I could be more successful with intermittent fasting than I was in January, but I am also proud of the small victory of sticking to the timing for twenty-eight out of thirty-one days.

February Challenge – No Added Sugar

As for February, we are going to try to do a no-sugar added month. This doesn’t mean no sugar or no carbs, but instead avoiding added sugars or processed sugars in our foods. So we could eat a steak, potato and corn, but we couldn’t drink juice with it unless it was fresh squeezed with no added sugar. The one thing that I gave my wife was that she could have honey. Because it isn’t a processed sugar in the same way as maple syrup, I told her that she was good to go.

We will also be looking at reducing our overall carbohydrates during February. I am hopeful that, even if I don’t lose any weight, that maybe the weight I do have won’t be so concentrated on my gut.

Canadian Federal Political Platform Imaginings

As I did with a quasi-Provincial level platform, I wanted to spend some time thinking about what a Federal platform for me would look like.

I started this before our last election and have been working on it on and off for a while now. I am sure there is still a ton of learning I need to do to really understand the scope of the things I’m saying, but I like the general direction I am trying to go in. Feel free to rip into any part of it as I am not married to any of it. I am hoping to push people to talk about this stuff.

Taxes

  • Raise the basic personal amount to $26,000 by 2026. 
  • Cut the tax rate on income under $60,000 from 15% to 13%.
  • Cut the tax rate on income between $60,000 and $105,000 from 20.5% to 20%.
  • Keep the current tax rate of 26% from $105,000 to $155,000.
  • Increase the tax rate on income between $155,000 to $215,000 from 29% to 30%.
  • Increase the current top tax bracket rate from 33% to 35% on income over $215,000 up to $400,000.
  • Create a new top tax bracket on income over $400,000 with a rate of 37%.
  • Create a “super-wealth tax” of 1% on wealth exceeding $10 million.
  • Work to close tax loopholes, credits, and write-downs/offs that the wealthy often exploit.
  • Allow partial income splitting for joint-filing couples, thus creating the opportunity for the higher earner or single-earner to transfer income of an amount up to the available basic personal amount of the spouse, to the lower or non-earner spouse. 
  • Increase the federal corporate tax rate from 15% back to 18% as it was previously in 2010.
  • Spend $5 million dollars to investigate the feasibility of enacting an automation tax on corporations that are replacing human workers with machines or computer software.
  • Impose a financial transaction tax of 0.1% on the financial sector for all investment transactions (stock, bonds, ETFs, etc…)
  • Legitimize the B Corporations Certification in Canada and provide businesses with a 5% non-refundable tax credit on revenue for B Corporations.
  • Companies proven by the CRA to be shifting corporate profits for the express purpose of tax evasion will be fined.
  • Put a 12% tax on luxury vehicles (cars, boats, aircraft) over $120k (value to increase with inflation, rounded to the nearest $1000) with exemptions for electric vehicles. Make sure that this tax applies to people (not corporations importing for resale) importing vehicles as well.
  • Put a 2% tax on junk food (chocolate, chips, candy) and sugar added beverages (pop, sugar added juice, chocolate milk).
  • Increase the excise tax on tobacco, marijuana, and alcohol by 2% per year over the next four years.
  • Place a 20% foreign buyers tax on purchases of residential and commercial properties by foreign corporations or people who are not citizens or permanent residents.
  • Remove the GST from home heating and energy bills.
  • Increase the overall budget of the CRA by 2% per year for the next four years. With a focus on technological efficiency and modernization and a mission to focus on high income earners and large corporations.

Economy & Affordability

  • Create a basic income called the Valued Canadians Dividend. Provide all citizens and permanent residents over 16 years old with $1800 per month. This will replace various income support programs typically making up payments below this threshold. This amount will increase with inflation.
  • Remove the federal minimum wage, but allow and support cities, counties, and provinces in enacting their own minimum wage as best fits their regional area.
  • Eliminate the Old Age Security system and its complicated sliding scale payment system in favour of the VCD.
  • End the Canada Child Tax Benefit as the VCD and other listed changes are better.
  • Eliminate GST/HST credits. As tax credits for regular people only creates additional complexity and doing your taxes should be simple. Also, payouts from VCD will offset more than this amount.
  • Increase the Child Disability Benefit by 5% per year for the next four years.
  • Remove corporate welfare and federal financial transfers and investments in industries like oil and gas, petrochemicals, and chemical companies.
  • Require Canadian telecom services and packages to be within 20% of average G7 rates for similar services.
  • Lower investment and citizenship requirements for new telecom players to increase competition in the Canadian market.
  • Create a $X billion dollar per year venture fund to invest in innovation companies with a focus on green industries and high-tech industries. These investments will be made with the expectation of partial ownership in the invested companies and thus a return on investment with successful companies. 
  • Create a $XXX million dollar per year venture fund to invest in transforming Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba economies towards an economy focused on research and innovation. These investments will be made with the expectation of partial ownership in the invested companies.

Jobs & Skills Training

  • Eliminate all fees from the Business Development Bank of Canada, Export Development Canada, and Farm Credit Canada for business advisory services like mentorship and training.
  • Create a Canadian Apprenticeship Bursary providing up to $15,000 per apprentice for every new position created to a maximum of 1,000 positions over four years.
  • Improve credential recognition to make it easier for immigrants with equivalent skills or training to garner employment.

Deficits & Debt

  • Ensure that Canada’s debt servicing to GDP growth ratio stays the same or improves over an eight year fiscal horizon.

Health

  • Put in place a national head to toe healthcare plan. Medically required vision care, preventative or prescribed dental care, prescribed mental health services, and prescribed medications should all be fee free for Canadians.
  • Create and fund a Canada-wide drug purchasing agency to work at reducing the cost of medications.
  • End the ban on blood donations by men who have sex with men. 
  • Spend $XX million per year on a program within Health Canada to support community based organizations offering targeted LGBTQ2S+ youth mental health and well-being services.
  • Spend an additional $XXX million per year on a National responsible drinking, substance use, and support information/education/advertising campaign directed at youth and young-adults.

Energy

  • Eliminate all fossil fuel subsidies and tax write-offs. 
  • Ban hydraulic fracturing operations.
  • Create and fund a national Renewable Energy Development Committee to work with provinces to grow Canada’s leadership in renewable energy.
  • Invest $XXX million in additional funding towards nuclear energy programs, redevelopment, repairs and upgrades.
  • Educate and engage the public on options for Gen 4 nuclear fission reactors in Canada.
  • Invest $XX million per year in energy storage research and development as well as trial installations in at-risk areas of Canada.

Climate Change & Environment

  • Increase federal carbon tax to $60 per tonne from $50 and increase it to $120 per tonne by 2026.
  • Have 100% of Canada’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2030.
  • Invest and hire teams to plant XX million trees per year and provide support to monitor and manage growth of the new planting to increase tree survivability to maturity.
  • Ban dumping raw sewage into waterways.
  • Ban the sale of internal combustion engine passenger vehicles for non-commercial or industrial needs by 2026.
  • ICE commercial & industrial passenger vehicle sales to be banned by 2030.
  • Provide a 5% tax credit to businesses purchasing all-electric semi-trailer trucks. 
  • Double investment in electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
  • Add a minimum of two electric vehicle charging stations at each and every federal parking lot.
  • Increase gas tax 5% over the next four years.

Indigenous Affairs

  • Establish and fund a National Council for Reconciliation.
  • Establish a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
  • Invest in Indigenous history education programs for all Canadians.
  • Create and invest $XX million per year on an Indigenous Culture Archive with a focus on preserving and promoting Indigenous languages, cultural history, stories, music and digital records of art.

Immigration & Refugees

  • End the cap on applications to sponsor parents and grandparents. 
  • End the Temporary Foreign Workers Program.
  • Allow provinces and territories to set their immigration limits. Each year they’ll report how many people they are willing to receive, and the government of Canada will use that combined number to determine the total Canadian immigration number with the understanding that the Federal government is not going to mandate that new entrants live in a specific province or territory.

National Defence

  • Increase the number of military service personnel by an additional 2,500 per year for the next four years. This is over top of current expected growth. This will create federal job opportunities and expand the ability for the Canadian Forces to be staffed and available for domestic emergencies, as well as better staff replacement scheduling for overseas deployments.
  • Create non-deployment positions for enlisted Canadian Forces members and allow anyone injured or unfit for deployment to carry on in the Canadian Forces if they have the skills or interest in a non-deployment position within the Canadian Forces rather than having them released. These positions are only available for service people to transfer to, thus protecting the universality of service as an entry requirement for new members.
  • Increase the per capita equipment spending on military service persons by an additional five percent per year for the next four years. This should help resolve some lapses in equipment maintenance and purchasing that has contributed to morale issues.
  • Provide an immediate one-time salary adjustment of X percent for all non-commissioned members and adjust payment schedule based on this increase. Despite a recent increase that happened, this is to further make the Canadian Forces pay structure more competitive with the private sector.
  • Sign and ratify the Treaty to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.
  • Upgrade the Royal Canadian Navy’s submarine capability.
  • Establish an arctic naval fleet to focus on Canada’s arctic sovereign rights.
  • Require a mental health screening review every three years for all active Canadian Forces members.
  • Increase civilian mental health practitioner employment opportunities to support the Canadian Forces members and their families.

Public Safety & National Security

  • Ban all military-style assault and semi-automatic rifles and shotguns.
  • Continue and strengthen the handgun ban in Canada as 60-70% of all homicides committed using a firearm over the last half decade were with a handgun.
  • Invest in a national firearms safety training service to provide no-cost firearms safety training.
  • Require the Communications Security Establishment and CSIS to have a warrant before accessing the communications of Canadians.
  • Institute Canada’s Digital Charter so people can control their personal data and their right to be forgotten. This means allowing you to have social media services not just hide your account, but actually remove all of your data from their service. 
  • Require that ISPs can only release data when required by a warrant, except in imminent emergencies where people would be physically harmed by waiting for a warrant.

Infrastructure

  • Reduce interest rates to municipalities on loans for infrastructure projects via changes to the Canada Infrastructure Bank.
  • Change the national building code to require new construction to meet net-zero emission standards by 2026.
  • Reduce the red-tape for airline travel companies in Canada to improve services and prices through potential competition. 
  • Investigate the options and opportunities to invest in the new generation of low Earth orbit satellite Internet options being launched with the goal of making sure Canada has access to these services and secondarily to find opportunities for investment for the benefit of social programs funding.
  • Reduce restrictions on autonomous and near-autonomous vehicles on the national highway system.

Retirement & Seniors

  • Develop and fund a national dementia strategy.
  • Amend Medical Assistance in Dying legislation to allow everyone the option of “dying with dignity”.
  • Invest $XX million dollars over four years into innovation opportunities in Elderly care.
  • Place details on Federal costs relating to elderly care online for research and educational purposes to highlight the trends and issues we face providing services.
  • CPP will no longer be taxed as income.
  • Adjust the Criminal Code with penalties for elder abuse.

Housing

  • Impose a 15% surtax on foreign buyers.
  • Add a 2% annual tax on properties owned by those who are not Canadians and who do not live in Canada.
  • Invest $XX million dollars as seed money to create the National Housing Development Corporation, a home building firm to build affordable and mid-market housing. The goal of the company is to increase the Canadian housing supply while also employing Veterans and other experienced people that may normally have difficulty finding or retaining employment. The expectation is that beyond the fourth year this company will be revenue neutral. If it is unable to meet that goal, then reassess and potentially shut down the company.
  • Invest $X billion dollars towards building new affordable housing in the first 24 months.
  • Invest $XX million dollars per year to increase and improve youth and homeless shelters.

Education

  • Make all one year certificate, two and three year diploma college level education tuition free for students without a diploma or degree.
  • Increase access to Canada Student Grants for full-time students to a maximum of $5,000 with it increasing at a rate of inflation plus one percent per year.
  • Eliminate interest on federal portion of student loans.
  • Establish free online services and resources for learning English and French as second languages.

Child Care & Family

  • Provide adoptive parents with the same access to parental leave benefits as natural birth parents.
  • Invest $XXX million dollars over the next four years in public non-denominational not-for-profit child care.
  • Eliminate GST on all construction costs related to child-care spaces.
  • Invest $XX million dollars over the next four years in Pregnancy & Infant Loss services and support.
  • Extend maternity leave benefits to parents that have experienced a miscarrage. Up to 15 weeks at a 55% benefit rate.

Agriculture & Food

  • Provide a $X billion dollar grant fund over the next four years for farmers wanting to modernize, automate or innovate in the food production industry. With a focus on environmentally friendly technologies and techniques for sustainable farming.
  • Require boat-to-plate traceability standards for all Canadian seafood products.

Foreign Affairs

  • Decrease spending by 5% over four years towards supporting UN peacekeeping missions.
  • Adjust spending on foreign aid with a focus on moving funds from countries with a Human Development Index over 0.6 to countries below that bar. For example, Canada has a Human Development Index of 0.926, India is currently at 0.64 and Madagascar is currently at 0.519.
  • Review NATO commitments with a focus on efficiency, long-term planning and Canada’s needs. Look for budgetary cuts in this area and re-commit to only a 1% GDP maximum.

International Trade

  • Create a $10 million a year export investment grant for small and medium sized businesses (under $200,000 in exports per year) to grow their export opportunities. Reducing the complexity compared to the CanExport program. 
  • Create a central Import/Export corporation website that provides insight domestically and internationally to connect business to each other in a more seamless way.
  • Open discussions with provinces and territories regarding co-investing in opening provincial trade representation offices in strategic global markets. Set aside $X million per year for set-up and staffing of such offices.
  • Spent $X million per year on creating training sessions for helping businesses understand the process to expand their operations Internationally and export Canadian products/services. 

Justice

  • Immediately financially support provinces/territories so that they can hire over 200 new Crown prosecutors and 100 new judges to help reduce delays.
  • Introduce criminal code for possession of a smuggled firearm.
  • Give trial judges greater discretion in criminal sentencing by reducing reliance on minimum sentences.
  • Increase federal funding for legal aid by 20%.
  • Decriminalize all drug possession so we can send those with issues to treatment instead of prison. Of course, any associated act while on a drug will still handled like the crime that it is.
  • Pass legislation to end solitary confinement that lasts over 48 hours.

Youth

  • On a Canadian citizen or permanent resident’s 16th birthday, provide eight free Via Rail open destination travel vouchers to travel anywhere in Canada that the rail service allows. 
  • Develop and implement a national autism strategy for youth.

Democracy & Governance

  • Federal Election Voting Day to be a National holiday.
  • Lower the Federal voting age to 16. This will allow students to register at their high schools, learning party platforms can be part of the discourse at schools, and we can place voting stations in high schools to make it easy to vote. It has been proven that if you start someone voting, it is highly likely they’ll continue to vote.
  • End First Past the Post voting via electoral reform and replace it with Single Transferable Vote. This will create a system of governance that better reflects voting patterns and remove the feeling of wasted votes and reduce the fear of strategic voting.
  • Reduce maximum campaign spending for Federal election campaigns to the median family income in the riding the representatives are running in or $50,000, whichever is lower.
  • Require all printed election marketing material to be recyclable.
  • Provide a yearly chart available online, broken down into a single taxpayer dollar to show how federal tax dollars are being spent in an easy to comprehend way.
  • Freeze Prime Minister and Member of Parliament salaries for the next eight years.
  • Reduce MPs office expense account budgets by 25%.
  • Reduce the number of Federal Public Sector employees through retirement and attrition thanks to shutting down multiple money management programs within the Federal Government and switching to a more streamlined system.

Veterans

  • Clear backlog of Veterans’ benefit applications within twelve months.
  • Provide one caseworker for ever 24 veterans instead of one every 32.5.
  • Expand the veterans education benefit, making it easier to be approved.
  • Provide all veterans a job guarantee up to the age of 65. If after one year post service, a veteran is experiencing difficulty with employment and they are not in an educational program, provide them with a Federal civilian occupation in infrastructure, housing, veteran services, or another best fitting opportunity.
  • Increase access to preventative mental health services for veterans and their families by funding mental health support training to active service people and their families on military bases.

Arts & Culture

  • Provide $5 million dollars every four years in financial support for Indigenous theatre at the National Arts Centre.
  • Allow income tax averaging for artists and cultural workers. This allows them to lower their taxes slightly by leveling out their income over multiple years to deal with the inconsistency in their income. For example, if they have one year where they earn $20,000 and the next where they earn $100,000, they could submit their taxes as two years of $60,000 each.
  • Immediately increase the per-capita level of funding for the CBC to that of the BBC.
  • Establish a public board of qualified people to oversee the CBC. Working towards it becoming an arm’s reach crown corporation and run more like other media organizations with a focus on reducing its Federal funding requirements. The continued amount of decrease to be determined after a four year period of investigation.
  • Finance free tickets to all children/youth (ages 0-16) to enter museums, galleries, and cultural venues.
  • Exempt stage theatres from collecting/remitting GST.

Genomics

  • No experiments that alter a human’s or animal’s reproductive cells and/or gene drive genetics programs should be allowed to leave the laboratory environment. This law should be reviewed every 4 years and removed if for some reason it benefits Canada to do so.
  • No living entities with the changes above can be imported into Canada.
  • Any person, even at the request of a corporation, caught defying these rules will be subject to up to ten years in jail.
  • Corporations caught defying these rules will lose their license to operate within Canada and be heavily fined.
  • We will put political pressure on companies creating human health related gene therapies to price them reasonably.
  • Create a Genetics Science Council to monitor and report on projects being undertaken in Canada and around the world to better inform both government officials and the public regarding genetic engineering developments.

Artificial Intelligence

  • Create an Artificial Intelligence Council together to monitor and report on projects being undertaken in Canada and around the world to better inform both government officials and the public regarding AI developments.
  • Work with the Alberta Provincial government to grow an A.I technology hub in Edmonton to take advantage of the high quality students graduating the Artificial Intelligence programs from the University of Alberta.

If you made it this far, you deserve a medal!

Health Tracker 2,000,000 – Building a Simple Web Tool for Family

My sister-in-law wanted a simple tool to track water, fruit and vegetables, and protein intake kind of like what she and others are used to with WW (WeightWatchers) and so my wife asked if I had the skills to build something like that.

This is what they wanted me to replicate.

It seemed like a cool and quick little project, so I started thinking about how I could do it quickly and easily. I considered creating an actual Android app, but realized that the learning curve would make it too large of a project for me, and one of the main users is an iOS user, and I am not paying a hundred dollars to publish a pet project.

I then thought about using Godot to make it but that came with the same set of problems as I don’t currently know how to use the Godot UI options well enough. I wanted something I could whip up in a few hours and not a few weeks.

PHP to the Rescue

I have done some web development using PHP over the last seventeen years. I am by no means a good coder, but I can pretty much hack together any simplistic thing without too much fuss.

At first, I was thinking I’d install WordPress and customize a Gravity Forms form to do what they need, but decided against that when I realized you would actually have to click a “save and continue” button and that it wouldn’t just remember your selections on the form.

So, I guess my best choice was to build it from scratch…

I don’t think I’d ever want anyone to look at my code as I know there are better, faster, and cleaner ways to build what I put together, but over the course of an evening on one day and a morning on another, I put together Health Tracker 2,000,000!

This is what I built.

v1 Features and Functionality

So I decided on a very simplistic way of managing things without user accounts: cookies. I create a cookie when a user selects a checkbox and then when anyone comes to the site, I check for the cookie and if they have it, I use the cookie value to retrieve what values were last checked off.

The cookie is just a hashed reference ID. I take that cookie and use it to check the database to see what is checked off. The cookie is set to expire on the same day as it is created but at midnight Eastern time.

The database just stores a unique, auto-increment ID number, the hashed reference ID, the date the record was created and which fields have been checked off.

Overall, it is pretty simplistic and seems to work on computers, Android phones, iPhones and more.

v2 Thoughts

Ideally, the tool would include some basic login system so that you could start the checklist on your phone and finish it on your tablet or computer. With the references already being stored in the database, creating a basic user management system wouldn’t be too difficult as I would just have to associate the unique IDs from one table with a unique user ID in another table.

It would also be nice to have some kind of archive to see how you did on previous days. If I add in the user management feature, this shouldn’t be too difficult either.

My wife would like it to have charting to present the data nicely and everyone seems to want it to have some kind of gamification features/functions. I don’t know what kind of charts I’d create, but I could maybe use something like canvasJS to build out the charts.

As for gamification features, I’ll probably release a small update to v1 that includes a congratulations for completing all the checkboxes in a day.

Conclusion

Adding complexity to something like this takes time, more than I think most people realize for someone with my development skills, but here and there, this might be a cool challenge to pick up and move forward a bit more.

I also have to keep in mind that it will likely only ever have around four users. This isn’t something I’m trying to make a service out of. There are plenty of tools in the marketplace that do similar things. I also have many other projects that need more attention going forward, so as much as these diversions can be fun, teach me new things, and help out family, I have to balance it with the work that pays the bills.

Including all HTML, CSS, JavaScript (except jQuery) and PHP, the tool comes to around 300 lines of code. It took me around six hours to build from start to finish including researching how to do certain things, dealing with roadblocks and sorting out the icons that I used.

It was a fun project, and I am hopeful that it serves the needs of those using it as a great way to remind them to eat better, drink more water, exercise every day and try not to go too crazy on junk food.